By The Skin Of Their Teeth

Not all losses are acceptable.

One of my favourite gaming experiences in the last few years is XCOM: Enemy Within. It’s not that surprising as I do enjoy turn-based strategy, but I really enjoyed the depth of mechanics present in the modern XCOM series and how infuriating but simultaneously fun it could be. I’ve long considered multiple campaigns with increasingly brutal sets of conditions. That said, I’ve yet to play XCOM 2. I’ve also yet to experience the many wondrous things that I’ve heard about the War of the Chosen expansion pack. So I decided to do both at the very same time.

Despite having no idea how either one works.

Initially it can be quite an overwhelming experience. For those entirely new to XCOM 2 there’s a lot to learn about the various unit classes, the new (and rather powerful) unit development mechanics, the different facilities that you can build, the different kinds of missions (and rewards from them), and so many other things.

There’s also the minor issue of the Chosen appearing on missions and basically ruining your day. Easily surmountable once you’ve discovered what they can do and developed a strategy for dealing with them, but absolutely terrifying in the first encounters. Where the Assassin runs across the entire map to stab and daze a soldier, then vanish, and retreat into the fog of war. While you’re under fire from an ADVENT MEC or two. Totally normal day in the life of an XCOM operative and I won’t hear otherwise. That said, it is an oddly satisfying experience. It becomes significantly easier as you hunt down the Chosen, as you progress through the main story, and as your soldiers become increasingly more powerful but it’s still deeply enjoyable.

One final shot to bring it down. Or you’ll miss and be annihilated.

The notion of encountering a Sectopod on a mission is still daunting (albeit less so) even when you have the most advanced weapons and armour. Just ask the entirely unaware Ranger who helped me figure out what Wrath Cannon is and how much damage it does. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting the outcome that I got. But that’s the way that you live and learn. Or, more accurately, that’s the way I lived and learned. I can’t say the same for that poor, unfortunate, remarkably selfless soul. On the other hand, Sectopods are quite useless when you’re controlling one.

I am quite impressed with the variety of aliens, though.

It feels as though there are multiple aliens which offer an individual challenge with individual mechanics. There are far less simply hiding in (and firing from) cover and more that utilise unique abilities, take to the skies, rain death upon you, or lay eggs in the corpses of deceased civilians. Yes. They’re back. With armour.

I’m planning on writing a more comprehensive post soon which details the different classes, mechanics, and other interesting things that I’ve enjoyed about XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. But this seemed as good a time as any to write about the modern XCOM series as I’ve greatly enjoyed both XCOM: Enemy Within and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the Tactical Legacy Pack has to offer. It won’t mean much to my current campaign as I’ll be doing it after I finish the main story, but in any future campaigns it would be nice to see how the unlocked equipment affects my progress and ultimately whether it’s worth having. That said, I highly recommend both XCOM 2 and the War of the Chosen expansion pack. They’re pretty awesome!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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A Refined Outlook

Things are slowly but steadily improving.

I’ve not yet mentioned it on Moggie’s Proclamations but I’ve added Instagram to the list of social media sites I frequent. I’d been thinking about doing so from as early as the end of April last year, however it took until the end of October last year to actually set everything up. I’m quite happy with it, though. Naturally being entirely new to the site I’ve few followers to speak of, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find that my pieces are being found and engaged with regardless. It’s certainly a better and more consistent response than I’ve received on Twitter over the years.

It features more traditional artists than expected, too.

Then again, given the nature of the platform, that’s not really too surprising as it is all about taking photographs of things. Which I definitely do. Yes. I’m hopeful that over the next year I’ll be adding much more content to Instagram and that it’ll serve to mostly tie together my creative, gaming, and other content.

