Sunday Serenade: Lethal Enforcers II, Five, Zelda, 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…

“Self Control (Live)” by Laura Branigan — Something about a concert setting gives a track like this a healthy kick.

“Everybody Get Up” by Five — So dorky in only a way that a 90s band could attain. Plus, it totally stole from “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” but that’s a good riff so I’m fine with it.

“Never Back Down” by Jeremiah Kane — Yes, yes, yes… get your dark synthwave motivation right here!

“A Link to the Future” by OC Remix — This fan remix is going to kick you in your pants, it’s that amazing.

“Love (Anaa Remix)” by Lennon and Maisy Stella — This terrific female duet is made even better with a toe-tapping beat.

“Bank Robbery” from Lethal Enforcers II — Not just a catchy western action riff, but one that has an absolute killer bassline. Amazing!

WoW Classic: Azerothian photographer

When you’ve done content so many times in an MMO, then you have to entertain yourself however you can. That might mean trying out some new class or crafting skill, exploring more, or (in my case) taking lots of pictures of WoW Classic. As incredibly pretty as the live game is, there’s still a lot of beautiful scenes that I keep stumbling across in Classic — such as this shot of Lakeridge above. I thought it looked very peaceful, up until that named boar behind me two-shotted me.

And while the characters definitely look more crude than in the live game, you’d be surprised at what some lighting might do to soften the hard lines. My character up there honestly looks like the 2020 version to my eyes.

To get my staff skill, I had to make the horrendously long run/boat ride to Darnassus. On the way, I got this picture of a tree-lighthouse that I thought was cute.

WELCOME TO STORMWIND! CHECK OUT OUR UNDERPITTIES!

Speaking of familiar sights, Goldshire inn — that wretched hive of ERP — looked so pretty with the light and shadows of the trees rippling down on it.

Here’s a fun way to traverse Elwynn Forest: Take the cannon from Darkmoon Faire. At least it shaved off like 30 seconds from my run, and I got to enjoy a brief bout of flying in Classic.

As for progress, I’m taking my time and definitely not going that fast. At the time of this writing, I’m level 18 and have done a couple of Deadmines runs while more-or-less sticking to a Classic quest walkthrough guide. My Warlock’s build isn’t going to shape up until level 40 or so, but I’m still having fun making money and grinding mobs while exploring this old-is-new-again world.

Divinity OS2: If someone asks you if you’re an undead necromantic abomination from another era of history, you say YES

One title that’s been weighing on my backlog more than others is Divinity Original Sin 2. It’s not even that it was a gift from a generous reader (although that’s part of it), but that this looks like a meaty, story-rich RPG that I would love. I just needed to carve out 100 hours or so of my time to get through it.

Or, you know, 200 half-hour segments over the better part of a year.

In any case, over the last few weeks I have been making my way through Fort Joy and the starting island in this game. Out of the six starting characters, I went with Fane, because who wouldn’t want to be a skeleton with necromantic powers from an ancient civilization? That’s by and far more interesting than all of the other characters’ backstories, so there we go.

Readers with greater memories than mine may recall that I did try DOS2 a while back and didn’t get very far into it. I have greater hopes this time around, partially because somewhere along the way the dev team released an update for the “definitive edition” that comes with a lot of improvements and bells and whistles. It doesn’t seem that much different than before, but I’ll trust that they ironed out some of the rougher parts. I did select “explorer” for my difficulty level, which is not quite the easiest mode but it’s down there.

My reasoning for this is that DOS2’s combat just takes forever. It’s a turn-based RPG where each encounter might take five or more minutes to play through. That offers a lot of strategy and tactics, but it’s slow as crap and is not something I’ll want to repeat many times over to beat particular mobs. Another nice thing about this difficulty level is that you can raise any killed allies after combat without having to worry about stockpiling rez scrolls.

Probably my only other major quibbles with the game so far is the camera, which I keep having to rotate due to the game’s large landscape graphics (which results in me getting disoriented) and a pretty crappy map (which lacks quest markers). If a game’s going to be in a pulled-back camera mode, it might as well lock into an isometric viewpoint like Pillars of Eternity.

What does keep me going is that the characters — both in the world and in my party — are downright fascinating, the dialogue is really well written, and there are so many odd things that happen that I keep wanting to explore to see what else is out there. You don’t get much better than finding a squirrel riding a skeleton cat and acting like a knight. I have no idea what the story is around these two, but they’re following me around and that’s cool with me.

I did make sure to grab the feat that lets me talk to pets, because there are so my bizarrely wonderful conversations you can get into with animals.

Probably the most touching of these is Buddy, a dog who lost his best friend Emmie when she was taken away to be trained as a Source Hound. I was really excited to find Emmie later on and let her know that Buddy is still out there, waiting for her. Doggie love!

At least I’ve been able to get further into the game — past Fort Joy — than I did previously. There was a really creepy section where my party tore through an underground torturer’s playground, and my party’s skills are starting to shape up as each combat encounter gets easier to handle. I am picking this one feat for all of my party members that turns their allies into zombies if they die in a fight, because that is awesome. You kill me? BAM, now I’m back in zombie form. Big mistake. Big.

Chrono Trigger: Guilty until proven guilty

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

As if they never left, Lucca, Crono, and Marle return to 1000 A.D. at the fairgrounds. Lucca’s a bit disturbed as to why the time gate appeared in the first place and heads home to do research on it while Crono escorts Marle back to the palace.

This… does not go well.

Upon arriving at the palace, the 1000 A.D. Chancellor, flush with a full sense of justice (thanks to the events of 600 A.D.), orders Crono beaten and arrested for the kidnapping of the princess. Marle is incensed, but nothing to be done — Crono is put on trial for his great crime.

The trial is perhaps the most talked about part of Chrono Trigger, mostly because it’s one of those huge shared experiences that impacted most players in the same way (assuming that they went into this blind on their first playthrough). A lengthy cutscene plays out, during which the prosecution and the defense attempt to establish whether or not Crono is the kidnapping type. This means a lot of character witnesses — all from the Millennial Fair from a couple of hours ago. I think players were stunned to realize that a set of six choices (actions and dialog) were recorded and used during the trial to shine a light on Crono’s character. Chances are that, assuming you went into the game blind, you probably made the “wrong” choice and had to rewatch those bits during the trial.

It’s just such a great scene, even if you can’t do much of anything in it. And, yes, you can be declared innocent, although the ultimate fate is the same — the Chancellor uses his influence to order Crono’s impending execution. I think the only real difference, other than a roleplaying one, is that you get some extra pots in your cell if you convince a lot of jurors that Crono is innocent.

Locked in his cell without any outside support — but, strangely enough, still fully equipped with his trademark katana — Crono has to figure out a way to get out before his execution day. Or just sit around until he’s killed. Seriously, that’s an actual choice you can make. And it’s actually better to wait, because then you get another party member sooner rather than later.

Just as Crono is about to get his head sliced off, Lucca shows up with a new ray gun and zaps the guards before freeing her friend. Way to go, Lucca! I love her character, she’s brainy AND gutsy. That’s a good combo. What follows is a nail-biting jail break (which is a thinly disguised dungeon crawl with a much better theme than most).

Marry me, Lucca. You’re too awesome for worlds.

Standing between the duo and freedom is, naturally, a giant steampunk dragon tank. On top of a bridge. Was it built for just this place or did they have to lug it up stairs? I think we are owed some explanation. In any case, this boss fight is pretty simple as long as the head is destroyed first (as it heals everything else).

There are so many great sprite animations in Chrono Trigger. I love this one of Crono delivering the final blow to a short-circuiting tank. His hair sticks up and goes wavy and he’s just as cool as Lucca in this moment.

Another great animation moment: The Chancellor and two guards come in and then hover in midair as the dragon tank explodes and plummets. The three grab on to each other and form this quivering person bridge that Crono and Lucca use to flee. Marle defies her father, the king, and joins the two as they attempt to make their escape. Unfortunately, the pursuing guards corner them in a dead-end glade of the forest.

Fortunately, there’s a time gate there.

Anywhere’s better than here, Mighty Lucca. Let’s roll our dice and take our chances with another time jump!

LOTRO: Galloping into Rohan

I’ve been so negligent on this particular post, because I’ve been meaning to write about heading back to Rohan on the progression servers for, um, weeks now. So I might have given the impression that I’m not playing at all when the reality is that I at least log in a decent play session once a day.

Riders of Rohan is, after all, one of the game’s biggest expansions. It starts what I mentally think of as the “southern” realms — Rohan, Gondor, Mordor — and the end of the northern parts that we spent a long time going through. But yeah, it’s HUGE. And it’s not even all of Rohan, just half of it, but that half is more than enough to keep me busy for a few months. I knew that I didn’t want to dawdle, because trying to blitzkrieg through RoR would be a fool’s errand.

Riders of Rohan was a massive effort at the time to pull off the kind of expansion that Mines of Moria was. Turbine really went all-out, and it shows. The whole realm of Rohan is so well thought-out, especially in its architecture and people, and it’s light-years different than the rather bland area of Bree-land when you compare it. I’ve always loved the Rohan houses and taverns in particular (and I can’t wait to get my own Rohan house later this year!).

The most common criticism I’ve heard — after how janky the mounted combat system is, which I agree — is that Rohan may be TOO big. There are tons of quest hubs and a loooot of open space to traverse (a necessity due to the mounted combat). I like the space and the visuals, but yeah, some of these hubs could be a little less involved. Too many of them are variations on “we don’t trust you, do these 10 tasks, now we trust you, now leave and go somewhere else.” There are some pretty well-written stories, but not enough to make up the landscape here.

I have completely eschewed mounted combat, by the way. The epic book forced me to get the mount, but the second I got it, I ignored it. I’ll stick with my trusty goat, thank you very much, and if I have to fight mounted mobs, I’ll stand in a spot and yell at them at a safe distance.

As with WoW Classic, this is pretty relaxed questing and fighting. Nothing that really demands my full attention, so I’m free to screenshot, check out details, and watch TV on the side. I’ve been making progress through the levels, hitting 81 and powering up my Echoes of Battle skill to something approaching usability.

And if I ever get irked with the repetition, I think to myself, “At least this is far easier on the eyes than Mordor!” Then I try very hard not to think about the fact that we have to go through Mordor again because I DO NOT WANT TO DO MORDOR AGAIN. But that’s in a few years and maybe an asteroid will hit me before then.

So for now, I’m trying to keep the pace going. Log in, power quest for a half-hour or so, and log out. Chew through this content so that I’m ready for the next live update or progression unlock.

I want WildStar back

A decade or so ago, I still labored under the impression that there should be one be-all, end-all MMORPG for me, and if I could just find it, I’d stay in it forever and that would be everything I needed. The lesson disabusing me of that notion took a long time to come about, but eventually I realized that — as with non-MMOs, books, movies, TV shows, and all forms of entertainment — it’s not healthy to stick with just one thing forever. There’s burnout and boredom lurking at the corners, and when I fully embraced diversifying my time in online games, I became a more content and well-rounded gamer.

So my fondest wish of a be-all, end-all MMO changed into a different wish as I grew older: That the many MMOs I enjoyed would stick around for a good long while so that I could cycle in and out of them as my interest dictated. I wanted games to still be there so that I could rediscover them after breaks when my interest became revitalized. I’d say right now that there are a good dozen or so MMORPGs that fall in this category and that are still running, but several others that are no longer accessible  that I had hoped would be around for years to come.

Out of all of these MMORPGs missing in action, WildStar is perhaps the one that grates the most. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t handled by a studio that had it all together, but it was pretty dang awesome. I loved its style, its scifi setting, its housing system, its fluid animations (double-jumping FTW), its colorful alien races, its wardrobe system, its abundant amount of possible activities, its overarching narrative, its pets, its rewards, its art design, its amazing soundtrack, and… so many other things that I could name.

When it died, I did my best to stay occupied with other games and just not think about its loss. That’s another benefit of diversifying your online game portfolio, you can take these hits and keep on going instead of coming to a hard stop. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t pine and you aren’t reminded of what you used to have.

So yeah, this might be a long-winded way of saying this, but I want WildStar back. I really do. Even if it never got another day of development and existed in a maintenance mode forever, I’d take it in a heartbeat. This definitely would be a game that I’d want to return to time and again, as I did when it was running, and enjoy the wide buffet that it had to offer.

Sunday Serenade: Ashe, Brandy Clark, Kim Wilde, 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…

“Long Walk” by Brandy Clark — I’m starting to think she maybe doesn’t think the world of this person. Just a hunch.

“Monsters” by Katie Sky — This one had to do some work to win me over, but win it did in the end. I think it’d be a really good song to sing along with.

“Sir Ghostington” by Ghost ‘n’ Ghost — Dang, it’s hard NOT to dance to this one!

“Chequered Love” by Kim Wilde — For my life, it sounds like she’s singing about “chicken love” and that makes the song way better.

“Moral of the Story” by Ashe — Such a well-written and amazingly handled song that, on occasion, is more fast talking than actual singing. It’s like a short story bundled into a song, and I listened to it several times in a row upon finding it.

“Growing Pains Theme” by TV Tunes Acapella — I have a particular fondness for 1980s sitcom themes. So cheesy. So fun to sing along with.

“KDrive Race Music A” from Warframe — I’m prepping a Warframe music article, and this poppy industrial song caught my ear.

“Please Don’t Go” by KWS — Man, this is a forgotten guilty pleasure!