Impulse Purchases Alive and Well

One of the more positive side-effects of running this blog has been an increased focus on a smaller set of games. There have been few to no impulse purchases simply because there was a sale on, or similar. I had been curious how long that effect might hold for. We have an answer now. This long. ;)

Last month I outlined some of the coming games of interest, there was one I missed off that list simply because I hadn’t kept a close eye on when it was coming.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice — There isn’t any world in which I didn’t pick this one up.

It was this one! Sekiro. Ironically, it is also the least played of my recent acquisitions! Those other ones..? OK, those ones were straight up impulse purchases.

Far Cry 5 / Far Cry 5: New Dawn

Far Cry 5 and Far Cry 5: New Dawn are two titles I hadn’t imagined picking up any time soon… But then a Ubisoft 50% sale weekend came along… A friend was feeling in the same boat as me re: Division 2 and wanting to not invest too much time when meaningful progression wasn’t possible. One thing sort of led to another, and here we are.

Far Cry 5 we’re playing exclusively in co-op, New Dawn in single-player mode when the other isn’t available. New Dawn is a direct story sequel to Far Cry 5, but playing both together has still been working out quite well. Like one of those movies that tell the past and present story alongside each other.

Far Cry 5: New Dawn — The church has quite a different aesthetic now from the ‘Old World’ days of Far Cry 5.

There are some differences between the two titles which thematically, at least, fit. Far Cry 5 you’re purchasing your weapons and have access to quite a wide array of customisation options. Scopes, silencers, the whole nine yards. New Dawn by comparison has you scavenging for the materials needed to put together even the most rudimentary of weapons.

I have nothing against the crafting mechanic itself, but the limited customisation options is certainly a bit of a downer.

Devil May Cry 5

I fear that this one might be one that I grab with the best of intentions and then never actually manage to fit it into my play schedule. I’ve not really touched it yet other than the intro-mission.

I loved Devil May Cry 4 though, which came out some 11 years ago now. I devoured this game, finishing it over the course of a weekend even though I’d not played any of the previous entries. If I recall correctly, DMC4 was the first in the series to get a PC release at launch rather than a later port of dubious quality.

We’ll see how it goes. The Division 2 will kick into high-gear again next week, at least for a little bit. Variety might have to wait!

Epic Store Claims Another Exclusive

I actually had a post drafted on the Epic Store going back to the Metro: Exodus debacle. I ultimately decided to let it go and delete the post. I can (I suppose) live a little longer without Satisfactory, Hades, Metro, etc in my life if I need to.

Today’s announcement comes in the form of Phoenix Point — a game from Julian Gollop, designer of the original X-COM games — announcing the increasingly typical year-long exclusivity deal with the Epic Store.

Metro caught a lot of heat for their last minute switch-out after being available on Steam for preorder for quite some time. They at least honoured the preorders of those who had dropped money on the Steam edition, though.

Phoenix Point while not carrying with it the same proximity to launch is a worse situation in my view. It is a crowd-funded project that literally would not exist, or would at least not be as far along as it is today, without the money it took from its backers. Money taken with the explicit promise of supporting: Good Old Games, Steam, and via Steam Play — Linux.1

Why Be Mad About This?

A legitimate question. There are some things to like about Epic. Not least of all an introduction of an additional competitor for Steam. This should be a good thing for Developers and Consumers both.

But it isn’t — not yet. There has been zero expressed interest in winning the battlefield for consumer consideration or loyalty. No desire to bring people over by carrot — by fostering goodwill through a better service that treats their favourite developers more fairly as a point of differentiation.

That would be compelling for a goodly number of people. But not enough? OK, I can see that. How about providing more competitive pricing than Steam, yet still seeing a larger sum in developer pockets?

Those are some examples of good ways to compete which would have seen an organic user-base growth and positive word of mouth. Instead of trying this first, the stick was brought out immediately.

The stick of third-party exclusives being introduced to the PC-realm. Want to play this title you’re reeeally excited about? Excellent. Buy it from us because you have no choice. We offered more Fortnite-money than any right-minded developer could say no to, and bought their exclusivity.

Steam isn’t blameless here, the impression I’m getting from their relative silence on the matter is one of overwhelming confidence that Epic is a fad that warrants no response and will just sort of go back to playing with toys in the corner shortly.

I probably prefer this over starting an all out exclusivity war. Steam for all it’s many faults, including the handling (or rather, lack of handling) the curation of content on its service, has been a relatively benevolent digital storefront in its position of monopoly. Developers were free to sell anywhere else they chose alongside Steam, even allowing generation of Steam keys for the purpose of selling elsewhere.

If Steam’s ‘response’ ends up being a harsh curtailing of these options due to having to participate in the buying-exclusivity game? Well, there aren’t really any potential good outcomes for a Consumer in this scenario.2

Hopefully Tomorrow Brings Better News

Because the email with this news was certainly not a great start to this one!

Still, there are some silver linings. For me only the first — ability to refund — matters. I just can’t get my head around supporting the introduction of third-party exclusives to PC, no matter how much I otherwise want the title in question.

For you (if you were also a Phoenix Point backer), some of the others might be of interest:

  • Refunds are available for the next 28 or so days, via this link.
  • If you accept the new terms and stick with it, you’ll get Year 1 DLC on Epic.
  • You will also get a choice of Steam/GoG key when they release a year post-Epic-release.

What A Difference No SQ’s Make

*cracks knuckles* Alright, training. I’m down. What will we learn today?

The Main Story Quest of Final Fantasy XIV might not be the best thing ever at the lower levels — but removing the most onerous of the prototypical MMORPG side quests the game is guilty of possessing makes a huge difference for the better. The ability to skip all side-quests comes primarily through a buff that all new characters receive which increases XP gained from all sources by 100% until you reach level 60.

I don’t know if this XP buff ends the moment you get one Job to 60 or whether it is job-independent, but I have a fair while before working that out becomes a concern.

Ah yes, the intensive training necessary to instill the knowledge: Fire bad.

As I was playing through today though, it put me in mind of a post of Syp’s I read earlier in the day asking the question, ‘How could World of Warcraft win me back?’

One thing Syp sees as a potential to draw him back is for Blizzard to have a change of heart over the artificial grinds they introduce. More recently with the allied races and over and over again with flight.

I’m with him on this being a positive change, but it wouldn’t be enough to bring me back right now. But then Syp touched the need to change up the story beats to remove the tedium that BFA has introduced.

The final round of training: Can I make it down this path? Alive?

This second point hardly even registered for me on the first read through of the post, so thoroughly have I divorced the concept of ‘WoW’ from ‘Story’. I keep across the major beats most of the time, but long past are the times I felt any kind of investment in the lore or story.

I don’t know that WoW can ‘fix’ that for me now. I feel like it would almost need a fresh start. And it is this, I think, that Final Fantasy XIV offers me above all else. The MSQ at the point I’m up to isn’t really any better, story or mechanically speaking. But it is without the ‘Grind’ (with capital ‘G’).

In the span of just a couple of hours play, I made meaningful progress in level and story. I’m level 20 as an Archer now and closing in on being able to join one of the game’s Grand Companies. This will allow me to get my Chocobo mount. *squee* or rather, *kwee!* :D

The character and lighting detail is actually really impressive. (Click to see!) Also? Soon I’ll have one of these for this character! Yiss! :D

Humble Monthly: March 2019

For someone with such a huge game-backlog already, the Humble Monthly subscription might seem a bit counter-intuitive. If you’re not already familiar with it, essentially for $12/mo (reducing in cost if you commit to a longer subscription) you’ll get a bundle of games worth many times this — at least when considered against full RRP. There are typically 2-3 ‘headline’ titles that are revealed early and then a number of typically smaller titles released to subscribers when the month’s pack actually comes out.

