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.

EWE and Editor Just Two

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

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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

Rabbids & Smartphones & Dragon Balls, Oh My!

Greets, mortals!  I hope the evening finds you well…unless, of course, I hate you, in which case I hope the evening finds you fervently wishing that I DON’T FIND YOU.  Either way, welcome back.  Tonight I’ve got a few thoughts on a lot of different things for you, which is a bit of a change from normal.  I’ve found lately that, especially when I’m alone with my feline overlord, my mood and thoughts and emotions are scattered all over the place (well, aside from the constant overwhelming seething cauldron of hate for humanity…that’s pretty consistent), and consequently, I’ve been consuming media in a similar, scattershot fashion.  The good news for all of you, though, is that now you get to hear a bit about all sorts of good (or bad) stuff!  You may prostrate yourselves now.  I’ll wait.

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It was a cliched and stormy night in Costa del Sol…

First up, we have the continuing adventures of Evil Wizard as he journeys through Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV.  Although the new expansion, Stormblood, was released this summer, I’ve yet to venture into any of that story content.  In fact, I’ve only recently, finally powered through all of the story missions that served as the bridge between the original Realm Reborn storyline and the first expansion, Heavensward.  After having reached Ishgard, I decided to take a slight break from powering through story content to level and unlock some other jobs.  But that isn’t to say the story isn’t calling to me – truth be told, I honestly feel like Final Fantasy XIV is the best game in the main series since IX, and maybe even since VI, and that is saying an awful lot because I have a lot of love for FF XII.  But XIV has an absolutely massive amount of plot content and characters, and the overwhelming majority of them are stellar.  Honestly, I recommend this game to anyone that loves RPGs.  Not just MMOs, not just Final Fantasy – if RPGs are your thing, and you haven’t tried XIV at all, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

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It’s Mega Mario Metroid Man!

Next up, I’ve got the Switch game that up until E3 a couple months ago literally nobody knew they wanted.  Seriously, the Rabbids are the most goddamned annoying fuckers this side of the It’s A Small World ride at Disney World, and when Nintendo and Ubisoft announced  a crossover between them and the world of Mario you could hear the entire Internet give a collected groan.  Then around came E3, and with it the revelation that this would be a turn-based strategy game with some RPG elements – essentially X-COM lite but with Mario & Co. taking on Ubi’s insane vermin.  After spending several hour with it since launch and getting through the first couple of worlds, I can easily say this game is the biggest surprise of the year for me, and that’s saying something with a Mario game.  The X-COM style cover-based gameplay is fantastic, though in the early stages the difficulty seems significantly less than the sci-fi masterpiece.  This can likely be chalked up to the game being aimed at a much larger target market on the Switch than the decidedly older audience that X-COM attracts.  My understanding from friends that are much further into the game is that there is a definite difficulty spike later on, so I am greatly intrigued and thus far highly recommend Mario x Rabbids: Kingdom Battle to anyone with a Switch and a love of X-COM.

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Hooray Job Systems!

Next up, for when I’m stuck with nothing but my phone or it’d be impolite to just open a book or Vita and blatantly ignore everyone around me, I’ve found myself diving back into Final Fantasy Dimensions.  I found myself drawn back in after talking about it for a bit with intrepid Michael “FinalMacstorm” Cunningham of #TeamHandheld.  I’ve been away from it for a while and am still getting back into the plot, but since it’s heavily patterned on the 16-bit Final Fantasy’s of old, there isn’t too much complexity to worry about.  I do now remember that the slow influx of jobs is made a bit more irritating by the fact that you can’t max them out – at particular beats in the story, you are granted a small pool of points that allow you to increase the max level of whatever jobs you choose for each character.  While I don’t believe this to be a monetization of the system – I don’t think you can purchase more of the points using real money – I haven’t yet reached the point of being able to know if there will be enough of these points to max out all jobs for everyone, or if not, how many each character may be able to fully develop.  It’s tough because it doesn’t let you really know if you should be specializing particular characters or what, and a somewhat incongruent party split can exacerbate matters somewhat.  Still, it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome with a bit of grinding, and I’m a complete whore for grinding in an old-school job system RPG.  Not going to say I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone yet, but if you are older than time as I am, and love Final Fantasy V’s job system, you’ll likely find this worthwhile.

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Ka…Me…Ha…Me…

Last, but assuredly not least, I’ve also been catching up on Dragon Ball Super.  DB is one of those series that I watch in spurts – I’ll binge a couple of dozen episodes and love them, then hit a saturation point and put it away for a while.  I’ve reached the point where Goku & Friends have been confronted by Black’s Super Saiyan Rose, and I must say that one of the features I love about this show is that every once in a while they show a flashback to events that occurred in prior series such as the seminal Dragon Ball Z, and the contrast between the quality of the animation in those and the gorgeous HD animation in Super just can’t be fully described.  Akira Toriyama’s character designs are world-renowned and timeless, and for as much as I love his work in the Dragon Quest series, this is the apex in terms of the quality animation.  As for the series, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much Dragon Ball has grown up – even in a series where death is often cheapened or worked around, there has been some genuine moments of tension and loss, and I feel like the experience gained by reworking Dragon Ball Z into Dragon Ball Z Kai has helped the studio to get a better grip on balancing fights with character development.  So no more 17-episode buildups to seeing Goku throw one Spirit Bomb…and that’s a very good thing.  If you’ve ever been a fan of Dragon Ball, you should check it out.

And that’s that for tonight, kiddos.  But before I go, just a piece of advice…I guarantee that most, if not all, of you humans have someone close to you that is likely suffering from depression.  You probably don’t know it, because they probably don’t say much if anything about it – ironically enough, because they already feel like a complete burden to those around them and don’t want to make it any worse.  But while they may be able to smile or crack a joke, inside they are very, very alone.  You humans have but a short time on this earth, and in that time, almost everything costs something…but kindness is free.  It can be given away to all that you care about with no real cost to you.  And while it might seem like little or nothing to you at the time, I guarantee you it means the world to someone.  Not that I care about the happiness of you pathetic mortals. – EWE

Quick Game Hits & An Apology

Good evening, mortals.  First things first…sigh…I’ve given my word to Editor that I shall begin tonight with a sincere apology for missing another entry of #FrozenFoodFridays.  I believe that I have informed you of the past couple of weeks being difficult for me – and they have been particularly bad these last couple of days.  But that is no excuse, considering this blog has always been my outlet for when things are difficult for me, and #FrozenFoodFridays has been a mainstay segment of it.  (Editor’s Note: We haven’t been hurt this badly since our fiance walked away.)  Silence, fool!  I will NOT allow this to devolve into some kind of therapy session.  (Editor’s Note: Oh, if anyone needed therapy…)  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

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Now then…with that out of the way, let’s see what EWE has been up to in his gaming time, shall we?  And with a backlog to rival that of the lovely and talented LightningEllen there is plenty for me to bounce around between.

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Let’s start with one of my most anticipated, and least (currently) played, games, the recently released Tales of Berseria.  Now, I’m going to be honest here – and I feel like I may have said this before, so bear with me if I have – but I am a relative newcomer to the Tales series, with Tales of Vesperia being my first experience with it.  Vesperia went on to become one of my absolute favorite RPGs of the Xbox 360 generation.  Since then I have played Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2, as well as Tales of Zestiria, and while I thoroughly enjoyed each of those games, Vesperia remained my favorite, primarily due to it’s incredibly well-written and diverse cast of characters.  So how has Berseria stacked up?

Unfortunately, much like the last time that I mentioned this RPG, I am not far enough into the game to be able to really say, due to the ongoing PC audio bug that creates a horrific screeching/droning noise during almost every single battle in the game.  There have been a couple of patches released, and I have not tried the game since the most recent patch dropped, so hopefully this issue has now been resolved.  But until it is, I just cannot bring myself to play much of this game.  Based on my limited experience so far, I can say that Berseria’s protagonist, Velvet, reminds me a bit of Yuri from Vesperia, in all the right ways.  The tone of this game is much darker than the Tales games after Vesperia, which I enjoy thus far – Velvet’s quest for revenge has just begun for me, but holy FUCK does she have a solid motivation for wanting it.  I mean, not that you really NEED a motivation for wanting revenge…(Editor’s Note: Don’t start.  You’re just hurting.)  Oh, shut up and let me be bitter, would you?

As a Tales game, one would expect combat to be the highlight of the experience, and sans the audio bug, one would be correct in that assessment.  The action-packed, combo-driven Tales combat is honestly at it’s peak among the games in the series that I have played, being fluid and forgiving enough to allow button-mashing to be effective, but with nuance and depth that mastering its intricacies is highly addicting.  I don’t want to get into much more detail on the rest of the game due to my limited time with it thus far, but if you are a fan of the combat in the later Tales games listed above, and if Vesperia was a great game to you, then you’ll want to try this out.

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Next up, I decided to spend some time with a game I picked up during a recent Steam sale for almost nothing.  Can’t beat an old Diablo-style lootfest, right?

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So, everyone loves Diablo clones, right?  I mean, sometimes you just want to kill everything in sight and collect oodles of treasure that explode from their corpses.  But most of those games share a similar, fantasy setting – so one of the most refreshing things about Titan Quest, both the original game and the recently updated Anniversary Edition, is it’s setting of Egyptian-dominated myths and legends.  The Anniversary Edition upgrades the graphics of this classic to make the game more palatable to modern gamers.  But even without the graphical upgrade, this game is just fun.

You really don’t need me to analyze much in the way of the gameplay systems in this loot fest – click on shit until it explodes into loot, do this until you level up, assign points to skills, traits, and abilities that help you kill shit more quickly and efficiently.  Rinse and repeat until you are a physical god laying waste to everything in your path.  The audio is well done, but nothing particularly memorable has jumped out at me in my play sessions thus far.  This may be in part because when I’m playing a game like this, I tend to put on other music or something so I don’t really notice the in-game audio.  I haven’t experienced any technical issues during my gameplay thus far, but I will note that the NPC text is somewhat small and difficult to follow in the tiny chat bubbles that appear over their heads.  But this is a small complaint, outweighed by many more fantastic Diablo-esque tones that scratch every itch that a compulsive loot-gathering dungeon crawl should.  Even at full price, it’s a great cost-benefit ratio, and if you find it on sale, snap it up.

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And finally, I’ve been feeling the urge to jump back into an MMO again lately.  Not because I have the time or money or patience to do so, but because I have no life whatsoever and probably stand no chance at love or friendship outside of either the Internet or the MMO gaming community.  So, I dusted off and updated my Elder Scrolls Online account – since there is no monthly fee, I could remind myself of why I don’t play many MMOs without killing my budget deader than it already is.

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Now, in order to make things a bit more interesting (Editor’s Note: or just because he’s not all that bright), I have taken a sleep aid just before I fire up the ESO client each time.  This resulted an an…odd looking Dunmer Nightblade named Evil Wizard Esq (at least I retained consciousness long enough to name him) who has engaged in a few beginner’s adventures that I have little to no memory of at all.  At one point, I woke in the middle of the night to find I had apparently murdered a villager while trying to talk to her and now the guards were…upset.  I frankly didn’t see the problem, but sadly they did not agree with my point of view.  In the days and weeks to come, I will try to keep you updated on Dunmer EWE’s adventures throughout Tamriel.

And that’s that for tonight, kiddos.  Thanks for sticking around, and again, I am sorry for the missing #FrozenFoodFridays entries.  Since I have not contributed to your culinary requests recently, I will instead leave you with some advice from Editor.

Do not take for granted the people in your life that love you.  Maybe you think they aren’t good enough for you, or aren’t what you pictured in your imagination, or that you can “do better.”  But in reality all you’re doing is demonstrating a complete lack of caring for someone that likely cares about you quite a lot.  And while I doubt that you are out there reading this (you know who you are), on the chance that you are, you may tell yourself whatever you like to help you sleep at night for treating someone who loves you like a piece of refuse.  You may say that I am not good enough to be worth keeping around, even when you just recently expressed how glad you were to have me in your life.  But no matter how hard you try, where you look, or what you tell yourself, you will never find anyone who as honestly and truly loves you as I.  For now, you will be glad to be rid of me, to be able to see me around but never have to speak with me outside of the briefest of moments.  But someday, sooner or later, you will miss being able to pick up the phone and know I’ll be there for you; you’ll miss the warmth of being next to me and communicating so many thoughts and feelings without exchanging any more than a glance or two; you’ll miss me doing silly little things for no reason other than to show you that I wake up every day and choose you as the person I want to be with.  I don’t know when that will be – but I’m not going to just let myself be continually hurt until it comes.

Until next time, minions…be kind to one another.  Life is too short to do otherwise. – EWE