Out of this RimWorld
After hitting a lull in Final Fantasy 7 Remake motivation, I did the most logical thing possible with a $1800 prebuilt PC: reinstalled RimWorld. Admittedly, it had been a while.
While there has been two expansions released, the core experience has largely remained intact. I think the biggest thing that threw me for a loop was needing to build a wooden pen for animals. Previously, you could just “paint” an Allow zone for animals in an area, and herd them elsewhere by moving the zone. Probably a bit too abstract, sure, but it’s not as though the rest of the game is super intuitive.
The other aspect of the game that returned quickly was the demotivating sense of inevitability. And I don’t just mean those unfortunate events where the dice don’t land your way and your best sniper gets shot in the eye by a tribal with an arrow from 50m away. I mean when you hit Spacer tech and you’re starting down the charged barrel of endgame Civilization Conquest next-turning for the next dozen hours. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing certain about Randy RNG beyond your tears… but, also, kinda yeah there is. There is a point where all you’re doing is pulling the handle, and seeing if you’ve successfully installed a bionic spine into colonist #6, or if everyone gets muscle parasites an hour before a mechanoid cluster lands inside your base.
I’m currently on the fence regarding whether I believe the expansions would help. The prevailing wisdom is that the Royalty DLC adds a lot of new content, while Ideology adds more roleplay elements. Either or both could possibly help with that inevitable feeling. I certainly have no desire to caravan across the planet and/or DIY a spaceship – I did both years ago and that was enough.
But… we’ll see. It was a craving for a survival experience that led me to reinstalling in the first place, and RimWorld isn’t that. It’s adjacent, in a way. But once you’ve had your fill, that’s that.
And I Approve this Message
Bioware just announced there is going to be a Mass Effect: Legendary edition:
Mass Effect Legendary Edition will include single-player base content and DLC from Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3, plus promo weapons, armors, and packs – all remastered and optimized for 4k Ultra HD. It will be available in Spring 2021 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, with forward compatibility and targeted enhancements on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. More information to come in the new year!
This is extremely relevant to my interests. I consider Mass Effect to be one of the best RPG series ever made, and yet despite that, I never got around to purchasing any of the critically- (and fan-) acclaimed DLCs. At the time, it was more of a principle thing, but then later morphed into a “why do all of these still cost $70?” and “why are BioWare Points still a thing?” Having a complete package with everything included makes things much simpler, with all the other enhancements being a bonus.
There was also this bit of news:
Meanwhile here at BioWare, a veteran team has been hard at work envisioning the next chapter of the Mass Effect universe. We are in early stages on the project and can’t say any more just yet, but we’re looking forward to sharing our vision for where we’ll be going next.
That the franchise will continue is good to hear. I haven’t really kept up on the news/rumors before this, so I had still been under the 3-year old impression that everything was over. Hard to be optimistic when EA, of all companies, cancels all plans for DLC for a game. Still, it will be extremely interesting to see if they continue the Andromeda thread or do some kind of prequel or what.
So, yeah, pretty exciting. I had to look up who owns BioWare at the moment just to gauge the likelihood that this Legendary Edition hits the Xbox Game Pass. Looks like EA still owns BioWare. Considering that the EA Play membership rolls into the Game Pass starting on November 10th though, it’s highly likely that my /r/patientgamers-ing has paid dividends.
Oh, and it looks like Biden won the election too, so there might still be a world left to game in.
Nickeled and Quartered
I was browsing /r/GameDeals and came across a post about Destiny 2. I think this is one of the first times I have experienced a game sale in which I walked away more confused than I started.
The short version is that Destiny 2: Complete Collection is $40. This includes the base game, the “expansion pass” that contains the first two expansions, the third large expansion “Forsaken,” a character boost, and then the “Annual Pass” which covers three additional expansions (Winter 2018, Spring 2019, Summer 2019).
That’s fairly straight-forward, I guess. The issue is that in September, parts of Destiny 2 are going F2P. Specifically, the base game, the first two expansions, and a portion of Forsaken, e.g. the patrol areas, but not the raids and more formal missions. Or something. Also, it’s leaving the Blizzard launcher and going to Steam instead.
Having the base game, as I do from an earlier Humble Bundle, doesn’t appear to be relevant to the primary deal. But what about when it goes on Steam? When there is a Steam bundle, you typically get a discount for pieces you already own. Now, the base game and the first few DLC will be F2P so maybe future Steam deals won’t take those pieces into account.
In this midst of this pondering, it dawned on me how completely unnecessary all of this was. This was a $60 game that had two paid DLCs, one major expansion, and three additional DLCs. On top of a cash shop. Why not just have a fucking monthly subscription and call it a day?
None of this is news, but sometimes it is good to be reminded how far into the weeds the developers are willing to go to monetize every inch of available space.
I beat Destiny 2’s single-player campaign a week or so ago. Haven’t touched it since.
If you were wondering if you could trust all the assessments about how the campaign is pretty standard sci-fi FPS fair, the gunplay being amazing, and then a hard transition from story into a grinding endgame… well, consider this another data-point on the graph of player experiences.
I was actually more impressed by the overall campaign than most, even though it’s pretty ridiculous from a premise stand-point based on what you actually see. I mean, it’s cliche to point out how the story treats you as basically a minor god amongst mortals – in this case, kinda literally – but that sort of criticism never really landed with me in most other contexts. Never bothered me in WoW quests, for example. However, in Destiny 2, they went through great pains to express the fact that you were the only one to receive your powers back. And then you finish whatever story mission you were on, to go grind public quests with a whole bunch of other people with their powers back, until you got a high enough GearScore to start the next story mission.
In any case, as soon as I finished the final mission and the wrap-up quests, I started researching on the internet what would be the most efficient way to get better gear. Was it Patrols? Public quests? Should I be doing some kind of Daily? Then I realized: “Oh, right, there have been two DLCs since launch.” Much like in MMO expansions, I could be getting better green gear killing the equivalent of boars if I threw down the cash to catch up to everyone else.
But I’m not, so I won’t, so I’m done.
In the scheme of things, I think the Humble Monthly was worth it. I’m pretty miserly when it comes to games, so I probably would not have been happy with a $12 Destiny 2 purchase by itself – not quite sure about how many hours I played, but the spectacle was almost good enough. Almost. But the odds that I will enjoy something else from the full bundle is decent enough that I still consider the entire transaction worth my while.
Sometimes I Really Hate Bioware
So hey, there is another sale on Origin right now – pretty much the entire EA catalog (all six games) is reduced by 50% or more. Know what isn’t reduced in price though? Goddamn Mass Effect DLC:
That’s right, you can buy the entire Mass Effect franchise for $15. If you want to get all the canon DLC though, that will be an additional $64. For a 2+ year old game. For DLC that has never been on sale.
At this point I can no longer tell if Bioware is just stupid, or evil, or what. Is the nefarious plan to rope in new players at the $15 price-point and then squeeze the $64 out of the few who become super-enamored with the game? Or is the marketing department asleep at the wheel (or fired) and they just never got around to running the numbers on having a Bioware point sale? Or, you know, migrating from the goddamn ridiculous point system like every other game company?
I suppose the good news is that Casey Hudson, project director for KOTOR and the entire Mass Effect series, left Bioware last week. While I still have some sour grapes (more like sour raisins at this point) over the ME3 ending debacle, the fleshed-out endings went a long way in regaining my trust. I do not idolize content creators as a rule – individual works are the only thing that deserves respect – but this move makes it more likely that Bioware will be left with games I won’t be compelled to play, thereby making it easier to both hate them and not give them money simultaneously.
But seriously, Bioware, put that goddamn Mass Effect DLC on sale and I will buy it.
Endless Loop of Nonplaying
The final Season Pass DLC – Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep – has been out for Borderlands 2 for a while now. I have not even finished Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt yet, having gotten bored with what the BL2 gameplay devolves into in Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode difficulty (I started playing Sir Hammerlock after the UVHM was released).
Actually, that is not entirely true. What happened is I’m stuck in an endless loop of nonplaying.
