Author Archives: Azuriel

Battlefield 1 Impressions

There is basically one word that sums up Battlefield 1: oppressive.

Which, considering the war DICE is simulating, is pretty impressive.

BF1_Grim.jpg

Nailed it.

“Impressive” might actually be selling BF1 short. There is a rather sublime confluence of game design and tone and setting going on. I mean, this is a Battlefield game and one that largely plays like BF4, BF3, and BF2 before it. I’ve played this series for over a decade, right? But let me tell you, when you’re playing the Operations game mode and hear that whistle and the yelling from a bayonet charge… well, you find yourself jumping out of the trenches and joining your brethren rushing the front line just the same.

Part of what makes this possible are the extremely limited and almost universally bad weapons. Which is a rather weird thing to say, I realize. The Assault and Support classes have automatic guns, but they are largely inaccurate without going prone or bracing against cover. The Medic class has a semi-auto rifle that hits like a truck, but is terrible at hip fire. The Scout class has all the sniper rifles, which are more infuriating than normal due to needing to spend most of your time in cover.

What this ends up doing is encouraging the exact tactics I described before: charging the front lines. There is no “slow and steady” here – there is melee range shooting or being sniped from 200 yards.

BF1_Charge.jpg

Charging that castle head-on? Sure, why not.

The map design absolutely influences things as well. Only the Scout has the ability to create temporary “radar” to find enemies, which means there could be enemies hiding out in every corner of every ruined structure. There are ruins everywhere though, and craters, and trenches, and bunkers. This leads to a rather manic, room-to-room searching every time you try to cap an area, or perhaps huddling down and hoping no one pops around the corner and stabs you in the throat.

Oh, and have I mentioned the grenades? The normal complement of grenades are back, plus the Incendiary and Gas variety. The former is pretty self-explanatory area denial, but the latter? Very interesting, conceptually. The Gas grenades release Mustard gas in the area, which causes blurred vision, your character to choke and cough, and rapid HP loss. Pressing T will have your character put on a Gas Mask, nullifying the damage completely. At the same time, the Gas Mask obscures your vision (also preventing aiming down sights) and hearing, and doesn’t do anything about the actual gas blocking your vision. Thus, tossing Gas grenades still affects the given area rather dramatically even if it deals no direct damage.

All of the game elements above mix into a dirty miasma of oppression while playing. You are surrounded by comrades, but you are also terribly, terribly alone in the smoke and death. You are constantly forced to make the decision to blindly rush towards the enemy or suffer constant sniper fire from every corner of the map. Biplanes and tanks are virtually indestructible killing machines. Even if you happen to pick the Assault class, your two options are rushing tanks with dynamite or plinking them with dumbfire AT rockets while prone, which makes you easy picking for snipers.

For a game to evoke such emotion so well regarding the subject matter via inherent gameplay is a triumph of game design. This is pure Show, and little Tell.

At the same time… well, I’m not sure how much WWI I can really stomach. A squad of soldiers could grab a helicopter in Battlefield 4 and go point-to-point capping areas and dodging missile fire and feel good about things. Or they could die in the gas-saturated muck in BF1, accomplishing nothing. I’d say 80% of my deaths show the killer dying himself seconds after I hit the ground. It’s hard to feel good about that, or watching a flag getting turned after you spent several lives just getting to the capture point in the first place.

I dunno. It is hard to put into words what is going on and how I end up feeling after a match is over. If Titanfall 2 is like cotton candy, then Battlefield 1 is a greasy Big Mac – there is more sustenance there, but that doesn’t particularly make you feel any better.

TitanFail 2

It is amazing how just a few tweaks can completely ruin a game for me.

Titanfall2_Hook.jpg

Grappling a dude flying out an open window and jump-kicking him to death didn’t ruin anything though.

First, the good: Titanfall 2 has a single-player campaign. The lack of one was a common criticism for the original, and one that I shared. Actually, I think the original technically had a weird sort of “multiplayer match with a vague voiceover” story mode, but that hardly counts. This one is legit, and it is decently fun. A lot of game sites are gushing over the Effect and Cause mission for some reason, but it’s not ground-breaking or anything. Perhaps higher brow from a technical standpoint than typical arcade shooter FPS fare, but I’ve played a lot of inventive FPS games, and this one was okay.

Having said that… where it matters, Titanfall 2 fails hard. Specifically: Titans.

A big part of the original game was the interplay between the Pilots and the Titans. Titans could basically one-shot Pilots in a number of ways, but clever usage of the jump jets and such from a Pilot could all but spell doom for the Titan. “Rodeoing” was when a Pilot jumped on a Titan, peeled off an exterior armor panel, and blasted the Titan’s internal circuitry with whatever weapon they had. Pretty much the only recourse the Titan had was Electric Smoke, which had a cooldown/limited uses. Otherwise you’d either need a friendly player to shoot the Pilot off, or disembark to do it yourself, if you were currently piloting the Titan.

titanfall2_rodeo

Pictured: now the lamest, least effective move in Titanfall.

For some utterly bizarre reason, the designers changed all that. Now? A Pilot jumps on a Titan and… removes a battery. This deals about 30% damage to the Titan, and immediately highlights the offending Pilot to everyone with a big battery symbol. The battery’s function is to recharge shields/empower a friendly Titan, either by re-entering your own or jumping on the back of someone else’s and jamming it inside. Not that that ever fucking happens though, because the FIRST and ONLY thing that occurs is the enemy Titan looks around and instantly blasts the giant green battery icon that is attempting to get away. Then the enemy Pilot disembarks, grabs their own battery, and re-enters the Titan, charging their shields.

Folks, I can’t even.

There was a crazy amount of elegance to the original design. Different weapons dealt a different amount of damage to the Titan hull once you pulled off the armor panel. If all you had was a grenade launcher, guess what? You took splash damage. I often went with a harder-hitting pistol secondary expressly because it dealt more Titan damage when Rodeo’d, even though it was tougher to hit a Pilot with it. Then there was the fact that a Pilot attached to your Titan was a (slow) death sentence unless you specifically dealt with him/her. The Titanfall 2 system is basically a free Pilot kill.

Also, if I recall correctly, the original Titanfall had Titans with regenerating shields. It really only protected the Titan from 1-2 shots, but the current system is zero shields (unless you get a battery). This subtle change makes Titans much less durable, which actively counters the apparent “steal enemy Titan batteries for your own Titan” design, because yours will be dead before you get back. Assuming you get further than 10 feet away with a battery in the first place.

titanfall2_reaper

That moment when you realize you made a big mistake.

Then there is the changed Attrition mode. The core part of the map type is the same: kill either AI units or enemy Pilots to get points. In the original, the AI bots were total cannon fodder. In this game, the AI… is still mostly cannon fodder, but can kill you rather surprisingly easy. If you try to melee Grunts, they will melee you back, and basically get you to 50% HP. Stalker/Spectres are bullet sponges that can definitely give you away. Then you have Reapers, which as basically mini-Titans that will chase you around rooftops and basically unkillable outside of Titans.

In principle, the new bots are fine. The problem is actually finding any. In the original Titanfall, you could actually select a gadget that would show all bot location on your minimap (at the expense of more useful anti-Pilot measures). That doesn’t really exist here, and you can often run around for 1-2 minutes without encountering a single bot anywhere. Given how matches are only 10 minutes long, that’s fairly significant. It also means that if your team falls behind, there is no way to make it back.

The bottom line is really this: Titanfall 2 is just not as fun as the original game. This is Respawn’s Signs follow-up to their Sixth Sense. It’s really a shame because there wasn’t much they needed to improve upon in the original game. Instead, they have weaker Titans, weaker anti-Titan moves, worse maps with less wall-running opportunities, and… well, just less all the things that made the first game cool. If they continue on this trajectory, the third one is going to be The Village.

About That TitanFall 2

Have you ever been in the mood to play a particular game, but couldn’t for whatever reason, and then nothing else you happen to play in the meantime can measure up?

As it turns out, I was going through that with Battlefield 1, which is slated to be delivered this coming Saturday. Tried booting up some unplayed Steam games, but those went nowhere. Then I tried a few rounds of Overwatch. Which was kinda close, but not quite the same itch.

So I ended up buying Titanfall 2 at the last minute of the sale:

titanfall2_sale

Absolutely an impulse buy.

Yep, even though I explicitly said $28 was too high, that I was worried about it not lasting, etc etc etc. I wanted to play a new FPS right now, and not wait until Saturday to do so. So I am. It technically cost a bit more to purchase direct from Origin ($34 after tax), but I wanted to be able to download it overnight. Which it did successfully (cough cough). Impressions to follow.

Cyber Black Fronday

This past Thanksgiving break was actually the busiest I’ve had in years, so I have not had much time for anything other than commutes and carbs.

The Haul

Pretty much the only thing I’ve bought during the various sales was Battlefield 1 for about $30. It was the physical edition, because retailers collude with the game industry to keep digital sales nonexistent, so I won’t actually receive it until sometime this week.

Time will tell whether BF1 will keep my attention for as long as BF2/3/4 did. A lot of people talk about how much better it is when there aren’t 37 people with lock-on rocket launchers running around, but I liked being one of those guys with the niche loadouts to harass the pros who otherwise get 70-1 scores with the goddamn attack helicopters. So we’ll see where I fall in the BF1 department.

Perhaps more than what I bought, it’s interesting as to what I didn’t purchase. For example: Titanfall 2 for $28. One, I thought it a bit silly to buy both Titanfall 2 and BF1 at the same time. Two, I’ve kinda already learned my lesson from last time. It’s not so much the prognostication regarding the PC population as it is concerns about matchmaking in general, the fact that some game modes already struggle to pop, and the wirehead nature of the gameplay. I dunno. Perhaps the bottom line is that my breakpoint on this game is not $28. Maybe $20.

There were some particularly good deals on things like the PS4 (an Uncharted bundle for $212), but I passed for the same reason I always pass on consoles: I don’t end up playing them. I still have a backlog on the PS3, let alone getting a new console. I feel like if I get back into couch gaming, I’ll have to upgrade the TV to make it the same equivalent size to my current monitor, or bust out the projector again, but that’s way too much work. Much easier to do nothing.

WoW Projects

I officially unlocked Draenor flying.

WoW_DraenorFlying.jpg

Whew.

So, what now? Well… I dunno. I have been logging on, doing some of the more lucrative dailies, and most recently running some old raids for transmog gear. I’m pretty sure WoW is going to fall to the wayside once Battlefield 1 arrives, and then we’ll see. I mean, I can’t really level any other characters, and I want to see where this WoW Token Battle.net balance thing goes besides.

Legendary Out of the Way

It finally happened last night:

wow_legendary

3rd best one, I guess.

My views on legendaries in general hasn’t changed since a month and a half ago. Indeed, in a very ironic sense, finally receiving a legendary at the long end of a hidden pity timer might be the motivation I needed to finally stop doing Emissary Quests, and most World Quests altogether. Lord knows how I would feel if another one drops after I kinda gave up farming Order Resources and thus never unlocked the “You can equip 2 legendaries” bonus. Even if I started right now, the research timer alone is 14 days.

So, yeah. Go me. The legendary’s effect is to reduce the cooldown timer of my 3 minute DPS cooldown that I never use outside bosses anyway. I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon.

In the meantime, I’ll continue unlocking Draenor flying, farming Ulduar transmog, and perhaps get around to using my level 100 boost on something.

ItsHappening.gif

From the latest 7.1.5 build:

  • TOKEN_CONSUMABLE_DESCRIPTION_30_DAYS_BALANCE (New) – Use: Adds 30 days of game time to your World of Warcraft account or %s to your Battle.net Balance.

Time will tell how much the WoW Tokens convert into. Many seem to think it will convert into a standard $15 amount, same as a normal subscription. That makes a sort of elegant sense. I was kinda hoping that it converts into enough to cover an entire Server Transfer (currently the outrageous $25), as that means moving two toons would require four Tokens with some remainder, or perhaps three and a $5 bill thrown in. Of course, that’s not going to happen given they went the Battle.net balance route, unless Server Transfer costs go down.

Anyway, when I got wind of the WoW Token update, I quickly bought up as many Tokens as I could:

WoW_Token1.jpg

Pictured: Blizzard cutting me off.

I have five WoW Tokens on the druid now, and presumably five more somewhere. Current prices?

wow_token2

Nearly a 6000g discount.

Of course, it’s always possible that Blizzard doesn’t make current WoW Tokens “backwards compatible” with their new functions. In which case… shit. I guess I have 10 months of free WoW time? That said, I’m pretty sure Blizzard isn’t going to confuse the issue by having very similar but different functioning Tokens. I imagine the Fiscal department over in Irvine would prefer getting WoW Tokens out of players’ bags via Account Services rather than needing to defer possible months’ worth of subscriptions anyway.

So, we’ll see how it shakes out.

Arbitrary Projects

Have you ever just sort of watched yourself play games, Ouija Board-style? That is sort of where I am with WoW at the moment. I log in, and… just see what transpires. I have no express goal anymore, stuck as I am in a holding pattern for either the WoW Token –> Server Transfer change, or some other solo questing content that doesn’t require 80 quest items from heroic dungeons.

The results have been interesting. For example, I am apparently unlocking flying in Draenor.

Believe me, I don’t know either. But it’s a nice, relatively straight-forward project with discrete checkboxes and otherwise tangible progress towards a goal. The Reputation part would technically be the most annoying, but I have been checking the AH periodically for those Medallions of the Legion, and have accumulated quite a few. So, for now, I am focusing on one zone per play session, knocking it out, and then following up with 1-2 of the “Securing Draenor” areas. Depending on my mood and the arc of the stars, this should be completed in around a week or two.

The Draenor flying project occurred after I power-leveled my warlock alt through Draenor proper, and got stuck in the abject hell that is Legion on an imbalanced PvP server. The power-leveling part was actually fun setting up. With a Potion of the Rapid Mind, full heirlooms, Potion of Accelerated Learning, and Darkmoon Faire buff… each Bonus Objective in Gorgrond gave approximately half a level. If you complete them all aside from 1-2 required mobs, then complete all the quests in the area (without turning them in), you can snag the maximum amount of XP possible in Gorgrond within that 15-minute Rapid Mind window, which is basically enough to go from 93-100 in one go.

Provided, of course, you don’t get ganked along the way.

I have been somewhat lucky in the avoiding-the-gank department thus far. Almost all the pointless attempts on my life have been while on my paladin. Just yesterday, I was attacked by a 110 Balance druid in Spires of Arak at a quest hub on my 102 namesake paladin. I bubbled and hit a hearth button… which ended up being the extra hearth you get for having an Inn in Spires, so I was really just teleported 200 yards south. The druid knew this somehow, as it was 30 seconds later when I heard the guards starting to aggro. I tried to log off, but apparently the Inn doesn’t actually count as an Inn, so I had the long, 20-second log-off timer. Not sure what the base looks like from a Horde perspective, but the druid clipped through the wall, trailing 30+ guards, and was trying to take me out with Moonfire spam as my low health warning sirens blaring.

I logged into an alt for a few minutes, then back onto the paladin. I was alive with a 15-second Sunfire DoT still on me. Never have I felt more satisfaction logging into a character.