I can’t really share too much about Moggie’s Proclamations on Instagram as I would on Twitter. But that’s also fine. I’ve been thinking about intergrating this blog with my personal site and having the two work together, to raise awareness of the content on here. Especially the creative content. As I would like the Material Studies posts to feature on the site somewhere. Somehow. Hence the recent updates to my personal site, as I would like to have a more cohesive approach to things. Which, to be fair, is actually working, as I’ve found that I’m quite pleased with everything as it stands at the moment. However, both this blog and my personal site will never be truly finished as they are a perpetual work in progress. They change as I do or as what I do changes.

Most of the updates to my personal site are relatively minor as they mostly address layout or page issues. However, there are some substantial changes made to the actual number of (and categorisation of) pieces on the site. With some being moved to different sections, some consolidated into a new page structure, and some removed. So it’s quite a significant update despite not looking any different. But it may start to look different as I work with the new layout to accomodate the Material Studies posts.

In the same way this blog has also seen a few minor updates.

Mostly, again, to mirror the recategorisation or removal of certain pieces, but also to standardise the categorisation of posts. I’ve got more updates for Moggie’s Proclamations, and I’ll be working on those slowly and steadily over the next month. I’m hoping to find time to create content at some point, too.

That’d be nice. But I’m still rather hopeful that this year will provide more content than the last and that things will continue to improve. I feel as though I’ll be done with the majority of the updates at the end of January, and that, at that point, I’ll have very little else to do other than focus on new content. I found it quite refreshing working on the content for Instagram, as that features myriad pieces from different periods in time and of different states of completion. It’s interesting to see how well the finished pieces and the works in progress sit comfortably next to each other. These social media changes will likely be the last that I make. So, wherever this goes, and whatever happens as a result of it, this is likely to be the last iteration. Let’s make it a good one.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Festive Reflections

I should probably have stopped eating mince pies after the twelfth one.

It’s a lot like the Steam Winter Sale. You tell yourself that this year you’re only going to buy one new video game and instead work through your backlog, but inevitably you end up with a list of discounted titles. You can’t turn back now, though. Nay! That would show weakness. So, in a moment of pride, and utter senselessness, you purchase the whole shopping cart. It’s not the best decision you’ve ever made, but they do add to your backlog and you did say you were going to work through it. So you’re still doing what you said you were going to do, right?

Personally, I’ve been buying JRPGs. I’ve missed those.

Of those JRPGs the most notable is Battle Chasers: Nightwar. A delightfully adorable and incredibly enjoyable experience which is reminiscent of Breath of Fire III on the PS1, but with a much better fishing minigame. Fishing which (I would assume) is somewhat required. As it’s one of the few reliable ways to earn Shadow Coins.

I’ve been fairly lucky with engaging gaming experiences in the last year or so. Most recently I decided to finally purchase Book of Demons (as it had come out of Early Access) and it was fantastic. Both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before Storm were wonderfully executed narrative-driven experiences, while Okami HD prompted nostalgic reminders of yesteryear. I was also able to experience Final Fantasy XV for the first time, which was surprisingly better than expected. Not to forget the wonderful (yet somewhat finicky) Divinity: Original Sin and the exceptional sequel Divinity: Original Sin II. I also spent more than a few hours playing through the story for Dragon Ball FighterZ, and I might have actually won an arcade match or two in that time.

It’s been a particularly odd year for my creative pursuits, though. I feel as though I’ve made decent enough progress, and that digital painting in particular has surpassed all prior expectations while still rapidly improving. But I haven’t finished as many pieces as I would’ve liked. This more or less aligns to a rather distressing turn of events in my personal life. For that reason I’m not surprised by my lack of commitment, but I do want to start this year with a greater focus on all things creative. I’ve actually been working on a few updates today towards that end.

I shall, however, share further details about those later.

I’m quite excited to see how things will develop as these minor updates work alongside major updates from last year. Together they promise a much better foundation for future content with more accessibility, and more opportunities to coherently connect various parts of the collection of sites together.

