The Darkening of Tristram

Let’s go back to where it all began.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Diablo series Blizzard is bringing a unique event to Diablo III. This event hopes to recreate the town of Tristram, the cathedral where it all began, and even reintroduces some of the classic sought after items from the original Diablo. These items (as far as I can tell) are there for flavour, as only a select few can be used for transmogrification appearances or cosmetic effects. There’s also a shard of the iconic red soulstone available as a Legendary Gem for those who fell The Dark Lord.

It’s an event that lasts roughly a few hours if you’re looking to see it all.

It also features a rather interesting screen filter (and adjusted camera angle) to bring back the feeling of the original. Along with all of the original music, ambience, and sound effects which have given me more than a few pangs of nostalgia in my heart. That could also be my cholesterol. But I’m pretty sure it was the nostalgia doing its thing.

There are a handful of achievements available during the event, too. These are fairly simple things for the most part. The most interesting being that you brave the horrors with a fresh new character and complete the event. Which may be slightly more difficult if you don’t feel like completing the event in full in one run, as I don’t think there’s any way to leave and then to return to where you were. Which is slightly odd, as the original Diablo featured more than a few paths back to the surface from specific levels. It’s a pretty interesting event, though. If you’re a fan of several Blizzard titles you’ll be pleased to know that most of their major titles also have smaller time limited events. All with Diablo themed items and rewards.

Naturally it wouldn’t be a Diablo event without some mention of Wirt and that’s perhaps my most treasured acquisition from this event. The Royal Calf, a baby cow that bears a resemblance to the murderous cows you would encounter in the Secret Cow Level. Which is now safely nestled alongside my other pets. Following me into glorious battle and to great riches! You can also collect a special version of The Butcher as a pet. But he’s not going anywhere near my cow! I love that little guy.

I don’t care if the steaks are high- he’s not having him!

I am slightly disappointed that the event is only available during January (at least that’s the plan so far), but it’s a series which has always meant a lot to me and one that I’ve enjoyed for the past seventeen years. It’s also one that has influenced me both as an artist and as a gamer. So I’ve made a considerable effort in participating in (and enjoying) as much of it as I can.

I’m looking forward to the Necromancer, too. It’s going to be interesting seeing a seventh character class added to Diablo III, it’s also going to be interesting to see what kind of abilities they have besides those we’ve been shown already. I wouldn’t mind if this is how Diablo III played out, either. Small character class packs alongside minor content updates. Not to forget the refreshed content for Seasons that rolls around every so often. While I may have had my criticisms of Diablo III in the past (and they’re criticisms I still have), I like the new direction that it has been going since the release of Reaper of Souls. It’s improving ever so slightly with every new patch and new release.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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First Impressions of… Chronicon

Delve deep into the secrets of this world.

Chronicon is an ARPG which features four distinct character classes, more randomised loot than you’ll ever have space for, quests and side objectives of every flavour, randomised dungeons (in the style of Diablo II), and more monsters than any one person could conceivably slay. The only potential negative I can think of is that it’s in Early Access. That said, I don’t really consider that a negative as this title seems to have made great strides in recent months. In fact- it seems to always be improving something somewhere.

I think the most recent update added bags.

These bags seem to have an ever increasing number of slots, too. So you’ll be able to find new ones and increase your inventory size as you go along, which, alongside your character stash (which doesn’t upgrade) and your shared stash (which does upgrade), means you’ll never have to worry about loot again. Or you will but you’ll do so less frequently.

The four character classes each have their own talents, strengths, and weaknesses. Each is then further enhanced with four skill trees (which you can freely invest in) for active skills, passive skills, auras, buffs, default attack replacement skills, and more! There’s even class specific equipment which allows you to further develop the class. I’m not entirely sure if they have specific class skill bonuses on their equipment- but I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve already seen incredibly powerful set items which boast abilities I’ve not encountered elsewhere. If you’re playing on Veteran or higher you’ll also have the chance to snag legendary items, which are rumoured to be so exceptionally awesome you’ll never want to leave home without one.

Speaking of difficulty levels, there are a range of them from the casual to the extreme with certain aspects only being available on the higher ones. Like legendary items. It functions similarly to how you could scale up the difficulty in Diablo II. The enemies are tougher but you get more crystals, experience, and you have a higher chance to find better equipment. So there’s definitely a reward for pushing further up the difficulty ladder. Those experienced with ARPGs could likely start on Veteran without too many issues.

Heroic would probably be a good entry point, too.

The current playable content features the first three Acts. Each has its own story, quests, and side objectives. It’s honestly surprisingly how polished and playable this is for a pre-release product. It’s already boasting a whole host of different features which are all fully functional and (in my experience) bug/glitch free, which only makes it more enjoyable.

If you’re a fan of ARPGs then I can wholeheartedly recommend Chronicon to you. There is an incredible foundation already present, which will no doubt be built upon to further improve all aspects of the experience in future updates. I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve played so far, too. It’s been great to explore the depths of these ancient halls and not even realise it’s 2am and I was going to bed two hours ago. Which is a pretty rare thing nowadays. It’s an absolute steal for the price as well. Being only £6.99 (at full price), in a sale this is probably one of the best deals you’re going to get if you’re in the mood for a little dungeon crawling. Or, rather, a lot of dungeon crawling. Check it out- you won’t be disappointed!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Lost Castle

There’s even a potion that makes you fart.

If that doesn’t justify an instant purchase, the potion also produces a poisonous gas cloud each time you fart that damages enemies who walk through/near it. Still not sold? No? I’ll tell you a little more about what Lost Castle actually is, then. It’s an adventure filled with endless danger and abundant treasures. It’s a little like Rogue Legacy and Enter the Gungeon had an awesome baby with an ARPG loot system. Complete with randomised equipment that can be imbued with various enchantments.

You can customise your characters quite extensively, too.

Each time you die you are offered the chance to not only improve your character but to grant entirely new benefits/bonuses. Like being able to unlock a blacksmith who can give you up to three weapons at the start of each run. Further upgrades even allowing them to spawn rare or legendary weapons. I’ve almost always found one of them to be usable, too.

Combat is incredibly enjoyable and remarkably fluid. Each weapon class has its own particular style, which is further enhanced by a myriad of armour types that will provide particular bonuses to certain weapon classes. I’m really enjoying dual blades. They’re fast, they combo well, and they’ve got a lot of versatility. Yet, spears are surprisingly good as they knock back enemies with each thrust. While you’re not able to guarantee which weapon you’ll start with or that the blacksmith will offer- there’s something for everyone. Each piece of equipment has a chance to be enchanted, too. Allowing for comprehensive character build customisation through different statistical bonuses.

Rattle those bones.

Rattle those bones.

Lost Castle is also a rare example of character customisation having a noticeable impact on success. Even a minor health upgrade which allows you to take one more hit before death is significant. Simply because there are an abundance of healing items, vendors, and other upgrades which can restore your health- it’s just that you have to live long enough to use them. Having a selection of items and weapons available from the very beginning is incredibly helpful, too. Every advantage is desired and each is useful in its own way.

Especially those rare opportunities that allow you to return from the dead.

I’ve had a few runs where I’d forgotten that I’d picked up one of those coveted relics. I died and was filled with sadness only to see the resurrection animation and be filled with happiness. Only to be killed by a rolling-rock-rhinoceros-creature. Once again filling me with an overwhelming sadness. It truly is an emotional rollercoaster.

If you like the sound of anything I’ve said above- I highly recommend you pick this up! It’s a really fun time for all involved. Unless you don’t have masochistic tendencies which you can only satisfy by being repeatedly killed. You don’t even need to pay much for the privilege, it’s only £6.99 (at full price). Which I feel is an absolute steal for something this enjoyable. I’ve heard tell that there are even more difficult modes which can be unlocked on completion, too. Speaking of, I do believe it’s time for me to start another new run and for another few hours to mysteriously disappear. I’m not sure how or why that keeps happening. No matter- there’s looting to be done!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Skirt Wearing Weather

The adventures of one man and his spiritual wolf.

Which will one day be three wolves. I’m not entirely sure how one wolf magically splits into three- but I’m not asking questions! I’m surprised I can even conjure living beings out of thin air. Or, in the case of the nymph, out of some otherworldly bulb. But that’s the path I chose to take and it certainly helps to have covering fire. Yes, you guessed it- it’s time for more Titan Quest adventures. These were brought on by the recent release of the Titan Quest Anniversary Edition. Which is really just an excuse to spend several hours clicking on mythical creatures and monsters.

Not that I’m entirely opposed to the revival of a classic ARPG.

For this build I decided to combine the close combat benefits that Warfare Mastery brings with the pets (and buffing capability) of Nature Mastery. I was thinking about Defense Mastery for a while, but it doesn’t really have any damage capability. Nature Mastery also lacks any decent damage capability outside of Plague. So I decided to take Warfare Mastery and (one of my favourite abilities) Onslaught. Trying out War Wind for the first time, too. Hoping to get that upgraded soon so that it can bleed multiple targets. I’ve also taken Battle Standard to further increase his versatility and to allow him to easily take down bosses, take on hordes of enemies, or simply have another buff.

It’s unlikely he’s going to use any of the healing abilities that Nature Mastery offers. Mostly because he doesn’t have the energy to use them. That said, he doesn’t really need them as pets are surprisingly good even with only a few points of investment. Just a singular wolf and nymph bolstered by Heart of Oak is a considerable damage increase.

Bigger than the ones back home.

Bigger than the ones back home.

The wolf also gives the enemies something else to attack. The nymph can snipe enemies from a considerable distance, while, if they close the distance, she actually runs to a safe distance before continuing to attack. It’s quite amazing. As I’ve known many AI companions who would simply stand there and get beat on if the enemies approached them. She also has ranged attacks- which his build lacks- so she’s able to pin down retreating enemies. The nymph has some great passive abilities, too. I just need to spend more in Nature Mastery for them.

It’s incredibly tempting to invest the points just for the passive abilities.

I’m quite impressed with the Anniversary Edition so far. I appreciated the character import process which allowed me to bring all of my older characters over to the new version. Complete with any required updates to make them work properly with this version. Likewise, I’m pleased that it doesn’t feel that different at all. It still feels like Titan Quest- which is good- as it should. I’ve had no issues running it, either. Not that I ever had any issues running Titan Quest. But, if you did, the Anniversary Edition may resolve those issues. If it doesn’t, they’re still actively patching it so they might resolve them at a later date. Overall it’s an incredibly solid update of an incredibly enjoyable ARPG.

I was thinking about writing something closer to release. That said, I wasn’t really sure what I could say about it without having spent several hours with it first. An enjoyable several hours at that. The Titan Quest Anniversary Edition is probably one of the best releases I’ve ever seen- new or old- and it’s worth your time if you enjoy Titan Quest.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Interstellar Blues

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Rasputin.

Derelict, rusty, lacking in every way, and liable to fall apart before we reach the next space station. By the power of duct tape and holding our breath in zero gravity we shall prevail! Either that or we’ll suffocate. Imagine going into warp and seeing your rear engine float away tethered loosely by a strip of duct tape, realising you’re now tilting heavily on one side, and that if anything should hit the other engine you’re stranded in this harsh abyss. I wonder if we have some kind of suit to fix exterior errors. Or if we even know how.

Sweet baby lambs- the Rasputin is a floating death trap! I’m not a qualified anything!

Even my pilot license expired four years ago. That said, no-one has asked to see my license yet. Then again- no-one has asked to see anything- they’re usually too busy trying to pepper me with missiles or tear a hole in my hull with their lasers. It’s a good thing I installed those deflector shields. Else, I would be the space debris that I frequently crash into.

Rebel Galaxy is a relaxing space adventure that has provided quite a different experience than I was initially expecting. It’s quite tough, too. The above account is a literal description of the ship when we first get it- no deflector shields, no tractor beam, no secondary weapons, and an engine that barely runs. Not to mention the random events range from slightly annoying to absolutely brutal. Within seconds you’re descended upon by a dozen ships, each with better ordinance, and each with the capability to weave in and out of turret fire. However, this is one of the reasons that Rebel Galaxy is growing on me. There’s a lot at work which isn’t readily apparent when you’re getting this ol’ rustbucket from mission to mission.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

There are also a lot of different ways to play it out. You can be friendly, you can resort to piracy, you can smuggle resources between stations, you can join guilds, or you can simply float around the universe doing who knows what. It’s definitely got a very laid back feel to the progression. Sure, there’s a story- but who has time for a story? There’s a distress beacon over here, a delivery over there, a small trade convoy carrying valuable cargo to the south, and a few stations between here and there. It’s quite the change of pace for me.

Which is the entire reason I decided to pick it up in the first place.

I wanted to do something a little different. RPGs and ARPGs have always been the two staples of my library, with many of my favourite titles, such as Chrono Trigger or the Final Fantasy series, falling into one of those categories. But I’m looking to add more staples to my library.

Staples, unlike glue, also tend to keep things held together. Glue usually degrades over time and things fall out all over the place. I can’t say that I’ll always enjoy the different titles I try, nor can I guarantee I’ll play them multiple times in different ways- but I value the experiences. Playing different things. Having to learn whole new sets of mechanics because you’ve never played something like this before. It also helps when I’m not in the mood to play a particular genre as now I have so many genres to choose from. In any case, we’ve had a lot of creative posts recently and I figured I’d do something a little different for those getting burned out looking at my scribbles.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Aetherial Possession

It’s a hangin’ day.

Grim Dawn is an epic post-apocalyptic open world ARPG featuring six individual Masteries, four Acts, multiple character builds, a plethora of foes (and heroic bosses), end game dungeons, and a freedom to explore and progress at your own pace. You won’t be forced to take a particular route through this adventure. Throughout the story you’ll be presented with rebuilding a bridge, blasting open a cavern, or exploring the alternative if you lack the means to bypass it. This makes each character slightly different as you might have the resources on one but not another.

Likewise, Masteries fulfil a certain purpose but can be combined to create diverse builds. Want to fight enemies up close and personal? Try the Soldier. Want to throw explosive cocktails and grenades? Mix a little Demolitionist into that. Prefer striking from the shadows? Sample the Nightblade. There are endless options to mix and match skills to suit your play style.

Further adding to the customisation is the Devotion system.

You’ll earn points from restoring ruined or desecrated Shrines which can be spent in various constellations, which provide either active skill effects or passive buffs. While Devotion points are much shorter in supply than regular Skill points, they allow you to really develop particular aspects of your character. For instance, with Shamans, there are several options to increase lightning damage dealt or buff your pets to make them more reliable in combat. All together, the range of character customisation and development is quite extensive (and a little daunting at first). However, in my opinion, this is one of the areas where Grim Dawn really shines- endless customisation opportunities and potential to build whatever suits your particular needs.

"There's somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!"

“There’s somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!”

There’s also quite a number of side quests to do, optional objectives to complete, optional dungeons to explore, factions to join, and even special end game dungeons which are opened with unique Skeleton Keys. These, once opened, only stay open provided you don’t die. Obviously not a concern for Hardcore characters. That said, for regular characters, should you die, you’ll be removed from the dungeon and will need to build/use another Skeleton Key to get back in. These are always challenging, too. As the mobs scale to your level (and beyond).

These are really great places to farm out additional items and experience for attempting the later difficulties (Elite through Ultimate), and great places to test your skills against impressive and dangerous bosses you won’t see elsewhere. Some (like the Immolation) require faction status or particular quests to be completed before you can enter.

I’ve really enjoyed these as they’re tough but fair dungeons with few cheap mechanics.

Overall, I’ve watched this through Early Access and I’ve been continually impressed with everything they’ve done with it. I’m even further impressed by the exceptional quality of the finished product, which, while I thought I was done with Normal, showed me there was another ten hours (or more) content that I’d missed. Either by not taking on the end game dungeons or by not uncovering some of the secret locations. It’s been an amazing experience thus far and I’m excited to see if any DLC will be developed, what that DLC will be, and where the story will go from here. Currently they’re onto a really great experience which could very easily become one of the classic ARPG experiences of all time.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Darkest Before Dawn

We’re going to spill some blood tonight.

Grim Dawn is (finally) here! The full release launched yesterday (25th February 2016) with a heaping helping of polish, an animated opening sequence, voice acting (for most major quests/NPCs), and a few things I might have missed but have never noticed before. For instance, the rare items that seem to be spawning in pre-determined locations (with randomised statistics). I assume they’re supposed to do that as they’re worth considerably less Iron than equivalent rare items of a similar level.

They’re pretty awesome additions, too! Especially the voice acting and opening sequence.

I had a hard time deciding on how to build my first character. Initially I felt that the Soldier would be a good choice and would follow the usual trend of playing a close quarters, heavily armoured, somewhat tactical character in my first foray into any ARPG. However, I do want to build a weapon and shield Solider at some point. Obviously I can have as many Soldier (or Soldier hybrid) builds as I like, but it seems silly to repeat this early on. They’re all so tempting! So I settled on Shaman as (if they’re similar to my experiences) they balance survivability, damage, pets, and utility in equal measure. Plus you get to whack everyone with the biggest, heaviest piece of scrap you can find.

I’m not sure how this decision will affect moving into the higher difficulty levels (Elite and Ultimate), nor how it will work with the Devotion system, but I’m excited to experience the entirety of the story in the full release. I’m also going to attempt to take my first build through the three difficulty levels in sequence.

Such a shocking revelation.

Such a shocking revelation.

That said, we all know it’s more likely I’ll start another build (and another) before I see the depths of what Ultimate has to offer. The rules of engagement for Elite and Ultimate are also a mystery to me, as I’m not sure if they feature any significant changes (other than higher monster levels and better loot). I don’t know if there’s an experience penalty on death, lowered elemental resistances, monster immunity to certain elements, or really anything about what happens once you leave the safety of Normal. There’s only one way to find out, though!

Needless to say this is where I’m going to be all weekend.

Technically the game is performing well and (with a few minor tweaks) is running well. I’ve discovered the joys of Shrines and having to cleanse them, which, while not an entirely new mechanic, certainly makes the world feel much fuller and gives you more to do. In fact, so far, I’ve run into things to do everywhere. From having people to save to cleansing Shrines to exploring additional areas- it’s come a long way from the days of Early Access- and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. I’ve had a quick look over the map and it goes on for days. I can only imagine the additional dungeons and hidden areas they’ve dotted throughout the world. I can only imagine the treasures, too.

I may be a little biased as I have had high expectations for Grim Dawn for some time. It’s one of the few titles I’ve really looked forward to seeing released this year, too. But I still firmly believe that (for as far as I’ve seen as of writing this) it’s one of the best ARPGs in recent years. Perhaps in the entire history of ARPGs.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie