More on Mordheim

My Mordheim review can be found here. This post is a bit of an update, as I keep playing the game and I’m liking it more and more.

One of the things Mordheim does great is mix in randomization in the maps. I’m not 100% sure on this, but I believe both the starting locations and certain details (like whether a doorway is blocked, if a staircase is collapsed, etc) are randomized, so even though you are playing on the same general map, the randomization really forces you to adjust your strategy and change things up. This is a great example of taking something that is difficult to do in real life, and using the extra flexibility a video game version gives you to make the experience better.

I also like the story missions, as they have all (so far) played very different from the normal missions you do, and have been a real challenge. Early on the game is brutal because your margin for error is so small. If one mission goes badly, you might end up in a real hole in terms of money or wardstone, and that might spiral into the warband total imploding. Later on, once you have a bit of gold stored up, one bad mission isn’t the end of the world (though it can still sting, especially if it really goes bad and you get a lot of injuries and lost gear). This is important because the story missions tend to be tough, both because of the surprises and because of the unlimited reinforcement mechanic. I’ve failed a few, which set my warband back, but it wasn’t total game over, and made finally beating that mission feel even better.

Finally, I really like the depth of the game. From the different weapon and armor choices, to enchantments, to how each class within each warband differs, there is just a lot of ‘stuff’ in Mordheim that will keep you entertained mission after mission. That I think is the biggest surprise for me; even after dozens of normal missions, and after seeing the (relatively) same maps and faced the (relatively) same warbands, I still feel surprised and entertained by the game.

Again, I highly recommend the game. It really is a gem, and should be getting more attention. Ping me on Steam if you want to play a friendly match or two.

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My top 10 Steam titles in terms of /played

I like to look at my Steam ‘most played’ list, in large part because it combines the enjoyment of numbers and the strange addiction of lists. It’s not a complete view of my gaming history, given that my Steam account is only 7 years old and not all games are played via Steam, but it’s still pretty close. The biggest missing titles are MMOs, specifically EVE and WoW, both of which I have easily 1000+ hours with, and League of Legends (also very likely a 1000+ hours title). Mobile gaming has also racked up hundreds of hours between CoC, BB, and now CR.

My top ten played, along with hours.

  1. Mount and Blade: Warband – 597
  2. Age of Wonders 3 – 327
  3. Civilization V – 292
  4. ARK – 254
  5. Payday 2 – 234
  6. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – 210
  7. Might and Magic: Heroes VI – 197
  8. FFXIV – 172
  9. Fallout 4 – 165
  10. Total War: Warhammer – 113

Two things go a long way to rack up hours with me; multiplayer (either co-op or 1v1 matchmaking) and mods. Warband being at the top is in large part due to the Prophecy of Pendor mod, which I have easily spend 300+ hours with. Skyrim also got a lot of play due to mods. Age of Wonders 3, Civ 5, ARK, and Payday 2 all benefit from multiplayer.

Interestingly, the only titles on the list likely to move up are Fallout 4 (still playing),TW: Warhammer, which I will return to at some point to play the DLC and potentially mods, and parhaps FFXIV once life settles down a bit for my wife and I. ARK is a maybe, but its an impossible game to play casually, and I don’t see a window for that one coming back again. Warband is getting a sequel ‘soon’, as is Civ V, and eventually Skyrim will as well. M&M Heroes has a sequel (reportedly a rather bad one), and I haven’t heard much about Payday 2 getting one (as the game itself still gets updates and DLC).

The list is also a reflection of different games playing differently. I’d say easily dozens of the hours for Warband are watching a siege battle play out as I’m either out of ammo or dead. ARK is similar, but instead of a siege it was waiting for a dino tame to finish. In multiplayer games like AoW3, Civ V, and Heroes, time was spent waiting for another player to finish their turn. This results in a much slower pace, and so the same content gets ‘stretched’ out over more hours. That sounds negative, but I don’t actually view it that way, as even in waiting, I was still ultimately entertained by the entire experience (otherwise I’d have stopped playing).

Games like Shadow of Mordor are the exact opposite. I have 17 hours with that game, being about 60% of the way through it, but I already feel done. That 17 hours was really good, especially the first 10, but its just not a long-term game. It’s too much coming at you all the time, and that’s just not sustainable.

I don’t think I’d go as far as saying that /played is the be-all-end-all of judging a game, but I also have a hard time thinking of a more important metric. My top 10 is pretty accurate in terms of the games I’ve enjoyed the most over the last 7 years, and I just find it almost impossible to move a game with even 30 hours /played above something I have 200+ with.

Posted in Civilization Series, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, League of Legends, Mount and Blade: Warband, Random, Steam Stuff, World of Warcraft | 6 Comments

‘Female Protagonist” – More harm than good

The all-female lead Ghostbusters movie bombed recently. I didn’t see it, mostly because I don’t care for that franchise and because previews looked terrible, but also in part because ‘all female’ or ‘female lead’ marketing puts me off. And not just for movies.

Steam has game tags, and one of those tags is “female protagonist, and basically every game I see with that tag I almost instantly dismiss (it also doesn’t help that, as far as I’ve seen, those games also just generally look terrible). This isn’t because I ‘hate women’, or even because I don’t want to play a female character or watch a movie with females in primary roles. I’ve played Queen Elizabeth in Civilization and Ashe in LoL, ok?! (read in “I have lots of black friends” voice).

What I am avoiding however is being force-fed ‘female power’ during a movie or a game, and such tags, or in the case of Ghostbusters, such a strong marketing push around the actors being female, generally do that. I’m for equality, in that I don’t want to treat women differently than men. There is no ‘male protagonist’ tag on Steam, and if there was and it was used the same way the female protagonist tag was used, I’d avoid those games too.

I also think such heavy-handed positioning doesn’t really help you succeed, or even drive your message home to ‘convert’ anyone. I don’t think I’m alone in that such marketing pushes people away, and I also don’t believe it draws others in to replace those it repels. Did a lot of people see Ghostbusters in large part because they wanted to support an all-female cast? The results suggest ‘no’. Same for the Steam tag; do a lot of gamers seek out and purchase games based on that style of marketing? I certainly don’t, and I don’t see those titles on the top charts either.

Tomb Raider was (is?) a successful franchise, mostly in gaming, but also with some cross-over into cinema. The lead was a female. But was that point ever driven home as hard as it was for Ghostbusters? In other words, let the product’s quality itself do the talking, and if it results in a certain subset of the population feeling good about that or identifying with it, that should be viewed as a bonus, not as the focus. Because when you do make it the focus, you overshadow the other aspects of the product that most people are actually interested in, like is movie X worth seeing, or is game Y fun to play.

Posted in Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 36 Comments

Fallout 4 – Far Harbor thoughts

With the Nuka World DLC coming August 30th (and based on the trailer, looking amazing!) I need to finish up the Far Harbor DLC sooner rather than later. I’ve done the main quest line, and some of the side content, but I feel like I’ve got at least 5-6hrs of ‘stuff’ to still do.

Far Harbor overall has been really, really good. The environmental effects, mostly the fog, are a great addition and give the island a unique feel compared to other areas of Fallout 4. It still feels like an area in a Fallout game, but there is no mistaking you are on Far Harbor when you are there. I also like the overall layout, as it doesn’t feel forced in terms of guiding you through the story, and most buildings are in spots that seem fairly logical.

The main storyline was very enjoyable, thought it felt slightly short. That feeling comes from the fact that since you must can pick one of three major resolutions, you don’t see the other two resolutions play out. That means the total content of the main storyline is decent, but you don’t see all of it on a single playthrough. Having a single save file at the very start is smart if you want to see all three sides fully. (Or you can just read a wiki about them like I did.)

Length aside, the story fit the area, was interesting, and tied the three major factions on the island together very well. It was a really good showcase for the Children of Atom faction, who were not a major feature in Fallout 4. New armor and weapons also fit into the theme of each faction, be it harpoons or radiation-flavored weapons. New enemies also help, although none of them I’d call instant classics that need to be brought along going forward.

To me the mark of good DLC is if it gets you more enjoyment out of a game you originally enjoyed. I loved Fallout 4, and Far Harbor continued that love. Well worth picking up IMO.

Posted in Fallout 3

Gaming at 3440 x 1440

My 1080 GTX finally arrived, and after figuring out how to go from two 6-pin power cables to two 8-pin power cables (turns out my 6-pins had tucked-away 2-pin additions, so it was actually very simple once I found those additions), the new card was up and running along with the Dell U3415w. On to the good and some of the bad.

The good is the monitor is overall fantastic. The picture quality is great, the setup was super-easy, and perhaps most surprisingly, the curve on the screen actually has an impact in terms of immersion and just enjoying what you are looking at. At 3440×1440, the desktop is HUGE compared to the view at 1900×1200, where the different application icons on the left side feel like they are a mile away from my Steam friends list all the way to the right.

Speaking of resolution size, for games that support it, its amazing. I’ve already talked about the benefits in Mordheim, but the same can be said for TW: Warhammer; the extra screen size not only makes the battles looks better and help you see the details, but the view of the campaign map is also greatly enhanced. Simply put, the game is more fun to play at that resolution, which is the ultimate payoff for upgrading; having more fun.

EVE in particular is awesome here, both if I run the game full screen for the ridiculous immersion factor, and the more normal scenario where I have EVE in a large window, and then have things like Jabber, the forums, and other tools on the side. At 1900×1200 that meant windows would stack behind each other, but at 3440×1440 I can fully see multiple windows while still having full view of EVE. I can also run multiple clients without major or any (depending on the number of clients and the window size of each) overlap, which almost feels like cheating.

I should also mention League of Legends, as not only does the game support such a resolution, it also results in your view being more zoomed out, so you see more of what is around your champion. From a competitive perspective, that’s actually a decent advantage. It won’t get me into diamond, but it doesn’t hurt.

For games that don’t support that high of a resolution, things are hit-or-miss. Fallout 4 doesn’t, but the Nvidia control panel will allow you to configure the game so it does (you can also edit the config files in the game to get the same result), and the only major drawback is that the GUI in the game is a little too wide at times (oddly the pipboy interface is fine, but looting menus are too wide). In terms of performance, at ultra the game stays locked at 60fps, so at least in that regard all is good.

Fallout Shelter on the other hand will have more problems if I go full-screen, where certain items will wrap around and the game basically isn’t playable. That said putting the game in a window the size of 1900×1200 (or bigger) isn’t an issue, so it’s not a total disaster by any means, and we are talking about a game originally released for mobile, so I don’t really need it full-screen anyway.

ARK does support 3440×1440 in terms of having that resolution as an option, but it looks like it just stretches the game out a bit too much rather than actually widening the field of view, which is very disappointing. It runs fine, but knowing the game doesn’t look ‘correct’ makes it a little harder to get up for playing it.

However just having to wonder now going forward if game X is going to support my native resolution is a minor pain itself, but that I guess is the cost of being on the upper-end of technology. Still worth the upgrade, by far, but to be fair its not without some potential hassle.

Posted in ARK, EVE Online, League of Legends, Random, Review | 2 Comments

Mordheim City of the Damned review

Little (huge) update: Since I ordered a 1080 GTX and everyone was telling me playing at 1900×1200 was poor people stuff, I also got a Dell UltraSharp U3415W. Now you might be thinking “Syn do you really need a resolution of 3440×1440 and a curved screen to play games on?” and the answer to that is of course I do. My wife tell me the setup in the office now looks like NASA, which I took as a major compliment and confirmation that the correct choices were made (also really helpful that the monitor was 40% off on Amazon).

As I previously mentioned, I tried out and subsequently bought Mordheim: City of the Damned (plus DLC) over the weekend. Amazingly even on my old 790GTX the game runs really well maxed out at 3440×1440, and it also uses the extra screen space well. At 1900×1200 a lot of the unit stats and extra info could be cycled through on the side but was normally not displayed, while at the larger resolution it automatically sits on the sides of the screen, which is pretty awesome.

Mordheim is one of those games where its a lot less fun in the first 2-3 hours than it will be after, so you have to prepare yourself or just not bother. There are solid tutorials, and a lot of them, but even after those the game still has a steep learning curve in terms of the rules and how things generally work, plus the added complexity/difficulty of navigating the maps with your units the first time around. You will feel lost and frustrated trying to find things, as you will assume an item is on the second floor of a building, only to discover that its actually on the third and there are no stairs up near your unit. Adding to all of this is the game only has one ‘mode’, which is that it saves everything all the time and you can’t reload/undo (think Ironman mode in XCOM).

Now with all of that said, I still think you should press on if you enjoy games like XCOM or other deeper TBS titles. The basics of the game is that you have a warband (squad), and each unit has different classes, stats, abilities, and equipment. You deploy your warband on missions (most somewhat randomly generated, with some unique campaign/story missions), and during a mission they face off against another warband. Currently the game has five different warbands (the 5th, Witchhunters, are DLC), and each plays very differently.

After each mission you get XP not only for your units, but also for your warband as a whole, and XP towards your account (called veteran ranks). Units can have stats assigned as they improve, along with skills. Warbands gain more unit slots and different unit types as they level up. Your account levels can give you out-of-combat boosts like cheaper troop purchases or more gold from selling gear.

Combat is turn based, but movement isn’t on a grid. Instead, each unit has a movement range determined by blue dots. The more dots, the further you can move, and each time you go a certain distance, a dot is used. Things like climbing up or jumping across a gap also consume blue dots. And unless you hit a trap or trigger an enemy action, you can undo normal movement, which is really nice because the maps are tricky until you learn them.

Red dots are for combat, and work in a similar way. Different weapons and abilities have different dot costs, and maximizing the use of each is critical. Since units can gain more dots as they level up, or lose dots from injuries or debuffs, switching tactics is important, and gives the game some nice added depth.

I’ve mostly played the single player campaigns so far, but you can also do multiplayer matches, either in “nothing counts” mode, or as a regular mission where XP, items, and injuries all carry over. All warbands have a rating based on their total value (very similar to team ranking in BloodBowl), so in multi you will be able to tell if you are facing someone more advanced or not. This also applies to single player, as missions come in normal (same value) hard (slightly higher) and deadly (much higher) varieties. The AI isn’t awesome, but its not super-terrible either, and will generally give you a decent fight thanks to usually being stronger. Most single-player missions take between 30-45min. Multiplayer is longer, and depends on how quickly each player plays.

If you do decide to pick the game up, ping me on Steam if you want to do a little multiplayer.

Posted in Random, Review, Site update | 2 Comments

You might want to buy Mordheim now

More on this tomorrow, but Steam has Mordheim: City of the Damned on sale right now (it was also free this weekend). Its a turn-based team strategy game, kinda like Bloodbowl without the football, but doesn’t feel like your normal ‘move around a grid’ TBS game. I’ve only played the single-player campaign, but it also has 1v1 multiplayer.

Like I said, more on it tomorrow, but before the sale runs out, consider picking it up. It’s $17 well spent IMO.

Posted in Random, Steam Stuff | 2 Comments