Time to Loot Journal: Blaugust 2019

Wowser, eh? What. A. Ride. August was a month that started with hype halfway through July. The mission: Post every day throughout the month of August (or as near to as you can manage). I have no doubt Belghast will do a round-up when the timezones around the world catch-up.

As a challenge, I loved it but I’m so glad it’s over. It was, for me at least, an actual challenge. Posting every day is simply not something I could sustainably do. Even so, I’ve posted every day for thirty-six consecutive days1 now and I’m looking forward to the break! Or at least, the option to take a break. I can’t say for sure I won’t post again tomorrow. But it’d be different, with the pressure to do it turned off.

Then over the top of that, was all the health stuff. I had my endoscopy on August 2nd and a colonoscopy yesterday. Biopsies were taken from the endoscopy and all came back clear. No biopsy necessary from the colonoscopy and the doctor performing the procedure was satisfied that all was clear there, too.

This is all good news! Very good news. It leaves the mystery of why iron count is so low, but so far? Cancer doesn’t appear to be the answer. The proposal from here is that I get some iron supplements from my GP and try them for a time — see if it brings the count back up where it should be. Although even if it does, if a three month check-up on the bloods post-iron supplements sees the iron low again, I’ll be back in for the third procedure — to swallow a capsule camera thinger to investigate the small intestine as well.

But for now, there is a reprieve from procedures and the most likely spots given the other symptoms have been cleared. :)

The Blog this Month

Published 31 posts this month. Up from 13 from last month, which was already a high post count month for me.

This also means I hit my Blaugust goal of one a day! :D

As for totals, this will make for 129 published posts. This busts my previous record of 97 posts on Fun in Games. So I’m going to predict hitting 200 posts in Feb 2020. It will be interesting to see how far off that is if, as a result of Blaugust, my post pace shifts around again.

Also of note, was tagged into two (well, three actually — but I still have to respond to one! Sorry PizzaMaid!) of the social Q&A type things that go around. One of the responses even ended up as third most read post this month! The other though, was this one. I think these can certainly be a good bit of fun, but I’d be reluctant to start letting them run rampant around the place! xD

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Transport Fever: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started
  2. Age of Wonders: Planetfall Modernises TBS Multiplayer
  3. Finding a topic #2 & Real Neat Blog Award
  4. Lost Ark: Assassin Unleashed
  5. A Better MMO

The Age of Wonders: Planetfall post ranking so highly this month did initially surprise me a bit — it was mostly about recounting the story my friends and I went through discovered the advances to the save system made since AoW3.

But I suppose it was posted during the review hype cycle, and multiplayer is an element of hot interest. I expect this will be off the top 5 list entirely next month.

Games this Month

RankGameHours% Gaming TimeChange
1No Man’s Sky (Beyond Update)32.041.2%New
2Lost Ark10.413.4%No Change
3Age of Wonders: Planetfall9.812.5%New
4World of Warcraft Classic8.510.9%New
5Final Fantasy XIV7.19.2%↓4
6Remnant: From the Ashes5.77.3%New
7Warframe2.32.9% ↓2

August saw a total of 75.7 gaming hours, down 2.1 hours from July.

While not quite to the crazy peak of July, August saw 293.7 total active hours on the PC. This is down 23.5 hours from last month. Part driven by a few days working from home, but also no doubt a sign of the extra time put into posting to hit the Blaugust goal.

I had expected the total hours to drop fairly significantly again this month — but as noted, there was a few days working from home, on top of Blaugust itself keeping that figure high.

For August overall, this means gaming made up 25.8% of the active hours, up 1.4% from last month.

But…

The PC Only Problem

The tracking in the table above is all done via ManicTime2 meaning it is PC bound in what is picked up.

Most months tracking PC Only would be beyond fine. I hardly ever touch my consoles. This month however I’ve sunk perhaps 20 hours into Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

I thought about incorporating into the table, but ultimately decided to retain the PC Only accuracy, and call out examples like FE:TH as and when they happen, which isn’t terribly common.

No Man’s Sky

The Beyond Update is an amazing piece of work in its own right. If you check out that update page, it just goes on and on. If you had only heard about the headline features (VR and Expanded Multiplayer) you could be forgiven for thinking everyone was making much about nothing.

