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

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,

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,,

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.


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.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Classic Dungeon Experience

 So far Classic WoW has been pretty much exactly the way I remember it, i.e amazing. There has been one notable difference though, at least to me, and that is the dungeon experience.

While I do recall having fun with dungeoning back in the day, I struggle to remember why or how that was possible, because most of my memories are of it taking way too long and people both playing and behaving very badly. The playing badly part I don't mind so much as long as there is a level of effort put in, and I know for a fact I was far from great myself. And to be fair, it was to be expected. Back then the game was completely new to all of us and even those with previous MMO experience (unlike me) still didn't know anything about tactics, best gear or best talents.

Unrelated picture of a scared priest.

This time around though I rarely find a player who seems to be completely new to the game. Either they have played a lot of retail, Vanilla or both. And in either case they mostly know what needs to be done and I've had a blast going through dungeons so far. I don't need people to play perfectly and I don't need people to be social geniuses, as long as everything is done in good effort and politeness.

So I managed to play a year of Classic and umpteen low and mid-level instances before I ended up having one of those experiences. One of those that took me right back to all the memories I have of everything taking just too long and nothing ever really clicking. Like, I can't even point at any one person and say "this failed because of you" but the group effort failed all together.

Ok, in this particular case there were definitely some warning signs early on. The fact that it takes almost an hour to assemble a group is not one of them though. A lot of instances are literally half an hour of running away and without Dungeon Finder Tool you're left to having to wait for the right person to show up at the right time, that's just the way Classic works and I'm fine with that.

I found a group for SM Graveyard and Library on my alliance priest (whom I have a lot to say about by the way, but that is matters for another post) and had to run myself from Wetlands, through Arathi, Hillsbrad and Tirisfal to get to the instance. I was the last one there and everyone had patiently waited for me without complaining. Off to a good start. 

Unrelated picture of a priest in Darnassus.

Except that when we were going to start our hunter wasn't present. Well, that's fine. He had probably gone afk without telling us while waiting, that's understandable. We cleared the first boss in SM GY before the hunter finally shows back up, at this point we had waited at least 15 minutes for him so that's a pretty long afk, but ok, we had done fine without him.

It was going to turn out there was a reason for that as he was ending up to be more of a hassle than gain for the group. He would stand around just not doing anything for minutes at a time, often not going in to action until prompted by someone asking for his attention in party chat. "Bad lag" he says. With lag that bad it's a wonder you can play this game at all, I think. But then again, he was playing a hunter.

Fortunately SM GY is not a difficult instance and we get through it without trouble. Off to SM Library, and the first half is fine, except for the hunter still being mostly afk. He runs around with Aspect of the Cheetah until I tell him and has full mana after every fight he actually does engage in... but I choose to keep my mouth mostly shut, and so does everyone else. We're still doing fine, after all.

After the first boss problem starts to arise though. The hunter starts "lagging" in to extra mobs, pulling more than the tank can comfortably handle. We have our first wipe. No one is complaining, but we're telling each other to be careful not to pull extras. The warrior turns out to be one of those who doesn't bother corpse running but just waits for someone to res him instead. The mobs in SM Lib are fairly tricky actually, with a mana burn I try to hide from as much as possible and a nasty kick that will silence you if you're not careful.

Unrelated picture of a priest running.

That kick will be the cause of our next wipe, just before the final boss. No one is to blame really, it is one of those breakdowns of team effort I described earlier. Or maybe rather an accumulation of mistakes that breaks the camels back. Even though I use Fade I get aggro from mobs throughout the instance, and getting my spells silenced means the tank dies. The first problem might be that the tank doesn't pull the mobs in to a safe spot, but forces us to fight them where they can more easily aggro more mobs. This also means the hunter often stands in places where he more easily aggros more mobs. The paladin or warrior don't use their cooldowns to save us when shit hits the fan and I forget not to cast a heal when I have aggro from one of the kickers. So we wipe.

We all made mistakes, any one of them miniscule but all together too many to keep the group alive.

The second time we wipe we come back to the instance fully respawned. We had literally been about three mobs away from finishing it, and now we have to clear it all over again. But we decide to do it. And through everything we manage to somehow keep our calm and not start yelling things. I just get mildly annoyed when the tank druid starts needing on cloth caster gear. I mean come on dude, that's just not cool. But I also remind myself that this mid-level gear is a drop in the ocean and it doesn't matter. It really doesn't.

But in the end everything took way longer than it needed to and some have been very much carried by the efforts of others. While it didn't leave me angry, sad or even particularly frustrated it definitely left me extremely mentally drained. And I don't know, was it even fun? In the end I probably feel like I could've been without that experience and that is probably a first in Wow Classic for me.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Anachronox #14 - The Battle of Limbus

Limbus is Fifty Shades of Brown. It might be understandable though since it has apparently been the battleground between what can essentially be coined as "good and evil" (in this game it's "chaos" and "order" though) for a long, long time. We're just in time for another round it seems.

It looks like someone had a bad curry in here.

But first we mess up the front guard of the people who are safeguarding the Universe, woopsie. This is actually one of the more difficult fights I've done in this game and I have to use several of my resurrects before they finally go down. The boss, of which there are in fact six, have a clever system where only three of them fight at any one time, and three are in the back row (behind a force field and untargetable) healing. Then they constantly swap back and forth meaning you have to focus your fire if you want to ever get them down.

They're not as stupid as they look.

Killing the guard means I can get into the town of the people who guard the galaxy, you might even call them the Guardians of the Galaxy, I guess. They are surprisingly un-furious considering what I just did, though they do chew me out a bit for it. It doesn't help that the probe that the space-flower just sent down turns out to be another wave of bad guys trying to achieve something that will allow them to destroy the Universe. I get to replace the front guard with one of my own (Rho) and also the back door (Democratus) in case they choose to come that way (they do). The people give each character some cannon fodder of their own to help out as well and that's going to come in handy because the enemies pack a punch.

Their thing is unpronouncable names.

Boots on the other hand gets the honorable duty of manning the massive planetary defense gun with which I get to shoot down enemy landing parties. Why they would leave such an incredibly important task in the hands of someone who has clearly already done a huge mistake is curious, though I guess it helps that it seems Boots is the Chosen One fabled in some wall paintings.

The prophets even knew what I was going to wear.

The fighting starts and we start kicking ass. I was picturing something along the lines of the little tactical event in FFVII where you get to place troops on a map, but it's nothing like that. Rho and Democratus get attacked in turn and it's just regular battles. Not overly difficult either, fortunately, though I feel like it's a lot down to my little aides who take pretty much all my fire. I don't want the Universe to be destroyed.

We are victorious, of course. But it's only temporary. We still have to prevent the bad guys from entering our universe and tear it up (what we have been fighting has been some sort of front force). The main guy of the Limbus people tells me to go talk to some special agent named Roweidekhalicon (yeah I had to look up the spelling on that) who happens to be in South Anachronox (which is where we started the game). In fact he turns out to be Rowdy who owns the bar from which Boots did his work before we got caught up in this whole "save the universe" business.

So many casualties.

Rowdy tells us that to close the portal that would allow Chaos to enter our universe we need the keystone. The keystone is somewhere in the Mystech Tunnels. Remember when we went down there and found some sort of weird stone that the mob boss took from us? Yeah, that thing.

That means it is time to settle the score with the mob boss, named Detta. He pretty much runs Anachronox and has had Boots under his thumb for a long time. If I understood it correctly he is also the indirect cause to Fatima's untimely death. We have many reasons to go after him.

On the way to deal with him though we run in to Rukh, the cool looking detective that we have been lending a hand a couple of times throughout the game. He asks us to meet up at the hotel in South Anachronox to help out with one more thing. When we get there though it turns out someone got there first. Nooo, not Rukh! He was the coolest, especially considering he was barely even in the game. He should have his own spin-off.

Destroy the universe, fine. But don't mess with my Rukh.

Our only lead is a picture of the attacker that Rukh managed to take just before he was attacked. You'd think that's a pretty good lead, but I have no idea who it is. I happened to have Rho in my party and she mentions she saw the guy somewhere on Sender Station Station. But on SSS it's still night so practically everyone is gone.

Instead of going off on a wild goose chase I decide to deal with Detta first. As much as I want to get vengeance for Rukh I feel like saving the universe has some sort of precedence, I am sure he would understand. The closer I get to Detta though, the more it feels like this is going to be some sort of final conflict. Especially when the game straight up tells me "are you ready for this because there is no turning back?". Uh, I guess Rukh will have to be revenged in some other playthrough then, I am sorry Rukh. 

Every character has also told me they need better weapons. Do they mean need them or do they sort of just want to imply that there is a better weapon? How dire is this need? How difficult is Detta going to be? It's not like anyone gives me any kind of hint on where their best weapon could be either. Your best option is to revisit all old areas with all your characters (though you can only bring three at a time) and talk to everyone you meet, again. While this sounds like so much fun I just... don't want to do that. 

The game is very good at getting a balance between us lazy people and the people who might find that completionist business fun though. If you do happen to put in the man hours and run around to find better weapons you'll have access to them earlier, but as a lazy person I can also wait to a little bit later in the game and most of the weapons will be accessible in the shop. I am ok with that. Unfortunately there is no such system for finding more skills, but I hope I've got the most important ones already.

Detta, I am coming for you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

WoW Classic - One Year On

It's now been almost a year since I first logged on to WoW Classic. Back then I was immediately in love - again! 

Though some things were exactly as tedious as I lovingly remembered them, like the endless travel times between quest objects and never being able to afford anything even remotely useful, some things weren't anything like I remembered them, like instancing. My memories of instances are just full of waiting, waiting, waiting, dying and running and probably not getting to the end anyway. It's almost a miracle I even enjoyed doing them at all, if my memories are anything to go by.

Good thing then that for some reason that hasn't turned out to be a problem at all. While instances can still take a lot of time (I spent about 2 hours doing a Deadmines the other day) they usually run very smoothly. I rarely have anyone leave mid instance, ninjaing loot they can't even equip and just standing around like they're pretending to be a tree. This time around it seems clear that the vast majority of players have at least some experience of playing WoW. That could also be because I haven't actually even gotten to the really tricky end-game content yet.

Yup, it's true. I have been playing for a year now and my highest level character isn't even level 50 yet (in fact, he's 49). The explanation really just comes down to one thing: even though I still enjoy the game immensely, I just don't put nowhere near the time in to it like I used to. This means I am actually playing the game like I always wanted to - being able to combine it with all my other interests rather than letting it steamroll all over them.

WoW Classic is just one of many things I can choose to do in an evening, and my evenings are very short anyway. At best I have some good three hours to put in to it on a Friday or Saturday evening and if I am lucky I can get an instance done.

Old school blood elf.

I don't need to though, I am really enjoying the questing. Not all of it mind you, I am reminded of why I used to have a set course through the map back in the day and steered clear of certain areas. Giving them another chance in WoW Classic I just realize that I still don't find them fun. Stonetalon Mountains is such an area, Arathi Highlands is another. 

The vast majority of areas I still love though, Tirisfal Glades, Duskwood, Stranglethorn Vale, Hillsbrad Foothills, Tanaris and so on. I have so much nostalgia connected to almost every inch of this game I can't go anywhere without thinking "oh yeah this is where I spoke to that person" or "this is where we did this quest", "this is where I found that thing".

There is no denying that Blizzard improved on a lot of things in later expansions however and that some classes fare better in Classic than others. Warlock and Hunter are what you would call faceroll, especially compared to a class like Warrior who I find struggles immensely at pretty much everything. 

Other than a bit of class balance though (which of course Blizzard never gets perfect because it is probably impossible) I find few things to improve. There are quality of life things, like the long Hearthstone cd (which doesn't bother me really). The fact that you can't see what an object is worth until you vendor it and find out you've been carrying around a 5c item for an hour. I miss having any sort of decent timers for my spells. The summon stone would be quite handy of course. The list can be made long, but none of them are game breakingly necessary in my opinion.

For some of these there are addons to ease your pain (the vendor problem being one I needed to fix for instance). For others it's just suck it up and deal with it (like it literally taking more than 30 minutes to get everyone to an instance).

That I only have very limited time to put in to the game seems to also have caused another behavior in me. It's a fact that the game is the most rewarding, in the sense that you actually get stuff done, the lower level you are. Quests are shorter and levels are quicker. The higher the level, the more time you need to put in to a session to find that you've actually achieved something, I find.

This means I seem to get into a bit of a hump around level 35ish (might also be content that's a bit dry there but I haven't reflected on that) where I often roll an alt instead of moving on with the character I am currently playing. This means I have about 3-4 characters between 30-40. The warlock made it all the way to 49 simply because everything is so easy on him.

But I don't care. My only goal with the game is to enjoy playing it, however that may be. If it means playing characters from 1-20 hundred times over, so be it. I don't need to see any raid content and frankly I probably won't (though yet again it seems very much more accessible than it was in the original). While I am looking forward to experiencing some end game content again I am definitely in no hurry. 

I am still so damn happy that WoW Classic is a thing and I enjoy every second with it. But I also don't feel the need to play it all the time. I am glad I've been able to find a good balance between it and all the other things I want to do. I've managed to fit WoW Classic perfectly into the little niche I wanted it to be in.

I also have a lot of thoughts about Burning Crusade, but that is probably best saved for another post.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Anachronox #13 - All Across Democratus

Where do I begin? Maybe where we left Sly. Some kids had been disappearing and the Burgomeister of Whitendon is more than happy to have us find out what happened to them. This involved running around town and finding clues and finally I get some use for my camera again since I take pictures of the clues I find and take them back to the mayor. How the game decides that I have taken the right picture I don't know, maybe any picture would work, but either way it works well.

The Burgomeister just happens to look like Putin.

It seems like some sort of "feral child" from a cave in the vicinity has been sneaking in to town through the fences and climbing around the trees and been snatching children from their bedrooms. One of the children seems to have seen the "monster" before it was snatched because it's left a drawing of it in its room and it definitely looks nothing like a human child.

The Burgomeister suggests that I go explore the caverns and find the culprit, on my own. But first we go have a nap in the local inn, and it seems like Sly is dreaming about some backstory.

We get a cutscene of what happened between Stiletto, Fatima (that's the assistant that was computerized when she died) and Sly and how Fatima died. I don't know why we get it and how it is relevant to the immediate story but I don't care, it's interesting.

After the cut scene though it doesn't cut back to Sly, but instead we are now playing as Paco Estrella, also known as "The Fist". He's ended up in an army camp but to get help he needs to talk to the boss and to talk to the boss he needs to find the secret code of the day (which is different for every one in charge). It seems like the army people are camping out here because the defense systems in their army base kicked them out. There is more to it than this but really, just play the game, it's hilarious. 

Hitting things is hard.

Paco's skill is to hit things really hard. To do this you need to charge is fist by keeping a fist icon within a circle while it wiggles more and more. It's actually quite tricky and one of the better mini-games, though I enjoy them all. They're very varied and witty and except Sly's lockpicking they're not used nearly as much as I would wish.

We find out that a stray child has ventured in to the army base where it is sure to be swiftly killed if no one saves it. How fortunate that Paco happens to be a hero. I thought at first that maybe Sly's "feral child" and Paco's lost child would be one and the same but I was wrong. In any case, Paco has to get through an army base full of lasers and spiky robots patrolling, while it's not particularly difficult and there is nothing to fight it is yet another massive maze to navigate through. At the end we need to run to the elevator while on a timer and it is one of the tightest timers I have ever experienced in gaming. I make it, but only barely.

And waterfalls.

Next up is Rho. It seems Democratus is inhabited by several different sentient species. Sly and Paco end up with humans and Rho ends up with some monkey-looking people, who of course worship nature, leaves and berries above all else. 

After finding some precious berries and leaves I am allowed to enter their temple of worship where I can solve some puzzles and get an item that the Chieftain needs before he is going to help me. The puzzles in the temple are actually really fun and interesting. As someone who is basically illiterate when it comes to puzzle solving, this is a really big thing. Big creds to them for succeeding with creating some great puzzles.

There are also ghosts. Friendly ghosts though.

Back to Sly then. We go in to the cave and at the end of it is no feral child but a little yeti. Who turns to be a huge yeti and also a boss. I guess the piles of dead people should've been a giveaway. We also don't find any of the snatched kids so I guess... yeah let's not think any further on that.

Once we beat the Yeti, who is actually trickier than the bosses have been so far, we get some more backstory. It seems Fatima was in love with Sly who was in love with Stiletto. Like Fatima voice overs in the cut scene, they were both in love with someone who didn't reciprocate. Fatima was just about to leave Sly's employment when he talked her into one more mission, to chase down Stiletto (then still known as Sarah). In the ensuing hover car chase Fatima is killed when Sly looses control of the vehicle. Man, that is depressing!

It's so cute now.

The people who run Democratus manage to track down all of us and get us back up to the ring. The group is reunited again and we can finally go to Limbus as we originally intended way back when. 

There are side quests you can do but the game doesn't always track them. There is no good way of knowing if you've succeeded except by trial and error because the game gives you little feedback on this. It's a big difference from how the main quest is being treated where every little step of the way is carefully being tracked and explained in the menu hub.

Another thing you get even less information on is how to improve your skills. Every character has one skill he can use out of combat (like Sly's lockpicking and Paco's punching) and several skills that are unique to them in combat (like Rho's aoe damage and Grumpos aoe heal). There are few hints on where and how you can improve them, so far I seem to have just been lucky and stumbled upon them here and there.

Don't look into the light.

After running around for a bit trying to solve some side quests and improving some skills (and failing on most of that) I decide to finally go to Limbus to see what it is all about. While I am about to land this huge space flower shows up and launches some sort of probe on to the surface. Let's go check this thing out? Sure, what could go wrong.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Anachronox #12 - Rictus Spaceship

And some orange.

Rictus spaceship is all hues of purple and also a huge puzzle. It takes me a while to figure out but I get there, without any help I might add! You get some sort of map of the area, but I've rarely seen a less helpful map in all my life, I have trouble seeing how it is useful in any way. It's actually quite a fun puzzle though, involving the order of rooms, what enemies are in those rooms and what 3d objects you find in those rooms. Pretty straight forward really, especially once you get it, but not too simple. And this is one point where the camera actually comes in handy, since it allows me to take snap shots of the rooms and what is in it, which my shitty memory would never be able to handle on its own.

Ok so I go here and then...

Rictus himself isn't very difficult, but that is probably because when I think I've beaten him... I actually haven't. Sly remembers too late that Rictus actually has a second form, or something, and we get thrown into super hero jail, along with a big bunch of other super heroes who have tried to take Rictus on and failed. Now we need to figure out a way to get out of this jail.

No biggie.

Want to know how to do it? Of course you do, it's as good of an example of how this game works and thinks as you're ever going to get.

Well, first you need to talk to everyone of course. You find out that some of the super heroes are locked up in cells whereas the weaker ones, like you, are free to roam the little room you have at your disposal. You need a code to break out one of the stronger super heroes, named the Fist, so that he can smash through the wall for you. To get the code you need to talk to a super hero named Headbreaker, or something along those lines, and get him to give you the ability to read minds. With that ability you can read the mind of Dr Hush-Hush who knows part of the code. The other part of the code you need to get from Invisolad, but unfortunately he is permanently invisible and hiding somewhere in the room (he has also gone mad from this, just like Invisible Man). To find Invisolad you need to get help from Krapto the Dog, who can sniff him out. But Krapto is really thirsty, so you need to find him a drink. Fortunately there is another large alien super hero maggot looking thing that needs to get its "sacks milked" and problem solved. Krapto sniffs out Invisolad for us, we read Invisolads mind and free the Fist. Easy, right?

At least its clean.

Unfortunately the Fist is now a depressed drunkard and not at all interested in saving us or the Universe. We give up on him and are about to see if we can find another way out when Invisolad decides to press the button that flushes everyone in the room out in to space (why there is such a button in the room is anyones guess). Like I said, he is mad. Things are looking really grim for us when Democratus, with unprecedented speed, unanimously votes to save our hides by going back to original size. 


This means Rictus space ship is immediately destroyed and everyone who hasn't already succumbed to the vacuum, radiation and cold of space are now running around somewhere on the planet surface. That includes our little team.

Atmospheric and cold.

We don't all end up in the same place of course, that would be too easy. We know where Democratus is for obvious reasons, so question is where Rho and the Fist ends up (and Rictus?). And where are we? Sly ends up in a small, snowy town called Whitendon which instantly makes me think of Thief. We get approached by a guy who tells us that they've got a problem with people disappearing and maybe I should go talk to the mayor and see if I can assist them? Yes, maybe I should. As I talk to people around town it seems they are confusing me for some guy named "Pete" who is an inhabitant of this town. Did I take over his body? That wouldn't make any sense. I probably just look a lot like that guy.

This game just went from a comic book to a detective mystery (hey, that should suit us!) in less time than it takes me to choke on my tea from laughter. I did just not see that coming at all and it is absolutely brilliant.

Now let's see if I can solve these disappearances.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Anachronox #11 - The Mysterious Levant

Spoiler alert, Sister Angela was the culprit. Fortunately for us, her partner in crime is completely incompetent and leaves the stolen goods just lying around in the open. We get the necessary evidence against her and problem solved. I am starting to suspect that you were only ever able to bring Stiletto and Grumpos to Hephaestus, though the game made a good job at making me think this was accidental. Now that we get to read the library, Grumpos goes to work. He learns how to untap the hidden potential in Mystech and tries to teach blockhead Sly (ergo, us) how to do it. It's good that he explains it slowly and in laymans terms because I still don't get it.

Choose your henchmen carefully.

Remember those heaps of bugs that were lying around everywhere? I mentioned them before and how I had no idea what they were for even though you could interact with them. Well up until now we have thought they were just mounds of disgusting bugs. Now we know better. The bugs are tuned to the Mystech and by attaching them on to it and also feeding them petals of flowers that grow around the place we can increase the strength by our Mystech (quite a lot it turns out). Yeah I don't really get it either, but I just tinker around and the end result is pretty awesome.

I get about as little as Sly does.

Now that Grumpos has read up on Mystech he also wants to have a word with the big honcho himself. The abbot informs us that they don't want to talk to us until we've... you guessed it, help them with another task. This one is a bit bigger though, we have to go deep into the underbelly of the monastery and make the pump work again. 

Walls or tunnels, who can tell?

This place is a maze like every other place, but it's also extra dark making it a bit more difficult for me to find my way around. Where is my Cat's Eye potion when I need it? The task is straightforward as usual, and only really requires you to go through the area and interact with whatever you can interact with. At one point however it took me embarrassingly long (read: around 30 min) to find the path I needed to go to continue. I even had to go look at a walkthrough, but the walkthrough was so blurry it was even more difficult to make anything out! It didn't really help me, it only confirmed what I already knew, there was a path somewhere I needed to take and for some reason my eyes refused to acknowledge its existence. If I ever have any complaint about this game, it would be that it's too damn dark!

If only they were all as obvious as this one.

I also accidentally read in this walkthrough *cough* that there are weapons to find for Grumpos and Stiletto, but unlike before they're not just lying about but have to be found by talking to the right person. There is just no way I could figure these things out by myself, and I'll be damned if I am going to talk to every person with every person in my team! Some of them give little clues though so I guess I just need to be more alert about them. I can't get Grumpos new weapon however because my Yammer skill isn't high enough, yet another thing I have missed to improve on somehow. I am hoping the weapons can be bought in the store once this is over, as the other ones have been.

The enemies down here aren't too difficult fortunately, even with my apparently subpar team skills, especially since Grumpos has an aoe-heal-all which feels quite overpowered. The reason the pump is working turns out to be because a massive lava-monster has decided to live in it, or something. Either way, it's boss time again and also again it has a gimmick in which you can pull some levers that blow cold air on the monster for a very high damage attack. I do like the tactical aspect to the fight, where each turn you have several options and you often have to weigh them against each other and choose the right one for the right time. Since I mentioned about the combat being a bit too simple it's definitely ramped up and is now at a pretty good level where you can't just mash a button and win but have to give some thought to your actions, but without too much worry about death around each corner.

What is the opposite of "burn baby, burn"?

Enemies only respawn once you leave an area, and what counts as "leaving an area" is something that isn't entirely logical and can't be explained, you'll learn as you play the game and will get a feeling for it. Overall this means that as long as you are in an area doing your thing you won't have to be in many battles. If you ever leave an area you'll know exactly where the battles are and what enemies you meet too. It's a pretty good system because it allows you to grind levels if you want to, or just focus on problem solving (once you've done away with the enemies) if you want to.

Once we've solved the problem with the pump we get to talk to the main guy and he tells us something about how Chaos has escaped and is causing all the trouble. Seems like a tall order for little Sly to save the universe, but apparently that's his destiny or something. Next up is going to the planet Limbus, not that we know how that is going to help but that's the only clue we've got so far.

It seems like a good idea to revisit areas when you have the opportunity, the game sort of hints at it as well. A guy gives me a side quest to go to Anachronox and back there I find another guy who gives me the master level of Democratus tractor beam. So that is how that works ey? The fact that you can revisit areas is a pretty good hint that they've left things lying around for you to do, once you've got new characters with new abilities. It's not entirely easy to figure out exactly what these are though, so either you've got to be a bit lucky or literally run through the entire areas again to see what you come across.

Flying to Limbus I bring Rho and Democratus with me. Again I am not sure if I actually have a choice in the matter of team mates, but the game makes another good job at making me believe I do. But the cut scenes all involve Rho and Democratus, so either they've got cut scenes for all possible team configurations or I've been set up, again. 

I'd read that.

Before we get there though, the massivest space ship ever recorded (according to Democratus) shows up and swallows us into its belly. The game keeps throwing us curve-balls because yet again something happens that I just couldn't have anticipated even in my wildest fever-dreams. Sly immediately recognizes that the ship belongs to a "super-villain" (his words) called Rictus. Apparently there are comic books across the galaxy about some people called the Kratons and they're based on actual real people. Rictus is part of this somehow. No, it doesn't make sense to me either.

They like charming fellows.

Even weirder, the game decides to go comic-book mode, and the entire exposition cut scene is in a comic book style, think like Scott Pilgrim. The game hardly even takes itself seriously at this point and I love that. I have no idea what is coming next and I love that too.