Return of the Wang

The Way of the Wang is long, and hard, and ribbed for her pleasure.

Shadow Warrior 2 is an excellent example of everything you would want from a sequel. You’ve got deeper character development mechanics, a greater selection of upgrades, numerous skills to unlock, a greater selection of weapons (with new weapon types), and an extensive story that offers more freedom. The swordplay might even be better in the sequel, too. But, if that’s not enough, they’ve even thrown in free DLC, which will not only add new missions as you progress through the story but offer greater customisation of weapons and upgrade gems.

It’s also ridiculously fun in the silliest way possible.

The close combat options are just as enjoyable as they were in Shadow Warrior. I’m particularly keen on the dual wielding options that allow me to slice, dice, and observe giblets as my foes fall to literal pieces. You also get more chances to burn, freeze, electrocute, and poison foes when swinging these. I’m not sure what that calculated murderous intent says about me.

Upgrading weapons is a particularly important mechanic for unlocking their full potential in combat. Upgrading Wang is pretty important, too. Both of these sets of mechanics will allow you to specialise in the things you want to do best and give you the ability to handle different situations. Likewise, investing in certain skills will give you better results with certain techniques or styles of combat. Sting, Vortex, and Force Slash comprise your active weapon techniques. While Healing Flame, Chi-Blast, Grip of Darkness, and Vanish comprise your active chi techniques. Each has a specific situation in which it will perform at its best, but they’re all equally useful in helping you survive the countless demons you’ll need to slay on your lengthier adventure.

It’s a lovely day to go to the video store.

The best surprise in Shadow Warrior 2 would have to be the final boss fight music. It was one of those perfect moments in video game history, where you’re trying to take this particularly important fight seriously but you’re somewhere between smiling and laughing at the absurdity of the situation. I loved it, though. Which is, in my opinion, what makes Shadow Warrior (as a series) so great, as it never takes itself too seriously but is always enjoyable. There might be more grinding in the sequel but it’s enjoyable grinding.

Even the randomised loot was handled well.

Weapons (and some upgrade gems) will have specific statistics, while everything else will have randomised combinations of affixes which can create some truly unique (and powerful) bonuses for certain weapons. I’m not sure if it works from a set of prefixes and suffixes as an ARPG would but it does work quite well. You rarely find something that is completely useless.

That said, even if you do, you can easily reforge it with two other upgrade gems and have another chance to roll something usable. There is so much more to Shadow Warrior 2 than the previous instalment and it really helps to deliver a more enjoyable adventure. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m also starting to wonder when other first person action titles will start to employ as enjoyable close combat mechanics, rather than the repetitive left click spam. I’m particularly fond of swords in the first place but I’m more fond of them when you can do awesome things with them. Such as twirling around until you get motion sickness and your vision is clouded with blood and viscera. I’m also not sure what enjoying that sensation says about me.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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From the Ashes

Greenish tints are common in post-apocalyptic wastelands.

Devil’s Crossing has seen better days. Mostly the ones where they’re not under siege from a fallen city overflowing with horrific monstrosities. But, seeing as they are under siege, and their militia is more or less useless, you’re going to be busy for a few days. Or weeks. Assuming you aren’t immediately swallowed up by the void. Ashes of Malmouth is the utterly fantastic continuation of Grim Dawn, which features both new Masteries and new story content (alongside a heapin’ helpin’ of new items legendary and otherwise).

It’s a good ol’ fashioned expansion.

The two new Masteries alone are worth the price of admission, as they can either be used on their own or with any of the other Masteries which opens up myriad possibilities. I’ve been trying the Death Knight (Necromancer/Soldier) and the combination of summoning with close combat is pretty fantastic. Having a menagerie of unholy beasts and skeletons is pretty neat.

That said, the new story content is excellently introduced through a series of breadcrumb quests which take you back to Burrwitch and then to heart of the void. From there you journey to Malmouth and (quite literally) fight your way to the heart of the city. Gaining ground and losing it in equal measure as you push forwards. It’s a surprisingly extensive journey which will introduce you to new factions nestled deep in marshes and crumbling cities, and will require you to make choices, as your actions will dictate who will welcome you and who won’t, and those interactions will help you understand the true nature of these factions. As expected from Grim Dawn there is a wealth of choice and consequence that’ll keep you busy for hours to come.

Crown Hill definitely has an infestation problem.

I’ve had a few pangs of nostalgia while playing through this expansion, too. It gives me similar feelings to those I had when I first experienced Diablo II Lord of Destruction, wherein the snowy plains of Act V kept me company while I adjusted to the innumerable challenges that lay ahead. I’m also quite excited to see how the Death Knight develops. I’ve mostly experienced Ashes of Malmouth with my Warder (Shaman/Soldier), which, besides being my first character, doesn’t have a particularly strong or effective build.

It has great burst potential but terrible survivability.

However, despite the build drawbacks, I’ve greatly enjoyed all that I’ve experienced so far. I’ve still got to find those new dungeons, too. I would say that I’ve seen the majority of what this expansion has to offer, but I know that isn’t true as it is so incredibly content dense. I’ve definitely missed quests and NPCs along the way. Not to mention the results of different choices.

It’s an incredibly easy recommendation to make if you love ARPGs. Grim Dawn is an expertly crafted and beautifully complex yet intuitive and easy to learn ARPG, which only becomes better (in every way) with this expansion. That and you can raise skeletons. All the cool kids are doing that. I’m not really sure what the Inquisitor does- but I’m sure that’s neat as well. I’m quite excited to see what’s coming next for Grim Dawn, but, until then, I’ve got to roam the fields of Wightmire with my Death Knight. She’s due to loot something really cool any day now. Or maybe I’ll try to make sense of the Devotion screen and pick something out for her. I don’t really open that screen much. It’s big and confusing.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Purloiner of Cinders

That’s a fairly accurate description of what I do.

I’ve also been known to farm Silver Knights for their equipment, collect spells of many different varieties, collect armour sets that I’ll never use, and sometimes even fight bosses to progress the story. I became the Lord of Hollows, too. That was quite an interesting marriage ceremony. Dark Souls III is an adventure that I’ve been eager to begin, but one that I approached with a build that focused on two things I’ve scarcely used before- Strength weapons and Pyromancies. It’s an odd combination and it’s not the easiest build to make effective.

But I get to throw smouldering fireballs at people. Which explode into lava.

I’ve greatly enjoyed the build, but I will admit that I mostly fell back on using my weapon and shield instead of the varied Pyromancies. Which still feel like (mostly) PvP options to me. That said, I’m not too upset about that as I’ve been able to make use of a greatshield. Which is also a first for me. I’ve had varying success with bosses for obvious reasons, too.

As is becoming common practice for Dark Souls, Human Effigies (like Humanity before them) have been replaced by Embers which are much less required as they only really boost your maximum health until you die. It’s a nice boost- but it’s not as necessary as using a Human Effigy because you’re missing half of your health. Many of the mechanics you’ve become accustomed to have returned as well. Infusions allow you to enhance or completely change the damage type or scaling on your weapon, the reinforcement process remains unchanged, and the most major of differences is the introduction of Ashen Estus Flasks. Which are like regular Estus Flasks (and they share collective charges) but recover FP instead of HP.

Let’s take the scenic route.

FP is a rather important mechanic but only if you intend to cast spells or use weapon arts. It replaces the previous mechanic of attuning multiple copies of the same spell for extra uses and introduces a casting resource (FP), which is recovered with Ashen Estus Flasks, and so every spell has a cost, while spending points in Attunement will give you more FP and more slots. It’s probably the broadest change and it’s a little confusing at first, but very simple once you get the hang of it. I’m actually really supportive of the change. It feels balanced.

Likewise, weapon arts allow you to use special moves with certain weapons.

These special moves will also drain FP but they’re often worth the cost. While some of the more unique transposed weapons will have entirely different movesets to what you may expect, which makes those weapons interesting for reasons other than scaling and/or damage. It’s an enjoyable experience overall which still holds a lot of secrets (and optional bosses) for you to discover.