With the coming year I would’ve been using WordPress for seven years and it’s interesting seeing how things have changed. How I’ve changed. How my ideas have evolved. How the kinds of content I’ve been creating have developed. And how, even after all this time, and through all of these iterations, I’ve still got ideas for what I can do next. How I can make things better. How I can provide a broader range of content that still holds true to the original intentions. I’m most excited to work on traditional pieces again and to finish some of my older digital paintings. I’ve got quite a few concepts in mind for both. Here’s to hoping that this year at least proves to be better than the last, and that I might finally realise some amount of the potential I perceive myself to have.

Happy New Year, all!

Moggie

Newly Constructed

I haven’t done this in a few years.

Following a series of increasingly expensive decisions I built a new computer this weekend. It wasn’t an entirely necessary upgrade as new releases were still running at the highest settings at 1920 x 1080 resolution, but it was becoming evident that my ability to upgrade my older machine was rapidly decreasing. Which is to say that the video card upgrade from last year was the last possible upgrade I could make. Or, rather, it was the only upgrade that wasn’t ludicrously expensive for the performance boost it would’ve afforded the system.

I learned much of this while looking at video cards.

I wasn’t entirely sure as to which video card would best suit this new system. At first I was looking at either the GTX 1070 or the GTX 1080, but both of these cards were older models and comparable to the prices of the newly released RTX 2070. Which I would assume would provide better system performance.

The full specification of the machine features an i5 9600k 3.7ghz six core processor, 32gb of 3200mhz DDR4 RAM, a RTX 2070 (with 8gb DDR6 VRAM), and a 1tb SSD as an operating system drive. I had considered an eight core processor, but this is a machine that can be repeatedly upgraded and I don’t feel as though I need it immediately. So we can add that to the list of things that might change in the future. The RAM is of a much higher specification than what was in my older machine, and also has the capability to be of an even higher specification due to the XMP profiles present in BIOS. Which was the entire motivation for building this machine in the first place. I want to be able to build on the system over time and not have to continually replace the motherboard.

I’m not only surprised by how small that SSD is but that it worked without needing to be configured.

As a result of building this new machine I finally decided to replace my failing secondary monitor. I now have a 3840 x 2160 resolution primary monitor, and my older 1920 x 1080 resolution primary monitor is now (an actually functional) secondary monitor which I plan to finally start using. I’m actually thinking it could be a valuable tool for my creative efforts. I’d be able to have references or what have you on a secondary monitor, while having the full workspace of the primary monitor available.

I’m also pleasantly surprised with the new resolution.

Everything I’ve tried so far (that could actually support different resolutions) has had no issue running at this resolution. I’ve run into a few issues where the resolution is actually supported but it’s not very stable, and so I’ve had to remain at 1920 x 1080 resolution for those. More testing will be required to determine whether it’s best to run them as fullscreen or windowed, though.

As with most of my modern systems I’ve had little to no issues getting everything to run. I was incredibly surprised that the Steam library functionality now reconnects to every installed title, and doesn’t require you to manually reinstall each for it to find the existing files. That certainly saved me some time. My initial testing has also revealed that almost everything is willing to run without issue. I almost miss the days where setting up a new machine would require hours of testing or possible unexplained errors. It’s also a little sad to think that this machine could be one of the last that I build for a very long time. Even if that was the purpose of pursuing the components as I did, it’s still something that will be absent from my life in the years to come.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Wrought From Atomic Fire

Bathed in the undying glow of a new civilisation.

Fallout 4 has always been an interesting web of contradictions. Having enjoyed both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, my initial impression was that Fallout 4 would provide a broader story and more engaging mechanics. Which it does. Kind of. Having started a new character recently I’ve noticed that almost every improvement is immediately countered with a drawback. Such as the expanded crafting mechanics, which, while they do function as intended, also have arbitrary level requirements that make it difficult to effectively utilise them.

I’ve never really understood the reasoning behind level requirements for perks.

