Kenshi – Trip to some local ruins goes just great!

As I mentioned in my review, Kenshi will give you a whole lot of WTF moment. I had one yesterday, and would like to share.

I bought a map from an NPC vendor, which revealed that a ruin was somewhat close to my town/base. Having never been to a ruin in Kenshi before, I was curious, so I grouped up my six best fighters and sent them off on the journey, with one party member wearing a medium sized backpack to bring extra food and meds, and (hopefully) some loot back. The backpack gives you extra inventory, at the cost of lowering your combat stats a little. It also increases the total weight you can carry, and things in the backpack count less against the weight penalty.

The trip was longer than I had expected, as the overall size of the world in Kenshi is still much bigger than I expect when looking at the map. That ‘close’ ruin was a solid 25 minutes of running for my characters. When we finally arrived, the ruin was three destroyed buildings with some scattered weapons, armor, and resources around. The fourth building was intact, and the front door was locked.

As we approached, blood spiders attacked us. I paused and looked at the stats of the spiders. They weren’t as weak as lowly bandits, but they didn’t seem overly strong either. The fight started, and initially things were going well. The spiders hit fast, but they didn’t deal much damage, and we were able to cut down a good number of them. But more kept coming, and slowly, one by one, my group was going down. Those that were up had injuries, so weren’t as effective in combat. The tide was turning.

Then an animal called a Beak Thing (looks like a giraffe with a huge beak) ran into the fight and started attacking the spiders. This got most of the spiders off our party, and things were looking up. The Beak Thing was a brute, killing many spiders, but eventually the bites from the spiders added up and it was knocked unconscious.

However this bought us enough time to recover a little and regroup, and we were able to kill the remaining spiders. Victory. Or so we thought.

As we were bandaging the wounded, the Beak Thing regained consciousness, and since we were the only living things around, attacked us. It was heavily wounded, but so were we, and it ended up knocking everyone left down.

And then it started to eat one of the party members…

I had never seen an animal in Kenshi eat a human, let alone one of mine! The game helpfully shows teeth on that character’s portrait to indicate they are, in fact, being eaten, and the stats of that character drop as more of them is consumed. Yay.

I watched in morbid curiosity what would happen, and the Beak Thing continued eating until it had killed one member, then it moved to the next. It become full halfway through that member. It also stopped eating and knocked down any party member who regained consciousness, which was comically sad looking from my perspective. My poor guys just wanted to save their friend from being eaten, but nope.

Eventually the Beak Thing left, and I spent a few moments looking around the ruin. In those moments however another group of spiders came across the bodies, and they too had a feast with who remained.

Good times.

Posted in Random | 2 Comments

Kenshi review – Quickly becoming one of my favorite games of all time

Kenshi had been on my Steam wishlist for, literally, years. It was initially placed there because of the promise of a sandbox RPG, at a time when just those two terms got you on my wishlist. I never pulled the trigger on buying for a variety of reasons, the main two being the graphics style didn’t look appealing and the game always felt a long ways off from being complete.

In December 2018 Kenshi was released from Early Access, but I still didn’t pull the trigger. Finally this last holiday sale I did, truthfully in no small part because I had the $5 off coupon. Since initially loading it up I’ve become obsessed with the game in a way I haven’t been since maybe Life is Feudal?

It’s hard to go over everything that I love about Kenshi, because a lot of those loves are deep rooted personal appeal rather than general enjoyable game design. For example, the fact that I mined copper for hours initially, in a very EVE-like “go to ore, watch character mine, haul ore back to drop-off, repeat” way was a major plus for me. I could see others absolutely hating it. Reason I love it is that it’s a slow build to something bigger, much like building up ISK in EVE to get a better mining ship is. I sold that copper at the local NPC shop to get funds to buy a small shack, then buy building materials to fix said shack, and then hired the first of many companions from the local bar to help with mining. I also had to run to the town guards when anything threatening came by, as your starting character is the weakest living thing in the world.

The world setting itself is best describes as Mad Max mixed with Feudal Japan. Katanas and samurai, but also robots and wind generators. It’s a unique feeling world, one that is very post-apocalypse, but at the same time very alien. I don’t know the deeper lore behind it yet, but the initial look and feel of it is like nothing else.

To keep the theme of Kenshi being the single-player, on-world version of EVE going, the UI is both powerful and a total nightmare. When you first start, you get some minor tutorial tips, but they aren’t enough to help you actually play the game. The ‘how do I undock’ of EVE! I had to read a guide on what to do in the first 30 minutes and how to actually do it. But after that initially 30 minutes, things start coming together. Until you hit the next complex system, and then its more trial-and-error, but at that point I’m enjoying myself rather than feeling frustrated.

For example, once you have a house and get into building/crafting, you can build a copper ore storage box. Once you have that, you can assign your character to go out to the copper node, mine until full, and then assign them to drop the ore off in the box. If you enable them doing their “job”, they will repeat this process until they can’t (storage is full, copper node is busy, a fight breaks out, etc). This is easy to set up once you know how, and the RTS-style gameplay starts to immerge. In my game right now (day 28), I have 13 people, and all 13 have different job queues I regularly turn on/off, and making sure the whole production chain doesn’t get ‘stuck’ is an ongoing challenge.

The AI is also smart in a lot of ways. For example, if you build a food storage box, any character that needs to eat will take a break from their job to grab a meal, eat, and return to work. You can also queue up many different jobs, and the character will attempt to do them in priority order. I have one character who is queued to build everything as his top priority (and the AI is smart enough that the character will run and grab whatever building materials they need if available), with his second priority to tend to a few farms (cactus, wheat, hemp), and finally to mine copper. What this means is that he normally mines copper, but if a farm needs water or to be harvested, he stops mining and does that. He will also drop everything and build if I add anything to be build in the base. It’s wonderful to see that all come together, but did take a little time to understand queue order and what exact job to assign.

Back to the bigger picture, Kenshi is a game about living in the world. There is no main questline to defeat the big bad, there are no specific in-game goals to achieve, and there really isn’t a standard progression path. If you want to become a master thief, sneaking into towns, stealing what you can, and escaping to fence the goods until you are filthy rich, you can do that (or try). If you want to become a legendary fighter, you can try that as well, roaming the world in search of combat. If you want to run a merchant guild in an NPC town, having workers making goods and selling them, you can do that. Or you can build your own outpost/town, harvesting resources, and maybe eventually become a major power and fighting wars directly with the other major factions. Of course you can do all those together as well; you can have that master thief be one of your characters, have a hardened group of fighters that explore and loot ruins of lost treasure, all while having a large population live and work out of your town, defending against bandits and other rivals.

To return to my current game, managing my 13 people overall is like playing an RTS. Gotta make sure we produce enough food, gotta produce new and better weapons, gotta keep researching new tech, etc. But in quiet times, I can let the RTS mostly run itself and go off with a smaller group of characters to loot a ruin, or do a trade run to an NPC town. Or just explore the amazingly huge map (Kenshi might have the largest single zone world I’ve ever seen in a game, even if much of it is desolate and unoccupied.)

Combat is a big aspect of Kenshi, and is also somewhat different from other games. You mostly don’t control what happens outside of assigning who attacks who ala an RTS, but how gear and stats play into combat, and what the results mean, are really interesting. For stats, you have general stats like Strength, Dexterity, Durability, etc. You then have a Melee Attack and Melee Defense skill. Finally you have individual weapon skills. All stats and skills are raised by doing. So to get better at melee attack and a katana, you need to swing your katana at someone. To raise your durability stat, you need to take damage. Your starting character, who can’t do basically anything related to combat, is going to ‘grow’ quickly as they get beat up by starving bandits or the like, take so much damage to different body parts that they pass out. Hopefully you have another character who can bandage them up to stop you from bleeding to death, hopefully you didn’t lose a limb, and then you’ll spend some time recovering, which is faster in a bed than laying on the ground. Damaged limbs don’t work, or work less. So a character with heavy damage to a leg will limp and move slowly, a damaged arm can’t be used to fight or work, and the character will hold their stomach if your torso is beat up. Everything bleeds, so large battles turn the ground red, and result in lots of bodies crawling around, badly damaged, while others likely lost a leg or an arm. It’s epic in its scale, and awesome that each individual involved is a unique character rather then a generic footman unit like in say Mount and Blade.

Gear options are plentiful and come with many benefits and penalties. Item slots are limited to torso and head armor, and then torso, leg, and feet clothing, but clothing can also be a second layer of armor (like a chain shirt). Heavier armor protects the best, but weighs a lot and generally has penalties to your offense. Some armor, like a heart protector, will do a great job of keeping your chest protected, but won’t do anything for your arms. There is also more specialized armor pieces, and everything has a quality rating, starting at protoype (the worst) to Cross, who is some ancient smith of legend (according to the wiki, never seen anything close to that myself yet).

Same goes for weapons. Larger weapons hit harder but are slower and don’t work well indoors, plus are generally harder to use. Some weapons cause more bleeding, others have armor penetration bonuses or penalties. Weapons can also have a bonus or penalty to different kinds of creatures. In short, there is a lot to consider with your gear choices, far above “higher dps = better”.

To finish what is already a long and still incomplete review (I didn’t get into crafting, or world events, or trading, or exploring, or enemy types, or biomes, or anything I might experience further into my short time with the game), story time:

I established an outpost, building a smaller house and some basic production buildings with my 8 characters, most of who were pretty new and not skilled at anything. We would always struggle against any group of 5+ starving bandits (the easiest enemy in the game), which meant that I needed to hide one character during an attack, and once my other characters were beaten and unconscious, and the bandits had looted what they wanted, my coward character would sneak out to start bandaging everyone up before someone bleed to death.

This vicious cycle continued for some time, but with each fight my characters got a little stronger, and we would do a little better, at least against starving bandits. Anything harder that also came by decimated us nearly instantly. We build some much-needed beds, so recovery would happen there instead of on the cold hard ground. Post battle standing characters carrying those who were not to lay in the bed to recover. In between beatings, we made money and used that to build more things and maybe get some better armor/weapons for our better fighters. It was a hard life. Some lost limbs, some died and new hires replaced them, but each day we inched forward and got just a little bit stronger.

And then one day a group of 7 starving bandits came, and after a bloody battle, my side was the winner. Most of my team were down, but two stood standing. It was awesome. Recovery was faster, and we were able to loot the crude clubs and rags off the bandits. It wasn’t much of a victory, but it was infinitely better than defeat.

We would go on to defeat bigger groups of bandits, until they began to feel like the weaklings we once were, easily cut down with minimal effort or injury. We were riding high, and then a group from a major faction came to our outpost demanding our food as tribute. I told them to piss off. They said they would return in 24 hours. Fine. I went out and hired a mercenary company from a bar in the local NPC town. 8 tough fighters, plus my own group of now 13, some who now had reasonable fighting skills. The faction troops arrive, just 15 of them. We had the numbers, maybe this won’t be so bad? They butchered us and butchered the mercs. We barely injured them, with not a single man fully going down. It was a harsh reality check on our position in the world. Next time, we were handing over our food as tribute.

On the plus side, once my thief recovered enough to walk, he snuck over to the mercs who were still knocked out and stole their weapons and armor. A small victory in a sea of defeat!

Welcome to Kenshi, a world of a million stories, big and small.

Posted in Combat Systems, EVE Online, Housing, Life is Feudal, Perma-death, Review, Steam Stuff | 2 Comments

WoW Classic: Breadcrumbs make the world

WoW Classic update and some thoughts.

Since transferring our original Alliance characters over to a PvE server, things have been going well, and our core group of five are now in the mid-late 50s. The current dungeon we are on is Black Rock Depths, having recently finished Sunken Temple and Zul Farrak before that. My character here is a human Rogue.

About BRD itself, man what a dungeon. I’d forgotten how involved the whole place is, and how much it truly feels like attacking an enemy city or establishment, vs just another loot pinata dungeon.

Additionally, we have a ‘slow leveling group’ set of Horde characters on the same server, and that group is at the early-mid 20s, having recently run Shadowfang Keep. For this group I have my undead Priest, while my wife plays an undead Warlock. The Priest and Warlock are a great duo as well, since her Voidwalker pet is essentially our 3rd, and we have the holy trinity of tank/healer/dps.

Besides Classic dungeons being overall enjoyable, the thing that is sticking out to me lately is how well the game interconnects itself. Dungeon quests are scattered across the world, and many have quest chains that also send you into zones you might otherwise skip or ignore. None of this is required, but the fact that it exists helps tie everything together. Hell, even the dungeon locations themselves will nudge you to explore or get caught up in local questing, or return you to an earlier zone. This makes Classic feel more like playing in a world vs a series of zones, even if that zone-to-zone feel is more true of Classic than a ‘true’ worldly MMO like EVE or UO.

I don’t recall Final Fantasy 14 doing this for instance (its been a few years). My recollection is dungeons were tied to zones, and once you finished a zone in FFXIV, you moved on to the next one, and that was that. I also don’t recall FFXIV suggesting to quest around in different zones. Again what I recall was working in one zone, maybe returning to a major city, and then moving on. It makes the experience feel ever more themepart vs world, to an extreme I’m not a huge fan of compared to what Classic does.

Posted in Final Fantasy XIV, World of Warcraft | Leave a comment

Dawn of Man review

Dawn of Man is a city builder game themed around the earliest days of man. You start with a small group capable of little more than picking up sticks and rocks, fighting off wild animals, and progress until the discovery of iron and steel. In many ways it’s a ‘traditional’ city sims ala Banished or Forest Village, but its early-man theme shines in key spots.

Graphically and technically Dawn is solid. The game looks and sounds good, and I’ve yet to had it crash or experience a major bug (I had a person get stuck between a rock and a wall they build and starve to death once). Another nice thing is the game loads up extremely fast, which I always appreciate. The game was in Early Access, but is now ‘out’, and still getting updates. So far the game does not have DLC.

As mentioned, you start the game with a few humans in the Paleolithic era. At this stage you are using wood or stone tools, and can’t build much beyond housing, basic storage, and a crafter to make replacement wood/stone tools. In this age you can unlock bone tools, slings, the ability to dry raw meat/fish into cured items, the ability to tame dogs to assist with hunting, and a totem to make people happy when they go worship.

You can’t farm, you can’t mine, and you really can’t do much beyond survive short-term. In this way the game perfectly captures what early life would have been like. Also because you only have such primitive tools, hunting can be dangerous. Animals that run rather than fight are optimal, but even that results in the animal escaping and you wasting your time. If you attack something larger, or it attacks you because its hungry, you might lose someone, or they might get injured enough that they need to recover. But you must hunt as you need the meat, leather, and bones for production.

You earn technology points by accomplishing things (think Achievements) like hunting an animal for the first time, collecting 10 of an item, or reaching a certain population. These points are spend in the tech tree, unlocking new items or capabilities. This is also how you advance into different ages, with the second being Mesolothic, then Neolithic, Copper Age, Bronze Age, and finally Iron Age.

As you advance, life for your people changes. Early on you hunt and gather to survive, and the world is more dangerous to you than you are to it. You can’t hunt every animal, or can’t chop down trees, or even remove larger piles of stone. But as you progress, you unlock these things, and life gets easier. Or more complex. Production chains get longer, things start requiring more materials and upkeep, and a larger population is require to keep it all going.

The biggest change to life is unlocking farming and domesticating animals (goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, donkeys, horses). Once this happens you transition from gathering to feed people to growing what you need. It’s a more consistent supply of food, and frees up your people to work on other things. But it is also at this time that human raiders start attacking, and defending what you have is no longer about the occasional hungry wolf or bear. Combat in Dawn of Man is fairly basic, but its ‘good enough’ right now to accomplish its task; the occasional interruption that must be dealt with, and one that can seriously interrupt your plans.

Dawn of Man is a more relaxed city builder than a game like Banished, where the death spiral can hit quickly and be fatal. That’s not to say Dawn is ‘easy’ or boring, but it is a bit more forgiving. I won (accomplished each major achievement) the first scenario I played on Normal difficulty, and my second scenario, on a map that has longer winters, on Hardcore difficulty (no pause, no multi-saves) is going well. There is a third scenario, one that looks more focused on combat, that I have yet to try.

With its solid theme and overall enjoyable gameplay, Dawn of Man is a great buy if you enjoy city sims.

Posted in Review | 3 Comments

Reviewing my 2019 predictions

Prompted by TAGN, it’s time to review my 2019 predictions.

WoW Classic: It launched, and I did run a guild. Initially we had a lot of interest pre-release, but then oddly the overall interest splintered into a few different groups, and the core Supreme Cream roster wasn’t as large as I had expected. It was certainly not close to being large enough to raid. Right now we have 5 people active in Discord, although that’s perfect for leveling and dungeons.

Classic bigger than Retail: It 100% was at launch, and most likely still is today. New Blizzard is doing their best to screw it up, and they still believe Retail has a future over Classic, but despite all of that Classic is a massive success.

Crowfall and Camelot Unchained: Nope, neither launched or, as far as I’m aware, hit major milestones. Another year gone, another year of fading interest and expectations for both titles. I don’t actually understand how either company is still able to pay people, considering how long they have been in development and the seemingly large staff they employ.

Amazon’s New World: I guess it went into testing, but then was pulled back because the testing resulted in lukewarm results. Just yesterday it came back, revamped in more of a fantasy direction, which is… something? But it also seems to be far more removed from being an MMO, and sounds more like Amazon’s version of RUST or ARK. Knowing the insane time commitment those games require, I’m not sure how on my radar that game is anymore.

Wildcard, Gloria Victis: The game was gifted to me on Steam by a reader, but I never got too far into it. It felt a little clunky, and if I remember correctly I was pretty busy with other games at that time.

Overall the main prediction was also the easiest; WoW Classic arrived and showed that the positive feelings people had about Vanilla weren’t due to rose-colored glasses, but just solid MMO design. The rest of the MMO genre (from my standpoint) did in 2019 what it did in 2018, disappoint or remain uninteresting. Gaming overall in 2019 was great for me, but not because of MMOs outside of Classic. Predictions on what I hope happens in 2020 coming ‘soon’.

Posted in Crowfall, Dark Age of Camelot, Inquisition Clan, Site update, World of Warcraft | 3 Comments

CoC: Initial impressions after the TH13 update

Quick CoC update since the release of Town Hall 13 happened:

I’m really enjoying things, especially the new hero. From an offense perspective the game feels very fresh right now, and I haven’t even unlocked the new Yeti unit yet. At least I’m able to use some of my long-stored consumables now, while I wait for my core units to complete their updates.

Defensively I haven’t unlocked the new building yet, and I haven’t reconfigured my war bases either. The change to lab and camp building sizes (they are smaller) has had some impact, but luckily for me its been minor to my bases. That said I am really looking forward to what the base meta will look like at TH13 once things are closer to max and people figure out some standard attack armies.

Overall its nice to have things to upgrade and unlock again on both accounts, and it has me attacking and collecting loot far more than I was doing prior to the update. I guess that’s one of the benefits of being a ‘veteran’ of the game and near-max now; I can slow down when I get near the end, and then ramp back up once an update hits, which feels more manageable than grinding full time all the time.

Posted in Clash of Clans

CoC: Town Hall 13 is coming, and now is the perfect time to return

The December update to Clash of Clans will be a big one, with the additional of Town Hall 13. SuperCell has started sneak peaks, and so far they look good. Over the years its clear that the developers are getting better at updating the game (Imagine that Blizzard!), and today’s meta is as diverse and interesting as any I’ve seen over the years.

In preparation for the update, there is an event right now where the cost of all upgrades in the main base are 50%. This is massive, and allows people to catch up much faster. My main account is maxed out in everything besides walls and a few troop types in the lab. The 50% discount is making the wall grind go a lot faster, and I’m not overly concerned with the remaining troop types for now, though I might refocus on different troops depending on the balance update that comes along with the content update this month.

In our clan, we have two ‘factions’ right now. A group of us are near the max, and that group is the focus of League Wars. Unfortunately, we don’t have a full 15 in this group, which is a problem for League. The second faction is TH10 or below, working their way up. That group participates in regular clan wars, but aren’t high enough to effectively help in League wars, where war weight isn’t a factor and due to our ranking we face only TH12 and a few TH11 bases. Bringing a TH9 into League means they will have a nearly impossible task of getting two stars vs a TH11, but also they will give up an easy 3 star on defense.

My hope is that with this update, or the run-up to it, we have a few of our former high level members return to the game, or that the update brings other players back who will join the clan for the first time. Of course I’m biased, but it really is a great time to return, catch up, and experience what TH13 will bring to the game.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Inquisition Clan, iPhone