Saturday, January 16, 2021

Rise of the Tank Shaman?

Shaman tanking in WoW is something I have been pondering many times over the years. I wrote about it in my post on "Top 5 Class Roles That Nearly Existed" 9,5 years ago and even wrote a guide on how to play one 11 years ago. For whatever reason though I never got around to, you know, actually play one myself. Was I too chicken? Did I not believe in the concept myself? I'm not sure, but I think the simple answer is that I didn't actually play any tank class back in Vanilla, let alone a half-viable one, and once I got around to loving tanking, shaman tanking wasn't actually a thing anymore. I just missed the window of opportunity the last time around.

If you need any convincing or proof that Blizzard actually thought about this as a possibility, just read any or both of the above posts. Too lazy? Well to quote myself (hey I can be lazy too);

"Shamans actually have a taunt. They have a totem that does nothing but tank. Enhancement shamans prefer two one handers, but can wield shields if they want to, and enhancement shamans used to have a talent that gave them parry and a talent called Shield Specialization which increased their block chance by up to 5%. They have a skill that reduces damage done to them by 30%. And they have a weapon buff that increases their threat by 30% and reduces their damage taken by 5%. Need more proof?"

I have been playing WoW Classic for 1,5 year now though and still no tanking shaman in my roster, what gives! I know, this time I can only blame good old faulty memory. I had completely forgotten these were a thing! Until I stumbled across one, which in fact I have never done in the wild before.

Maybe something like this?

I saw someone looking for a group to some low-level instance, calling themselves a tank. I noticed that their name alluded to being a shaman and a flickering light of an old memory shone up in my brain. It couldn't be? But it was, a real, in the flesh (well not really, but you know what I mean) tanking shaman. I immediately whispered them, asking for details on usefulness and especially how skeptical potential group members were about having a shaman tanking them. According to them, there wasn't really an issue.

This shaman was in their mid-20s, so hadn't really been at it long. Back in the day I mused that tanking as a shaman was only really viable up until level 40. But with how Classic WoW has turned out to be more lenient and easier than Vanilla WoW, and even "real" tanks can play as dps-specs and with dps gear up until 60 without any issues, I think shaman tanking could actually work all the way til end game. Maybe Blizzard wanted it to be an option to sort of bolster out the mid-level availability of tanks? Who knows, either way my fire was re-kindled.

I immediately started making plans for actually creating a tank shaman. Time is dire though, rumour has it that BC is on its way and while I am intensely hype for it, it would also kill my beloved tank shaman once again, just like it did all those years ago. EDIT: I was actually thinking of Wotlk so guess I still have some time.

The only thing keeping me from rolling a tank shaman this time around is having to do those pesky totem quests again. Some are not so bad, but some are horrendous. Thing is, I already have a shaman at level 35 who has done all the annoying totem quests, but she is resto specced. But I mean, all that is required is throwing some money at her and she would be set, right? I haven't decided just yet but I am very tempted... Maybe soon I can finally play my beloved tank shaman.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 - My First Impressions

 Ah Cyberpunk 2077. I guess No Man's Sky is happy you finally pushed them off the podium for "games so overhyped they couldn't possibly deliver". 

I was fairly excited about Cyberpunk 2077 myself. After having played the Witcher 1-3 I knew CD Projekt Red could do really amazing games. I loved each and every one of those games for completely different reasons too. With the Witcher series CDPR showed they could handle a multitude of gameplay styles but also had a handle on storytelling and character building. Or do they? More on that a bit further down.

But I also knew there was a possibility that this game, being something very different from the Witcher universe, could be something I wasn't going to love. I was ok with that. I had already decided I was going to buy the game at launch anyway, because I knew that even if I ended up hating it I still would've thought CDPR deserved my money for the fun I had already had with the Witcher series (all of which I bought cheap).

Don't bring a katana to a gun fight.

I wasn't bothered by the constant delays either. The stars know my backlog stresses me out enough as it is already, so I had plenty of stuff to keep me occupied while I waited. Finishing the Witcher 3 was one of them.

