Video Games

Dark Souls 3 first impression

Well, not really my first impression as I’m about 85 hours into it, but anyway, I like it. I like it a lot. But I’m not blown away. I think it looks great, to the extent that a depressing, monochrome game can, and it has the best melee gameplay of any From Software title not named Bloodborne. In all other respects, Dark Souls 3 falls a bit flat for me. In fact, the more I play it, the more I appreciate how good the oft maligned Dark Souls 2 was.

It’s not that DS3 is bad in any way. It just doesn’t live up to the legacy of its predecessors. The NPCs aren’t that interesting; the environments are lacking in variety and creativity; and the boss battles haven’t been particularly memorable. The Souls games are known for their difficulty, but equally important to me is the perpetual sense of wonder punctuated with truly awe-inspiring moments they provide. And in that regard, Dark Souls 3 has thus far failed to consistently deliver.

Video Games

Christmas Games 2017 (just one, but it’s a doozy)

Merriment was made, eggnog imbibed, and cookies of every description still churn in my stomach like some sort of confectionery cement. It has been a wonderful day. But as things settle down, I’m left with a persistent unease, a sense of excitement tinged with dread, for under the tree was a familiar shaped package whose cheerful wrapping strained to contain the evil within: Dark Souls III The Fire Fades Edition.

Let the glorious suffering begin!

Video Games

Diary of a Tenno: Day 194

Dear Diary,

Trinity Prime, Dual Kamas Prime, and Kavasa Prime Collar are all headed to the Prime Vault in a few days. What is this Prime Vault anyway? Where is it? How can it possibly keep the Tenno from breaking in? And who puts stuff in there? Weird.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, so these items are headed into the vault, and I was kinda worried I wouldn’t be able to get them in time. Trinity and the Kavasa I got a couple days ago, no problem, but the Dual Kamas Prime has been exceedingly stubborn.

The stinking blades only drop from one relic and are a rare drop at that. I used up all my Void Traces, farmed more, and used them all up again refining Meso D1 relics. After two nights of this, I was starting to think I wouldn’t get my parts, but then, just like that, boop: the second blade I needed dropped and the very next mission, the second handle I needed dropped. Huzzah!

Baro Ki’Teer showed up at the Kuiper Relay. I don’t trust that guy one bit. I bet he’s the one hiding stuff in the Prime Vault. But he was selling Primed Continuity and Primed Cryo Rounds, so I snatched both of those up. While I was at the relay, I stopped by Steel Meridian to sell some medallions and check out their offerings. I was going to get the Vaykor Hek shotgun, but ended up getting two mods: Justice Blades and Scattered Justice. Can’t wait to try those out, especially Justice Blades; Dual Cleavers are one of my favorite melee weapons.

I tried the Venka claws for the first time. I don’t know if they’re any good, but they make you feel like Wolverine, that fictional warrior from the old world—so badass. I just wish I had a stance mod for them. There are three stances, and I don’t have any of them. =(

That’s all for now; the system needs me.


Video Games

Destiny vs Warframe: A tale of two business models

There’s a good chance I’m going to spring for Hydroid Prime Access when it drops on the 29th, and that has me reflecting on how willing I am to open my wallet for DE (Digital Extremes), versus being saltier than a New England road in January when Bungie asks me to pay for Destiny DLC. It boils down to two key things: expectations and respect.

Bungie does an abysmal job of managing player expectations. When I originally bought Destiny, including the Expansion Pass, I really had no idea what I was getting. Perhaps naively, I thought it meant everything the game had to offer until Destiny 2 arrived. Wow, I could not have been more wrong.

As it turned out, I hated the changes that came along with The Dark Below; so much so that I quit playing Destiny altogether. I felt Bungie had disrespected me and the time I had invested in their game. The Taken King fixed much of what I felt was broken, and though it galled me to have to rebuy vanilla Destiny just to get The Taken King, I did it anyway, because that’s what my friends were playing. And admittedly, I went on to have a lot of fun.

Somewhere in there they introduced microtransactions. At first it was just for emotes. But then it spread to things more central to the game experience, like the SRL Record Book. An item that was required in order to get the rewards of the new content. When I originally bought Destiny, for full price, and bought the DLC, and rebought Destiny plus The Taken King, I kind of thought I deserved to be getting the whole game.

Finally came Rise of Iron. Supposedly the microtransactions were going to fund new content, but here I was, once again being asked to pay for more DLC, not knowing if I would even enjoy the content. Well, I didn’t. I looked at the balance sheet of my Destiny experience and didn’t like what I saw. I had twice bought an incomplete vanilla game that failed to deliver on its promises. I had bought four expansions and only liked one of them. I witnessed the arrival of microtransactions and had no idea what future things might be locked behind a paywall. I had no idea if there would be more expansions. I had no idea if the game would continue to be supported after the arrival of Destiny 2. I had no idea how much of what I had done would carry over to the new game. Would all the time I had spent playing retain its value going forward? So many unknowns.

Some would argue that it’s all irrelevant. That I got my money’s worth. But I find that logic incomplete, as it assumes I wouldn’t have done something better with all that time and money.

In stark contrast, there is Warframe, another sci-fi loot grinder with a very different business model. If I wanted, I could grind my way to absolutely everything the game has to offer without paying a dime. And yet, I have spent more money on Warframe than on Destiny, and I’ve been happy to do so. Respect and expectations. With Warframe, I know exactly what I get for my money. I know what to expect in terms of future support based on a long history of consistent updates. All that I have done will retain its value indefinitely, because Warframe is its own sequel. The game evolves; it does not end and start over as a brand new iteration every year or three. Perhaps most of all, I feel like DE respects the time and intelligence of their players far more than Bungie/Activision does.

So here I am, with Destiny 2 right around corner, and thinking I’ll happily pay $80 for Hyrdroid Prime and a pile of Platinum, even though I could farm those things for free, but no way will I be spending $60 on the sequel to a game I got hundreds of enjoyable hours out of. If I’m going to buy D2, it won’t be until I know exactly what to expect.

Video Games

Meet Hera, my Helminth Charger, a microcosm of the Warframe experience

Long ago, in October 2012, the Tenno began their mission to bring balance to the Origin System. At the time, I’m sure most players felt exotic weapons, ninja skills, and space magic were sufficient for the task at hand. But little did they know how their arsenal would expand.

In March of 2013, Update 7 landed, ushering in the now comically long ‘open beta’. Part of this update was the arrival of Sentinels—small robotic companions that tag along on missions, providing various forms of support. Sentinels are themselves fairly elaborate. They can be equipped with different weapons, and modded to suit various playstyles. I imagine most players didn’t expect much more aside from the occasional introduction of a new one.

In July 2014, Update 14 brought the Kubrow into our lives—dog-like creatures hatched from an egg, in an incubator, on our very own spaceship! For realz. They can be modded like Sentinels, and they come in different breeds with different personality traits. Now, if only they could roam freely around the ship like a real pet. Update 14.5 made it so.

Well, we’ve got dogs, might as well have cats. Am I right? Yeah I’m right. As of July 2016 we can breed Kavats, cat-like companions with their own special abilities and personalities. What’s more, we now get to decide when, or even if, we want to mature our pets into battle ready adulthood, allowing us to keep them in puppy/kitten state indefinitely. Who doesn’t love puppies and kittens?

At this point, one might think Warframe had taken the companion system as far as it could go, but they would be wrong. Update 19.5 brought with it a curious new mechanic where Warframes can contract a sort of Infested infection. This infection manifests itself as a cyst. Someone at DE apparently saw this and thought—new companion! The cyst can be drained and combined with a Kubrow egg to give rise to a Helminth Charger: half Kubrow, half Infested, and 100% badass. Thus Hera was born.

The evolution of companions in Warframe is typical of just about every element within the game. It is perpetually evolving, improving, and expanding in new directions. At this point, the only thing I’ve come to expect is the unexpected. As for the future of companions, Plains of Eidolon will introduce open world gameplay, perhaps a horse would be in order.


Video Games

[Warframe] Apollodorus, where art thou?

I popped a Forma into Ash last night and immediately headed off to Apollodorus. Except when I got there, it was Infested, not Grineer, spilling out of every doorway. What is this foul excrement!?!???!

Survival versus the Grineer on that node was my absolute most favorite way to level up Unranked Frames. Versus the Infested? GTFO. Killing Grineer is relaxing, therapeutic in a way; the infested, not so much. Getting knocked down and dragged into Ancients or Toxin proc’d by those mosquito things is an annoyance I’d rather avoid.

A quick Google search suggests I’m not alone in lamenting the loss of this low level Grineer Survival mission. What’s worse, there’s no Grineer Survival node until you get all the way out to Ceres! I’m sure DE had their reasons, but this Tenno does not approve in the slightest.

Ah well, guess I need to find a new go-to spot for ranking up my low-level shit. I don’t have to like it though. -_-

Video Games

[Warframe] The Stalker is a Troll of epic proportion

When it comes to Platinum, I’m like Scrooge McDuck. I hoard it, buy it on sale and never spend it. If I could, I’d polish each coin with a diaper and stack them all in nice neat piles. The thing is, I love bows, and there’s one in particular that eludes me—Dread.

Yes, the Stalker’s signature weapon. Dread is the high-end weapon I covet most dearly. The blueprint for it only drops from the Stalker himself. And though I’ve played the game for over 300 hours, the son of bitch has never shown up to assassinate me. You can buy Dread from the market, but only as part of the What Stalker? bundle for a whopping 800 Platinum.

Well, I finally decided “hey, I’ve got all this Platinum not doing anything for me, I really want this thing, and it seems like I’m never going to get it through other means”, so I go for it. I splurge and buy the bundle.

In the days, not weeks—days—since I bought that bundle, the prick has invaded me four times. Thrice I was playing solo with a low-level Frame and he dumped whoop-ass all over me. The other time I was playing with a PUG and we killed him. What does he drop? The motherfucking Dread. Now I have two, and the blueprint is untradeable, so I can’t even help out a fellow Tenno in need. FML

On the bright side, the throwing knives (Despair) which also came in the bundle are amazing; the scythe (Hate), not so much.

Video Games

If you’re wondering what free to play means with Warframe

In the event that some folks are avoiding this game because they assume there’s a “catch”, I thought I’d explain how it works.

Warframe is available on PC, PS4 and XB1. (PC being the lead platform.) It is 100% free to play, forever, without any kind of cap. You can fully level your Warframes and other gear, unlock all locations, progress through all story quests, and participate in endgame activities at the highest level.

So what’s the catch? There are three.

1) Slots. To start with, you have 2 Warframe slots and 8 weapon slots, meaning that’s all you can hold in inventory at a given time. You can rotate anything you want through those slots and experience everything the game has to offer, but it’s gonna sting like hell every time you need to sell off a beloved possession to make room for something else. This is by far the biggest catch.

2) Time. It takes time to build things. For a new Warframe, you typically need to acquire 3 component blueprints, which usually drop from bosses, and construction materials. Then it takes 12 hours to craft the components followed by 3 days to craft the Warframe. Weapons are simpler— buy the blueprint, farm the materials, and build in 12 to 24 hours. This “grind” can be rushed along or skipped entirely by spending $.

3) Cosmetic items are very limited if you don’t want to spend money.

How to work around these three catches?

There are two main in-game currencies. Credits are farmed and used to buy blueprints, rank up mods, build new items, etc. Platinum is the premium currency and can only be purchased with real $. (Well, not exactly. More on this later.) Platinum is used to buy slots for more weapons and Warframes, rush construction projects, buy prebuilt gear, and purchase cosmetic upgrades.

You start with 150 platinum for free. Warframe slots cost 20 and two weapon slots cost 12. So as far as catch #1 goes, you’re handed a Band-Aid right off the bat. 150 platinum will buy you 4 Warframe slots and 10 weapon slots with some left over. That’s plenty to keep you busy for a long ass time. If you find you still need more slots, then you’ve played the fuck out of the game and maybe it’s time to support the developer.

On point #2, the grind is the game, and I hate the term grind because it usually comes with a negative connotation. You get credits, resources, and blueprints by just playing. You don’t play to get those things, you get those things as you play.

And point #3 is largely irrelevant. Cosmetic items are superfluous by their very nature. That said, there’s a reason many people refer to the endgame as Fashion Frame and I’d be full of shit if I denied spending hours fine-tuning color schemes.

Finally, if you’re piss poor and/or absolutely refuse to spend a dime on the game (even though you’d pay $60 for something you’d put less time into) there is a way to get platinum in-game. You can farm rare mods and Prime parts and sell them to other players. So ultimately, it is possible to have everything for free, but it would take an immense amount of time.

What I like about this model is that you only spend money on the things you value, as opposed to paying a flat rate for a game or DLC that may include stuff you don’t particularly care about. YMMV.