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

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The Adventures of Rosey and Cornelius

The dynamic Source Hunter duo.

Divinity: Original Sin is a rather enjoyable yet devilishly difficult RPG which features CRPG mechanics. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be discussing the original release and not the Enhanced Edition so take some observations lightly. I’m sure that the Enhanced Edition has better tuned mechanics. Hopefully. It’s also worth noting that it’s been roughly four years since I last journeyed around Rivellon, and that I wasn’t too far through the main story the last time that I did. But I’ve been having a lot of fun with it this time around.

I even bought Divinity: Original Sin 2 because of it.

Character creation is definitely one of the best things about Divinity: Original Sin. Both the Source Hunters you begin with and companions that join you are fully customisable, and if you don’t feel like playing with others you can completely forego companions by acquiring the Lone Wolf talent. You can even develop characters with myriad non-combat abilities.

On that note, I was slightly disappointed that I would need to move items to a character in order to utilise Blacksmithing or Loremaster. That’s something I know that they’ve changed in the Enhanced Edition. I’m also slightly disappointed by the lack of variety in companions. I would’ve liked to see more of the unique character classes being represented. That said, I chose Jahan and Madora to fill two very simplistic roles in the end. One being the ever-murderous valiant knight who would tank damage about as well as my Source Hunter, while the other chose a more scholarly yet no less destructive route of raining fire down on anything and everything. I’m not disappointed in the range of skills you can choose from, though. They’re pretty great overall.

Not so invulnerable now, are you?

On the other hand, while the skills are great, the flow of combat can sometimes be weighed heavily in your opponent’s favour. It’s fairly obvious that most enemies have higher resistances and better chances to apply status ailments than you, which would be fine if you weren’t perpetually outnumbered. Worse still when you’ve invested significantly in Bodybuilding or Willpower to affect those saving rolls and they still apply the status ailment. Enemies seem to act rather randomly, too. So it’s almost down to luck whether you’re going to make it out alive.

Which also would be fine if resurrecting wasn’t an inconvenient annoyance.

But the synergy between your skills is incredible. Being able to create poison surfaces which you can later set alight, or being able to freeze the ground to cause enemies to trip, or even being able to use Teleportation (which is the best skill) to drop an enemy into lava is ridiculously fun. The combat can simultaneously be the best and worst part of the experience.

I would say that Divinity: Original Sin is a great experience if not a little flawed. The quests are certainly engaging enough and not every single one requires combat, but the progression through new areas feels a little disjointed. Often you’re expected to travel to higher level areas to complete lower level quests. That said, it never ruins the experience it’s just a little frustrating at times trying to figure out where to go next. I also wish that crafting in the original release made any sense. I’m certain that the Enhanced Edition will smooth out this experience to make it more enjoyable, and so I’ve no hesitation in recommending Divinity: Original Sin to all who enjoy RPGs (and CRPGs) as it’s worth the time invested. Without question.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Repeatedly Running Away

Evading the cold embrace of death.

Monster Hunter World is a contradictory collection of enjoyable and frustrating mechanics. I’m going to write a more comprehensive post once I’ve completed the main story, but now that I’ve ascended to the glory that is High Rank I thought I’d share my initial reactions. To be fair, I’ve probably seen the majority of the mechanics now. I’ve also seen some hilarious yet devastating monster behaviour. Like the Tzitzi-Ya-Ku who decided to run to several different locations on the map only to arrive and immediately run to another.

That was an expedition that didn’t go as planned.

Thankfully it was just an expedition, so I didn’t exactly lose anything other than the time invested and a few consumables. I’m rather fond of that particular mechanic, though. I like the fact that the monsters will eventually leave a location rather than wait patiently for their inevitable death. It gives both expeditions and investigations a reason to exist when gathering resources.

That said, I’ve encountered few mechanics which frustrate me more than the main story quests. They seem to be specifically designed for a full group of hunters, but they don’t provide any NPC support if you’re doing the quest alone. Not that the quests are actually that difficult. But they also seem to progress even if you don’t complete the currently required objectives. So you’re either being pushed through several objectives so quickly that you can’t tell what’s going on, or you’re frantically running back and forth trying to load every cannon you can see. It feels as though there should be at least a few NPCs helping you. Especially when the consequences of failure are so catastrophic, and yet you’re literally the only hunter trying to do anything about it.

Only one of these hunters will actually attempt to stop Zorah Magdaros.

Oddly every other quest works as you would expect it should. The assigned quests (not involving Zorah Magdaros) all have introductory encounters, the optional quests are varied and numerous, investigations are an excellent source of everything, and expeditions basically allow you to roam the world freely. In many ways the diversity of the quests really help to bring this entire experience together. It’s also refreshing that the developers acknowledged that you’ll be doing an immense amount of grinding and have provided investigations to allow you do just that.

It’s a much better solution than simply repeating story quests.

The crafting mechanics are quite refreshing, too. Not only can you mark pieces of equipment that you want to craft and you’ll be notified when you have the resources, but being able to craft items automatically removes so much repetition. It’s even better that you’re in control of what should be crafted automatically. These are simple but appreciated considerations.

The inventory management mechanics are so intuitive that I wish every JRPG, RPG, and MMORPG had them. Being able to allocate a set of items to a loadout and then simply refill that loadout after a quest saves so much time. You can even tailor those loadouts to different types of quests. There are so many minor but incredibly clever alterations to conventional mechanics. I was sceptical about Monster Hunter World, but I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with it and now that I’ve reached High Rank I’ve got new opportunities to take advantage of. On the other hand, this is where the intense grinding begins so maybe this is where it will start to wear on me. Either way it’s easily worth the price of admission and quite fun, too!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 16)

Reclaim the corrupted capital.

In what I would assume is the final chapter of the Battle for Azeroth pre-release event we return (and lay siege) to the Ruins of Lordaeron. I’m not too surprised about this as it was a prominent Alliance location before Arthas returned, and it has featured as a capital city for the Horde ever since. However, despite intending to reclaim the capital city, it’s actually in a worse state than when it was the Undercity. As I’m pretty sure it’s uninhabitable and filled with neon green blight. So the Alliance is having a bad start to this campaign.

We’ve lost Darnassus and now the Ruins of Lordaeron.

I’m not certain what has happened to the area surrounding the Ruins of Lordaeron, either. I doubt that it will be a starting zone as the Forsaken will likely start at Orgrimmar instead, or perhaps there’s a new introductory experience where they’re fleeing the ruins of the Undercity. The only way to know for sure would be to make a new Forsaken and see what happens.

Battle for Azeroth has certainly provided many questions and not too many answers. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the developers can capitalise on the answers and provide engaging content, but from what I’ve seen so far I’m sceptical. Moggie encountered the rare but (apparently) now resolved quest log bug which emptied his quest log. I’m not too upset about it as there were a few quests I was working on for a while, but most of the others I can easily start again. If I can find them. But it’s surprising that such a thing would happen as I’ve seen quite a few World of Warcraft expansions and this has never happened to me before. I’m also honestly confused as to whether there should be four or five world quests in Darkshore.

The halls of unspeakable treachery.

I’ve done all of the quests and I’ve seen both of the events but it flutters between four and five on a daily basis. I don’t know if that’s a bug but I’d assume it is. It’s not too much of a loss as you’re not at a disadvantage by not having the fifth quest, but, given that the rewards are randomised, you might miss out on completing the entire set because a quest that should be there isn’t. But I dare say that Azerite will allow you to buy those transmogrification appearances at a later date. But these hiccups do seem alarmingly common at the moment.

I’ve also noticed that First Aid has disappeared.

It has been split between Tailoring (for bandages) and Alchemy (for potions) which I don’t really agree with. Bandages weren’t as useful post-Cataclysm as they were before, but rather than remove First Aid they could have just made them useful again. Then again, most classes can now heal themselves either actively or passively and so that might have swayed the decision.

Personally, I don’t know why they would remove a profession only to split it among two other professions. It also does incur a slight loss for me as my Priest is nowhere near the level of Tailoring required for Legion First Aid, which is what Moggie had being my sole Lvl 110. But it’s a minor loss and I can do without the bandages so I’m not incomprehensibly angry about it. I don’t think there’s much more for me to do pre-Battle for Azeroth as it launches tomorrow, and without the expansion I’m likely running Legion content. But maybe we’ll all unlock the Heart of Azeroth to get a taste for how that will develop our characters. Unlikely. But it could happen. Again, I’ll leave my final impressions of this expansion until I’ve actually experienced the core content.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 15)

Witness the fall of Darnassus.

