SWTOR: Making my butt groove on the Eternal Throne

We started to come close to the wire in getting SWTOR’s Eternal Throne expansion done by the end of the year. I had to wait to play this in short bursts with my son right before bed time, and it came down to the last two chapters needing to get done in the two days before new year’s.

At least we got to commandeer a walker to help fight Vaylin’s invasion of Odessa. It was the only bright spot in a long slog through a very story-lite chapter.

At least the final (?) confrontation with Vaylin actually happened. This expansion’s been teasing it, oh, pretty much every chapter so far, and that sort of thing gets tiring, fast. She’s a decent villain but kind of one note with her angry-crazy-vengeance thing.

One of the joys of playing an Agent is seeing a non-Force powered character stand toe-to-toe with the galaxy’s greatest — and win.

That brought us to the final chapter, a race to claim the throne on Zakuul before the Eternal Fleet destroyed everything else in the galaxy. Honestly, I was just ready for this whole storyline to be over — and for me to never see another skytrooper ever again.

As the saying goes, don’t use electric toilets. Naturally, claiming the Eternal Throne wasn’t going to happen easily — as the Emperor chose that moment to try to take over my mind and rule through my body. Yeah, no, that’s not going to happen.

Cue another slog, although a visually interesting one, through my mindscape. A couple of semi-tough battles later, and Mr. Beardy was finally obliterated. Or so they say. He can go jump into the void with skytroopers for all I care.

And that was it! Eternal Throne, beaten just hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was a decent enough conclusion, although it felt more like a watered-down single-player game than an MMO. I really will have to return to SWTOR some time in 2021 to head into the planets and expansions past this point, as it’s all new to me from here.

Sunday Serenade: The Nicholas, The Light Corridor, 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… 

“Rockshow” by The Nicholas — A really lovely song… and unfortunately way too short at two-and-a-half minutes. But there’s always the repeat button.

“Radioactive Rain” by Smith and Thell — I swear, this duo is nothing but hit after hit. Amazing stuff.

“The Middle” by Zedd and Maren Morris — Fun little club track!

“Exile Vilify” by The National — From Portal 2, apparently. Quite sad and profoundly moving.

“Faster” by Sam D — Crank up this peppy beat. Added to my workout mix.

“Hard Times” by The Jetzons — Here we have a single from 1982 that apparently was used to create an iconic Sonic the Hedgehog track. The world never stops surprising me.

“Be Alright” by Stonebank — A tremendous remix that pairs well with headphones.

“Peace of Mind” by Mei-B — Just a really relaxing trance-like track. Gonna add this to my work mix.

“Sweet Divine” by The Main Squeeze — Great, strong sound on this one.

“Aurora in the Distance” from Mouryou Senki — Can’t recall the last time I heard a really haunting NES tune, but here you go!

“Space Trip” from The Light Corridor — This whole OST is pretty groovy, actually.

Syp’s gaming goals for January 2021

December 2020 in review

  • By and large, a majority of my gaming time this month was taken up by World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. I got both my Druid and Death Knight to 60 and bounced back and forth between them as I started to get into the core gameplay loop.
  • Midway through the month, I realized I did need a second game for variety’s sake, so I picked back up Star Wars: The Old Republic with the limited time goal of finishing up Knights of the Eternal Throne by the end of the month. Mission accomplished!
  • I dithered a little in Octopath Traveler (I’d say four or so sessions) while still in the early game, collecting party member stage.
  • For retro gaming, I dipped into Mystic Towers for a bit to experience a title I’d never seen before.

January 2021’s gaming goals

  • For World of Warcraft, I would really love to get into a good weekly groove while figuring out ways to pursue mini-goals, such as snagging toys and transmog.
  • For my one-month limited project, I’m going to finally pull the trigger on Return of Reckoning and check out this WAR server. The last time I played WAR was (I think) 2009, so it’ll be a real blast to the past.
  • I also want to start picking through my enormous backlog of free and purchased games on Epic, GOG, and Steam. My goal is to at least try TWO of these in the month of January and write up posts on them.
  • I may… I may pick back up LOTRO to work on the progression server. I’m not fully decided on this yet. I don’t want to abandon my Minnie, but at the same time, my enthusiasm for doing Gondor and Mordor is pretty low. I may just put her in stasis and focus on my max-level Lore-master when SSG makes the Three Peaks DLC available for purchase with LOTRO points.
  • I’m most excited about some alternative gaming options. I picked up Cyberpunk 2077 over the holidays and would like to give that a whirl, and as for Retro Gaming, I have Kroz and Torchlight II loaded and ready to go!

2020 Wrapup: 11 great video games I played this year

Now that we’re wrapping up 2020, it’s a good time for me to peruse back through all of the games that I managed to play this year and share the 10 that had the greatest impact on me. Let’s get to it!

Lord of the Rings Online

For a good portion of the year, I was deeply immersed in Middle-earth, particularly with Aragorn and Arwen’s wedding and Rohan on the progression server. But by the end of 2020, I was very burned out on this title and disillusioned with SSG’s decision to monetize the latest quest pack.

World of Warcraft

I took several months off at the tail end of Battle for Azeroth, which helped to pave the way to revive my interest in the fall for Shadowlands. I really loved the new leveling revamp and spent the last month immersed in Blizzard’s latest expansion.

Disco Elysium

This was a really bleak RPG that I got over last winter that nevertheless enthralled me with its unique storytelling and game mechanics. I don’t think I’d play it a second time, but I’m certainly glad I did it in the first place.


I had a really good and very productive year with retro gaming, often writing posts many months ahead of time. Toonstruck with Christopher Lloyd and Dan Castellaneta was a delightful discovery and a very funny game to boot.

Chrono Trigger

It was a real blast to go through my favorite RPG of all time to share in a rather extensive retro gaming series. I’ve never played it on the PC before, but it turned out pretty well in the end!

Fallout 76

I had several good months of adventuring through the wasteland, especially as Bethesda improved it with Wastelanders and One Wasteland. It’s definitely a title I want to return to in 2021! Here’s hoping they get text chat in there some day, however.

Space Quest 5 and 6

It was SO satisfying to finally finish up this series that I began as an 8th grader. I’d never played these last two titles, and they turned out to be really funny and enjoyable!

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Bounced around in SWTOR over various months, but toward the end of the year, I made it my mission to power through the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion to finally finish that up. Had some great time doing this with my oldest son, who was really into it.

Octopath Traveler

Thanks to a half-price sale, I picked up this Square Enix day and got All The Nostalgic Feels from this modern RPG classic. I’m still poking my way through it but really loving its presentation and design.

Elder Scrolls Online

ESO is one of those MMOs that I find myself dipping into for a month or two and then leaving for a while, only to come back again and have a good time when I do. I finished up Elswyr’s main story and started in on Greymoor, although I haven’t completed that yet.

WoW Classic

For a good while there over the summer, WoW Classic was really hitting the spot for me. I haven’t looked back since Shadowlands, but… you never know.

Sam and Max Hit the Road: Cruising the Tunnel of Love

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Sam and Max Hit the Road. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As our gaming session opens this week, Sam and Max are investigating the carnival in which Bruno the Bigfoot and Trixie the Giraffe-Necked Girl both disappeared. Of course, there’s always time to ride the rides, so a whip around the Cone of Tragedy is not out of line. Alas, it results in Sam losing all of his inventory — which is a huge problem for adventure games. Off to the lost and found!

A weird thing about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with being able to go on virtual theme park rides in video games — MMOs, FPSs, adventure games, wherever I can find them. So you bet your sweet bippity I was thrilled to get to go into the Tunnel of Love. Just look at that thing! It’s amazing and apparently sponsored by Hell!

Inside the Tunnel O’ Love, the pair discover Doug the Mole Man, a couch potato with a sweet tooth and a penchant for telling overly long tales. It’s here that I learn that Max is allergic to lengthy stories.

One of the stories is useful, though, as Doug tells of how Trixie had fallen in love with the frozen Bruno and pined for him as for the fjords. She eventually coerced the firebreathing guy to defrost Bigfoot so that the two of them could run away and live happily together. Doug also says that his uncle at the biggest ball of twine in the world might know something more.

What’s pretty amusing to me about Trixie is that she’s repeatedly mentioned as having come from Scranton. I don’t know if Scranton was supposed to be super-obscure or whatever back in the early 90s, but these days it’s synonymous with The Office.

Another little interesting feature of Sam and Max is that when a new location is discovered via dialogue or items, it then opens up a new area on the world map to go explore.

For example, Gator Golf! Nothing like a golf driving range with real alligators. I’m really digging this kooky roadside attraction theme that Sam & Max have. These are exactly the kinds of places that I like to stop at on trips.

At the range, the duo bumps into Mr. Bumpus and his bodyguard. Bumpus is a country music star (of the short variety) who is also on the prowl for Bigfoot. Max insults his hair one too many times, and a fight erupts. Despite their tenacity, the Freelance Police are outmatched, and Max ends up being driven into a dunk tank.

To rescue a very ungrateful Max, Sam drives fish into the gator pond to make the creatures line up and create a path. It’s a pretty fun and easy environmental puzzle. 10/10, would smack fish again.

As Max emerges, he shows Sam another tuft of Bigfoot hair that he found in the tank. Also present is a snowglobe that unlocks the Mystery Vortex in Washington state.

Battle Bards Episode 184: MapleStory 2

Nexon’s late, doomed MapleStory 2 gets a resurrection of sorts, as the Battle Bards salvage the soundtrack and deliver it, shining and sparkly, to you. It’s a surprisingly good score with lots of interesting themes, and as such, Steff, Syl, and Syp are excited to talk about it. So rest in peace, MapleStory 2, we think you left behind a delightful musical legacy.

Episode 184 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Rune Blader Cave,” “Black Star,” and “Ice Age Field”)
  • “Knight Theme”
  • “Perion Field 1”
  • “Tria”
  • “Dream”
  • “Dungeon”
  • “Lapenta”
  • “Historic Desert”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener note from Katriana
  • Jukebox picks: “Flying in the Sky” from Super Robot Wars F, “Rey’s Theme” from Sims 4: Journey to Batuu, and “Volcano” from Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
  • Outro (feat. “Wizard Theme”)

World of Warcraft: Clawing myself out of a grave

As I move into the routine (pattern?) of Shadowlands’ day-to-day life, I took a break from my Druid to raise up my Death Knight to 60. I have to say that I absolutely love the option to either level the conventional way or through the “Threads of Fate.” This time, I did the latter, and it worked out really well for me.

Instead of going through a linear storyline, Threads gives you a covenant choice and then tasks you with filling up an activity bar for each of the four zones. I did that mainly through side quest chains and local challenges, with a few world quests and dungeons tossed in, and I got to 59 by the time I was done with that. 60 wasn’t too far behind, and all in all, it went faster than the story leveling — plus, I got 6 or 7 renown levels for my covenant along the way.

But by cracking open this box, I’ve presented a dilemma to myself, which is the fact that I don’t really have the bandwidth to juggle two characters right now. There’s too much to figure out with the endgame and the constant rollover of new daily and weekly events to be ping-ponging between the  two. And while my Druid makes more logical sense for the sheer variety and options I have at my fingertips, I find myself gravitating toward the DK because I simply like the combat better. Of course, that could change next week, but as long as I’m having a good time, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much.

I also really like the Venthyr covenant more than the other three, now that I’ve sampled them. I love that the innkeeper is *right next* to the flight master, which is pure convenience. And the gothic atmosphere suits me very well.

Plus, with that covenant’s battle ability, my DK can melt down packs of mobs with blood and plague like nobody’s business. I still get a giddy thrill when I’m able to summon more pets to the fray.

Our guild seems to be getting into the groove of Shadowlands quite nicely, too. We’re not a raiding or mythic+ type of guild, but more of a loosely social guild where everyone has their focus and we’re always comparing notes. I’ve been chasing some toys and world map rares, and sometimes a couple of guildies will come along to join me in the attempt, and that’s been a good time.

SWTOR: Mad scientists are merely disappointed scientists

As an Imperial Agent, I always liked SCORPIO. She was one of the last companions to join my crew, but her eerie nature made her endlessly fascinating to me. I was kind of sorry to see that she kind of became a villain (with ulterior motives) in these expansions. And I was even more sorry that my time with her came to an end. The game gave me a choice whether to spare her and let her merge with the Iokath planetary computer or kill her, but really it was all the same in the end. SCORPIO was no more.

And with ARIES and SCORPIO gone, there’s nothing left on Iokath — and so it’s time to load up the Gravestone and head back to Odessa. I felt a little let down by this beat, like something could have be very much resolved here and yet was not.

But yeah, I’m starting to sense that this entire expansion is an elaborate exercise in dragging its feet before finally letting the Alliance confront Vaylin. The next attempt was crashing her party on Zakuul, which involved an elaborate stealth sequence. I’m usually not one for these, but I thought this palace was designed well and kept the confusion to a minimum.

It was here that my oldest son started joining me for a nightly expedition in SWTOR. He really got caught up in the story and made me promise not to play without him. Bonding time over Star Wars? I’m down with that.

As I pointed out in this level, whenever a game shows you that there’s a huge death pit in the middle, you’re going to be fighting in there before all is said and done. I think SWTOR’s gone to this Jabba the Hutt-Rancor well one too many times.

Oh hey, Vaylin got away again, big surprise. She fled to Nathema, the planet where mad scientists messed up her brain to keep her under control as a kid. Her hope was to reverse that conditioning, which she did. Mine was to get a neat tour of spooky labs and perhaps get a weapon to kill off the emperor’s ghost. Missions accomplished all around!

Got a real Aliens vibe going on here.

At least the action keeps moving as we went into chapter 8 (of 9), with the Eternal Fleet once again showing uncanny positioning as it attacked Odessa.

Sunday Serenade: The Breakfast Club, Worms, 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… 

“Set Me Free” by Max Oazo and Camishe — Thump thump thump!

“Crying Over You” by The Band Camino and Chelsea Cutler — Perfect when you’re in the mood for a sad breakup song.

“Erase and Rewind” by The Cardigans — Can’t recall ever hearing this one before. Kind of like it.

“Cool and Cosy” by The Avons — Well, here’s a dang catchy oldie that I’ve never heard before.

“Awake O Sleeper” by The Brothers Bright — Powerful song based on Ephesians 5:14 (which I’m preaching through this month, by the way!)

“Love Theme” from The Breakfast Club — All the ’80s synth feels!

“Speed Training” from Rocky (SMS) — Don’t often get a chance to share Sega Master System music here, so I’m happy to have this chance.

“Going to Lunatea” from Klonoa 2 — Some simple, unadulterated cheery music. Needed this today.

“Wormsong” from Worms Armageddon — Some pretty kickin’ menu music right here.

“Forest Path” from Penguin Adventure — Truly, a classic of our time! Well, of 1986.

“Opening” from Hole Chaser — Really cheery VGM is always a tonic for my soul.

2020 Wrap-Up: 10 great novels I read this year

Periodically I like to share what I’ve been reading. At the start of the COVID pandemic, my wife was transitioning to a stay-at-home teacher, we had little where to go, and I fully figured I’d have loads more time to read. The truth ended up being that my reading was more or less the same as it had been previously. I slowly made my way through various books, some better than others.

One big change that I made this year was to organize all of my to-read books into a massive list separated by books that I own, books that I want (but do not own), audiobooks I have, and audiobooks I want. It’s a rather larger list than I would like to admit, and unless I retire at 50, I don’t think I’ll ever have time to get through them all.

In any case, here are the best novels I’ve read — audio and print — during the course of 2020:

  1. Hollowpox — Our family was really excited to dive into the third Morrigan Crow book and see how her adventures in the mythical city of Nevermoor continued. Seeing as the theme was a contagion, it felt weirdly relatable.
  2. Guards! Guards! — I’m only now starting to get into the Discworld books, and I found this one to be laugh-out-loud funny. And pretty clever.
  3. Magic for Liars — A really well-told mystery set in a sort of Hogwarts school. I should also mention Westside too, as a fantasy mystery. Both were great.
  4. Zero World — This one kind of blindsided me, being a scifi spy thriller on an alternate world. Really great world building with this one, and I’m up for a sequel.
  5. Emperor of Thorns — I finished up this re-read with the audio version of anti-hero Jorg and his fascinating journey through a post-apocalyptic earth. Really great narration on this one.
  6. The Merciful Crow — A solid fantasy debut about a clan of plague doctors who use their small talents to try to save a kingdom.
  7. Sabriel — I enjoyed the discovery of this older fantasy novel and its self-contained story of a girl with singular talents on a quest to rescue her father.
  8. Crowfall — Very nice to finish up this series, although it wasn’t nearly as impactful as the first two books.
  9. The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver — There’s a sub-genre of time travel tales where a person goes back into their younger self, and this book kicked off a whole series regarding that. It was okay, with the first half being far better than the second.
  10. Spellbreaker — This was an interesting one. Kind of like magic set during the Pride and Prejudice era. Lead character can undo spells but not make new ones of her own, and she falls for a mage with problems of his own.