Steam Assimilation

Further down we go.

SteamWorld Dig is a rather charming, interesting, and somewhat unique approach to a classic formula. Unlike other platforming titles you quite literally build the path downwards as you continue exploring. It’s an approach that can leave you stranded if you don’t make use of the ladders, lamps, and teleporters so generously provided by the townsfolk. But it’s also one that provides innumerable secrets as you unearth new ways to approach old locations. It’s not a particularly lengthy adventure, either.

So it’s quite enjoyable revisiting old locations frequently.

These secrets will award you with precious minerals and mysterious Orbs. Both are used to purchase upgrades to make Rusty more durable, carry more water, take more damage, or dig even faster. The later updates which are more technological (and thereby more powerful) have an additional Orb cost. But earlier iterations are easily affordable with gold.

It’s a neat progression system, too. As you’re introduced to the concept that this is a fading mining town and the money that you provide through your adventure revitalises it, which is evident when you see the town growing and more vendors appearing. You’ll also unlock paths back to town at each major location, which makes returning to town incredibly easy in a way that reminds me of the first Diablo. The immediate approach to returning to town is to use teleporters. These will be found at certain locations, but you can also purchase your own (for a small Orb cost) and place them wherever you like. You might be hesitant to spend Orbs to acquire them but I bought four-five and could still afford all of the upgrades.

I don’t think this is the confirmation that they wanted.

Alongside the aforementioned range of upgrades bought in town, there are key upgrades which you’ll find at certain locations in the caves that afford you entirely new abilities. Such as being able to propel yourself upwards with the power of steam. Or the classic double jump. Or even the ability to detect minerals. Of the available options, my personal favourite is the removal of fall damage. All fall damage. Forever. It’s so nice to be able to dart down large, open, excavated caverns without a care in the world.

I don’t believe it’s possible to miss those upgrades, either.

In this way, SteamWorld Dig is surprisingly content dense and enjoyable as a result of it. It’s not a massive, sprawling, open world but what there is to explore is crammed full of secrets and other goodies. It’s easy to miss it, too. Especially with the earlier secrets that require relatively late upgrades. It’s certainly a credit to the developers and their ambition, though.

I’ll be honest and admit that I bought this mostly in anticipation of SteamWorld Heist, but it has grown on me. It has a certain charm that reminds me of childhood days spent with the SNES and all of the adventures therein. Something that’s just fun to play. That’s interesting and enjoyable. That has controls which actually work and where every aspect feels intuitive. Those are not feelings that I generally get these days with many things I’ll play, but, for those reasons, I would highly recommend SteamWorld Dig to anyone looking for some good ol’ fashioned fun. The kind we had back in the day. Which I am almost old enough to say now. Which doesn’t concern me or fill me with thoughts of my own mortality in any way.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Salt and Sanctuary

This island is plagued with death and depravity.

Salt and Sanctuary is a complex and engaging ARPG that feels reminiscent of both Dark Souls and Diablo in equal measure. There are definite hallmarks of the Dark Souls series, with punishing and brutal boss fights alongside replenishing consumables and similar equipment improvement mechanics. However, the character development and the continual loot shower feels more like what you would expect from Diablo. It’s an interesting mixture that works well in some ways and not so well in others.

I particularly like the Skill Tree approach to developing your character.

Salt is required to progress the level of your character and (as expected) has an escalating cost per level. Once you’ve gained a new level you’ll be awarded with a Black Pearl which can be invested in the Skill Tree, wherein you can find myriad passive upgrades for your character. It makes your character level slightly more crucial to success in certain builds than others.

Equipment will have requirements (such as Class 1 Dagger or Class 3 Heavy Armour) which are unlocked via the Skill Tree. Likewise, all of your basic attributes are increased by investing in the Skill Tree. It’s a fairly intuitive system if you’re familiar with skill trees in just about any other RPG, with most of the nodes you want to unlock being available from several different paths to allow you to spend only the Black Pearls you want to. This system is full of potential for interesting hybrid builds. Especially when combined with the Transmutation system, which essentially allows you to use certain reagents to transform your weapons into more powerful variants. There are unique variants, too. Like spears that scale with your magical proficiency.

