Blaugust Day 24 – Shadowrun: Hong Kong – a brief review

You can get it on Steam.

It’s what I ended up playing the most this weekend, and although I’m only a little ways into it (I think) I figured a brief review wouldn’t hurt for those who are considering picking it up. Note that this, like any other review I might do, is entirely subjective and does not aim to offer anything but my own impressions.

I backed the Kickstarter campaign awhile back, not because I’m a Shadowrun PC game fan (I didn’t even know there had been any) but because I’m a Shadowrun the tabletop game fan. I had the first edition rules and a few modules, and for me Shadowrun is probably the tabletop game that got away — we played it a few times and I was keen to do more, but after the usual romp through D&D / AD&D our group went down the White Wolf path and into all things Vampire for a while before transitioning into Ars Magica, which is what we played for several years until I left for the States in 2001. (And what the group is still playing as far as I know. Without me. Bastards! I know some of you read this!)

Mr. Plastic-Face. Shouldn’t be creepy but is.

All of which is to explain that I approached the game as a tabletop role-player and not as a computer gamer. I had no particular expectations of the game other than that it would allow me to immerse myself in the rather fun Shadowrun mythos for a while. For an approach based more on having played the two previous PC games, check out Wot I Think on RPS; I agree with a lot of it from what I’ve played so far, but I wanted to add my own take on the tabletop or more RPG elements.

The intro is a rainy, grainy, typical cyberpunk/noir tale of things gone wrong shown through a series of moody and evocative semi-animated panels. Some will no doubt miss the grand and expensive full-action cinematic, but I loved the format because it leaves more room for my own imagination to fill in the blanks.

2015-08-21_00007

After that you’re thrown into a normal computer-RPG adventure where you track down mysteries, deal with NPCs good and bad, help the downtrodden or do the treading, and gradually unravel both your own main story and the stories of the group that’s decided to help you out.

RPS is right in saying that there’s a lot of text, but — though I didn’t know it when I started — that was exactly what I wanted from this game. It’s been like playing a tabletop adventure where I’m the only meatsack player and everyone else is computerised, including the GM. The descriptions are long, ornate, even florid on occasion… and they bring me right back to the grand old days of reading out boxed text from Castle Greyhawk or the Temple of Elemental Evil. (It didn’t take us long to grow up from purely parroting those out to doing our own flavour and descriptions, but still, boxed text is just one of those things you never forget.)

Heoi

I’ve even kept the music on, which is something I literally never do in games because no matter how long the loop may be, it’s always a loop. And it’s often way too rumpty-pumpty martial or deedly-wheedly fake-Medieval for me to be able to bear it scritching at my brain for more than a few minutes at a time. The SR:HK music is low-key for the most part and well-adapted to the environments, although it does go up and down in volume in certain locations with no apparent rhyme or reason. I can live with that – even though I’ve kept the music turned on, I’ve also got the volume for it down to about 30%.

The exploration gameplay is fairly standard – click to move, right-click to pan, click on things to interact with them – and the combat gameplay is probably nothing too new either (I wouldn’t know, I don’t play many of these games). It’s turn-based and was quite easy to pick up on. This is a plus for me, since I’m far more interested in the story than in the combat.

2015-08-22_00009

But it does lead me to one of the game’s failings, which is the utter lack of a tutorial. There are a few help screens that are more useful as a reminder than as an introduction, and basically that’s your lot. Fortunately I elected to play on Easy mode — because as I said, I’m far more interested in the story — and wasn’t penalised too badly for making the odd mistake; and after a few fights you pick up most of what you need to know. But still. There’s zero help on the Matrix and what you might want to do in there, or how, so it’s a good thing I’m a cyberpunk fan and could figure most of it out for myself.

2015-08-22_00002
In the Matrix

There’s no real help on how stats and skills work, what builds you might want to use and how you might want to develop your character, other than rather ironic warnings that you don’t want to mess up your own development or that of your crew, because you can’t go back and that would be bad!

In fact after a few hours of play I restarted with a new character, partly because I did mess up my xp allocation a bit and partly because the archetype I chose (Decker, i.e. hacker) was already far better covered by one of my crewmates. My second character is a shaman and although there’s one of those on the crew also, two shamans on the same mission crew isn’t as redundant as having two deckers.