See, one of the big changes in UVHM difficulty is that you pretty much have to own some form of gun that features Slag damage (a Slagged enemy received extra non-Slag damage). Since Slag wasn’t required in the prior difficulty, I never really bothered to pick a gun with it up. And since I never saw a point in farming the final boss back when True Vault Hunter Mode difficulty and level 50 was the highest you could go, my normal level 50 weaponry is pretty weak. This was one of the contributing factors to my boredom with the Hammerlock DLC insofar as the enemies took forever to kill on UVHM and yet none of the weapons I was receiving were technically any more powerful. Lack of character progression = lack of interest.
And yet… where is the off-ramp to this endless loop? Completing the Hammerlock DLC isn’t required to start up the next one, but I’m not likely to start it in UVHM difficulty due to the weapon issue. But I’m already level 51, one past the prior cap, from my progress in Hammerlock. So not only will my Dragon Keep adventure start at a reduced difficulty, I also won’t receive any actual gun upgrades throughout it. But I can’t play UVHM without better guns. Which I can’t get without farming the last boss in story mode, or perhaps farming another of the other DLCs. But I don’t want to farm content that I have technically seen multiple times already, and certainly not to acquire guns that will likely be better than what I’ll see in the DLC I need to have them for.
This is, like, a Catch .2206.
Technically, I have shit-ton of Golden Keys from nearly six months of not using any; these will open a chest with high-grade, level-appropriate weapons of a random nature. Also technically, I could use a Save Game editor and just give myself appropriate weapons. In fact, I was considering the Editor because I’m tired of Zer0’s gameplay but don’t want to have to beat the game twice, again, just to get back to where I already am. But I kinda feel like using the Editor would remove any meaning to loot drops much as the AH did in Diablo 3.
So what typically happens is that I’ll be in the mood for some FPS game, think about Borderlands 2, try and navigate the thought process behind what I need to do to play it, and then… go play something else. Because, Christ, I just wanted to shoot things, not map out the plot of Primer.
My Mod/DLC Dilemma
I started playing Torchlight 2 a few weeks ago, and I am having some issues. Now, I did not like the original game all that much, but picking up the sequel for $5 during one of those crazy Steam sales seemed safe enough. And so far, I am not experiencing the same acute symptoms of frustration as in the first game. Except… now I kinda am.
My biggest gripe with the original game was that the loot system was broken. Specifically, there was no real sense of gear progression in a hack-n-slash Diablo-clone genre that is based entirely on gear progression – I used the same “legendary” level 3 necklace all the way into the endgame, never finding an upgrade. While I have not ran into this problem as much in Torchlight 2, the contours of the issue remain in place. For example, I ran into this gearing decision the other day:
Maybe “higher level = better” is too simplistic a progression design, but… is it really?
The more pressing concern in Torchlight 2 though, is how a lot of things that should be rewarding are really not. Each main area map has a Locked Golden Chest which contains, as you might imagine, a lot of loot. The key to this chest can drop randomly from any mob on that particular map, or from a specific fairy mob 100% of the time.
Compelling design, right? It would be, if these chests dropped something more than vendor trash.
Random loot is random, but after spending more time than strictly necessary opening these chests up and walking away with nothing of any value, I am finding myself souring on game in general. Indeed, even the extra-large treasure chests at the end of boss encounters reveals greys and greens more often than not. Why should I be fighting bosses when smashing pottery is clearly the more profitable activity?
In Torchlight 2’s case though, there is a “solution”: mods. In fact, the #1 highest-rated mod in the Steam Workshop is one that tweaks Golden Chests (and boss chests) to always drop a Unique item. That’s not as broken as it sounds – items are still random, scaled to your level, and sometimes class-specifc – and does a lot to fix what I otherwise consider a problem. There are mods for all sorts of things, in fact, including Skill tweaks, doubling the amount of gold drops, Respec potions (base game only allows reshuffling of last 3 Skills), improving game textures, increasing view distance, and even additional whole classes. Indeed, one of the big selling points of Torchlight 2 was its modability in comparison to Diablo 3.
Thing is, I don’t like using mods on my initial play-through of a game. Hell, I usually don’t even like loading in DLC that affects the core game, even when I’m playing the Game of the Year version that bundles it all together.
My situation is a bit unique (and self-inflicted) insofar as I fancy myself a game reviewer. But even before this website, I preferred going in vanilla and raw. Not all my friends had the extra spending money for the expansions and whatnot, so telling them Diablo 2 was better with Lords of Chaos installed really just means “the base game is deficient.” Well, perhaps not deficient in D2’s case, but you understand my meaning.
Good game design is supposed to be good out of the box. If developers are stumbling around for the first several months from release, that stumbling needs to remain part of the overall narrative. I failed to mention in my Fallout: New Vegas review that the game was literally unplayable for the first two weeks without downloading a crack that fixed the DirectX issues; it’s an important detail to know for when the next Fallout game is released, lest it too require Day 0 patching from players to fix what the devs rushed to production.
I suppose some of this harkens back to that debate over whether MMOs (etc) are toys vs games. There is no wrong way to play with a toy, no real rules to govern your interaction with them. In this sense, mods are sort of like adding salt to your meal – some chefs might see that as an insult, but perhaps your individual taste skews more salty than the others sharing the meal. Ergo, developers letting mods fix any subjective “problem” only makes sense. Keep the vanilla pure, and let players add the chocolate and sprinkles as they wish.
Personally though, I am much more interested in the game portion of things, or more specifically: experiences. Show me the genius of your rulesets, the compelling nature of your narratives, the excellence of your craft. Anyone can imagine a stick into a lightsaber, just as anyone can turn a crappy game good with tweaks. I am interested in what you can do, Mr(s) Game Man Person, not mod developer XYZ. I want to be excited that you are releasing another game, not that the modding community has another opportunity to fix a deficient product. And besides, only one of those two parties is getting paid. Hint: it’s not the person/people improving the game.
It may not be entirely rational, but there it is. Odds are that I will keep trucking along in vanilla Torchlight 2 so that I can give an accurate report on its (so far) many failings. It is worth noting that while you can import your vanilla save into the “game + mods” version of the game, you cannot thereafter go back – neither your character nor your gear will appear under the default game any more. While that probably has little meaning beyond the people interested in Steam achievements, it sort of highlights how even the developers believe a segregation between the two ought to exist.
In which case, I shall play their game and complain about it, rather than fix things myself.
Mass Effect 3’s Ending DLC Coming Tomorrow
I do not want to sound ungrateful or anything (at least until I see the expository scenes for myself), but… err, Bioware? Telling us on Friday that the ME3 Extended Cut DLC will be out on Tuesday comes across as somewhat guilty. You know, when you were a kid and tried to sneak in the one bad thing you just did into a stream of all the other random things in the hopes that Mom wouldn’t notice.
“AND THEN I PLAYED WITH BOBBY IN THE BACKYARD, AND THEN WE WENT TO THE CREEK, AND I CAUGHT A FROG BUT IT HOPPED AWAY, and I broke Mr. Wilson’s window, AND WE RODE BIKES TO THE PARK BUT IT WAS GETTING DARK SO WE CAME BACK, AND WE PLAYED POGS AND I TOTALLY WON THREE TIMES.”
I haven’t been giving the ending DLC much thought beyond casually musing how, at this point, Bioware could probably get away with not releasing anything¹. It has been more than three months, after all, which is the equivalent of 10 years in the modern news cycle. Mass Effect really isn’t A Thing to me anymore, especially after I sort of capped out of interest in the multiplayer.
Listening to this (low-budget) PR interview though…
Have you ever started dating an ex again? You remember how much fun you had together, how much everything just clicked. And then you also remember how (badly) things ended last time, getting a little steamed all over again with events long since past. The video basically evokes that, to me.
Anyway, the scab is coming off tomorrow, or whenever it is I am able to sit down
and make out with ME3 again. Maybe never. Realistically, as soon as humanly possible.
¹ I don’t actually believe they could get away without addressing the ending. Not because fans “deserve” a better one, but rather because I have no doubt Bioware would like to sell some actual story DLC. I imagine that the market for story DLC to a 3+ month old RPG is likely limited to the very people most pissed off by the ending.
The Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut
What can fans expect from the Extended Cut DLC?
- For fans who want more closure in Mass Effect 3, the DLC will offer extended scenes that provide additional context and deeper insight to the conclusion of Commander Shepard’s journey.
Are there going to be more/different endings or ending DLCs in the future?
- No. BioWare strongly believes in the team’s artistic vision for the end of this arc of the Mass Effect franchise. The extended cut DLC will expand on the existing endings, but no further ending DLC is planned.
What is BioWare adding to the ending with the Extended Cut DLC?
- BioWare will expanding on the ending to Mass Effect 3 by creating additional cinematics and epilogue scenes to the existing ending sequences. The goal of these new scenes is to provide additional clarity and closure to Mass Effect 3.
It is coming out this summer, and it’s free. Mission Accomplished.
Also of note is that there is some free multiplayer DLC that should be launching on Tuesday. I have officially spent more hours playing ME3 multiplayer than ME3 single-player, so this is of interest to me. It is pretty clever of EA/Bioware though, in that undoubtedly all of the new content (other than maps) will likely be need to be unlocked via the random packs purchased via in-game credits… or Bioware Points. All of the goodwill of free DLC, along with all the subsidization of microtransactions.
Regarding the nature of the Extended Cut, Kotaku dug a little deeper, and provided some more details. Namely, that A) Bioware is shifting its DLC plans to make sure this comes out first, B) it will include cinematic sequences (!) and epilogue scenes, C) Command Shepard isn’t (likely) to have any new/revised lines of dialog, D) “‘should be able to grab a save file before the endgame and experience the new content from there.’ (Keep a pre-endgame savefile, folks!)” E) Indoctrination theory is probably kaput.
Regarding the latter, it was Liveblogged that they said:
“The indoctrination theory illustrates again how, um, committed the fanbase is…” don’t want to comment either way. Don’t want to be prescriprive — fans interpret their own way, plus DLC coming. “We want the content to speak for itself, and we’ll let it do so”
That does not particularly sound like a response from people who intentionally wanted it all to be a dream. Ironically, since Bioware will essentially be designing the epilogue based on fan feedback/questions, it is entirely possible that they may fit in Indoctrination-y wiggle room. I hope not, but we’ll see.
This exchange was also interesting, for different reasons:
[…] His question – when citadel is moved, what happens to everyone on it?
Answer: One of the things in the citadel codex is that anyplace -inside- the citadel has emergency seals, and some exterior areas have emergency seals that can keep atmosphere in. Even if the Citadel is destroyed (which it may or may not be in ending), “is not like the entire things blow up.” People on (in) the arms may well still be alive. No reason to assume 100% casualties
Err… okay. Not exactly sure how it makes a lot of sense for the Reapers to be in control of the Citadel for X length of time and not handle all the armed civilians (my Shepard encouraged the formation of a militia), but perhaps that goes a ways towards this making sense. Incidentally, I actually have a serious problem with the breath scene being “canon,” but I suppose we will have to see how things pan out this summer.
P.S. This comparison between Mass Effect and Lord of the Rings highlights why all this was necessary to begin with. You know, if my writing about it constantly for the last three weeks wasn’t enough.
Rimworlder, part 2
Posted by Azuriel
Instead of doing minor edits and publishing the last post, I continued playing Rimworld for about 25 hours over a week. Yeah, all other games in progress (aside from GW2 dailies) have been blown away. However, in that time, I have come to a number of conclusions. Or maybe just a primary one from which all others follow.
The Rimworld DLCs make no sense.
Royalty was the first DLC to be released. The big addition was the sort of Fallen Empire faction that you interact with almost immediately in every playthrough. If you ally with the Empire, you can select one or more pawns to start accruing Honor via quests and such, which is used to ascend royal ranks, which in turn unlocks the ability to have Psycasts. Higher ranked pawns will need increasingly spurious luxuries befitting their titles, requiring the creation of a throne room, better quality clothes, and so on.
If you don’t ally with the Empire, you basically don’t get to play with Psycasts. There are a few opportunities to waylay Imperial caravans and steal the items that grant Psycast levels, but they are few and far between from what I have heard. That said, each map also has an Anima Tree somewhere that allows Tribal-based (and only Tribal-based) pawns to meditate/worship at its trunk to eventually unlock all Psycasts and assorted goodies, no Empire needed.
In practice, the entire Royalty DLC feels at odds with its premise. Roleplaying as a royal colony and eventually using the Empire as a win condition (joining the Imperial flotilla) is perfectly fine. Tying Psycasts to royal titles is not. The earliest Psycast that has any particular use (Vertigo Pulse) requires the Knight rank. The next one is Praetor, which unlocks Skip (tactical teleport) and Wallraise (cover on demand). These are very useful abilities, but each individual pawn would need their own separate throne room and gain the appropriate amount of individual Honor to gain them. It also gets a bit goofy having a Count, whom “might have a personal fleet of capital ships,” be slumming around with the rest of the fighters to take out a Mechanoid Cluster.
Tribalists being able to short-circuit the entire Psycast system by spending time at an Anima Tree kinda drives everything home. I haven’t done so myself, but there is plenty of chatter about how you can get your entire Tribal colony to be level 6 Psycasters very easily, which would otherwise require a half-dozen throne rooms and other goofiness the “normal” way. There are probably mods out there to fix things, but why not have rituals or research or whatever to allow non-Tribals access to Anima Tree benefits? Royal ranks would still have a purpose – Permits are enough of a thing IMO to justify the title system – plus perhaps you could make it easier for royals to find/buy/hand out the Psycast-level items.
For the Ideology DLC… there isn’t much to say, actually. It opens up some directed roleplaying and/or absurd min-maxing opportunities. In my current playthrough, it doesn’t really add much to the gameplay aside from some annoyances. For example, at least two of the main factions on the planet are Supremacists, which means they are effectively permanently hostile (on top of the always-hostile pirates, raiders, etc). Beyond that, my colony can… uh… perform one dance party a year. Two of my pawns can give a few speeches, but even if you max out the chance of success, there’s still a minimum chance of failure. There are also a series of quests to find a relic, but near as I can tell, that ultimately gives a mood buff equivalent to eating at a table during the once-per-year dance party.
For the Biotech DLC, we come around again to absurdity.
Using Biotech to create custom starting scenarios is perfectly fine. Cannibal mole men? Beautiful furkin? Straight-up vampires? Go for it. However, there’s a big chunk of the mid-game revolving around Genebanks and such that allow you to acquire genes (purchased or extracted) and augment your pawns. But… why? The system is extremely random and requires a colony with excess resources to the point that you may as well just be installing bionic limbs and such. Moreover, if you are creating a custom xenotype at the outset, things would be much faster just having your existing pawns have children of said xenotype versus some convoluted system of extracting genes from your pawns and mashing them together into a former prisoner you converted. There may be some point to the system once you start looking at the more OP Archite genes, but that requires purchasing Archite capsules, then the Archite genes, and then implanting them. All to do what? Make one pawn superhuman in a way fully bionic organs in Cataphract Armor does not?
On the other hand, children are amazing in Biotech. It allows your colony to grow in an organic way, it ups the stakes during raids, and I appreciate watching them become more useful additions to the family. The stories that get generated in this way are also novel. For example, I took in a small refugee family of a father, mother, and small child. Things were going well… until I got the notification that a Fennec fox was hunting the child, who for some reason was trying to haul boulders from across the map. Unable to reach the fox in time, the child was downed and then eaten. This caused the mother to fly into a murderous rage… in the middle of a classroom where she was teaching my colony’s first child. She beat him to death with a club, which I had not removed from her inventory.
And that’s how I learned to always restrict the zones where children can roam. And disarm refugees.
After I reloaded an earlier save game, of course. Iron man, I am not.
Posted in Commentary
Tags: Biotech, DLC, Ideology, RimWorld, Royalty