The dead wander these bloodstained halls.

Character classes exist but they serve only to provide a basic set of Skill Tree points and attributes. They don’t have any specific restrictions and can be developed towards any final build. There are also numerous Creeds your character can join, which function like Covenants from the Dark Souls series and unlock unique bonuses for your character. Be it additional consumables, new spells, new incantations, or simply more of your basic consumables. You can increase your devotion to a specific Creed as well, but any and all devotion will be reset if you change your Creed.

Creeds can be changed as often as you like at the cost of accumulating Sin.

Your Creed also dictates who your Sanctuary will be devoted to. That said, if you change Creeds, you can still access your other Sanctuaries but will be unable to gain devotion with them. Sanctuaries can be upgraded with new vendors, blacksmiths, alchemists, and more via stone statuettes found in and around the areas you’ll be travelling to.

There are limited NPC quests which can be completed, too. Alongside Brands which unlock new ways to reach certain areas which will remain inaccessible without them. It’s a pretty content dense ARPG and rife with secrets, optional bosses, and interesting nuggets of lore. I’ve been enjoying a hybrid build of spears and spells, allowing me to engage enemies at any distance while providing unique bonuses as I switch weapon sets to utilise more spells. My only minor complaint would be that the platforming sections don’t feel particularly tight. However, that could be my general inexperience with timed platforming segments and not an actual issue with the controls. In every other way I highly recommend Salt and Sanctuary to all who enjoy ARPGs!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

TESO: Trekking in Tamriel (Pt. 6)

To the Hollow City of Coldharbour.

Adding to the list of unexpected occurrences, it turns out that Coldharbour is more than just a branching series of main story quest locations- it’s a whole area. With Public Dungeons, Delves, crafting locations, world bosses, and interesting enemies. It’s a pleasant surprise as I was expecting the last of the main story quests to be another short adventure, but instead I’ve got to rebuild the last bastion of hope in Coldharbour. It seems fitting seeing as I’ve amassed nothing short of an army at this point.

Access to Coldharbour doesn’t seem restricted, either.

Which is perhaps the most surprising part of this revelation. As I would expect that you wouldn’t be allowed to leave at your convenience, but I suppose that, as it’s an MMORPG, they didn’t want people locked in an inescapable area. As is the usual custom for single player adventures. It also possibly means that my other characters can travel to Coldharbour if they so wish.

With the main story drawing to a close I’m reflecting on my favourite moments in this adventure. Notably, the crafting and skill systems have afforded me a surprising amount of freedom and flexibility. I’m also fond of the questing structure. This isn’t the end of The Elder Scrolls Online for me, either. It’s just the end of this series of posts for now. It felt like the right time to take a break, given that my Imperial Templar has finished the main story and he’s been the focal point of these posts. That said, if I venture out to Morrowind at some point in the future I’ll likely revisit the series briefly. The Elder Scrolls Online has grown on me over the last month and there’s every chance I’ll be investing more into it in the future.

To defy the will of Molag Bal.

I’m most interested in exploring the build possibilities of the Sorcerer. I originally avoided building around pets, but I’m starting to see some amount of potential there. Especially if I can use the second weapon set to wield the same Destruction Staff but with summon and buff abilities. I’m still not entirely sure if pets and the like which are activated from the second weapon set can be used with the first, and vice versa, but I hope that’s the case. I could have a rather proficient minion master if it were.

The Nightblade has interesting potential, too.

They have a surprising number of survival abilities for what you would usually expect from someone built around pure damage capability. Which makes me wonder if it’s possible for them to fill a tanking role. I’ve been wondering whether medium armour is suitable for a tanking role, too. It lacks the durability of heavy armour but does have impressive Stamina perks which could be useful.