Likewise, the Dark Souls series as a whole is quite enjoyable. There are some less than enjoyable moments or bosses, but it’s mostly a very well made series, which has the ability to be experienced in different ways over different playthroughs, and will most certainly give you hours of entertainment. It also tends to teach you how creative you can be with profanity. I’ve got a few other builds I want to try with Dark Souls III as well. Mostly those that include Sorceries or something that suits my usual build. Even the dual wielding weapons look fun. I’ve also yet to make my way through the DLC, which I know are quite difficult and feature several multiple phase bosses. Those are my favourites- that’s when the despair really sets in!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Shieldless in Drangleic

It’s a dangerous world out there.

Likely even more dangerous when you willingly opt out of using a shield entirely. That said, I’ve started to wonder if I rely too much on my shield. Especially when I don’t really build characters around heavier armour which are more likely to require a shield, or, at the very least, make good use of one. Dark Souls II is an experience I don’t really talk about all that much. That’s not to say that the experience itself is bad, just that I made a bad decision in thinking that Miracles would be a good secondary damage option. When they’re really not.

Well, no, they are- you just have to progress pretty far into the story to get those Miracles.

Which meant that I’d need to start over with a new build and I never really got around to doing that. Until recently. Which is when I decided I’d run a full Sorceries build with limited weapon options and no shield. I’ll admit- it sounds like a bad idea. Which it was with some bosses. But it was something different that helped me to understand when a shield is actually useful.

The majority of character progression and development mechanics remained the same as they were in Dark Souls. But the most significant difference would be the introduction of Human Effigies, which essentially act as Humanity but also restore the temporary maximum health loss that occurs when you die. They’re not particularly required, either. Especially if you have the ring that reduces the amount of maximum health you lose with each additional death. I do believe the Sorceries have remained mostly the same as well. That said, for me, the greatest challenge was defeating bosses like the Lost Sinner with no reflexive shield raising. I always do that panic button press hoping that it will absorb the damage when I’m about to get hit.

Shower him with Soul Arrows!

I’ve had a lot of fun with the build, though. It’s definitely different as I’m usually doing most damage with a weapon and then relying on Sorceries for some enemies. Whereas, with this build, I’m having to think a lot more about actually rolling effectively as I don’t have a panic button. If I roll badly I’m going to get hit. Which makes equipment weight more important, which in turn reduces the number of armour sets I could wear without investing heavily into its governing attribute. Casting time is also something I’m now much more aware of.

It wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting, either.

Which many would say is because of the inherent damage of Sorceries, but in many ways I felt almost underpowered in the earlier areas as I had limited Sorceries to attune and these were my main sources of damage. But that’s part of the challenge. When using a Strength/Dexterity weapon you have steadily increasing damage, whereas Sorceries are much more spiky.

It took a fairly long time to come back to Dark Souls II but I’m glad that I did. I didn’t own the Scholar of the First Sin version until recently, so these are all observations of a character in the original version but I do have the DLC for that version. So I’ll likely be exploring those at a later date. Until then, I’ll likely be moving on to the next in the series with which I will likely try another different build. But, again, as I said with the first Dark Souls, the character customisation and progression is what makes the series so enjoyable. It’s great to always be trying new weapons or building around different attributes. I can easily recommend Dark Souls II, though. It’s different- but it’s the enjoyable kind of different.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 13)

The conclusion of a glorious campaign.

I would like to thank the overflowing abundance of world quests, my champions, my cats, and Nethershards for the successful resolution of Moggie’s Class Order Hall campaign. Or what I would assume is the main bulk of the content at the time Legion was released. I don’t think we’re entirely done, as I’ve still got quests and other things related to the Class Order Hall campaign to do. But I’ve also got an upgraded appearance for Ashbringer and Truthguard alongside a new title. So I’m officially the Highlord. I’m just a very busy Highlord.

I’ve learned a lot over the course of this campaign, though.

Things that will undoubtedly be very useful for the other characters I have. Hence why I wasn’t sure if I should continue with the single campaign or start multiple ones, as I’m sure there would be new mechanics introduced which accelerate the process. Among those are world quests, collectible vendors, and the rather significant increases to Artifact Power accrual.

It’s been a fairly fun campaign, too. I’ve watched Moggie grow into quite a formidable Paladin. I’ve also taken quite a liking to Protection again, which, while it isn’t the specialisation I remember, is actually a really fun way to experience content. Active mitigation tanking is still new to me but it’s fun. There is a considerable difference in damage output, though. Which is to be expected. But the survivability and versatility are greatly heightened, which makes it a war of attrition as opposed to a burst DPS nukefest. I’ve even considered doing some dungeon tanking. I doubt I will- but I’ve humoured the idea once or twice. Truthguard isn’t as strong as Ashbringer yet, either. Though I have finally got some relics for it which have pushed me into the 4.5m health range.

Put your faith in the Light.

I certainly can’t feel bad about my progress with Moggie. I’m interested in seeing what new things the Hunter, Shaman, and Death Knight will bring to the campaign as well. So I’d say that Legion is going fairly well at the moment. It was always a rather spontaneous decision, which is why this subscription didn’t exactly proceed as expected as I didn’t foresee the purchase of Legion. Not that I regret it. But I’ve got a little more work to do to bring the others up to where they would’ve been. I’m looking forward to bringing the Monk into this, too.

She’s still made very little progress since her creation.

There are definitely a number of opportunities available if I’m willing to invest in them. I’m quite pleased about that in general, too. I’ve managed to bring all of my characters into some degree of order, which allows me to actually level and play them as I would’ve wanted to for all these years. There’s still work to be done- but it’s significantly less work than it once was.

I’m going to be starting the Legion campaign for Voljaarn next. Simultaneously, I’ll be focusing on the two Warlords of Draenor campaigns I’ve got for the Hunter and Death Knight. This way I’ll be bringing three new characters into Legion at least. Four with the Demon Hunter. Who I’m still unsure of how to proceed with. But the next subscription period will likely be focused on bringing everyone together, moving forward, and possibly accruing a decent number of Lvl 110 characters in the process. It might not be as exciting as this one was but it’s a necessary step forward. I’ve also got to figure out the professions in Legion, too. Lots of new crafting reagents of which I’m confused as to who would best utilise them.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 12)

The journey to Argus has begun!

As is probably evident by the shattered core of the planet and overflowing Fel corruption- it’s not the most hospitable place. Our journey wasn’t a pleasant one, and we’ve had to fight for what little ground we’ve gained since landing. I’m also slightly worried that Moggie lacks the gear to fully explore Argus. I’m not that concerned as I’ve got business to attend to back on the Broken Isles in Suramar, so I don’t need to return immediately. I wasn’t entirely sure I’d even reach Argus, either.

Legion has some rather interesting quest mechanics.

It’s hard to tell what’s going to feed into what with some quests. I’m also not too fond of having to clear dungeons to retrieve the Pillars of Creation, as these are quests that follow on from things that are part of your personal story (or that of your Class Order Hall). Which feels disjointed. You’re able to do everything else as the champion of your Class Order Hall except that.

The majority of my confusion regarding quests is from not playing since the release of Legion. They’ve introduced much more content since then and I’ve not experienced the natural progression of that content, so I’m experiencing the rush of various things to do all at once. I’ve gone from collecting the Pillars of Creation, to gaining ground on the Broken Shore, to travelling to Argus, and I’ve even unlocked content that I didn’t know about in a few days from reaching Lvl 110. It didn’t even need to take a few days, either. Which is not to say I’m not enjoying it- as I am- it’s just a much broader experience than I was expecting. The recent ridiculously potent increases to Artifact Power have significantly accelerated the progression of Ashbringer and Truthguard, too.

A grand collection of ancient relics.

I’ve also been working on things outside of exploring Legion content with Moggie. Flint and Sanguinaer are making progress with their Warlord of Draenor campaigns, while Voljaarn is making the final preparations to start his Legion campaign, and I’ve completed the starting experience for the Demon Hunter. The new addition, Felaendruhn, is currently sitting in Orgrimmar while I try to figure out what I’m doing with him. I’ve been thinking about trying Vengeance instead of Havoc, which I’d probably do while soloing old content to get a feel for a rotation I could use.

It’s been a while since I’ve had an entirely new character to explore.

There is the Monk, which isn’t entirely new but is a class that I’ve not explored yet. But the key difference is that they have to do the levelling process like any other non-hero class. Whereas Demon Hunters (like Death Knights before them) have an accelerated process, which allows them to begin with most of their abilities unlocked. You’ve got less time to get a feel for them.

It’s definitely one of the busier times I’ve had on World of Warcraft in a while. That’s a good thing, though. It’s nice to see that the time I’ve invested in sorting through inventories, banks, and professions has been worth something. That now I’m able to do what I originally set out to do. It’s not going to be long before I could take another four characters into Legion content, which would make five (with Moggie) and that would be the highest number of characters I’ve ever had actively levelling in an expansion. Which could easily become seven if I level the Priest and the Monk. I don’t know how much time I’ll be investing into World of Warcraft in the coming months, but I’m hopeful I’ll be happy with the results of that investment.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Greatly Textured Horns

It’s easier if you squint.

Which is also true of the process to create such details in the first place. I’ve recently reintroduced my Copic Multiliners to my creative process, as the replacement Mitsubishi Uni Pin fine liners aren’t quite as reliable as I would’ve hoped they’d be. Great pens- but they run out incredibly quickly. Or seem to. Which isn’t too much of an issue as they’re fairly cheap, but even things that are fairly cheap become expensive if you’re continually investing in them. For example, I’ve already replaced the 0.05 pen three times since I started using them.

So I decided I’d take another chance on the Copic Multiliners.

They’ve always been great pens and they’re exceptionally reliable. That said, I did run into an issue replacing a nib and ink cartridge that made me slightly wary of them. But the new replacements have taken to the pens perfectly, everything is great, and as to familiarise myself with them again I’ve been doing ink sketching. You’d be surprised how different certain pens feel.

Or maybe you wouldn’t. But it makes for great tangential conversation, as it relates back to how much confidence you have with particular materials and much of that is derived from how they feel in your hand. Or how they react to certain types of paper. It’s particular evident in how you sketch with pencils, too. As you tend to lean on certain qualities of pencil to make it easier to translate those lines to ink, which, again, feels quite different depending on the type of pens you’re using. I notice that with Copic Multiliners I’m able to sketch finer details as I can actually translate those details to ink with them. The difference between 0.05 and 0.03 seems insignificant- but it’s there- and it’s very noticeable. Especially when you habitually sketch fine details.

It’s not only the horns that are greatly textured.

This particular sketch falls somewhere between a few earlier attempts and a finalised attempt with this approach. An approach that will likely include Faber Castell Polychromos at some point. I’m rather limited in my colour selection with those at the moment- but I’m sure I can work something out. I have got a small collection of certain colours. It’s also likely I won’t move straight to a finalised piece and more likely that I’ll do some more sketching. Trying to learn more as I go. But I’m fairly pleased with how the line work in this piece turned out.

I’m also quite pleased with the horns.

I don’t usually illustrate horns in this particular style but I do like them. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really understood how they work anatomically and some might argue that I still don’t. But I like ’em. They’re neat. The rest of the anatomy is fairly standard and muscular. Which is pretty much my standard. I even threw in a little armour to further my progress there, too.

It’s been a while since I’ve done larger pieces and most of that is down to my own perceptions of my inability to do so. Which, again, is partly due to my confidence. So I’m trying to work through new ideas that basically force me to do these things. Mostly because I don’t understand how arm anatomy works, either. So if I can cover that with armour I’ll be fine. I’m kidding. Mostly. This year has definitely been a learning experience, for better or for worse. I’m leaning towards it being for the better of my creative efforts as a whole. But you could also argue that I’ve wasted time pursuing some approaches that are less useful. That said, I’m starting to think that the side effect of being creative and being on social media is feeling like you’re never good enough.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie