The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity: The White March (I & II)

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Hope you like snow and ice!

Welcome back, humans!  I hope life has been treating you better than “President” and “guy you wouldn’t buy a used car off of” Trump has been treating poor people trying to flee to a better life in America.  Though I suppose given just how abysmal the treatment of them is, that’s a pretty low bar that life has to clear to treat you better.

Anyway, as you may recall, I’ve been strolling through the overgrown jungle that is my game backlog since I needed to replace my computer’s HDD and as a result lost a significant portion of my save data in many games.  I began this little journey in earnest with Pillars of Eternity, and decided I would give it a strong push through all of the expansion content – The White March Parts I & II – and then complete the game.  So how did it go?  (Editor’s Note: Some SPOILERS AHEAD for Pillars of Eternity and The White March.)

 

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Oh there was something behind the waterfall, alright…

The White March expansion was released by Obsidian in two parts, and unlike many expansion packs for RPGs, it is integrated seamlessly into the main story path of the base game.  Part I is accessible once you reach Act II of the main story, and Part II is accessible upon reaching Act III.  Your quest journal has a nice touch that keeps separate track of main quests for the base game, WM I, and WM II – though this doesn’t extend to the sidequests and “tasks” – those are all lumped together regardless of which part of the game they originate in.  Nonetheless, Obsidian deserves a TON of credit for making the new areas, NPCs, and quests feel like they were always a part of the world to begin with.  The base game itself was already one of more well-written fantasy worlds in gaming, and WM did nothing but drive that point home.  Most notably, your choice of companion characters escalated from sometimes-funny to batshit crazy hilarious!

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Evil Wizard? Check. Foul-mouthed, possibly cannibalistic druid? Check. Robotic serial killer rogue? Check. Former war criminal barbarian? Check. Elderly masochistic hallucinogenic-addicted monk? Check. Um…one fairly well-adjusted hunter? Also check.

The character backstories and personal quests for the three new playable party members in WM are absolutely fantastic – some of the best, most genre-aware and yet not-total-parody fantasy character writing I’ve seen in video gaming, period.  My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of it – the personal quests for these three felt very short compared to the quests for the base game characters.  But as complaints go, that one doubles as a compliment – always leave your readers/players wanting more!  And it was the characters that sealed my desire to play the next game in the series – once I’ve got more time and funds.  But lets not discount the fantastic real-time-with-pause combat mechanics, either.

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Yeah, that’s right – nobody screws with this crew of cutthroats.

Every class in the game is functionally useful in different combat situations – to the point that you will find yourself regularly journeying back to your fortress of Caed Nua to switch out party members for different bosses and challenges.  And boy do I mean it when I say challenges – while you can reach a point where most regular encounters won’t give you much trouble, several of the optional bosses in the game are absolutely brutal and require close attention to party positioning and skill management.  For example…

EWE and Editor Cave

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Editor’s Note: See, there WAS a cave behind the waterfall! HA! It never fails! Now we can just grab whatever bonus loot Obsidian tucked away in here and…
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Editor’s Note: …oh. Oh dear. (EWE’s Note: Yeah, there’s your fucking treasure, asshat!)

So after THAT little mishap, I also discovered that not all of WM takes place in a frozen wasteland – some of the quests do take you to new zones in the more temperate zones of the main game.  For example, after you take care of an archmage who had decided that lichdom sounded better than death (Editor’s Note: and who’s reanimated head you kept floating behind the party as a pet…) you end up being summoned by one of the other archmages to a meeting.  Sadly, a village full of cultists decides to get in your way and must be…dealt with…but then you can have intelligent conversation with one of your intellectual peers…

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OH COME ON!

So, let me share a little life advice: do not attempt to send melee fighters against a dragon.  Just…don’t.  (Editor’s Note: I said I was sorry, and you only got set on fire a few times.)  But all’s well that ends well, yes?  And here is how THEY ended:

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What can I say, humans…I’m very good at what I do, but what I do isn’t very nice.  What IS nice though is that I got to play through this gem of a game.  It is a definite love letter to games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, but with enough subtle modern improvements that it doesn’t feel dated.  If you haven’t played it yet, what are you doing?  Stop reading and go play it! – EWE

 

 

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The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity (Pt. 2) & More!

Hello once again, mortals!  A very happy Memorial Day to all of you in the US, and for those not in the US…uh, I hope your Monday was not awful?  (Editor’s Note: …smooth, very smooth…)  Whatever – anyway, the point is that you’re here now, and that makes everything better, doesn’t it?  (Editor’s Note: I mean-) Shut up, you!  So, what have I been up to on this lovely extended weekend?  Well, let’s just see, shall we?

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So the big question as we left EWE and Co. last time in PoE was whether or not I would attempt to help the Lord of Gilded Vale see the error of his ways and become a better ruler for his people…or whether I would just slaughter him and make way for someone else to take a shot at it.  After not really thinking about it all that much, I massacred everyone in the throne room and left their looted corpses for the next monarch to clean up before taking the throne.  With that, I was off to see what exactly the deal is with my visions of people’s past lives – only to meet a sentient chair and a lunatic, which wound up with me inheriting a haunted castle.  Nice!  I knew I had always liked PoE, and this is reminding me of why.  But that’s not the only CRPG I’ve been diving into as of late…

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I’ll admit it – I’ve always, always had a soft spot for classic Forgotten Realms RPGS.  Baldur’s Gate (all of them, I, II, EE, Dark Alliance I & II, ALL OF THEM), Icewind Dale, and of course, NWN.  Now I will also say that going into NWN back in the day, I was simultaneously excited about the upgrade from the classic Infinity Engine to the Aurora Engine, but also hesitant about the idea of only having one hireling along with me as opposed to a full party of adventurers as I did in the Baldur’s Gate titles.  This time around, however, what first leaped out at me was that the jump to 1080p resolution has NOT helped this game at all.  Seriously, this was never the most attractive game, even in its day, but the “Enhanced Edition” is not visually enhanced at all.  Still though, it didn’t diminish the longstanding crush I’ve had on Aribeth de Tylmarande.

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I’m not too terribly far into the game yet – my paladin (Editor’s Note: HA!) ahem, has just begun looking for the cure to the Wailing Death and is currently infiltrating the Prison District.  The gameplay is still the fantastic pause-and-play real-time combat I remember, and once you accept how far graphics have come since NWN was released, it’s still a fantastic RPG.  And finally…

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My sons and I pre-ordered the Elsweyr expansion to ESO and thus received early access to it.  Now, it’s no secret that we are HUGE fans of ESO, enough to sub to it when it’s optional.  That being said, while I have almost nothing but positive remarks for it, I have to say that I didn’t realize that the Elsweyr content would consist of one, and only one, zone.  I mean, it’s a zone with quite a bit to do, and all of it is very well executed, but still…one?  Hopefully the regular content updates will possibly expand on this, but that’s pretty much my only disappointment so far.  The new Necromancer class is fantastic – and still fairly OP and in need of some balancing in PVP – and I’ve had a blast with leveling It’s Me Skeletor and Evil Wizard Esq along with my boys.

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And with that, we come to the end of another trip through the backlog.  Will I continue to terrorize the masses in Pillars of Eternity?  Will I be the worst paladin in all of Faerun in NWN EE?  Will my progeny and I carve a path of death and destruction across Tamriel in ESO?  As always…signs point to yes. – EWE

The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity

Good evening, humans!  How are…ugh, honestly, I’m too tired to care.  I’m a little…busy…at work and consequently have been too exhausted to do much of anything.  Even if you were on fire right in front of me, I couldn’t summon the effort to enjoy it (Editor’s Note: Uh, you mean to put it out) sure, whatever – regardless, no fucks to give.  So there is only one thing to do when your body is breaking down and your mind is shattering from too much stress (Editor’s Note: Rest?  Eat better?  Eat at all?) nope, spend some precious evening hours replaying the Steam backlog that got erased!  (Editor’s Note: …we’re going to die, aren’t we?)  Probably.  Though we did some focus groups on reaction to our death and the results were…less than stellar…

Let Them Die

Regardless, before total collapse, a random stab into the backlog brings us to (drumroll) Pillars of Eternity.  No, not the more recent sequel – the original Kickstarter-backed love letter to classic CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate.  So far the early game is as strong as I remember it, with a fairly robust character creation system that mixes together some standard fantasy tropes and classes along with some more original and alien options, such as the Godlike race and the Cypher class, which focuses on soul manipulation as explained in the background lore.  And boy – so much lore.  Obsidian did an amazing job crafting this fantasy world and leaving it for you to explore and find bits and pieces of, letting you have as deep an understanding of the background of the world as you are willing to invest effort in seeking out.

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Was there ever really doubt about me being a Deathtype Godlike Wizard?  Have you even been paying attention?

The early scenario for the game does a great job of introducing the classic real-time with pause party based RPG combat, although by the end of the starting dungeon, you’re going to find yourself in some need for, uh, new companions.

Not These Guys

These early hours are pretty dark too – what with your caravan party being slaughtered and you stumbling into the starting town only to be openly threatened with death by the town guardsmen basically because the Mayor is in a pissy mood.  But then again, so am I, so that leads to the big question: will I complete Act I just by setting the Mayor of Shitholetown on fire?  Tune in next time to find out, fleshbags! – EWE

The Elder – and Younger – Scrolls

Ho there, adventurous humans! Gather ’round and here a tale of magic and mysticism…of warfare and wonder…of evil and, um, pretty much more evil. Yes, I speak of the founding of the fledgling group of mercenaries and traders known as Murder and Mayhem Inc.

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Yes, mortals, what this means for those that don’t know is that my eldest spawn, Beefer (Editor’s Note: Not only does he not hate the nickname he’s had since birth, but he actively uses it as a handle online) managed to convince me to join him in playing The Elder Scrolls Online. As someone who has put many, MANY hours into MorrowindOblivion, and Skyrim – not to mention Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 (or as a wise woman once said, The Best Fallout) – I’d heard good things about the MMO chapter in the Elder Scrolls saga. So, with a new expansion on the horizon, Beefer convinced me that this was the best time for me to join him in Tamriel and journey the land together, questing and battling foes as father and son. Until I played with him for the first time, whereupon he had me follow him to a shadowy shrine, turned around, and drained my blood, inflicting me with vampirism. “Hey, cool, I really CAN turn others into vampires at this level!” Whereupon, he left to go fight endgame monsters that I couldn’t even look at without dying.

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In fairness, what else would Evil Wizard Esq be but a Vampire Sorcerer?

Thus, it was left for me to begin the long path to joining my treacherous little Beef in the upper echelons of killing ability. Fortunately, ESO is a dream to play. The combat and questing combine the best of Elder Scrolls style with slight twists on the modern WoW MMO formula. Positioning and active aiming of your abilities is generally required, but is not difficult thanks to crosshairs on the HUD as well as smart hit detection by the game engine itself. You can play in both first- and third-person, but generally I find it much more advantageous to play in third-person, as there are so many ground effects to avoid and battlefield variables to be aware of that the zoomed-out, or even over-the-shoulder third-person views are far less frustrating than the first-person. There are a myriad of classes that at first seem to fall within the standard tank-healer-dps trinity, but with the dozens of different skill trees in the game, can all become self-sufficient while also remaining viable for group play. Really, I can’t say enough about the character customization – it is superbly balanced and fun to play around with.

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But the true icing on the cake is the questing. While world building and lore have always been a strong suit of the Elder Scrolls, and Bethesda games in general, they absolutely outdid themselves with ESO. Quests are leveled to your experience level – no more picking up quests at level 10 and then finding them not worth completing a few levels later. Instead, the enemies and rewards are tailored to your characters ability at the time they are encountered and it makes it so much more immersive when going through the dozens of quest lines available in every zone of the game. And you’ll want to go through them because every zone is a treat for the senses – absolutely beautiful, with fantastic ambient audio, music, and voice acting.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed my time thus far in ESO and cannot wait to keep exploring its nooks and crannies. If you are a fan of Elder Scrolls games, MMOs, high fantasy in general, or any combination of them, I encourage you to give it a try. It is free to play once you purchase the game itself, but it has an optional subscription that if you find yourself enjoying the game is well worth the price – giving all content updates as well as various premium perks and rewards on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

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Until next time, see you in Tamriel, humans! – EWE

Persona 5 Father/Son Run – Better Parenting Through Demonology

**WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR PERSONA 5**

Greetings, humans – it’s been far too long, and while life offers no guarantees, I hope it is not so long again after this.  And I will leave that at that.

Now, what does a malicious mage like myself get up to in the many months since we’ve met?  Who is to say for sure (Editor’s Note: well, possibly some of those villagers…but I don’t think you left them in any condition to talk, actually), ahem – Editor’s flattery (Editor’s Note: I wasn’t complimenting you…) FLATTERY aside, I did engage in one particular activity that I can share with you here that quite intrigued me over the last couple of weeks.  You see, several weeks ago my eldest, redheaded clone pointed out that when I had initially completed Persona 5 when it released on the PS4, he had not been able to watch most of it at that time.  He seemed intrigued in the gameplay systems as well as the standard SMT storyline of carving your own path through the world to rage against the gods and your opposed humans to grab your destiny with your own two hands.

But the decisions being made moment to moment are what really brought us closer together.  Because as you may understand, between the holidays and then some early January scheduling strangeness, they were able to more freely pick and choose time to spend with me.  And since my big Beefer has been with often lately, he was able to help establish our personality for our avatar and how he interacts with his social links, er, I meant “Confidants.”  For example, it took no time at all for us to agree strongly that Ryuji is a loud, tasteless, useless piece of garbage and gleefully try to envision scenarios in which we could get him destroyed.  There were the long discussions about who the best female confidant was and why we should have our character date her as opposed to anyone else.

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And then there was watching my young boy, my growing little man, who claims little interest in school topics, show genuine curiousness about the various demons, gods, and mythological figures that filled out the Persona Compendium.  He and I loved checking online for more info on whatever the latest god we had tamed and the abilities now at our command.  From there would be stimulating back-and-forth conversations regarding the occult, Judeo Christian demonology, Japanese youkai and spirits, and others.  It truly is amazing seeing an intellect that reminds me so much of what I once was, but sharper, growing and learning and becoming even greater than I could have dreamed.

We were not, however, able to come to total agreement in choosing between clearly fellow nerd love interest Futaba:

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…and more mature, and darker punk rock back-alley doctor Tae Takemi.

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Honestly, it’s a great problem to have, choosing between those two.  But even better has been the last 130 hours of game time – laughing at the insanity, freaking out at the ever increasing audacity of the villains, and concocting new ways to save our friends.  Until finally, on the day we were faced with having to destroy God himself in order to preserve the freedom of humanity, we sat in awe as the main character we’d created ourselves manifested powerful demon lord and destroyed the divine.  We were still talking about it when I had to take him home to do homework.  About about the bonds the main character forged with his true companions to sustain him.  About how outside of one another, they didn’t care what others had to say about what they felt called to do.

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So for any of you parents that believe videogames are a waste of time, I openly mock you – because while you are busy denigrating something you don’t understand, you are also losing a valuable tool to connecting with your own children!

Until next time (Editor’s Note: unless in his frustration he summons a meteor to annihilate us all), I will take my leave and see you soon! – EWE

For the Fe-liance!

Welcome to Sunday, humans!  And what better way to celebrate than to completely ignore whatever mindless nonsense the fluorescent troll-mander-in-chief has spewed all over himself this weekend and instead get back to something more fun.  So what’s on the menu tonight?

First off, after quite a hiatus, I’ve returned to World of Warcraft just in time for the latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth.  After being monumentally disappointed in the Warlords of Draenor expansion, I skipped the Legion expansion entirely, and so I’ve got that entire expansion of content to work through in addition to BfA’s content.  Fortunately, Dracollia and my sons all decided to hop back into Azeroth along with me, and the boys’ mom hasn’t stopped playing since we both started back in the days of Vanilla WoW.  So I’m not going back alone!  But in order for us to coordinate, we decided to form our own small guild – and thus was the Feline Mafia born.

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Meeeeeeoooooowwwwww!

In terms of other games I’m currently playing, I’ve actually been putting more and more time into a game on my phone that my oldest son turned me on to by the name of Alchemist Code.  The game itself is a free download, with available in-app purchases.  At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a typical gatcha-style anime-based Japanese cell phone game aimed at making a quick buck on American cell phones, but this assessment does it a huge disservice.

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Unlike many other similar games, which feature a fairly standard style turn-based tap battle system, Alchemist Code is a full-fledged SRPG, in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea.  In fact, both of these references feel particularly appropriate – because while you can see from the image above that the main story and vibe of Alchemist Code is very much in the vein of the political machinations of Final Fantasy Tactics, the game regularly engages in crossover promotions with popular anime and game franchises, pulling in popular characters and storylines from universes including Fate/Stay, Phantom of the Kill, and most recently Disgaea.

In terms of SRPG gameplay, I would say that it plays most similarly to the PSP classic Jeanne d’Arc.  Party size is initially limited to four (with an optional fifth “mercenary” character that can be hired with currency) and two characters placed in reserve that will sub in automatically upon the death of a party member.  Each party member can be developed into multiple classes and skillsets from a master pool of points, gems, and currency.  While there is the usual option to use real money to purchase gems or currency to advance at a more rapid pace, I have not put a single cent of real money into the game and I have not felt held back once – advancement still happens at a nice pace without feeling throttled.

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All in all, I have to give Alchemist Code the highest marks – it truly is everything that a mobile game should be.  No up front cost, no strings attached for players that don’t wish to, or can’t afford to, pay for advancement, but deep gameplay and story hooks that are enough that I have found myself tempted more than once to break my personal rule of not using real money to buy fake money in mobile games.  If you have an iPhone or Android device and are a fan of SRPGs, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to give it a try.

And if you play WoW and find yourself on Khaz Modan, consider causing trouble with the Feline Mafia! – EWE

Game Night! – Dad of War

Happy Friday, humans!  So, technically yes, I know, the game is God of War…but let’s face it, the hook is that Kratos and Atreus are learning to be father and son every bit as much as they are an ass-kicking combo of gods.  We tried something a little different for tonight’s stream, as Dad of War is obviously a single player game and I have not wanted to spoil the main story beats of the game.  So, since Beefer has advanced the furthest in terms of combat ability and accessed a difficult optional battle with a Valkyrie Queen, we elected to stream his attempts to defeat her…with the rest of the crew providing him with, ahem “encouragement.”  Hopefully you find it as entertaining as we found ourselves!  Except Beefer.  He didn’t appear to be entertained by it at all.  You can find the video on YouTube or below.

Until next time! – EWE