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Last December my pal (well at least in my own mind) Dusty Monk shared this fan-film “Croft”:

Yesterday at E3 a new Tomb Raider game, “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” was introduced with this video:

Coincidence? Or was last December’s video a bit of viral marketing?

Sony held its press event last night and man, it was good thing it happened at night because it was definitely rated M for Mature. The old Sony that we used to know and love…the one that brought us a mix of ‘serious’ shooters and quirky, colorful games..that Sony seems to be dying out. The new Sony seems to be targeting a specific audience: one that craves violence and gore. Let’s look at some trailers (and yes I’m cherry picking these and leaving out the few that don’t fit, like the Little Big Planet 3 announcement):

The Order 1886 has werewolves and I has a sad.:

Suda51 is always hyper violent. Here’s Let it Die:

If you loved Demon Souls and Dark Souls, maybe you’ll enjoy the blood-crusted new title from From Software, Bloodborne:

I was pretty surprised that Sony decided Dead Island 2 was press-conference-worthy but I guess they haven’t realized we’re getting sick of zombies:

Then we had Mortal Kombat X, which hit the “jeebus this is too much for me” line. Of course it also got the loudest cheers, reaffirming my suspicion that I’m way outside the mainstream when it comes to gaming

Solid Snake uses the ashes of a fallen soldier as cover-up. Disgusting and disrespectful:

I was disappointed not to see more color during the Sony presser. But I can’t just have a post full of negativity. I have to include one bright spot. Here’s a very cool looking indie title called No Man’s Sky. I can’t WAIT to play this oneL:

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So I made a promise to myself to play Wildstar exclusively until I hit level 15 just to give it a chance, and this morning I made it. So now what? Will I keep playing or am I done?

I’d hoped to be able to decide but honestly I’m still on the fence. I guess the truth is I’m leaning more and more towards sticking around but I haven’t fallen off onto the “Wildstar is awesome” side just yet. If I had nothing else going on then I’d definitely be subscribing but I have to decide if I like it more than Landmark, ESO and ArcheAge, basically. Clearly trying to play 4 MMOs is ridiculous.

This weekend I’ve spent messing around with my house a little. Housing doesn’t grab me as much as I hoped, but I have a relic mine and a farm on my housing plot and they’re both handy. I also added a crafting station so I have all the ingredients I need to make medi-packs and stuff without leaving home. I think I’ll buy a house, though. The freebie pre-order house is, IMO, stupid looking. (It’s a fat round spaceship that looks like it came from a kid’s cartoon.)

Meanwhile out in the world I helped take down what I guess was a zone boss. All I know is someone said in zone chat “Everyone come to StemDragon!” and then a chorus of “WTH is StemDragon?” Turns out it’s a big dragon-beast with somewhere over a million HP. I ran there to help and it was pretty fun, though really just a matter of spamming attacks along with 15-20 other players. For my trouble I got an Achievement which is nice I guess.

A lot of the content I’m moving through now is pretty group-desired. You can solo your way through but you have to have a care not to aggro too many mobs, or even a single mob that is heroic. The good news is you can just organically join other players when doing this content. It makes things both easier/faster and more fun and so far the community seems prone to helping each other which is kind of awesome. So over and over I find myself traveling with another player or two and while we don’t talk or Group we help each other along.

One of the types of Settler missions is gathering materials for an NPC builder to build some structure. I’ve been doing these and moving on, pretty much ignoring the ‘construction site’ since to finish the quest you only have to contribute a fraction of the materials needed for the site to be completed. This morning I decided to stick around and after I finished the quest I kept gathering materials until the project was done. Along the way I was also harvesting relics and crops plus killing lots of mobs so I got the benefit of that too.

In this case the completed project was a de-probing center (shown in the image at the top of this post). In this area of the world an alien race has been abducting people and using probes on them. Then they’re returned with the probes still inserted. (This gives you a good feel for the style of humor in Wildstar.) Once the de-probing center is built you can take a quest to remove the probes from some patients. It was a really quick quest…took under a minute. The de-probing center also has a vendor. I’m not sure if another class could enhance it or not. I’ve done some things as a settler that are “Step 1″ of a project and require a Scientist or a Soldier to do Step 2, but I’ve never had anyone on-hand to do step 2 so I’m not really sure how all that works.

