Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for March 2023

February 2023 in review

  • This shorter month wasn’t anything astounding or revolutionary in my gaming journey. I had a generally OK time without much in the way of oh-I’m-super-excited-about-this highlights.
  • In Lord of the Rings Online, I focused down on my Minstrel, taking her from 101 to 108 through Gondor. She wasn’t going to fast because I also did 12 days of Ill Omens to earn her a high-level portent.
  • I continued my adventures through Elder Scrolls Online’s Shadowfen, giving the Dominion a talking to and sampling a couple of new social guilds along the way.
  • Broken Ranks didn’t happen, but I did put a lot of effort and initial enthusiasm into a return to Guild Wars 2. I think I learned a lot more about this game’s makeup, having done a fair chunk of research on it, but after a couple of weeks of playing I felt as listless and directionless as I did on the first day back. Not much stickiness there, so moving on.
  • Speaking of moving on, I decided to end my Outer Worlds run in the middle of the first DLC. I’d been playing it for almost three months and was ready to be done. So I booted up Octopath Traveler instead and had great fun getting to know that game again and collecting the eight main characters.

March 2023’s gaming goals

  • As far as I know, nothing major is coming out in the MMO world this month — and since our family is tightening the budget for a while, I’m not going to buy any new titles anyway. So it’s all “whatever I can play for free.”
  • LOTRO? Definitely. I think getting through eastern Gondor and Minas Tirith is a reasonable goal. I’m really not rushing it, even going so far to do a lot of the zone deeds along the way. I feel very relaxed and non-pressured with this Minstrel, and I want to keep it that way.
  • Elder Scrolls Online continues to hang on in my brain space, so I’ll do my best to finish up Shadowfen and finally get over to Summerset like I’ve been intending for a while now.
  • My attention’s turning back to both New World and RIFT, so there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing from me on both of these titles at some point.
  • Octopath Traveler is going to keep me occupied for several months, I’m sure, and I even installed Escape from Monkey Island to play for the first time.
Posted in General

The Case of the Golden Idol is a detective gamer’s dream come true

Recent I wrapped up playing one of my Christmas 2022 gifts-to-myself, which was the acclaimed Case of the Golden Idol. Having heard it favorably compared to Return of the Obra Dinn, I was pretty psyched to get into another detect-and-deduce title.

The Case of the Golden Idol is a 12-chapter game where you as some sort of nameless detective observer are invited to come into a mostly-static scene involving one or more murders. By clicking around and simply looking at the various tableaus, you gather up keywords and start to piece together what’s happened. There’s a “thinking” sheet that has to be filled out with the key words, Mad Lib-style, to come up with the proper solution.

So, for example, you have to figure out who everyone in a scene is, where they ate, what room they lived in, what they were doing in the time leading up to the murder, and — of course — who the murderer is. This requires a lot of logic and elimination, as you start by filling in the obvious clues and gradually work your way to the trickier ones.

There were three things that further distinguished this title in my mind. The first was the art style, which is kind of ugly and off-putting as if someone designed this with MS Paint. It’s not horrible, but it’s definitely not attractive. In fact, I’d argue that it makes the scenes look more disturbing. I was doing the first few chapters with two of my older kids, but they ended up “noping out” after one of the murder scenes was too disturbing for them (and this was just a simple stabbing, mind you).

Second, there’s the fact that all 12 chapters tell an ongoing story featuring connected characters, secret societies, personality conflicts, and the like. And third, all of the cases (save one, I think) involve the titular Golden Idol, a mystical object that grants the user a variety of magical powers.

Honestly, it’s this last element that felt most out of place here. It makes the game a lot more strange than it should, and some of the cases are influenced by the idol’s array of (non-intuitive) powers. I would’ve rather encountered just straight-forward murder scenes without this extra layer of the supernatural, but that’s just me.

Is it a good game? Yes, but with caveats. Because of how it’s designed, you’re only ever going to play through it once, so make it a good playthrough and try to avoid spoilers and hints. I think, depending on your detective skills, that it’s probably a five-to-six hour game. My biggest criticism is that not all scenes are equal. Most of the really good murder detective scenes come in the first half of the game, with the second part featuring more obscure and twisty encounters. I really started to lose interest by the last few scenes, and I wasn’t that impressed by the game’s big twist. But I feel as though I got my money’s worth, and it was certainly a singular experience.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Have undead minions, will travel

This past week, Eerie Emily continued her conquest of all of Guild Wars 2 early zones. I’m going through all of the zones by level, so newbie cities followed by beginner areas. It’s a whole lot of nostalgia, both bad and good, as I encounter some of these memories from yore. There are those extra-annoying hearts, though, such as running the bunny food, fighting as a snow leopard, and participating in a snowball fight. And that’s all just in a small section of Wayfarer Foothills.

