I’m sailing! I’m a sailor!

sailing

Well, not yet — but on Saturday my wife and I will be taking a well-deserved vacation together with no kids to celebrate my 40th. She asked me what I wanted to do for a trip this year, and I suggested going on an Alaskan cruise. We’ve only ever done one cruise, and that was to the Carribbean. We had a fantastic time and that, coupled with seeing a place that I’ve always wanted to visit, would be a good combination.

If I haven’t said before, I am a PLANNER when it comes to trips. I always have been. When I was a young kid, I would spend weeks preparing for family vacations to grandma and grandpa’s, even though my responsibility began and ended at what I was bringing in my bag. I like to know the itinerary down to the minute, I double-check details, and I like researching things about the trip so that I’m able to be flexible and have the least amount of unpleasant surprises.

So while my wife will probably start packing about a day before we go, I’ve been putting stuff aside for a couple of weeks now. One thing that I’ve always done is make sure that I have a pile of entertainment to bring with me. I’d always rather have too much than not enough; the thought of sitting on a plane or boat somewhere without anything to do makes me shiver.

Happily, with mobile devices and whatnot, it’s a lot easier to arrange this. I’m bringing my ipad (mostly for movies that my wife and I can watch, but also Chrono Trigger), my phone (plenty of small games), my Kindle (with four new books), and my “magazine.” OK, I’m a total dork, but I don’t want to waste money on real magazines and I am always a little leery of airlines telling me I can’t use my Kindle during takeoff. So I got a folder and printed out a ton of MMO guides and articles that I want to catch up on and read. More enlightening anyway.

Of course, I’m not planning on reading and playing games all week — that’s mostly just for downtime when we’re either traveling or at night when my wife goes to bed early. It’ll be a little strange (as always) to be cut off from the internet, but in my opinion we all need that in our lives every now and then, if just to reorient us to life.

I’ll miss the news and the MMOs and the blog posts, but that’s all stuff I can catch up on later. A new experience and scenery awaits, and I can’t wait.

Star Trek Online: Deja vu and ghosties

gh1

I fear not ghosts, I fear them not.

These are the voyages of the starship Funky Lizard. It’s strange mission: To retread missions that I’ve done a few times before, but just long enough ago so that they exude deja vu instead of boredom.

I always thought that the Devidian missions in the early levels of Star Trek Online was an odd placement. Don’t get me wrong — these are fantastic missions, full of story-telling, scares, atmosphere, and even time travel. But they have little to do with Klingons (as this takes place in the Klingon arc) and take a strong tonal shift away from that classic Trek feel for a trip to scaresville. I had totally forgotten about the “Bonnykins” guy until last night. A really fun mission to play when the lights are out, I’ll say.

Of course, you can’t be THAT scared when you’re packing a minigun and have four officers flanking you with other high-tech artillery. Fear has to be the mind-killer, because it sure ain’t going to be the body-killer.

gh2

Even though it all feels familiar, I don’t mind at all. I’ve always liked going back through the starting experiences of old favorites, reacquainting myself and building up a new legend. I’d like to say that I’m branching out and trying new things, but in truth I’m still gravitating toward science vessels. I’m sorry, but they’re just cooler than practically everything else on the Federation side.

There’s something about the combination of activities in this game — space battles, ground battles, and thoughtful mission investigation — that keeps it from getting dull and stale. Second to The Secret World, Star Trek Online is a game that’s kept me mentally on my toes with some of its missions. That’s pretty admirable for “just” text boxes for most of the quest developments.

I’m already thinking far ahead to an endgame ship. If there’s a way to earn one in the upcoming summer event, I might have to go for that, because there’s no way that I can save up enough zen for a 3,000-point ship (I have a whopping 147 so far), and I’m trying to be a little frugal these days.

gh3

I did experiment a little with my crew’s outfits. Went with skin-tight armor this time around, giving each crew member their own color scheme. So far I like it!

I haven’t found a fleet yet, but I’m keeping my eyes and ears open. Sector chat is always interesting these days (kind of wish I could keep it turned on during missions… have to look into that). Saw a lot of folks griping about Star Trek Online’s console announcement, which I thought was forehead-slapping silly. Yes, I get you’re protective of your game and any change will no doubt bring its demise, but I can’t help but see this as a really good thing for Star Trek Online. Why?

  • It shows that Perfect World has a lot of confidence in your product to give the go-ahead for a console version
  • It will open up new revenue streams, which help to ensure the game’s continued existence and growth
  • It will expand the game’s audience — as Neverwinter’s console edition did
  • It comes at a good time, with the new expansion on the way and the 50th anniversary
  • It gives the game a good excuse for a visual upgrade, which it’s getting in the form of improved lighting

So stop pouting and embrace the future, ya knuckleheads.

From what I’ve heard, console players won’t be on the PC megaserver, so there’s no fear that the sullied Xbox players will contaminate the PC master race. Whew. Bullet dodged.

It will be incredibly interesting to see how STO is adapted for consoles, since I’ve certainly ended up with more buttons than a standard controller has (I’ve heard radial menus). But yeah, I can see it — space combat isn’t twitchy, and ground combat has the option between traditional and shooter modes.

For now, I’ll keep trekking through the main storyline, and with all luck I’ll be into new stuff by mid-summer.

King’s Quest V part 4: The dark and spooky forest

dark

(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest V. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Graham and Cedric arrive at the entrance of a dark and rather forboding forest. I know this because of the considerate “Enter at your own risk!” sign at its entrance. I wonder if the sign-maker put these all around the forest at every possible egress. Well, I’ve survived bears, ants, and Cedric’s whining, so I’m not too concerned.

frog

Cedric (naturally) freaks out about the thought of going into the forest, so he wimps out and stays behind. Seriously, owl, are you good for anything other than to give some poor intern a paycheck for voicing you?

In the forest, Graham wanders down a path until a witch shows up and abruptly turns him into a frog. I love this game over graphic — the fact that the frog has the same jaunty hat and Graham’s clothes endears me to the artists so much.

bottle

Since there’s no avoiding the Frog Blast(tm) of the witch, there must be another way to avoid amphibification. Turns out that wearing the magic amulet that the fortune teller gave Graham effectively shields him from the spell. Graham returns the favor by gifting the brass bottle to the witch, which she uses and gets trapped inside by the vengeful genie.

Well… anyone want to plunder a witch’s house?

Her house sits on a platform suspended over a vent of steam and flames. Not… the best place for a house, but I guess if you’re a witch you have a reputation to maintain. Unless you’re a candy witch! Those ladies rock. I find a key, a bag of jewels, and a spinning wheel in her small home. Guess kleptomania runs in the royal family blood.

shoes

I didn’t mention this before, but apparently once you go into the dark forest, there’s no apparent way out. The path behind you closes up and finding an exit becomes one of your goals. This is accomplished, naturally, by elf-baiting.

Seriously.

Graham lures an elf out of the woods by dropping emeralds from the witch’s pouch like they were Reese’s Pieces. Finally he douses the last emerald with honey, which the short-sighted elf walks right into. Graham then holds the little ball of annoyance hostage until he leads him out of the woods. Also, Graham gets a pair of shoes (?) in exchange for the emeralds. Dude, I think the elf just ripped you off. Typical.

harp

One thing I’ve noticed about King’s Quest V so far is that due to the new mouse interface, the game is a LOT more item-oriented than in previous installments. Instead of figuring out what text command to type in, it’s more of the “find the item and then figure out where to use the item” done in various ways.

So here Graham’s left the forest, reunited with Mrs. Doubtfire-talking Cedric, and encountered a weeping willow. Which is actually weeping, so much so that its made a pond of her tears. She also plays a harp, which she best not drop or else spend eternity staring at it on the ground.

reunion

Tree-girl here says she used to be a princess (good thing too, otherwise Graham wouldn’t give her the time of day). One day she was walking along with her prince and the witch got jealous and turned her into a tree, took out her heart, and transformed it into gold. Then the prince got banished to a far-off country and she was left playing the blues.

Well, Graham so happens to have a golden heart in his messy inventory, so here you go, enjoy life with skin and two legs again. I thought it was funny that the second she transformed back, she threw away her harp and her prince instantly showed up like he was waiting just off-screen. They leave and Graham is up one harp.

King’s Quest V part 3: The secret life of cats

water

(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest V. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

“Ahh! Life-giving water! Nectar of the gods!” That’s KQV’s “arrow in the knee” quote right there. Must’ve heard it at least a dozen times while constantly quaffing water in the desert.

Graham emerges from the sandy wasteland one brass bottle (with ornery genie) and one gold coin richer. Alas, Cedric is waiting to resume the quest. He was growing quite concerned, you see. Nosy little owl.

needle

When Graham goes to search for a golden needle in this haystack (seriously), an army of ants shows up to help him out. Oh, they don’t just show up — they bring an entire chorus line with them. The game actually breaks out into song here, with the marching, whistling ants singing about how they’re helping King Graham, all while little black pixels swarm the stack. I’d like to be sarcastic here, but I’m too amused by the extra effort.

And folks, that’s how you get ants.

rat

Because Graham apparently loves vermin and pests of all kind, soon enough he saves a rat from a cat by chucking a shoe (looted from a dead adventurer). I’m not a cat lover, so this scene was cathartic. The rat who pledged a life debt to me was just a bonus.

Also, King’s Quest V really loves this “save an animal in peril” trope. First the bees from the bears, then the ants from the dog, and now the rat from the cat. It’s bordering on self-parody at this point.

gypsies

Graham discovers a gypsy wagon, at which point Cedric warns him to keep an eye on them: “I don’t trust them!” Cedric, you racist bird you.

ball

Yet another oracle pops up in the King’s Quest series. This time, it’s a fortune teller who looks into her crystal ball and sees… exposition! The evil wizard Mordack appears to be playing with his action figures collection, but in truth he’s terrorizing the tiny Alexander. Apparently Mordack is the brother of KQ3’s Mananananannon, who is still a cat and none too pleased about it. Mordack says if Alexander doesn’t spill the beans about the spell, he’s going to feed Alexander’s whole family to the cat.

After that entertaining show, Graham gets a magic amulet from the gypsy. For those keeping score at home, the “mistrustful” gypsies have been more helpful than the owl in this game.

World of Warcraft: My Legion checklist

WoWScrnShot_042116_221651

The countdown is real, folks. With Legion’s beta started already and about 3.5 months left until the launch, there suddenly doesn’t seem to be enough time for everything I want to do. I’ve chastised myself for messing around with several alts over the past few weeks instead of focusing on what needs to be done, so last night I decided that enough was enough — I needed to get organized and buckle down.

With my Hunter more or less all done with Draenor and geared up so that she can start Legion with no issues. my attention’s turned to my Death Knight. I’m still figuring out her battle rotation, since there are so many attacks that spew out curses and I don’t know if I’ve picked the best ones.

Anyway, I drew up a checklist of what I want to accomplish with her before Legion goes live, and so I share that with you:

  • Finish the entire Draenor questing series (only one zone in)
  • Gear up via raid finder and timewalking dungeons (currently ilevel 640)
  • Continue to look for places to farm to make money — I’ve found one really nice spot that churns out frostweave cloth like crazy, which is selling for 3g apiece on the AH, so I can usually make about a thousand an hour if I’m bored
  • Unlock the ship yard and look into doing more ship missions for money
  • Go back to Northrend/Mists of Pandaria to run quests just to see them and to get some more transmog gear
  • Buy her fastest flying skill

Money-wise, I’m sitting on about 40,000g, which is almost enough to buy a WoW token. I don’t really have much else I need gold for at the moment, yet I hate the thought of resetting my money counter to zero.

The Secret World: Digging too deep

stat1

With yet another investigation mission out this week, I feel the quests stacking up in my to-do list for Yeti while I want to get back to doing the Secret Adventures series. One thing at a time, one step at a time. Can’t let the enormity of the task shy me away from it.

We start today’s adventures by returning to the City of the Sun God after finding out some about the tremors coming from the Ankh. The statues are rightly freaking out about all of it, lost without a plan, and feeling downright vulnerable. The little boy statue falls over but I catch it in time. Syp, professional statue grabber, at your service.

When clever investigation comes to naught, what’s left is the back alley way of being a detective: beating up enough bad guys until you punch your way to the truth. Or, in this case, cultists. It’s certainly been a while since I’ve played Yeti this much, and my shotgun maneuvering is somewhat rusty. I looked over my build and found it really solid, although I did swap in a passive healing talent for some extra survival. I also found a new hammer closer I’ve never used before that uses my strike synergy, and ever since using it fights have gone a lot more smoothly.

The fights aren’t particularly hard here, not for a QL10.X character, but there are a couple of mobs that give particular trouble. There are cultists who throw grenades that take off a surprising chunk of health, and even worse, there are suicide bombers that fling themselves at you. I had to stay nimble during these encounters, no mean feat when my computer keeps stuttering this bad.

stat2

Turns out that the cultists are doing some dynamite excavation in the nearby caves — which also happen to be populated by ghouls. It was heartening to see these mobs tear at each other for once.

I got a small laugh out of the fact that I was asked to “dispose” of some explosives here, something that I had to do by shooting a shotgun repeatedly into crates of dynamite. That… is probably not a smart idea. And even after all of that, there are no answers. The cultists were digging for something, which probably has to do with the tremors, but we still don’t know what.

stat3

Back to one of the statue-children, where the dad is reading the story of Aladdin to them. I had forgotten that Issue 14 was Arabian Nights-themed (most TSW issues have a theme to them, which is yet another creative aspect of this game).

The game does a neat interlude here, where the story is told against wonderfully illustrated screens. I was told that Aladdin’s ring has some basis in reality, as one of the rings of Solomon that could command jinn and allow the user to talk to animals. Better than Frodo’s ring, I say!