I played quite a lot over the weekend so I’m probably a dozen hours in. Not being very well-versed in these games I’m not sure how far into things I am, but it feels like I’ve just hit the opening of the second act — not even, in fact, because I have a couple of missions I want to wrap up before I move on (and the game kindly reminded me to consider doing just that). I’m a very slow player in these games because I like to read everything, talk to everyone, and interact with every last object, so a super goal-oriented playstyle might have got to the same point in 2-3 hours if not faster.

My character choices throughout have been consistent with the persona I play in most games: street-smart, cynical, skimming on the border between legal and not, but generally a decent person. I give NPCs the benefit of the doubt and let people live when they surrender (including the rather fun ghoul crew-member you can get). I try to find non-violent solutions where possible, and the game gives you quite a few of these and fully supports not killing everything in sight. I don’t shoot my mouth off too much — just enough to exemplify my characters’ usual distaste for any kind of authority. And so on.

vamp queen

All in all I’m having a great time, as evidenced by the fact that I totally forgot that I’d invited folks to check out the ARK server I can fire up when needed. ARK didn’t get loaded up at all; nothing did, actually, since SR:HK was the only game I did play this weekend.

I’ll definitely play some more as soon as time allows, and this might be the one and only SRPG game of the last 10 years I actually finish. For some reason I usually lose steam about two-thirds of the way through (DA:O, DA2, DA:I…). But I have a feeling that SR:HK’s combination of screen-based running around and text-based depth is exactly what I’m looking for in a SRPG. Yes, it has a few flaws — the lack of newbie help, for one, and the rather unwieldy inventory and team UIs; for example, I can’t check my crew’s stats when trying to buy weapons or armour for them — is that because their gear updates (which it may do, but not in any way that’s been mentioned to me in game) or because they forgot to include that functionality?

But ultimately, when it came down to spending crowdfunding on tutorials or content — as I’m sure it did — I’m glad they opted for content. I’m at a little over a dollar an hour for my entertainment right now and that’s excellent value for money in my book.

 

 

 

SWGeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.2

A couple of people asked for pix, here and on FB, so prepare for full-on (mega-newbie) nostalgia.

My first char (can’t make another until tomorrow) is a crafter, which means she’s going to spend the next 3 days sampling till her lekku fall off. Because no resources = no crafty = no money, and you can put those in whichever order you wish. Currently I’m running artisan survey mission in between sampling because those training NPCs must live in gold-plated mansions in Kadaara when they’re not busy fleecing poor saps just off the space-boat.

Theed!
Theed!
Fambaa baby
Fambaa!
Maulers
Eeeek!

 

 

 

SWGeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

That pile I was talking about last month? It just got bigger.

SWGEmu1

One of my favourite games EVAR and one I miss perhaps even more than I miss Asheron’s Call (which was a wonderful MMO-virgin game nevertheless). I miss it like the spousal unit misses UO or hardcore raiders miss EQ. I followed SWGEmu a number of years ago but time, life and the state of the emulator’s progress back then conspired against me and I never got to try it out.

This is about to change. Well, in 2 or 3 days when my pooey internet allows me to update.

I’m not even going to mention the NGE and the CU and if you don’t know those acronyms you’re much better off, trust me.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I’m really excited about this. My workload is pretty heavy right now but I may have to make time (i.e. lose sleep) for this one.

A propos nothing, it’s the game I was playing just before I got caught up in the Warhammer hype and started this blog. That was back in 2007-2008. Man, that was a long time ago, and despite all the changes they’d brought to the game it still had something unique going for it. Can’t wait for that update to finish…

Sims 4 Expansion Goodness

The whole Sims franchise is like a well-oiled juggernaut of simmish addiction, at least for those of us who play. Every new version of the game launches with a very small set of features compared to the mature (and much-expanded) version it’s replacing, and then feeds us expansions and stuff packs several times a year to keep our enthusiasm whetted and our wallets empty.

Or maybe it’s just me. I didn’t play the Sims 1 or 2 very much at all, but 3 hooked me at launch in 2009 and is the single-player game I go back to the most frequently. Or was, since it’s now been replaced by the Sims 4. Which launched its first expansion — Get To Work — this week.

I haven’t had a chance to explore absolutely everything or even a small fraction of everything, and if you want that kind of coverage you’re probably already reading Carl’s site. (I can’t imagine being a Sims player and not knowing that place. It’s like being a WoW player and not knowing WoWHead.) But what I have tried out is surprisingly fun, even if the novelty is likely to wear off in about 6 months… Just in time for the next expansion. Like I said, well-oiled machine.

