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.