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I think I’m finally done with Shadow of Mordor. After earning the Platinum trophy for the base game, I started in on the DLC. I finished the storyline, such that it is, for the Lord of the Hunt DLC and then looked at the trophy list and just couldn’t get too interested in going back to trying to set up the specific conditions needed to earn them. In general I didn’t like Lord of the Hunt that much (it leaned heavily on mind-controlling beasts and in general I found having mind-controlled minions was kind of annoying…they get in the way as often as they help) and I’ve read reviews of the 2nd DLC, The Bright Lord, and apparently it too is heavy on mind control stuff. So I think I’m done. I have certainly gotten my money’s worth out of the game. 50+ hours of gameplay and I got the game on sale for $10.

But that leaves me in a gaming gap. What the heck is that? Well Horizon Zero Dawn comes out on the 28th and I’ve pre-ordered it because I failed my “resist the hype” saving throw. I’m looking forward to jumping into it as soon as the clock strikes midnight. But what to do for the 19 days between now and then?

I had planned on playing Far Cry Primal next, but that looks like a big game that’s going to take a month or more to play. I’m also not sure that fighting with sword and bow in Mordor, then fighting with club and bow in Primal, then fighting with bow in Zero Dawn is the best plan. I don’t want to get burned out on open world bow combat stuff.

The Elder Scrolls Online’s housing patch hits consoles on Tuesday and that may or may not suck me back into the game. Or maybe this is a good time to finally play the TitanFall 2 campaign. Thematically Watch Dogs 2 would be a good change of venue but again, that’s a big game that I don’t think I could finish in 19 days. (I started playing Shadow of Mordor in December, to give you an idea of how long it takes me to get through a title.) I haven’t dipped my toe into the console versions of Star Trek Online or DC Universe Online in quite a while…

Project Cars is free on the Xbox One via Games With Gold starting on the 15th (I think), so maybe I’ll see if the Xbox still works. I also have a bunch of indie stuff that I’ve got via Playstation Plus or in sales, so I could tear through a few of those. Indie titles generally don’t hold my attention very long just because I’m so attracted by shiny things and pixel art isn’t (to me) shiny.

Yeah basically I’m spoiled for choice. I guess that’s the benefit of a big fat backlog. Definitely a #FirstWorldGamerProblem. But these days I’m most content when I’m really invested in a gaming world just because I’m finding gaming is the best way for me to shut out politics and other bad news from the real world. So I gotta find something. Just not sure what, yet.

Over the weekend I earned the Platinum Trophy for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. For PC and Xbox players, substitute “achievement” for “trophy” and know that the platinum is basically the “You’ve earned all the other trophies” trophy. It’s the same I guess as getting 1000 gamerscore out of an Xbox game.

I’m still not entirely sure I’m cut out for trophy hunting. (This is only my 2nd Platinum, the first was in Infamous: Second Son.)

The good news is that I got a lot more gameplay out of SoM. I was at 25 hours when I finished the story and 45 hours when I got the last trophy, so it almost doubled the time I spent with the game. And it was very satisfying to get that last trophy after all those hours, even though earning each individual trophy wasn’t always fun. I hit frustration levels well beyond what I experienced just playing through the story, but even the frustrating trophies came with a nice shot of dopamine to my brain when I earned them.

For example one trophy required you to get a Level 25 Rune. You get runes for killing named orcs. The level of the rune is the level of the orc plus some bonuses, and orcs cap out at level 20. So to get a level 25 rune, you need to kill a level 20 orc, but it needs to be a warchief (one of the top orcs in the hierarchy) because that gives you a 2 point bonus. You need to know that orcs weaknesses which means you’ve had to get Intel on him. 1 point for that. You need to USE one of his weaknesses or strengths (which can be easy or hard depending on what they are) because that’s a 1 point bonus, AND it has to be a revenge kill, meaning that orc has to have killed you already. 1 point for that.