But for someone like me who hasn’t really touched the game since it’s 2016 state, the Beyond Update isn’t the entire story. Rather it is the compounding impact of a series of updates, each on their own with no power to bring me back for a look. Although speaking honestly, some of them I didn’t even know existed! Like this one — Visions — tagged as 1.75, or a ‘minor’ follow-up to The Abyss (which I had heard about at the time).

Where The Abyss looked to enhance the underwater experience and diversify the biomes down below, adding in new technology to explore — including a submersible exocraft, and underwater base building components — Visions focused itself above ground on planetary texture diversity and atmospheric conditions. The fact that previously planets had only a single texture the whole way around really hurt the experience for me, enough that I noted it in my original review of the title:

My original 2016 review of No Man’s Sky — now in need of quite an update.

Beyond gave No Man’s Sky a ‘2.0’ version, in reality I’d think it now in a 1.0 ready state. But it is at least, 1.0 ready. All of the issues I discussed in that review have been addressed to varying degrees. I hope work on the title continues to further add depth where needed though.

Either way, already I can say that it hasn’t gone down the Spore road, and that’s a great thing. ;)

Lost Ark

OK, after the near post-length commentary on NMS, this one is going to be super brief by comparison!

I’m going to remove it from the sidebar now, and uninstall! Trigger for this being my VPN subscription has expired and I don’t intend to resubscribe to it another month.

I feel at last I’ve had enough of a fill to tide me over until, if not an actual Western release, then at least a release a little more friendly to foreigners comes along. Then can actually play into the endgame and interact with the community without fear of being found out and reported!

Age of Wonders: Planetfall

Planetfall created a really strong first impression, but unlike Stellaris or even it’s direct predecessor, Age of Wonders 3, it hasn’t brought us back night after night (or at least Saturday after Saturday) to get more of it.

One of my best friends who was an absolute fiend for AoW3 and was by far the most excited of all of us for this one has touched it only a little after the first day or two’s flurry. When asked, there isn’t really anything negative about the title to speak of — it just didn’t possess more current pull than say, Warframe did for them at this time.

World of Warcraft Classic

I still don’t know how long WoW Classic will be a part of my gaming routine. I don’t expect to hit 60 or to raid on a schedule even if I do.

I’m almost approaching WoW Classic as less a gaming experience though and more of an archaeological dig. Although that’s not quite — that implies some sort of intent to approach it that way, when really it’s just how it has unfolded for me instead.

The memories it surfaces — good and bad — and the contrast between how veteran MMO players at the time of WoW’s launch viewed WoW then vs. how we see WoW Classic against the lens of today’s MMO’s (not just retail WoW, but FFXIV and essentially all others outside niche types like EVE) is fascinating.

Kaylriene’s On Sandboxes and Themeparks post placed launch state WoW into the Sandbox camp, something I disagreed with, although did think it was much further toward the ‘Sandbox’ end of the spectrum relative to retail today.

I still think that’s the case, but I’ve been shocked by just how much that is the case. It’s night and day, the story generation potential from Classic is just so, so high.

Final Fantasy XIV

I’m a Final Fantasy XIV raider now. >.>

I feel like the raw hour count for FFXIV undersells how much I actually got done in the game this month.

In terms of The Horrible Hundred, I beat Leviathan, then carried on far enough to also then do battle with Rahmuh after negotiations failed.

After that I went through and finished unlocking, and then running, each of the three wings of the Crystal Tower raid.

So only 7 hours? Huh. At first read that surprises me. Will next month be the month I finally break through the 100 and start Heavensward? I dunno! We’ll see. :)

The Others

The actual number of games played was significantly less this month, so only two to mention here this time!

Remnant: From the Ashes is a title that baffled me at first just how it was getting the extreme high rating that it was from Steam. When I was discussing it in the Blaugust Discord, it was sitting around 92% positive on Steam.

But from the critical reviews I had seen, and the Let’s Play I had been watching this seemed waaaaay too positive. I would have expected a 60-70% positive rating. If I hadn’t already Steam’s stats, I would have put some OK money down on a bet that it would be around the 70% mark, in fact.