Well, other than on any of my characters on Sargeras, who have practically zero concern over whether there are Horde in the area.

So yeah, let’s hope that WoW Token thing comes sooner rather than later. Or, you know, perhaps Blizzard could merge more servers together with the focus on actually balancing them instead of letting shit get so lopsided.

More BlizzCon Impressions

I neither went nor watched the BlizzCon festivities, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express read MMO-Champ. So here are all the tidbits from the coverage that I was interested in:

Patch 7.1.5 is coming

The first thing that I found amusing about the Patch 7.1.5 news is that it was described as a “small” patch. If you want to see a small patch, check out 6.1, eh?

In any case, the Panderia Time-Walking dungeons might be good for some people, but the bigger news is that the Brawler’s Guild is returning. I kinda missed the feature entirely when it was released, and only recently got interested after they took it back away. It’s goofy side content from what I understand, but hey, I have two quests for it already, so let’s bring it back.

The other intriguing change in 7.1.5 is that Artifact Knowledge will be “purchasable” at least up to level 10, if not higher. This is huge news for alts, whom have otherwise been hosed this entire expansion. Time will tell what form this “purchase” takes – Order Resources, Blood of Sargeras, gold? – but whatever it is should be relatively easy to overcome with a main running WQs.

Finally, Blizzard mentioned that 7.1.5 will be going on the PTR immediately after BlizzCon, then Live soon after. How soon is Soon(tm)? I want to say “not soon enough,” but honestly Nighthold is not even active yet, and that’s in the current patch. Will all these changes be rolling out before LFR even gets the last Nighthold boss unlocked? It certainly sounds that way. Which is kinda weird.

Patch 7.2 is coming

Biggest news is, of course, that Flying is getting unlocked in 7.2. I have already jumped through the Legion Pathfinder, Part 1 hoops, so I should be in good shape for whatever nonsense is required in Part 2. Word from Blizzard is that it won’t require any group content, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be tedious.

The Tomb of Sargeras raid will open up, with Kil’Jaeden being the confirmed last boss. Which is interesting for all sorts of reasons, which I will touch on later.

What is definitely interesting to me is the introduction of “PvP Brawls.” The concept was first introduced in Hearthstone and then Overwatch later, and now we see it migrating to WoW. In short, Blizzard is finally letting its hair down and introducing more free-form experiments in game modes. 15×15 Arenas? Tarren Mill vs Southshore? Bring them on.

This is a fairly big deal because it allows Blizzard to essentially playtest these game concepts without their typical perfectionist straight-jacket. Things not work out? Oh well, it’ll rotated out next week. Blizzard has used this test bed to good effect in Hearthstone, as it resulted in Discover – by far the best card effect introduced since the game’s release. Perhaps we’ll eventually see that Arathi Basin bridge deathmatch mode that we have all wanted for years.

Patch 7.2.5 is coming

We haven’t heard much about 7.2.5 other than it will exist. Which is nice to know. Especially since it appears that we have another bombshell waiting in the wings:

Patch 7.3 is coming?

MMO-Champion just sort of teased the news, but Legion will legitimately have a patch 7.3 and we will legitimately be heading to Argus, according to a Polygon interview with Ion Hazzikostas. And then he had this to say:

“It felt like the right time,” Hazzikostas said. “I don’t know if Argus would hold up as an expansion in and of itself. We could make up a whole lot of ecologies and things there, but at the end of the day, it would feel like a very one-note, alien expansion.”

Instead, he explained, the developer decided to make Argus the climax to the current expansion. Players will head to the demon world to try to push back this massive force once and for all. He compared it to the ending of one of his favorite games of all time.

“It’s kind of like the end of Mass Effect 2,” said Hazzikostas. “We’ve been fighting on our end. Now we’re going on our suicide mission, because this is the only way to save ourselves.”

That… is pretty fucking cool. I haven’t been this excited about the WoW plot since Wrath.

For those that might not be up on the lore, Argus is the original homeworld of the Draenei, and the Velen, Kil’Jaeden, and Archimonde triad. It is, in fact, considered the “beating heart” of the Burning Legion and its de facto capital. Going there is Big News, and has been speculated for a while to be the location of WoW’s “final” expansion, insofar as it is the most likely place one would encounter Sargeras himself.

The interesting thing is the fact that we are facing Kil’Jaeden in the Tomb of Sargeras in patch 7.2. Argus is supposed to be ruled by Kil’Jaeden personally, which leads to two interesting scenarios. First, perhaps we are invading Argus specifically because it temporarily loses its leader in the 7.2. raid. No sense attacking Kil’Jaeden at the seat of his power, right?

But there is another possibility. Remember how demons, elementals, etc, don’t actually die unless they are killed in the plane they are from? What if part of the reason we head to Argus is to kill Kil’Jaeden again, this time permanently?

Technically, I think Archimonde was sent back to the Twisting Nether after Mount Hyjal, and the jury might still be out regarding what happened to him at the end of Draenor (was he in the Twisting Nether during the final phase?). But still, I find it odd that we’re heading to Argus after Kil’Jaedon’s (presumed) defeat in the Tomb if we aren’t finishing the job. There aren’t any Old Gods on Argus and I find it unlikely that we’ll be facing Sargeras himself – at most, I expect us to sacrifice all our artifacts to keep Sargeras from showing up. So… if not Kil’Jaedon/Archimonde, and not Sargeras, who are we fighting? A bunch of no-name demons?

I was skeptical along with the rest of the universe when it came to Blizzard promising that Legion would actually get supported content through the entire life of the expansion. And honestly, it still might be the case that there is a long content drought after 7.3 and before the next expansion. But, I gotta give credit where it is due: Blizzard is busting some ass. The bar is embarrassingly low for a billion dollar franchise, granted.

But I could get used to this. And certainly am, four WoW Tokens later.

Biggest News from BlizzCon

Let me just lay it on you:

  • They’re looking into making the WoW Token be able to be used for other services as well like Character Transfer, Faction Change, or Battle.net Balance. (source)

You can watch the specific part on Youtube, but the bottom line is that this is coming in the “very near future,” there won’t be different Tokens, e.g. the ones you currently have will work, and this entire thing was what they had planned from the start but wanted to start slow to make sure the system worked.

This news is both incredibly good and probably bad for me. Good because I have a lot of toons trapped on Auchindoun. Bad because I don’t know when this system will be implemented. But because it is, that means I shall leave them trapped until it is implemented. Definitely don’t want to be a chump spending $25 two weeks before I could buy a dozen moves with in-game currency.

More BlizzCon impressions to follow.

It’s Raining Epics

Last Thursday, I sat down and decided to run some World Quests. And I got these:

wow_epix

/humblebrag screenshot

Those are ten epics, with ilevels at or above 840, along with three relics.

That ilevel is above what you can get in LFR, and at least matches what you would get from Mythic dungeons. While more organized content like raids and Mythic+ still beat these pieces – including offering more exciting options, like trinkets – I did have a WQ epic proc all the way up to 880, which is just shy of Legendary status.

WoW_Epix2.jpg

Bit of an upgrade.

Remember when people complained about the ability of noobs to queue LFD and eventually get tier set pieces after dozens of runs? Pepperidge Farm remembers It feels almost quaint. While you can’t exactly pick specific pieces of gear off a vendor, all of these were 100% guaranteed drops from quests, some of which took less than 5 minutes to complete. No dungeons required.

Don’t get me wrong, the WQ system is exactly what is necessary to get me to continue playing WoW at the level of commitment I am willing to put forward. But it is starting to dawn on me that this is the most loot-laden expansion yet. I feel that even Warlords of Draenor pales in comparison to this.