All I’ve tried so far is the Detective career, which is pretty much like any procedural you’ve ever watched on TV complete with clue analysis, crime map, and good-cop / bad-cop suspect interrogations. It’s fun. It won’t be fun forever, but it beats watching the clock roll round while you wait for your Sims to emerge from their career rabbit-holes. The only thing that worries me a bit is that there appears to be almost no career progress when you don’t accompany your Sim to their ‘active career’, but I guess that’s the downside to what appears to be slightly quicker progression than the standard ‘vanish off to work’ careers.

Working DetectiveGiven that I tried what I thought would be the least fun career first (the new ones are Detective, Doctor and Scientist) I’m hopeful the other two will be quite entertaining and perhaps a little less repetitive. The major problem with the detective career is that it’s not exactly demanding of the little grey cells, at least as far as the player is concerned. But then again, the Sims was never conceived to be demanding in that particular sense.

The other thing I’m trying out is Retail, where you can open (or buy) a store and sell pretty much anything you can think of that’s buyable in the game. Old Sims 2 players apparently really missed that feature, and I can see how it would be fun, but I haven’t been able to do much with it yet. It requires a fairly sizeable cash investment even if you’re building your own store rather than buying an existing one, and if you don’t use cheats (which I could have, I suppose, but it didn’t occur to me in this case) it takes a while to build up that kind of money. And it really makes the expansion earn its title, because one of your Sims has to be in the store to manage it when it’s open, so my current household of two roomies who each have a ‘real’ job have been spending their weekends at the store, wondering what happened to their already-precious free time.

My wannabe retail mogul is Yvana Trumpe, because Yvana Sellyoustuff seemed a bit tacky. There she is eating one of the first meals she ever made, which looks disturbingly like Soylent Green.

Soylent Green is people!
Soylent Green is people!

She’s also an author, but her real aspiration is to have a pool filled with Simoleons that she can bathe in. That’s on hold for a bit (I’d forgotten Sims can change their aspirations whenever they want if you’re not playing under the Legacy rules), but it’ll be back. Someday that store will make money, and Yvana will have an army of children lackeys to run the store for her while she bathes in bills.

(I lie. Yvana is really nice, and her roomie Rebecca is really nice too. I can’t play nasty Sims. I tried locking them in their original basement room by deleting the stairs out but I couldn’t stand their piteous mewling for more than a Sim-hour. I’m weak.)

(I lie twice. They didn’t mewl. They turned on the boom-box and danced, and I still felt bad and let them out. I even let them live above-ground now.)

 

Elite: Dangerous, you'd better be worth it…

… because so far I’m not impressed. Let me count the ways.

(Warning to those who aren’t long-time followers: This is not about the Sims and there will be f-bombs, because this is a rant. Which means it will also be entirely subjective and unreasonable. Switch channels now if needed.)

(And here’s a link to the game if the recent hype has passed you by. It’s Elite, only more. Or maybe it’s single-player EVE. I’m not sure, because I haven’t played it yet.)

1) The launcher is more interested in selling me new paint jobs than in getting me to the game.

2) There’s no proactive “Would you like to download the game now” or even an automatic-but-stoppable “I’m downloading the game now, because if I don’t you’ve wasted $60 on a game you can’t play”. You have to find the right option and click the right option. Fair enough, but do me a favour, Frontier: make the option REALLY OBVIOUS, m’kay? Like I just did.

3) There are separate play and log in buttons. Why? Can I play without being logged in? I wouldn’t know, because I only just discovered that what I thought I’d downloaded wasn’t the game, it was some sort of training simulator I think.

4) I don’t know what I did download yet, because when I told it to actually download the game (which again, should have been auto-fucking-matic, what is this, 2002?), it removed the option to play whatever it was I’d downloaded. Because you know, it’s so much more fun going to my blog and ranting about why I can’t play the tutorial while the game downloads in the background.

Seriously Frontier, those are some fucked-up launcher design and functionality decisions. And now, because I don’t live in a city and therefore have pretty crummy internet, the day I had BLOCKED OFF SO THAT I COULD PLAY YOUR GAME AND WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT I’M ACTUALLY USING LOTS OF CAPS is going to be spent playing something else.

And right now I’m steamed enough to /ragequit entirely and just NEVER play the game, but that’s sort of cutting off my nose to spite my face and I’m not actually much of a grudge-holder (except in one specific case and we don’t mention that), so I’m sure I’ll play eventually.

Just not today, and with a nasty taste in my mouth because my very first encounter with the game, via the launcher, was frustrating and annoying. Not good.

Rant over. Next week we’ll do puppies and unicorns, I promise. (Maybe.)

Here, have a picture of what I’m looking at while I wait to be able to play.  At least my wallpaper is very soothing (credit added for those who love it so much they want it too).

Elite FU Dangerous

This and that

A few observations so you don’t all forget about me or think I’ve forgotten about you.

1. Spanky new laptop is lovely. But playing WoW with a touchpad, or with the trackball I naively bought when I thought I’d never play games on my laptop (what was I thinking?!) — those are not so lovely. Looks like I’ll need a mouse. All those things I do without thinking in games, which primarily involve me moving the camera around fit to make anyone but me hurl… I can’t do those. Someone call a waahmbulance.

2. The Draenorclysm expansion launchmadness must be wearing off, because I spent THREE WHOLE DAYS without logging in. Then again, I also had a possibly broken foot (my own fault), a new laptop, a new fridge (ohhhh it is shiny and it is being delivered in 3 days), and about 3 million appointments to deal with, so perhaps it’s just that my priorities are straighter than I gave myself credit for.

3. I am feeling guilty because I never finished the first Sims 4 Legacy Family and have not felt terribly motivated to get into the second one. Expressing said guilt publicly is intended to flog me into playing, but is actually more likely just to make me contrary. One of the main reasons I don’t want to play the new legacy? Generation 1 instantly proceeded to have twins. The multiple birth rate in this game is just way too freaking high. If I picked the FERTILE trait, would my poor Sim become Octomom? WTF, EA?

Gen 2 twins again

4. Despite the xpac honeymoon madness being over, I’m still really enjoying my garrisons. I’ve got 4 level 100 characters (all the easy classes: hunter, druid, warlock and paladin) and I’m considering leveling a few more. Because despite raids and all that gearing crap, the leveling game is still (and ever will be, I suspect) what World of Warcrack does best. Combine that with my high tolerance for repeated content and you’ve got 10+ years of fun so far.

5. This xpac doesn’t have quite as sharp an end-content wall as the previous ones did, which means I’ll probably play it for longer than the 3 months Cataclysm and Pandaclysm lasted for me. In the early expansions it was “OK, you’ve hit max level, now go out and get on the raiding treadmill, bitch.” Which I don’t do. Then it became “OK, you’ve hit max level, now go out and get on the rep / daily / raiding treadmill, bitch.” Which I don’t do. It’s still sort of that, but I don’t feel any real need to build rep with my alts and I can get fairly high-level (645 from the highest garrison missions I’ve seen so far) gear just from running garrison missions.

Yes, it’s probably easy-mode, but if Blizzard are smart then the stuff I can get from missions is lovely, but not nearly as good as what I can get from dungeons and raids — so it keeps non-dungeon me happy with shiny new stuff while hopefully keeping the hardass raiders happy with shiny new stuff asshole casuals like me can’t get. Or something like that.

6. Several of my friends and e-friends and blogging acquaintances keep talking about Elite: Dangerous. STOP IT AT ONCE. Or I shall have to buy the game, and I’m already drowning in games I don’t have time to play. (Or else tell me why I really should get it anyway.)

7. I missed EVERY. SINGLE. STEAM. SALE. on my wish-list by 2-24 hours. I suck. I hope you guys did better with that.

WoW – Random Draenor pix

Forget pepper jack, magic jack or lumberjack — all the best people use COMMANDOJACK!

commandjoackIs it sad that I take a picture of every single garrison building I complete, on every character?

GinworksRiding my Shinri “mount” in Shadowmoon Valley. I should have known that was too easy a kill to reward an actual mount (it’s a 10-second directable mount-ride useable only in SMV with a 1-hour cooldown)…

ShinriMoonrise, squared (or cubed?).

Two moons over draenorMixing our mythoses (mythiii?)…

sword in stoneAnd my warlock, Memento, made it to 100, but I wasn’t expecting it (as usual) and missed the photo-op.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Age Inquisition – First Glance

As I should have known (and predicted), I spent the first hour or two (or three, cough) in DA:I without getting past the first two minutes of the intro.

The first character I made was Qunari and looked ok in the creator but I didn’t like her one bit after that, and not just because someone varnished her lips when I wasn’t looking. Maybe if I’d called her Maleficent (instead of Malice – close but no cigar) I’d have felt more of a bond with her.

DAI Maleficent

So I went back to the main menu and made another character. I didn’t want to remake my characters from DA 1 and 2, but the Qunari just didn’t feel very connected to the whole thing for me, so I went with an elf this time. Enter Sorrow #1.

Sorrow1Sorrow1_2

I really liked her in the creator, and she wasn’t bad in the cold harsh light of DA:I, though she did have a bit of a gormless look to her and she was made up like an Abba fan from 1981.. but then I realised that a) I hadn’t changed her hairstyle, which was clipping through her ears in a totally kickin’-it-2005 kind of way and b) I’d picked dual-wield rogue instead of archer. Had I known that the initial weapon choice doesn’t really make much of a difference I might have kept her, but I didn’t.

Enter Sorrow #2. There are complicated emo RP reasons for her name and I’ll share those with you as soon as I nail them down, I promise. (Or I just think it’s a cool name.) She’s blonde, which is a colour choice I almost never make in games, but it fit her, and I liked her feral look in the prologue (which is before the intro but after char creation).

Sorrow2_1
Giant spiders? I’ve seen CRABS bigger than you guys!

No spoilers, but the story grabs you by the hair from the first and doesn’t seem to want to let go – as far as I can tell, which isn’t very far because I’m super, suuuuuuuuper slow about new games like this. Sorrow introWhen I discovered I could run around and up hills and JUMP OVER STUFF I of course had to do that for a while, with Ms. Stickupherbutt trying really hard not to tell me to hurry, the fate of the world depended on blahblahblah.

Sorrow intro 2
It’s not YOUR hand that’s turning into Soylent Green!

So yeah, we made it past the Intro sequence without hating on the disgusting console-driven UI and the disgusting console-driven movement and the disgusting console-driven gameplay too much (seriously. I’m tired of shooting arrows at the landscape in front of me whenever I try to move by holding down both mouse buttons, and I am beyond in loathe with the ‘ping’ your surroundings mechanic. You basically have to ping your surroundings every 3 seconds if you’re like me and dread missing a piece of lore or that 138th elfroot harvest, so… anyway, tangent over).

I lied. I’m totally hating on it. The ‘tactical’ view lets you zoom out about as far as a gnat’s backside if said gnat were up your nostril, which blows. Combat is weird and not like it was in DA 1 and 2. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon enough and wonder how I ever did it differently, especially since for me, combat is like the 189th thing on the list of Interesting Things About Dragon Age. But it definitely is weird if you’ve played the other 2 games.

Character progression seems to be a lot like in DA2, which I can live with. The Inventory is another disgusting console-driven element and basically SUCKS for those of us who, you know, have a mouse and a keyboard and can see more than 3 things on the screen at once because we’re not sitting 10′ away from a crappy-resolution television – but I’ll probably get used to that too. It’s not like I’m playing Diablo here, and items are probably the 197th thing on my list of Interesting Things About Dragon Age.

But the graphics are pheno-freaking-menomenomenal, the voice acting isn’t bad (though the facial movements… we won’t go there), the animations are fun, combat is quick and painless if that’s what you want (which I do), and it might be worth the price of admission just for the landscapes.

DAI landscapeI doubt I’m the only one to note that DA:I has a distinctly Skyrim vibe to it, perhaps because you start out in the snow surrounded by ginormous scenic mountains, but also because the graphics for this installment are much grander and more cinematic in general. This is definitely a good thing.

DAI Landscape 3Dark corridors are actually DARK, to the point where I got all chicken and turned up the gamma a bit (it didn’t help much), and distant vistas are distant and, er, vista-like. Also good.

And finally – is it just me, or does Solas look like Arnold Vosloo? You be the judge:

Solas Vosloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's Smiting Time!

I managed to avoid staying up late for the US launch of Dragon Age: Inquisition and couldn’t play it yesterday, but now I think it’s time.

LET US SMITE SOME BAD GUYS.

This had better be good. And maybe I’ll actually finish a Dragon Age game one of these days…*

And for you UK readers who are still waiting for the release: NEENER NEENER.**

Opening screen

*Note – if you’re like me and never finish a game, you can still go to the Dragon Age Keep and put in what you *have* played, or what you wish had happened, in DA 1 and 2. Thanks to The Blogger Formerly Known as Lum for the pointer.

** It’s been that kind of a day.