Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: Quick, everyone run toward the nuclear explosion!

One of the nice things about rerolling in a game is that you can take all of your previous knowledge and experience — along with some newer research — and do everything “better” this time around. It certainly feels that way in Fallout 76. I’m more focused, less sloppy, and less at a loss of what to be focusing in these early levels.

Every time I log in, I mostly identify a quest or objective I want to work on, then plug away at that. Having a beginning, middle, and end of a task gives a feeling of satisfaction, even if it’s not super-substantial. And if I can knock off a few daily or weekly challenges, all the better, but I’m not going to stress out about it.

This time around, I made it a point to get my shelter early on and start working on at least making it more homey. Well, the opening hallway; everything in the bigger space is empty right now. I just need a quick place to zip back for free to do some crafting and storage.

Almost exclusively, I’m using the shotgun to make my mark on the wasteland. It’s just a standard pump-action with no special stats, although I have modded it as much as I can for increased range and punch. It does a good job taking down robots and super mutants alike.

And look at that — I even got my first backpack!

Usually when the game notifies me that a nuclear strike is about to hit, it’s all the way down in the lower-right corner of the map, far away from me. But the other day, I saw that one was going to hit not too far away from where I was questing. So I booked it over there in hopes of getting a screenshot — and lo and behold, I kind of got one as it crested over the ridge. Sure, now I’m glowing green and have gills, but it was worth the hassle.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: Strapping the Pip-Boy on once more

Foolish or felicitous? I can’t quite decide if my return to Fallout 76 this month goes either way. It’s certainly been a little while — last September, I think — since I was in post-nuclear Appalachia, so there’s certainly been enough time to rebuild interest for when it felt right. And it kind of does. It’s a nice change of pace to go back into the survival-scavenging-questing loop of F76 as I see how the game might have improved over the past half-year.

I did have to futz around with migrating F76 to Steam because Bethesda couldn’t be bothered to keep up its own launcher. It worked, but it didn’t exactly endear me to the studio at that moment.

Of course, it having been as long as it has, I felt a brand-new character was called for. It’s always like wrestling a bear to make a non-ugly face in this game, but I think I managed. For a change of pace, this character is going to be concentrating on building up a huge luck skill. Can never hurt to have luck in RPGs! I’ve already seen a couple of funny speech options from this — including convincing one bad guy that his partner was working with me because I somehow knew his name — and I’m hoping that continues.

One nice thing about restarting is instant familiarity with the intro Forest zone. I know most all of the good places to go while getting my game legs back, and it’s all like taking a tour of an old favorite place.

I didn’t create much of a CAMP to start. Rather, my initial goals are to build up a small arsenal of trusted weapons and start stockpiling mats. Do quests. Explore map areas. That’s about it. Nothing complicated.

Oh hey, it’s Fallout 76’s text chat system, looking as lively a prospect as it has for the past four or so years! Dude, I’m just impressed you were able to hang on to your beer (mustard?) even while being vaporized.

I made it a priority to get my shelter and relocate it near a train station with a ton of useful vendors. I love that shelters can fit pretty much anywhere, unlike CAMPs.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: Sheltering in place

Another newish feature that I was excited to explore with the current iteration of Fallout 76 is shelters. This is basically instanced housing for people who didn’t want to bother with constructing open world structures. Like me, for example. Or it’s for people who love the idea of a mini-vault of their own.

I love it. I really do. I got one for free and eagerly ran inside, bouncing off the walls and imagining what I can do with this space. It reminded me a whole lot of WildStar, especially when I’d buy shells of houses (or, my favorite, the spaceship house) to fill out.

There’s a little mudroom that’s perfect to set up all of my crafting tables, with a much larger room past that which I’ll use as living space. Other than plop up a power supply, some lights, and a bed, I haven’t done much with it yet, but the possibilities… oh the possibilities.

Hey, it’s another vault! Couldn’t figure out how to get into this one — yet — but I definitely want to see it. Fallout’s vaults are never boring to explore, as they usually contain an interesting story.

So in the meanwhile, I’ve continued to explore all of the areas of The Forest. I kind of don’t want to leave it, because I like the lush trees and colorful environment. It’s kind of a shame that a lot of the rest of the game’s map is considerably more ugly.

I haven’t been going hardcore at the season, but if there are some easy challenges to knock out that day, I’ll gladly do them for some extra freebies.

I’ve been gathering up a small armory and even kitted out my armor as a ghillie suit. Don’t recall where I got the plans for that, but it’s a fun option nevertheless.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: Country roads come calling

It’s long been on my docket to head back into Fallout 76 this year, and now with FFXIV winding down for me and New World still weeks away, I felt like it was a good time to return to Appalachia. I elected to start up a brand-new character to experience the level-adjustment system (and, to be honest, get that thrill out of “discovering” these areas all over again).

As we all know far too well, Bethesda has pretty much the worst character creation tools in the industry. I mean, if you’re trying to make a mutated freak that’ll have you waking up at night in cold sweats, no problem. Bethsoft’s got you covered. But making a human that rises above the uncanny valley to something approaching attractive or likable? That’s a tall order.

That said, I think I did very well for myself with Ghostfire here.

And apart from the continued lack of social connection and chat tools in this game, it was a joy to be back and do some sight-seeing. I spent the first night exploring the surrounding areas, stocking up on a few weapons, and kicking off quest chains. I also created a bare-bones CAMP — weapon workshop, stash, and garish HAVE A NICE DAY sign — for the time being.

Originally I was thinking about playing this character as solely melee, to change things up, but melee-only doesn’t always pan out in certain areas and missions. Sometimes you need to attack from a distance or use cover, and a rifle in that case is better than a baseball bat. So I think I’ll make a all-around generalist with a small assortment of weapons.

I like how you can be playing this game for a long time and still find stuff you’ve never seen before. This alien statue (shrine?) made me laugh.

Two things really press those anxiety buttons — when the game makes that “nuclear strike incoming” alert and when a radiation storm hits. They’re downright eerie, both times, and I always duck ‘n’ cover.

So. Yeah. Really enjoying the simple gameplay loop of explore-salvage-craft, and I’m going to work off of fan maps to try to see every place that’s actually in the game. Explorable locations, that is.

Posted in Fallout, No Man's Sky, Project Gorgon, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Villagers and Heroes

Six MMOs that want my attention in 2021

Boy do I feel like I’m in a weird place with MMO gaming right now. Call it a summer malaise or what have you, but it’s that mixture of guilt, restlessness, and a hunger for fresh blogging material that keeps turning my mind to MMOs I’m not playing — but kind of feel that I should. Or might. Perhaps. Maybe at some point later this year.

The delay of New World really threw my summer plans into disarray. Now I’ve got over a month before gearing up for that, so I have some extra time that I could be using elsewhere. Not that LOTRO or FFXIV doesn’t offer enough content to fill those hours, but… restlessness. Freshness. I don’t like getting too stale.

In any case, here are six MMOs that I’ve been contemplating as titles that I want to get to sooner or later:

No Man’s Sky

The recent fifth anniversary thrust this title back in front of my eyes. It always seems like a game that I should like and stick with more than I have in the past, and so it’s always on the docket for another go. I think this might actually be a really fun blog series if I wanted to do a journal run of it.

Fallout 76

It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious F76 play, and this is a good contender for bite-sized explorative play. I’ve never hit level 50 on a character, and I would like to see how the level scaling works from the start. I’m still kind of holding out for a guild and chat system, but that’s not on the immediate horizon, so my feelings are more lukewarm than “MUST PLAY NOW.”

Star Trek Online

My daughter and I have been watching through some Star Trek: The Next Generation — she’s kind of interested in Trek, so I’m low-key encouraging it — and it’s certainly having the result of making me want to head back into the MMO… at some point. Probably in about six episodes, if my track record is a witness.

Project Gorgon

Label this one under a big, all-caps “GUILT,” because boy do I feel guilty that I’m not actually playing this. Allegedly, I’m waiting for a bonafide launch, but that’s just an excuse. The truth is that I know I’m going to have to learn a whole bunch of new systems and figure out what to do, and that takes mental energy I’m not super-willing to expend. Right now. But I should.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

New expansion will come with new hype. But the appeal for me, right now, would be that SWTOR is a good MMO substitute for when I’m craving WoW again. I’m not quite at that point — LOTRO is probably helping, here — but it’s quite possible that I’ll be blasting my way through this during the holiday season.

Guild Wars 2

Another case of “new expansion news brings actual hope that this game has a future instead of stagnation.” I genuinely hope it does. I don’t really care for GW2’s story, but I love so much about this game and want to see it pull out of this nose-dive it’s been in the past few years. Considering that I’m reinstalling it as I’m typing this, there’s a better-than-average chance I’ll be puttering around doing map completion before too long.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: A new face, a new identity

Despite the general lack of time on my hands during this very busy month, I felt the urge to dip back into Fallout 76. It’s been on my to do list for a while, to start over and see how the level-scaling works from the ground up. It’s certainly been a while since I’ve been to Appalachia, but I miss it. Yeah, I know this game has problems up the wazoo, but I miss it.

And another part of the reason that I’ve been wanting to get back into it is that I’m jonesing for some nature crawling. Now that spring is in full bloom around here, we’ve been going out for hikes and bike rides and kayak trips, and I yearn for that exploratory feel in a game. Fallout 76 delivers that thanks to its wilder setting. And I’ve gotten a bit addicted to reading and watching stuff on the Appalachian Trail, which also ties in.

Anyway! Here’s my new character. I tried to give her a bit of a different look than the rest, kind of a sassy old school engineer, and I think it looks fine. She handles herself well, especially while punching Chinese bots.

But I’m in no hurry. I need to rebuild my stockpile, start in on questlines, get gear, build a base, and start checking off places on the map. Considering that they brought in a whole bunch of new content over the last half-year, I’ve got more to look forward to than before.

I’m thinking about maybe making her a melee fighter instead of my usual shooty style, just to try something new (and keep ammo weight down). I can always flip between options, of course.

It feels like Fallout 76 is finally filling out as the game it should’ve been in the first place — all except the much-needed social options like guilds and text chat that it still lacks. I might start looking around for a Discord guild or something to stave off the isolation.

Posted in Fallout

Playing Fallout 76’s impossible board game

“No thanks, I think I’ll hold it until I find a cleaner bathroom. Yeah, I’m sure.”

I feel like I’m always waiting on a Fallout 76 update to bring the game up to my standards for enjoyment. First I was waiting for the Wastelanders release to start over in the game, and now I’m kind of waiting for the One Wasteland update to be able to tackle my huge backlog of quests. But what I was really waiting on this particular summer was the start of the game’s first season, which landed last week alongside of public teams.

The seasons seem like a decent way to pass the time for now while still leveling up and accumulating more stuff for my character and house. The idea is to have a reward track — 100 ranks’ worth — that’s advanced by doing daily and weekly challenges. There are some pretty nice rewards on there, too, from currency to cosmetics. It’s enough to make me want to play and to give me some sense of direction, which is pretty much all I need — other than narrative, which this sort of activity lacks almost entirely.

So far, it’s been slow and steady. I can already see that I’m not going to be hitting any of the weekly goals, not with my levels and time to play, but I am able to tick off two to four daily challenges and help get me up there. I have no idea how far this will take me — I think if I hit rank 30 or 40, it’ll be a miracle — but so far it’s not been too frustrating.

One thing this has done is getting me to do more public events, which puts me at least in proximity with other players — even if we can’t chat. I am trying to use my weakest guns and cheapest ammo so as to conserve my good stuff for when it’s really needed. My two-shot bow gets a lot of use in the Forest region — arrows are cheap and I can retrieve them more often than not. It’s a little tricky to use, especially in a high-pressure situation, but I tend to take down low-level mobs with a single shot.

I have been running up against a completely full STASH at my camp, which is subsequently causing a problem with my carrying-around inventory. There’s so much random stuff in this game that I’m not sure whether or not to get rid of — keys, cards, brochures, and other seemingly quest- or area-related items. So instead of a neat bag, I’m carrying everything I’m too terrified to drop. I am trying to build one or two things in my house every day to help use up some of those STASH materials, as well.

So yeah, it’s fun to be back and to have clear goals to chase for the summer. If you happen to see a combat medic sprinting through the wasteland with a bow and arrow, give me a thumbs-up emote and then run for you life, because something’s probably chasing me.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: Paranormal paramedic

I got to say, one of the best perks of doing game journalism is once in a while getting to interview the developers of the game you’re actually playing. I always feel incredibly lucky that I get face time with these people and can zing whatever questions I want at them.

So it was incredibly gratifying to get a half-hour to grill Fallout 76’s devs on Zoom the other week. I wasn’t mean about it, but I came at them pretty blunt and pretty hard and at least got to voice my frustrations at some of the game’s “pain points,” such as a lack of text chat and guilds, as well as the wildly fluctuating difficulty levels while questing. I think Bethesda’s getting hammered about the text chat question, and there’s hope that it’ll get on top of that sooner rather than later, but what is coming soon is this One Wasteland stat retooling that’ll level out the difficulty for all players.

I am very excited about that, and once that hits, I’ll finally be able to catch up on sooo many quest chains that have stalled out because they’re in super-dangerous areas or guarded by mobs that I have zero chance of defeating.

One cool little change the game made lately was to allow backpack skins to apply to small backpacks, which means that those of us who got these skins in the store and have been waiting to use them on regular backpacks could go ahead right now. As you see above, I went with the medic backpack, which goes well with my paramedic jumpsuit. I like the look and feel of the character, imagining her as a combat medic hopping through the wasteland.

She’s level 26 as of the writing of this and doing fine, if not better than that. Each gaming session I attempt a different quest or set a goal, and sometimes I can achieve it, and sometimes not. I’m starting to accumulate a nice arsenal of weapons, although I’m running out of room to put everything I have. My STASH is completely full, so maybe another housebuilding session is in order to clear out the stuff in there.

I am a little disappointed how few dialogue NPCs I’ve encountered over the past month. The pre-Wastelanders content is still in the game, so there are still a ton of locations and quests without a talkative NPC to be seen, and those are mostly what I’ve been doing. I know I need to head back over to Foundation to see what missions I can drum up from those folks, so that might set me back on a more normal questing course.

One thing that sets Fallout 76 apart from other MMOs I play is that I feel so vulnerable in this game. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped because a mob I didn’t see springs out at me, or how I’ve quietly backed away from mini-nuclear detonations and fireballs from other conflicts just over the next ridge. It still has a “big world” feel to it, and without social tools, I’m more isolated than I’d like to be.

Posted in Fallout

Hitting walls over and over again in Fallout 76

I can say that I very rarely walk away from a Fallout 76 session feeling let down or bored. At level 26, the world is still pretty open and new to me, and each night’s activities contain a host of unexpected discoveries and experiences. But more and more these days, I find myself hitting brick walls and finding myself at impasses to actually complete missions.

There’s a lot to be frustrated with here, mostly due to how Bethesda handles its quests and mob difficulty levels. For starters, none of the quests are labeled with suggested level ranges or a difficulty rating. You can start a quest in an easy region and soon find yourself forging into very dangerous territory because step 3 demands it. There also seems to be no rhyme or reason for the levels of mobs that I encounter, either. They’re supposed to be loosely tied to a level range within a region, but I’ve been told that if a high-level player comes through, then the mob levels will increase to match — and then stay that way for a while, completely putting the screws to weaker players.

So there are many questlines that I’ve started and simply can’t finish because they’re death sentences. And that stinks, because quests are by far a huge source of gear and XP to leveling players. There’s one quest — the one for the backpack — that I can’t finish because it requires me to rez another player, which is kind of impossible with the scarce communication tools on hand.

Another problem I’ve been running into is when I get into these harder parts, I’m burning through ammunition at an insane rate just to down a single mob or two. I have some nice guns at this point, but I’m going to be out of ammo within days if I press on.

When I hit these walls, I sigh, curse Bethesda, and switch to the next mission and see if I can do that. It’s a shame, because a lot of these questlines have great stories attached to them. On the recommendation of a Twitter friend, I started doing one involving a group of women who formed a superhero-themed team that helped folks around the wasteland. They have costumes, an underground base, the works. But about midway through, I was asked to get a sword from this one specific location — and that locale is guarded by very high level mobs.

I tried a lot of things to run in and grab it, but since I have to use a computer terminal to unlock the case, no amount of stealth will keep me undetected. I also waited to see if other players would happen to run through and be interference, but no such luck. The populations on these servers are too low to expect anyone to show up.

I’ll keep persevering, because there’s a lot of fun here, and I try not to shy away from the challenge of it all. I figure that I’ll eventually work my way up in levels and gear to be able to handle these obstacles and finally break through the walls, but in the meantime, I’m going to have to keep cycling through quests to find ones that don’t send me on death trips.

I am excited about the summer season pass that’s coming up. That might be a really good way to level up and get rewards, presuming that it makes allowances for low- and mid-range players as well as highbies. Bethesda really hasn’t addressed that, so I guess we’ll see.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76’s perk system is pretty groovy

One thing I’ve noticed about giving games a second or third chance is that sometimes you end up understanding systems and getting the game as a whole a lot better the next time around (and with fresh eyes). I can’t say that I really got Fallout 76’s perk system in the past, but now? Now I’m on top of it — and it’s become one of my favorite MMO character build systems.

So basically, every level you get to bump up a SPECIAL attribute by one point. While the attributes have connected effects on various secondary stats (carry weight, VATS accuracy, etc), each point also represents a total perk pool for that primary stat. So if I have 8 strength points, I can put in perk cards that total up to 8.

Every level you also get to choose one perk card from an assortment related to the stat you chose, and ever five levels you get a “perk pack” of (I think) five random cards. This creates your overall pool of perks from which to choose and assign to your stats. Perk cards can be combined to level up to make a stronger effect (but also a higher card point value). It’s actually pretty straight-forward once you get it and remarkably flexible.

Since Fallout 76 doesn’t really have active combat skills, none of the perk cards that I see actually give you more abilities so much as just create a lot of passive effects and effects that are triggered upon a certain condition. I really like having a perk, for example, that automatically injects me with a stim pack when I go under a certain health threshold. And I do not regret investing in several perception points to get two ranks of lockpicking.

I also have been applying perk cards that help bring down my carry weight. But by far, my favorite category is luck, because those perk cards are just amazing. I have cards that randomly pay out in bonus ammo and food when I find those containers, and they proc all the time.

In any case, it’s a very flexible system that allows for a wide range of builds, and I appreciate any game that lets me tailor my character and playstyle to what fits me.