It feels as if they’re artificially lengthening character development by forcing you to invest elsewhere for no discernible reason. This is most noticeable when you want to craft workbenches in any settlement, as that requires a fairly heavy investment into Charisma and two perks to unlock. Even though most settlements only feature one or two workbenches by default.

Criticisms aside, I do enjoy Fallout 4 and I’ve yet to experience the majority of the DLC which is the sole motivation for creating this character. I feel as though I could enjoy Fallout 4 as much I’ve enjoyed Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, but I need to experience it from a different perspective to do so. A perspective that I hope this character will provide. I’ve not really settled on a character build, either. I was thinking about using pistols but settled on automatic weapons. I’ve been thinking about using power armour but I’m also interested in armour sets. I’d usually be frustrated by such a lack of clarity, but it’s actually advantageous for a character that could change my opinion of Fallout 4. I’m able to utilise many more mechanics with no build in mind.

If I’d been tethered to a corpse for years I think I’d hate camping, too.

Following the rather spontaneous return to The Commonwealth I also decided to purchase Fallout 76. I’d been somewhat disinterested with the development of Fallout 76 due to having little information about how viable it is to experience the content alone, and (knowing me) that’s probably how I’d experience the majority of the content. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s entirely viable to explore Appalachia on your own. The C.A.M.P. mechanics still allow you to passively interact with the community, too. Should you want to.

Even if the C.A.M.P. mechanics sometimes fight you due to the inhospitable terrain.

I feel as though Fallout 76 has an incredible amount of potential, and it really depends on how that potential is realised as to whether it will be a truly great experience. At present, many of the mechanics function as intended but they rapidly become less important after the first few hours. Like collecting scrap. I’ve now collected so much I’m bundling and selling it.

I’ve enjoyed the (ironic) feeling of isolation and loneliness in Appalachia. Due to a lack of NPCs (besides robots) and mostly being surrounded by the rotting, irradiated, post-war corpses of the characters whose stories you’re following you’re presented with a unique storytelling approach. It’s also a very depressing approach. If the previous adjectives hadn’t given you the hint. As many of the stories have themes of regret, loss, desperation, and hopelessness as the characters adjust to their new post-apocalyptic hell. But it fondly reminds me of the same feeling of isolation and loneliness present in Fallout 3. I’m looking forward to (and remaining optimistic in) exploring more of what Fallout 76 has to offer.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

To Attain Divinity

I’ve never been fond of the idea of being a god.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an exceptionally enjoyable RPG which builds on the mechanics present in Divinity: Original Sin to provide a fresh, engaging, and thoroughly satisfying experience. Most revised are the combat mechanics which now offer a physical and magical armour system, more abilities, and expanded skill trees. Skill trees will offer inherent benefits once invested in, while the new abilities provide the freedom to choose between different weapons in the same combat style. No longer are you tied to bows or crossbows due to prior investment.

Not that I ever had that issue in Divinity: Original Sin. No, not at all.

In the sequel you’re presented with the choice to play as a custom character or to play as one of six predefined characters, three of which can join you even if you’re playing as a custom character. All of the predefined options offer their own stories, quests, and insights into the world and can drastically change the experience. Some with the possibility of providing alternate endings.

You could even completely forego the predefined characters and hire mercenaries instead. Or use the reworked Lone Wolf talent to write an entirely different story. In many ways this is the concept that I’ve loved most about Divinity: Original Sin 2, and I’m interested in seeing how the three of the six that I didn’t choose will present different opportunities. I’m also glad that there are multiple default endings, that there are character-specific endings, and that you are writing a story that features more than just yourself. It’s about the people you’ve worked with, worked against, those you’ve helped, those you’ve hindered, and the consequences for those actions. It’s such a refreshing experience in what has become quite a stagnant genre in recent years.

I’m not concerned as to how we got up here, I’m more concerned as to how we’re going to get down again…

Many NPCs will follow your journey across the harsh wilds of Rivellon, too. So expect to see more than a few familiar faces providing their own contributions to your claim for Divinity, along with more than a few vendors that will (quite literally) follow you around. I’m glad those vendors exist, though. While I enjoy the new opportunities to find (or steal) higher quality loot, I find that much of the loot has numerous bonuses which don’t seem to be very useful at all. Some of the unique loot will offer really good bonuses that seem absent on other loot.

Like being able to get +Strength or +Finesse on gloves.

That said, these issues may have been resolved in the Definitive Edition as I am (once again) playing the classic version. So take that criticism with a pinch of salt. In more than one way the sequel is a resounding success (and nothing is truly perfect), but there are some niggling concerns which slightly lessen the experience. Thankfully they’re very few and far between.

I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me to revisit the Divinity: Original Sin series but I’m glad that I did. I definitely miss these experiences and the sheer flexibility of being able to build any character I want, while being able to enjoy combat that is challenging and (best of all) engaging. I’ve also spent nearly two hundred hours with the series in recent memory. So that’s something. You don’t get too many series which keep you engrossed for that long, or even provide non-repetitive content for that long. Which is probably the greatest achievement of the series, as you rarely find RPGs that provide numerous quest types which can be completed in many different ways. In case you’d not guessed- I highly recommend Divinity: Original Sin 2!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

No Stranger To Adversity

Quite the opposite really.

I recently finished Divinity: Original Sin, which, despite its flaws, was an incredibly enjoyable RPG that provided the opportunity to build many varied characters. It was quite a refreshing experience. I’ve not encountered many RPGs released in the last five years that allow you to freely customise your party- building both their strengths and their weaknesses- and I find that significantly diminishes the experience. I personally prefer it when characters are not automatically proficient in every skill, talent, or ability ever.

Or, at the very least, I prefer it when my choices actually have consequences.

For instance, in Divinity: Original Sin I was quite concerned about the way I chose to build Cornelius. He was a typical ranger with some magical capabilities, but it quickly became apparent that he used magic more than he used his bow in most encounters. However, the two governing attributes were completely different. It also meant his ability points were spread quite thin.

That said, despite initial concern, and with clever use of Geomancer summoning skills, he was able to reliably contribute in a meaningful way to most encounters. Later in the story he actually became one of the highest sources of damage in the party. But it was a very long road reliant on many later skills. I’m glad I stuck with that particular build, though. It definitely provided many unique benefits that I didn’t get elsewhere and was quite enjoyable. What was more enjoyable was the fact that I had the opportunity to ruin that character. It seems like an odd thing to find enjoyable, but it was nice to have to think about how best to develop his abilities in order to best utilise his unique benefits. To consider different options and possibilities.

See? These are what spawn when you call upon Source magic.

That was one of the more disappointing mechanics in Diablo III. It was also one of the more disappointing mechanics in Fallout 4. In both cases, you weren’t necessarily completely proficient at everything but you could have been. Long gone were the days of committing to being good at Small Guns due to having high Agility. Or being better acquainted with cleaving because your Strength was higher and afforded more close combat perks. Or even being able to build a unique Barbarian that combined unusual or interesting skills.

It definitely helps the longevity of the experience.

But it also definitely hurts the enjoyment you get from the experience. There’s no real reason to want to build a new character, and in turn experience the earlier struggles (and feeling of accomplishment in overcoming those struggles) due to a lack of something. One of my favourite Fallout 3 characters was the one that used exclusively Energy Weapons.

Mostly because that almost completely useless laser pistol in the Super Duper Mart was their only friend. Which meant that they needed to invest much more into every shot they fired, as each one was an expensive purchase (at that time) and only degraded the condition further. I was quite happy that my choice had consequences, though. It felt like I’d actually built a character that was at least somewhat unique in their experiences. Following Divinity: Original Sin, I started the main story for Divinity: Original Sin 2 and I’m glad to see that character builds are still a possibility. I’m also glad to see more complex (and better developed) mechanics for some aspects of the experience. I just wish there were more opportunities to have these experiences.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie