Fallout New Vegas: All hail the King!

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Welcome to New Vegas at last! While I started the game geographically close to Fallout New Vegas’ key city, you can’t really go there right away; there’s a lot of nasty stuff between Goodsprings and New Vegas that serve as a deterrent for this. Instead, it was a very roundabout trip to get back here from the opening cutscene and try to figure out this courier business with Benny.

New Vegas itself is an oddity in the Fallout universe. It has some really rundown sections, to be sure, but at the core is a relatively attractive casino strip that enjoys full electricity and amenities. It’s really strange to see this alternative universe 1950s-style town in good condition.

It’s here in New Vegas that I met The King. Not Elvis, not unless he got reincarnated or something, but a guy who obviously idolizes Elvis. I don’t really care about the singer, but any guy who has a cybernetic dog is OK in my book and worth helping out.

The King sent me on a mission to investigate an escort (the non-sexual kind) who has been into some shady stuff. It’s a kinda clever quest: I hired him and let him lead me around until we got “ambushed” by a bunch of guys that he “killed” quickly. I followed this up by taking him down, because that’s more effective than a negative Yelp review. Plus, he had a really nice gun I wanted. My character is sinning all OVER the place here. Bad character!

After getting myself into the King’s good graces, I am gifted with two wonderful rewards. The first is free access into the Strip (which I kind of already paid to access, so that was a bust) and use of his cybernetic dog Rex. This means I now have two companions, one of which is apparently crazy about rats. That suits me just fine.

The ever-present Victor — who I think is jumping around from robot to robot thanks to software — greets me on the Strip and lets me know that the elusive Mr. House wants to meet lil’ ol’ courier me. But first, I have a score to settle with Benny.

Since the casino won’t let me bring in weapons, I have to smuggle one in. Thankfully, there’s a holdout weapon vendor nearby, and I purchased a silenced .22 to carry with me. I actually never needed it, but I would have felt naked otherwise.

Benny understandably freaks out when I show my face on the casino floor. I mean, considering that the last time he saw me he shot me in the head. I wanted to return the favor, but the odds were greatly against me, and no amount of bullet time is going to help me win. So I played along, got double-crossed, and then talked myself out of it (!).

That’s when I got the biggest shock of this game so far when I found Yes Man inside Benny’s suite. Yes Man is an obscenely cheerful robot who serves as an exposition dump, spilling all manner of secret plans to me. It turns out that there’s this platinum chip, see, that actually contains a lot of very useful data about the defenses of Mr. House (who may or may not be a super-computer, I don’t know). Benny wanted to use the chip to take down Mr. House and establish himself as the new leader of the city, hence why he shot me when I was transporting said chip at the start of the game.

There’s a lot that needs to be done, according to Yes Man. I have options to side with Mr. House or another faction or try to vie for the top spot myself, but I’m going to need that chip and handle an upcoming battle between the Legion and the NCR at Hoover Dam.

Even the Legion is willing to deal, now that I’m a major player in town. Golly, everyone loves me all of the sudden! I’m the belle of the ball!

15 years of World of Warcraft

What’s that trite yearbook phrase? “What a long, strange trip it’s been!”

This past month marked the 15th anniversary of World of Warcraft’s launch in North America. It’s coming during a strange year of ups (World of Warcraft Classic) and downs (financials, #BoycottBlizzard). While it’s being marked by media, gamers, and in-game activities, the 15th anniversary still seems rather subdued compared to the big hubaballo that took place at the 10th.

It doesn’t feel like WoW’s launch was yesterday; it feels like it was forever ago. The Syp from 2004 was in a much different place than the Syp in 2019. In 2004 I was 28 years old and had just proposed to my soon-to-be wife. I was still living alone in an apartment that was oddly kid-free. I wasn’t blogging back then, I wasn’t writing for Massively (which didn’t exist until 2007 anyway), I hadn’t gone back to school for my Masters, and my online gaming experience was rather limited and focused.

Back then, I played a lot of single-player RTS and RPG games. I had dabbled in Anarchy Online, but City of Heroes was where my passion was for most of 2004. I was growing more enthusiastic about MMORPGs, which was partially fueled by the lead-up to World of Warcraft over the 2003-2004 period. I remember pouring over articles and forum posts about this upcoming title, salivating over the stylized graphics and the player friendly nature of the gameplay.

I put in a couple of weeks into the beta in November 2004, mostly because I couldn’t wait any longer. You can best believe it that I was there right on launch day, too. I drove over to Best Buy and picked up a Collector’s Edition right off the shelf, not knowing that the silly pet I’d get from that CE would be hanging around with me in 2019 when WoW Classic launched.

The first few months were incredibly unstable. It was a crap shoot every day whether or not I’d be able to get onto a server to play. But I don’t remember raging at the delays; I was just incredibly glad to have some game time whenever I got it. Azeroth hooked me from the very start, and off and on, I’ve been playing in it for 15 years now.

It’s not been a perfect game, nor has Blizzard been a perfect studio. But it’s been a very *fun* experience in which I’ve met some great friends, gotten some good stories to write about, and been a reliable fallback for when I burn out in other titles.

I don’t know where I’m heading with this game in the future. Right now I’m not thinking about it too much, preferring to adventure elsewhere. But next year’s Shadowlands will be a strong siren’s call indeed, and I’m sure that this won’t be the last time I write about WoW on this blog.

Syp’s Gaming Goals for December 2019

November 2019 in review

  • This was a pretty solid and stable gaming month in which I had fun with my current staples without really going outside of those boundaries.
  • With the launch of Minas Morgul in LOTRO, I focused on getting my Lore-master through the new expansion. I finished up Mordor Besieged before making good progress into the Morgul Vale and leveling up my character to 125.
  • Speaking of expansions, I got back to Heavensward in FFXIV and pushed further into that than I ever have played before. While I tried out the Mechinist for a while, I fell back on my Scholar to level both for familiarity and fast queuing. I enjoyed getting flight for the first time in that game and getting into a comfortable — if not exciting — gaming groove. Also found me a good guild there.
  • I’m probably taking longer than most people with The Outer Worlds, but I had a terrific time this month exploring these frontier planets and dealing with tricksy corporations. Just an amazing game experience.
  • The gaming surprise of the month was Shop Titans, a silly mobile game in which I play as a fantasy world shopkeeper. It became my go-to game whenever I had a few minutes here and there.
  • I didn’t get as much time into my retro gaming title, Fallout New Vegas, but at least I made it to the titular city.

December 2019’s gaming goals

  • I’m going to be ambitious for this month, especially knowing that I’ll have some extra time off work to squeeze in a bit more gaming. So let’s start with Lord of the Rings Online: I want to finish Minas Morgul and hit level 130 with my Lore-master.
  • I don’t think I’ll be able to do the same — finish an expansion — in FFXIV, but I’d be happy getting most of the way through Heavensward.
  • I want to wrap up The Outer Worlds and Fallout New Vegas this month so I can go into the new year with some new games.
  • That’s it. I’m going to laser-focus on those four games and get stuff DONE this December!

Serenade Sunday: Super Mario Odyssey, Castlevania, Shrek 2, 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…

“Mount Volbono” from Super Mario Odyssey — This is perhaps one of the best modern Super Mario songs that I’ve heard. *Great* use of percussion and sharp notes paired with a pretty good melody. Sounds like someone having a fun time wailing away on an oil drum there.

“Wings” from Epic Battle Fantasy 3 — We all remember this game, yes? Ah well, it’s still a short and catchy little tune that made it worth sifting through a bunch of music to find.

“Yet the Merchants Shall Go” from Breath of Fire IV — A merry jig indeed!

“Bloody Tears” from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow — A variant on a familiar classic theme… and one that is very smooth to boot.

“Walking the Path” from Shrek 2 — This combat theme is both lively and cheeky, and I gladly added it to my library when I heard it.

“Boss Battle” from One Piece Grand Adventure — Hands up if you ever heard this one! Me neither. Guess it’s PS2 day, because I discovered this track and took a nice liking to its piratey vibes.

“Force and Furious” from Final Fantasy Brave Exvius — This is an intriguing mixture of ’70s funk and modern action cues, and I, for one, am all over it.

Very worried about RIFT

Ever since last year’s sale of all of Trion Worlds’ games to Gamigo, I’ve grown increasingly concerned for RIFT. I didn’t care as much for Trion’s other games, for the most part, but RIFT was always really special to me. I’ve considered it one of the best so-called WoW clones to hit the scene and have enjoyed hundreds of hours in that MMO.

But since Gamigo took over, the new company hasn’t seemed that invested in doing anything with the game. It went ahead and canceled the (half-baked) progression server, which marks the last time I was playing, and has pushed out a seasonal pass and kept the events running. But for new content and hope of the future, there hasn’t been much of a sign.

At the very least, it doesn’t seem that Gamigo is rushing to cancel these games. It did close the doors on Atlas Reactor — to nobody’s surprise — but it has kept two versions of Defiance running, supported Trove, and thrown a lot of weight behind ArcheAge. RIFT kind of sits in the middle there, probably not as populated and profitable as AA and Trove, but not as forgotten as Defiance. Gamigo seems like the kind of company that’ll keep the lights on as long as there’s a trickle of income, which I guess is better than being cancel-happy like NCsoft.

