Video games

Hardcore Mode: poetry in death

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Yesterday, Mentum died. Who’s Mentum? Well, Mentum is…uhm, was, my hardcore Crusader in Diablo 3. He was strong, willful, proud. Most of all, however, he was stubborn. Raised to fight evil in every corner of Sanctuary, Mentum would not retreat from the hordes of demons standing between him and the Prime Evil that must be put to rest. No matter how large the pack, Mentum would leap right into the fray, smack his shield into an ugly visage and strike with his blade, calling upon a wrath fueled by divine purpose. No one could stop him from smiting evil. No one…but death.

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Blizzard playing butt-naked Twister

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There’s just some things too damn embarrassing to do. One of them is playing Twister without any clothes on. Next to deciding to play a game that forces you to grope your fellow players in order to not fall with your (now naked) buttocks on the ground, you will also show everyone all of your mortal husk. As much as we think of our own bodies as beautiful works of art (at least I do), the reality is different: everyone’s corpus is littered with imperfections and flaws. Standing around butt-naked is already bad enough, exposing all your weaknesses to the world around you. The only thing worse is to play a game like Twister naked, forcing you to throw around every bit of excess fat, loose skin or abundant body hair. Everything that people can criticize about you is flung around, as you try to win a game that is already pointless to win.

This year’s April Fool’s, Blizzard thought playing butt-naked Twister was a good idea.

It started of well, with a barrage of cool announcements, all of them obviously jokes. My personal favorite were the patch notes for WoW 6.0, which showed that the developers know what their target audience is about. One-liner after one-liner, Blizzard delivered a cool prank everyone could laugh about. A few other obvious April Fools followed, and soon a link to a new ArtCraft article popped up. ArtCraft! Heck yeah, finally we’ll see some new models! Right? Right?

Wrong.

This was the moment where Blizzard thought they were doing well in their game of April Fool’s Twister. Right hand on good joke, left foot on brilliant fake patch notes; so far so good. Why not up the ante? People are laughing about how we’re bending our body ever so gracefully, why not show them all of it? So Blizzard decided to pull down its pants, throw of that XXL shirt and come out with the big guns: a fake ArtCraft article.

Now, a fake ArtCraft article isn’t bad. It’s nice to play with your audience expectations. What’s bad is to illustrate a sensitive topic in it: gender depiction. I don’t feel attacked by it, trust me. In fact, I could get a good laugh out of it. A little bit of satire doesn’t hurt me, so when Blizzard decided to continue playing in their bare skin, I was the guy in the audience laughing about how ridiculous they look. To Blizzard’s regret, most of the audience didn’t like seeing them naked. Most of the audience wasn’t entertained by that ArtCraft article. Most of the audience was at least mildly enraged.

So, while Blizzard’s busy getting dressed and recouping from a backlash no April Fool’s joke of them has ever seen, all I can tell you, dear readers, is that there’s two things not worth your time: writing satirical, out-of-taste April Fools articles about gender stereotypes and playing Twister butt-naked.

Oh, also, asking your Twitter followers for article ideas is also dangerous. You might end up writing an article like this!

Faffing to 90 – Electrical!

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Music makes everything better. Absolutely everything. Annoying chores you should have done two weeks ago? Pump some Rise Against through my speakers and I’ll do them like my life depends on it. Having to wait at the bus stop because the drive decided to show up too early for a change? No problem, my homeboys from The Gaslight Anthem got me covered. Ideal background music to faff your way to 90, playing a blond elf hell-bent on carnage and bloodshed? Electric Six!

I don’t know what it is about the silliness of their lyrics or their actually pretty cool instrumental work, but for some reason, grinding your way through the levels goes a whole lot faster when I’m being told that electric demons start fires and someone has naked pictures of my mother (no matter how wrong that sounds). I can actually imagine Lorellis humming some of their tunes while doing the dirty work of the Argent Crusade in the Eastern Plaguelands.

 

Talking ’bout those fellas…I really love the Eastern Plaguelands. Well, scratch that. I love the people I meet in them! Fiona’s traveling band is fun to travel along with, though most of her companions don’t get much personality. The focus is on Tarenar and Gidwin, who want to join the Argent Crusade for…reasons. Well, they’re fun to have beside you, and the fact that Fiona offers you free transport from one quest hub to the next (along with entertaining dialogue) is a nice bonus. Plus, one single quest to get my reputation with the Argent Dawn up to Revered? That’s service, Blizz. Lazy service, but service. Also, the Brotherhood of the Light (see screenshot below).

"Where do I sign up?" Lorellis shouted after hearing this.

“Where do I sign up?” Lorellis shouted after hearing this.

I parked Lorellis in the Badlands yesterday evening, after wrapping up my journey with Fiona, her ambitious paladins and the other members of her band (Fiona & the Paladins should be a real band). Outland is just a rough ten levels away, though I won’t mind staying in Azeroth until level 60. Questing in ex-Draenor is such a chore and I will probably need some strong support to make it through that part. But heck, as I said: music makes everything easier.

What do you say? Electric Six has a new album? Heh, this will be smooth sailing!

 

Faffing to 90 – a plague upon thee

Does he got the booty? He dooo!

Does he got the booty? He dooo!

I blame one Blizzard game for not playing another Blizzard game more than I want to. Ironic how Blizzard is its own competition. Not that they care: I paid for both Reaper of Souls and a monthly subscription to World of Warcraft, so the guys in the financial department aren’t making sad faces as far as I know. Still, kicking all kinds of supernatural ass in Diablo 3 has kept me from my fabalicious Blood Elf, but there’s still some progress to report.

Monday evening I made the XP sprint to level 40, which is a nice milestone due to the fact my riding speed increases. Also, I finished one of the two Plaguelands, giving Lorellis some rest in Andorhal before moving to the other. While out there questing, I noticed two things about the quest design that came with Cataclysm: Blizzard made the quests either really serious in tone (though you miss most of that when you’re one of those guys who don’t read quest descriptions) or just plain silly (which you will also miss if you just follow the built-in GPS to the quest location). Personally, I don’t mind these two extremes, but I can understand when people say that questing feels like a fantasy comedy show with a dose of pop-cultural references. To me, that’s what makes the leveling process enjoyable. I’ve seen enough of WoW‘s attempts to be gritty, dark or even grimdark, and I feel like the game is suppossed to feel somewhat satirical. So, when a Forsaken researcher complains about the fact that the druids and paladins have been cleaning the Plaguelands too well, I get a smile on my face and happily help him with re-infecting the local population and wildlife.

HOW DARE THEY?!

HOW DARE THEY?!

So, here is my brave warrior at level 40, gathering some rested XP in the inn, waiting for me to make the push through the “old world” and into what used to be Draenor. Will he find spectacular looking armor in the demon-infested lands? Will my patience last me through the terrible quest design of Burning Crusade? You’ll read all about it right here!

Reaping souls, hardcore style

crusaderLet me be honest with you: I think some of the best features of Reaper of Souls were already implemented before the expansion was released. Yes, having a new Act to plow through is great, and I’m sure the Adventure mode will be fun once I get to it, but the re-worked loot system and tweaked skills that came with the pre-patch really made the game interesting to me. You might make the assumption then that today’s release of Diablo 3‘s expansion didn’t thrill me much. Well, up until a few hours ago, I would have said “yes”, but then a Crusader came along and dragged me into a play mode I hadn’t explored yet.

The Crusader, Reaper of Soul‘s new class in shining armor, instantly fascinated me. Being a fan of the Paladin class in Diablo 2, seeing the Crusader brandishing shield and one-handed weapon, smiting foes with his righteous fury intrigued me, and so I was sure to roll one once the expansion hit. Well, as soon as I would have finished Act V on my Demon Hunter. And as soon as I got tired of playing the Adventure mode. Oh, and after I decked aforementioned Demon Hunter in all-new Legendaries, and…you see, the Crusader was pretty far down on my to-do list. Was.

Enter Hardcore mode. Since quite some of my friends have returned to Diablo 3, Hardcore mode is what they are all about. And who can blame them? Knowing you can just return from the dead makes Diablo 3 a harmless game of hacking trash monsters for loot to partake in some hamster-wheel progression (much as C.T. Murphy describes over here), but once you add the fear of dying permanently, losing your entire character, the game changes. Every pull becomes exciting, every engagement with an elite monster a blood-pumping thrill. Suddenly, you take more time to plan your skill loadout, to stock up on potions and to maybe, just maybe, don’t go all Leeroy Jenkins and pull a room full of monsters farting lava and burping laser beams. In short, blind genocide turns into strategic murder.

Wow, that came out wrong.

Anyway, what has the Crusader to do with Hardcore mode and vice-versa? Well, after getting bored progressing through the fifth Act alone (I don’t want to speed through it with groups yet), I decided to dive into Hardcore mode, a mode I had played fifteen minutes during the launch week of Diablo 3, picking the Crusader as my class. And boy, is it awesome! Sure, I’ve only cranked up the difficulty to Hard so far, but the Crusader is a fun class to play (wielding two-handed weapons in one hand? Sign me up!), and having the danger of seeing him truly die gives the game a whole new twist.

So, do I enjoy Reaper of Souls so far? Mwah, it’s okay. Do I have fun playing an already available mode with a class that is just damn fun to play? Oh yeah! I’m reaping souls, hardcore style, and I bet Malthael can learn a thing or two from my Crusader when it comes to mass murder.

WildStar Beta Weekend – the same old with an enjoyable, new coat

Not sure if you know, but right now, WildStar’s very first Beta Weekend is happening! Of course you knew, unless you’ve been dodging MMO news for the last weeks. Being interested in the title myself, I pre-ordered to get access and have been exploring Nexus for the majority of the weekend. My opinion so far? Well, it’s much of the same stuff I’ve been doing for the past years in many other MMO’s, but in a shiny new coat!

I don’t want to drag this post too much, so here’s the deal: from these approximately ten hours of playing WildStar, I can gather that, at its core, it’s a schoolbook MMORPG. From the interface to the quest design to the two-faction divide, everything looks and feels like your run-of-the-mill online RPG. After I realized this about an hour in, I was disappointed, devastated even: had the forums and tweets of enthusiastic closed beta players lied to me? Was their opinion tainted by their blind fanaticism for this game? After recovering from this mild depression through a moment of self-reflection and the sudden realization that, quite frankly, this is just a game. What did I honestly expect?

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That’s how it looked when my hopes about this being the perfect new MMO were shattered.

Okay, so there’s nothing special about WildStar then? Wrong! It’s true, at its heart, WildStar feels and plays like a dozen other titles, but what sets it apart from its rivals is one major thing: presentation. Everything WildStar has, it presents right. From the almost Disney-like cartoon graphics, the fantastic music to the presentation of actual gameplay mechanics, WildStar excels at making it look and feel good. Combat is not just tab-targeting, it’s fast-paced action-packed fireworks in the style of Guild Wars 2. Classes are not your typical wizards and rogues, but gun-toting Spellslingers and psychic Espers. Everything about it feels like people took some real effort and time to think about it, which can’t be said about every MMORPG. So yeah, WildStar takes the same old, and puts it into a very sexy and enjoyable coat.

I could go on and on, almost copying the Mistress of Faffing’s post, but let me wrap up it up here: WildStar is a heck of fun, but if you’re looking for something mold-breaking and genre-defying, hang on to your dollars. If, however, you’re like me and don’t mind seeing something familiar in a new suit, then why don’t you join me and others in the next Beta Weekend? Just…just don’t roll a Chua. They scare me…

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Faffing to 90 – Killing with style, killing in style

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Readers, I have to thank you.

In my previous Faffing to 90 post, I was somewhat cynical about the fact that you forced me to play a Blood Elf. I decided to make the best of it, made a blondie with one of those crazy hairstyles (only Varian has more wicked hair than those pointy-eared freaks) and named him Lorellis. The name is somewhat inspired by Loras Tyrell from A Song of Ice and Fire. For one because Loras is a badass warrior, but more importantly because the Knight of Flowers has that certain “fab factor” I’m going for. The result is the smashing elf you see above.

So, why do I have to thank you? First of all, because playing this Blood Elf has been a blast so far. Being the roleplayer that I am, I had to give Lorellis a personality. Being fabulous is sadly not enough to be an interesting character, so Lorellis had to be more. In my head, he’s a fashionista hedonist who has gotten in deep with some goblin loan sharks (who might be using actual sharks to enforce their will) to finance his extravagant lifestyle. In order to work his way out of debt, Lorellis has to do the only thing he is even better at than being the pinnacle of beauty, namely being the pinnacle of slaughter. And so, Lorellis’ adventure across Azeroth and beyond begins, always looking for beauty in all the bloody places. It’s killing with style, while killing in style!

