No Man’s Sky Added

My gaming preferences are mysterious and ever shifting. Like a leaf upon the wind, one can never be too sure where they may land. … Which is to say, I’m very fickle and typically struggle to settle into any one title for any reasonable period of time.

Which let me tell you, can really make these games I’m playing posts a bit of a mission.

Often by the time I realise, “Yep — I’m playing this thing a fair bit” and reckon it might be an idea to add it to the sidebar, I grow suspicious of the fact that I will be done with it a day or two hence. Or that the act of officially recognising it might even somehow break the spell of game continuity.

But I’m going to risk it. I’m putting the cards out on the table and saying: Yep — I’m playing a boatload of No Man’s Sky at the moment. Not an outcome I expected when I first booted it up and tinkered around a bit. I didn’t really see much of a reason to consider it significantly improved over what I’d seen before.

Oh good. Doesn’t look like I’m on the menu today.

Turns out I was wrong. I’m glad I went back for a second look. I couldn’t even tell you now, only a few days on why I did though!

Not really any change otherwise this time around.

Changes to the Game List

Added

  • No Man’s Sky

Remaining

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Final Fantasy XIV

Nearly Removed

  • Lost Ark

Removed

  • None

My Lost Ark account is still functional, I check in every once and a while. But I’m trying really hard not to get too invested in my characters. The risk of being banned is still ever present and I can’t imagine the pain of that happening if I actually reach end game and make significant progress with it.

To such an extent I almost wish the ban hammer had already fallen.

I half expect to find some Night Elves hiding in the bushes here.

For all others interested — we’re told that an NA release is in the works, and it looks like Smilegate recently even put out job postings for an English localisation team. But the next step on this journey is the Russian release slated to go into open beta late this year.

That release is rumoured to have a native English language option. It’s also suggested that the Russian release will be far ‘safer’ for foreigners to play, with laxer restrictions than the Korean release.

So my plan is to hold off and wait for this release before getting too heavily involved. But… I can feel that I’m very close to getting my boat in Lost Ark, and I kinda want it. So we’ll see. ;)

Lost Ark: Assassin Unleashed

Blaugust 2019 is here! It has started! At least — in the New Zealand timezone it has. So here is my official post #1 for Blaugust 2019. Preparation Week is still under way with many of the Mentors posting great advice posts.

Even as a participant, I threw my own 2c into the ring with watching out for Procrastination in the name of ‘Research’ and finding your motivation or your ‘why’ for entering the blogging world.

It seems I picked a really good time to jump into Lost Ark. Just yesterday the Assassin class launched, along with a new introductory story path which ties masterfully into the existing story. You start as a fresh faced Assassin, subordinate to the rest of the crew. They’re professionals and know their business, yet the very Gothic looking and foreboding castle ahead does little to inspire confidence.

In there, you know, is your target. One of your own.

At least, they were once. It is hard to say precisely what they are now after succumbing to the call of chaos — that constant, whispering presence and companion to all fated to bear the legacy of demon blood. Like you.

Worse, they are converting others. And so, here you are.

You will perform a number of fairly Assassiny-feats to breach the castle. A lot of climbing, vaulting, and attacking from shadows. What took me by surprise at first, was just how adept at AoE and group management the Assassin is.

Just casually climbing my way around the Chandelier. *queue Sia song*

When I think ‘Assassin’, I typically think strong single target. Maybe poison DoTs or bleeds but that’s more of a flavour choice really. The Lost Ark Assassin goes in with wide sweeping slashes, lifting enemies into the air from behind and then slamming them down again in a flurry of spinning blades.

Despite the initial surprise at this, Lost Ark does a superb job of making this feel right. It feels right for the class thematically after even just a moment and it is glorious to control from a gameplay perspective.

The introductory sequence for the Assassin is likely the shortest of the classes1 but it creates a sense of scale and place difficult to adequately describe.

Breaching the walls and then getting past the antechamber guards are just the beginning. The sense of scale is very cleverly built by — except for getting over the walls initially — a constant downward progression. This is a castle built on the ruins of other castles. You travel down, down, down through increasingly worn paths.

Parts of the lower areas are submerged and navigable by boat.

At last you will come to a giant stone door. It immediately put me in mind of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles and the stone door in the university library. It is immense. And just as I was remembering the speculation about that door being designed to keep something in at least as much as it is to keep people out…

…This one starts sliding open.

Tendrils emerge which your Assassin valiantly attempts to fight back, but it is for naught. You are grabbed and dragged through, the doorway slamming shut behind.

I don’t particularly want to spoil the rest. So I won’t, except to say again how bloody fantastic it was how they tied the Assassin class in with the other class starts, subverting expectations of a particular event that occurs for all the others. In fact I would go so far as to say that you should not make Assassin your first class in Lost Ark when you get the chance, just so you have the opportunity to compare and contrast.

For now, I shall leave you with a look the two classes skill sets and feel. I haven’t selected one or the other yet, but have tested them both in the trial area a little. Blade is likely where I’ll go, being the fast moving highly agile option. Demonic may be the heavier hitting of the two though with a bit of range added to the mix as well. In some respects it reminded me of Devil May Cry 4/5’s Nero.

Time to Loot Journal: July 2019

Looking back over the past month I’m left wondering… What happened? Where did the time go and what did I do? It seems like a lifetime ago that the health scare raised its head, and yet it was only a handful of weeks. The endoscopy is the end of this week and all going well will put this concern to rest.

Other unrelated sickness in the household has meant I’ve spent a week working from home, which I think lent itself to time blurring with the removal of a regular cadence of work and back, work and back to mark out the days.

Oh! Blaugust is coming though! Over the latter part of July I’ve been in a sort of warm-up exercise mode for it, posting if not every day then every other. It isn’t too late to sign up and jump into the Discord though. :)

Blog this Month

Published 18 posts this month. Up 8 from last. Second most posts in a month since I started Time to Loot (with first place going to February). My Blaugust goal is to hit a post all 31 days though.

I think I can do it — but we’ll see.

Life often has a way of sneaking up and inappropriately pinching your behind when you’re not looking after all. Someone should tell Life it’s 2019 and we don’t stand for that sort of carry on any more.

As for totals? This will make for 98 published posts. Almost broke 100 a month ahead of prediction! I have to say, quite chuffed with getting this far.

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Transport Fever: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started
  2. Heart of Rage: Tips for The Monitor
  3. Blaugust 2019 is Coming!
  4. Starting The Horrible Hundred
  5. Humble Monthly: July 2019

I was right! The Heart of Rage post at last falls out of top spot. That was a pretty impressive run for it though I suppose. But now the Transport Fever starter guide has taken over with almost 4x the views this month than HoR.

Games this Month

RankGameHours% Gaming TimeChange
1Final Fantasy XIV29.938.5%↑2
2Lost Ark29.838.3%New
3Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey4.55.8%Returning
4Stellaris4.15.3%New
5Warframe2.83.6%New
6Astroneer2.53.2%New
7Devil May Cry 51.82.3%Returning
8Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice0.91.1%New
9Celeste0.81.1%New
10Parkasaurus0.70.9%New

July saw a total of 77.7 gaming hours, down 2.9 hours from June.

And in an almost complete flip from last month where the total active hours were way down from watching shows on devices other than the main desktop, this month saw an unprecedented high of 317.2 total active hours. This is up 141.1 hours over last month.

Much of the increase to total active hours comes from spending a little over a week working from home, plus some return to this device as a TV/Movie watching device.

For July, this means gaming made up 24.4% of the active hours, down 21.2% from last month.

Final Fantasy XIV

Talk about juuuuust eking it out for top spot. Less than 6 minutes difference between it and Lost Ark.

Final Fantasy will certainly still hold strong next month. But whether it will be #1 or #2 is anyone’s guess at this stage.

I’m still looking down the barrel of the vast majority of The Horrible Hundred to complete. But I’ll get there. I’ve just been horribly distracted by Lost Ark, and it’s all Mailvaltar’s fault. Don’t look at me like that, it is! ;)

Lost Ark

Perhaps rather cruelly, I first found out about Lost Ark some 4 or 5 years ago.

I’ve finally got a chance to dive in and try most of the base classes. And Oh my God, where has this game been my entire life?

The blend of MMORPG and ARPG is just so perfect. I’ve leveled two of the Warrior classes — Berserker and Warlord to nearly 30, and with a friend just joining decided to take a look at Bard alongside them.

Easy contender for top spot next month, but as I called out in the sneak peek — it’s by no means certain. Technically you cannot play this outside of Korea, so my account could be terminated at any point. It is going to be difficult in the extreme though to keep my mindset as one of testing and experimenting rather than dedicated though.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

The last episode of the Fate of Atlantis DLC dropped this month, spurring me back into AC’s rendition of Greece where the myths are real.

I’ve started my way into chapter 2 of the First Blade DLC.

I’ve almost finished annihilating the Order of the Storm — Chapter 2’s addition to the Persian Cult — but I’m endeavouring to hunt a few final clues before the final engagement of the chapter. It is my hope that I can save this person rather than slaughter them. I don’t know if it’s possible, but it has been elsewhere in the story. So… Here’s to hoping!

The Others

Quite a hodgepodge here, as is my way. :)

Stellaris made a bit of a surprise return visit in the form of a 4 player game set in a small galaxy size, so that we could test out the recently released Ancient Relics Story pack which added archaeological dig sites that you could have your scientists work on.

Warframe saw a little bit of a revisit too after Tennocon. I still have much to do here, as even in this return I didn’t set foot onto Venus/Fortuna. I think I’m holding out for The New War and Empyrean to download into our hot little waiting hands.

Although I did discover today that there has been a little more added to the story of space mother (aka Natah)! It came alongside the Jupiter / Gas City revamp, and it is apparently quite telling of things to come in the New War story. I may not be able to resist doing that soon.

The rest on the list also make some degree of sense for me I suppose, but if you quirked a brow at Parkasaurus… Well. It’s a tycoon game for a start. I do also love those after all. But mostly, I have an 8-year old boy who still adores Dinosaurs. So this thing was about the best thing ever. For… *looks* …A bit under an hour. ;D

Exploring The Intro to the Magician and Gunner Classes of Lost Ark

The Berserker set a very high bar of fun with meaty, impactful blows mixed with a certain brutal grace. Pirouetting through the air or between enemies on the ground. Was it even going to be possible for another class to live up to this?

Early indications? Possibly not. You see, I’d toyed around with the other two Warrior subclasses — Warlord (think a tank/guardian type, with a gunlance) and Destroyer (giiiiiant hammer) before I’d settled on Berserker in the testing facility.

The Warlord felt a bit clunky. I could see the potential, but as you might imagine wielding a giant shield with an even larger gunlance, this guy wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Destroyer seemed to be in a similar boat, but I’d seen some video hinting at a few acrobatically inclined skills later down the line.

But I couldn’t test any of the tripod-system modifiers or skills above level 10. A fact that had slipped my mind in the 15-20 hours of play that followed.

We’ll return to this later.

Magician

Well, the zone is pretty enough.

Magician leads the way into Arcana, Summoner or Bard. Summoner and Bard were both classes I was keen to try, so it was next on my list to try.

I… was pretty quickly disappointed. There were highlights to be sure. Summoning a water elemental right in front of me which spat a torrent of water, pushing enemies back and creating some space was pretty nifty.

Teldrassil?? Nope. But wow. Even the music was similar.

But the spells for the most part felt a bit finicky and underpowered compared to the brute strength of the Berserker I was used to.

I played it through to the testing chamber and quite enjoyed the Magician’s introductory story. Funnily enough, The Arcana — i.e., the one I initially had no real interest in — seemed like it might be the most fun to me. It was a highly mobile assassin-mage feeling class. You threw cards like a magical Gambit and had a lot of options for casting on the go.

I didn’t lock in a choice though. Not yet. And as it turns out, that was probably for the best.1 Early impressions are deceiving, as I’ve since found out.

Gunner

Indiana Jones meets Steampunk is the best way to describe the introductory story for the Gunner. Annnd I loved it. The class itself (in base form) is incredibly nimble too, which I am discovering much to my surprise is a trait I value in this sort of ARPG/Brawler hybrid game.

Now, the ‘base form’ qualifier was important. The Gunner is a class of extremes you see. If you go Blaster you get a transforming heavy weapon that can fire anything from… well, fire through to homing missiles. But it’s heavy. And it shows. No hoppity-skippity dash moves for you. Get caught letting loose when a boss turns its ire to the ground you stand on — you might be about to have a bad day.

Devil Hunter and Hawkeye though can both move around very well. Hawkeye can even go invisible for short periods of time. Hawkeye is like your more typical bow Ranger, albeit with a pretty serious tech upgrade. Devil Hunter uses a range of guns from dual pistol, to shotgun to sniper rifle. And you can cycle between them and their unique skill bars.

Even with just the level 10 skills and no tripod-modifiers, I was having a blast with this set. And as with the Magician, the class I thought I would like the least — Blaster — was the one I enjoyed the most. The lack of mobility didn’t worry me despite finding I’m like it more generally.

What about the Fighter?

I did actually start the Fighter’s storyline as well! But I haven’t finished it yet. The fighter can become one of four classes: Battle Master, Infighter, Soul Master or Lancer. I kinda wanna play all of them.

I’ll talk more about the Fighter later, but starting out it feels very much like a Diablo 3 style Monk, and the story line sees you trying to work through demonic possession of a rival house. There is a lot of martial arts throughout as well, and the environments (as you can see above) look fantastic.

I’ll leave this one here though in order to wrap this up.

What I Learnt Today

You know the old saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover?’

Yeah.

The same sort of applies here. I really should have known this from my own experience with the Berserker. While I already enjoyed the ‘base’ level 10 experience of it, it really started to shine with access to the Tripod system and ranking skills up to work in new and interesting ways.

But as I mentioned way back near the beginning of the post — I hadn’t really consciously connected that to the experience I was having with the starter classes. And I might’ve missed this entirely for longer if I hadn’t rolled a Warlord to play alongside a friend who joined me today.

The Warlord gets a number of skill options at rank 1 of the tripod system which *hugely* change how it plays. I went from stationary as a rock to charging about the battlefield very quickly, adding a dash to the start of a number of base abilities. Although for the main attack this meant sacrificing the other option at Tier 1 of turning from a straight-line attack into a 360 degree sweep.

I ended up swapping back and forth between that one a bit actually, depending on where I was and what I was doing. Open world content seemed to go better with the wide AoE attack. In dungeons I really wanted that forward dash with only the cone attack in order to help better position out of boss attacks.

When I started to throw in a leap ability, and the power to call thunder from the Heaven’s like Thor himself… Just… Wow.

So what I learned is that I really need to go back and revisit the Magician classes with this in mind. I suspect that their abilities will similarly grow without too much effort!

Sneak Peak at Lost Ark

Mailvaltar recently reminded me that Lost Ark was a thing. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a Korean made MMOARPG. Wait- no, don’t run! This one actually looks pretty good. The scope of the game is mindblowing and it has a solid core set of gameplay mechanics backing it all up.

Turn on captions and auto-translate to English. (And then have a good giggle at Google’s best efforts at real time translation throughout.)

If you can imagine your Final Fantasy XIV, or WoW, flipped around to an isometric perspective. Then given something between an ARPG and a brawler’s combat system. Put in just a splash of Monster Hunter. And also a very anime-esque story over the top of the whole thing, you’ll be partway there.

If you’re anything like Mailvaltar and I, this will have you chomping at the bit to get in right now. For others almost every element of that will be a turn off. If you’re in the ‘right now’ camp and you don’t happen to live in Korea, I probably owe you a bit of an apology. You can’t. And the western release while confirmed now, doesn’t really have an attached timeline.

But Wait, Where’s the ‘Sneak Peek’ then?

OK, perhaps “can’t” was a bit strong. Because you certainly can. But it’s not exactly low effort. Or risk. To even embark on the journey of getting in you have to be aware you could lose access again at any time and be OK with that. This makes me somewhat wary of investing a lot of time at endgame right now, but to test it out and get an early look at how it’s shaping up?

Hell. Yes.

I’m happy to share how if anyone is interested!

My Warrior

My Warrior (later to be spec’d Berserker) starting out life as a slave.

Every base class (currently there are four, with two more on the way) has its own introductory story. The Warrior gets a pretty rough deal starting out as a fighting pit slave with no weapons or armor and everyone expecting him to be dead ere too long.

Thankfully, this is not a foe.

Fortunately, it isn’t too long before you stop needing to punch things and get to wield an excessively large sword. Already by this point I’m extremely impressed with the mix of weighty impact and fluidity the combat has. Your skills are hotkey based, and are targeted in the direction of your mouse cursor (for the most part).

Chaining from one skill to the next, juggling your opponents simply didn’t get old. And learning how best to weave in new skills as they were learned to best extend the stun effect out. Working out their wind-up times and when to dash through an enemy before attacking again… Just so very satisfying.

Although he is a foe.

And this was all before level 10 and selection of your actual class.

You see, every base class has three or four sub-classes which are what you will actually play as from the end of introductory sequence on.

What I really appreciated is that the game gives you the opportunity to test the three sub-classes out before you are asked to commit. You can spawn in normal or boss monsters and then have fairly free reign over testing a decent number of skills to get a feel for things.

Because once you commit, that is it. These aren’t specialisations that you jump between at will, this defines who your character is.

My Berserker

Journeyed a long way since my cell.

I kept wanting to test out other classes, but not being able to tear myself away. At 10 I thought. Then 15. Surely at 20. I’ve at last managed to convince myself to log out at around level 23. Level 50 is the cap but there is a ridiculous amount of stuff to do beyond that.

I was thankful in the extreme that the first mount is given fairly early on, I was level 14 when I got to pick my horse. Thankful because the world is huge. HUGE. And actually I should say the continent I’m on is huge. Eventually you will get a boat and access to entire new continents and island adventures.

These guys just wanted to see the whole world burn. In a feverish fit of plague.

I think (but don’t quote me yet) that you level to 50 entirely on the first continent and then unlock your boat.

Already I have seen quite an array of terrain though. Frosty wastelands (although that was in my Warrior’s backstory), verdant farmland, swampy marshes, dingy caves, ancient ruins, salt flats. And I’m barely into the second major region of the first continent.

None of this would matter though if the gameplay wasn’t fun, and as I think I’ve alluded to — it is. There is skill in execution of your combos for sure, but the build diversity also seems fairly strong.

Skills

My sword now has eyes. Is it alive? Unsure. I haven’t started hearing it’s voice in my head yet, at least.

When you level past 10 you are awarded skill points. Generally 5, but some levels seem to award more, and some quests can also award them.

You can rank your skills up and each rank does the basics of increasing damage, knockback, stun or other base effects sure. But at certain thresholds it unlocks a new tier of the ‘tripod’ system. So called because there are three tiers of three options for each skill, that can layer on top of one another to create fairly dramatic differences in how the skills execute.

Your selection within the tripod system can be changed on the fly, unlike your overall specialisation. So you do get the ability to adapt your build to the content you happen to be doing.

I haven’t been able to unlock the third tier of anything yet, but I have added extra duration to how long I can hold Whirlwind (vanilla tier 1 option) and then at Tier 2 added 40% additional range which also acts as a higher crit and damage zone. If I can keep enemies in that new outer reach of Whirlwind they take significantly more damage.

Dungeons

Pretty much every zone you run through winds up with a dungeon. You can go in on Normal or Hard mode, alone or as a party of up to four. You can solo Hard if you wish to, and in fact I would recommend it over Normal.

There was nothing… wrong with these dungeons. But they weren’t anything to write home about either. I had heard much fuss made about the cinematic dungeons of Lost Ark so was expecting a fair bit more.

Turns out those end of area dungeons are not the cinematic ones. The first of those comes around level 20-ish and they live up to the hype. Well. So far, with a sample of one they do.

I had almost given up on attempting to queue for dungeons too before this one. The end of area ones are being only infrequently run at the moment (should be a different story with a fresh Western release). But this one the queue pop was instant, and the run ever more enjoyable for having people along.

As is fairly standard fare for ARPGs, the dungeon difficulty scales for each person you include. There is no holy trinity to worry about (although Tanks (Warlords) and Healers (Bards) do exist if you’re that way inclined) so the queue times are never going to be waiting around for a specific type to decide to join.

Our run was in fact three Berserkers and a Warlord. xD

And this is pretty much where I left things off to come put this post together! When I jump back in I kind of want to try out a caster class (Summoner or Bard, most likely). But I may end up just jumping back on Berserker and rolling further into the game. :)

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