When I went after this trophy, the first problem was there were no level 20 orcs and all the warchiefs were under my control. So I had to kill some of my warchiefs to create an opening. Then I advanced time (I think, I’ve already forgotten some details) to get enemy warchiefs in place. Then I got intel on them to pick one that would be easy to trigger. (Sometimes weaknesses are pretty obscure, sometimes strengths make them hard to fight). OK so now I had a warchief who got enraged by fire and I have a fire arrow skill. But he was level 16 and he hadn’t killed me. So then I fought him but he brought bodyguards and I couldn’t get the warchief to kill me since he was content to let his bodyguards do the work. In trying to let this warchief kill me, a random archer actually got in the killing blow. OK respawn, now isolate and take out the bodyguards. Then go after the warchief, kill all the minions around him and he FINALLY kills me. So now he’s level 17. Go back a few more times letting him kill me over and over to level up to 20. Finally I have a level 20 warchief who I can get revenge on and I know his weaknesses..that’s 24 levels of rune. In the battle I hit him with a fire arrow to enrage him, that makes level 25 and finally I just had to kill him. Trophy unlocked… FINALLY. That was like 90 minutes of game time.

On the one hand, it was really satisfying to finally get it. On the other, playing to lose (so the warchief would kill me) wasn’t as much fun.

I guess I’ll just worry about trophy hunting on games I really enjoy. I loved Shadow of Mordor. I loved the setting, loved the combat, loved little touches like how on a combat finisher the ‘clang’ of swords rang out from the controller speaker. I loved finding artifacts and listening to the “memories” and in general, I just love Middle Earth so the opportunity to spend time there was really appreciated. Even after 45 hours I was still getting a lot of joy out of just hacking and slashing my way through swarms of orcs. Even after Talion was completely leveled up and there was no reason to fight orcs, I’d keep fighting them because it was just so darned fun.

I think that SoM is known for being a pretty easy game to Platinum, which was OK by me. And none of the trophies were based on high levels of player skill. If you could finish the storyline you can do all the trophies. You don’t need to be a gaming god to achieve any of them. And there’s no multiplayer, so that’s a huge deal for me since I don’t do multiplayer any more. Even with all that, the Trophies that required you to manipulate the in-game situation in weird ways (like intentionally letting yourself get killed) were a lot less fun than the trophies that just came with playing the game they way you’d naturally play it.

I’m really gonna miss the combat in Shadows of Mordor. This is near the end with a maxed-out Talion.

Middle-earth™: Shadow of Mordor™ – Game of the Year Edition
http://ift.tt/1q9BOMv

This week Sony shared some information on their next Playstation 4 system software update, and the beta program is up and running. There’s an NDA in place so if I was in the beta program I couldn’t tell you.

So far this looks like a good update. The biggest feature for me, a heavy user of the Playstation 4, is support for external hard drives (finally). You can connect a drive of up to 8 TB to your PS4 and store your games and apps on it. For some reason save files, screenshots and video clips still have to live on the internal drive.

If you’re a casual PS4 owner, your best bet is to just upgrade your internal hard drive if you’re concerned about space. It’s easy to do and it means one less bit of clutter in your entertainment center. I think the biggest drive you can get that’ll fit in the PS4 (2.5″ drive that is no more than 9.5 MM thick) is 2 or 2.5 TB. Don’t hold me to that, I haven’t shopped for a new drive for a while, but that’s how things were last time I looked.

For heavy PS4 users (particular those of us who prefer digital to plastic disks) the external option is nice. Personally I have a 1.5 TB drive in my PS4 and a 1 TB drive in my PS4 Pro and both are full (with different content). I’m going to attach a 5 TB drive to the Pro, put everything on it and send the launch PS4 to storage (or maybe the TV in the bedroom). Since I can also use the internal drive, in total I’ll have 6 TB of space which should be sufficient for a while.

Another new feature is “Boost Mode” for the PS4 Pro. Sony has been a little coy about this. They didn’t mention it in their blog post but as soon as folks got their hands on the beta they started talking about it. Boost Mode is an experimental system that lets all games take advantage of the additional power of the PS4 Pro. Prior to Boost Mode, a game needed to be patched in order to get any benefit from the Pro. Now, in theory, every game will run better.

