I am once again experiencing a long stretch of gaming ennui.
Guild Wars 2, which had hitherto commanded a solid portion of my daily gaming allotment, fell off a cliff in the weeks leading into the End of Dragons expansion. There were really three things in play. First, I was beginning to question “the point” of my toil – as good an indication of any that one has shifted from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation. Second, I could not readily commit to which version of the expansion to purchase. This remains a barrier even now, because when I do log in I see items in the Gem Store that are enticing, which suggests I should buy the $80 version of the game (which comes with gems). Surely buying the standard $30 version and then buying gems separately is the worst of all worlds. So… I do nothing.
The third reason was actually recently addressed: I was not certain whether End of Dragons was to be the last GW2 expansion. Who wants to grind things in a “dead” MMO? Well, ArenaNet announced they are working on a fourth expansion. Whether it is coming in 2 years or 4 doesn’t matter so much as that it is coming at all.
Beyond all that, I am actually playing a lot of different games. Not the ones I committed to in December, of course. I completed Undertale, but then hit a wall with SOMA insofar as trying to decide whether I wanted to keep playing with monsters on or off. I (used to) own all of the Silent Hill games and enjoyed all of the Resident Evils through the years, but I’m not a particular fan of the helpless horror genre. Dead Space and Prey? Good. Amnesia and Alien: Isolation? No thanks. The anxiety and thrills feel cheaper than, say, from a roguelike or at the end of a long raid-dance sequence – I either one-shot the area or get killed enough times to abstract the encounter into a puzzle.
In any case, I do not particularly want every post between now and Summer to be an Impressions piece of whatever indie game I take for a spin. So, I have been writing next to nothing. Which is probably worse, on balance. Hmm. This is what I have been playing recently:
- Black Book
- FAR: Lone Sails
- My Friend Pedro
- We Happy Few
- Sunset Overdrive
That last game, Sheltered, is really a sort of Fallout: Shelter-esque time-waster that nevertheless sucked 6 hours out of me and reignited a burning need to collect random garbage in survival crafting fashion. Unfortunately, I have pretty much played everything in the genre already, and what’s left will remain unpurchased until Epic’s Summer Sale. A mere 50% off doesn’t do it for me anymore: I need 50% + $10 off.
So, that’s my life at the moment. How are you?
Specifically: what do I really want to buy with money?
Short answer: I dunno.
Long answer: buckle up.
The other night, I spent literally 40 minutes agonizing on whether I was going to buy 2000 discounted gems in Guild Wars 2. The agony was specifically derived from the fact that there was a 20% discount on Shared Inventory Slots, but only for one day. Discount of a discount is a great deal, yeah? The way the math worked, I could buy 3 Shared Inventory Slots for about 1500 gems, then combine the leftover gems with an upcoming 400 free gems I was earning for hitting 5000 in-game achievement points and then buy a 800 gem Character Slot. Best of all worlds!
Alternatively, I could not buy Shared Inventory Slots at all and just get three Character Slots with the same gems. Which got me thinking: “what’s the actual value to me of… any of these things?”
A Shared Inventory Slot is what it sounds like: a slot that is shared across all of your characters. I have two of them currently, as one comes with each expansion. Right now, the first slot is filled with a gem-store item that basically disenchants gear. That’s helpful when cleaning up all the random crap gear you get showered with in this game. The second slot used to have a portal scroll to the most effective farm area (Bitterfrost). I now have it filled with the Quartz resource, as I use my alts to farm 10 Quartz at a specific area, then log into my main and turn 25 of that Quartz into one Charged Quartz, which is a time-gated crafting material for goods down the road. All of which is convenient, but not particularly exciting.
So what would I even do with three more? Don’t get me wrong, those slots would get filled with something of marginal utility. There’s a neat “positional rewinder” item you can get to help with Jumping Puzzles, for example. But I’m not using my alts for Jumping Puzzles. In fact, right now, I’m not playing my alts at all, beyond the 30 seconds of farming Quartz. I’m really focused on the “Return To X” achievements, both for the rewards and the fact that I actually never played some of these Living World stories. So even in the case of Character Slots, it is not as though I would be utilizing them right away. So maybe I just don’t buy anything at all.
“Besides, there is so much more I could buy for $20-$40.”
