Dragalia Lost: High Dragon Trial Update: Problem With the Game, Or With the Players?

Dragalia Lost recently had an update that adds higher difficulties to the High Dragon Trials. Said HDT’s were the game’s end-game content, so now they’re even more end-gamier. In addition, there is a time trial, with leaderboards for the top 25, and prizes depending on where one ranked in total (percentage-wise). With this update came a new tier (well, two tiers) of weapons, which required doing the new tiers of HDT’s to get the materials for.

Needless to say, people got mad. And stupid. Trouble is, until these things came out, the game was pretty easy, even at its hardest. With not too much grinding (though still too much for me, Mr. Casual), one could max out their buildings and gear, which would help trivialize most content, even the HDT’s, with just a modicum of skill. However, this update introduced the first real esports elements. Now people couldn’t have everything with a bit of effort in a short period of time (using resources they’d already stashed up), but they would actually have to put in a serious effort, and use some actual skill. This change dashed the expectation of many vocal players, but I think would be good for the game overall.

Serious lack of self-awareness, there.

Like pretty much all these games, Dragalia Lost depends on whales. But whales need reasons to whale, in this game – there’s just so much competition out there for that precious whale dosh. There are traditionally two big reasons to whale in a gacha game: esports or waifury. (I’m going to include all sorts of ‘I need this character because they’re my [X]!’, including husbandos, fujoships, etc., because the waifu man reigns over all these.) Esports is the more reliable way to whale whales, since competition is something the devs have the most control over. Meanwhile, going after the waifu enthusiasts depends wholly on the whims of the players, while the devs can only try to create appealing designs for their fanbase; the most reliable way to go after these players is to make alts of characters that have already proven popular.

For Dragalia Lost, the esports game has been severely lacking, because there hasn’t been any real, official competition in any way. Sure, you can whale, git gud, and all that, but who are you comparing your skills too? And who can you show off to? The best one could do would be upload clears to Youtube or Twitter. However, even in a coop game like Granblue Fantasy one can race other players directly in a raid, to see how much damage each person can do before killing the enemy, and it is shown immediately at the bottom of the screen. Now, with the time-trial leaderboards, good players and whales can have it all: actual hard content that uses their resources, skills, and experience; a way to compare their skills directly to other players; and a way to show off to each others and all the plebs.

Now, that hasn’t exactly gone over well with some of the non-esports players and whales. Like I said, many were used to only putting in an modicum of effort to get all the prizes. There actually is a bit of a grind to get the top-tier weapons, which requires actually completing the HDT’s multiple times. And a lot of players don’t have the skills or gear for that. Which makes them mad.

Personally, I see this as a “git gud and stop crying” situation. Lots of whiny babbies out there saying the game has gone to crap just because they can’t access everything within two or three weeks of it happening. Very entitled, and I don’t use that word lightly.

Also, people crying because they can’t pub everything. For good or ill, pubbing is a major thing in this game. If you don’t have some other way of organizing things, which is pretty hard since the guild function in this game is pretty limited, then you’re stuck pubbing. And, while there are filters to pubs, they aren’t really reliable. You’ve basically got might filtering (basically gear score), which doesn’t mean that the players actually know the fight. And there’s no way to kick players inflating might, or using the wrong gear, or whatever, so people just put up ridiculous might requirements for their rooms. Lots of people looking for carries.

Not to say there aren’t problems with the game, or this situation. I’ll point them out here:

First, the HDT’s are very punishing. They have a lot of OHKO attacks, which means that not only are runs over if anyone makes a single mistake, but healers are pretty much useless – if they’re not absolutely necessary due to ‘everybody WILL take damage’ mechanics. In this game, the trinity isn’t dps-tank-healer, it’s dps-support-healer, since tanks can’t really do anything in this game. Which means dps is all-important, which means being anything besides dps requires that unit to contribute more dps than is lost by not using a proper dps unit. Since pubs generally don’t have the eports skills to not make mistakes, this means a lot of pubs fail.

Second, Gala Cleo. It’s not often that a single unit will run/ruin an entire meta, but there she is. She’s got everything: buffs, heals, dps, debuffs. That all on its own would make her a top-tier unit, but not broken like she is. The thing is, her buffs stack with each other. Meaning, if you had a full team of Gleos, you’d potentially have HUGE buffs, or constant uptime on said buffs. On a character that already is pretty good dps, this is completely broken. Take the stacking away, and she’s merely very good. But as it is, in most any content you’d take Dark characters to (and others you wouldn’t), she’s best-in-slot, no good if you don’t have her. And it’s not like dark is hurting for good units either, but when you’re competing with BEST UNIT IN GAME BY FAR, good isn’t good enough. And it’s not like taking away the stacking buffs would be a huge nerf to the unit, pissing off the players that whaled for her, since without that she’s still one of the best units in the game.

The culprit herself.

Third, while the HDT’s are a bit of a grind…there’s nothing to do after it’s over. “Good” grinds put stuff behind RNG, or otherwise make it so even the best players have to continually run content for various reasons. If they don’t, they won’t play. They’ll play the esports content, but nothing below that. One way around that is, as mentioned, RNG for a lot of stuff, so players need to run things again and again and again to get what they want; this is the traditional MMO raid gear setup. They’ll grumble, but they’ll do it, if there’s enough incentive to do so. Another way is to have the lower-tier content give resources that are still important to higher-tier players, through trade-ins and the like. Granblue Fantasy generally does both of those: RNG to get the gear pieces one needs, and trading in lower-tier gear to get the resources needed to upgrade that high-tier gear they actually use. Dragalia Lost doesn’t do either: run the HDT’s enough times, and you’re guaranteed to get what you want, with no reason to go back later (yet).

