Making Time for Games

I mentioned back in the April Journal that playing Sekiro was, more than anything else, making me want to play Nioh again. But I didn’t really act on it at the time. I didn’t feel like I had the time for it, and instead mentally slotted it into a short-term backlog. This is not an unusual cycle for me to go through. It also happened with Final Fantasy XIV, just since this blog has been alive.

It doesn’t always happen that way though. Sometimes it’s more of a spontaneous, ‘I want to so by golly I’m going to’ type arrangement, as was the case with Transport Fever when I wanted to play something more tycoony again.

In any case, I digress! With this post I don’t mean to talk about creating more total time to spend gaming. But rather about prioritisation. Fitting the games I want to play into the time I have, and the ones that get dropped as a result.

I was reflecting on this and how things may’ve changed since I started blogging again. And how it hasn’t. I think for the most part I’ve simply become more aware of it now that it can have a fairly direct impact on what I write about here. I certainly believed my game choices to be fairly random previously, but in truth the same patterns were followed.

Perhaps just a little more… Quickly. I found that before the rate at which I would flip games was much higher.

Either way, it does have the rather poor side effect of meaning that I rarely finish a game. I imagine there being a sort of seesaw style graph where interest in the current game and interest in a new game intersect, and eventually tips from current to new. Typically well before the current is finished.

The strength of interest in the current game can shift where the tipping point is precisely, but it’s a rare thing indeed to have it occur after I finish a game.

I guess the question then becomes is this actually a bad thing if fun is still being had? I tend to view incomplete games as a negative, but also simply as a fact of life. I would never have time to play everything I wanted to if I insisted on finishing everything I started… So perhaps it’s actually OK.

But there is no other entertainment medium I’d apply this to. I finish books. I finish movies. Generally even TV shows. I couldn’t imagine even trying to apply a taster style approach to these… So why games?

Playing Past the End

I ‘finished’ Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey roughly 20 hours of play ago. I finished what I would consider to be the main story thread regarding your family in any case. Perhaps 10 hours of play ago, I finished the story strand linking present-day and the Isu — The First Civilisation. There are a few other story strands that will have endings of their own, I’m assuming. Such as eliminating once and for all the Cult of Kosmos and raising to the very top of the Mercenary rankings.

But those are certainly second-fiddle to resolving the family story. You might have gathered already, but simply getting that far in a single-player title is unusual for me. I come by my massive backlog of unfinished titles honestly. ;)

For a good while I thought Odyssey would fall to the same fate, as I’d put in a little over 20 hours at launch and then never touched it again. Certainly returning to blogging has seen me make a more concerted effort at finishing things, but Odyssey has gone beyond even that. I haven’t been able to put it down!

With this context, it’s probably also going to come as no surprise that I’m not a completionist by nature. I absolutely know there is no world in which I truly ‘100%’ this game with all side content done, achievements completed, etc. I probably won’t even make any sort of serious dent into a ‘New Game+’ mode.

I’m still playing on because:

  • First, it’s fun as all hell. Nothing else would matter if this wasn’t true.
  • I’m getting my game ‘ready’ for the DLC. All three chapters of ‘The Legacy of the First Blade’ are out now and the first chapter of the second season of DLC, ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ is also out.
    • Before I start this DLC, I wish to complete the two story strands I mentioned earlier — the Cult and the Mercenaries.

I’m just about there on both threads. There is in fact only one Mercenary between me and the top spot. I just need to discover who they are so I can track them down and… have a chat about our relative positions in life.

The Cult is going to take a bit more work still. I’ve cleansed the world of several branches already, but there are still more clues to be discovered and identities uncovered before I understand who the overall leader is. One of the last clues I received on the leader’s identity was extremely intriguing, too. I am almost ready to make an assumption on who it is before being able to more ‘formally’ uncover them, but I’m happy taking out some more of their underlings for now.

Although I must admit, I am getting rather antsy to start into the DLC already. Soon. Soon!

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.

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!

Pilgrimage to the Angry Dead

Amazingly, the nobility are not jerks to me. Prince Naemon was quite nice even. Clearly they know what a close, personal friend of the Queen I am.

So last time on <Elder Scrolls Online Adventures without a Name because Naithin is Bad at Planning>, I wrapped up saving Queen Ayrenn and was thus rewarded with an invite to come along with her in pilgrimage. This seemed like a lovely invitation for a job well done at the time. Now I learn this isn’t your average pilgrimage. This one involves unhappy Spirits and clergy-folk in need of rescue.

Shouldn’t these only be out at night or something? It seems far too lovely a day for this sort of carry on.

One spirit in particular — Colonwe — was angrier than the others. And quite intent on seeing my face introduced with the earth. I started checking the Journal to see if I had perhaps missed that this was meant to be a group quest, perhaps?

But no, this was just the first ‘git gud’ check I’d encountered. Do you know when to block? When to dodge roll? No? Hope you brought some res stones then.

Between performing better — and a timely full charge of my ultimate — I ultimately took Colonwe down. It seems she was willingly in support of the ‘Veiled Heritance’ group I’d been hearing whispers of in the last town and who seemed to be behind the assassination attempt.

Clearing the corruption with a loaned Altmer holy symbol

Other spirits in the area however had been corrupted, rather than willingly complicit. I cleared the corruption as well I could in the hopes that they may eventually come to their senses.

Queen Ayrenn suspects a fellow called ‘Norion’. I think she is right, given his signature had been over notes just left absolutely everywhere around here. Either that or it was the worlds clumsiest frame-job. Either way, we’re about to go find whoever it is in the crypts below.

The Queen and I fought I way through the minions, growing ever more curious who we might find behind it all.

Ah. Norion after all. Have at thee, fiend!

Coming down the stairs, the battle with Norion was joined. He realised quickly the Queen was the more competent fighter than I and tried to remove my head from shoulder.

The fight with Colonwe earlier had put me in better stead to beat such an opponent where there was more to it than simply getting out of the red bits. So without need of a res stone, I put Norion’s plotting days to an end.

Two things are becoming clear to me though:

  1. The Veiled Heritance are clearly bad, this doesn’t seem to be just a minor political difference in views… But,
  2. They also seem to think their claim on the throne is legitimate. I’d dearly love to find out why.

Perhaps I’ll find out in Mathiisen, where I’m being sent next to meet up with Razum-dar again. The town has been infiltrated it would seem and this is very much not a good thing as Mathiisen is a forge town — responsible for the provision of weapons and armor to the region.

Mage Tower in the Vale

I almost made it directly there too, but I happened across a rather upset looking lady sitting alone around an encampment altogether too big just for her.

A mage has taken the rest of the entourage — they fell behind Queen Ayrenn, being the fast, independent traveler that she is — and is experimenting with their minds.

I managed to rescue all three trapped members of the entourage, getting them out from their personal hell’s. These places were not entirely immaterial it seems, in the last realm I found the corpse of one of the mage’s past assistants. In their final hours, trapped here in the cold, they took the time to document the changes seen in their master. How toying with the minds of others had warped his own.

Despite our deal, I was fairly confident the mage wasn’t going to let me go after this experiment was over. I was also confident that I couldn’t let him continue with such experiments in the future. I was right. And I was the only one to leave his tower when our ‘discussion’ on this was done.

Onward, to Matthisen

The Sewers under Matthisen

Compared the Mind Mage, clearing Matthisen seemed almost mundane. Of course, Raz was right. This place was rotten to the top. Whether for money or a sense of belief in the Veiled Heritance’s claims, I don’t know. But they were supplying refuge and weapons to the enemy and could be shown no mercy.

After our initial investigations were complete, Raz had what he clearly thought to be a ‘great plan’ for getting my rather unstealthy-self inside. That plan? Get myself captured. On purpose. Walk right up on in there all pompous-like and announce myself. Play to my strengths, basically.

This pretty much worked and I came out little worse for wear, other than a new bump on the head to add to the collection. Raz came in how Raz does and let me out, then we got to work.

One of the leaders was down before they even knew what was going on. The other managed a temporary escape through the sewers, shown above. It was a short-lived flight however, and Matthisen rests once again in the hands of loyalists.

Raz is going to meet me further north, but first, a detour.

Level 15, now able to weapon swap between Destruction and Restoration staves at will.

A Detour

Teleported back to town to deal with my ever increasing inventory problem and to learn crafting. By level 10 if I haven’t started down a crafting track I start getting antsy. Which is odd, because depending on the game, I may not ever touch it again until max level. Especially not when you can gather everything without having picked up the skills like you can in ESO.

Nonetheless, I could feel my 5-levels-overdueness, so I started learning Woodworking from the Certificate Master type person. After I’m certified for this, I’ll likely take a look at Clothier. They seem like good fits for a Sorcerer type.

I uh, also happened into the Inn (but definitely not to talk to a quest-giver off the main path… >.>) and was presented with what at first seemed a rather saucy offer. A lady in there wanted to show me into a room.

Turned out to be nothing so untoward. I think I might be an ESO influencer now? She wanted me to take a room, as having and using one in Inn’s she owns would increase their prestige.

So I’m the proud owner (rent-free squatter?) of an Inn room. I haven’t quite worked out how to decorate it yet. But uh. It’s also pretty small.

Iiiitty bitty room.

The Time for Talk is Over

Oops.

Hrm. So, last time I maaaay’ve been a tad… overconfident… in my abilities to persuade everyone of doing things my way. I thought I was done with Khenarthis Rest — war averted, shoulder armor equipped, day saved.

Not so much, as it turns out. The Maormer (Sea Elves) were still very much in favour of attacking the port, in order to express their vast dissatisfaction with the Dominion coming in and laying any sort of claim to the area.

Yelling ‘I come in peace!’ seemed to have little impact.

Plan B: Kill the bad guys, steal their electricity.

So after being tricked into experimenting with extremely high voltage lightning pillars armed with only a lodestone — and surviving, it was time to move to plan B.

There was a small army inside this place, but I still managed to take away all their zappy-zap-power. Unfortunately, they did still have one trick up their sleeve.

I get to summon a tiny goblin thing, and they get this?? The distance belies the scale.

Luckily, the Maormer only had a very tenuous control over this titanic elemental beast. So once I disengaged their safeguards it was more interested in slaughtering its captors than anything else. Moral of the story: It’s not the size of your summon, it’s how you command it.

I decided after releasing it though to make a quick exit. What could really go wrong with just leaving it be anyway? A trifling detail, one I saw no need to rain on the party with as my success against the Maormer was being celebrated in the ruins of town.

… In unrelated news, I’m off by boat to Vulkhel Guard in Auridon.

Vulkhel Guard

Much better. Far less fire and destruction going on here.

It was upon reaching Vulkhel Guard that I decided to reassert the original plan upon myself. Ignore all side content, work through only quests required for the main storyline.

That’s. All. THAT’S. ALL. … Unless this happens. WHAT IS THIS?

There’s a Stargate in my sky. It… appears to be trying to float away? I don’t know. I should go investigate.

I fought against the G’ould Daedra coming out of the Stargate Dolmen alongside a number of other folk ranging in levels from 7 to 40-something. It reminded me a lot of rifts in, uh, Rift.

I returned in short order though and spoke to the Guard Captain like Raz had asked me to.

I’ll spare some of the details here for those who may yet wish to go through it themselves, but I ended up saving the day again (properly, this time) and joining Queen Ayrenn’s secret service.

This is essentially where I wrapped up the last two nights of play. I’m level 11, almost 12 and about to embark on a pilgrimage of sorts with the Queen it would seem.

I really want to keep to the main path. I’ve been pretty good at steadfastly ignoring all the other quest pick-up markers on the map in Vulkhel Guard. But I know me. And after even just these few posts, you might have an inkling too.

Once I leave town and see the compass map-markers in every-which-way around me…? All bets are off.

Restarting in Tamriel

The other day, I rather naively had a bit of a panic about what to do since the Anthem demos were finished. You see, I thought everything was going to go into this… sort of… rumbly quiet of anticipation. Instead we’ve had post-launch updates announced and I managed to get into The Division 2’s Private Beta thanks to Skill-Up.

But! But! I still did get into The Elder Scrolls again. *cough* For that one day. By the time I get back in we’ll be down from 9 days til Anthem early access to… Less. I’m unsure how much more time I’ll give to The Division 2 beta, but I would guess another day at least to cover the Darkzone and PvP.

Anywho, ESO!

Getting Started

If you’re unfamiliar, The Elder Scrolls Online scales to the player level. Everywhere, everything. You can waltz into any zone at all, and it’ll be your level.

When you own the expansions for ESO, freshly created characters will start in the latest content. I guess the thinking being that the latest content is the freshest, the benefit of the most updates to the capabilities of the game etc.

But if you want to follow the story of the new area…? Well, good luck. It’s not impossible by any stretch, but only if you don’t mind wondering, ‘Who’s that and why do they know me?’ every few minutes.

This was one of the factors that lead me to drop the game last time around.

The Plan

I didn’t end up going with a Ranger/Bow type character, no, instead I made a Magicka based Breton Sorcerer. Full on caster. Rar.

I also planned on skipping the tutorial and then immediately getting away from Summerset Isle (the latest expansion) and finding my way back to the starter zone for my faction. … I almost don’t want to say, but I went Dominion, largely because I’ve never done them before. Not last time I played, nor back in the beta.

So that put me into Khenarthis Roost. Apparently if you want to do the main quest, the tutorial is absolutely not optional. Because:

Here we are. The tutorial. After, might I add, quite a brutal scene of being knocked unconscious and then being dragged away to be sacrificed! :o

Not to worry, I’ve played through this tutorial thing a few times now so I blasted through it in no time.

Now, surely, I would adhere to the critical path story only. I wanted to experience the story, sure, but I also wanted to be efficient in getting through it. So when Razum’Dar — the definitely-not-a-spy Khajit — told me I could either investigate a couple of side things or head straight up north to meet him, I knew what I had to do.

The Reality

Not shown: Also going to join the Mage’s guild, the Fighter’s guild and the Undaunted. Er, and also then trying a dungeon. Solo. (It didn’t go well.)

I ended up putting a struggling family in prison for Skooma manufacture. I’m still not sure I did the right thing here. I think I did. But I’m not sure.

What I basically noticed though is that my character is either a much bigger deal than I thought, or I have accidentally been spending all my points each level on Persuasion rather than Magicka like I thought I was.

Because everyone simply does what I say. From vengeful grieving widows to officers of the law who moments ago were eyeing me as the prime suspect. I say, they do. Always. Except for that talking Skeleton guy. He was mean.

The good news is, I did actually get around to finishing off the main questline in this area… I think. I mean, I stopped a diplomatic incident from escalating into out and out war.

And it was around that time that I received my first piece of shoulder armor. That’s when you know you’ve made it to the big time. I don’t really know why I had such sway over the NPCs before — but they’d certainly better listen to me now! I got shoulders!

So I ended my adventures of a few nights ago at level 9 and feeling quite positive about the game. Had I not been distracted by The Division 2 and the Anthem news blow-out, I would be back already — as it is, I will be going back soon and I can’t wait!