That thought got me down another rabbit hole. Because… is there anything else I want to buy? Surely, yes? I have 44 items in my Steam Wishlist, for example. But even with deep, current discounts, I have had zero compunction to purchase any of them. About the closest ones are Wildermyth, Red Dead Redemption 2, Disco Elysium, Horizon Zero Dawn, and some random assorted Roguelikes and Early Access Survival (redundant, much?) games. But would I really stop my current routine to play them immediately? And if I didn’t, what are the odds they would end up on the Game Pass by the time I did?
Yes, folks, Game Pass really has broke me. Know what the final straw was? Dicey Dungeon.
I really had not played a single game on Steam throughout all of August and September and most of October. Then I bought Dicey Dungeons on October 24th for about $5. Played it about 3-4 hours. Guess what showed up on November 11th? Yep.
“It’s just $5, who cares?” It’s the principle. I already have hundreds of purchased games I’m not playing, on top of free* games I’m not, to be buying more. Although I guess in this case I actually did play it right away, so whatever. The principle!
This journey of self-flagellation did reveal something a bit deeper to me. Namely, that I can’t really answer the question in the title. I’m apparently actively avoiding spending money in Guild Wars 2, I don’t want to buy games on sale lest they become free on Game Pass, but I’m also not particularly saving towards anything either. I mean, I’m not a mindless consumer that feels as empty as my shopping cart. But is that also a proxy thought to not looking forward to anything? What am I excited about? It was going to be Battlefield 2042, honestly, but it plummeted to the the top 10 worst-reviewed games on Steam within two days of release.
So, yeah. I got nothing. Or maybe just gaming ennui.
Close to 60% of my Guild Wars 2 gameplay is determining which class/spec I want to play at a given time. It’s a struggle because there are nine classes with three specs which have two broad categories of damage types (Power vs Condi) apiece. Nevermind the various Utility options and talent tweaks and, oh yeah, all the weapons that bring different skills too.
When looking at what to play though, my priority list is:
- Sustain, e.g. self-healing
- Pressing buttons feels satisfying
- Good open-world DPS
- Has option for ranged damage
- Condition cleanse
- Good open-world burst damage
- Class/spec is competitive (with tweaks) in fractals and/or PvP
- Rotation isn’t crazy
Might seem weird to have Sustain at the top, but in my nine years off and on playing GW2, I have discovered that the worst feeling I experience while playing is eating some big boss hit for 2/3rds of my HP and then frantically dancing around waiting for my self-heal to come off cooldown. Will other players help you up? Often, in fact! But I would rather be the guy helping other people off the floor than eating dirt myself.
Scourge [Necromancer elite spec]
My current main is a Scourge. While I have not played every single class/spec combination, I can say that Scourge is about as perfect as I can imagine. Phenomenal self-healing and barrier, great DPS, all ranged damage, baseline Condition cleansing, Boon stripping on a short cooldown, and even decent burst if you just unload all the cooldowns right away. While “class fantasy” isn’t listed as important above, it does count for something. And the Scourge has it, what with the sand necromancer schtick.
The “problem” is that… well, I’ve been playing that same spec for months. Not even months in a row (although it’s close), but like for a while, then taking a multi-year break, then playing it again. While the damage is good, the rotation is pretty straight-forward, so I end up pushing the same sort of buttons in the same sort of way, forever. It works, but it’s rote.
For the last several weeks, I did try to make Reaper work. Greatsword that turns into a giant scythe, the ability to burst down regular mobs in seconds, what’s not to love? Well, the sustain, or lack thereof. Bursting mobs depends on accumulating Life Force and popping a cooldown that burns Life Force naturally, in addition to said Life Force being your 2nd HP bar. So, get low on normal HP, pop the cooldown, and if the fight is still going on a few seconds later, you get to be right back on low HP.
Renegade [Revenant elite spec]
My up and coming new main, or at least secondary main.
I tried Revenant when it was first released and didn’t “get” it. Maybe it was undertuned at the time? All I know now is that the Condi Renegade pushes all the correct buttons for me: great sustain, good DPS, and bursting potential. Plus, it has great ranged damage, which is a huge plus. I plan on using my Renegade to go back through the various Living Story, er, stories in order to complete the Return Of… meta-achievements. If I have to play these again, may as well be on a different character.