It’s a service I’m constantly on the bubble of unsubscribing from though. The prime reason I keep it is that it actually helps curb impulse spending during Steam sales. It harkens back to why I subscribed in the first place. I was tired of picking something up on a sale and then within a couple of months seeing it pop up as an included item in the bundle.

When I’m looking at a title now, I can just tell myself, ‘It’ll be in the Humble Monthly bundle sooner or later’, and typically? That’ll end up proving true. It’s put me off snap-buying enough things that I’m confident I’ve saved myself more money than I’ve spent on the subscription.1

Still, in-line with my desire to set out a history, I’d like to layout what the Humble Bundle brings my way and what I think. :)

Headline Titles

  • Vermintide II (Collector’s Edition)
    • The AAA-title of the bundle (there is generally at least one), if I didn’t already own it I would have been fairly hyped for this being in the bundle. Nonetheless, the upgrade to Collector’s is nice.
  • Earth Defense Force 4.1 (+ a bunch of DLC)
    • Had never heard of the title before this bundle, but apparently people like it with an ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ rating on Steam since it’s release in 2016. Looks like you battle… uh… ants… but really big city-destroying ones! Has some MP options. Looks like something you could have fun with, but I’m unlikely to try it without some external nudging.
  • Cultist Simulator
    • Made by the same people as Sunless Skies and Sunless Seas, it’s an odd mix of card game and story game. There has been more than once since it came out (May 2018) that I’ve been on the cusp of buying it. But patience has saved the day and now it is mine! Of the three, this was the one I was most interested in.

Revealed Titles

Just looking over these to find the Steam links (I didn’t know what a single one of them was previously) it reminds me why I’m so frequently on the edge of cancelling the subscription.

If I bother to redeem the keys for these at all, not a one of them would make it out of the ‘Obtained from Humble Monthly’ dumping category I have in Steam.

Tower Unite looks like Second Life but if you focused it almost exclusively on mini-games. Late Shift is an old-school FMV story-game, and while it’s clearly low-budget the voice acting in the trailer didn’t put me in the mind of nails down a blackboard at least.

But I think the curators at Humble must’ve known this wasn’t the most compelling list because…

April Headline Titles

Subscribing now would get you these titles now plus the revealed titles in April. As a current subscriber I have the option of bringing forward the purchase and getting them now too — but given how much else I have on, I will wait… But nnngh. ;D

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Funcom published this one, and they call it a ‘Tactical Adventure’. It allows you to move about in real-time outside of combat, but jumps into an XCOM style turn-based combat system whenever you engage the enemy.

I hesitate to call it open-world due to all the baggage that carries these days, but it doesn’t seem to have quite the same load-in / load-out mission orientated setup of XCOM, but rather is continuous.

I’d kinda like to make some time for this one!

Absolver: Downfall

The fighter-game Absolver was one I watched at launch. I steered clear as I heard it was rife with server issues (for Oceanic players) which prevented the game from being any fun. At that point beyond a relatively short campaign that acted as a tutorial, the rest of the game was PvP.

Since then they’ve released a free PvE content expansion called ‘Downfall’. The reviews on Steam for this game are still Mixed (both overall and recent), but as an inclusion in the bundle? I’ll likely give it a shot.

Northgard

Whether intentional or not Northgard evokes recollections of the old BlueByte classic, Settlers, to me. Albeit with combat turned up to 11. I’ve fairly well burnt myself out on the RTS genre over the years though, so it isn’t a game I’ll likely spend a lot of time with.

Humble Monthly Survives to April

I’m not locked into any longer term pre-purchase deals, so I could (and have considered) jumping in and out as the headline offers appeal (or not). You get about a month’s notice of the future headline titles over which time you may decide.