I’ve been trying to make a more serious go of Guild Wars 2 this spring. But it is definitely taking an effort, because what used to be a very straight-forward game experience for me now seems obfuscated and confusing behind years of additions. In short, I need to figure out goals in a game that gives you a whole bunch of them but doesn’t really make any apparently better or more crucial than others. For now, mapping out zones and doing the odd personal story mission is fine, but I’m going to need more than that.

So I’ve been doing a lot of research into this to help organize and sort the different possible goals, because it really is hard to wrap your head around when you’ve been gone for a while or are new. I do what I do best these days, which is making up a list to organize and clarify. Oh, and I apparently just discovered that you can dye your mounts in this game, which is not a thing I thought existed.

Part of the result of this research was the decision to abandon my newbie Necromancer for my more advanced Engineer, which I renamed Photopsia. This is primarily because I wanted more options of what I was able to do in the game — primarily, hopping around the unlocked map more — and didn’t feel that strongly a need to go back through the personal story again.

And it was with good ol’ Photo here that I pushed myself into doing fractals, a part of the game that’s always intimidated me. I’m still getting my game legs back, and jumping into fractals feels like I’m plunging into a deep pool of chaotic fights and jumping puzzles and all that. But I’m determined not to be scared off by it, so a-jumpin’ I did go. And thanks to largely understanding and patient players, it’s not been bad.

My approach for now is to get my game legs back, work on building up hero points for my epic spec, do some dailies and fractals for money, and start in on End of Dragons. Hey, if it’s ending dragons, I’m all for it. But can this game survive not being able to talk about dragons every five seconds? It’ll be interesting to see.

I got a free makeover kit from the store, so I blew out my hair and went under the knife for some plastic surgery. I really like the “dawn” hair color.

And one has to have chonky armor if one is an Engineer. It’s only logical.

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs, Octopath Traveler

Octopath Traveler: A cleric, a hunter, and a thief walk into a bar

As I continue my party round-up of Octopath Traveler’s eight companions, I confess I’m relieved to get to this next one — Ophilia — because that means I get a dedicated healer. She’s a good-hearted adopted daughter of the archbishop who conspires (but in the NICEST way) to go on a world-spanning pilgrimage instead of her sister when dad grows ill. I really like her bonus ability, as she can convince NPCs to follow her and then throw them into combat as summons a certain number of times.

Let me tell you, I really don’t mind slowing down on certain screens to grind out a few more levels. The combat is that right mixture of snappy, visually pleasing, strategic, and flexible. It might well be the best turn-based RPG system that I’ve ever experienced. And it doesn’t hurt to get everyone above level 10, especially since some of those skills start getting very costly to buy.

Continuing to journey counter-clockwise around the map, I ended up in the deep forest where we met H’aanit the hunter. She’s fine, I guess, but she talks in that annoying pseudo-Elizabethan writing style that Square Enix sometimes fancies. Anyway, her main quest is to track down her mentor, whose hunting pet returned to the village without him.

Companion #5 is Therion the thief. He’s a walking stereotype of the loner thief (who hesitates not one second to join your party) with a sarcastic quip for every occasion. But he’s definitely going to be part of my main party because he can (a) steal from NPCs and (b) open purple chests with good gear.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: The non-mobile adventures of Elfy Elferson

I’m not leaving ESO right now after all, but I am throttling down a bit to just a quest or two a day. Keepin’ my toes in the water, so to speak. So Shadowfen adventures continue as I commune with the Hist and try to figure out why the Dominion is doing all of this body-swapping nastiness.

The bad guys stormed a village looking for an artifact, killing or enslaving everyone there in the process. Fortunately, there’s a resistance that’s fighting back — once I rescue them from their own captivity, of course.

Revenge is a dish best served flaming and burning down everything that the enemy loves dear — including its huge ship. Makes for nice kindling, at least. And hey, I got injected with the power of the keystone, which definitely will not give me cancer or cold sores!

I finished up the main storyline in the zone surprisingly quick, so it fell to delves, side quests, and other odds and ends to keep me occupied. I liked the shadows and lighting in this particular little pocket dungeon.

Meet Elfy Elferson, my new captive friend. He’s available for patty-cake pretty much 24/7 these days.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Fire on the horizon

At first, seeing the actual sky again in east Gondor is a relief after the omnipresent darkness of the center of the country. That is, until you see the fire all across the horizon and the ash floating down. And this is the direction that you and Aragorn’s army are pressing toward — a feeling of anticipation and dread that the writers and world builders of LOTRO do a great job conveying.