Holosmith [Engineer elite spec]
I really want to like the Engineer, but it’s a struggle. Conceptually, the Holosmith is cool. The damage looks fun, there is some bursting potential, and so on. The problem I find is that the self-sustain isn’t there, even though I’m walking around with a shield. It is very possible that I’m simply not playing it correctly. Looking at some Scrapper videos, it’s also possible that I should be trying that spec out more, since it has a lot more sustain.
Really though, the main reason my Engineer is getting any attention is because of the upcoming Mechanist spec in the expansion. That is something I’m very interested in.
Another class that I should really like, but don’t in practice. I love the concept of an illusionist fighter dealing psychic damage, with a bunch of clones running around confusing people. Playing with it though, I find it extremely hard keeping up 3 clones for maximum DPS, let alone shattering them and then creating three more. I end up either not having three because one died or whatever, or wasting cooldowns trying to create three and doing nothing. Meanwhile, nothing is dying particularly quickly.
Maybe it’s my lack of gear on this character, but it’s hard to justify grinding Winterberries for the 10th time to get them enough gear to potentially be fun at a later date.
Again, I wanted to like them, but nope. One of the meta specs (Condi Daredevil) has a “rotation” of literally evade spam. Like, use an ability to makes you Dodge x3, use actual Dodge Roll x2, and then auto-attack a few times. Repeat. What’s not to love about that? I prefer simpler rotations myself, but damn guys.
Power Deadeye actually came closer to being good for me despite having an even simpler rotation of pressing Unload a bunch, because Unload is cool. Like you are just shooting with dual pistols a bunch over and over. The problem is that it has no cleave, so I had to press Unload a bunch on one guy, then swap, then swap again. Maybe Scourge has spoiled me, I dunno.
My character is named Azuriel Prime, as it was my original class when I started playing nine years ago.
Too bad Elementalists suck, and have pretty much forever. Is there something more brittle than a glass cannon? Sand castle cannon at high tide? Zero sustain, your elementals disappear when you mount, and everything kills you. Oh, and your rotation is cycling through 20 abilities compared to “just Dodge on cooldown and things die.”
[Fake Edit] Between when I originally wrote this and when the post was scheduled, I did spend a bit more time with the Elementalist. I went for Condi Tempest with full +Toughness, +HP, +Condi damage gear. And… it’s working, sorta. It’s not particularly fun and I couldn’t tell you what the Tempest brought to the table aside from being able to press your elemental attunement again (which is a DPS loss), but it’s not totally useless in of itself. It just can’t compete with other options, which have better sustain, higher damage, and easier rotations.
Guardian, Ranger, Warrior
Don’t have the character slots to have any of these.
Granted, I did before the Revenant, and actually had a few at level 80 back in the day. But back then, I wasn’t particularly impressed, and now it’ll cost me $10 to try them so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It is difficult to play Guild Wars 2 in any sort of consistent manner.
I mean, sure, things would probably be easier if I were not so allergic to appointment gaming. But things are extremely fluid in GW2 that you must immediately drop whatever you are doing and follow the zerg when it appears like a flash mob. Otherwise you may be spending days or weeks hoping for lightning to strike twice to unlock one of ten million achievements or collections.
One of my long-term goals is to progress along the Season of Dragons meta-achievement, unlocking at least the 32-slot bag. This meta-achievement consists of dozens of other achievements, which are themselves unlocked by fulfilling a laundry list of tasks within specific zones. Some of those activities include things like “complete 10 bounties.” Bounties are basically extra-hard open-world group bosses that must be killed within 10 minutes. The LFG tool in GW2 is pretty useless for cobbling together groups, and it would be a bit irresponsible for me to create my own group for content I have no actual way to coordinate.
So… I wait and hope. And when I see someone running around the map with a Commander tag, I abandon my plans immediately (including going to sleep) and try to get whatever it is done.
So far, this strategy has been surprisingly successful. There are usually enough other achievements to work on while waiting to see if anything decides to spontaneously happen. But lately, it has stopped working. In particular, the Domain of Istan map only requires 5 bounties, of which I have 3 done, but the flash mob disbursed after Champion Suneh Stormbringer popped up and literally mopped the floor with us. Seriously, of all the bounties I have participated in, this guy was WAY overtuned. While the achievement can be earned with two more bounties of any type, I have nothing else to work on in that area – I must either camp on the map and be AFK, or try to organize something myself.
The flash mob situation was especially prevalent when I unlocked my WvW mount. I was just in WvW to get 1-2 daily achievements done to pocket 2g a bit easier. Three hours later, we assaulted and claimed a Keep, and then spent a considerable amount of time evicting the prior owners. That was not what I had intended to be doing with my playtime. I’m glad it happened, mind you, because now I don’t have to worry about it anymore. But as someone who prefers organization and analysis, it really makes me wonder how random I want my average game experience to be.
In any event, it is becoming increasingly clear that I need to join a guild. It is Guild Wars 2, after all. The issue is that you are basically in the same situation: waiting around for random guild chat spam in Lion’s Arch, or the sporadic and ephemeral postings on “Looking for Guild.” I found a promising guild on Reddit, but I’m chaffing a bit at the thought of having to essentially fill out a gaming resume and go through a probationary period. I get it, I was a GM for many years in WoW, and having some kind of filter would certainly have prevented a lot of awkward drama later on. And it’s not as though I want to join simply to leech goodwill.
But, ultimately, I don’t know how long I will be playing GW2, which days I will be playing, or even how long each individual session will be. There is an expansion coming up, and I’m very interested in that. So, maybe we just assume I’ll be around and go from there? All I really want is for another channel to be open in case someone wants some warm bodies to do X activity. I would settle for LFG if it were at all consistent.
All I know is that the quickest way to burnout is consistent inconsistency. So maybe I should solve it.
Stardew Valley meets Crusader Kings.
Okay, maybe it’s a bit early for that. I’ve only played for about two hours, and have no particular idea what’s really going on yet. But there are a few notes I wanted to jot down.
First, I really like the premise, from a mechanical point of view. You are a orphaned peasant told to just grab some empty land and build whatever. The twist here though is that each season is only three game-days long. This acceleration is possible because, you know, dynasty, e.g. you are intended to produce an heir that’s carries on the family business of village-building.
This is both unique in the farming/crafting genre and also helps handwave some of the more traditional gamey bits. Like how one dude can chop down a dozen trees and build a house in an afternoon. I mean, it’s still handwavey due to how hunger/thirst works, but I still appreciated the thought.
Also, you can change the 3-day season to be longer if you want via settings. The devs “strongly suggest” leaving it at 3, and I can see their point even from the start: without the dynasty bit, it’s just a worse Stardew Valley.
Having said that… well… the 3-day season makes all the NPC and questing bits exceedingly silly. One of the starting quests is to find out why a rye shipment hasn’t arrived. To complete this quest, you have to walk 1200m or so to the next town, then halfway back, then back, then return all the way. It took 1.5 in-game days to complete. So, basically my entire Spring. The reward was 300g, for which I have no context whether it’s worth the time I lost. Some of the meals from vendors cost 270g for some porridge, so I’m guessing No.
It was nice to see that the quest had an 18-year time limit though. Especially since one part was locating the courier who was bleeding to death near a river. Would he have just been bones if I waited 5 “years?” I’m guessing No again.
Anyway, there’s that.
OK one more thing: I find it intimidating in these games when they say “build wherever.” I recognize the terror of analysis paralysis, so I end up creating a base camp within earshot of the beginning area. Somewhere along the way though, the base camp hits a tipping point where it would be too onerous to move everything somewhere else, so I keep it in a lame area and just deal with the dissonance.
In this game though? Shit is extra scary. I’m going to have to create and reload several Saves given how it might take in-game years to find a spot where I’m happy settling. Meanwhile, I don’t know which resources are more difficult to find/gather or any sort of late-game concerns.
Which is of course the smartest thing to worry about after playing something for 2 hours.
Is there a better feeling than pondering buying a game, deciding it’s not quite at the right sale price for you, then finding out it’s a front-runner for next month’s Humble Bundle?
As always, I’m starved for survival/crafting games not already consumed, and My Time at Portia was something that had hitherto not been on the radar. Then it was… but at $30. Seeing as how I missed all the historic low prices of $12-$15 some time in the interminable past, I resigned myself to wait things out further. Then, Humble Bundle. I care nothing for Soul Calibur or (probably) the Yakuza game, but I will snap up a $12 copy of the game I was looking for and possibly 6-7 games I wasn’t.
You know, aside from the exploitative microtransactions and design-destroying loot boxes, I’m enjoying this age of novel payment methods. Between monthly bundles, Epic’s bribes, Twitch’s giveaways, and Microsoft’s increasingly desperate attempts to sell you months of Gamer Pass for $1, I think we’re more saturated with games now than we were during peak F2P. At least, I know I am.
The trick will be to actually play them, rather than looking at the library with glazed eyes and then booting up the same game I had been playing for the last two weeks.
One of the most enjoyable things out of Hearthstone have been the roguelike deck-building modes (Dungeon Run) launched with each expansion since Kobolds and Catacombs. The exact formula has changed a bit each time, but the idea is that you start with a deck with only a few cards, and as you face off against increasingly tough bosses, you get to pick a “bucket” of three cards when you win, punctuated with the occasional passive effect or uber-powerful cards. This mode is something that could almost stand on its own, given how engaging it has been for me these past few weeks.
With the latest version though, Blizzard might have gone too far with the options.
The original Dungeon Run featured all nine classes to choose from, each with a simple starting deck. While it could be frustrating to lose over and over with the same class, knowing you would still have to deal with some subpar cards, the Treasures (passive abilities) and bosses you fought and the buckets of cards offered would quickly change how each run would go. Then came Monster Hunt, which featured four made-up classes with new Hero powers to play with. Then was a puzzle-mode interlude with the Boomsday Project. Then came Rastakhan’s Rumble, which featured “shrines” that did special things, but you otherwise used troll versions of the basic classes.
With Dalaran Heist, we are back to choosing one of the nine classes. However, you can also unlock two additional new Hero powers (per class!) by doing things like casting 25 elementals and other achievement-esque things. You can also unlock two additional starter decks (per class!) to shake up the early game. Finally, in addition to passive abilities and uber-cards, there are two sets of Tavern encounters which allow you to do a random assortment of things, like add new cards to your deck, increase your starting health, or even remove some cards.
In short, the whole thing is kinda nuts with the options.
One would think this would be a good thing. “Lots of replayability there!” But too much of a good thing is a problem. I finally cleared the Heist on Heroic mode and I am beyond done. Not because I only needed to beat it once, but because there is too much to contemplate. I beat Act 5 (Heroic) with Paladin, Boon of Light Hero power, and Old Hero starting deck. I could try and do the same with all the same settings but changing the starting deck to Adventure. Or Holy Flames. Or use the default Hero power and Old Hero starting deck. Or any of the five other permutations. Nine total combinations across nine classes on two separate difficulty levels.
[Fake Edit] I knew there was a Random Deck option too, but I thought that meant it would randomly pick between the three starter decks. I have just now read that it actually gives you a purely random set of cards as your starter deck. Not only does that add another three permutations, it arguably adds a quasi-infinite variety of starting positions.
Oh, and have I mentioned there are Anomalies you can activate too? Stuff like “After a player casts 3 spells in a turn, that player summons a 5/5 dragon.” I don’t know how many of those effects there are (Edit: Fifteen! 1-5!), but that would again layer on additional RNG and permutations.
Like, Jesus Christ, Blizzard. You guys crammed pretty much every possible idea on the whiteboard and put it into one game mode. I’m actively wondering if this might be the last Dungeon Run-esque version we get for a while. Where could they go from here?
Blizzard was running a free weekend of WoW just a few days ago. This was basically me:
I still have the Curse Client – or the Twitch client now, but Amazon owns it? – so I was able to get all my addons updated and the screen to basically look the same as it did the last time I logged in. Which might have been 400+ days ago?
Blizzard has made a big deal about some of the artifact appearances going away permanently with the next expansion’s pre-patch, which itself is going Live within a few weeks. I looked through them, and pretty much the only ones I would conceivably care about were the Feral and Guardian druid ones. My average ilevel was 840 when I left, and 910 is basically the floor for attempts. Some guides have mentioned that you can reach that ilevel with about a week of dailies and such.
Cosmetic rewards in gaming is in a weird place for me. As rewards for completing content, I feel like it’s a good choice over straight (gear) power. As a means of funding games (e.g. cash shop), it is probably the least offensive, provided they do not come in loot boxes. But eventually… does it not just end for other people? Like, you enjoy the way your character looks and that’s that?
I spent years and years trying to get the Raven mount out of a TBC heroic, and I eventually did. And now I’m done with land mounts – any other mounts I ride are due to utility (flying, water-walking, etc). It doesn’t matter what other mounts Blizzard releases, and so mount-chasing just ceased to be compelling for me anymore. Same with transmog, really. Once you get a good set going, whatever else gets released would need to be way better than my current one in order to move the needle. You can only wear one costume/ride one mount at a time, so why both acquiring multiple ones?
Thus, with Mage Tower unlocks not being a good use of my time, I’m left with… well, too many things, actually. There’s two full raids worth of bosses to tour with LFR, plus an entire demon planet to quest through, and a half-dozen Allied races to unlock, oh and flying is a thing now which requires a whole bunch of assorted tasks and reputation grinds and, and, and etc.
Yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me dawg. I’m out.
Well, out is probably optimistic. I never uninstalled WoW in my life, and I am sorta interested in the train wreck of an expansion (lore-wise) that Battle for Azeroth is shaping up to be. There is just too much shit I have to shift through and prioritize and decide on at the moment. When a new expansion is released, things are much easier. Go quest, gain levels, unlock abilities, repeat until level cap. Once you hit said cap, things go sideways in terms of shit to do. Each patch adds more and more and the only way to keep your head above water is to have been treading this whole time. Makes it a bit tough to come back after an extended break.
I dunno. This may come as somewhat of a shock, but I sometimes overthink things. But I figure if I’m going to need to dedicate some time to (re-)learning some things, I should probably take that time to learn something new, e.g. playing something else.
WoW will still be there later, as always. Waiting.
With each passing day, I am falling into a familiar trap of trying to juggle all the things in GW2.
My primary objective, always, is to complete the main daily quest. This rewards 2g straight up, not counting any other bonus loot from the component quests, and represents real, long-term wealth. Maybe there are better gold-farming techniques, but this is the best I have at the moment. Thankfully, the daily is not quite as onerous as it once was, between familiarity and Bhagpuss’ guide to completing it in WvW.
The secondary objectives are where things fall apart.
First, I would like to experience all of the story content. That includes the vanilla story and then, of course, the expansions. I kind of jumped ahead on the HoT story because I needed to unlock Gliding, but I do want to get back to the normal order of things at some point.
Second, I want to unlock the Elite specs for the classes I play. GW2 has a pretty asinine system by which you basically have to complete the expansion content before unlocking the Elite spec that came with the expansion, but there are ways of getting around it. Specifically, there are WvW items that drop which you can convert into a currency, which you then use to buy another item, which then randomly completes a Hero Challenge in one of three broad areas. It’s as convoluted and nonsensical as it sounds, but a side-effect is that it’s forcing me to do all the “easy” Hero Challenges, so that my random completion item is more likely to pop one that, say, normally requires a group to finish.
Third, I want to progress my character in general. And, perhaps, this is where things truly fall apart. If I am just doing my thing and notice that there is a Commander on the map with a zerg in tow, I drop what I’m doing and follow the zerg. Not doing so means I will miss out on the free loot of whatever encounter the group is about to breeze through. Plus, considering GW2’s “Mastery” system, it’s kind of required that you join these zergs because otherwise your ability to work your way through the expansion content will be that much harder and longer.
At the same time, I’ve been reading up on getting better gear once you’re at the level cap. Ascended gear is the highest-stat gear in the game, and has been for years. The best way to acquire a bunch of those pieces is to farm the Season 3 Living Story maps on a daily basis. I kinda lucked out because I was logging in regularly during LS3, so I get those “episodes” for free. But I haven’t been doing them, because I’ve been trying to do the Story in order. But by the time I get around to it naturally, I could probably have farmed all the necessary currency to get the Ascended gear, so I should probably be doing that right now. But that means doing even more story out of order, and skipping zergs…
What ends up happening is a pretty classic case of Analysis Paralysis. Unable to choose between all the things, I end up choosing nothing. Well, I choose the Daily, then nothing. Gotta get those dolla bills, y’all.