But there is that distinct fear of, ‘Oh, but maybe one of the revealed titles will be something I want!’ and by the time those come along — it’s too late. That’s how they getcha. ;)

There have been months when I’ve been extremely pleased by the revealed titles as well, but it feels like it has been a while since that was the case.

With this logging now in place, a clearer picture should come (with time). :)

Coming Games of Interest — March 2019 Onward

There is a lot coming out over the next little while that I’m quite interested to play. Normally, I’d just take things as they come. Really ‘seat-of-my-pants’ it. I still might. But I can feel the end of my tether fast approaching with the launch content of Anthem, so want to put down something of a plan. Well, less a plan, more a sketch of a plan. Rough though, very rough.

I’m currently sitting at 75-hours played and still enjoy the core gameplay experience. Enough so that I’m quite likely to finish the post-story Trial of Valour. There’s also a bit still to unpack in the Anthem Roadmap which will help going forward.

This wasn’t unexpected, after my second weekend with the demo I revised my expectations.

…if at launch, I can get somewhere in the region of 50-80 hours of it, accounting for going through the story, finishing up with the reputations and challenges I care about, perhaps getting into a decent set of Masterwork gear (with some legendaries scattered in) to such a point I can get into and do the Grandmaster difficulties? Then I’ll be happy that it was money well spent.

Naithin (2019), Anthem Impressions – Two Demo Weekends In

I am exactly there, and will end up with more hours than anticipated. Bonus. But this post isn’t meant to be about Anthem, it’s the ‘What’s Next’ post!

What’s Next?

The Division 2 — March 15th 2019

I have no plans to spend any time with the upcoming open-beta. I got my fill of the demo content during the private beta when that was on, in which I played a good amount of the early game PvE, the Dark Zone and the endgame PvE.

I won’t be taking any time off work for The Division 2 as I did with Anthem, so there will be a better pacing to the content it has to offer, I think. How I’ll split the time between Anthem’s content drops and this, I don’t quite yet know. It seems likely that this will be my primary game from March 15th for a while though.

Outward — March 26th 2019

Outward has somehow flown under my radar until very recently. It looked great even back in a 2016 PAX West trailer too. Now that I have seen it, I want it yesterday. Today would be next best.

If it has also passed you by until now — the concept puts you in the shoes of a nobody in an otherwise high-fantasy world. Your victories will be small in scale, but no less meaningful for it to start. Getting a backpack is a milestone to remember.

It will have survival elements, which is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I won’t deny they certainly can be a nuisance if the frequency of needing to eat, drink, etc is too high.

The detail going into it have me incredibly interested. Oh, also? It features co-operative play, even local split-screen co-op. :o

I’ll be taking a look!

The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr Expansion — June 4th 2019

You might remember in an effort to fill a gaming-gap, I started an adventure back into The Elder Scrolls Online.

I was really enjoying my adventures there and I still have… many hours ahead of me to finish the story content already available. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the original main story quest, and estimates for Morrowind and Summerset expansions put them in around 30-hours each to get through.1

There’s almost no way I’ll be ready for Elsweyr’s story at release. Not if I want to do things in order at least, which I do. ESO does scale all content to whatever you are if you’re personally more keen to just jump straight into what’s new.

That’s probably OK though, as ESO is going down a path similar to Guild Wars 2’s ‘Living World’ episodic structure, with a full year of content planned around the return of the Dragons to the world. The longer I wait, the more of this there will be. ;)

Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Expansion — July 2nd 2019

Being honest, there is a huge element of FOMO2 going on with me and this title at the moment.

I’ve played the title before and never made it to end game. I was disheartened by frequent reports of end game raids being essentially unplayable from the Oceania region. Using the datacentres in Japan helped, but apparently still wouldn’t be enough for top-tier raids.

For the type of player I am3 this told me not to bother. I really don’t know how to play an MMO casually. Or more to the point, how to enjoy doing so.

