GGOAT: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Well, now that I’ve kinda teased it I guess I’ll have to follow through, don’t I?

So…welcome to another episode of Greatest Games Of All Time, my highly subjective compilation of the best video games ever made.

GGOAT_Bloodlines1
Astonishingly, in all those years I’d never noticed that scrolling title screen

Unlike most of its fans my first experience in the World of Darkness setting wasn’t with one of its Pen & Paper RPGs, but the trading card game Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. The bits of story and background woven into that game were enough to intrigue me though, so I dug deeper and liked what I found.

Consequently I was eagerly anticipating the PC release of single-player RPG Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption in 2000. Unfortunately it disappointed. It wasn’t a truly bad game, but in my opinion it wasn’t very good either. It was buggy, controls were clunky, combat frustrating. Even worse, the uninspired German voiceovers managed to undo every bit of atmosphere that might have been there (the English tracks weren’t included). I didn’t even make it far enough into the game to see the plot’s transition from 12th to 20th century, although I would have quite liked that.

Hence when the sequel, Bloodlines, was announced for release in November 2004 I was rather sceptic. Previews looked promising though, features like being able to choose a clan and having different ways to play the game seemed tailor-made for me. That Troika Games had decided to use Valve’s brand new Source engine instead of a homebrew was another reason for optimism.

So yeah, I bought it as soon as it came out. One of the best gaming-related decisions I’ve ever made.

GGOAT_Bloodlines2
I recommend a Tremere (ranged) or a Brujah (melee) for your first playthrough

Character creation is pretty good overall. The seven main Camarilla clans are available to play, either as a male or female. You can’t alter your appearance at all though, your male Tremere looks exactly the same as mine for example.

Thanks to a couple of fanmade patches you can now also choose a little bit of backstory for your character from a small selection, which even has some impact on gameplay because it changes your options for distributing your starting skill points and/or gives you small strenghts and weaknesses. On your first playthrough you probably won’t make very wise choices here anyway though because you won’t know yet which skills and disciplines will turn out to be the most important ones.

GGOAT_Bloodlines3
You’ll want to invest into strenght and scholarship, no matter the clan. Trust me on this…

The game starts with a pretty long in-engine video sequence setting up your character and the story. Fortunately I had the option to play the English version this time, and the voice acting is terrific all around.

The first 15 minutes or so of actually controlling your character constitute the tutorial. It’s rather light gameplaywise, but teaches you everything there is to know about your…umm…condition, and it’s also very entertaining thanks to your guide.

GGOAT_Bloodlines4
He’s a legend amongst vampires, believe it or not

The storytelling really is one of the game’s strong suits. The second one becomes accessible to you right after finishing the tutorial: virtual Los Angeles.

It’s not actually huge by any stretch of the imagination, especially in the beginning when you can’t yet leave the first locale, Santa Monica. Nevertheless it never felt too small to me.

I think the reason for this is that the game made me feel like the world was my own personal playground right from the start. Although the story is mostly linear I was always eager to stray off the path and explore every nook and cranny. For example, when I received an assignment to break into the local hospital and make some evidence disappear I’d long since raided the place and taken everything that wasn’t bolted down, just because I could. Oopsie.

GGOAT_Bloodlines5
You don’t need to see his…err…my identification!

The thing is, even as a very young and inexperienced vampire you’re immensely more powerful than any normal human being, which lets you get away with stuff like that. It’s extremely fun to try out your vampiric abilities and test your limits against different enemies and environments.

There’s also a lot of replayability, which is why I reliably come back to the game every few years without getting bored. Which clan you choose makes a huge difference, obviously, as having or not having disciplines like Obfuscate (which lets you become invisible) or Celerity (turns you into The Flash) changes how you play the game and tackle different challenges dramatically. Some clans even have their own special advantages or disadvantages. Ventrue can’t feed on rats, Tremere can get a special, fancy hideout (and make people explode, so there’s that) and Nosferatu can’t show themselves to humans at all lest they break the masquerade each and every time.