In fact I would've preferred if they had delayed the game further to prevent having to use crunch hours. I guess it must've been the Christmas holidays looming that made them finally release it (even though it was still not finished as it would turn out) but who needs to hear the echoing words of Shigeru Miyamoto again nowadays? Surely everyone knows that a game that is released too early may never manage to redeem itself. The beforementioned No Man's Sky is a decent example, because even though they've done a tremendous job making a great game out of it, I am sure most people still only know it as "that game that was overhyped". Unfortunately it seems Cyberpunk 2077 will now join that stable of games that deserves better, at least in the future.

I fretted for the longest time over whether to get it on PC or ps4. I knew there was shooting and I hate shooting with a controller. On the other hand, what if I get it on PC and it turns out my PC can't handle it properly? In the end I opted for the ps4 version because it had worked so well with The Witcher 3 (completely different games, I know, but that is the logic I used). The fact that the game wouldn't run well on my ps4 didn't even enter my realm of possibilities. That is the one thing console has over computer right, you know the game will work?

Shotguns are really fun to use, as they should be.

Usually before I get a game I spend quite a lot of time looking at and reading reviews about what other people think about it, this is to avoid buying something that is actually a broken game. But I had already decided CDPR was going to get my money, remember? So I wanted to be as unspoiled as possible about Cyberpunk 2077. I am glad I did that too, because if I had waited and seen all the fallout about the game, and especially the ps4 (and Xbox) release I would've most likely not bought it at all.

And that would've been a shame, because so far.. it's actually a pretty fun game. Which is not to say it is perfect. And it is far from the amazing experience The Witcher 3 is, with its excellent world building, characters, story telling, gameplay... and so on. But Cyberpunk 2077 has a lot going for it as well. I loved Deus Ex and had fun with Shadowrun Returns and Cyberpunk definitely takes a lot of inspiration especially from the latter.

Some core ideas are similar to The Witcher 3, where you have an over-arching main story but are allowed to wander around and delve into other issues around the map as you please. I have so far (around 10 hours of game time) put a lot more time into the side missions than the main story, just like I did in the Witcher 3. And over 150 hours I wasn't bored once with what there was to do in the Witcher 3. After 10 hours it is difficult for me to say if Cyberpunk will hold up as well, and while I have been having a lot of fun so far there is a nagging worry that it might get repetitive in the longer run.

I am playing on normal, and just like The Witcher 3 I don't find Cyberpunk to be particularly difficult at any point so far. While there is the option to hack things I often find I can do well just running in guns a blazing. I am not really sure if I think the hacking option isn't well enough designed or if I think I just don't have enough talents (or know-how) to make the best use out of it yet. Time will tell regarding that bit I guess.

You'll meet many people, but few to care about.

The world building is adequate, Night City is a fun city to run around in. Does it feel like coming to a real place like in The Witcher 3? Not really, but I still enjoy walking around slowly and look into nooks and crannies like I did in that game. There is a lot to look at, discover and learn about Night City and I am curious to do so.

But coming back to the point I briefly mentioned in the beginning, you can tell CDPR didn't have the lore from some books to fall back on here. The interesting thing is I find CDPR did more and better with the lore in The Witcher 3 than the Witcher books ever did, but this time around I am nowhere near as interested or invested in the characters or stories that I come across. It doesn't help that the voice of my own character is really annoying. But overall they at least don't detract from my fun of the game. The AI isn't the best at times, with enemies not reacting appropriately to bombs thrown in their face for instance but then again it's easy for me to write it off as them being "off their trollies", or having implants that don't work so well, it would all fit the world I am in.

I'm not even sure I understand the main story yet, or that I have come into it. So far I have mostly been doing side quests, as mentioned, and whatever seems connected to the main story has got to do with me establishing rep in the "fixer" business, or whatever. I wasn't overly invested in the main story in Witcher 3 either, in the sense that I didn't care too much about Ciri. But it was still fun to play through, and so far Cyberpunk 2077 is too. 

I seem to have been lucky enough to not have come across too many bugs, glitches or crashes so far. I've actually not had a single bug or crash, though I've probably jinxed myself now. There have been some floating objects and faces that took a bit too long to load, but again I find as long as it doesn't actually prevent me from playing, I can have these aesthetical glitches work in the world I am in. That quirky weirdness that those glitches add also sort of add to the atmosphere of the game in a way that would've never worked in The Witcher 3.

I have feelings that I wish I could do more in each encounter, rather than just run in slashing my dagger around like a crazy monkey, but I tell myself that'll happen as soon as I unlock more perks and learn the systems better. If it doesn't happen however, there is danger that I'll find this game repetitive in the long run. But so far it has great potential and I am having a lot of fun exploring the crazy world of Night City, even if I don't love the characters that inhabit it.

Images from cyberpunk.net.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tales of Symphonia #2 - Everyone Is Hiding Something

Everyone is hiding something. At least that is what it seems like. Colette is turning less and less human with each seal that we destroy. Genis and Raine seem to be hiding the fact that they aren't real elves, for whatever reason. Sheena, the character who started out by attacking us but has now joined forces with us, seems to be hinting that she is actually from another dimension (?). Kratos the mercenary says he is only in it for the money, but is he really?

The only one I really trust is myself, Lloyd. Even I seem to have a colourful past, the difference being I don't know about it myself yet. Since I was found next to my dead mother by my adoptive father it seems like both my birth parents were something special. I don't know what but I am sure to find out soon.

I am curious to see how her character develops.

It seems clear that this game is trying to throw me a curve ball by pretending to be trope when actually there are plenty of twists along the way. We'll see I guess.

This game is actually clever in many little ways. At this one point I was required to run between two cities that were a bit of a trek in between, I was given the option to accompany an NPC to get between the cities instantly. Nice. Another cool feature is an option to "Customize" weapons so even old weapons that you've outgrown can be customized into a better one. And the "long-range mode" on the map actually means enemies won't move when you don't, so they can't attack you unless you let them, which is very convenient for when you want to explore the world map.

They've also added another interesting feature to bolster your feelings towards the characters. Whenever you're out and about you can get a prompt to press the Z button, if you do you get to watch a little conversation play out between some of the characters where they talk about all matter of things, usually something connected to where you are story wise but usually not crucial to know. These conversations are entirely optional (I think!) and there are many. I try to watch all of them, but they can really pop up absolutely anytime. I know for sure I missed one because it popped up right as I was entering a town, and once I loaded in it wasn't there anymore. They're pretty fun to watch and really do help build the characters a bit, so that is nice. Very nice also that if you happen to replay the game you don't have to watch through all of that dialogue again if you don't want to.

The enemies on the map have generic models, so you never know exactly what you'll encounter.

Another interesting thing that happened to me was that I went to open a seal but got beaten by the boss. What actually happened was that I beat the seal boss but then Sheena attacked me right after, before I had saved or gotten a chance to stock up on any items (all of which I had used on the previous boss). She beat me and I decided to go a different route. I went to another seal, which turns out was probably the one I was actually meant to take, because it was a lot easier. Sheena attacked me after this boss too, but the save spot was in a different location so this time I at least had the opportunity to save in-between. I beat her this time, and when I got to the other seal she didn't attack me. It seems it was entirely possible to tackle that part of the story in two completely different locations on the map, and if I hadn't failed the first time I wouldn't even have known. 

It probably doesn't matter much in the long run but it's cool to know the game has this flexibility programmed in to it. Makes me wonder where else it can differ like this.

Also can I just throw in here that I've always loved the little Gamecube discs. They are the cutest.

There are other tiny details that add to the overall feel of quality too, like how the doors only open one way (as is usual with doors). On most RPGs the characters always push the doors open. But in this game, they'll push it one way and pull it another. You can also choose whichever character in your roster you want to display and run around as. It's a minor thing that doesn't really change anything gameplay wise, but it's fun to be able to do.

Most importantly this game just plays well. While so far it might not be reinventing the wheel, it has definitely polished the details and worked out a lot of typical JRPG kinks, making for an easy moving whole. It pulls you forward without effort, even though as I've mentioned before it's far from an easy game. I hope this quality sticks throughout, because so far I am having a lot of fun with it.

Images from youtube.com, steam.com

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

I Am Playing Tales of Symphonia

 RPG's is one of my favorite game genres so it gives me the hives whenever I think about all the RPG series out there that I have barely even touched on. Ys, Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, Shin Megami Tensei (and Persona) to mention a very few. And also, of course, the Tales of-series.

I have played Tales of Phantasia though, I even own a Japanese copy even though I don't own a Super Famicom. I can barely remember anything about it but I remember two things clearly - I had fun with it and I especially enjoyed the combat.


My knowledge of the Tales of-series doesn't stretch much further than knowing that there are many of them at the moment, and that they hold a pretty good standard overall with some few low points. I don't exactly know which games are considered high or low points in the series though, but everything I have heard about Tales of Symphonia have been good things.

I remember watching my brother play it way back when it was released, he would've been around 15 and me around 18, and even though he seemed to have a great time with it and I thought it looked like fun I never got around to trying it myself. I have no idea what 18-year old me spent all days doing to be honest, but it should've been playing more video games for sure. Then he went on to sell the Gamecube and the game and regretting it ever since.

I got myself a copy quite a while back, with the thought in my head to redeem myself and get around to playing this game that I should've played already long ago. Well, I finally got around to it and I quite like it so far.

I am just over 7 hours in, though that doesn't mean much since I've come to realize that ToS is a game that does require a fair bit of grinding. I don't remember that ever being a thing in Tales of Phantasia! I don't mind though as the combat is as solid in ToS as I remember it being in ToP. 

For you people who don't remember the combat or get it confused with similar styles in the Star Ocean and Grandia series, the combat in ToS is in 2,5D (you can't control you character up and down but it will automatically follow enemies who move there). You control a party of up to four characters and they fight independently until you choose to give them commands. It works pretty well for the most part. Some times you're weaker ranged characters will decide to go all full contact MMA with a boss who three-shots them and some times they use their strongest and most expensive attack on an enemy that is easily killed anyway. But while you don't have much control over their direct movements you have a lot of control over their decisions so I feel it mostly comes down to how much you want to micro manage them.


The combat is definitely not on the easy side either. You not only can but should choose between a wide variety of attacks, and of course block and dodge things. Blocking and dodging is absolutely crucial to not become minced meat. There are often tactical choices to be made regarding which of the up to four (or more?!) enemies you should handle first and of course there are weaknesses and resistances to take into account as well. It might sound like much, but instead it makes every fight full of action and fun.

It definitely does help that combat is not random in this game. The enemies are always visible on the map, like in Grandia for instance, and you can in theory avoid almost every fight if you're sneaky and quick enough. In reality the game absolutely forces you in to a lot of combat, and it's really for the best. The enemies are quite tough and getting money for new gear does not happen quickly - if you want to be prepared for the dungeons to come you are going to have to do a lot of grinding ahead.

If the combat is the game's strong point the story and characters are about as trope as they come. You play as young sword fighter Lloyd Irving, a rascal who doesn't pay attention in school but also quite charming. Your adventure starts when one of your best friends, Colette, who happens to be the chosen one, requires your aid to get to different seals on her pilgrimage and some bad guys are trying to stop her for unknown reasons and... yeah I won't bore you further. You could copy the story from any 500 previous JRPGs and you know what this is all about. 

Kratos is so cool.

You collect a pretty ragshag team who, at least as far as I have come, all bring an interesting variety to combat and also all feel about equally useful (though definitely not equally interesting). Kratos, voiced by none other than Cam Clarke of Leonardo the Ninja Turtle fame, is a mercenary who is quite overpowered when he first joins you. He is also the only one who dabbles in all schools of fighting, he is strong in both offense, defense and healing and absolutely invaluable in the team. Then there is Colette whom I've already mentioned. She is the typical bit of a wonky girl character who keeps falling over on the battle field. She seems to be the weakest character when you start out but it is clear she will become stronger and stronger as the game moves on. Then we've got the "elf" siblings Raine and Genis. I say "elf" because it is hinted so far in the game that they are actually half-elf. Why they would hide this fact is unknown to me.

The enemies of the game are very anonymous so far. All I know is that they're half-elves called Desians (or along those lines), so maybe Raine and Genis used to belong to them and left, or something? Time will tell. They keep human farms where they... actually seem to farm humans, for unclear purpose. Collette is a descendant from an angel who needs to unlock seals to "heal the world". Like I said, the story isn't really the compelling part of the game. Just as with Grandia, what keeps me interested and entertained is mainly a really fun gameplay. The characters are growing on me though, and they're all quite endearing if nothing else.

The game has some other neat features that makes it easy to like, other than the fact that it doesn't have random battles (I can't stress how grateful I am that it doesn't have random battles). For instance it has a "long-range" mode on the world map which makes it slightly easier to traverse. Even more helpful is the "synopsis" feature which in short sentences wraps up where you're at in the story and what you need to do next. So awesomely necessary for a forgetful mind like mine, now I don't need to spend the first ~15 minutes of each session trying to remember what I was doing next, nor keep handwritten notes next to the game.

There is a lot more to say but I think I have been going on for long enough so I will keep that for future posts. Long story short, I am enjoying this game so far. It has really fun combat, decent characters and a story that I think might have some tricks up its sleeve. And even if it doesn't I think I'll have fun nonetheless.

Images from youtube.com, wikipedia.com, aselia.fandom.com.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Anachronox #15 - The End?

I thought I knew this game by now, I thought it couldn't throw me any curve balls anymore. I thought wrong. The end of Anachronox offers up some exhausting material and now that I feel like I've closed it down for the final time I don't even know how to wrap up my thoughts. What did I even experience? What did I just go through?

It's a roller coaster for sure and while the end is probably the games' weakest point it doesn't leave me unfulfilled. No wait, that is not entirely true. In many ways it does exactly that. I can't explain it without going in to major spoiler territory, but I guess we've already passed that in all my previous posts.

Detta's castle/fortress/home base is another maze. But I've got to hand it to them, even though almost every place I have gone to in this game has been some sort of maze, at least they've been pretty inventive with the areas. I still don't feel like it's repeating itself, too much. 

PAL works alone.

For Detta's the schtick is that we've got the entire team with us for once, which means we split up in three teams that you can easily swap between. Sly heads one and Stiletto heads one and PAL is on his own. The teams need to solve different puzzles in order to open up paths for each other and it's a fun experience. 

I think overall they've done a good job with keeping the same concept interesting, because as I've probably mentioned a couple of times the general idea is that you go through some sort of maze like structure, solve puzzles and fight some enemies. But the variety, both in settings, enemies and puzzles is good and it doesn't bore me.

And dark. Don't forget dark.

Of course the characters and the story is the real highlight of the game and there is a lot of potential here. I wish there was more of it, even after almost 40 hours of playtime. By more I mean more world building, it's a really interesting place that we get to explore here and I would love to see more of it.

Once we get towards the end of the game they've made several choices that give me reason to be frustrated though. First of all, the difficulty ramps up significantly. I guess when my team mates told me they needed better weapons they weren't lying. The final bosses, because spoiler there are two, are silly difficult compared to what I have been fighting so far. And honestly I really don't like it when games does this. I played another game recently, though I can't remember which, which was quite easy on regular enemies and extremely difficult on bosses. Anachronox has been fairly easy throughout though, and throws me off a cliff right at the end. Not cool.

You're not a true mob boss without an indoor pool.

The boss fight with Detta sees my team dead except for Sly (unfortunately I am forced to bring Stiletto with me for this fight and she is easily my worst team mate). Detta does an attack that just about halves my hp, so every other turn I need to throw a full heal and every other turn I can do an attack. But only my special attack does damage to Detta, my regular one always misses. This means I can only do damage to Detta every four turns (because the special attack needs recharging). And Detta himself does an attack that literally takes 30 seconds of cut scene every. single. time.

I have no happy memories of this room.

After Detta is defeated it seems like we're about to win the game. But then... it turns out Grumpos had been on the side of the bad guys all along. No I am not talking about Detta, but the actual BIG BAD that has been threatening to destroy the universe. Thanks a lot Grumpos!

I never understood how these people could get henchmen anyway, doesn't Grumpos realize that he is part of this universe too? He is kind of putting himself in the same danger. But apparently Grumpos still thinks he's better off helping the bad guy than trying to stand against him. Coward.

So instead of throwing the Key Stone into the energy well like he is supposed to, to destroy it, he activates it and summons the bad guy on our confused and shocked asses. And then it is time for another, even worse, boss fight.

Ok ok, this fight maybe actually isn't so bad. It's just that I haven't been allowed to save at any point since I beat Detta and the fight is confusing as heck. This time we get to fight with all six of our remaining characters (Grumpos not being with us for obvious reasons, traitor). Mr Evil as I will call him since I can't recall his actual name (though it is bound to be along those lines) fights on a platform with six colorful orbs around him. Ok, I think. I probably need to destroy those orbs first in order to do damage to him. This turns out to be only partially correct. And the bit I got wrong is pretty dang important.


For some reason I can only attack him with three of my six characters, though this also means only these three characters take damage. Again unfortunately Stiletto is on my team and again unfortunately she is still useless. Each turn every single one of the six orbs do an attack on one of my characters, while they don't do much damage it is extremely tedious to have to sit through. And as soon as I destroy one and start to focus on the others it respawns again. Ok, I think. So I have to destroy them all at the same time?

Again, only almost correct. After I manage to do that, which also is extremely tedious and time consuming I realize that that isn't doing what I was hoping it would do at all. I don't do more damage to the boss and the orbs almost instantly reappear. At that point my play session has been going on for way too long and I actually need to go to bed. Should I leave the game on for 24 hours and continue the day after? I choose not to do this but simply close it down, mostly out of nerd rage reasons to be honest.

So how am I supposed to beat that sucker then? Oh, apparently you need to move your characters into position whenever you destroy an orb, so that they can't respawn. Of course... I wish I had looked that up before my annoyance got the better off me and now I probably have to do the really frustrating fight with Detta all over again too.

They look as disappointed as I feel.

Nah.

Especially since I now also know the game doesn't even end, even after you manage to beat that guy. It's intentionally open-ended because the creators wanted to make a sequel. But we know that is never going to happen. And if they ever do announce one I will go back and do those fights again, maybe. Because dang, they were some horrible fights.

Everything up until that point was really good though, and I think that is the reason I am so disappointed with the ending. I guess I could live with the non-ending if the difficulty didn't karate chop me so hard over the neck though. That's just not cool, it's like they didn't actually want me to see the end once I got there.

It's so unfortunate because I have had ~35 hours of great fun with this game and then the lasting feeling with me ends up being some of disappointment, frustration and pure "oh come on!". Like that one time I went to a birthday party at a restaurant and we had an amazing time but one of my shrimp must've been a bit off because I got really sick and all I can think of now is how unwell I got, not how much fun I had beforehand.

But those last couple of boss fights were definitely some sort of bad shrimp and I still can't shake how frustrated they made me feel, unlike anything else in the game.

I'll get over it, I hope. And I hope I will remember the game for what it really is. An extremely underrated, funny as hell, well written and well played out little gem that I definitely recommend anyone to play through. And I wish there would be a sequel, that would be amazing. Because I actually think this world and these people have a lot more to tell before I get bored.