If I make a return to FFXIV, it might be with a new perspective — less focusing on it as an MMO and more playing it for the story and the journey. Something I’ve done in my approach to ESO so far, and you know- I think it’s working.

Also? Gunblades. Yiss!

What do???

With the Anthem demos behind us, and still around 9 days to go before even the early access launch1 — I find myself in the position of not really having anything to play.

*cough*

It’s possible I have a comically large backlog to clear.

Look, no-one ever accused me of being a completionist, OK?

My approach to gaming has certainly changed over the years. It used to be vitally important to extract every last cent of value out of a purchase. Now there are titles I was so excited about I bought day 1 and then… uh… never quite got around to even launching.

Much of the time when I get into a title, it isn’t even that I grew bored of it that makes me put it down. Simply that a new shiny comes along. Then another. And another. I can be a bit like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to these things. I know this about myself.

So this time? This time… I’m determined not to buy something just to fill in this wait. I’m going to attack my backlog, dammit.

I am absolutely spoiled for choice. I think that might even be part of the problem. But I figure I can stick to something from the backlog for 9 days, like, how hard could that be?2

Considering the Options

I went in for a year of the EA / Origin Premier Access thingo3 so that was a bit of an obvious place to start. I mean, I literally bought it instead of going in for Anthem directly so that I could try out the likes of Battlefield V, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Darksiders 3. Each a title I wasn’t likely to buy on its own — but when I can get access to them all for a year for only a little more than Anthem alone? … Well OK then, twist my arm why don’t you.

Battlefield V is a beautiful game — but I seem to spend a lot of my time in a position similar to this one. (This screen is from the tutorial-esque mini-campaign, but the point stands.)

But really, this would be cheating a little bit. Taking an Origin Access game now would be adding on something new, not something I already have.

So I thought about the likes of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey which I was loving but haven’t finished. That’s fairly recent and exciting.

But I also picked up Dragon Quest XI. It was over fears that the art style would drive me away, but it’s a charming looking game in action. I’ve only given it- oh, 3 hours so far. In a similar vein, there is also Ni No Kuni II — but I think actually don’t like this one. There isn’t much substance to it, despite having a very broad set of systems.

Jumping way back in time, what about Dragon’s Dogma? I loved my time with that game, I don’t even remember what distracted me away from it.

But no, it shan’t be any of these, fantastic as they all are. As sensible a choice, as they all might be for such a challenge.

The winner is: Elder Scrolls Online

“Wait, you’re picking an MMO? Are you crazy?” you may ask, following on with the very true statement, “You only have 9 days!”

And you wouldn’t be wrong. Many of these 9 days are going to be work filled too.

But the game still fits the bill! It’s one I’d given the side-eye to during the beta (it was… not good, at this time) but had been a bit curious about as it seemed to really be coming along and making positive strides post-launch.

A screenshot I took last year when I played. I don’t recall where this is, or what I was doing.

When the Summer Set Isles expansion came out last year, including Morrowind and the base game in the package I was sold.

Steam tells me I was sold for 40 odd hours. But I believe some of this would be launcher open for further patching, not handled by the steam client itself. *shakes fist*

The Plan

This is where my character was when I logged in… Still don’t know where I am or what I was doing.

I still don’t know exactly what character archetype / class I’ll play. Possibly something Ranger-ish. The Warden appeals if I do go down this path. But I do know I am going to clear out my old characters and start fresh.

Yes, I know – I know! I don’t have to. I could jump in literally to any part of the story, in any area, and it would level appropriately.

I just prefer to start fresh when I step away from an RPG for too long. It’s possible this is yet another contributing factor to my neverending backlog actually. Pillars of Eternity, for example? Restarted a fresh playthrough of that. Got to essentially the exact same point and put it down again.

I might be beyond help, guys.

I also don’t truly expect to finish this game off my backlog over this period. I might be crazy, but if so – not that far gone yet. But over this period, I’ll certainly post on my progress and at the end whether I would be interested in going back or not in the future.