Apart from deeply investing in developers and more content, I don’t see much that can be done for RIFT. There are some loyalists sticking with the game, but there’s probably a greater crowd that shied away the second it sold to Gamigo and haven’t returned because there hasn’t been a lot of reassurance that this title has a future. Players will give a lot of the benefit of the doubt when they are predisposed toward a game, but that goodwill only stretches so far. They need hope, and that’s not something that Gamigo is rushing out to give.

Personally, it’s disheartening. RIFT is one of those MMOs that I love returning to here and there, mostly because I love so many of its systems and its ease of use. The Chronicles, the minion system, the housing, the mix-and-match classes, the dynamic events, the cosmetics, the zone puzzles, the pets… it kind of checks a whole lot of boxes on my MMO wish list. Heck, even typing out this paragraph made me want to log back in — and maybe I will some day soon. But I’ll be nervous about it, at least until Gamigo makes up its mind one way or the other about what it is going to do with this game.

Shop Titans is the fantasy shopkeeping simulator I’ve been seeking

For a while now, I’ve been keeping my eye out for a good shopkeeping simulator — you know, a game where instead of being the heroes out in the wilderness, you’re the guy running the shop that supplies them. I’ve played a few titles here and there, but nothing has really filled this desire. Until now.

I have gotten in the habit of downloading interesting-looking free games onto my phone for that mythical moment when I’ll have free time to check them out. On a whim the other day, I booted this one up and — to my delight — found that it was exactly the fantasy shopkeeping sim that I’ve really wanted.

I’ll be up front on this: Shop Titans is a total freemium game. It’s got all the traps of this sort of free-to-play experience: lockboxes and energy timers and SPECIAL DEALS LIMITED TIME ONLY WOWZERS. Yet… yet it’s insanely relaxing and fun. I’m totally serious. I haven’t spent any money on this and have gotten a full week’s worth of satisfying play out of it.

The secret, I think, is that for all of its slightly annoying business model features, Shop Titans is a very well-done game. It has a bright and crisp art style, the UI is really responsive, the gameplay loop is oh so addicting, and the sounds pop. Even with timers, there’s almost always something to do or watch or plan, and it has become my go-to game when I have five minutes here or there.

At the start of Shop Titans, you get a small store and can use the ever-replenishing resources (ore, lumber, leather, herbs) to make goods. Those goods are displayed on racks, and random NPCs wander in and decide whether or not to purchase them. There’s a bit of strategy in this, as you can use energy (which replenishes with time or sales) to bargain customers down or buy items off of wandering vendors for cheap. You can even “small talk” customers as a way to gamble on more energy.

Part of the gameplay loop is equipping and sending out a small band of heroes on quests. They’ll progress through these automatically, and if successful, they’ll bring back rare crafting resources and other goodies to sell and use.

I’ve found that there’s a lot of planning ahead in Shop Titans, especially when you want to pursue more complicated recipes that will require stocking up on rare items and perhaps building intermediary items to use later. The more a good is crafted, it starts to accrue bonuses (more valuable, better chance at getting a quality upgrade, etc) until you max it out and it becomes a great staple to have around.

But really, for me, it’s just the satisfaction of watching customers trickle into my shop, check out my decorations, and pay me for stuff. Did I mention how the animations are pretty terrific too? It’s a small thing, but I’m impressed that when you sell a hero an item, he or she will then equip it right there. It feels less abstract that way. And did I mention that you get to decorate the place — and that decorations also have benefits (when they are admired by NPCs, you get a shot of energy)?

Anyway, I can understand why the freemium side of Shop Titans would earn it a lot of side eye, but I don’t feel that pressured into buying anything. I’m just playing for fun and figuring out what next steps I want to take in growing my store. I haven’t been this excited over an iPhone game in a while, and I thought I’d share.

Battle Bards Episode 157: Chronicles of Spellborn

An odd, offbeat, and short-lived MMO, Chronicles of Spellborn hardly registered on most of the gaming community’s consciousness. However, this fantasy title has not escaped the attention of the Battle Bards, especially with Assassin Creed’s Jesper Kyd composing most of the score. It’s a strange score, with plenty of otherworldly tunes, but just perfect for this team to tackle!

Episode 157 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Main Theme,” “Lullaby,” and “Palace at Night”)
  • “Armada Combat”
  • “Stonedeep”
  • “Aldenvault”
  • “Silent Child”
  • “Gleaming Cauldron Tavern”
  • “Fountain”
  • “Traitor’s Rest Tavern”
  • Which one did we like most?
  • Listener notes: Katriana
  • Jukebox Picks: “Afterimage” from Einhänder, “Main Theme” from Yonder, and “Colored Engine” from FAR: Lone Sails
  • Outro (feat. “Housing”)
  • Stinger: Battle Bards’ t-shirt store