Second Go-Round with Nioh

Ahh yes. The genuine Edo-period ‘Valve’ helm.

This has been coming for a wee while. Ever since playing Sekiro, the urge to play Nioh again has been building. Making time for it has been another matter entirely. I have been playing a bit more this month than I did last month though. Although in case you’re wondering — no, you didn’t miss the first outing with the game. Well actually you did, I guess. But it wasn’t in the lifetime of this blog.

The last time I played Nioh would’ve been the tail end of 2017. I’d somehow missed the fact it had even gained itself a PC release, but jumped right on it when I found out. I pushed through level 2 (the ‘hell level’, for new comers apparently) and a bit beyond. I’d wrapped up through most of the second area in fact. With one, significant, exception.

Tachibana Muneshige — Invitation from the Warrior of the West:
Invites you to an ‘honourable’ duel, then proceeds to cheat like nobody’s business. CHEAT I SAY.

This bugger was the true ‘hell level’ in my opinion. Stopped me in my tracks. This time through, already beaten him and on my way through the third region of the game. Even though it’d been so long since I last played, I’ve strugged far less with it this time around.

In terms of everything else going on (or not going on, as the case may be)…

Changes to the Game List

Added

  • Nioh

Remaining

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Final Fantasy XIV

Nearly Removed

  • Transport Fever

Removed

  • Tomb Raider

Assassin’s Creed is in a bit of a holding pattern until the third chapter to the Atlantis DLC is out (or is to be imminently out), but the hype for that moment is still high so I’m content to hold onto it.

Transport Fever is a bit more tentative. I acknowledged in the last journal that I wasn’t really happy with how the series was going. I thought I might take to the more general, intermittent style posting, rather than attempting it as a continuous story. But since then I’ve hardly touched it.

And Tomb Raider? Well, it’s fallen onto the wrong end of the Making Time equation. I’m still interested in it, and would like to finish the series. But now will not be the time for that it seems. It’s below the waterline in terms of time available vs. prioritised list of things I want to play.

I have no doubt it will be back… At some point. :)

FFXIV Back Again

This month has been very light on gaming. Mostly, I think, due to the changes at work. As I mentioned in that post, there were unavoidable impacts to my team where a few positions had to be cut and I know for one in particular this has been quite a heavy and heartfelt impact. Part of it is down to longer hours at work sorting through the process, including looking for redeployment options for people in other areas of the business sure. But I also find that in situations like this I unconsciously choose to drift from gaming.

Which might be a bit of an odd reaction when you consider a large part of the reason for the hobby is as a destressor.

But in any case! Updates to the Games of Interest are afoot. As the title suggests, Final Fantasy XIV makes a return. It seems the seeds I planted in the minds of a few friends when last I was playing finally took root and sprung to life. It was a near thing though, with Elder Scrolls Online’s Elswyer expansion now out I was pretty keen to dip my toes back in there, too.

But we’re also super close to the new content of FFXIV’s Shadowbringer expansion. I’m nowhere near ready at level 35 and running through the Realm Reborn’s main story quest — a mandatory linear chain of quests which you cannot skip or otherwise short circuit by simply leveling past. *grumble*

Changes to the Game List

Added

  • Final Fantasy XIV

Remaining

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Transport Fever

Nearly Removed

  • Tomb Raider

Removed

  • The Division 2
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

AC:O I’ve taken a pause on while the DLC catches up. Episode 2 of Atlantis just released the other day, so roughly 5-6 weeks until Episode 3 is out concluding that series and I’ll binge through the lot. ;)

Tomb Raider is holding on for now, as I still have a clear intent to go back and finish the second and third games — whether that intent will materialise into action in the context of limited time and an MMO back on the table though… We’ll see. ;)

Sekiro should come as no surprise to be removed. It had been holding on by a finger nail for a while. While I wouldn’t say I bounced off it hard like my very first encounter with a Souls game, it failed to grab me very firmly either. I noted during the April Journal that playing it made me want to jump in Nioh instead. With Nioh 2 starting to make more of an appearance that feeling grows ever stronger. Perhaps it will end up replacing Tomb Raider? ;)

I guess what might come as a bit more of a surprise is the removal of The Division 2. I gave the raid a try in the hopes it would revitalise the game for me. It didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the raid is well constructed and the boss mechanics are actually interesting.

It was better than I expected, speaking frankly. But the decision not to raise the ilvl from the raid’s drops struck me as odd. Although I suppose even had they raised it, it would have been a short lived extension to the game. So! Making it official. The Division 2 is off my list for the time being. I expect I will want to visit again when more story content comes though. :)

Time to Loot Journal: April 2019

April was a comparative breeze to last month. It seemed to go by so fast, too! Possibly helped somewhat by the extended break that Easter and ANZAC day allowed for by taking just a few extra annual leave days to bridge the gaps for a bit over a week off.

Blog this Month

I published 12 posts this month, settling into an average of 3 posts per week. This seems sustainable and will likely become the pattern I aim for. Looking back over April, there isn’t much regularity as to which 3 days I post, but I think that’s OK for now.

There are a grand total of 59 published posts (including this one), and at the current rate it’ll be another 4+ months before I hit 100 posts. However I have passed the 100 day mark. One of the very first milestones I knew I wanted to break through.

So Huzzah! :D

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Heart of Rage: Tips for the Monitor
  2. The Practice of Review Bombing
  3. Anthem off the Games List
  4. Gaming Outside your Normal Genres
  5. The Division 2 Private Beta – The Dark Zone

Heart of Rage tips still drives a large portion of the site’s traffic, with roughly 6x the views of the second most viewed post this month. But the significant drop-off I expected for this article last month is starting now. The overall hits for April are around half that of March where this article was performing like a monster.

In more positive news though, ranks 2 through 4 were posts from this month!

Games this Month

RankGameHours% Gaming
Time
Change
1Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey54.856.0%New
2The Division 216.216.6% ↓1
3Tomb Raider7.87.9%New
4Transport Fever6.26.4%New
5Rise of the Tomb Raider4.74.8%New
6Northgard1.71.7%New
7Overwatch1.51.5%New
8Nioh1.31.3%New
9Far Cry: New Dawn1.21.2% ↓6
10Anno 18001.21.2%New
11Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice1.21.2% ↓6

‘New’ does not necessarily mean the game is new to me (although it may). I’m not quite sure yet how, or if, I want to represent a returning game that has skipped some time from the list.

That was a total of 97.7 gaming hours, up only 4.2 hours from last month. Given there was a week off, that does surprise me a little! Although I suppose I did catch up on a fair few shows.

Total active time on the computer was 262.8 hours, up 21.5 hours from last month. Gaming made up 37.2% of the active hours, down 1.5% from March.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

I’ve mentioned before, but this one coming in such a big way this month really took me by surprise.

It made a believer out of me for the inclusion of ‘Photo Mode’ in games. Something I’d been a little ‘meh’ on previously. Neither for nor against. I kind of want it in everything now. ;)

But most impressive of all, for me, is that it has carried me through to and even beyond the ‘end’. Since that post I’ve cleaned house of the Cult of Kosmos, got my way to the top of the Mercenary foodchain.1

I’ve made a bit of a start into the first DLC, with the rest to come. :)

The Division 2

The 16 odd hours I have on TD2 were fairly heavily front-loaded into the month. I’ve not really touched it in a few weeks.

I had expected to jump in with the release of the Raid, but that was delayed until next month. I’m happy with my gear setup with the context of what is currently possible already, so back to being ‘done’ until the raid arrives. Unfortunately Tidal Basin and the new gear tier from there didn’t provide much more play time for me. When next month the Raid is put into our hands on Live will determine how much time The Division 2 gets next month.

Tomb Raider (and Rise of the Tomb Raider)

The ‘planned’2 series for the month. I finished the first game of the rebooted series and made a start on the second entry.

Almost immediately I was taken by the degree of iteration and change that occurred between the entries even though they were barely 2 years apart. I still intend to finish these after I’m done with Odyssey, but we’ll see. I’ve also been on something of a Tycoon game kick lately, which leads into…

Transport Fever

Setup some basic inner city town village horse and carriage loops, with longer paths connecting the depot to another village entirely.

I’m not entirely sure what triggered it, but recently I started to get a real hankering to play a Tycoon-style game again. I went on a bit of a YouTube and Reddit Prowl and ultimately landed on Transport Fever.

It is rather aptly named I must say, I went in ‘just to take a screenshot’ for this post. Almost 3 hours later, I’m finally back. At least I remembered to get the screenshot!

Transport Fever has a number of quirks to it, and a rather arcane (at first) signalling system for trains. So I’ve been immersing myself in a lot of YT Let’s Plays and Tutorial videos as well. I have a much firmer grasp on things now, but still learning some things as I go — like what the AI people preferences are when provided with options.

Transport Fever 2 has been announced, and looks beautiful but I was really wanting something to play now so still went with the original. Didn’t hurt that it was 70% off on Steam when I was looking. To go along with scratching my Tycoon itch though, I also picked up Production Line, but haven’t yet given it a go.

The Others

Quite a few games with less than 2 hours played this month. Overwatch and Northgard I spent some time playing with my brother. Overwatch for one of the events that promoted playing of an arcade mode where the skill cooldowns were (basically) eliminated. Made for some quite intense rounds, I will say. And allowed me a Play of the Game! As Moira! xD

Northgard

Northgard as I gave him a spare copy from the last Humble Monthly Bundle. We both really enjoyed it until we came to the realisation, too late, that you cannot save game for multiplayer.

If you can’t finish in the single sitting you just have to abandon. I remember this being a thing in RTS’ of old, but I never expected to encounter it in a modern title.

Ah well.

Nioh: Midway through the first boss fight. Ultimate form incoming!

Nioh I loaded for the express purpose of checking whether it cloud saves or not. (It does, if you were wondering.) Ended up starting a new game and played through the entire tutorial area and a bit of the first mission to refresh myself on the game.

Playing Sekiro actually made me want to go back and play more Nioh instead. It probably isn’t a good sign for a game when it makes you want to play something else instead. Nonetheless, I haven’t quite given up on it yet. That may come soon, or I might surprise even myself and make some time for it. It’s been known to happen!

Far Cry New Dawn on the other hand I have removed. I acknowledged even in the March Review that I was starting to drift from it a little. In the extra hour or so I played, I simply beelined the main story and made some good progress against it as a result.

From what I understand the FCND storyline is not all that long, so just given that I may go back and finish. Will have to see.

Anno 1800 is one I’ll be back to. Although who knows when. It is a beautiful game at times, and the beginning masks a fairly deep and detailed game once you start stepping through the civilian classes, eras of technology and more. I picked it up on Steam before it left that storefront, and then just had to give it a go. :)

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey Added to the Game List and Other Surprises

Still in love with Photo Mode. This was taken after eliminating the last of the underling Cultists at sea.

Still not sure what the right rhythm for updating the games list is. Or even if there will be a ‘rhythm’ to it at all. I had intended to make updates on a monthly cycle but here we are with the second update this month. It has become clear that once a month isn’t going to fit with how my gaming stops and starts actually work.

If I had waited until next month to add Odyssey to the list for example, I’d probably already be done with it despite having had 3 or so posts on it so far with a few more planned.

Possibly a set of guiding principles would work better. But in order to get a full set, I think I’ll have to discover them over time. Although from the few months back at blogging? Here are the ones I’ve figured so far.

Game List and Categorisation Guiding Principles

  • Playing a game doesn’t necessarily mean I have to add it to the list — the idea is to include ones that have at least a little staying power.1
  • As a corollary to the above though, adding a game simply means I am playing it more than as a one-off. Being on the list doesn’t necessarily mean it will get a category or that I will even post on it (although it is likely).
  • MMO’s and ‘Games as a Service’ with long life expectancy (in general, not just my interest) will be categorised as individual titles.
  • More iterative series of games such as Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider will be grouped into a category for the series and tagged with the individual games.
  • In either case, a post about a given game or series will be categorised as ‘Other’ unless there are 3+ posts tagged for it.

Changes to the Game List

Added

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Remaining

  • The Division 2
  • Tomb Raider

Nearly Removed

  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Removed

  • Far Cry: New Dawn
  • Final Fantasy XIV

AC:O really came out of nowhere for me. I’d always wanted to go back but had more realistically (or so I thought) resigned myself to it living on in the long list of games started and never completed. There is a certain joy though in playing a single-player title over voice comms with friends, especially one with opportunity for emergent experiences and divergent story paths.

It took over making progress in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but I expect I’ll be making a return there once I’m done with the AC:O DLC.

I’ve also not had a lot to say about The Division 2 of late. With the delay in the Raid until next month, this will likely continue to hold for a bit. The gear stratification issues I highlighted before the release of World Tier 5 are still at play for me.

I reached a point where I’m happy with my build and gear. Any further optimisation that might be achievable wouldn’t be worth the effort in light of the knowledge that the raid is almost certainly going to raise the ilvl available again.

Sekiro veeeery nearly joined FFXIV and Far Cry: New Dawn in being removed. I’ve not touched it since the beginning of the month, and with the current view on what I’ll be playing next, I’m not sure it will change.

Still… I’d like to play some more Sekiro. If I recall rightly, I put it on pause right before the first major boss. So that’ll be fun to relearn when I return. ;)

Iteration within the Tomb Raider Series

How…How did that get there?

ManicTime tells me I have just under 5 hours in Rise of the Tomb Raider — the 2015 sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot — what struck me immediately though was how different Crystal Dynamics had made the game while maintaining the integrity of the core experience they’d established with the 2013 release.

There is a mix of both streamlining of some and deepening of other game systems.

For example, the rope arrows used to connect certain puzzle elements or make-shift bridges used to require a separate key input to differentiate it from firing a standard arrow. Now it is context sensitive to what you’re aiming at.

Button-overloading (more than one potential action on a singular button press) with context like this is not always appreciated, because it isn’t always done well, leading to accidentally triggering unintended actions. In Rise of the Tomb Raider’s case though, it is done well. There are no situations where you’re aiming at a rope-arrow enabled ‘thing’ and want to fire a standard arrow.

There are some less successful changes too, though. The first entry in this Tomb Raider series had a rudimentary crafting system with a single resource, ‘Scrap’. Rise of the Tomb Raider expands this out to wood, hides, berries, cloth, metal and more.

The introduction of this system is powerfully done, reflecting Lara’s growth in willpower to survive no matter the odds. You are thrust into the freezing Siberian winter, and need to put together the base essentials of a camp fire, makeshift bow and arrows.

Not everyone you meet will want to be friends.

Unfortunately it’s a system that quickly outstays its welcome. It becomes a distraction from the other, far more enjoyable, aspects of the game. Unlike Tomb Raider’s ‘scrap’ which was acquired quickly and easily as you progressed through the game — you will often need to go out of your way and do things other than what you would have otherwise wanted to, in order to upgrade your weapons and equipment.

The most egregious example of this being hunting for hides. While there are some wolves you’ll need to do battle with in the course of normal play… The sheer volume of hides required means you’ll need to depopulate the region of many herds worth of deer.

Overall though, I’ve still been enjoying the experience. The extension to the play area sizes and world building in general are much better. The skill system is excellent, and the story so far a massive step forward giving Lara more agency and a more direct involvement with the previously quite mysterious ‘Trinity’.

I still have a long way yet to go with Rise, and things may yet change. Already though I am extremely curious to see where Crystal Dynamics took things with 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Digging for Artifacts in the Backlog

Only about 6 years late.

Actually the news here might be that I finished a game. Never mind that it’s one that released 6-years ago. Tomb Raider’s reboot and first entry in the recent trilogy of titles was released March 2013. I’ve just now finished it April 2019.

It was an interesting experience. It both holds up very well and displays its age. There is the odd very low resolution texture and low poly-count objects which belie the game’s age graphically. Sure, some of the effects work also give it a dated appearance. But otherwise it still looks really good.

Climbing through one of the game’s tombs or puzzle areas, or even watching the enemy moving into position, and I think you’d be hard pressed without prior knowledge to say how long ago it came out.

What really betrays the era is the game’s almost begrudging attitude toward letting you control the camera. This simply doesn’t really happen in modern game design, but is a frequent occurrence here.

It can be a helpful pointer at times, but at others the forced perspective when you just want to take a look around can be quite jarring. Literally. It will at times continually ‘shake’ the camera back into the position the designers wanted.

The sound effects and music are excellent, but the voice overs are… Hmm. They are something of a mixed bag. Some of the voice actors are excellent, others are OK… Others you wonder who on the dev team they were related to.

But for all that I enjoyed it. It’s a short game (if you’re not a completionist after all the relics and challenges), clocking in at a little over 10 hours for me, including the 3-4 hours I’d already given it in the past. Cloud Saves let me resume the campaign that I was around 36% of the way through from way back when.

I don’t recall why I stopped playing it originally, it was likely just something else I’d been waiting on more came out.

As a Lara Croft prequel the story worked well, but I believe someone coming to the series now could well have been skipped over it and gone straight to the second entry, Rise of the Tomb Raider. I don’t know yet whether one should do that, only that one could. (I’ll know after playing Rise, which is up next.)

What I do know though from finishing this one is that you don’t need to. If you’re interested in the whole experience, know that the original game of this trilogy is perfectly serviceable today, 6-years on.

Anthem off the Games List

Tomb Raider (2013) — Revisiting my campaign from years ago. Hurrah cloud-saves.

I resisted moving Anthem off the side-panel ‘Games of Interest’ block even after declaring my time done with it in the immediate future. I resisted in large part because I was still interested to see how it would unfold from here. How the early roadmap might play out.

I’ve changed my mind. I don’t care. I can’t care. You might have seen the Anthem expose article from Jason Schrier already, if not, Asmiroth wrote a most excellent condensation of the article. Asmiroth covered essentially everything I would have, had I not been distracted by another post topic on the night.

The revelations of the article give me a mixed sense of optimism that — if given the time — that the Anthem ship may yet me turned around. That’s a mighty big ‘if’ truthfully. But it isn’t this doubt that is the other part of the ‘mix’ I was talking about. The other part is a sense of betrayal. The much vaunted dev transparency for Anthem was a sham. An absolute have.

The worst part is of course being an active participant in the sham. There were many clues early on. I don’t just mean in hindsight, either. When the revelation was made that there would be no inventory, no loot display, nothing of the kind while ‘playing’ the game was made. When this was presented as a ‘design’ decision I remember thinking it incomprehensible that any developer — especially one experienced with RPGs like BioWare — would actually make that call.

When the demo rolled around and there was a load screen to access the inventory? That suspicion clicked more firmly in place, and yet still hope was held onto. Ah well. Live and learn. I still hope to be able to reinstall some day in the future for a great, more complete experience.

Full Changes to the Game List

Removed

  • Anthem
  • The Elder Scrolls Online

Nearly Removed

  • Final Fantasy XIV

Added

  • Far Cry: New Dawn
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Tomb Raider (2013)

I didn’t login to The Elder Scrolls Online at all last month, with Final Fantasy XIV taking the MMO spot in my life. Nothing has put me off ESO, it’s entirely likely I’ll be back. Just… not now.

FFXIV itself is living on the edge with no major activity from me in a while. Still. I hold hope that I’ll get back to it again soon. Not having to do any side-quests is such a win for me.

As to the others I added? I suspect they’ll be short-lived, all being one-and-done campaign style games. Tomb Raider I’ve gone right back to the start of the current trilogy though. I never quite finished it at the time, but going to give it a go again now that the entire series is available. :)