Even the events of Cataclysm didn’t eradicate an entire Alliance capital city. Deathwing may have set Stormwind aflame and caused severe structural damage, but the city survived the onslaught albeit a little worse for wear. In fact, Stormwind still stands. But the same can’t be said for Darnassus in the wake of War of Thorns. Arguably the most ambitious pre-release event in some time as it fundamentally affects an entire Alliance race, however I feel as though the Horde will be losing something of equal value as a result. Even if it could be considered a reclamation.

Remember when Deathwing used to incinerate random adventurers? Fun times.

It does seem odd that they’ve decided to split the quests into two portions released over two weeks. Especially with the second portion being as short as it is, and only really functionally serving to unlock a fifth world quest in Darkshore. But that’s just more opportunities for pre-release transmogrification sets. Which also could have been included from the beginning.

But ours is not to reason why. Ours is to defend Darnassus and ultimately get slowly cooked before retreating in the face of an expertly executed assault. Admittedly, I don’t think Sylvanas makes a good leader for the Horde but that’s only because her story has become muddled. There was little to no reason for the war. Except that the Alliance should be eradicated. But, from what little reasoning we do encounter, it seems that her anger is wrought from failing to protect her people when faced with an onslaught by the Lich King. Which just makes this even more muddled. Honestly, it feels akin to something that Garrosh would do. Therefore it’s hard to see the reason why and without the reason why it’s difficult to respond appropriately to it.

It’s a coordinated war effort.

Even the Burning Legion had a solid reason for the invasion of Azeroth. They like burning things. Such as worlds. They also like enslaving things. Such as entire populations of said worlds. I’m hoping that the remainder of Battle for Azeroth makes a little more sense, and that there’s an actual conclusion to Sylvanas’ story at some point. They’ve been hinting at it since the release of Cataclysm. On the other hand, it’s kind of disappointing to think that such a developed character could potentially meet their end in a lacklustre expansion.

Once again, I’m trying to be hopeful for the events of Battle for Azeroth.

But I think that I’ll need to actually experience the expansion before making a decision. It’s a reasonable enough request. Given that you can scarcely judge anything without having experienced it, and I do think that this is reason enough to have the entire Alliance declaring war on the Horde. So the motivation to slaughter each other is there. Especially if you’re from Darnassus.

Besides these events I’ve mostly been working on the final enhancements for the Paladin Class Order Hall. There are many quests left to complete in order to unlock new appearances for the Ashbringer and Truthguard, alongside various dungeon quests, and even achievements related to my progress. I’m in for the long haul that’s for sure. That said, I may also be levelling up some of my other characters. I’ve yet to see the potential of the Survival Hunter since the pre-release patch. I’m quite keen on seeing how the return of totems for the Enhancement Shaman works out, too. Naturally, most of the time will be spent with Moggie and his new (and possibly improved) Retribution specialisation. But, again, you have to experience it to have an opinion of it.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 14)

Statistics have been squished.

Normally you expect such things when you hear of pre-release patches, but I was quite surprised to see how significantly things have been altered and (more importantly) how Legion content has been adjusted. There’s quite a dramatic difference between 3.1m health and 20k health. That said, Moggie remains roughly as effective as he was in combat before the reduction. Minus some of the potential for AoE damage as talents have been changed or removed. We can still retain Wake of Ashes, though. So that’s neat.

Even if it’s not necessarily tied to the Ashbringer.

Which is little more than a relic of a completed campaign at this point. I’m not really surprised that they eventually lost their power, but I am disappointed that I can’t earn Artifact Power for any of my characters who have yet to experience the Legion campaign. Mostly disappointed for Doomhammer as I would’ve liked to engage in the full Shaman experience in Legion.

I’m also disappointed because all of the passive bonuses and powerful new abilities are lost if you can no longer develop the equipment. It was quite the experience to have equipment that literally changed the way your character fought, which made Legion more enjoyable as it was something different. Now the levelling curve is like any other. You also lack the signature abilities of the equipment which are inactive now. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a devastating change, but I do wonder what the motivation for that change was as you could have left the levelling experience as was and disabled it at Lvl 110. Drained the equipment of its power at that point and not before. Then again, it’s arguable that investing in it prior to Lvl 110 would be pointless.

