Fall of Winterhome, the new Frostpunk scenario

I reviewed Frostpunk here, and the review still holds up in terms of accuracy. Since that review the game has received a bunch of content updates, with one being a new scenario, the Fall of Winterhome.

It’s a challenging scenario in that you start with almost 400 people, some tech, and a large city. The initial problem is that much of the city is in ruins, ruins that need to be cleared to make space for actually useful buildings. Another challenge is that since you have so many people, but not the tech or infrastructure to really support them, people tend to get sick, go hungry, and eventually die. That’s bad overall, but made worse by the fact that the initial challenge is to raise hope and lower discontent to certain levels. Hope is especially hard to raise because every death lowers it, and deaths tend to come in waves as bad things happen, like a house being outside of heating range and the temp dropping.

The extremely different start in this scenario is a very welcome change for the game, and really puts an emphasis on certain gameplay systems, much more-so than when you play the baseline game. Its great content, and would have been worth $5 or so as DLC. However this scenario, like all current updates to Frostpunk, is free, which is hard to beat for value.

If you enjoy city builders even a bit, and haven’t purchased Frostpunk yet, do yourself a favor and go grab it, it’s fantastic. If you own it, I highly recommend firing it up again for the new scenario.

PS: The most recent update added Endless mode, with two new maps and some new mechanics to support it. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m very eager to do so once I actually beat the Winterhome scenario.

Posted in Random | 2 Comments

State of Decay 2 Review

I liked State of Decay 1, quiet a bit in fact. I can’t say the same thing about State of Decay 2 (SoD2) however, which has been rather disappointing.

I’ve already talked about the multiplayer issues of SoD2, and I’ll just expand on that post here to say that the focus on multiplayer takes away from the single-player of SoD2. Where the first game had a good single player story, SoD2 does not, and instead relies entirely on the gameplay mechanics, which sadly don’t hold up.

The first issue I have is combat doesn’t feel great. Melee isn’t terrible, but its not good-enough to be a highlight, and its certainly not something you get excited about. Killing zombies, even the special enemies, never feels satisfying, partly because more of them just randomly spawn, you are aren’t so much ‘clearing’ an area as you are temporarily removing a speed bump on your way to something else, and 95% of the time you are better off not fighting anyway.

Shooting is worse, with terrible aiming mechanics (super floaty) in a game that rewards headshots. Guns also never feel right either. Finding a machine gun should feel great, until you realize ammo is so limited that the ability to spray a bunch of zombies is never worth it, especially due to the respawn issue. Find a great sniper rifle? Neat, except shooting zombies at long-range is pointless (respawn), and at short-range a pistol is a better ‘sniper’ than the rifle due to reload times. A silencer mod sounds good in theory, but the reality is you don’t want to waste so much ammo as to clear a whole area firing shots, so the stealthy aspect of a silencer never comes into play.

So there is no real story, and the combat isn’t awesome, what else does the game offer?

Base building is good overall, with moving to a new spot with a different slot layout being a fun highlight. Base building upgrades being tied into character support skills is another nice touch, as occasionally this will motive you to find a new survivor with a specific skillset, or to use a skill book on someone who has an open slot.

That said, too often taking care of the base feels like babysitting. Moral is constantly dropping, you can’t store a lot of food/materials/fuel, so you are always running low, and while zombie attacks can never fully defeat you (that I’ve noticed), they are annoying-enough that you should return and defend, even though the defense is always super easy and more of a cleanup task than a serious siege. I also never got the feeling of a base being ‘alive’, of a place your survivors are actually living in and defending. They feel (and are) just different crafting stations and support modules with some fluff surrounding it all.

Lastly, the whole tone of the game, from the graphics, sound, and quests, are all a little more comical than in SoD1, and that IMO is a negative. The zombies especially are comic book villains rather than a serious horde of the undead, and that results in the whole game feeling like one long ‘joke’ rather than humans fighting for survival.

Unless you really, really love this style of game, it’s hard to recommend SoD2. Double so because it’s not on Steam.

Posted in Random, Review | 4 Comments

TW:W2 – Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC thoughts

The latest DLC for Total War: Warhammer 2, “Curse of the Vampire Coast” is out, and I’ve been messing around with it for a bit. Overall its more of the same, so if you like TW:W2, you likely will enjoy the DLC, and if you don’t like the base game, this isn’t likely to change your mind.

As the title suggests, the big new addition is the Vampire Pirate faction. Or factions, really, since each legendary lord represents a different location and group, though they do all share similar mechanics and units. Unlike the base vampire faction, this group has a lot of ranged units, all gunpowder-based. They also have access to artillery, which is nice. The difficulty I’m having with the faction right now is traditionally the undead swarm with melee units to win, as their individual units are weak, but with more ranged options, you usually don’t heavily outnumber the enemy in the total number of melee units, and one on one the undead generally lose. That said the ranged units you do have can be devastating, especially the first few volleys that trigger a passive for having full ammo.

As with other full army DLC in TW:W2, the pirates have unique campaign mechanics as well. Instead of being concerned with the vortex, you instead focus on building your reputation as a pirate, and taking out rival pirates to ultimately collect the pieces of a treasure map and slay a giant sea beast. Thematically this works great, and encourages you to sail around, establish pirate havens (when you take over a coastal city, you now have the option of leaving it in the current owner’s hands, and setting up a hidden pirate base), dig up treasure, and overall live the pirate life. To compliment this, pirate lords also function as mini-hordes, meaning they upgrade buildings and can recruit troops without being in a city.

At $18 the DLC can be argued as being pricey, but I’m ok with that. It’s certainly not required to enjoy the base game, and even some of its benefits can be enjoyed without the purchase (the pirates will show up as an NPC faction, you just can’t play them).


Posted in Review, Warhammer Online

Fallout 76: Bethesda is going to address the issues

I found this post very encouraging and informative about the F76 beta and what Bethasda is going to do with the game prior to launch. Its a bit long so let me save you some time and give you a TLDR:

“Go F yourself, we don’t care” – Love, Bethesda

Ultrawide support is ‘coming’, they believe everyone’s dogs and babies should be heard via voice-chat, and all your other issues and problems don’t matter, just shut up and give us money.

Sad thing is they will get a ton of money anyway.

Why Bethesda (highlight that the world is alive with real people) is trying to become EA (sense of pride and accomplishment) or Blizzard (you have a phone), I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

Posted in Fallout 3, Rant | 8 Comments

A decade of herding derps has finally paid off

I generally avoid posting about overly personal stuff here, mostly because I know you don’t care, and also because for the most part I view SynCaine the blogger as a different entity than the person behind the screen name. That said today will be a little departure from that. Hope you don’t mind.

For most of my real life career I’ve envisioned myself more as someone who works hands-on vs being a manager. In my field (Corporate IT) I like seeing a project progress and seeing the parts I’m personally involved with contribute to a larger goal, whether I’m a small cog or a key player. I didn’t believe I’d enjoying managing because I’d lose that personal connection to things getting done, to having personal ownership of something successful.

At the same time, since high school, I’ve always been a leader in online gaming. I’ve always run a guild in games that allowed it and I was into, and I’ve always been interested in the social along with the gameplay in online games. I did the whole hardcore raiding thing as an officer in an MMO, guild leadership in PvP MMOs, and now for the last 4-5 years I’ve run Supreme Cream! across multiple mobile games. The level of success has varied from title to title, but few if any attempts at the social side have been outright failures (unable to form a guild, have a guild implode shortly after formation), and I’ll take at least some credit in that success to managing those groups correctly.

It was only very recently, when I accepted a new and far more senior position in my career, that I’ve come to realize I do enjoy management in the real world. The sense of ownership and success/failure related to it is still there, only now its just at a higher level. It’s not about solving one issue, but about making sure that we successfully solve all issues that arise in similar fashion, and that we learn and improve as we go. I’m finding it more rewarding, and that has been a pleasant surprise.