I’ve been pretty grumpy about the Lore in Wildstar but I have to say that now some of the story questlines are getting more interesting. I still don’t bother reading the books and files you find but if instead of working ‘horizontally’ and doing every level 10 task and quest before moving on to level 11 tasks and quests, you grab a story quest and just follow the series and ignore distractions, they can be a lot more interesting. One I enjoyed started with having to sober up some dude in a bar and took me all over the place and finally into a kind of secret base. Fun stuff!

So that’s all the good stuff. I don’t have a lot of bad stuff honestly. There’re still bugged quests and the game UI goes wonky often, though generally a quick /reloadui fixes things. I get terrible lag spikes now and then and random disconnects but frankly these are the kinds of things I expect from a newly launched game.

I think at this point the one thing missing is a large group of people to play with. I’m in a guild but seem to keep different hours from most of the members. Last night when I was playing there were only 5 people online; this morning I was the only only one! This is during the free month and I’m really concerned about what will happen when subs kick in. It’s hard not to compare this to ESO when during the first few weeks there’d usually be 20+ people from the guild online. As far as I could tell, each of the 5 was doing his or her own thing and no one was talking in chat except for me and Chris. So if I’m going to keep playing I’ll probably quit this guild and go in search of something bigger.

I don’t think Wildstar is a good solo game; it’s just not how it was designed. I mean you CAN solo but everything is more fun with more people in this one. I’m really happy playing ESO solo; I’m really invested in the story and the lives of the NPCs and all of that. Wildstar though is all about ACTION and jumping around like crazy during combat and generally the more the merrier. If I’m alone in an area for too long just fighting by myself I tend to get bored and log out. Happily just the addition of random players helps to stave that off.

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some_hatLast Sunday I was at level 10 in Wildstar and determined to play it exclusively until I got to level 15, at which point I’d make a decision about whether or not I was going to add it to my roster of games. Level 15!? Bah! I’m a lightweight! Both Scopique & Scarybooster are committing to a year of only playing Wildstar. Apparently the game is scratching a major itch for both of these gentleman.

I’m still aiming at 15. Last night just before signing off I hit 14 (I don’t get a lot of time for gaming during the week). I have to say I’m enjoying it more than I was but I’m still on the fence. I have managed to ‘let go’ when it comes to the lore and I’ve stopped reading all the books and files because frankly most of them aren’t worth the time it takes. For every file that gives you info about the world there are 4 that are just intended to be funny or something.

A lot of the quests still feel pretty mundane but I have now gotten the chance to do some that have a bit of a twist. It’s a sad reflection on the state of MMO gaming when adding timed button presses or a mini game of “Simon” to a quest solution feels like a refreshing twist, but well…that’s the genre. MMO players, myself included, are so desperate for variety that adding a super-simple mini-game gets us excited.

Over the course of the week I’ve started to better understand character building and as I’d suspected, the more I understand it, the more interesting it becomes. I’ve started to veer my Engineer from the “Assault” (DPS) path to the Tank path.

Combat has become more challenging, at least at times, which has added to my interest in the game as well. Up to level 10 you can pretty much sleep walk through combat without any fear of death, at least if you’re an engineer. I can’t speak to other classes; remember the Engie has 2 robot pets to help him out.

Following the Settler path continues to be good fun and I still feel good when I can spawn a Taxi Stand (or some other boon) for other players.

Speaking of other players, I had one bad experience with the community on Dominion-Evindra so far, but plenty of good ones. I turned off the Advice channel but have left on Zone. There’re too many bugged quests in the zone I’m in and it’s nice to see players helping players when it comes to identifying gameplay problems. I’ve joined a few PUGs and they’ve been civil as well. In fact my PUG experience has been good enough that I’ve been offering to help people complete quests that I’ve already completed, just to try to be an asset to the community and make some new friends.

I joined the Alliance of Awesome guild but so far it’s been pretty quiet. I have the feeling I might play later than everyone else, or maybe it’s just that everyone is on voice chat. I’m not sure it’s going to be the right fit for me but I’m giving it time.

At level 12 or so I unlocked crafting but I haven’t done too much with it, though I have been gathering things. For both Farming and Relic Hunting you ‘gather’ by shooting something in the world. Since my guns have a fire zone that is wide and long, invariably I aggro mobs while I’m trying to gather, which leads to some chaotically fun moments of trying to dodge some beastie while I shoot the crystals off a relic. And sometimes the relic gets up and starts running around for a few moments before vanishing. I suspect I’ll get some goody if I can ever kill it before it poofs but so far no luck.

So as I say, still on the fence but enjoying the game more than I was at 10. I do feel like I suffer from “quest fatigue” pretty often. Any given area just seems to have endless quests that keep you in one spot killing variants of the same mobs for far too long. But I’m also out-leveling quests so maybe I’m not supposed to take them all.

Tonight I’ll see about doing the quest that gives you a house. Everyone seems to LOVE the housing in Wildstar and it might be the hook that keeps me around. I enjoy the housing in EQ2 but honestly aside from crafting there’s not a lot to DO in an EQ2 house, but in Wildstar it sounds like houses can be outfitted with a variety of activities. I also have a secret hope that Angela sees the housing and wants to play; having her interested in the game would go a long way towards keeping me interested as well.

I guess I’ll probably hit 15 this weekend some time and then I’ll have to decide if I want to press on or if I’d rather focus more on ESO, ArcheAge, Landmark, or single player games. My plate is pretty full and if a game isn’t really doing it for me there’s no sense in trying to force it. I know at the least I’ll celebrate 15 by taking a break and getting back into Watch Dogs! But last night I was playing Wildstar and glanced at the clock and it was after midnight and I realized I’d completely lost track of time. That’s generally a good sign for me. So maybe Wildstar is working its way into my heart.

bartWildstar’s Early Access kicked off this weekend and a lot of my friends are apparently having the time of their lives. Me, I’m stuck in the level 10 blues.

I was in the beta of Wildstar for a few months and honestly the game never hooked me. The only reason I’m playing is because I got a good deal from Green Man Gaming and so many of my friends were excited I figured what the heck. In Beta I never got very far on any single character; I think I topped out at level 12. With character after character I’d get bored and drift away.

But when I played The Elder Scrolls Online in beta it never hooked me either, and I love that game now that I’m playing ‘for real’ and was hoping the same would be true for Wildstar. So far that isn’t the case.

The thing that changed ESO for me was the lore. During beta I ignored it and at launch I embraced it. With every random scroll and book I read a little bit more about the world and history of Tamriel was uncovered. I loved it! LOVED IT. I tried the same thing with Wildstar which also has lots of book and files to read but… most of them are just kind of random and an attempt to get a chuckle out of you. I’m not finding the lore here to be very interesting at all.

That actually extends to the quests which seem really shallow most of the time. I know at least one person who loves Wildstar and who uses an add-on that automatically skips quest text and just accepts the quest. That’s one person but I think it illustrates something. Wildstar is 100% game, 0% virtual world. Which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for.

It’s also intended to be pretty funny. Most of the jokes fall flat with me, but that’s a personal thing. I know people that find it hilarious. I admittedly have a very narrow sense of humor though, and I am not generally drawn to humor.

So that leaves basic gameplay, and y’know combat is pretty fun and it’s the one thing keeping me playing. It’s very kinetic and (assuming you’re not just mopping up trash) requires you to keep moving. You also tend to take on groups of mobs which I always enjoy. I am getting really sick of hearing “DOUBLE KILL!” “TRIPLE KILL!” “SUPER KILL!!!!” constantly though. That got old back when Unreal Tournament did it in the last century. Actually I should check the settings to see if I can turn that off.

Character building is pretty deep and I think there my problem is a lack of understanding. My level 10 character has 6 slots on his hot bar. He potentially has I think 8 or 9 skills, but I haven’t purchased them all. I figured why spend money if I can’t slot it anyway. Then he earns Amp points which go into a skill wheel and do things like +1% critical chance or +2 assault power. Amp points feel super tweaky to me and I find it hard to care about them at this point. Finally there are ability points that let you power up your skills. Skills come in 3 trees (for my class, engineer) and I’m not entirely sure why. But I know there’s a Support tree and some things power up Support skills, but not Assault skills, so that’s part of the reason. But under Support I have robots and I’m not sure if their actions are considered support or not.

Bottom line, if I want to play this game at all seriously I need to research character development.

And then there is questing. Wildstar is old school when it comes to questing. You find a hub, take about 78 quests (slight exaggeration) that are all a derivative of ‘activate a glowy object’ or ‘kill a thing,’ then you head out into the world. None of the quests make enough of an impression for me to remember them so I just randomly run around and activate anything I see that is activate-able, and kill anything with an icon over it’s head. After a while of doing this maybe a quest gets completed and I turn it in.

Eventually the number of quests remaining gets manageable and you can start to focus what you’re doing. And finally you’ll complete a quest that sends you to the next hub where you repeat the process. Personally I get really bored of each area well before I’m sent along to the next.

More interesting are Paths, or at least my Path which is Settler. As a Settler you pick up random materials in the world and can then build vending machines that offer free buffs to anyone. Doing this both increases your Settler experience and helps other players and it’s so far the most fun aspect of Wildstar for me, though there are aspects of it that I’m finding confusing and that I’m still working out.

There are also Challenges that pop up when you’re out in the world. I hated these in beta since they were super-disruptive to me, but now I’ve learned I can restart them from my quest log. So when I first get a challenge I ignore it until I’m ready to do it, then I start again. What’s nice about Challenges is that they can be pretty Challenging. I’ve had to try some of them 3 or 4 times before beating them. (Questing so far has not been challenging aside from the issue of competing for resources with other players…I’ve died once when I tried to solo Wildstar’s version of a heroic mob.)

So there you have it. Back to level 10, pretty damned bored, and thinking I should go play Elder Scrolls Online or Watch Dogs or just read a book. I THINK there’s a lot more to Wildstar once I get past these low levels. I know both mounts and housing open up not too far past where I am. I did just unlock crafting but I’m not sure I care about that, this time out.

To be clear, a LOT of my friends are ga-ga over-the-moon-in-love with Wildstar, so my issues with it are clearly just that: MY issues with it. I’m going to try to drive through this dead zone that I’m in and get to where the good stuff happens. If I find MMO gold, I’ll send word.

space_run-21Space Run is an upcoming PC title that has you build a spaceship while you’re carrying out a mission. Weird right? It looks like you get a blank ‘deck’ built out of hexes and you can add whatever modules seem appropriate to each hex. I feel like we’ve seen games in this same vein before, but not with production values like Space Run has and not with the ‘modify your ship in real time to defeat obstacles’ angle.

Here’s the PR “About” blurb:


About Space Run
Space Run is a nod to ’80s science fiction and pays homage to many of its tropes and references. It is a true indie title developed by a “one-man studio”, namely Sylvain Passot who, after spending 10 years in a large French development studio, decided to develop his own concept, “‘Space Run”. Although nowhere near the scale of the productions he had previously worked on, Sylvain was supported with enough resources to complete and add the finishing touches to his game, and Space Run still has plenty of surprises in store with its well-oiled game mechanics, addictive gameplay and intense, exciting missions.

The year is 2525. You are captain Buck Mann, the most fearless, the most daredevil and the most broke of all the pilots in the galaxy! Your new job: you are a Space Runner, one of the space haulage contractors whose job is to transport valuable cargo from one end of the galaxy to the other… and one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Not only do the cosmic highways regularly pass through asteroid belts of all sizes, but they are also used by dangerous and unscrupulous pirates armed to the teeth, whose fighters and battle cruisers will make short work of your transport vessel if you’re totally unprepared. And finally, you will also encounter other galactic “drivers” with whom you are fiercely competitive, so take this opportunity to give them a friendly blast from your turbo lasers when you overtake them!

Fulfil your contracts with gusto and your reputation will soar, opening the doors to new clients and more demanding and hazardous assignments… but which will also be more lucrative! The rewards earned from these missions will enable you to unlock new modules for your ship or upgrade those you already own: luxuries you can’t afford to be without if you want to survive the mortal perils lurking in space. Laser turrets, missile launchers, shield generators, thrusters, power plants and other modules will allow you to adapt to new combat situations in mid-flight that arise on your travels. Build, recycle, repair and reposition the modules and improvise as best you can to deal with the multiple threats you will face.

Retry the first missions with new and more technically advanced modules you’ve just unlocked to complete them more quickly and improve your score. Then enter a brutal race with your friends to finish each mission in the shortest time possible… preferably with your ship still intact!


And check out this trailer.

Release date is just listed as Q2 so it should be out fairly soon but we don’t know exactly when. It’s being pitched as an Indie title so most likely it’ll be priced somewhere in the $10-$20 range (just a guess on my part).

bound_by_flame-07For the past few evenings I’ve been playing Bound By Flame, the new action-RPG by Spiders Software and published by Focus Interactive, and I figured it was time to share my thoughts. Spoiler: So far I’m enjoying myself.

But when you approach a game like this, you need to have realistic expectations. It’s simply not an AAA game. Spiders are the folks who did Of Orcs and Men & Mars War Logs, so if you’ve played either of those you know what ballpark we’re in. To make up for that, it launched at $40 rather than $60. And to help it along even more, I’m playing on the PS4 where there’s really not much like it, yet.

So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. The graphics aren’t cutting edge. The voice acting ranges from OK to terrible, and the dialog itself tries to be ‘gritty’ and just comes off juvenile. When you have the Captain of a Mercenary Band calling an elf “a dickhead” you know you’re in trouble. There’s also some rough spots when it comes to simple things like picking up loot. When a monster dies it drops a nice tidy packet of loot and it can be hard to ‘aim’ at it to pick it up. Skipping through dialog is possible by pressing O when you’d expect it to be X. So stuff like that: rough spots that could’ve used more polish.

On the plus side, the music is pretty good, the combat is challenging, and the crafting system is fun. Aside from the actual dialog I’m liking the story so far (the world is under siege by an undead army being controled by 8 Icelords — you’re part of a mercenary band that sort of reminds me of The Black Company. The mercenaries are trying to keep a group of Scribes alive while they find a way to fight the Icelord. Meanwhile, a fire demon is co-habiting your body.) but we’ll see how well it holds up.

When you start the game your character (which can be male or female and has a handful of skin tones and face and hair options) has two skill trees to put points into: Warrior and Ranger. Me, I’d call them Warrior and Rogue. Warrior is big weapons and blocking while Ranger is dual daggers and dodging. The skill tree will be familiar to anyone who has played an action-RPG before. Each time you level up you get a couple of points to spend on various skills, and as you put enough points into one tree, a new tier of skills unlocks. Pretty early on you get a third skill tree: Pyromancy. That one lets you learn fire-based spells (sorry ice wielders, you’re out of luck…you’ll have to wait for Bound By Frost). You also get Feat points that let you unlock Passive Feats like increasing inventory or gaining additional health.

Bound By Flame_20140508214721
So you have a lot of skills and not so many buttons on your controller…what to do? Well the face buttons handle basic attacks, and then you can set up shortcuts for L2+Face Button. If you want to access something you don’t have a shortcut for, L1 will open up a radial menu. While that is open the game slows way down..it gives you plenty of time to do what you need without completely pausing the game. R1 switches stances between Warrior and Ranger (Pyromancy isn’t a stance so much as a collection of spells to shortcut) and R2 blocks. On the PS4 the touchpad can also be used instead of the L2+Face buttons but I found that less accurate.

Combat can be really challenging but I found the difficulty to be a bit spikey. I’d be cruising along doing fine and then I’d hit a fight that just kicked my butt over and over again. When that happened it seemed to be the game trying to teach me something. For example one fight was really hard until I remembered I had Traps that I could set in mid-battle, then it became relatively easy. You’ll want to manually save often. There’s an autosave but it sometimes saves right at the start of a battle you can’t escape. If that fight is too much for you you’re going to want a manual save to fall back on.

Blocking (Warrior Stance) is your friend early on, since you can hold a block forever. But don’t get too used to it because some enemies can kick you to disrupt your block and knock you on your ass (fair is fair…you can do the same to them; it’s one of the basic attacks). Solution to kicking enemies? Switch to Ranger stance and spring out of the way.

You’ll be crafting from the very start of the game. Most enemies drop stuff like leather, bone, raw metal and the like. You can use these to craft things like those traps I mentioned, bolts for your crossbow, and health and mana potions. You can also use them to craft ‘mods’ for your weapon and armor, which lets you customize your gear. Do you want to concentrate on doing more damage, or are you more interested in speed and disrupting the enemy? However you want to build your character, crafting can help.

As you play through the game you’ll meet Companions that can accompany you. These are a mixed blessing. You can issue them basic orders like Defend Yourself, Attack From a Distance and Heal Party. They seem to do the basic “attack” command fine but even when told to attack from a distance or defend, they still tend to run into battle, and if you retreat they don’t. The good news is that if they die, they’ll get back up after the battle is over. I kind of treat them as a short-term buff at the start of a fight! LOL

And that’s about as much as I have for you today. I’m only level 10 or so and I’m about to back-track a little to grind some experience and gather some more materials for a blacksmith quest I have (the village’s guards are woefully under-equipped but the blacksmith doesn’t have the materials to make them better gear; that’s where I come in). I’ve already got many quests to do and I’m looking forward to continuing to build my character and take on the undead armies.

So should YOU check it out? Well it depends. If you’re a PC gamer, let’s face it, this will probably be on sale for $20 during the Steam Summer Sale and it’s pretty safe to wait until then. If you’re a PS4 owner the question becomes more tricky. Are you hard on games, or are you the type of gamer who can focus on the good and let the bad parts slide? If you’re the latter, then I’d say pick it up, particularly if like me you were really wanting an action-RPG on your console. Remember though, this isn’t going to show off the graphics capability of a PS4 and it’s not a AAA game. Bound By Flame is also available for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Again, I’d wait for a sale on those platforms since you probably already have some action-RPG titles that you haven’t finished on your pile of shame.

Bound By Flame_20140506214615

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of Bound By Flame.

Here’s a game that has not been on my radar until now: Van Helsing II. Looks like they’ve stuffed a lot of gameplay styles into one game. Hopefully not TOO many. (Can I skip the tower defense parts…PLEASE?!) Note 4-play co-op and 8v8 PvP.

It’s coming for Windows & Mac later this month (the 22nd) for a paltry $15.

More details over at Neocore’s site.

The PS4 finally gets an action-RPG this week; something sorely missing on the platform (the same could be said for the Xbox One I suppose, but they’ll have to wait).

Bound By Flame is available for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and PC. It’ll be in stores on Friday but available digitally tomorrow on the Playstation Store. Here’s the launch trailer:

Learn more about Bound By Flame on the Playstation blog!

statueActually I guess it’s been 5 weeks of playing now, but ‘month’ makes for a better headline. In any event I’ve been playing #TESO for a while now and still really digging it. There’ve been maybe 2 days in those 5 weeks when I didn’t log in, and those weren’t by choice but by necessity.

I’ve seen a lot of hate directed at the game but I don’t understand it; I guess we all want different things from our MMOs. I want a world that feels real, looks real, and has combat that feels great and #TESO gives me all that. Some of the criticism I’ve seen is just based on the imaginations of the haters. For instance I’ve heard complaints about the ‘wall of text’ in quests. Quests are always delivered via a few lines of dialog (see image below). There ARE books you find that are very text-dense but if you don’t want to read them you don’t have to. Just opening them will give you any perk they may offer. But hey, haters gonna hate, right?

I think most of the critics, when it comes right down to it, may be put off by the pace of the game, which can be pretty sedate at times. Particularly folks who are beta-testing the frenetic Wildstar (the pace of which, frankly, exhausts me but I’ll still try it). If Wildstar is the Animaniacs of MMOs, #TESO is the Masterpiece Theater. The rest are people who just don’t like that an online game set in Tamriel exists; they’re the uninformed gamers who think #TESO somehow replaced the next iteration of the single player Elder Scrolls saga (It did not; a new team was put together to create #TESO and the single player Elder Scrolls team is hard at work on the sequel to Skyrim.)

dame_alexine

Anyway, ain’t no one got time for dealing with the haters; let’s move on.

My ‘main’ in #TESO is only level 19 (Raptr says I’ve spent 84 hours playing). He has finally ‘finished’ the first major zone (Glenumbra, in his case). I thought I’d finished it last week when his natural progression led him to the next zone, but I checked my Achievements and saw that he’d missed a ton of Skyshards so I retraced my steps to Glenumbra and in the course of tracking those down, found entire villages I’d missed, as well as many mini-dungeons and heroic creature camps. Not to mention that there’s a public dungeon in Daggerfall! Who knew?

Back-tracking actually wound up being a lot of fun; since I was over-leveled I lent a lot of aid to folks trying to take down difficult content. Some of these camps can be tough and can require 3 or more characters of appropriate level to conquer (and even over-level I couldn’t solo some of them) but me and a level-appropriate character did OK. The Public Dungeon was a lot of fun as well; I can’t wait to find more of those. I did Spindleclutch once (the zone’s instanced dungeon) with a PUG that turned out to be a good group of players. In fact in all my time playing the only negative experience I’ve has is from gold spammers and once, someone ran past me to snag a runestone I was going after (but had to kill a mob to get to). Overall it’s been a very positive experience.

All in all I’m having a blast. But there is one issue that has started to impact my enjoyment and it is mostly self-inflicted: alts and crafting. I’d read somewhere that 1 character couldn’t do all the crafting skills (I’m no longer convinced this is true) and of course I had to try them all because I have a crafting compulsion. So I created 2 alts; one to do blacksmithing and alchemy, one to do woodworking and enchanting. My ‘main’ does clothing and provisioning.

#TESO is a little unusual in that your bank is 100% shared between all your characters. On paper at least, this makes it easy to have crafting alts. My main gathers iron, wood, runestones and reagants as he adventures and then tosses them in the bank for the alts to use. He also tosses in gear for the other characters to deconstruct in order to advance. The problem is that your bank inventory space is fixed; when you roll up an alt it doesn’t get any bigger (you can spend in-game coin to expand it but that gets expensive fast). In practice, if you’re a crafting hoarder your bank will fill up really quickly and in my case, I spend a LOT of time logging in and out, shuffling inventory from one character to the bank and then to another characters.

What I need to do is summon the intestinal fortitude to just jettison all this junk (provisioning supplies in particular, and anything I can simply purchase) and maybe abandon all but 1 tradeskill. Then I can spend more time playing and less time shuffling inventory. I’d actually like to play my Woodworker/Enchanter since she’s in a different faction and is an interesting class (Templar) but her personal inventory is stuffed full of Runestones.

Anyway like I said, self-inflicted but if Zenimax decided to give us some kind of ‘reagant bag’ or ‘provisioning bag’ that gave us some extra space to hold these materials, I wouldn’t complain.

Back to the good stuff. Before I back-tracked to Glenumba I started to encounter ‘open world groups’ of PvE foes. I’d heard we’d eventually start encountering groups of enemies but didn’t realize what that meant. I mean encountering more than one mob isn’t all that unusual, right? But what it means is groups of enemies that actually work together. The first time I encountered one of these groups I got my arse handed to me. I went back and tried again and the same thing happened, so I decided maybe I needed to level more.

But as I walked past this pesky group one more time I realized the problem was me, not my character. And I stopped to actually think about the encounter. And so I tried it again. In this case it was a healer, a mage-type and a melee dude (roughly). So rather than just charging in, I hit the mage with my Agony Stun, then charged the healer. Knocked him on his ass and followed up with a life siphon to keep him hurting and me healthy. The melee guy I just kept blocking for now, raining blows on the healer until he succumbed. By then the stun had worn off the mage and he was working up to some kind of nasty spell, but the direct application of my shield to his face put an end to that, and a couple of assassin blades in his liver ended him, leaving just me and the melee dude. 1 on 1 he was no match for me and a few moments later I was walking away with a fistful of gold.

After that I started looking at what I was facing before I charged in, and every fight became a satisfying win or a defeat I learned something from. It’s going to be so hard to go back to an MMO where you just run through the same ‘rotation’ over and over in every open world fight and only in dungeons do you get interesting encounters.

I’m looking forward to doing more exploring of Tamriel. I still haven’t set foot in the PvP zone, and I’ve heard great things about that. I have no idea how many more PvE zones are ahead of me in my journey to level 50, but bring ‘em on!

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