I’m still waiting to see some quantifiable data on this, but I would advise you to moderate expectations. Boost Mode probably isn’t going to take a 30 FPS game and make it into a 60 FPS game, for two reasons. First is that the game is probably locked to 30 FPS, and second is I don’t think we’ll get that much of a boost. I think the more reasonable expectation is that games that run at 30 FPS but sometimes drop to 20 FPS will now stay at 30 FPS. Ditto 60 FPS games that might drop to 50 here and there. Basically my hope for Boost Mode is that it’ll smooth out the gameplay of older games.

YouTube has some videos but they’re all done by amateurs. Hopefully someone like Digital Foundry will do some tests, and pump out some of those cool videos with frame rate and frame pacing indicators on them. Show us numbers with and without Boost Mode.

PSVR owners are getting support for 3D Blu-rays, which has some folk really excited.

You can now share stuff to the PS4’s activity feed directly, which is nice. It used to be that you had to share to Twitter or Facebook or something just to get a clip or screenshot into the activity feed. That was pretty silly.

They’ve tweaked Notifications and the Quick Menu. We’ll see what that means.

You can now use a screenshot as your “Theme” which is a nice feature that should’ve been there since Day 1. Better late than never.

That’s everything I’ve seen reported so far. Generally it seems like these system betas run for about a month before Sony launches to everyone so with luck we won’t be waiting too long for these new features.

Of course you STILL can’t change your PSN name, something folks have been clamoring for. PSN is old enough now that idiot kids who picked offensive PSN names are now responsible adults and are a little embarrassed by their PSN name and they want a way to change it. Heck I’d change mine (Dragonchasers) just to get something shorter for when my name is on-screen and blocking all the scenery!

Well we’ve made it through 1/12th of 2017. Huzzah for us I guess.

This month I tried an experiment: setting up a list of gaming goals to aim for. I feel like I did pretty good:

1) Get the last achievement in Microsoft Solitaire.
Did that. 100% complete. I am a solitaire sensei. Or something.

2) Keep going with weekly Fairy Fencer F and No Man’s Sky sessions.
Yup, though I made little progress in either game, to be honest.

3) Finally finish the Diablo 3 campaign.
Did it, it sucked.

4) Play the heck out of the For Honor beta.
Meh, not really. That said, the reason I wanted to play it a lot was to be SURE I really wanted to buy it at launch. After playing a bit I was pretty sure I didn’t want to buy it at launch. I just don’t think there’s enough game here to justify a $60 price, and I’m disappointed that they don’t have dedicated servers and instead are relying on peer to peer sessions. Also I’m pretty focused on my backlog and saving money and I want to save my $$ for Horizon Zero Dawn at the end of February.

The point is, once I’d decided not to buy For Honor at launch, I didn’t feel compelled to force myself to play it a lot. Mind you the matches are fun but it doesn’t feel like a $60 game to me.

5) Play some Battlefield 1 matches
I played a few and remembered my biggest issue with the game. I like the open conquest mode because I like big teams so my mediocre abilities leave me lost in the middle of the leaderboard list. But they take so gosh-darned long. I played a few matches, both of which took 30 minutes or so and both times by the time the match was over I was late for doing something else.

I need to only play Battlefield 1 when I know I have a lot of time open, but when I have a lot of time open I usually want to sink into a good story-driven game so… I guess BF1 really isn’t for me. I do still need to play the campaign, though.

All in all, I’d give myself an A- or maybe a B+ on hitting my goals.

That said, I’m not sure gaming goals are for me. I played Diablo 3 because I said I would. I wasn’t enjoying myself but I pushed through because I’m stubborn. I wonder if I’d set it aside to play when I really wanted to, would I have enjoyed it more?

I think, in retrospect, I have enough things that I “have” to do in my life without adding more to my to-do list. It’d be different if I could just let them slide but once I announce a goal it kind of gnaws at me until I do it. Even if I don’t do it. I feel a little guilty that I didn’t play more BF1 and For Honor, for example.

So while it was a fun experiment, I think I’ll leave the goals to other bloggers. I do enjoy reading about them. Just not having them myself. 🙂

I’ve rarely been so appreciative of gaming as I was this weekend. With all the shit going down in the world, I spent about half my time reading the news and half my time hiding in a game. Games take me away from the stress and anxiety of the real world in a way neither TV, books or movies can. I just lose myself, and wow did I ever need to lose myself this weekend.

And I finished not one but TWO games. WHO AM I? The first was Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered, which I’ve been poking at here and there without really talking about it. But my PS4 Pro hard drive is full (!) and so I wanted to finish off COD so I could delete it for now. I don’t have a lot to say about this game. I didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, it was just there. I mean it’s a fine game, just not really in my wheelhouse. I like fantasy and sci-fi settings more than modern day ones. I will say the campaign didn’t pull any punches. Spent some time trying to decide if I wanted to do trophy hunting and I don’t think I like it enough for that.

The other game I finished was Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I absolutely LOVED this game. I’ve put about 25 hours into it to get to the end of the story, and it was a really good story too. But I love the setting and the gameplay so much that I don’t feel at all done with it. The same statistic that told me I was about 25 hours in also says I’m only 50% through, so there’s tons of side quests, collectibles and other things to do and I’m not ready to leave Mordor quite yet. My intention is to keep it around to dabble in until I get bored with side-questing.

Great game. I really hope we get a sequel.

Now I have to decide what I want to attack next. Maybe Far Cry Primal. Maybe Titanfall 2. Maybe something else will grab me. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next 4 years trying to lose myself in games so I’m glad I have plenty to choose from!

One of my “gaming goals” for January was to keep up my weekly Fairy Fencer F and No Man’s Sky sessions. Thursday night was No Man’s Sky night and since last night was the last Thursday in January I’ve hit that goal.

But I think I’m now done for a while. I felt like the Foundation Update really injected some nice new gameplay into No Man’s Sky and it kept me entertained for a while but now I’m growing frustrated. There’s one particular material (Rigogen) that I’ve been searching for during my last 3 sessions and no luck. I know it’s an underwater plant. So step 1 is to find a planet with oceans. I feel like maybe one in 5 planets I discover has oceans. Then the ocean has to be deep, I think. I’ve only found 2 planets (since I started looking for Rigogen) with deep oceans. And of course there has to be plant life underwater, and both the deep oceans I’ve found have been devoid of plant life. Nor have I ever seen Rigogen on the galactic trade system.

Part of the problem, I’m sure, is that I’m only playing once a week so “3 sessions” is 3 weeks for me. Basically I’ve spent most of January looking for this stuff. 🙂

I have a few other goals; I wanted to upgrade my warp engine and spiff up my ship. I have a list of materials I need to do that but I haven’t found any of them either. In fact I feel like my last few sessions have mostly been finding the same planet over and over. Different climate sure. But same materials. If you want Emeril or Iridium, I know of a dozen planets full of the stuff.

So time to push No Man’s Sky to the back burner again. I’ll revisit it either when the next big update comes out, or after enough time that the thrill of entering a planet’s atmosphere for the first time returns again. It’s all become too routine for me right now and is feeling more like a chore than fun. That’s a clear sign it’s time for a break.

This is what happens when you get cocky. But really I saved this because the orc that kills me is so damned creepy!

Middle-earth™: Shadow of Mordor™ – Game of the Year Edition
http://ift.tt/1q9BOMv

For many years I’ve been an “over-purchaser” of games. By that I mean I bought more games than I had time to play, and often pre-ordered them to boot. I’d pre-order a game months before launch and then when it finally launched I’d play it for a night and set it aside. Silly. I guess it was some kind of retail therapy for myself. Buying games was fun and I told myself I was supporting the developers (which was true but I’m not sure they all needed that money ahead of time).

Last fall we got the news that our health insurance was getting significantly more expensive, and that meant that our already stretched budget was going to get very tight indeed. I realized I was going to have to become MUCH more selective about buying games. I was really bummed.

I snagged quite a few games in Black Friday sales but haven’t bought anything since, as far as I can recall. And in the roughly two months since this budget crunch hit, I’ve kind of switched from seeing it as a burden to seeing it as a blessing.

I feel like I’m getting a lot more enjoyment out of games now that I see them as a kind of finite resource. When I was buying sometimes a few games a week, games were like a river. I scoop up some and have a taste but I was never going to consume them all so they seemed disposable and kind of devoid of value. There was always another coming so the game I was playing was only going to be on my radar for a few days.

Now I think of my games as a cornfield to be harvested. Still a big job, but if I stick with it eventually I might harvest all the goodness out of this field. (I guess today is metaphor day.) At the same time, each game has value because there’s not a constant flow of new titles coming in every week.

Because I don’t flit from game to game as frequently I feel like I get more from each one. What I get isn’t always good (see my bitching about Diablo 3’s story mode) but my understanding seems to always go deeper. I can articulate what I like and don’t like about each one and I feel like I have a more balanced view of every game I play. Even games I love have rough spots, and games I don’t like almost always have some nice bits tucked in there somewhere.

My backlog is enormous. I haven’t scratched the surface of my PS4 backlog yet, and then I have the Xbox One backlog which is nearly as big. And if somehow I get through that, there’s the PS2, PS3, PS Vita, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS backlogs. And then… Steam. Yes back in the day I was like so many others; when the big Steam sale hit I’d buy and buy and buy. I have 310 games in my Steam library. I’ve finished approximately 0 of them. Many of them I haven’t played at all.

This past weekend Sony was running a $5 Flash Sale. They had a bunch of games on sale for $5 (or less). I dutifully started looking over the list, figuring this is a great opportunity to score some deals. And there were a few games on the list I wanted to play someday. I even d/led a couple of demos. But then I thought about that backlog and the fact that if these games are on sale now, they’ll probably be on sale again in the future. No need to enlarge the backlog today. I didn’t buy anything.

I’m pretty proud of that. Instead of downloading 3 or 4 new games I’ve kept enjoying my current rotation of Shadow of Mordor, No Man’s Sky and Fairy Fencer F. I still want to go back to do some more Tomb Raider Trophies, then I have Watch Dogs 2, TitanFall 2, Final Fantasy XV, Battlefront 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare all vying for my attention.

This past weekend I spent a lot more time in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The more I play this game, the more I like it. I want you to play it too, if you haven’t, so I’m not going to spoil anything major, but in general terms here’s what I learned this weekend.

The basic concept here is that you’re a ranger, Talion, who is guarding the Black Gate. This happens, best I can put together, between the events of The Hobbit and those of Lord of the Rings. Sauron has returned to Mordor but hasn’t really started his war on Middle Earth yet. Talion gets killed but rather than staying dead he merges with a wraith.

In gameplay terms, this gives him some magic-ish abilities and explains why he can respawn after he gets killed.

I thought I was going to spend the game in the map area that is revealed early in the game (which was fine…it’s a big area) and that it would basically be just me and my wraith pal (and this isn’t just a nameless wraith, you learn who he is as the game goes on, I just don’t want to spoil).

But no, there’s more. This weekend I moved on to a whole new area, probably the same size as the initial map. This is a big game! The new area is a little more green than the space you spend the first parts of the game in. I also have met some other characters who’re on the same side as Talion.

Again I’m deliberately being vague. But it’s a bigger game than I thought it was and the story is more interesting too, at least for a Middle Earth nerd.

As Talion gets more upgrades and skills I feel like the game is getting easier. I remember when facing a single warchief was really dicey, but yesterday I took on three at once and eventually won. My biggest fear at this point are warchiefs that use ranged attacks since they can whittle down my health before I can clear out their minions to go at them.

I’m also spending a lot more time mounted, which is fun too. That’s gotten a lot easier too.

But easy doesn’t mean boring. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel powerful and skilled. But in order to keep you modest, the story missions spike the difficulty a bit so you’ll need to earn those. I’m finding the difficulty level to be about perfect.

Just a great game so far. A big game though. I think I’m something like 35% done with the story after all this time.

When does Shadow of Mordor 2 come out? I’m excited to play it, if it exists!

And of course as usual, I took no screenshots 🙁