Perhaps the most surprising thing however is that my experience in managing online groups in the gaming world is helping me in my career today. The biggest thing is managing expectations I have for others. Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I’m a successful individual, one that is able to figure out solutions fairly quickly and, generally, my gut reactions to things tend to be correct (that said, one of the harder skills I’ve had to learn is to not run straight ahead with said gut reactions, but to still ensure the decision is actually the right one). But not everyone, or even 99% of people, are like that. Which doesn’t automatically mean they are wrong or ‘bad workers’, but that different approaches work for different people. And since I can’t clone myself, being successful in management means understanding how to get the most out of the people you have. That’s been true in gaming, and I now realize it’s just as true in real life.

In gaming I’ve been successful in group management because I’ve been active in managing the roster. If someone is toxic, you remove them before the toxin spreads. Being proactive in that is important, because if you wait or give them too many chances, they cause damage. At the same time, you can’t just kick anyone you feel is underperforming, as you will likely end up with a tiny or non-existent roster. Some of the best members have been slow starters, for any number of reasons. Being able to identify who has potential, having the patience to see it through, and having the skill to get them up to the level they should be at; all of that took a lot of time/learning on my end. Hell, I’m still learning, and likely always will.

Another important aspect of running a successful group is setting the right culture and expectations. If you are a bleeding-edge raid guild, you have different expectations than a more casual mobile game group. But at the same time, you want whatever group you are leading to always improve, to grow, and to keep people engaged/entertained. If you fail any of those, you risk not just losing people, but most likely losing the most important/dedicated people. When a raiding guild isn’t making progress because of leadership, the first people to go won’t be the bottom rung who are just happy to be there, it will be the most dedicated members putting in the most effort to succeed. Soon as you start losing those people, you death spiral fast.

Managing in the real world is somewhat different, but not really. Sure, you can’t just /kick someone as easily as you can online, but the same general rules about toxic individuals vs slow starters applies. It sounds like a joke, but I swear that years of dealing with derps online in mobile gaming has sharpened me in dealing with individuals in the real world, both in a higher level of patience, and in my ability to identify and deal with them.

Maybe more importantly, being able to tap into an individual in a way that makes them successful is critical, and their success is its own gratifying reward. I’ve been doing that online for more than a decade, and all of that experience is now paying off. It sounds almost insane, but it’s true.

Now I’m not saying to list your guild leadership experience on your resume, or to suggest that all good leaders online are also good leaders in the real world. What I am saying is that for me personally, the experience of managing online gaming groups has translated to a real world skillset, one that is very useful and highly desired. That was never the goal, or an expected result, but it does put a very nice cherry on top of all the enjoyment I’ve had over the years leading those groups.


Posted in Inquisition Clan, Site update | 11 Comments

Friday Conspiracy Theory – WoW Classic edition

First, the fact that WoW Classic won’t be out until Summer 2019 is a joke, even by Blizzard ‘soon’ slow ass development standards, but we aren’t here to talk about that.

What we are going to talk about is the fact that Classic access will be available to all WoW subscribers. You know why they did that? Because people, of which there are many, have said Classic will have more players than current WoW, so to save themselves the embarrassment of admitting that the game they had in 2005 was better than the version they have ‘enhanced and updated’ all the way into 2019, they rolled the two into one offering. Shameful in how cowardly that is!

PS: Would there be a single EVE player playing EVE Classic over the current game? I think not.

Posted in EVE Online, MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft | 10 Comments

Fallout76 – Nope

This Reddit thread about the PC version of the beta is… not good. No ultra-wide monitor support is brutal. Voice chat not being push-to-talk is insane, and voice chat turning back on every time you load up is likely going to get fixed/changed, but if not, holy shit is that bad. And since its all online, you can’t mod the game to fix the usual issues Bethesda games have, especially at launch.

The above is reason enough for me to put off buying the game, especially since it won’t be on Steam so that’s yet another hurdle to jump over. Luckily I know I’ll be playing Battle Brothers with the new DLC around this time, so I won’t be dying for something to play. And with time, I’m hoping F76 gets fixed up enough to justify buying a non-Steam game, especially because I suspect the actual content/gameplay of F76 will be solid.

Posted in Fallout 3, Rant | 4 Comments