While it may still get there, as the game isn’t without its issues there is a certain something to the control of Remnant which doesn’t come across even when watching a long form Let’s Play of the game. It’s a game that feels good to play. Much more so than watching the animation quality, variety of weaponry or other such things can possibly imply.

Skill Up has done a fantastic review on the game which helps articulate this very well. It is a long review but I recommend staying onboard until at least the section on difficulty talking about ‘accessible challenge’ that comes in at around 7m 18s. Even if the initial talk of similarities to Dark Souls puts you off, listen through this section!

Apparently I neglected to take any new screenshots of the Eidolon hunt though. D’oh.

Warframe was a bit of a random pop in. Jumped in to go on an Eidolon hunt in a friend group that was forming. But uh, by time we jumped in night only had about 14 minutes left. Whoops. We hadn’t quite destroyed the shield before the Eidolon was awl, ‘The sun cometh! I goeth! Cya later suckers!’

Ah well. :)

Newb’s Impressions of Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Here’s a confession: I’ve never played a Fire Emblem game before now. I have been vaguely aware of their existence. I knew that people who had played them liked them, even. But not really being a Nintendo person they’ve never before crossed my path in any meaningful way. In fact, the Switch is the first Nintendo console I’ve ever owned.1

Even with now owning a Switch, buying Fire Emblem: Three Houses wasn’t really something I’d planned on. I’d not crossed paths with any of the advertising materials or E3 releases about it. It was only through frequent expressions of excitement from others, particularly on Twitter, that I even started to consider it.

And… Well, here we are.

Now 10 hours in, on a scrublord Normal / Casual playthrough.

I did consider bumping the difficulty to hard and allowing permadeath — I’m familiar playing this way in the XCOM series after all. XCOM 2 perhaps being my favourite TBS of all.

But I’m glad I didn’t.

There is… A lot going on here. And much of it different from what I was expecting.

What do you mean they get to ‘counterattack’? It’s my turn!

Yes, I know I should get Edelgard a Steel Axe. Might’ve cleanly one-shot that Rogue. But… The iron one isn’t broken yet!

The first time I saw and recognised a counterattack in action for what it was, it was with an enemy attacking me. My character wasn’t having a bar of that and gave them a mighty wallop in return. Naturally I was all, ‘F- Yeah! Woo! Beat his ass!

Then, with sinking heart I noted that enemies could counterattack too. That just isn’t cricket. Boo.

Combat in in Fire Emblem: Three Houses has put me in the mind of Chess and Magic the Gathering (or other CCG of choice) having offspring. You can see elements of the parents throughout. Positioning matters, attack order matters and there are skills and modifiers to consider too. There is even a layer of strategy to consider over the top of the moment-to-moment tactics, too.

Unmodified by class, skill (or possibly hero items later on) the aggressor gets the CCG equivalent of ‘First Strike’. If your opponent happens to be… You know… Dead, after your attack happens then there is no fear of reprisal. Although if you have a sufficient ‘Speed’ stat advantage to attack twice, the counterattack will come between your swings.

Otherwise you can endeavour to manipulate the limitations of their attack patterns.

Ah Ferdinand… You’ll never rival Edelgard at this rate. She’s level 10 or 11 already!

Melee by and large can only attack horizontally or vertically one square adjacent to their position. You can walk right up next to a hostile sword user — albeit in a diagonal position — and give them a really bad day with a light showering of acid2.

Or you can use an archer to attack that same sword-fellow with impunity from two squares away. Although if your archer is not in turn well protected and the enemy survives, on their turn they can come invade your personal space with a swift chop. Your archer cannot attack into immediately adjacent squares, and so no counter attack for you.

Then there are your attached battalion units. They can be used to attack (often with additional affects, depending on the unit type) without triggering a counterattack. Although your battalion’s can be exhausted and will flee the field if overused.

Then there is the longer term strategic elements that will carry on having an impact outside the current battle. Adjacent fighting units will build relationships and learn to support one another better. You also need to consider how best to provide opportunity for units falling behind in XP to catch-up without putting them at undue risk.

I mean, sure it’s great having a few super units.

But lose even one of these because your healers were one-shot and you’re going to be in a great deal of trouble. Especially if you’re playing the more traditional ‘intended’ experience with potential for permanent character loss.3

The teaching and social elements might just be my favourite parts though

Which is good, because outside an initial battle or two it’s what you’ll almost exclusively do for the first couple of hours.

Practicing the art of small talk over tea with Claude.

Fire Emblem will throw a lot at you over this time. And at first, in combination with learning the layout of the monastery and all the ins and outs of where people might be hiding around the main areas highlighted on the map, it can feel a tad overwhelming.

You’re asked to make a choice between the three houses very early on as well. Which terrified me. Thankfully this wasn’t your ‘final answer’ so to speak. When you’re again asked shortly after this — you are given opportunity to better learn about each group.

The overwhelmed feeling comes back in short order though. Namely when you start looking at the skills you want to teach your students with respect to lining them up to particular classes. Classes that span across a range of tiers, no less. As someone completely unfamiliar with the Fire Emblem classes and what I might even need in the future, hoo boy.

Teach, showing how it’s done.

Fortunately, your students will occasionally come to you with suggestions for their skill goals. You’re absolutely free to ignore them and shoehorn them down a path of your choosing ‘teacher knows best’ style — but if you’re floundering along like I was, this is very helpful.

But their needs extend beyond the purely academic. You need to ensure you’re caring for them as a whole person. Watching out for their motivation, ensuring they get along with not only you but their classmates too.

Fire Emblem offers any number of ways to approach this from Tea Parties (as above) to cooking, group meals, rest days and more. But each tends to have an opportunity cost. Often in expenditure of your rather limited ‘Professor Points’ which dictate how many facilities or major actions you can take.

Also? If you’re doing those things instead of bettering your own skills, how can you maintain top efficiency in teaching your own class?

I feel like with 10 hours in, I’m starting to get a firmer grasp on managing and balancing these aspects. I have no illusions as to being anywhere near close to complete mastery and being able to optimise the crap out of everything I’m doing. But I’m comfortable. There is no longer a need to second guess every action I’m taking as somehow potentially screwing up my game.

PSA: Avoid the official trailers if you don’t want to have a significant story spoiler.

I won’t spoil it again here if you’ve been so far free of it. I’m told it was even in a lot of the promotional material, but my spoiler for this came from the pre-edit version of the Kotaku review. Their defense (I guess somewhat understandably) was that clearly Nintendo didn’t intend it to be a major secret, having included it in their own promotional material.

Nonetheless, I would’ve preferred being shocked and amazed by it when it happened.

I feel that how I’m approaching the game has been at least minutely adjusted just by the knowledge of what is coming — even though I don’t know when or how far off it might yet be.

In any case, final thoughts?

Well, not final final. There is still a huge amount more to do and see in the game.

But I can tell you at the very least I intend to do and see those things. I am really enjoying my first Fire Emblem experience. I can’t wait to see what else the game has to throw at me. (*Chants* hero items, hero items, hero items). The overwhelmed feeling I spoke to was relatively fleeting and just something to push through initially.

It’s also a title that will certainly invite replay. Not only by way of choosing an entirely different choice in from the titular ‘three houses’. But even in how you approach training and class paths for your team. This is a bit of a mixed bag though. The core storyline is expected to run 35-50ish hours. At that sort of length I’m not sure I’d want to go through it all again from the beginning. At least not any time soon.

Dorothea bringing the thunder.

But that’s me — I’m very much a one and done style gamer with anything of this length. I’m the same way about books, too. Even the ones I really love tend to get only a single reading. And its for much the same reason as with games: There are too many more yet to explore!

Ultimately, If you love turn based battles with a side of Persona-esque time management, and already own a Switch? I think this title is certainly one to grab. Reviews elsewhere have been positive and my own experience so far would back this up.

But if you’re after a second opinion — especially if you’re already experienced with the series? Angie from Backlog Crusader has a fantastic full review up written from that perspective.

And whether you’re experienced or not, Robert from Adventure Rules has put up an amazing set of Fire Emblem: Three Houses beginner tips.