Next to giving me the foundation of an enjoyable character to roleplay, rolling a Blood Elf also allows me to level through content I haven’t seen in ages or haven’t seen at all. The last time I played through Eversong and the Ghostlands was around the launch of The Burning Crusade, and I didn’t have a chance so far to even touch the reworked northern part of the Eastern Kingdoms. Imagine my joy when I noticed how much fun those zones are, with interesting mini-storylines and some fantastic quests. Always wanted to be a quest giver in the name of the Dark Lady? Make your way to Hillsbrad Foothills, and you can be one! Also, as with all the zones that received a facelift when Cataclysm hit, leveling in Hillsbrad, Arathi and the likes has so much…flow. Some might call it boring, but the fact that I can easily auto-pilot through these quests makes leveling so much more enjoyable. Kudos, Blizzard, kudos!

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Finally, an honest quest giver!

By now, Lorellis is level 32 and starting his adventures in the Hinterlands. It’s been a blast playing him so far, and I think I have to thank you guys for making this decision. You are truly the best readers are blogger could wish for!

Tomb Raider – an unexpected nice snack from my gaming buffet

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I recall this statistic that the majority of gamers don’t finish most of the games they buy. Sadly, I have to face the fact that I belong to that part of the community. With all these sweet titles coming out, it’s hard to finish one before the next one is begging for your attention. To me, it feels like paying for a meal I won’t finish, because someone was so kind to order another, even better looking plate for me. Well, I should just accept my gaming life has turned into a running buffet, and I shouldn’t wait finishing my plate when I can just throw something else good-looking on it. Following that philosophy, I decided to get myself a helping of Tomb Raider. How was it? Better than expected.

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Faffing to 90 – you asked for it

Dear readers,

when I give you information regarding my opinion of things, I hoped that you would handle them with care. I hoped that you would respect them, maybe discuss them with me, but ultimately, respect them. I thought that you came to this place to enjoy my readings, enjoy my opinion…not to confront me with them and have me act contrary to them.

Alas, I have discovered that you, dear readers, like to watch me suffer. I don’t blame you for that though: I find happiness in the pain of others on a regular basis. If I were you, I had also forced me to go and play a Blood Elf, no matter how much that would dent my honor and respect for myself. No hard feelings, guys and gals. No hard feelings.

So yeah, I will be playing a Blood Elf, and this will be the last time I’ll bitch about it. Instead, I’ll embrace it. My Blood Elf will be the coolest there ever was. He will re-define what it means to be a Sin’dorei, bring coolness to a bland race and will, all in all, be the best damn thing that happened to Azeroth since Thrall became Warchief.

In order to get this show rolling, I decided to pick the class myself. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Lorellis, the Blood Elf Warrior:

lorellis…what have I gotten myself in to?

 

Faffing to 90 – an adventure in preparation for Warlords of Draenor

The Mistress of Faffing has called, and I answer: in a recent post on her Alternative Blog, the Mistress asked for followers in her adventure to level an alt without the level 90. As the haters on the Internet are always right in their doomsday predictions, the coming of the paid boosts mean the end of traditional leveling. Surely we cannot allow an integral part of MMO lifestyle to wither away like that, so I show my support in the face of adversity, held by the end of all gaming which is microtransactions!

If you believe the previous sentence had no sarcasm, you might not really enjoy this blog.

Anyway, I’m down with the Mistress’ plan, so I’ll be faffing (the word still sounds so dirty) my way to 90. With what? Well, dear readers, you decide! In two separate votes, I want you to decide what kind of character I will level. In the first poll, you’ll decide which race it will be. Know that I will only allow you to pick one of the six Horde races: I will not forsake the blood red of my true allegiance, and I do not care for leveling a second panda. Next to that, know that you will make me suffer greatly should you force me to level a Blood Elf. Do whatever you want with that information

With that being said, vote until coming Sunday (16 March), when I will put up the next vote. I hope to get this character started as soon as possible!