Those are the reasons that I reconsidered The Elder Scrolls Online in the first place. I love character building and character development mechanics. They’re one of the reasons why I find RPGs to be so enjoyable. However, they’re sadly becoming obsolete with many systems now not requiring you to build anything at all. Which is less satisfying and less enjoyable, as the character never really feels developed or interesting. Just mildly different from other characters with the same class. Which is also the reason I could see myself being drawn back into The Elder Scrolls Online. In any case, I hope you’ve enjoyed the series so far and are as excited as I am to see it continue in the future.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

TESO: Trekking in Tamriel (Pt. 5)

It’s patch week!

One of the most exciting times for anyone who plays MMORPGs especially when it’s close to a major expansion release. Or the most dreaded. It really depends on how much you love your class and how much they could change it. But for those who play The Elder Scrolls Online that doesn’t seem to be much of a concern. There are changes to the classes and they vary from tweaking values to balancing abilities, but they mostly leave the original heart of the class intact. From my limited experience with them at least.

There’s good news if you’ve got an ESO Plus subscription and love banks, though.

You now get double the bank space you would normally get if you maintain an active subscription. For those who already have access to the crafting bank, it seems to work in the same way that for as long as the subscription is active so are the bonuses. But if the subscription becomes inactive the bonuses are withdrawn but you can still take from the banks. Just not deposit to them.

Or, at least, for the standard bank, you can deposit to it as long as you’re under the limit you have without the subscription. Whereas crafting banks you can’t deposit to at all without a subscription. Naturally, the largest and most expansive changes in this patch are all about the adventures you’ll be undertaking in Vvardenfell. Of which, I do believe, there is an early access period if you’ve pre-ordered the expansion. Which more than likely includes access to the Warden class as I’m sure I’ve met one or two already. Either that or someone else can summon spiritual bears. There seem to be a whole host of new dungeons, titles, cosmetic items, trophies, and other oddities for those who will be travelling out to Seyda Neen as well.

Glorious buffs and debuffs!

Character progression has been somewhat rebalanced, too. The experience curve has changed ever so slightly, there are now soft requirements for unlocking skill trees, and Champion Points have been reset. They too have been rebalanced to make the earlier levels more meaningful. I’ve not actually reached Lvl 50 yet so this is something that I’ll learn about at a later date. You can also have additional character slots via the Crown Store now. I don’t think you get any additional slots simply for buying the expansion, though. Or at least that’s not listed anywhere.

Of all the changes my favourite is the buff and debuff bar.

I always found it slightly weird that it wasn’t included from the very beginning. It’s kind of an essential part of understanding whether things are actually activating (like bleeds), or checking something is still active (like Soul Trap), or knowing how long you’re going to be debilitated or weakened. It’s a little odd but functional and definitely better than nothing.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been as active as usual recently. Mostly due to researching and making sure that I’ve got a steady stream of Traits being unlocked, which, with some pieces of equipment, now incurs a seven day wait period before I can continue. I was rather hoping that the next rank of Metallurgy (and equivalent skills) would unlock a third research slot. But it doesn’t. Sadly. In any case, I’m currently working through a suitable amount of content with my Imperial Templar before I finish his main story. I’ll still have the main stories for the numerous locations that I’ll be visiting as well. So the content won’t dry up. But, until then, I hope that your adventures in The Elder Scrolls Online are fruitful!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

TESO: Trekking in Tamriel (Pt. 4)

Wherein we research many things.

Researching has always been a priority as it affords me the opportunity to create more advanced equipment. It’s now a significantly higher priority as I’ve recently discovered it’s the key to creating set equipment, which, rather surprisingly, has no other requirements. I’d seen the various crafting locations before but I’d never attempted to use them as I assumed they required unique style materials or training. The considerable boost to different parameters is certainly worth the investment in researching, though.

Even if it means my bank will be filled with equipment for some time to come.

I’d prefer being able to destroy the equipment immediately to add it to the list of research and then invest the time as usual. But, sadly, I have to carry each of these pieces around in one inventory or another while the timer ticks away. I don’t even really care that much about the significant investment of time as that ticks away while I’m not actively logged in.

So that’s a thing I’m doing now. I’ve made good use of the various sets, too. With these I can definitely see that crafting is an investment which is worth making as you can essentially build anything you need to suit your character, then improve the quality, add enchantments, and even create it with inherent Traits. It’s a pretty extensive set of mechanics which are surprisingly more flexible than you’d assume. It also means I’ve made good choices with my characters. Which is always nice. The Guild Stores also open up the potential to purchase anything you might need. With all the joy of running to different locations, checking prices, checking more prices, and generally looking to get the best deal you possibly can.

We’ll cleanse this corruption or we’ll die trying.

I’ve also been working through the main story which is shorter than I’d anticipated. I know that’s hardly new for The Elder Scrolls, but in this case it almost feels a little anti-climactic as I’ll be able to finish the main story before I even reach Lvl 50. I know I could always go and level up to Lvl 50 and then finish it but there scarcely seems any point to do so. That’s the less appealing aspect of having the content scale with your character rather than be at a set level. I was rather hoping that the main story would take me through to Lvl 50.

There’s always the main story for the Daggerfall Convenant if I want more content, though.

I’ve been exploring the opening areas for the Ebonheart Pact, too. That’s an interesting diversion as their main opposing Alliance seems to be the Daggerfall Convenant. Which kind of sort of means he’s fighting his own people, but in my defence he is an Imperial and therefore chose to join the Daggerfall Convenant as they don’t have any Alliance of their own.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m most interested in their story as I don’t currently have a character with the Ebonheart Pact. I’m already experiencing what the Daggerfall Convenant have to offer, while I’ll be heading off with the Aldmeri Dominion soon. That and they’ve got giant mushrooms out in Davon’s Watch. I love giant mushrooms! Almost as much as I love giant trees and random assortments of colourful foliage. I’m looking forward to exploring more dungeons, delves, and the like out there. They’ll have some interesting ones for sure. I’m rather surprised to find that many of the Mundus Stones are repeated out there, too. I thought that they would be placed across the entire world and you’d have to travel across Alliances for them.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

TESO: Trekking in Tamriel (Pt. 3)

Wherein the vast crafting empire begins.

The Elder Scrolls Online has one of the most enjoyable crafting systems I’ve encountered in any MMORPG. It doesn’t require an excessive list of raw materials, all of the different components are pretty intuitive, the strength of crafted equipment is comparable to that which you find in dungeons, and there are many different ways to improve your crafting talents (most of which are free). It’s nice to think that I haven’t invested this time erroneously or for reasons which are no longer as attractive as they once were.

I’m actually quite excited to reach Lvl 50 now.

That’s when I’ll likely be building my first completely strengthened set of equipment. Though, due to overflowing Fire Opals, I do invest in Sharpened on any of my weapons as the extra armour penetration is very attractive. I’m not sure if I want a Crushing rune on it, though. Or whether it’s better to have health steal or a damage shield. I’ve certainly got enough options.

I’ve been exploring the different crafting options available in Blacksmithing (on my Imperial Templar), Woodworking (on my Orc Dragonknight), and Clothing (on my Altmer Sorcerer) as they all follow similar rules and so it’s easy to advance them together. Even if I’m not playing the other characters as much. That said, I’ve been steadily pushing my Sorcerer towards Lvl 10 while my Templar has now surpassed Lvl 20. My Khajiit Nightblade has Alchemy and Provisioning. One of which is almost exclusively useful to him, while the other, Provisioning, doesn’t really hold much of my attention as I’m not too interested in housing. Nor am I particularly thrilled with the prospect of carrying around hundreds of ingredients.

It’s been a while since we’ve been back here.

Which, unlike Enchanting, or even Alchemy, I can’t experiment with and so I need recipes to actually cook food. I’m sure that cooked meals will one day be very important to my progression for some reason or another, but at the moment it’s something I think I’ll leave until I better understand it. Whereas the other crafting options are all covered and I’m constantly researching new things. I’m prioritising things I think I’ll need on my equipment first as the research duration increases somewhat dramatically after one or two Traits are unlocked.

I’ve explored the depths of public and group dungeons now, too.

The group dungeon was an attempt to solo a boss and get a better understanding of how things work. The boss was pretty tough, sporting a two phase engagement that had a combined total of 2.5m health which took some patience. I defeated it, but, sadly, the rest of the dungeon seems a little outside of my soloing capability at the moment. But one day. Maybe.

The public dungeons are quite interesting and are (as I understand it) more extensive and more difficult versions of delves. Delves being miniature dungeons often housing a Skyshard and a boss to clear the event. Whereas public dungeons have multiple bosses, more loot, and quests. It’s nice to be able to engage in group content outside of an actual group, though. Keeps you busy. As if exploring the many areas you have to visit over the course of your personal story wouldn’t do that already. Or the endless number of diversions set to side track you into next Tuesday. In either case, I’m enjoying the available content much more than I anticipated I would. I’m particularly enjoying the close combat style of the Templar.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

TESO: Trekking in Tamriel (Pt. 2)

Seafaring in Tamriel must be a lucrative business.

It makes you wonder why they even bother to have boats (or other methods of transportation) when Wayshrines are everywhere. It doesn’t even cost you anything to use them if you’re using one to travel to another. But, if they did use Wayshrines, things would be much less interesting and there would be no such thing as pirates. Which is pretty much half of the reason I had opening area quests to begin with. I also briefly worked for a pirate, but she disowned me because I wouldn’t desecrate ancient graves to summon her a great army.

Adventuring sure does make for an interesting life.

I’ve learned so much about The Elder Scrolls Online recently. Like how my horse (which I assumed was a mount) is actually an extension of my character (while also serving as a mount). I can carry more items by investing in Riding Skill, while also improving the stamina of the horse and the speed at which it travels. Oddly those are tied to the character and not the horse.

The horse defaults back to the standard statistics on another character until I make those investments. I’ve also discovered that inventory upgrades are character specific (as suspected), bank upgrades are not, there are Crafting Writs to complete each day if I want to, there are actual dungeons in the world which don’t require groups, the major city for my particular Alliance is huge, and that splitting my crafting between different characters was probably sensible. It certainly makes shuffling inventory space around a lot easier earlier on. I can definitely see the optional ESO Plus subscription being worth it for the crafting bank. Which I would more than likely spend Crowns on if a similar crafting bank service was offered through the Crown Store.

By the power of righteousness!

Otherwise ESO Plus doesn’t really suit me. I’m not particularly interested in putting more items in my house, nor do I care that much about dye stations in general, and the bonuses to levelling speed are nice but not necessary. The 1500 Crowns per month are also nice but not necessary. While the access to the DLC would probably become more expensive with an extended subscription than just buying them outright. Still, it’s got an appealing point in the crafting bank. It’s just not something I think I’d ever really want that much.

The Crowns could be a nice passive source of income to buy extra services, though.

I’ve been exploring the first major area for my Alliance recently, too. It’s definitely got tougher and more dangerous enemies, more variety in types of locations, and is more interesting than the smaller islands. That said, the smaller islands were packed with things to do and were surprisingly content dense. So I don’t think I’ll be running out of content any time soon here, either.

I’ve also got an extension of the main quest now. Which is nice as we hadn’t really heard that much about it for a while, which, naturally, I’m going to ignore for as long as is humanly possible because there’s a whole island to explore. Filled with treasures and whatnot. I don’t really care if Tamriel is at threat from some great evil. I’ve played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion- I know they survived and everything was fine. I might even find a higher quality of ore to mine. Or new exotic flowers to pick and then eat to discover their properties. The possibilities are quite simply endless and I won’t waste time defeating Daedric abominations. In all seriousness, I’ll likely push ahead once I’ve had some time to acclimatise to these new surroundings.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie