Posted in Retro Gaming

Retro games I’d love to see on GOG.com

With GOG.com apparently re-committing itself to supporting and promoting retro PC games, my mind’s been turning to more than a few titles that I’d love to see revived and sold there. GOG does a fantastic job restoring old games to playable states on modern computers, and here are a few I’d like to see:

Sims 1 and 2

I keep reading about the lengths that people go through to get the first two Sims games running on modern PCs. EA doesn’t really sell or support these any more, so I think they’d be great candidates to hand to GOG for future stewardship.

No One Lives Forever 1 and 2

Terrific, clever, and charming spy shooters that really deserve a renaissance. I had a great time with these back in the day.

Fable trilogy

I’ve actually never played a Fable game. I think they’d be very interesting to explore as a blogging series, and I heard the second game never got a PC release at all.

Chrono Cross and Castlevania Symphony of the Night

These console ports are two of the most beloved from the PlayStation era and would be great fits. I am going to wait for a patch or two for Chrono Cross before getting it, anyway.

Sid Meier’s Civil War trilogy

These Civil War strategy games are some of the most highly rated of their kind and would be definitely worth checking out.

Discworld series

Due to exploring and enjoying the books, I really wouldn’t mind seeing the three Discworld games on the platform.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: The Secret of the Storm Horns

This week I kicked off the five-part Storm Horns quest series, starting with “The Tracker’s Trap.” Up in the mountainous Storm Horns, I find a Harper who’s spying on some Netherese activity up there. He gets kidnapped and I go on the chase.

I felt this quest was notable for fighting some Gnolls — an enemy type I haven’t seen much of before. The hyena-men look suitably vicious.

And I even got to kill a pseudodragon, the end boss’ familiar! Little dude went down like a chump.

The Netherese are trying to supply monsters with weapons (or vice-versa, wasn’t paying that close attention), and I’ve got to put an end to that nonsense. In “Lines of Supply,” DDO gets absolutely nuts with a different quest mode. There’s a valley through which nine or so supply lines move through — and I’ve got to kill them before they get all the way through. It’s a turkey shoot, plain and simple, and it’s a whole lot of fun. There’s even a super-sized Norse warrior at the end for a final bout.

Well, this is a DDO first for me. “Breaking the Ranks” was the first time that I died far more trying to GET to the quest than DOING it. This sucker is tucked waaaaaaay up into the mountains, and it took me forever to figure out where the path was going up to it. As a bonus, said path is littered with scores of mobs, and if I tried to race by them on a horse, the dungeon alert would go to red in a hot second and summon every mob in the zone on me. So I died. Four times. If this game had a physical form, I might have headbutted it.

Anyway, I beat the quest. Moving on.

“A Break in the Ice” presents a truly unique setting — a dungeon set entirely within a glacier. It’s a cool concept, although the artwork with this quest wasn’t quite up to what I was hoping. At least I knew it was a glacier, because the dungeon master only said that word a dozen times (and in the cool way, saying “glay-see-er” instead of “glay-shir”). The quest itself has me teaming up with a giant to beat a wizard… at which point the giant turns on me and I have to kill it, too.

We’ll finish up this quest chain with “What Goes Up.” This brought me back to the glacier, only this time I was ascending up inside of it to the very top. It’s a looooong quest, upwards of an hour, and it got really nail-biting at the end. The final fight is the dooziest of all doozies. There are a constant stream of adds, several pillars to destroy, four incredibly tough mini-bosses, and one boss — all in the same space. And did I mention that at this point the glacier is a flying fortress that you can fall off of?

I did fall a couple of times but recovered with a long run. I had to turn off post-processing effects because of the Shadowfall FX. In the end, it was worth it for the finale — which involved jumping off and watching the fortress spiral into the side of a mountain. Neat-o.

Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for May 2022

April 2022 in review

  • Overall it was a chill month of gaming without much in the way of variety and juggling.
  • Primarily, I devoted most of my time to Lord of the Rings Online. My minstrel dinged level 60 (current cap) on Treebeard, caught up on Bingo Boffin, and maxed out her virtues. She’s in good shape for Mirkwood. Then after trying out a variety of classes, I ended up dusting off my lore-master and worked on leveling her up. I also did a bunch of scavenger hunt quests for the anniversary.
  • I tried, more or less, to do a Dungeons and Dragons Online quest every day. I actually did fairly well here! The whole month I spent on the Forgotten Realms quest chains, and I got many of them done and organized into blog format.
  • I dropped WoW Classic for now out of a lack of current interest and spent a few sessions wrapping up Elder Scrolls Online’s Blackwood zone.

May 2022 gaming goals

  • I snagged Project Zomboid at a discount a few weeks ago, so I’m going to be diving into this survival title and doing some blogging about it.
  • In LOTRO, I want to finish anniversary content, play through the new Yondershire zone on both characters, and at least get my lore-master to level 50 with her LIs. That way she can finish Moria in June before the Mirkwood unlock.
  • In DDO, I want to finish Menace of the Underdark and then move on to a new expansion.
  • I’m very much open to adding a third MMO to this month outside of my same-old, same-old. The thing is, as of the time of this writing, I haven’t settled on something yet. I may even do some Sims 4 instead, get my housing on. I’m going to have to test the waters and see where my interest lies. Stay tuned!
Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Nostalgia Lane: Max Payne

The thing that always cracked me up about Max Payne was that he was trying SO HARD to be the ultimate noir action star that he developed this permanent expression on his face that looks like he’s eternally whiffing the armpits of sweaty wrestlers.

When the 2001 original first came along, I had almost written it off as a gimmicky shooter not worth my time. But then I’d heard so many good things that I had to check it out myself, and sure enough, it was a riot from start to finish.

Max Payne is your standard boilerplate gritty crime novel police detective who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time as a post-apocalyptic snowstorm blows into town. There’s something about drugs and dirty cops and who really cares about the story? It’s not about the story. The story is just a flimsy excuse to barrel down corridors, kick down doors, and get into firefights.

This is where the game shone, because Max Payne was all about that John Woo/Matrix bullet time. You had a little hourglass meter that would refill, and if you had enough of a charge, you could activate bullet time to move and fight as the world slowed down around you. Not only was this a terrifically cool way to get through chaotic gun battles, but it allowed you to soak in the carnage as a visual feast. Sure, it was a gimmick. But it was one heck of a gimmick.

As the game goes along, you get more weapons and bad guys get tougher, but the core gameplay loop remains. There’s some big setpiece ahead, and you’ve got to manage bullet time and normal time as you mow down scores of villains.

Max Payne really leaned into being over the top in every aspect, and it worked for the game. Not only were the fights this heightened reality, but the growly narration, the comic book panels of certain scripted sequences, and the labyrinthian twists all played into this tone.

The sequel was fine but not nearly as fun for whatever reason, and I stopped playing the games after that.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

10 silly yet useful features Lord of the Rings Online should add

I’m sure we all have ways that we occupy ourselves when we’re going back through content that doesn’t require, say, our full and undivided attention. When I get into part of LOTRO like this, often times my mind turns to thinking of little fun features that I think would be a net positive for the game.

I jotted a bunch of these down, and so without further ado, 10 silly but useful features that I’d love to see added:

  1. Boats: Wouldn’t it be cool if we had rowboats or canoes as sort of water mounts that would help us navigate rivers and lakes faster than swimming? I think so.
  2. Quest objectives on the minimap: I don’t like having to repeatedly open up the zone map to look for the precise location of an objective when I know I’m close. It’d be nice if I had the option for that to pop up on the minimap as well.
  3. Housing decor crafting: Yes, I know that woodworkers can make a few items for houses, but let’s expand this and make it its own thing! I’d totally take up crafting if I could make cool housing items.
  4. Better legendary item reward screen: The one we have is just not good.
  5. Bigger text and icons: It’s beyond time that we get an upsize to the UI in this game with all of the bigger monitors out there.
  6. Smaller player houses: We don’t all want huge cavernous dwellings! What about some cool and cozy abodes like you see in Rohan?
  7. Gliding: OK, I know flight is straight out, but what about some way that we could fashion kites or gliders to help us safely descend from heights?
  8. Climbing: Game tech probably wouldn’t allow this, but man it’d be great if I had a way to scale cliffs and other annoying terrain.
  9. Hobbit Lore-masters: PLEASE let River Hobbits be LMs! Please! I won’t ask for anything else for Christmas!
  10. More anniversary scavenger hunts: These were such a terrific idea, yet the devs kind of gave up on them after the second year.
Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: An anniversary for the ages

Last week was the sweetest torture, waiting for LOTRO to come back up after an Update 33 bug prompted the game to be taken offline — on patch day! — for almost 24 hours. It wasn’t just that the game wasn’t available, but that this downtime was keeping us from Yondershire, the Anniversary content, and a TON of bonus goodies that SSG was throwing our way.

Fortunately, by Thursday afternoon I was able to get in and hit the ground running with the anniversary. First step? Check out my bags for the freebies! Everyone is so charmed by the little weird fat corgis, and I’m no different. I’m glad LOTRO is adding more doggos. The collector’s editions armor sets were nice, although they had a heavy plate look best suited for a captain, not a minstrel.

I got several carry-alls — the small one I made into an essence/tracery bag, while the medium one I went with housing decorations. Then I threw the rest of the goodies into shared storage, especially a gift of the valar that I’ll probably use on my Captain.

I was glad that the VIP subscriber buffs and services are now two weeks in duration rather than two days. That’ll save me a lot of trips back to the Shire.

The boar mount was another nice gift. 68% run speed AND it works in underground realms like Moria. I think it’s perfect for a Hobbit.

Then it was off to do 15th anniversary activities! I’m going to save Yondershire to mid-May, both to give me time to get everything done with the festival that I want and also to thin out the crowds somewhat. And I certainly have a LOT to do for this. I want to get all of the Eriador scavenger hunt series done, do the daily wrappers (so 7 anniversary quests every day) until I get the final big payout, and buy all of the cosmetics/pets/housing decor that I want.

Once I got dailies done, I started in on the scavenger hunts. It’s been a few years since I’ve done these — I think — and it was nice to return to them. I always found that they’re a fun tour around Middle-earth with a cheeky tone.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: Song of Druid’s Deep

It’s time for a new Forgotten Realms quest series! Next up is the four-parter Song of Druid’s Deep. This one starts with a strange outbreak sweeping through a local hospital.

In “Outbreak,” I investigated the healing center and found it infested with leafy growth and green zombies. This quest proved incredibly tough, with CR26 bosses giving me a run for my money. I think I may have accidentally put this on epic rather than heroic mode, eh?

The worst part was when one boss struck me with a four-and-a-half-minute weakness affliction, during which I couldn’t fire my crossbow, use any spells, or drink any potions. All I could do was run and outwait the timer while mobs whittled down my health. It was a close thing, but at 26 health and zero seconds remaining, I popped back to full strength, healed myself, and got to revengin’.

Moving on to “Overgrowth,” I’m assigned the mission of investigating the overgrown home of the previous quest’s boss. “Thick murky green” is the light palette of the day, with every room strangled by plants and infested with vine horrors, wood woads, and even wolves.

The search through the house — a very linear progression that twists and turns — leads to the cellar and a secret room, where a dryad is revealed to be the source of the corruption. I like how in DDO if you’re battling a dryad, it’s absolutely essential take out her tree, too. Otherwise, she’ll respawn on you.

In any case, a Harper shows up and mentions that the previous homeowner brought some artifact home from the King’s Forest, so that’s where we are off to next!

DDO has its beautiful moments more often than you’d think, and I found myself instantly enchanted with the thick woods of “Thorn and Paw.” Deep into the King’s Forest, I’m tracking down a druid responsible for this plant corruption. I think I’m going to kill a lot of nature tonight.

This quest does a great job portraying a claustrophobic forest environment. Everything in here is a little too tight with not much room to backpedal or strafe. Mobs pop out of crooks, and twice I fell into hidden spike traps.

But the worst was the BARS. The dire bars, so to speak. These nasty brutes are tough to put down, and the final fight pit me against about six of them and a giant den mother. It was quite the frantic fight before I won… and found out that my princess was in another castle. Er, my druid was in another zone.

And that zone is found in “The Druid’s Curse,” the final quest of this chain. Having tracked the evil druid back to his grove, I have to put an end to him. This quest was notable for a very long — and not that eventful — underwater swimming sequence. Since I can breathe underwater by now, there’s no challenge to this.

Naturally, because this is a video game and has a druid boss, the final confrontation has to take place in a faux-Stonehenge. This guy went down super-easy, even after spewing out a Shakespeare play’s worth of comments.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Playing Bingo with my Minstrel

There’s something about hitting the level cap in MMOs that really takes the wind out of my sails. One minute, I’m all gung-ho for continuing this character’s journey, and the next, I hit that wall and stop enjoying level progression. Sometimes I find — like I did with my Minstrel — that I have to step away for a few days until my brain adjusts to this situation.

Of course, getting to level 60 didn’t mean I’m out of meaningful stuff to do with this character until Mirkwood releases. On the contrary, I have a pile of attractive options:

  • Do all of Lothlorien quests
  • Finish out the final book or two in Volume II
  • Get all of my core virtues caught up (I’m a few levels behind in some of them)
  • Start running dungeons with the kin
  • Ravish the anniversary content (when it comes)
  • Explore the new Yondershire zone (when it comes)
  • Decorate my Rohan house

But for this past week, I felt like going to my well of happiness, Bingo Boffin. I haven’t done this quest line on this character, and I wouldn’t mind getting some of those cosmetics, pets, and decor unlocked. So Bingo it was!

As I restarted this quest line, I was reminded about how slightly annoying Bingo is early on. You hear this complaint from a lot of players who take the advise from friends to try this out, because they start grumping about how Bingo seems useless, silly, and is always sending you back to get whatever he forgot.

According to the Bingo Boffin post-mortem, the writer of this series, Jeff Libby, realized early on that he was leaning too hard on Bingo being a doof and eased off. It really does get a whole lot better once you get into Bree-land and points west. And it’s a fantastic way to repurpose the zones for new adventures. I still love it, even knowing where it ends up.

And hey, more screenshot opportunities!

Posted in Palia

Palia’s housing may scratch that WildStar itch

While I’m open to being massively and pleasantly surprised, I don’t think there’s much hope that we will ever get WildStar back — either officially or with a fully functional emulator. Again, prove me wrong on this and I’ll be happy. But I’m really not holding my breath.

And that stinks for all of the reasons that I’ve pined about WildStar’s closure in the past, but mostly for its colorful world and incredible housing system. Far and away, that game had the best housing that I’ve ever enjoyed in an MMO, and it would be a great gift if someone could deliver simply the housing islands in their full glory.

But you know what? If we’re not getting WildStar back — and we’re not — then Palia is shaping up to be a great substitute.

Sure, this isn’t going to be a standard of a questing/combat MMO as WildStar was, but that wasn’t WildStar’s strengths anyway. Palia’s angling for more of an Animal Crossing/Stardew Valley approach, and that’s got good potential to be a broad hit.

Last week, Singularity 6 posted a bunch of pictures and testimonies from the alpha test (which started this month), and a bunch of those pics showed off what players are doing in the housing already. And man, it’s good stuff. If you squint slightly, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this WAS WildStar with its cartoony-colorful-stylized objects.

I really liked the object density allowed here and the way that you can apparently overlap and stack items. That’s important to creating a custom home with a lot of possibilities. There are some cool decor already, pieces that I would definitely want in my home (like that arcade cabinet!). Different types of flooring, different walls, light sources… I can’t wait to play in this playground.

I hope that Singularity 6 does a more in-depth dive on the housing in the future, because there are a lot of questions I have about it. How robust and easy to use are the placement tools? Can you resize? What’s the object limit? What functionality can be installed into a house? How big are the houses? Are there different styles? Group housing?

In any case, it’s getting harder and harder to deliberately ignore this title as it slowly cooks toward completion. We won’t see it in 2022, that’s for sure, but I’m crossing my fingers for an open beta or launch next year.

Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight underwhelms, Wrath frustrates

Yesterday, Blizzard had its big World of Warcraft reveal — a two-in-one. New expansion and next step of WoW Classic. I have thoughts — deep, profound, possibly gassy thoughts — on these, so let’s comb through this.

Dragonflight

As I (and many others) said in recent months, Blizz really had to bring it hard with this expansion. BFA and Shadowlands were so underwhelming in the end and the playerbase kind of disillusioned that this had to revitalize interest.

So what do we get here? Dragons, dragons, and (spoiler) more dragons. Players can roll up dragon characters (and their associated Evoker class), go to the Dragon Isles, and fly around on personalized dragons.

Listening to the WoW devs gush (according to a carefully and sometimes awkwardly written script) about the new race, I felt like they were pulling my leg. I mean, it’s a dragon humanoid, which looks as good as any other MMO dragon humanoid, which is “not very.” Hey you get wings and spikes and Au Ra envy, good for you. But I’m going to say what people aren’t here: The race is kind of a mess, visually. It’s not quite the draw that they think it is.

I mean, you know me. I am not a dragon fan. I think it’s such a tired and overplayed fantasy creature that MMOs go to time and again, and WoW leaning this hard on dragons is a huge miss with me. Shouting “DRAGONS!” at every turn is not going to get me to run full-tilt at your game again. I need more.

So thematically, this fell flat. The zones look cool, but the story and motivation here is lacking. Dragonriding is, what, flight 2.0 designed by Guild Wars 2? What about those of us who want those flight mechanics without hugging dragons? Guess we’re out of luck. It’s not that thrilling of a feature announcement.

There are a bunch of quality-of-life improvements designed to stick around, which is something that I approve. Better UI, the return of talent trees (yay), and more involved crafting.

But Dragonflight feels like it’s missing a huge exciting tentpole feature. There’s nothing here that’s making me want to resubscribe tomorrow. It’s decidedly middle-of-the-road when this needs to be a whole lot more.

Wrath Classic

It feels like a judgment upon retail WoW that I was legitimately more thrilled to hear confirmation of Wrath Classic than Dragonland 2: The Dragoning. We already know, more or less, what we’re getting here, but what’s really great is that we’re getting it in 2022. Everyone is already done with Burning Crusade, so it’s time to move on.

But it wasn’t a slam-dunk announcement. I was less-than-thrilled to hear was Blizzard’s glee at selling yet another level boost like it’s a good thing rather than something that has been incredibly divisive and destructive to WoW Classic since TBC Classic launched.

What’s worse is that Blizz up and decided that one of the best features of Wrath, the dungeon finder, won’t be included in this version. The studio claims that this is what the Classic community wants, and I call B.S. on that. Everyone I know is beyond tired of trying to find and put together dungeon groups in that game. The dungeon finder was an invaluable tool that let players get into dungeons without the hassle, and it boggles my mind (and makes me see red) that it’s not included.

Seriously, this is a dealbreaker for me. And maybe that’s a good thing, because I was so on the fence about Classic anyway that it’s probably a good thing to remove it from the table altogether.

Conclusions

While I’m sure that Dragonflight is going to get some interest because (a) new WoW anything will do that and (b) dragons interest some people, that expansion seems as boring, tepid, and safe as could be. It’s not anywhere near a Wrath or Legion level of expansion — and it absolutely NEEDED to be that. This is like someone coming up to you and giving you permission not to be hyped about the future.

As I said on Twitter yesterday, “I don’t know about you all, but that Dragonflight reveal was so boring it legitimately almost put me to sleep. The cinematic, the features, the interviews, the deep dive… all of it. There’s no soul to any of this, it’s just a colorful candy shell.”

For me, my interesting in WoW — Classic or Retail — is now at an all-time low. Just as well, I have plenty of other worlds to explore.