Why is this important? (Aside from the fact that devs want players to engage with all the content they spent time on, I mean.) It’s because newer players need help going through the lower-tier stuff. They can’t learn to git gud if no one is willing to help them out. This game is a coop game, which means it needs players to coop with. As has been seen in just these past few weeks, if all the good players are doing the higher-tier stuff, because they’re done with the lower-tier stuff for whatever reason, then the low-tier stuff will not be very doable for the low-tier players. In this specific instance, there’s literally no reason to do the Standard difficulty for the HDT’s, because higher difficulties give all the same mats, in higher amounts, as well as the stuff needed to upgrade to the higher-tier weapons. So the Standard HDT’s are floundering.

All of these are things the devs can actually control. I think fixing these three items would be greatly beneficial to the fun of the game, and for the enjoyment of the people playing the game (two different things, since some people don’t like fun). Right now, a lot of the fans are crying for no reason, saying the game is dead for no reason, like they always do. But, there is truth to their complaints, and things can be improved.

Tomorrow is Halloween, so here’s some pumpkin stuff for Halloween.

Atelier Ryza: First Impressions

It was a day earlier than Steam said, but a day later than Google said. But I started last night. Played for a few hours (5.3 according to Steam), and it still feels like the tutorial. There’s something to be said about that, but obviously I can’t give a full review at this point.

Game starts as these sorts of games often do: the protagonist (Ryza in this case) is bored of their little farm town, and wants to go on an adventure. If you’ve ever seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Ryza is basically Haruhi, but without the crazy. She drags her two friends along into all sorts of trouble (with the subsequent getting in trouble after getting caught); one goes quite willingly (basic meathead/future warrior type), while the other hates all the danger and such, but he’s every 80’s nerd stereotype, so of course has no actual spine to resist Ryza’s force of personality (plus, if he stayed behind, he’d have no protection from the town bullies, also straight 80’s stereotypes). And, as usually happens, the kiddos get in over their heads, only to be saved by someone more experienced: in this case, an alchemist and his assistant/bodyguard.

If the above sounded kinda vague, it’s because I don’t remember any names. Not entirely a bad thing: the friends are their own guys, who have their own interests besides being dragged along with Ryza’s whims. But that also means they’re not quite in the forefront when stuff happens. So far, this is just a slice-of-life adventure for a girl, who’s life just happens to include killing monsters to take their parts to make stuff with. I’m sure we’ll get into a grander adventure in time, but for now it still feels like the training wheels are on. Appropriate, because Ryza et al are still noobs, but a five-hour tutorial seems a bit much.

Mechanicaly, however, this is a big departure from previous Atelier games. The battle system is ATB, like FFVII and the like. This really changes things up. Everything is very fast-paced, especially since you can’t queue up commands (yet, at least). So, while you’re trying to figure out what to do on your turn (you only command one person at a time, though you can switch at any moment at all), everything else is advancing as well. Also, items don’t get used up – you have a certain amount of points, which get used up as you use items. You can “spend” items to refill those points, which leaves said spent items unavailable to be used until you return home from base. I’m not sure how I feel about all this, yet, so I won’t make a verdict.

Also, alchemy is different from the past. Here, you fill in a grid with items, which replaces the block puzzles of the Mysterious games. Adding different items in can unlock other places in the gird, which enables unlocking different bonuses to the item. Some grid spaces require certain items, while others only require certain categories. I’m not sure what things are actually required, though, to make the base item. Unlike previous games, there are no set recipes, because you can fill in the grid mostly how you want. Again, not really sure how I feel about this, but I’m becoming more used to it.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed what I played of it. Unfortunately, this is Halloween season in various games, and ESO in particular requires some actual participation for the dailies (the event is a huge grind if you want to actually get anywhere, because of the huge RNG component to it). That will limit my playtime substantially, but still, I’m looking forward to what time I do get with the game.

Granblue Fantasy: The Anime: Season 2 Episode 4: The Review

I have half a mind to make this the site picture.

Another week, another episode of Granblue Fantasy anime. And this time it’s a good one. Like, actually good. All that crap I complained about before? Mostly absent. This is one of those times that we can see how an adaptation can go beyond the source material while still staying true to the bounds set by that source material.

And it starts out with this right off the bat. Everything I’ve seen before of the “Katalina saves Vira from the monsters” scene gives the impression of Vira facing off against a single monster, outmatched and facing her doom until Katalina shows up. What they do here actually makes it fit within that “Vira was better than everyone else” vibe we’re supposed to get from her: many monsters slain, without breaking a sweat, until one gets a lucky break on her.

(And aside: you might wonder why there are a ton of monsters in a city where there are a lot of knights and stuff in training. Well, that’s on purpose. The whole island is completely dedicated to the Academy. The monsters are there to toughen up not just the trainee knights, but all the auxiliary citizens as well. What happens when the baker gets ambushed by monsters while on delivery? Well, sucks to be him I guess. It’s really rather silly. Of course, the out-of-character explanation is that the devs wanted to have a reason for battles to randomly happen in a city without hostile human enemies, since we can’t have a story node without a trash mob battle!)

Then there’s the usual flashback montage of Vira getting closer to Katalina, with the typical shoujo “girl tries too hard to get the oblivious guy’s attention” thing (cleaning, making food, all that stuff). Then we’re back to what we saw last week, with Vira deciding to make Katalina’s dream of becoming a knight come true, while Vira can’t leave the island ever again. Adds a bit more humanity to the psycho stalker from four years of the game.

The high stats in everything…
…vs the min-maxing martial.

Of course, lest we forget, Vira is actually the bad guy here. One of the few missteps of the episode is how forceful Gran is in wanting Katalina back. Lyria, sure, that’s understandable. And of course she just wants Katalina to be happy, no matter what she decides. But it’s Gran that does a whole bunch of stupid stuff to try to get Kat back. Tearing up the pardon was strictly unnecessary (well, not for the overall plot – we still need to be on the run from the Empire for another season or two (or three at this pacing)) – they could have done the “rescue” without that little bit of drama. Then going into the room yelling and fighting the barrier was again unnecessary, and unhelpful. It’s almost as if Gran is saying that, once you’re part of the Nakama, you’re always part of the Nakama. No getting out of it. I guess they needed a reason for Gran to have some presence and lines (since he’s supposed to be the main character and all).

Of course, Furias decides that’s the time to use his big gun Adversa. What, never heard of that before? That’s because the anime (last season) skipped that part. Not that it matters so much, since Vira goes crazy, powers up, and takes out Furias’s battleship in one shot. So much for that whole chapter in the game. But next episode she has to get taken care of, somehow.

I gotta say, taking the focus from the Empire stuff, and making it more of a character drama, was a great move. The anime doesn’t have the luxury of all the side stories, journal, and character stories (with several alts for Vira in particular) to tell all the good parts of the overarching story. Best to skip some of the less good stuff to put the good stuff in. And unlike last season, they’re managing to do that in a good way, that doesn’t push other good stuff out for their own original content.

Another good thing was that the art was a lot more consistent this episode. Really what it should have been doing the whole time. There are a few goofs here and there, but they aren’t as obvious or as bad as in the past, particularly last episode. Still nothing to write home about, but not distracting.

I do wonder what the next episode will bring. In the game, at this point we’ve already beaten Vira (she attacks the crew (the whole crew -including Rosetta) is there, instead of just Gran and Lyria), at the point she shoots the layzor here), and Chev/Lumi leaves her and now possesses Adversa. Can’t do that now. Or can they? I hope not. It wasn’t very personable: the enemy is a now-sentient cannon, not a crazi(er) lady. Of course Vira will be freed from her prison sentence, and Chev…goes without a host I guess? Or Vira still has her, but can also leave? In the game it’s clear that primal beasts can split themselves into independent pieces (it’s how those pact-bound to islands can also leave to join the crew – Tiamat, Yggdrasil, etc.), but I don’t know if that would even come up in the anime, since it doesn’t have to bother with the gacha game conventions.

What I’d really like to see is Vira joining the crew after next episode, maybe even taking Rosetta’s place (since apparently she’s off being mysterious or something). It’d definitely change the whole dynamic of the cast, let some original writing shine through, and add some humor. And, give something for Katalina to do from that point until the where we are in the game story now, since she’s pretty much irrelevant. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though. In the game, and probably at the end of next episode, Vira says she’s free to follow Katalina at some point in the future…but she never shows up in the (main) story again, as far as I recall (she’s in a side story or three, and has the most alts of any character). And it’s a real shame.

Isn’t it sad, Vira?

Vidya Halloweens, and Other Thoughts

Only 10, and already getting into some weird stuff.

(This is going to be a bit of a ramble; it’s Friday, and I have a little to say about a few things.)

I love Halloween. It’s one of my favorite “holidays”. (I mean, I love any holiday where the primary celebration is with candy.) I love the sorta macabre, sorta cute, sorta sexy aesthetic and feel to it. And video games are all about aesthetics. Mobile and online games, which get continual updates, are great about getting holiday aesthetics, including Halloween. (After all, that kind of stuff is easy to monetize.)

I find it interesting how different games do different timings for their Halloween stuff, and which games decide to go without. Especially interesting is the Japanese stuff, since they don’t do Halloween there, and least not at all until recently. So they don’t really get it, I don’t think, at least not yet. I think you’ll see where I’m going with this when I post the timings for the Halloween events for different games I’m familiar with:

  • Princess Connect: 9/30 (September!) – 10/14 for the new event, with 10/14 – 10/22 for the rerun
  • Granblue Fantasy: 10/13 – 10/19, with the Halloween alts in the pool through the 31st
  • Dragalia Lost: 10/18 – 10/31 (which is better than last year, where the timing was more like Priconn’s this year)
  • FFXIV: 10/17 – 11/1 (I’m not actually participating in this one, since I’m not subbed)
  • ESO: 10/24 – 11/4
  • STO: 10/31

As can be seen, for the wholly Japanese games, the Halloween stuff is just for October-ish. The western stuff (and stuff with much more of a western audience) is more actually in-line with the actual date. And poor STO, only having one even sorta-related mission to go along with the day, which also runs every Friday the 13th. GBF didn’t even have a proper event, just having the usual Proving Grounds event with “spooky” bosses, and a little running vignette at login.