Every hobbit enjoys a warm and comfy fire after a long day of adventuring! But would it hurt the host to provide some hot cocoa as well…?

Last week was also the week where I was going to wrap up this year’s Ill Omens run. This meant that every day for 12 days, I’d have to go through three to five skirmishes. This was fine for a limited duration, but it was also a bit of a chore — especially going through some of the sets of skirmishes over and over again. These aren’t things you can blitz through like missions, so they do take some time to complete. It was certainly good to get it done, and I came out ahead a few levels in the process.

There was no sun! No light of day! But a pretty cool view nonetheless.

Gondor continuing to be a vastly underrated region in LOTRO. It’s often so pretty and so cultured, especially if you port back to Bree and more far-flung regions.

Posted in General

The games I’ve played the most on Steam

For fun, the other day I booted up Steam and sorted my entire library of 172 titles to see which games I’ve played on that platform the most. I don’t think I would’ve been able to accurately guess, especially since I don’t mentally track games I load through Steam, Epic, or through their own clients. But I will say that Steam isn’t a platform I use on a daily basis — really, it’s only for certain games at certain times.

That said, here were my results:

Star Trek Online (300.8 hours): This makes sense, as I’ve used Steam to play STO as long as I can remember. 300 seems kind of low for how much I’ve done in that MMO, but it’s still my most-played game here.

Rimworld (202.5 hours): Now this was a surprise, as Rimworld is still kind of a new game to me. I don’t think I’ve had it for more than a couple years now, but it fast became a favorite. But really, over 200 hours? That knocked my socks off.

New World (51.5 hours): This is since launch, so you can judge me for whatever standards you like with this number. I think it shows a player who’s dipped into the early game several times and had a few runs here and there but nothing long-lasting.

RIFT (51.1 hours): This is mostly from my return to RIFT since the old Glyph client went kaput (at least for me). Ah RIFT, you deserved so much better.

Fallout 76 (51 hours): And good hours they were! Like New World, I tend to have short but intense runs at this game but not for extended durations.

Mass Effect 2 (45.7 hours): This represents my one and only full playthrough of what I consider to be the best game in the series. Maybe I started up a second game at some point, but I know I finished it a ways back.

Fallout 4 (41.2 hours): This made me laugh because I don’t really remember that much about Fallout 4 and don’t feel like I got that far in the game at all. I guess I must’ve, though!

Chrono Trigger (31 hours): I think this represents playing it through about twice, which sounds right.

Starbound (28.3 hours): OK, I think Steam is lying here. I don’t remember what this game is, nevermind getting it and playing it over 28 hours. I do have one post from 2013 about it, so I guess I must have?

Chrono Cross (23.8 hours): And there you have the official number of hours that it took before I got really bored with the slow storytelling pace and glitchy game performance.

Detroit Become Human (20.2 hours): A good game but a tad on the long side for an adventure title.

Wildermyth (20.2 hours): A few campaigns in those 20 hours with hopefully more to come!

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Wearing Edgar like a suit

More Shadowfen adventures this week. I’m not entirely sure quite yet, but this feels like a smaller zone than normal in terms of its content. I wouldn’t mind that so much — I feel like it’s becoming a one-note locale with a whole lot of Dominion using magic to mimic murdered people’s bodies. That’s interesting, but not all-zone-all-the-time interesting.

One of the delves had a section that was a maze-like drowned library, which I thought was thematically nifty.

Not too long after, I encountered a quest that really impressed me. I was going through some “trials” of the sort that MMOs occasionally like to make players do, when I was given a 1:20 timer and told to hit some waypoints as fast as possible. Not a lot of time, but with a super fast mount it was doable.

However, halfway through the course, I encounter a hurt NPC who begs for my help to escort her limping form back to safety. So with the timer ticking away, I had to make the choice on the spot — and while I figured that the right thing the devs wanted me to do was the escort, it still pained me a bit to abandon the timer. It was a clever little way to play on the user’s psychology to have them make a judgment call of helping oneself or another. So well done on that.

Unfortunately, this past week I started to feel that predictable decline in personal enthusiasm for ESO. I swear, I can get about a good solid month from time to time in this game before my interest flatlines. It may be partially my messed-up head, but honestly a lot of it is in the game’s design. This MMO has tremendous quests and world-building, but there’s precious little “stickiness” in a way that I would prefer. I don’t feel like I’m improving my character or chasing any significant goals. Combat is ridiculously easy (and boring). And sometimes the zones, quests, and little instances are a bit too samey.

So I come back to the game, get enthused, have a good time, but fail to stick to any of it — and so the inevitable decline until the cycle repeats in a few more months’ time.