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. ;)

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. :)

Time to Loot Journal: March 2019

March was a trying month, with the Christchurch terrorist attack claiming 50 lives in the end. I struggled for a short time in even knowing how to continue posting here afterward. Not to acknowledge it would by far have been the greater crime, but how does one follow that with another post on something so relatively trivial as ‘gaming’ right afterward?

The solution in my case was to acknowledge the struggle in making that cognitive and emotional leap between the two topics. To acknowledge that gaming had a place in decompressing and spending time with friends in a space where, at least for a moment, the constant flood of news could be put to one side.

In any case! To happier things. This journal format is inspired in large part by Wilhelm’s Month in Review series. I don’t have the historical backing to even look back even so far as a year as yet, but that — and longer — is certainly the aspiration. Kudos too, to Endgame Viable for starting (as I can tell) the use of ManicTime to track gaming-time over the course of the month.

Blog This Month

I made 15 posts this month, down from 22 last month. I did wonder whether the pace would be sustainable or not and honestly even now I’ve still not settled into anything recognisable as a set pattern per se.

There are a grand total of 47 published posts (including this one), so the first mini-milestone of 50 should come early on in April. :)

Most Viewed Posts:

  1. Heart of Rage: Tips for the Monitor
  2. The Division 2 Private Beta — The Dark Zone
  3. Scar Temple: Tips for Scelos
  4. Transition from Social to Solo
  5. Epic Store Claims Another Exclusive

Only #4 and 5 on this list were actually posted this month. The Heart of Rage tips — despite the significant nerfs to the difficulty of the fight and a declining player base — has a little more than 8x the views of #2!

Games This Month

GameHours% Gaming Time
The Division 246.950.2%
Final Fantasy XIV22.223.7%
Far Cry: New Dawn7.98.5%
Anthem5.55.9%
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice4.44.7%
Far Cry 53.63.8%
Fallout 761.81.9%
Devil May Cry 50.70.7%
Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem0.50.5%

For a total of 93.5 gaming hours, out of 241.3 total ‘active’ hours on the computer, or 38.7% of the active hours spent gaming.

The Division 2

No surprises with this one being my main game of the month.

I am a little surprised in retrospect at how relatively few hours I got out of it with the launch content relative to Anthem though. There is no doubt in my mind that The Division 2 is the more fleshed out and complete package of the two titles and has left me with the more positive impression overall. But it would appear that the gear stratification and knowing we have another tier releasing very soon has been very effective at putting me into a ‘hurry up and wait’ mindset.

I still haven’t reviewed or really even posted a detailed set of impressions on The Division 2 yet, but that is still something in the works.

Final Fantasy XIV

I jumped both feet back into FFXIV only earlier this month.

In part there was a gap until The Division 2, but mostly because I had worked myself into a bit of a frenzy for it after exposure to the Shadowbringers Trailer1.

While it wasn’t the plan to replace ESO, in retrospect it seems obvious there was no other outcome. Both are strongly story focused MMOs that serve a similar role in my gaming line-up.

That initial mad-rush and hyped feeling is gone. Heck, at the launch of Division 2 I almost regretted it because it meant less FFXIV time! But even with this, I still do want to dive into more and be ready — if I can — for Shadowbringer’s launch. Guess we’ll see how it fares this month. :)

Far Cry: New Dawn (and Far Cry 5)

I covered these only the other day in my admission of falling back into the impulse / ‘it’s on a sale’ purchasing habits. *cough*

Far Cry 5 would’ve likely rated a bit more time except I’m playing it exclusively in co-op and the friend I’m playing with was away from home over the weekend since we picked it up.

New Dawn on the other hand… I might be approaching the end of my time with. Maybe. I felt myself drifting from it a bit yesterday. But what I might do instead is break away from the more ‘completionist’ aspects of it and beeline the main story.

Anthem

*sigh* Moving on.

More seriously, I acknowledged putting Anthem on hold this month but I’d all but put it down by the end of February.

Each patch, including the last 1.0.4, I’ve dipped my toes back in against my better judgement ‘just to see’ which is why it has even broke the 5 hour mark.

I was looking at my review the other day in light of current feelings to see if I still stood by it. I do, for however I feel about it now I can’t deny the 90+ hours of joy it brought earlier.

Give this game another year and it could be something truly special.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

I also talked about this one (very briefly) in my last post2.

I’d barely touched it at the time — you know, a whopping two days ago. Endgame Viable posted some spoiler free quick thoughts — so far I agree with all of this bullet points, but none more so than prior Dark Souls experience not necessarily being helpful.

Overriding previous muscle memory reactions with the completely different set that Sekiro requires is no easy task (so far). I haven’t tackled any of the ‘major’ bosses yet, but have 3 mini-bosses under my belt so far (not counting the ‘tutorial’ one). The first one took me the longest when I was least familiar with the controls.

Fallout 76

Wait, what?

This was something of an experiment. After the overwhelming degree of negativity surrounding Anthem I started to wonder. Did Fallout 76 deserve the hate it received? Had it been improved by its patches already? For $20 on sale at the beginning of the month, I was willing to find out.

Look, I probably didn’t give it an entirely fair shake. Would it have received more of a look-in if I wasn’t actively hankering to play FFXIV at the time? Possibly.

But I didn’t get on with it. I’d be reluctant to say it deserves the hate it gets now based on less than 2 hours, though. It looks to have a pretty good 2019 roadmap including a main quest-line, so perhaps I’ll give it more of a shot later on down the road.

Devil May Cry 5

The screenshot over to the right there is from before the main menu loads.

It’s about all I feel qualified to really write about the title so far. I held on buying this one for a while, thought I might even wait on a sale. I loved DMC 4 though, and ultimately the praise DMC 5 was getting was too much to say ‘no’ to.

When will I play it though? … That’s… That’s a great question.

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem

Despite the low played time this month, Wolcen likely deserves a full post of its own.

It’s an ARPG that has been on a very slow burn, development wise. I Kickstarted it (back when it was still going by ‘Umbra’) over 4 years ago. What I played was not the full release, oh no. That is probably coming sometime shortly before Star Citizen. What I played was the newly released ‘Gameplay Beta’ which is, to be fair, quite the extension over the technical betas they had running last year.

It is similar in concept to Diablo 3’s adventure mode. There is plenty to like about Wolcen, I think one day it is going to be an excellent title. But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone yet.

Still though…

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!