Speaking of monetization, I was actually able to get this year’s Halloween alts in DL, as well as last year’s. This time of year is really good for gacha games, because they can do a bunch of limited banners after another, with all the holidays (Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s). Doing the character stories for a couple of the new characters (Mym and Odetta), and was a bit disappointed: I’m not a fan of the whole “it was all in [their] head” thing, whether it was a dream or a fantasy or whatever. Sure, they both manage to give a bit of characterization, but a lot of the fun of alts, at least for me, is to see the interactions with the other characters now that we don’t have to waste time with the character’s gimick or initial conflict.

Also, it further goes to showcase how Japan just doesn’t get Halloween very well. Part of the point is that people wear costumes, right? In DL, they actually specifically mention costumes. But the alts (and Japanese Halloween stuff in general) don’t really do proper costumes. Sure they’re sexy or cute, and they’re Halloween themed, with pumpkins and spiders and whatever, but they’re still not costumes. I mean, here IRL we have Sexy [X], but they’re still costumes of [X].

Yes, you saw that right: this dress has no back. Hot.

The Outer World is out, and it looks like the bloggers and “””””journalists”””” like it. And, thanks to the magic of Youtube and Streamers, one can take a gander at it, see what it’s about, without actually plopping down the cash (and/or hard drive space [arrrgh!]) to actually play oneself, and having to trust the mere writings of the above.

I had said before that I wasn’t really looking forward to it, and gave some reasons why. It seems some of those concerns were not realized. Despite being an Obsidian game, it’s not a huge buggy mess. In fact, it seems to have been rather thoroughly tested, with very few bugs being released. Also, the writing doesn’t seem to be too bad. The marketing was really pushing the New Vegas Creators! angle, which isn’t very true, but still better than the past few Obsidian games, by the looks of it.

However, I’m still not going to bother with the game. Basically, it looks like it’s a Fallout 4 total conversion mod, changing the gameplay to something more like Borderlands, and slapping an actual RPG system on top of it. The whole thing is first-person, which completely defeats the purpose of character creation. The humor is that bland inoffensive snark and/or ‘quirky’ garbage that I (obviously) don’t like. All of those are deal-breakers to me, even if the story is good. So yah, not a disaster, not a dumpster fire, not even a bad game, but definitely not for me.

What is (probably, hopefully) for me, is Atelier Ryza. In fact, I actually preordered the deluxe edition. The digital one, I mean. I don’t think I paid full-price for it, since it was only $66, and full price for the base game is the usual $60. But regardless, I preordered, which is the real point. Regardless of game, I almost never preorder any game. I mean, I rarely pay full price for a new (to me) game. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever preordered a game before. The only potential candidates are Skyrim and The Witcher 3, both of which I know I had on Day 1 (for full price, of course). Because those are the only games I knew I would like, going in, at the very least enough to play fully to completion (Skyrim is one of those “This game is bad and I hate it; and I played it for 400 hours so I know of that which I speak.”). And this one. I’ll know in a few days if I made the right decision, but I’m pretty sure I did.

Man, I really wish there were some kind of warming strips, just for the nose. I think the sinus troubles are the main trigger (at this point of time, at least) for my headaches. These troubles are mitigated if my nose is warm. But holding a tissue over my entire nose and mouth is not very practical (everyone asking me if I have a nosebleed is just one of the issues). Neither would be a dust mask, which would be perhaps more appropriate to my job, but I don’t want to breath in all that exhaust I just breathed out (which would trigger my headaches another way). I really don’t hope it’s another sinus infection; two rounds of antibiotics already, don’t want to go a third.

Granblue Fantasy: The Anime: The Second Season: The Initial Review

I was originally going to do a review of each episode, starting from the first. You know, when I got to it. When I got the pictures together. And so on. Then the second episode came out, and I was going to do a review of the first two. I had the pictures, but I didn’t put them on THE CLOUD, so I couldn’t do them at work or school, so it was hard to review. Then the third episode came out, and I figured I should probably actually get on that. So, now we have a review of the first three episodes of the second season of the Granblue Fantasy anime. So the three-episode rule applies: watch the first three episodes, to see if it’s worth it to continue.

Now, I come to this as someone who has played the game. I know, generally, how it’s going to go. There may be some surprises along the way, some anime-original stories, or side-stories from the games, thrown in there, but I basically know the plot. I also saw the first season, so I have that as a base to go on, even if the director, writer, and even studio are new this season. So I’m a bit biased as a reviewer. I already have my opinions of the plot. But, what I don’t know is how they’re specifically going to go about it this time.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t in the game.

I guess it would be helpful to give a short review of the first season. In short: it wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t that bad either. Its main problem was focusing on the worst part of the story. As an adaptation it’s pretty true to the source…to its detriment. It’s a very basic RPG story at this point: small-village boy and mascot have a mysterious girl come to them, needing protection from the evil empire, and then they are on the run, and have to gather the elemental thingys to go to their ultimate destination. Along they way they gather a crew with various skills at various places, solving various problems and fighting various bosses. Occasionally, an anime-original story would pop up, showing the normal day-to-day adventuring, which were the best parts of the show. They did deviate a bit at the last city visited, and showcased some of the other gacha characters, which was neat. But they also added a ‘boy-meets-girl’ romance that’s kinda-sorta hinted at in the game (at least the girl likes the MC, who can be a girl or boy (most players choose the girl)), but really played up here, which no one but the creators asked for. (That’s one of the troubles with adaptations of popular stuff – there’s an audience expectations aspect to it, that is only ignored at the creators’ peril.) There were a couple of extra episodes that featured the female MC doing holiday type stuff with a bunch of the gacha characters, which were both the best episodes, and the most popular. The art style was controversial: it had a kinda sketch feel to it, which was supposed to invoke traditional hand-drawn animation, but instead just clashed with all the digital and CGI elements.

As for this season so far…I have to say the same thing. Not so bad, not so good. Oh, it could be good. The story in general is also more interesting, just because they’re finally getting to some of the more interesting material. The writing is also better than the last season, even with just the little bit we’ve gotten so far. The first episode, wisely in my opinion, gave the audience a ‘filler’ episode (in both senses of the term, as it’s both an anime-original story, and is outside the main plot). It shows both how a standard skyfarer crew operates, and what makes our heroes special. Even in the first scene, it gives a good summary overview of the characters, for those that have forgotten. It even gives a glimpse into the world – how normal people live their lives on floating craggy islands in the sky. And to top it all off, it also features a fan-favorite side character, in a way that doesn’t have to do with her story, but fits her into the story of the episode.

He didn’t fall on her chest or crotch? This isn’t like my Japanese animes!

The following two episodes return to the main plot of the game, and do a good job filling out 10-20 minutes of dialog from the game into what is probably going to be three 20-minute episodes. There is a bit of mystery and intrigue going on, which leaves me wondering how exactly they’re going to make things play out, even though I, as someone who played the game, know about what’s going to happen. As far as the writing goes, it’s about as good as one could ask for with this sort of adaptation.

So, what exactly makes it “not bad, not good”? Well, the thing with visual media is that the ‘visual’ part matters too (otherwise, just read a book). And here, there’s a lot to be desired. A LOT. While the animation itself isn’t too bad (unlike the last season), here it’s the art style itself that’s bad. It’s as if they forgot to do key frames, but instead everything is in-betweens. Off-model? How can you be off-model if you don’t have a real model to base it on? Genius!

Pivotal emotional moment without a lot of movement? Let’s make the MC look like something else!

So basically, it looks cheap as hell, and very bad in general. And this isn’t just a cheap move, but a very intentional one, as even promotional stills look like this. It occasionally looks nice, when they feel like it. But apparently only girls get to look good: Gran looks silly in almost every scene, and Eugen looks like a little kid’s drawing of a muscle man.

This is the best it gets.

Last season it was pretty blah all around, but here there’s a mix of good and bad that kinda averages out to blah. Which is really sad, because they had everything they needed to make it good, with lots of feedback from fans, and no shortage of funds: the first season was one of the best-selling anime of the past two decades, thanks to the power of in-game prize redemption (and I was one of them, paying hundreds of dollars in total to import the blue-rays). This season will sell well, too, regardless of quality, though I figure it will do a lot less, since the in-game prizes aren’t nearly as good.

As far as the translation goes…it’s functional. But they’ve decided to stick with the game’s translation conventions, which I feel is a bad move. The early game was translated pretty poorly (by people who had trouble with both Japanese and English), but the current, competent translators of the game have stuck with it, and it looks like the anime is too. This is rarely a problem at this point of the story, but it still really bugs me when names and such are changed.

Though, there is one major, HUGE issue that’s come up in the last two episodes. In Japanese, Vira calls Katalina “Oneesama”. Literally translated, this means “most revered older sister,” which is of course awkward in English. As usual, this is merely translated as “Katalina”. However, “Oneesama,” when used by other, younger girls/women, is often a huge red flag for PSYCHO LESBIAN AHEAD. You know, the kind that would do any and all sorts of unacceptable things to get with the target of her affection. “Katalina” just doesn’t have that same connotation.

Definitely the look of a sane individual.

In the end, will I continue? Yes, of course. I can get over the bad art, even if it does make me mad. But what about someone who isn’t already invested in the universe? Well, I don’t know about that. I’d show this to a friend, at least.

They Got Me, Again (and Again, and Again…)

Man, I hate sales. Or rather, I love them, too much, and just hate what they do to my bank account.

Today, there happened to be a big sale on Paradox-published titles on Steam. And I, being the fool that I am, clicked on it. You know, just to see what was there. The sale advertised up to 80% off, which might be some good times, if there was something I wanted.

Now, my main problem with Paradox stuff is that the base games are OK, and often priced right, and go on deep sales frequently; but they are loaded with expensive DLC to “fix” the problems in the base game. I don’t like to participate in this gaming environment, but modders live and die by the updates the devs make, including DLC.

And Cities Skylines is no exception. I looked at C:S’s page, just to see what was going on: the base game was down below $10 (I think $7.50 more specifically), and wanted to see how the DLC was doing: it’s been a long time since I’ve played, so surely some stuff has come out. And stuff indeed has. That picture above is only the bottom of the list. But it was 51% off! Crazy deals!

Normally, such a lowly sum wouldn’t even bother me. Well, not much. But there are two things wrong: first, it’s DLC. Crazy to pay that much, even at half-off. Second, and more importantly, I’d already spent a bunch of money this month on vidya games. (I think I’ve told this story before, but…) At the beginning of the month (or the end of last month, I don’t remember), Hilda came out in Pokemon Masters. She is the FeMC of Pokemon Black/White, which was my reintroduction to the Pokemon games (having last played the original Red/Blue). She was my main interest in this game [Masters] for that reason. So I rolled and rolled, and even bought out all the original discount gem packs. I don’t normally buy gacha currency just to do more rolls (only ever having done so when I had a lot of extra money to burn and no particular expenses), so this shows my dedication. But what do I get? Not Hilda. Such is life in the gacha game. And it wasn’t a small sum, either. (Not a huge sum, since there were only a few discount packs to buy, but still a larger sum than I’ll readily admit to.)

(Even so, I lost all of what little motivation I had to even get the daily login bonuses. And to add insult to injury, I got Hilbert, the other MC of Black/White. I hear Hilda actually sucks as a unit, but I don’t care.

In an aside, I should mention that the game kinda really sucks, as a game. So much so that both producers wrote an apology letter to the players, acknowledging this fact, and promising to do better in the future. We’ll see if that’s enough to get me to come back. This is the kind of stuff that takes months to make course corrections on.)

So, I bought this stuff, when I didn’t really want to, for a game I’m not going to play anytime soon (get in line behind all the other games, chump!), and didn’t really want to pay that much anyways. But buy it I did. Not that it’s going to make any real financial impact in my life – unless my car explodes tonight or something, $50 isn’t much in the scheme of things – but it’s just embarrassing, or perhaps more accurately, mortifying (since I didn’t have to tell anyone about this), that I keep falling for this. And to fall for this in particular, when I could have used that money to buy actual, full games, and not just pieces of games I already have, that I already enjoy.

I guess I’m the type of customer that keeps these games going. Vote with your wallet, indeed.

2019 In Gaming: What I Actually Played

Yesterday, I posted about the games I was interested in: what I was excited about, what I was curious about, or just things that caught my eye, from the description. Of all those games (not actually that many to be honest), I’ve only played two: Atelier Lulua, and Pokemon Masters. Of course, I have played other games this year. I’ve written about some of them on this here web space, of course, but most came and went before I started at the end of July.

Before I start, I just want to say that I wish Steam kept track of the actual times played, rather than just the time played. Or rather, that they let me, the player, know that stuff. Maybe they do, but I just don’t know how to access it. Fortunately, at least the achievements have dates and times on them, which can give a good idea of when I started playing a game. GOG, on the other hand, gives a better idea of when I was actually playing any certain game. Still not perfect, but better than Steam. I’m glad I checked, because there were a couple of surprises, that I thought I had played last year, but were actually this year.

So, on to the list. First, are games I was playing before 2019 started, that I still actively played into the year. I’m not going to say too much about them, since these are all games I’ve talked about a lot, since I still play them to this day:

  • Star Trek Online
  • Dragalia Lost
  • Princess Connect Re:Dive
  • Granblue Fantasy

Now, here are the games I actually started in 2019, that didn’t come out this year. I don’t think this is in any real order, but rather in the order I remembered, or discovered looking at my history.

  • Atelier Firis: I was playing Atelier Sophie at the end of the last year, and was just moving on through the trilogy. I think this is my favorite of the Mysterious saga: it actually felt like a journey, and felt like it had stakes, as opposed to Sophie’s almost aimless quest to restore Plachta and do other things I guess. And it didn’t feel like BUY THE DLC FOR THE FULL EXPERIENCE like…
  • Atelier Lydie and Sue: I liked this one a lot too, except for the conflict that didn’t real feel very natural, and neither did story progression. The dialog is much better than the earlier two games, though, and it was nice to bring closure to several of the saga’s earlier characters. But, again, it felt that some things were missing that should have been there in the base game, but were in the DLC; the biggest being the exclusion of a major character from your adventuring party, that definitely should have been there.
  • Conan Exiles: I saw that this had a free weekend, got playing single-player (seems like a griefer’s paradise, to be honest), and loved it enough that I bought it. And played a lot. I mostly played naturally, though I got a few mods to change the crafting/base-building to something that was more balanced for a single player, rather than a whole guild working together. I did kinda cheat a bit there at the end to get the last cheevo or two (like the one that requires a titan or whatever they’re called, which would require a massive amount of grinding materials).
  • Spellforce 2: Just saw this on a GOG sale, bought it cheap, and liked it enough. Don’t know if I actually beat it or not though, it got kinda repetitive there towards the end. But that sort of mix of RTS and RPG was neat, and much improved in…
  • Spellforce 3: Basically more of the same, but improved in most areas. There were a few things missing in the base game that were probably DLC included in the bundle I got of the previous game, like flying units, but still pretty cool. Didn’t really like how the AI cheats on resources, even on Easy, since that made things a lot more frustrating in the RTS sections.
  • Doom 3: I remember when this came out; I didn’t have a PC that could get close to handling it, though my roommate did. I watched him some, and it looked fun. Finally got around to playing it. It was indeed fun. I didn’t expect it to have as much story as it did. Was also a bit jarring to not have iron sights, or anything like that, and the simple damage models were somewhat frustrating to deal with. But still, fun.
  • Baldur’s Gate: My best friend has been going ga-ga over this game for years and years, and the remake was on sale cheap, so I got it. Not a huge fan, mostly due to the combat system and pacing. I guess I’m not going to be playing AD&D anytime soon. Story wasn’t too engaging, either, so I dropped it. Didn’t even get to the titular city. After playing this game, and others like it, I don’t think cRPG’s are for me. Maybe that makes me a pleb, but I just don’t find them very fun.
  • Heat Signature: This one surprised me. Great fun, at least at first. But I’m the sneaky do-everything-perfectly type, that will savescum like mad, and this doesn’t really allow that kind of gameplay (in large part because it doesn’t allow for savescum). The simpler levels are fun, but getting a ton of high-class enemies is much less so. Maybe if I git gud, and use all those fancy teleport toys and shoot out windows and such, it’d be cooler. But still a fun romp if I have a few minutes to kill.
  • FFXIV: I’ve already said a lot about that.
  • ESO: Ditto

So, there you have it. Not too many games. Like I said yesterday, I’m pretty picky about what I play. And as I’ve said before, I don’t think “challenge” is necessarily fun, and frustration definitely isn’t. So there are a lot of games I don’t even want to bother with. That, combined with the fact that I tend to really get into the games I actually do like, means I don’t play a lot of games.

You might have noticed that at the top I mentioned GOG and Steam. I haven’t played any console games this year, I don’t think. I have a 3DS, and Vita, and a PS2 and PS3, all charged up and ready to go…and they just sit gathering dust. What mobile games I do play, I play on my tablet. I haven’t even seen a reason to get a current-gen console, not yet. Maybe I’ll make a post about that soon, to see if this Black Friday will be the time to get one.

2019 In Gaming: What I Was, and Am, Looking Forward To

Not relevant, but I do need a picture at the top.

Kim at Later Levels asked a question a few days ago: how has 2019 been treating you, as far as (new) gaming is going? Kim said it’s been pretty disappointing, and I have to agree. I commented over there, in the heat of the comment moment, that I was only really excited beforehand about three releases this year, and I stand by that. To quote myself:

This year has been pretty disappointing indeed, for me. I think I’ve only been excited for three new games this year, and only one has panned out (so far).

-Far Cry New Dawn: I was excited for this, since I like Far Cry, and I liked 5’s story, and wanted to see the continuation. However, I really dislike Borderland’s gameplay, and New Dawn was basically that. Hard pass. Sad!

-Atelier Lulua: this one worked out. A good mix of series fanservice, while also doing its own thing, and continuing the more modern series gameplay conventions. And not too long, either.

-Atelier Ryza: this one hasn’t come out yet, but it looks good.

I looked up the list of major and minor games that did come out this year (and those still scheduled to do so), just to make sure I was actually right about that, and I was. Those three were the only ones that actually got/get me excited, that I actually look(ed) forward to.

But it got me thinking about games that I don’t necessarily look forward to in anticipation, but at least have interest in. You know, the stuff you’re not chomping at the bit to buy when they come out (at least until you hear about something you really don’t like), but stuff you’ll pay attention to the scuttlebutt about, to see if it’s something to investigate further. Now, I’m really into the genres and things that I like, and really not into the things I’m not. So if the following list seems a bit short – remember, it’s just interest – just remember that I’m pretty picky about things, and a bit cynical on top of that. Also, the list is mostly in chronological order, because I was going down the list in the link above, and writing down the ones I was thinking of.

  • Ace Combat 7: I really liked the PS2 Ace Combat games, and this one was a promise to return to form, and actually being in the Ace Combat universe to boot, adding to the lore and all that. Almost an RPG (and I would say it technically is, even if it isn’t really mechanically). But then I heard it had the one thing I really, REALLY don’t like about the series: the tunnel missions. Despite my love of the games, I’ve never actually beaten any of them: either on the penultimate, or ultimate, mission, there is a portion where you have to fly your jet through a tunnel, with obstacles and sometimes enemies shooting at you. I hate it, it’s above my skill level, and most importantly, takes me out of the game, because that’s just a ridiculous concept, even in this setting. I’ll get it if it goes on serious sale (like under $20).
  • Kingdom Hearts 3: I liked the two mainline ones on PS2. But I never played any of the others, and this seemed more like that OC wank than the Disney + Final Fantasy stuff I liked about the first two games. Also, I don’t have a PS4 or XBone, so there’s that.
  • Imperator Rome: I like the Paradox grand strategy games. Or rather, ‘liked’. I don’t like what happened in EU or HoI (CKII still has enough of the old systems, plus enough of its own unique charm, to still be worth playing), and this goes in the same direction. I heard, from people that like these sorts of games, that this game is actually pretty bad. Sad! (Also, incredibly buggy, but I figure most of those have been taken care of by now.)
  • Persona Q 2: I liked the first game, although I’ve never finished it (I think it’s still in my 3DS, actually). Between that, and the inclusion of the P5 cast, whose game I’ve never played, hasn’t exactly been pushing me super excited for it.
  • Senran Kagura Burst RE:newal: I like anime girls, and the gameplay seems fun enough. However, this puts the “titty” in “titty ninja,” and I just don’t like them that big (nor kids, which is the only other option).
  • Metal Wolf Chaos XD: ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH PRESIDENT TO SAVE THE DUDE? I am getting this, but it came out just when I was starting ESO and FFXIV, and I just haven’t had time for it yet.
  • Astral Chain: seems like the kind of thing I’d like, but I don’t have a Switch.
  • River City Girls: I like the concept of playing as anime girl hooligans in this genre, but the more I hear about this specific outing, the less I like.
  • Link’s Awakening: Not my favorite Zelda game by a long shot (heh), and I don’t have a Switch. But it is on the short-list when I do get that system.
  • Code Vein: Again, I think I’d like it, but I’m not going to love it, and I’m not paying full-price for a game I won’t love.
  • Tropico 6: I actually have completely forgotten this game ever came out. I think I remember hearing at the time that it wasn’t good, or at least not good enough to pay full price for. I liked Tropico 4; 5 less so.
  • The Outer Worlds: I think I’ve said before that I have little faith in Obsidian these days. Also, gameplay looks bad. But we’ll see how it is when it comes out.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC): I really liked the first game. Hear this one isn’t as good. But actually having good controls might make up for the other shortcomings.
  • Mechwarrior 5: Oh man, I really should be excited for this, but I’m not. I liked 3 way more than 4, but I’m definitely in the minority on that one. And this seems more like 4. Also, Epic Store Exclusive = NOPE. At least not until they show they can have a competent launcher and store.
She’s talking about the Pokefurs; this game is surprisingly meta sometimes.

As for what 2019 games I’ve actually gotten:

  • Atelier Lulua: Was everything I expected it to be, and more (in a good way). Not perfect by any means (which I’ve talked about on this very blog), but it was great, to me.
  • Pokemon Masters: This, on the other hand, was a serious disappointment. Not only is the gameplay not that great, but it technically needs a lot of work, as does the gacha. I was hoping for a game with cute girls, so I wouldn’t need to get Shield/Sword (which is shaping up to be a total fail in every department but that), and technically I got that, but it’s very bare-bones even in this department (they aren’t even properly voiced!).

So yah, that’s a pretty sad 2019 for me: TWO new games played this year.

Well, new to everyone. There were a few more I played this year that were new to me. Next time, I’ll talk about those (since I went though the trouble of making a list and all).

ESO: Progress, of a Sort

(I figured that, as I went to the trouble to upload all my ESO screenshots to THE CLOUD, I should make a post about it.)

As I stated a few posts ago, one of my plans for ESO was to finish the Ebonheart Pact storyline, so I could move on to other things. I was already in the penultimate zone for that storyline, and almost done with it at that point, so not a huge deal. Right?

Wrong! I finished the zone, and King Jorunn tells me the Great Mage (Vanus Galerion) has something to tell me. OK. But he doesn’t. See, I’m a Bosmer, which makes one a member of the Aldmeri Dominion by default (unless you pay for a ‘all races all alliances’ character). But I wasn’t doing the Dominion storyline, I was doing the Pact storyline. Because I started in Vvardenfell, which is part of the Pact, so after completing the Morrowind story, I just hopped over to the next place and started that story. So the trigger to start the next part of the Pact storyline isn’t there, because the last chapter of all the alliance storylines are functionally the same: everyone invades Coldharbor together (or at least let the neutral guilds do it), the realm of Molag Bal, so they can put a stop to his schenanigans, and everyone can get back to the important business of warring against each other without undue daedric interference.

So, what to do? Go through the entire Dominion story, to get that quest to pop?

Fortunately not. (I hope.) It turns out that you can also trigger that quest by going through enough of the Main Story. So, off to do the main story then, right? (Which I’d been avoiding, since it required me to go the the Dominion lowbie area.) No problem. Until I ran into a problem. One of the questgiving NPC’s for the main quest is also one of the main character NPC’s for the Elswyr expansion, and there is a prologue quest that he starts (and is involved in). But I didn’t know that when I randomly talked to him; I just thought he was another random NPC handing me yet another quest. Which I then proceeded to ignore, because it wasn’t what I was focusing on. Well, I was stuck for a while, until I realized that said NPC being on this quest I had started prevented him from giving me the next quest in the main story. So I had to do his quest(s). Which took a lot of time, since this is the prologue to a major expansion.

Now, tonight, I should hopefully be able to continue in the main quest. What a ride.

Quick Review: Elachi Qulash Frigate (Star Trek Online)

In Star Trek Online, a new “season” was released about three weeks ago. I’ve talked about it before, so I won’t get into it. But a big part of it was the ability to get a new end-game ship by grinding out some of the new content every day. Which I did, and I got the ship. Now, the above shot is of my ship; you can see the official news page to see how it looks by default, its stats, and all that fun stuff.

I’m going to talk about my experience with it the past couple of days. I’ve only flown it in a few patrols, so it’s not like I have extensive experience or anything. I’m also probably doing it wrong. I didn’t take any screen shots with my ability bar (or any ui at all), so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I put what I believe is the Lukari T6 vanity shield on it. That’s why it looks so different from the default. I like that shield, though it’s a lot more blue than purple, compared to a lot of other ships I’ve used it on; and thanks to the lighting, it looks pretty gray. But I’ve never really liked the Elachi default skin, so having this makes me a lot happier.

But how does it fly? Pretty good, I guess. It’s a lot slower than I thought it was going to be. I think I was just expecting it to be more of a raider than an escort, based on its size, and the fact that most of its boff slots are universal. But it still turns well enough to use cannons or dual beam banks effectively, especially when using the Competitive reputation engines.

As I said, I don’t think I’m using the thing right. It has an Intel specialization boff slot, but I’m not using any of those abilities; I’m just sticking to the boring ol’ vanilla stuff. I’m not going to upload my whole build (mostly because I don’t have the game with me, and I don’t remember), but for the universal slots I have tactical and science in the LtCdr slots, engineer in the Lt slot, and tactical in the Ens slot.

Also, the thing is pretty squishy, as one would expect from a “frigate”. I really don’t know where Cryptic is going with this in its naming scheme: NPC frigates are the lowest of the low, while this thing is actually rather good. I think I should have put five DBB’s in the front, instead of three with two regular beams. It’s clear this thing was meant for cannons (and that’s what the NPC version has), but I’m not a huge fan of them. (Now, going full turrets, THAT’S where the fun is. But it’s also not terribly effective.)

So, overall? Not really sure. But even in the last two days it’s grown on me. I’ll call this one a success.