Weakened but not entirely ineffective.

I’m not too pleased with how Retribution feels at the moment, either. I felt as though Legion really gave back some of the more interesting, more versatile, and more enjoyable abilities which have been painfully absent in the expansions that came before it. Now it feels as though you’re forced to be a single target brawler with the few AoE abilities being Divine Storm and Wake of Ashes. I’m starting to wonder whether the new (and smaller) UI speaks of the removal of many abilities. I’ve not even tried to understand my Survival Hunter yet.

I’m not sure where all of his abilities went.

I was quite excited for the War of Thorns event hence the return. But I’m not really sure how I feel about things at the moment. I’m hoping that I’ll warm to these changes eventually, and that Battle for Azeroth will have an exciting and enjoyable campaign. I don’t know, though. I’m trying to be hopeful but these changes feel less than enjoyable for most classes.

I can only blame myself for not being able to experience the Legion campaign as intended for most characters. As I had the time to do all of those quests and I simply didn’t subscribe. But I still don’t understand why they removed those mechanics from the campaign, and I don’t see it making the experience any better. If anything I think it’ll make it worse. But here we are. At the crossroads that always exist when sweeping changes are made to expansions or mechanics. I don’t intend to be negative and I’ll definitely be talking about the War of Thorns event, but I do feel as though Battle for Azeroth is a step backwards for now. That opinion could very well change in the future depending on how favourable I find the expansion.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Hella Anarchistic

I had to do it. I’m sorry.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an enjoyable narrative-driven experience that explores the unlikely friendship between Chloe Price and Rachel Amber, while serving as a prequel to the events in Life is Strange. Composed of fewer episodes but comparable in length to the prior instalment, I was sceptical at first as Chloe possesses no otherworldly abilities (besides being able to relentlessly insult people) but she proves to be just as interesting as a protagonist. Rachel is quite a diverse character, too.

There’s even a rather neat bonus episode.

This episode provides an amount of closure (and heartbreak) by looking at the last day Max and Chloe spent together before the former left Arcadia Bay. Those who have played Life is Strange will know Chloe- and know that Rachel was important to her- but we’ve never really had the opportunity to explore either character before. Which the prequel provides in a satisfactory fashion.

In contrast to Life is Strange, much of the progression now relies on exploring the environment and unlocking dialogue options or collecting items. Not being able to endlessly reverse time to explore different outcomes also means that decisions are mostly permanent. There are fewer life-threatening situations, too. This provides a significantly different experience to what you might have expected, but it doesn’t detract from the story which remains engaging throughout and provides just as many surprises. I rather enjoyed the tension of having to live with the consequences of my actions rather than being able immediately explore alternatives. Which I would habitually do with Max. Sometimes just because I could.

Lies often protect us from the harsh reality of the truth.

I was once again most impressed with the character development. I feel as though you could play Life is Strange: Before the Storm and then Life is Strange and it would actually enhance the experience of the latter, which isn’t something you can always say about prequels. But in this case it’s very true. It’s also interesting to see how alike Chloe and Max once were and how they evolved quite differently over time. Which, in my opinion, makes this prequel a resounding success as it provides exactly what you would expect it to.

A means to flesh out previously unexplored events.

I wouldn’t be opposed to further exploration of these events, either. It’s unlikely that we’ll get that opportunity but I would welcome it. Mostly because I would be interested to see how they would handle the true conclusion of their story, and what events led to that outcome. But I suppose it’s equally as possible as not with the announcement of Life is Strange 2.

I’ve been rather impressed with both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Having also played the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (which is free) I’m rather excited for the future of this series, and I look forward to seeing what kind of protagonist Life is Strange 2 has. Again, I could use any number of positive adjectives to explain how I feel about the series but it’s probably better if you experience it for yourself. It’s different but the best kind of different you could ask for. Especially if you choose to explore different consequences by taking a different route through the story. I’ve had fewer positive experiences in the last few years than this and I would highly recommend it even if you’re only curious about the series.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie