Reason one million one why Steam gets my money

Downloading Pathfinder:Kingmaker (29gig) off Steam : 5 minutes

Downloading Kingdom Come: Deliverance (66gig) off Xbox Game Pass PC : I don’t know, will update this post in the morning when hopefully the download is done chugging along at the 2006 speed of 10mb/s.

Posted in Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 2 Comments

CU and Crowfall – So many years and so little to show for it

I haven’t done a 2020 predictions post. I should, and most likely will ‘soon’. Today I want to talk about two games that have been a feature of said prediction posts for… 7 years? Crowfall and Camelot Unchained. Two Kickstarter MMOs that I backed, and that all these years later still aren’t released. Hell, they still aren’t CLOSE to being released.

TAGN has his latest post about getting a refund for CU, now that Mark Jacobs and company are working on a second game alongside the forever-delayed CU. I’d also ask for a refund, but I don’t care that much, and the principle of it isn’t that important to me now. Kickstarter is always a gamble. Sometimes you win (Pillars of Eternity), sometimes you lose (CU, Crowfall).

I’m at the point with both games that I just don’t care. I don’t care how they are developing, I don’t care about the details of what is happening, and I have pretty much given up on the idea that either game is going to be something I play. When they go into formal beta I might try them, but perhaps only if word-of-mouth is positive. Or I have nothing better to do. I certainly am no longer hyped for either, or have any hope of either game being something exciting or great like I once did.

Games that are in development this long typically don’t pan out, and the delays and broken promises are the result of ideas failing or things not coming together. Scope creep is no doubt a factor, but there is zero chance that is the only culprit here, or even the main one. Simply put if either Crowfall or CU had a really great core right now that was fun and functional, they would be out. They would be out and charging money and telling people that the other stuff is coming, and if that core was solid and fun people would be playing and happily looking forward to the future. But neither game has that after 7 years or whatever; the fun core of the game is missing, and that’s why the delays happen and things keep changing. And now after 7 years, do you really thing suddenly things will turn around and it all comes together into a game that is awesome? Again, not likely.

I can easily compare the story of these two games to other early access titles I’ve experienced. Some games, like Battle Brothers, release with only a complete core, but that core is awesome so it works. Then over time they expand and become even better, but it’s all built on that initial successful core. Other games, like say Castle Story, start with a core that feels off and doesn’t click, and even though more ‘stuff’ is added and tweaks are made, the game never comes together to be great, in large part because that ‘meh’ core is what everything else is built on.

I’ve played some Crowfall, and I’ve seen some CU. For both, the core is very much ‘meh’ right now, and odds aren’t great that things will truly turn around.

Posted in Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, Kickstarter, Rant | 1 Comment

Early impressions of Riot's Legends of Runeterra

Riot released their online card game, Legends of Runeterra (LoR), last week. Since then I’ve played it a bit and have some thoughts. This is by no means a review.

First off, LoR in many ways is very similar to Hearthstone or Elder Scrolls Legends. It’s a ‘card’ game built online, unlike Magic which is still both online and physical. This means the pace of play and the cards themselves aren’t limited by what you can do physically, and Riot has taken full advantage of this, perhaps even more so then either HS or ESL. The big example of this are the champion cards, using of course champions from League of Legends; these cards can be promoted to a stronger version if you meet their requirements. Garen, for example, will promote after taking damage twice, while Ellise will promote if you start the turn with 3+ spider creatures. This is fun gameplay, and helps to theme your decks.

Graphics and UI are good but not great here. The game does not support Ultra Wide monitor settings, and its not hard to see that the overall feel is heavily designed for mobile rather than being native to PC. I do like the cards interacting with each other via voice, that is a nice touch and ties into the lore of LoL.

Right now I play a game or two daily, and have so far enjoyed it, though I’m not nearly as hooked as I was on Riot’s other new game, Team Fight Tactics (which I’ll get back into once I feel ‘done’ with Kenshi). It’s a good online card game with a fun theme, but nothing earthshattering.

Posted in League of Legends, Random

Kenshi – Exploring the past

Just when I think I have Kenshi figured out, it throws me for sure a loop it makes my head spin (analogy mixing!)

I’m on day 60 or so now in-game, and have a roster of 28 characters. The roster is split into three squads: home base, turret, and combat. Home base squad is what it sounds, the characters that work at my base, harvesting crops, crafting items, and generally keeping things running. They typically don’t leave the base, which is now self-sufficient in terms of food production and basic materials (stone, copper, iron). They are mostly weak in terms of combat, though each raid on the base toughens them up a little. This group also contains my two bonedogs, which are now fully grown adults and can hold their own in combat. Turret squad also stays at home, but these 7 characters are special in that they are skilled in using the crossbow and harpoon turrets on top of walls and buildings for base defense. Having them in a separate squad just makes setting up base defense easier. Each raid they learn how to shoot the turrets a little bit better. Finally combat squad comprises my strongest 8 characters, along with the two pack animals that follow them to haul supplies and loot.

With the base defensible and running smoothly thanks to the brilliant jobs system, my focus of late has mostly been around combat squad; sending them out into the world to explore and gather rare loot (advanced research books, blueprints, and high-end weapons). The crew here is now well-geared thanks to the smiths at home base, and their stats are in the 30-40 range (out of 100). They can easily defeat the lower tier enemies like dust bandits and the like, and this success gave me the false impression that they were actually strong. Below is the story of why that is very much not the case.

The first target for exploration was an abandoned military site, a location we became aware of off a map we bought. The back story for the world of Kenshi is mostly a mystery, but what is very clear early on is that there was a powerful and advanced civilization in the past, and some cataclysm happened and they (mostly) went poof. Many of the ruins and special sites are from that time, including this military site.

What was initially odd about this site, a large tower-like structure, is that it looks completely intact in a world of ruins and rust. The entrance gate was locked, but easily picked open. However, taking a single step inside revealed why the building was in such good shape; inside was a swarm of 20+ mechanical spider defenders, along with a single cyborg leading them. I had hired two mercenary groups to follow along as we explored, so in total we had 20 fighters, yet the defenders of the tower obliterated us without a single loss. Limbs were severed, some instantly died, and everyone was on the ground and bleeding in short order. This site was so much stronger than my group at this time it wasn’t even close.

A quick reload (I’m savescumming this playthrough, but I’m eager to play different playthroughs in the future just accepting what happens at all times), and we decided to move past this site and to a different one. This next site was labeled as a research site. It was again a singular tower-like structure, although smaller than the military site. Rather than a gate, there was a locked front door, which again was easily picked. A similar surprise awaited us inside, with the mechanical spiders emerging and engaging us. Here however there were only 6 spiders, which seemed more doable. The spiders still hit like a truck, and they were difficult to bring down as they didn’t seem to care about damaged limbs.

The first time trying the fight, the surprise of the spiders and our poor formation resulted in a bad defeat. The second attempt went much better, but the mistake made here was not finishing downed spiders, who would reboot in short order and return to the fight. The way to fully kill the spider (and any non-human in Kenshi) is to loot the body. With animals, removing some meat means you butcher the animal. For the mechanical spiders, removing a circuit board destroys them. The third attempt I would have a character loot each downed spider immediately, ensuring they did not get back up. Even doing this, the battle was not winnable. We downed 3 spiders, but the remaining 3 finished everyone off. What came next is what really surprised me.

When my last fighter went down, I expected the spiders to return to their building to continuing defending. Instead, they rushed outside. Initially I thought this was the game bugging out or the AI messing up, but when I followed the spiders I saw that their status was still ‘defending structure’, and that the reason they had rushed outside was to attack everything in a radius around the building. By opening the door, I had quite literally unleashed its defense system back into the world!

This resulted in the spiders slaughtering some unfortunate goats that were nearby, as well as a gorilla. They also engaged a traveling tech hunter (random NPC characters who explore the world, who are fairly powerful) and a group of bandits. They killed everything, but not before one of the spiders got knocked down and the other two were badly damaged. Thanks to this, and the time the spiders spent fighting, my group was able to recover a bit, and when the two damaged spiders returned back to the structure, we were able to finish them off.

The price for the victory was high, as most of my characters were very badly damaged, though luckily no limbs were lost. The hired mercenaries were not so lucky, with two losing arms and one losing a leg. Hope the pay was worth it guys, and sorry. We set up camp outside the structure (you can build a temporary tent to protect from acid rain, and lay down sleeping bags to increase healing speed for characters), and while most rested, one character began to explore and loot the inside.

The building contained more valuable loot than I had encountered to this point, including a large number of advanced research books. These books are the only way to open more advanced items like automatic ore drills, plate armor crafting, and higher tier walls and defenses, so they are incredibly valuable to the player. Other notable loot was a lot of robotic parts that sell for a high price, which along with advanced research and production benches, hinted towards this site being a robot factory or lab. Kenshi is often amazing in telling stories or worldbuilding not with words, but with the environment and little details, and this building was a great example (it’s insane this game was made by one man for a long time).

The journey back home was mostly uneventful, with the group easily dispatching the odd bandit group that crossed us. The trip into town to sell resulted in a huge infusion of cash, and the research books opened up many new buildings and items at base. The difficult fights also meant great skills gains for the combat team, toughening them up for the future. That said, the gap between our current power and the power needed to successfully clear that military site is still vast, so there is far more work to be done.

(If I had to estimate, I’d say I’m somewhere in the mid-game for Kenshi. Strong enough to travel around and take down average foes, but not near end-game power. My base is also established and strong, but again isn’t what I imagine a fully-formed base is capable of in terms of production and defense. As mentioned, character stats are around 40 in most areas, and with the max being 100, again lots of room for growth.)

Posted in Random | 2 Comments

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