Sunday Serenade: Morse, Mother, and more!

Time for another Sunday morning dose of random songs that I’ve been listening to this past week! Welcome to Sunday Serenade — now let’s crank the jams up with… 

“Mono” by Monotones — This is the dorkiest, silliest song I’ve heard in a long while. Which makes it Number One Cool Beans.

“Play Dirty” by Kevin McAllister — This is a good anthem for when you, I don’t know, want to take on the mob in 1930’s Chicago.

“Lovers for the Weekend” by John de Sohn – Looking for relationships with actual substance rather than flings? I can get behind that message.

“Zero Sum Game” by Molly Moore — I’m finding that Molly Moore’s songs are a nice collection of inoffensive, background tracks perfect to put on and ignore while gaming and the like.

“Main Theme” from Mortal Kombat (Amiga) — Short but slaps!

“Field Theme 1” from Mother — This may be the first Mother track I’ve ever liked. I’ve considered these OSTs overrated.

“Lena” by Monkeybrain — Another really good relaxing background track with a comforting beat.

“If I Lose Myself” by Monoklon — This definitely needs to be music over an end-of-episode montage of some drama show.

“Shaman” by Morse — The humming, the low voice, the beat… it all is hypnotizing in the best of ways.

LOTRO activities I’ve never done

The new zone in Lord of the Rings Online is a pretty quick one, all things considered, so it looks like I’m going to have some free time after I’m done with it before the next progression server unlock or patch. I’ve been mulling over several different options, from doing deed hunting to working on a new character to maybe taking up crafting. Maybe.

The crafting thing got me thinking about something else, which is the fact that there are plenty of activities in LOTRO that either I’ve never done at all or only done lightly. So let’s make a quick list of them:

Crafting

Other than fiddling with crafting in the first few weeks of the game, the only time I’ve really engaged with crafting was when I leveled up the scholar profession to make potions. I forget which character or how far I got with that, but it was fine and provided some sort of useful adventuring benefit. I haven’t really looked into how useful crafting is as a whole in the game, if making one’s own gear is that profitable or helpful, but I’m not going to be investing in a whole ton of time into making gear that I can easily get from questing rewards.

Hobnanigans

I think this is PvP chicken soccer? Or something? I’ve never done it, just gotten annoyed at the pop-ups trying to get me to play it every time it comes around. I should do it, I guess, just so that I can say that I did.

Chicken runs

I’ve done chicken runs, but I’ve never gotten past the third or fourth one. You really need a dedicated group, complete with bodyguards, to help with this. I’ve seen kinships organize these, and I would like to partake one of these days.

PvMP

LOTRO’s weird PvP mode is so isolated from the rest of the game that that only time use PvE players encounter it is when the few but loud PvMP fans come to the forums to bellow “WHAT ABOUT US?” to deaf developers.

Join a band

Oh, I’ve played music in LOTRO, but to date, I’ve never been part of one of the many player-organized bands that perform in the streets and taverns. Sounds cool, but I’m not that good at music or standing still in general.

Raiding

I think I can definitely say I’ve never done a LOTRO raid. I’ve done several dungeons and skirmishes — none recently, mind you — but it’s just not quite the same kind of scene or draw that it is for other MMOs. And I’m not salivating for uber gear enough to subject myself to the raiding mindset.

Fallout 76: Post-apocalyptic homebodies

When I came back to Fallout 76 for Wastelanders, I had hoped to like it, but I really didn’t expect to get this much sucked into it. Seriously, for a while there, it was sucking up about 80% of my gaming time, day after day, because I was just so interested in the missions and game world.

I think that a huge draw for me is the sense of going out on expeditions into the unknown. There’s a big element of exploration with F76 (and all the Fallout games), and grabbing some supplies and then hoofing it over a mountain range into an unknown area on a quest for some weirdness or another always made me feel vulnerable, excited, and daring at the same time.

But first things first — I built a house. I was holding off on it for a while, but eventually I knew I really wanted my own home base and would love it once I did it. Probably the longest part of making this was finding the ideal location that wouldn’t be CAMP camped by other players. I ended up making it in a small clearing at the top of a mountain in the starter zone, not too far away from the Vault.

The home-building process went surprisingly easy. I spent some of the free Atoms I’d earned on a contemporary housing set (walls, floors, doors) to make it look less ramshackle, and then constructed a basic 2×2 cabin that you see above. I want to keep the interior full of decorations and homey stuff, with all of the workbenches and whatnot on the outside. It’s a work in progress, but so far I’m pretty pleased with it.

Probably my biggest complaint about Wastelanders is that I still don’t think that the devs have the quest flow just right. For starters, there’s a big gap from when you finish the initial quests until you can start in on the faction ones (you have to reach level 20), which left me wandering around looking for the odd quest to do and mob to kill for XP.

Then, many of the quests that I was given as part of these chains sent me into absurdly dangerous areas. Like, “Hey, you’re level 14 and these are level 52 mobs. Have fun getting past them to your objective!” I had to do more than a few suicide runs to try to frantically dash into structures to click on The Thing and get the next quest step before being gunned down.

Oh! I did see a nuke! Well, I was informed that there was one going off in a couple of minutes, but it was so far into a high-level area that I didn’t have the chance to get there through fast travel. I went to the top of a ridge and was able to see some light in the distance, so I guess that was something.

Really, the quests are pretty excellent even if they’re somewhat rare to find. I stumbled upon this frat one that I thought would be pretty simple, and it turned out to be a many-step quest to find the formula to a secret alcoholic drink that was going to fuel the success of an actual underground speakeasy. Lots of environmental details and humor, even if it was pretty morbid.

And I came upon the room of the most dedicated Nuka Cola fan in the universe as a result.

So yeah, good times all around. I’ve gotten my first CAMP ally (Beckett, who set up shop at a bar that I built for him), started in on the Settler faction quests, and decked myself out with a nasty combat shotgun that mows down mobs like nobody’s business. I feel like I’m getting the hang of the perk system and weapon mods for the first time, and I’m even not that bad at combat any more. Good times.

Chrono Trigger: Full of Zeal

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1995’s Chrono Trigger. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Even as the reptites face their doom, they get the last laugh by summoning (maybe? how?) Lavos from outer space to crash down into the world. Lavos buries itself deep inside, and apparently starts pooping out time gates. Doesn’t make sense to me, Marle, but your explanation is as good as any other.

So from 65,000,000 B.C., our heroes jump through a brand-new gate into the unexplored 12,000 B.C. This is the final era that the game has to offer and is apparently undergoing the ice age that Lavos’ descent triggered a very long time ago.

This is where I’m going to share one of my very few criticisms about this game, which is that 12,000 B.C. — the Kingdom of Zeal — does not fit in with the rest of Chrono Trigger the way the other eras do. Apparently different teams within Square were handed the various eras, and Masato Kato made this one his pet project (which he then expanded into Chrono Cross, for good and bad). So it comes across like another game shoved into the first one, with its own rules and cast of characters and whatnot. It’s not a horrible era, as we’ll explore, but it doesn’t fit in with the history arc the way the others do (very ancient history, medieval history, present time, future history). Anyway, consider my protest lodged, and we shall get back to the playthrough.

This era is divided into two areas: the frozen world below and these lush, magical floating islands above the clouds. Sure, floating islands that weren’t referenced in any other era. Let’s go with it. The inhabitants here say that this is the magic kingdom of Zeal, “where dreams can be made reality.” Disney is obviously about two seconds away from suing this place.

We learn that Queen Zeal has something against the sun and has shut down the sun temple in favor of some other power source. She also has two kids: the magically talented Lady Schala and the broody little Lord Janus.

As an aside, I really love the music for Zeal. It’s a great theme that keeps it bubbly and light.

Everyone here is chatty (if they’re not sleeping) with plenty of backstory about how Queen Zeal made this incredible place of dream-magic. And then a boy comes along to prophecy the death of one of our party members. Thanks for being a buzzkill, dude!

Inside the Zeal palace, the music gets somewhat more ominous. Doesn’t sound as though the queen is a nice lady, so I do what I can to foment rebellion by instructing ladies to grow trees. I’m a rebel!

In the bedchambers, Schala gives Janus what I think is Marle’s pendant — at least, she tells him it’ll keep him safe. It’s apparently made from the same red stone (dreamstone?) as the Mammon Machine. Janus also mentions how the queen isn’t really the queen: “She looks like her, but she’s not the same inside.” He’s a perceptive lad, that one.

Speaking of the Mammon Machine, the Crono Crew uses it to finally power up Marle’s pendant so that it can be used to open all of these mysterious black doors and chests that are tucked around space and time. That’ll come in handy!

The Queen is an utter delight to meet, naturally. Apparently a hooded “prophet” has been advising against us, even though I thought we’d been keeping a pretty low profile in this time period. Alas, this confrontation ends with a golem smackdown and serious jail time.

Fortunately, Schala and Janus decide to break the Crono Crew out against the Queen’s orders, in the hopes that they’ll be able to save Malchior (what, is he in trouble in this time period?).

The bad news is that they’re caught by the prophet. In exchange for Schala’s cooperation with whatever the queen is doing, the prophet spares their lives but forces them back into the time gate and demands that Schala seal it up behind them. For now, at least, the way into this time period is closed.

For now.

Why am I not more pumped for WoW: Shadowlands?