GGOAT_Bloodlines6
Because they basically all look like this…

Additionally, many side-quests have different possible outcomes. Mostly the consequences of choosing one over the other doesn’t have a bigger impact than, for example, gaining more money or XP but losing a point of humanity in return (which can be regained elsewhere if you so wish), but it’s still nice to have that variety.

But wait, there’s more. Every now and then a quest sends you off to a new, insulated set piece that offers a story of its own and also somewhat different kinds of gameplay. An abandoned hotel haunted by ghosts, the mansion of a Malkavian (= crazy) vampire, a house completely twisted and perverted by a powerful Tzimisce (vampires with the power to sculpt flesh and bone at will).

GGOAT_Bloodlines7
DIS-GUS-TING

You can only go to these places when you’re at the right point in the story, and only once, but they’re so great that these alone are enough to get me in the mood for another playthrough time and again.

Depending on whom you side with towards the finale there’s at least four different endings to the main story too. It’s never been more satisfying to kick some dead people in the proverbial nuts, let me tell you.

The game also has a really dry sense of humor which I like a lot. Many quests and dialogues are hilarious, even more so if you choose to play as a Malkavian. Other funny bits are hidden where you’d least expect them, like in various item descriptions.

GGOAT_Bloodlines8
I’d never thought about it, but now that you raise the question…

Unfortunately the game also has some serious weaknesses.

Despite using the Source engine it isn’t exactly a looker even by 2004’s standards. It’s pretty clunky, animations are wooden and collision detection is weird.

Much worse are the bugs though. At release it was a total mess, bugs ranging from merely annoying to gamebreaking were everywhere. Word spread fast, resulting in less than stellar sales numbers. Troika managed to deliver a couple of patches, but their support for the game dried up quickly due to financial troubles. They had to close up shop in February 2005, seemingly dooming the game to stay in a poor state forever.

Fortunately it has a loyal, active fanbase to this day, and the aforementioned unofficial patches squashed many bugs and even added some new content. By now it’s finally in a technical state that can be described as “quite ok”. Of course a 15 year old game won’t attract droves of new players no matter what, but I for one will happily revisit it a couple more times in years to come.

I still haven’t played it through with a Nosferatu after all…

What I’m looking forward to in 2020

Despite all moaning and groaning, in my opinion there has never been a better time to be a fan of video games in general and the MMORPG genre in particular. There’s an abundance of great games to play, old and new, huge and small, many even at very low or even no cost to boot. If I had the whole year off I still wouldn’t be able to play everything I’d like to and do each title justice.

Thus I don’t actually need any new games to look forward to. You know, technically speaking.

Most people really like to stare longingly at the horizon though, waiting for that one (or yet another) game so great that it changes their lives or heralds a new age of video gaming, and I’m no different. So here’s a selection of games I have high hopes for, that will or at least might come out in 2020.

Lost Ark

Lost Ark
Borrowed this from Time to Loot‘s Naithin

It’s not exactly news that I’m very keen on getting my hands on this one. By now the Russian version is out – or at least in a no-wipe beta, I’m not sure which it is – so it actually can be played without a Korean account. There’s an English language patch available for this version too.

When I first tried Black Desert Online the situation was exactly the same though, and my experience wasn’t that great. Also, it looks like we might see at least the announcement of a western release sooner rather than later. I’d be very surprised if we didn’t. Sure, the Asian market is huge, but the EU and Americas combined are nothing to sneeze at either. Not releasing the game here would mean leaving huge piles of cash on the table.

I guess we’ll know soon enough. Until then I’m watching this from the sidelines.

New World

2020_NewWorld

This one I’m mostly curious about, I don’t know nearly enough about it to actually have high hopes of any kind. I’m not really a fan of survival games, so possibly it’ll turn out to not be my cup of tea at all, depending on how pronounced that gameplay aspect is in the end.

One thing’s for sure though: Amazon definitely has the resources to let the dev team get this right. I highly doubt they’ll release a sub-par product just to get it out the door. In fact they’ve already proven that they’ll rather shut a project down than do that.

If they in fact do pull off something great I think it’ll be a boon to the whole industry. ActiBlizz and EA desperately need another big player to light a fire under their butts, and we all need a sign that western publishers are actually capable of more than rehashing the same old ideas over and over.

Current release date: May 26th.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 Screenshot Night City

Not an MMORPG, obviously, but this is by far my most highly anticipated game ever since its first announcement.

I played the Pen & Paper RPG Shadowrun back in the day. It made me absolutely fall in love with that kind of setting, and for quite some time I soaked up pretty much anything even marginally related. Novels, movies and of course games.

There have been some very good cyberpunk games, too, the first Deus Ex still being my favourite. I have really high hopes that 2077 will trump them all though, the reason being that it’s developed by CD Project Red.

I’ve actually only played the first Witcher game myself (yeah, I know, shame on me), but the reputation those guys and girls have built since then is nothing short of amazing. Hence many a cyberpunk-fan’s mindset: if anyone can pull this off, it’s them!

Release is slated for April 16th. Can’t wait.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2

2020_Bloodlines2

This game’s predecessor is one of my favourite games of all time. I find it hard to describe why exactly – which is why my long-planned Greatest Games Of All Times-post about it still hasn’t materialized – but I still play through it every two years or so. Not bad for a game released in 2004.

Every time I replay it I wonder what might have happened had it been less buggy and more successful at the time. Story expansions, more locations, more playable clans. How great that would have been.

To be honest, as of yet I haven’t seen much to convince me that this sequel will actually be good. I’m hopeful though, if only because I want it to be good. It’s ought to release at some point in 2020.

And…that’s it. I mean, of course there are some more games in the pipeline that I’m not completely uninterested in, but I’m not actively anticipating any of those.

Pretty bleak, isn’t it? Nah, not really. As I said in the beginning, I have already too many great games at my disposal that I don’t have enough time for. If these four titles do release in 2020 and manage to fulfill my expectations I’ll be a very happy camper indeed.

A decade of MMO gaming – Part II

Happy new year, folks!

Last time I talked about the various MMOs I’ve played between 2010 and 2014. Now let’s have a look at the past decade’s latter half.

2015

Decade14

ArcheAge won my heart instantly, but alas, only to go ahead and break it soon after. I’ve talked at lenght about all that here.

The realization that the game was basically rotten to the core hit us pretty early on, nevertheless we continued playing for quite a while. We just couldn’t let go. Its great aspects, those we had so much fun with and that made us feel like we’d found our new virtual home, meant too much to us.

Having started in September ’14 we held on until about July ’15. What finally tipped the scales was the announcement of server merges later that year, meaning that everybody on affected servers – including ours – was going to lose their land. That made us drop the game like a hot potato.

Decade15

I’d read about Marvel Heroes from time to time, but wasn’t all that interested for some reason. Mainly because I thought (and still think) that I don’t really need another ARPG when I can play Path of Exile any time I want, I guess.

Quitting ArcheAge left a huge void though, and we’d just rewatched a couple of great Marvel movies – my favourites are still the first Iron Man, the first Avengers and the second Cap – so it seemed like the perfect time to try it. It didn’t even come close to knock PoE off it’s throne, but it was cool and I miss it.

Decade16

We went on vacation in September, and while we were away we pondered which proper MMORPG we might play next. WoW aside one of the the last AAA titles we hadn’t tried yet was Final Fantasy XIV. Lakisa was up for it from the start, I wasn’t so sure. Reading about its gathering and crafting systems won me over pretty much instantly though, and we ordered the boxes so that they were already waiting for us when we returned home.

The game took a bit getting used to, but we had fun and played it straight all the way until the end of the year. However by that time I was absolutely sick of the game’s stubborn gating of content behind the main story quests, the mandatory group content bits to advance said main story, and also burnt out by the crafting grind, so I decided to quit before we’d even seen the first expansion’s content.

2016

Decade17

Some time during spring I felt drawn to EVE again after a nearly five-year hiatus.* As usual I did some mission running to get into the groove again and pad my wallet. When Lakisa watched me doing that she got interested, played a bit on my account and eventually created her own.

We gave her character a little jump start by injecting skill points I’d extracted from an alt of mine who didn’t use them anymore and tried a bit of everything. Missions, exploration, mining, production. The ultimate goal was to get into PvP of course. By that time I’d read that the Mercenary Coalition, one of the game’s first large merc groups many years before, had reformed and Noir., my former corp, had joined them. They even had a training corp for newbies, Noir. Academy.

Long story short, we joined them in March. Perfect timing that was, because World War Bee was just getting intense and we got to see some really big fights. As academy pilots we weren’t allowed to fly “real” ships though, and having to move your base of operations every two weeks or so gets very tiring, so once WWB fizzled out in late June we decided we needed a break.

* I’d last played in 2011, which I totally forgot to mention in the preceding post. Oops. I was in Noir. Mercenary Group from March until about July, a relatively small merc corporation mainly operating behind enemy lines for their contractors. It was the first time I actually received a wage for PvP – we got a cut of the contract payment depending on activity instead of the usual ship replacement – which was pretty great. I didn’t stay longer for various reasons however.

Decade18

In October we returned to FFXIV. The next expansion, Stormblood, had been announced, and being a huge fan of all things Asian I thought, well, if we start now we should easily be able to get through the story until it arrives.

Yeah…no. I’m sorry, but playing this game is work. I mean, we played on and off (more on than off) until August ’17…

2017

…and we did have some fun, don’t get me wrong. But everything takes so much time here, and, more importantly, you have to do things just the way Yoshy P and co. have envisioned it. I’ve never felt so much like being held on a short leash by an MMO. Of course we did not actually make it through Heavensward and subsequent patches until Stormblood arrived, which meant that despite having bought the expansion we couldn’t even fricking go there and have a look at the new zones and housing districts.

It’s sad because there’s also much to love here, but…I’m sorry…screw that game!

Decade19

In June I started this blog, so from here on out it will be much easier to get the timeline right, and I’ll also have posts to link to in case you would like to know more.

Decade20

I don’t remember if it was Lakisa or myself who first expressed the desire to return to EVE in earnest, but by April we were back in New Eden. To make things easier for us this time around we wanted to join an all-German corp, preferably one operating in low sec. It didn’t take long to find Holy Cookie, and we joined them in May. Through the rest of the year we fought in Alliance Tournament XV, moved to a new home and scored lots of kills in low sec.

I also played Destiny 2 when it came out and had some fun for a while, but its problems soon became too blatant to ignore, and I haven’t touched it since.

Decade21

In December I made my third attempt to get into Black Desert Online. This time it really clicked, and hard. I still don’t know why I couldn’t get into it before only to absolutely fall in love with it then, but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.

2018

Consequently I played a lot of BDO whenever there was no action going on in EVE. This two-headed dragon absolutely dominated my gaming time until we went on a long vacation towards the end of March.

Decade22

When we came home I seemingly needed something different, so I picked up Path of Exile once more. Discovering how fun and strong a summoner build can be in this game made me stick to it much longer this time around. I even played a challenge league somewhat seriously for the first time and reached hights I’d never reached before in an ARPG.

Just like in 2017 the summer months were also heavily shaped by preparations for EVE’s Alliance Tournament and the tournament itself. We fared relatively well once more, but were again put in our place by more experienced teams in the end.

Decade23

In August I returned to Everquest II after a very long break, wondering why the heck I hadn’t played it for this long. Revisiting Nights of the Dead and Frostfell was a real blast from the past, with additional content I didn’t know yet to boot.

Decade24

Come December it drew me back to BDO though, which carried me well into the next year.