You’d think as a career World of Warcraft player whose household maintains an active subscription and as an MMO player without a lot of huge releases on the docket for this year, I’d be starting to ramp up my internal hype for Shadowlands. I mean, unlike some, I don’t hold a lot of angst about Battle for Azeroth. It was a generally fun expansion that wasn’t quite as good as Legion but wasn’t nearly the cesspit that the hyperbolic are making it out to be, and I’m always on board for another big dose of World of Warcraft content.

Yet I haven’t really been much in the mood for WoW this year, other than a month or so back in WoW Classic. I do this thing where every so often I’ll quickly load up a whole lot of my previous favorite games to see if my internal excitement has rejuvenated for any of them, and every time I’ve done it for WoW this year, I’ve felt lukewarm at best. I didn’t participate in the last patch and don’t have a strong urge to start a new character as a project.

But that’s now — what about the future? I mean, I guess Shadowlands looks interesting as a story concept. Delving into WoW’s version of the afterworld could hold a lot of possibilities, but Blizzard didn’t exactly knock our socks off with the expansion’s feature list last last year’s BlizzCon. There’s a randomized rogue-like dungeon, some new skills to earn, and… not much else? The revamp to the leveling process and the level squish will be a nice boon to any future alts, but that seems more like reorganizing a closet than coming up with genuinely new activities. If housing or some truly exciting feature or class was coming with the expansion, sure, I might be very much on board, but it’s hard to make a case with this one.

My lack of enthusiasm could also stem from simply enjoying right now what I’m playing. The triad of LOTRO, Guild Wars 2, and Fallout 76 offer a whole lot of enjoyment and doesn’t make me feel restless or lacking. I’m getting a bit of a different meal at each, and I feel quite full at the end of each night.

I suppose I’ll be back for Shadowlands later this year. My wife loves to play WoW (I got her a time card as a sweetheart gift a week ago) and she’ll want the expansion if nothing else. And I have to allow for the possibility that a few more months going by might do a lot to return my interest. But right here, right now, any talk about Shadowlands kind of just… bounces off and around me whenever I read it or see videos on it. I know I could be taking advantage of this rep boost to unlock more allied races, but I don’t play the ones I already have, so what’s the point there? And I gave up on the stupidly long grind for the bee mount months ago when I discovered that there were two layers of reputation.

I don’t think BlizzCon’s going to happen in person this year, but I could see Blizzard doing a full virtual BlizzCon instead to talk up Shadowlands (either its imminent release or its upcoming first patch) and Burning Crusade Classic. Probably be a nice shot in the arm for the company, but Blizz isn’t quite riding so high these days — and that makes it easier to ignore.

Nostalgia Lane: PC Gamer demo discs

Computer gaming was in a different place in the mid and late 1990s. While widespread internet rolled out by 1995 or so, the connection speeds were really too low to get a lot of content fast — and downloading games was pretty much out of the question unless they were small or packed into zip files. I still relied a lot on print media for my gaming news, such as PC Gamer.

My subscription to this magazine came with a huge bonus, which was the monthly demo discs that would come with them. Seriously, every time an issue would arrive in my college mailbox, I felt like I was being gifted this two-for-one boon — lots of gaming stuff to read, and some free games to boot.

The demo discs were usually chock-full of different titles to try, ranging from very bare-bones demos to some games that could occupy hours. I loved that the magazine actually went to the effort of creating these odd CGI interfaces upon booting up the disc, often showcasing the Coconut Monkey mascot and shadowy, steampunk-looking underground offices.

Again, it’s not as if we had a massive selection of instant gaming at our fingertips back then. It was whatever games we had paid for or shared between us. A good demo disc could deliver hours and hours of gaming fun, even if the types of games weren’t usually the ones we’d go for in the store. I actually liked that I was being encouraged to try new things.

I don’t remember any specific games that I played through these, although I know that it was a really great day if one of the demos happened to be a title that I was anticipating. Getting a preview of that would help me decide if the eventual purchase was worth it or not. There were also extras for existing games, such as maps and missions to tack on more play hours.

Often the discs would also include dumb Coconut Monkey-themed games made in-house, but what was the real score was when the discs would include full versions of older games (such as Wing Commander or The Curse of Monkey Island) for free.

Anyway, faster internet pretty much made the demo disc obsolete, but for a while there, it was a godsend to us starved gamers. Thank you, Coconut Monkey, for the fun!

Sunday Serenade: KISS, Clean Bandit, and more!

Time for another Sunday morning dose of random songs that I’ve been listening to this past week! Welcome to Sunday Serenade — now let’s crank the jams up with… 

“Hold Me Now” by Johnny Logan — Dude really wants a hug. I suggest you give him one.

“Jawas” by Parry Gripp — Ootini!

“I Love It Loud” by KISS — What? Sometimes you just need freaky men in weird paint screaming about turning the volume up or somesuch.

“Mission 1” from Gaiares — This Genesis track is a bit thin, but the melody itself is kinda catchy.

Rockabye” by Clean Bandit — Good beat, has earworm potential, I’ll go for it.