2019

Black Desert is a really exceptional MMORPG, and during the year’s first half I played it almost exclusively.

Our corp joining NC Dot in May gave us another big push to play some EVE again though, and it was a pretty fun ride. Lakisa and I didn’t want it to end either, but many corp members didn’t like living in null sec as much as they’d imagined and left, so leadership decided to leave the alliance again. Unfortunately that whole thing was handled very badly by our CEO in our opinion, which made us pretty unhappy. Thus we ultimately left the Cookies after over two years. Lakisa joined one of NC Dot’s corps, Blank Space, and is still having fun in null sec. I haven’t played EVE since.

Decade25

In August a seemingly minor article over at Massively OP made me finally try out Warframe, and I liked it from the start. I see many parallels to Path of Exile here, which is always a good thing, just in the form of a 3rd person shooter. It’s great!

Decade26

That same August also gave us the announcement of ArcheAge Unchained. I dismissed it as just another cheap attempt to rob us blind at first, but as time went on and its release drew nearer I couldn’t resist and tried to inform myself about it.

Well, I’ll be damned! It’s the real deal, and it’s awesome.

If it works, that is.

By now it mostly does though, and we’re having a lot of fun. I played it every day and didn’t touch anything else for the rest of the year.

Honorable non-MMO mentions

Decade27

Despite my huge fondness of the genre I didn’t only play MMORPGs and MMOs during these ten years of course. I won’t (and probably can’t) name all other games I’ve played, but the ones I liked the most, in no particular order, are:

The Uncharted series (2 and 3 are the best), Resident Evil 2 Remake, Limbo, Inside, GTA V, Heavy Rain, Vampire: Bloodlines (playthroughs four to six or something), Batman: Arkham Asylum & City, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Overwatch, StarCraft 2.

Here’s to the next ten years of gaming!

A decade of MMO gaming – Part I

Initially 2019 coming to an end didn’t feel any different to me than any other year. I don’t really tend to think in terms of decades or centuries. A year is a year is a year, as the Ferengi say. At least I think they say that.

Anyway, posts and articles looking back on the last ten years have been popping up left and right, and reading those actually made me wonder what I’ve been up to myself during all that time.

I don’t keep track about when and for how many hours I play any given game though, so I’ll have to piece things together from memory, creation dates of screenshots I took and games’ release dates. Might be fun, so let’s go.

2010

In terms of proper MMORPGs this was a pretty light year for me, probably more so than any other year since I fell in love with the genre in 2001 thanks to Ultima Online. I only dabbled a bit in EVE Online during March and April.

Decade1

I ran a couple of missions in my shiny new Marauder class battleship, which finally made that process at least somewhat efficient and even a bit fun. I wasn’t in the mood to join a corporation at the time though, so there was no PvP action to be had and I faded away again after a while.

Decade2

My main game during the early months was CoD Modern Warfare 2, which I’d bought when it came out in late 2009. Its multiplayer mode had just the right feel and pace for me, and I was pretty good at it, too. It was the last time I could say that about a shooter though.

Decade3

2010 was also the year I played Diablo II for the last time. Since its release in ’98 it had always been my in-between game, filling the gap between other games for a couple of weeks or months at a stretch. It’s definitely one of my all time favourites.

Decade4

I don’t remember where I’d first read about All Points Bulletin, APB for short, but I was pretty hyped for the game’s July 1st release, had it preordered on Amazon and played from day one. Unfortunately it had many flaws and problems, bad weapon-balancing and an abundance of hackers only being the most serious ones. The fact that it launched full-price with a 10$ subscription on top (seriously) didn’t help one bit, so there weren’t many players to begin with, and after a very short time only the most faithful (and the hackers) were left. I believe it was less than two months later that the game’s shutdown was announced for September 16th, earning it the Guinness world record of the “Shortest-lived major MMORPG”, which has to be the saddest gaming-award I’ve ever heard of.

It’s especially tragic because in my opinion the game had some outstanding, very unique features and a crapton of potential, and I was pretty crushed by the shutdown. It was later resurrected by GamersFirst as APB Reloaded however and is still going today, which is great. I play it from time to time, but while most serious issues have been adressed said potential was never fulfilled. 2018 saw another change of hands and the new owners, Little Orbit, seem determined to lift the game from maintenance mode. As of yet not much has happened though, so we’ll see.

2011

Decade5

This was the year I returned to Everquest II once more. Lakisa was along for the ride, making her first foray into the MMORPG genre. We played mostly as a duo, but also joined a friendly guild and did some group content with them. It was a very enjoyable ride and we probably would have stayed longer had another, new MMORPG not loomed large on the horizon…

Decade6

Being a huge fan of both Star Wars and old Bioware RPGs it’s no surprise that I was pretty excited for SWTOR. I applied for a spot in the beta and got in for a very fun weekend with Lakisa looking over my shoulder. After that there was no stopping us. We preordered immediately to secure early access codes and started playing on December 15th, five days ahead of the official release.

We started on Tython as a Jedi Knight / Jedi Consular duo and had a great time.

2012

The year’s first half was completely dominated by SWTOR. We played through the story together, did all side quests, traveled from planet to planet and just enjoyed the ride. We also joined a great German guild, Die Pangalaktischen Donnergurgler. We hadn’t reached level 50 yet when they started to run the first operations (raids), but we were determined to catch up.

Decade9

Meanwhile another new MMORPG had launched though, and I read so much good things about it at Massively-of-old that I just couldn’t resist. I bought The Secret World and fell in love with it so hard that I splurged on the lifetime subscription almost right away, before the first monthly fee was due. The world (man, that atmosphere!), the quests, the skill system, the wardrobe…there was much greatness to be found. I still mostly played SWTOR when Lakisa was at home, but my solo gaming time was solely dedicated to TSW.

Decade8

I had totally forgotten this one, but my screenshots prove that we also tried out newly launched Guild Wars 2 during that same year’s September. Don’t ask me how we had time for all that. It didn’t click with us at all though, so we dabbled for just over a month and never touched it again.

2013

Decade12

At the beginning of the year we briefly tried TERA, but that one didn’t stick either. It had a rather different approach to combat that I quite liked though, I’ll give it that.

Decade13

Once we’d reached max level in SWTOR we joined our guild’s raid group and got our feet wet in Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace. After that we wiped a lot in Explosive Conflict, hunted for datacrons, ran battlegrounds to bash imperial heads in and did lots of other stuff. My favourite MMO raid of all time, Terror From Beyond, was also visited regularly. After a while I started to lead raid groups myself, which was fun too.

Meanwhile our guild leader was burnt out and Lakisa, myself and a good friend of ours volunteered to form a three-headed guild council and share the mantle. It went pretty well, however the responsibilities that come with such an assignment take a toll on anyone, as time would tell.

Decade7

In August I finally managed to convince Lakisa that The Secret World is a game one just has to have played, so I created a fresh character (I really wanted to play as an Illuminati by then) and we gave it a go.

2014

Come spring I started to feel I’d had quite enough of SWTOR. The guild leadership played a part in that – turns out it is in fact impossible to cater to both casual players and progress oriented players and still make everyone happy – but the game itself had also worn thin on me. I resigned from guild and raid leadership and took a break.

Decade10

I’d loosely followed Path of Exile’s development and was intrigued, but I didn’t really think about playing it until I watched the trailer for its first expansion, Sacrifice of the Vaal. In April I finally tried it and the rest is history. It’s a great game with a terrific business model, and it has taken Diablo II’s place as my in-between game I play for a couple of months pretty much every year.

Decade11

ArcheAge is another game I initially didn’t intend to play, but once again the writers at Massively did a great job at conveying the strenghts and uniqueness of this title. By then Lakisa had been the sole remaining SWTOR guild leader for a while and was burnt out quite heavily too, so she was more than happy to try out ArcheAge with me. We played it for the rest of the year and well into the next.

To be continued…

In part two I’ll look back upon my MMO gaming during the last five years. Until then I wish you all a happy and healthy start into the new year (and decade)!

ArchePass returns to ArcheAge Unchained…again

After failing miserably two weeks ago the folks at Gamigo have finally managed to successfully re-activate the ArchePass during last week’s downtime.

So…are we happy now?

Yeah, much to my surprise I think we actually are. Everyone in our little family is having fun doing the things we’d be doing anyway, while the additional rewards are very nice and enable us to do and buy stuff we couldn’t before.

ArchePass1
Yep, even stealing honey got more lucrative than ever before

So what’s changed compared to the first iteration?

One of the two main differences is that the tasks given by the ArchePass are less specific now. Before, we had to kill 30 mobs in region X or spend 50 labor on profession Y. Now we need to kill 300 mobs, period, or spend 2k labor, period. So, like I said, you can mostly do whatever you intended to do anyway and get the pass rewards on top.

ArchePass2
Yeah, yeah, I’m spending my labor, don’t you worry

At first glance the needed amounts seem pretty huge of course, but these are weeklies, not dailies. Also, for kill quests your whole group’s or raid’s efforts count, so doing just one Crimson Rift nets you ~250 kills right there, for example.

ArchePass3
Which might be one reason for people’s renewed interest in it

Furthermore you get six tries per day to change a task you don’t fancy doing into a different one. Overall I don’t find it difficult to always have tasks running that I’ll automatically complete while playing.

The second important difference is that the tasks don’t award gold anymore. XP towards your AchePass-rank, normal XP and two additional diligence coins per task is all you get. Which, to be honest, is plenty. Yes, not having any diligence coins at all was really bad during the first weeks after release. Now we’re just a couple of days into the new ArchePass’ second week (because it resets on Mondays) and I actually don’t know what to do with them, given how many I have. I also have labor potions galore, and the other rewards aren’t bad either.

ArchePass5
33k labor and pretty much all the inventory space I could ever want, among other things

So I guess if I have anything left to criticize about the system’s design it is that it’s maybe, possibly, potentially just a little bit too generous right now. Pssst, you didn’t hear it from me!

It’s still a bit buggy though, because of course it is. Oh come on, had they managed to do this without any hiccups this time we all would’ve thought the sky had fallen onto our heads, wouldn’t we?

It still seems to generate some lag when a lot of players are doing kill tasks at the same time. Those tasks also tend to behave kinda weird when you do them in instances like the Halcyona battleground. The ‘gain one million XP’-task seems to reset regularly, so I’ve always rolled off of that one right away. And speaking of rerolling, pretty often you get the very task you just tried to get rid of again – the jury’s still out on whether that’s a bug or a feature though.

ArchePass4
This is just here because it’s pretty

So there you have it. As a reminder, it’s a system that was mainly designed to give players a means to acquire stuff that can only be purchased with real world money in the original game – inventory expansions, labor rechargers, pretty much anything that has actual gameplay benefits and isn’t purely cosmetic – and in my opinion it’s doing a pretty good job with that in its current state.

Now let’s see what they manage to screw up next, shall we?

Why so serious?

Serious1
Lakisa, Tristron and I cruising around, being anything but serious

The main complaint I’ve heard about ArcheAge since Unchained’s launch – those about the numerous technical issues aside, obviously – is that the game isn’t actually a sandbox anymore because it has turned into a grindfest of daily tasks in recent years.

It’s true that there is a lot of stuff players can do every day. There are various rifts (PvE events located in contested zones, so sometimes PvP does also happen), large and small battlegrounds, many daily quests and various other activities waiting to be done. Some of those even run on fixed schedules, so if you’re set on doing them you have to make time for them when they’re available.

Pretty much all of these activities have one thing in common: they award stuff for advancing your gear or your character. Honor, infusions, awakening scrolls, PvP badges; all sorts of currencies and materials to upgrade your armor and weapons, to buy gems to socket into those items, or titles with stat boosts for yourself.

In essence this is what the complaints are about. Most folks aren’t unhappy that those activities exist at all, their argument is that you have to do all of this each and every day lest you fall behind on the gear curve and cease to be competitive.

Well…so what?

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Yep, we leveled up by beating up a huge pumpkin. Quite unserious

I’ve never understood this urge many people playing MMORPGs seem to have, which is to get to max level and have BiS gear right fucking now. It’s as if they want to be “finished” with the game, get bored and move on as quickly as possible.

Now granted, ArcheAge provides many opportunities for PvP, consensual as well as non-consensual, and not wanting to get stomped at every such opportunity is quite understandable. Still, in my opinion and experience it’s absolutely not mandatory to grind like crazy every day, especially if you don’t enjoy it.

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Running a dungeon without knowing anything about it…much more enjoyable

For the second time now I’ve started playing this game from zero. This time around I was there right at launch, so my progression started along with everybody else’s. Back in ’14 the game had been already out for a month or two, so I was behind from the get-go. Of course I’m behind now too because, well, I do not like to grind every day.

Are there situations where I wish my gear was stronger? Yeah, it happens. But more often than not that being the case wouldn’t make a difference either way.

Most types of small scale battlegrounds deck out participants with equalized gear anyway, so what remains are the large scale battles as well as the open world, where it’s more about strenght in numbers than anything else.

So, no, “being competitive” isn’t all what this game is about, despite all claims to the contrary.

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Fishing is actually pretty rewarding, but also quite relaxing

Like noted above the attitude of wanting to progress quickly no matter the cost isn’t confined to PvP-heavy MMOs anyway, so there must be more to it.

Now, I do get the appeal of feeling more powerful, or of being satisfied with what one has achieved. I have felt it myself. But is it worth doing stuff that isn’t fun for hours, each and every day? I don’t think so.

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We’re even so lucky to have schools of fish right on our doorstep

The kicker is, all those repeatable activities can be fun; it’s the constant repetition that makes them boring and tedious. For the last month or so I have done the Hiram dailies about once a week, Grimghast and/or Crimson rift maybe twice a week and other stuff even more irregularly. The only thing I actually aim to do at least once a day is the Halcyona battleground, but that’s because it’s fun for what it is. The rewards are nice too, but that’s a bonus.

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Getting ready for the slaughter that is Halcyona in potato mode

The much bigger part of my playtime is consumed by all those other, progression-wise “suboptimal” activities I’ve been talking about for the last two months, and some more depicted on the screenshots in this very post.

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I guess nothing’s more suboptimal than buying a Viola that has zero stats on it…I love it!

As a consequence I’m still really happy with the game – and also with my gaming in general. If folks would take their gaming a bit less seriously maybe they’d be happier too and not have to complain all the time.

Wrapping up IntPiPoMo 2019

There’s not much left of November and I’m a bit strapped for time, so today I’ll just give you a handful of assorted ArcheAge Unchained shots to fulfill my quota for IntPiPoMo.

Shouldn’t be too bad though, this is a nice looking game with some rather unique gameplay elements to show off after all.

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Marianople is one of the more realistic depictions of a medieval town I’ve seen in an MMO. I remember exploring every nook and cranny when I got there for the first time. Unfortunately those high towers can’t be climbed, but other than that most of it is accessible one way or another.

Up there you see it in broad daylight, obviously.

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And here it is shortly before dawn.

This reminds me that I definitely need to talk about the game’s gliding mechanics at some point.

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Standing amidst my apple-, olive- and pomegranate-trees, the fruits ready to be picked. The mushrooms are ripe too.

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Farm wagons neatly lined up, awaiting the start of Grimghast Rift. I wish players were always this disciplined…

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I’m blue, da ba dee da ba di, da ba dee, da ba di…

IntPiPoMo picture count: 5 (this post); 51 (total)