Don’t miss out on this – Genshin Impact

An event is currently running in Genshin Impact – as per usual – and I highly advise anyone who’s played and liked the game before to put Valheim away for a bit (c’mon, we all know you’re playing that one right now) and take a look. It’s so worth it on every level!

The event is called Lantern Rite and is most likely based on the Chinese spring lantern festival. Storywise it’s full of feelgood-moments and laughs, the new gameplay mode is awesome, rewards are great and festively decorated Liyue Harbor is a sight to behold.

The quests are all centered around helping Liyue’s populace with their various preparations for the festival, and they’re quite numerous.

I won’t lie, gameplay-wise these aren’t revelatory in any way, shape or form. But, again, the stories are mostly quite good, and you learn a lot about various people, many of which you’ve already met before while doing world quests or daily comissions. I’m really curious now about what the future might bring for some of those NPCs, which is a feat not many games have managed to accomplish.

The new game mode is called Theater Mechanicus, and it’s basically tower defense, Genshin Impact style.

On first glance it’s simple: monsters come out of one or more purple portals and walk (or run) towards one or more blue exit portals. You can’t deal damage with your characters directly, but applying elemental statuses with your attacks works. The only way to actually damage the mobs is to build automated turrets. They come in different flavors, and those that deal elemental damage can also trigger one of the various elemental reactions for even more damage.

The turrets have varying ranges and attack speeds, so careful placement is key, as is choosing the right characters going in. Those that match the turrets you’re intending to use best for setting up the strongest elemental reactions will yield the most devastating results.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like this mode as tower defence isn’t exactly my cup of tea. But I gotta tell you, this is so much fun!

It’s incredibly satisfying to set up big reactions and see a whole bunch of those big shield-wielding hilichurls explode in an instant. Or, even better, once I’d upgraded my hydro turret to level 5 and thus unlocked its ability to trap monsters in a bubble of water I instantly knew what I was going to do: give those annoying Abyss mages a taste of their own damn medicine!

Setting this up took a bit of work, but the result made me squeal with glee

It’s even more fun with a partner – yes, two player Co-Op is enabled for this mode. Lakisa and I play at least a couple of rounds every evening since the event went live.

Of course the rewards are nothing to sneeze at either.

As you can see I’ve already accumulated a lot of the event currency. What can I say, I’m saving up for a big shopping spree, hehe. There’s talent and ascension materials on offer, XP scrolls, Mora, the lot. A very rare Crown of Insight, an item needed to get a character’s talents to level 10, can also be bought, as well as an event-exclusive namecard style.

Probably the best reward of all, at least for F2P players, is a free four-star character. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, but which character we’d get had always been predetermined until now. Well, not this time:

All of these characters are really strong in their own way, so there should be something there for everyone.

At the time of this writing there’s 10 days and 15 hours remaining to play the event, so there’s still plenty of time to see and do everything. What are you waiting for?

I gotta say though, in my opinion it’s a shame that it’s all going to go away so soon. I really hope miHoYo is at least considering leaving Theater Mechanicus in the game in some form. It would be a real waste to take it out completely because it’s well made content that surely took quite a while to develop, and, well, is a lot of fun.

Thanks Paimon, I’ll take it!

Technically not tied to the event, but still worth patching up the game for too, is the current log-in campaign. Most notable are the up to ten Intertwined Fates you can get, which means ten free pulls from one of the time-limited gacha banners containing characters and weapons exclusive to those banners. There’s 8 days and 15 hours left to claim these seven reward tiers, so better get to it right now.

I’m still surprised about the high quality and quantity of content this game keeps getting. Again though, it’s a shame that so much of it isn’t permament, and I really hope they’re planning to bring the best events back at some point – maybe on a yearly schedule or something?

Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me, those turrets aren’t gonna build themselves…

Like opening Pandora’s Box

Last time around I said that Black Desert Online is a complex game. Oh boy, what a hell of an understatement.

Many MMORPGs I’ve played are designed like a pyramid in that once you’ve left the tutorial stage there’s a broad base with lots of different stuff to do at first, sometimes to the point of feeling overwhelmed by it all, but the closer you get to the top your gameplay options seem to shrink down more and more.

BDO is, to me, the exact opposite of that. When I tried the game out for the first time my initial impression was that running from one place to the next and killing anything that moves on the way is pretty much all there is to it. Unfortunately my chosen class’s combat mechanics didn’t feel too great to me either, so I concluded that the game wasn’t for me and dropped out.

When I gave it another shot a year or so later I’d done enough research to know that a bit of perserverance was called for. It just takes a while until more options start to present themselves – at the time your character had to be at a certain level to even see all quests, for example. I think they’ve scrapped that level requirement, but you still need to proactively tell the game that you want to be shown all types of quests, not only those focused around combat.

Anyhow, once all questgivers deem you worthy to talk to a gigantic rabbit hole opens up and you need to take but one step in any direction to lose yourself completely, as Aywren, Bhagpuss and Naithin all can attest to.

Can snow actually remain for long on a moving ship?

And don’t even think for a second that a somewhat seasoned veteran of the game like myself becomes immune to this. Not a chance.

I mean, sure, I did what I set out to do a couple of weeks ago and started a career in bartering with the (distant) goal of upgrading my frigate to a formidable carrack. Still, I actually ended up spending more time on various other stuff. Much more time. Here are some examples.

Believe it or not, this isn’t even the whole map

Not all of the necessary materials to upgrade my ship are acquired via bartering, I’ll also need a variety of normal land goods. Hence my choice is to either gather those myself or let my workers do it for me. I like the game’s gathering, but since I have enough other stuff to do right now I’m not terribly keen on sucking gallons of sap out of trees manually for the next few weeks. Workers it is, then.

However, as most of my contribution points are always in use I needed to redistribute a bunch of them first, so I had to decide which nodes to give up. In doing that I realised that I’d actually been collecting quite I lot of resources I’d never had any use for as of yet.

In the end I freed up and reinvested considerably more CP than I’d originally planned, the result being that my workers now gather lots of materials I didn’t have before, some of which are actually worth quite a lot on the marketplace. The whole process did take some time, but should pay off nicely.

Please just ignore the outfit…um, it was Halloween, ok?

Yeah, I’ve also picked up fishing again. Not quite voluntarily, mind you. The thing is, there’s a questline on Crow’s Nest, an island hidden out at Ross Sea, that awards a very generous amount of ship upgrade materials for only little work. Or so I’ve heard.

Well, technically it is true, only that the NPC in question now wants me to catch a tuna and bring it to her. Tuna’s a rare fish though, and what’s worse, my fishing skill isn’t high enough to see tuna hotspots yet – at a hotspot you only catch the corresponding type of fish – so whenever I’m not doing something else right now I’m trying to bring my fishing skill up to snuff.

Have you noticed this little checkbox above your horse’s health and stamina bars? It’s not really hard to see, but it still took me a while to realize it’s there, probably because it hadn’t been there yet when I’d last played the game, and I usually don’t pay much attention to those bars anymore.

Holy crap, what a game changer that is! You see, of all skills horses can learn Sprint is the most important one because it provides such a big speed boost. Still, even with that skill at my disposal I sometimes want to use the auto-ride function and do something else while traveling, which, without Sprint, can take ages given the huge distances. Hence this change is a pretty big deal.

Only when I played my main I couldn’t check the box however hard I clicked. Then I finally took the time to read the tooltip:

Well, that explained it. Of course my life skill alt already had the Training skill above Artisan 1, but my main, who only ever uses max level horses and thus doesn’t get to level up his own skill, did not. However, he travels much more and much farther than the other character, so I felt he really needed this too. Consequently I went back to taming and training horses.

Fortunately last week’s patch enabled 50% boosts to both horse XP and Training XP, just at the perfect time for me. Those buffs will stay active until February 9th, by the way.

The Striker hit Artisan 1 on Monday, so now he can ride like the wind too while I play Genshin Impact or something.

As a side effect I also have almost a dozen new tier 5 horses in my stables, which is the highest tier that can be caught in the wild. I’d thought I was finished with breeding for good once I had two good tier 8s, but why let this opportunity go to waste? So now I’m leveling all those horses up – four at a time, in front of a merchant wagon – to breed them, then the foals will be leveled up too, and so on, until I have some more tier 8s. Maybe I’ll even go for a ‘Dream Horse’, who knows?

Yeah…a fast horse really is a godsend

As if all of this still wasn’t enough I also stumbled upon the fact that a couple of legendary items have been added to the game – and for once these really deserve that lofty adjective.

How about HP- and Mana-potions, a compass and a teleport-item that aren’t consumed upon use and never expire?

Believe me, in BDO these amenities really are legendary. Depending on the class you play you’ll consume potions by the hundreds if not thousands rather quickly. A compass lets you use the map on the high sea and in the desert – a big quality of life boost if you traverse these regions regularly. An item that teleports you to the nearest town can also be a huge boon in a game that has you run everywhere on your own otherwise.

Of course getting even one of these is a monumental undertaking. I decided to go for the HP-potion first. When I checked out one of the grindspots I’ll have to kill mobs at for a rare drop I noticed that there weren’t any daily kill quests available nearby, which is highly unusual.

It turned out that I hadn’t advanced the region’s main story questline far enough to see them. As a matter of fact I hadn’t even finished that of the previous region either. So I postponed the grind and started questing. I also did a few side quests on the way, but only those that didn’t force me to make any detours. “Only” ~150 quests later I arrived at the grindspot and, lo and behold, now there are daily quests on offer.

Needless to say, I haven’t gotten that rare drop yet, nor any other component for the potion.

On the plus side, I got about quite a lot once more

And there you have it. As you can see playing this game can really be like opening Pandora’s Box, only that in this case it isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually quite a lot of fun.

Four? For this gourd?? It’s worth ten if it’s worth a shekel!

I hadn’t engaged in Black Desert Online’s sea content – or the game period, really – in quite some time until about a month ago, which means that I completely missed, among other things, a pretty big overhaul of said content.  The Great Ocean update, released in October 2019, added new islands, quests and ships, a crew system for the bigger vessels, and a completely new way for mariners to make money: a sea-based bartering system.

BDO is a complex game though, and it took me a while to reacquaint myself with all the different systems and layers. However, once I felt comfortable with the day by day gameplay again I couldn’t wait to board my trusty Epheria frigate and try the new stuff out.

Going ashore on a yet unexplored island

As it turns out there’s a lot of additional stuff to do. My ship, the cream of the crop back when I finished building it, basically ranks just one step above ‘cockleshell’ nowadays, for example. Especially for bartering it’s barely adequate as its cargo hold can’t carry all that much weight. It’s a start though, and as most of the materials needed to upgrade the ship further are earned via bartering and defeating sea creatures anyway this seems to be working as intended. I’ve got to work my way up, as it were.

And that really doesn’t bother me at all, because frankly, once I’d finished building the frigate and crafted the corresponding gear almost two years ago I lost interest in the whole sailing thing rather quickly. My big goal was achieved, and at the time there actually wasn’t all that much to do out at sea beyond that, at least not for solo players.

Now I have another long term goal to pursue, and I also know that there’s an actual use for it once I’ve reached it.

This is a carrack. Look at that beauty…and all those cannons!!

As for the bartering system itself, I think it’s pretty neat. In a nutshell, you trade certain ‘normal’ goods like raw or processed materials for Level 1 trade goods at one place, then take those someplace else to trade them for Level 2 goods, and on it goes up to Level 5. With some exceptions low level goods serve no other purpose than to exchange them for higher tiers, while tiers 4 and 5 can be sold to NPC merchants for hefty sums of silver or a special currency used to buy various goodies.

Trade goods are very heavy and need to be in the ship’s cargo hold in order to barter with them anyway, so getting a bigger boat soonish is definitely advisable.

Seems like a good deal…I guess? (click to enlarge)

What the system doesn’t entail, despite this post’s header, is any kind of haggling. What can I say, I just can’t resist an opportunity to use a Python quote. Anyway, I’m actually pretty glad that there’s no negotiating involved, as the game’s onshore trading already has something like that, and I really don’t like it.

Which doesn’t mean that there’s no RNG involved however, because of course there is. This is BDO after all. You can reroll the trade routes a couple of times per day, and from what I can tell everything about it is completely random: which land goods are required, which Level 1’s you get for them and what you can trade those for in turn, where everything is etc. Not rerolling at all isn’t an option either as every trade route runs dry after a certain amount of barters.

Grilled bird meat? Hell yeah, I can do that!

Consequently, to make efficient use of your time and resources you need to carefully plan which routes to take, how to optimize your available cargo hold, when to reroll and even what to trade and what to keep – that Level 2 piece you’re about to give away might well be needed at a later point to exchange for ship upgrade parts, for example.

I will say that it all seemed a bit tedious at the beginning, but the more barters you’ve completed the more routes open up, which reduces the need to regularly make overly long trips for just a single exchange by a lot. It’s actually starting to be quite fun now.

I also really like that I finally have a meaningful use for all those land goods. Ever since I play the game I’ve had workers accumulating all kinds of resources for me, and while I’ve obviously used up some here and there the majority has just been collecting dust in my warehouses. Of course I could’ve sold any surplus to other players at any time, but I didn’t want to – I might still need that stuff at some point, you see. Yeah, I’m a hoarder when I play RPGs, sue me. And, what do you know, at some point is actually now. Ha!

Yep, bird meat up the wazoo. Care for some eggs or mushrooms too?

The new questline also introduces players to sea monster hunting. I’ve done quite a lot of that back in the day to collect materials for my frigate’s cannons, sails etc., but I’m still glad about the refresher because the damage- and hitpoint-numbers have apparently been tweaked since then, and it’s actually feasible to shoot them with my cannons now instead of trying to ram them to death (!).

This is definitely much more fun, and it also makes me look forward to getting the upgrades for my frigate even more – not only will those have more cannons to shoot with, I’ll even be able to fire broadsides right from the steering wheel instead of climbing down, manning a cannon and firing it manually, then climbing back up to change the ship’s potition, and so on. Can’t wait!

For the moment this works well enough though…BOOM

So, yeah, if seafaring is your thing and you’d like it to be just one aspect of a proper MMORPG – instead of playing something like, say, Sea of Thieves – I can wholeheartedly recommend giving Black Desert a shot. Just be aware that pretty much everything in this game is a marathon rather than a sprint. Don’t expect to be cruising around in your carrack within a week or two.

Personally, I like it that way. Finishing the frigate felt like a real achievement at the time, and I feel those are rather hard to come by in most modern MMORPGs.

Sidenote: if you’ve played BDO in the past but don’t right now you might have missed the memo about Kakao Games handing over publishing duties for the game’s western version back to Pearl Abyss pretty soon. You need to transfer your data over to a Pearl Abyss account before the end of May, else you’ll lose everything. Naithin and Bhagpuss have all the details, should you need them.

Events done right – Genshin Impact

Yep, I’m still playing Genshin Impact every day. As great as the game is, I honestly didn’t expect it to have this much staying power in my gaming lineup, what with the likes of Cyberpunk 2077, EVE Online and ArcheAge Unchained vying for my free time, and as if those still weren’t enough I also longed for some more adventures in Black Desert Online around mid-December (as per usual), so I’m playing that one again as well.

Even so, the thing about Genshin Impact is that its developers, miHoYo, definitely do not rest on their laurels – nor their piles of Dollar bills, probably high enough to make Uncle Scrooge blush. Quite the contrary. Frankly, I haven’t seen such a high cadence of new and interesting stuff to do in an online game, like, ever.

Now, granted, in terms of what’s usually referred to as content patches we “only” got two since the game’s release at the end of September, with update 1.1 being rather smallish (yet pretty epic) and 1.2 giving us a whole new region to explore and lots of other cool stuff. Not too shabby overall for just over three months’ time, especially given the current circumstances.

However, what really makes all the difference, at least to me, are the events – lots and lots of events.

Always accompanied by these really nifty charts to guide you and track your progress

It certainly feels to me like the periods of time with at least one event up and running exceeded those without any by quite a bit. Impressions can be deceptive though, so let’s check.

Here’s an overview of all ‘proper’ events we’ve had until now (stuff like Gacha banners, test-scenarios for new characters or login-campaigns don’t count, obviously):

    • Elemental Crucible (October 12th-19th)
    • Marvelous Merchandise (October 26th-November 2nd)
    • Stone Harbour Treasure Journal (November 13th-22nd)
    • Unreconciled Stars (November 16th-30th)
    • Gliding Challenge (December 4th-14th)
    • While it’s warm (December 11th-18th)
    • A thousand questions with Paimon (December 18th-20th)
    • The Chalk Prince and the Dragon (December 23rd-January 5th)

The game was released on September 28th, which was exactly 100 days ago at the time of this writing. If I didn’t miscount (which is entirely in the realm of possibility though) 65 of those had at least one event active, which means that my gut feeling was indeed accurate.

Yummy…I’d rather have kept these for myself to be honest

Having events running constantly is all well and good, but of course the deciding factor is whether they are actually fun to do, isn’t it?

Unfortunately the very first one, Elemental Crucible, wasn’t all that good. It was forced Co-Op, meaning that bad pings or other players not doing what they were supposed to could really mess things up. It was also pretty grindy, and to add insult to injury the rewards weren’t even worth all that hassle. I didn’t have high hopes for any future events after this one, to say the least.

Clean sweep, gold medals all around

I don’t know whether it’s because folks at miHoYo actually took player feedback to heart or if they just needed some time to get into a groove, but in my opinion each and every event that came after the first was much better in every regard, and they still keep getting better yet.

As for technicalities, they’re less grindy, Co-Op is always optional and the rewards are decidedly on the generous side now. More importantly though, they’re really fun to do, and there’s something there for everyone.

Gliding Challenge, for example, was all about…well…gliding challenges (which Lakisa hated, but I had so much fun doing them that I earned all the gold medals on her account too). While it’s warm tasked players to deliver food from one place to another within a certain time frame, always with some caveats like not being allowed to sprint, glide and/or climb or take damage. Stone Harbor Treasure Journal was more like a browser game than anything, but pretty fun too.

Also definitely more on the silly side, this one

Of course combat-loving players weren’t left out in the cold either, especially the two multi-week events provided lots of it. If I have one criticism about the last one, The Chalk Prince and the Dragon, it’s that the repeatable boss fight that made up the fourth and last stage of the event was actually harder in Co-Op than alone and rather annoying in general. Other than that though I was really happy with this one too.

What’s more, the next three events are already announced, all coming in January. Lost Riches will run from 8th to 18th, Hypostatic Symphony from 16th to 31st, and the second run of Marvelous Merchandise from 23rd to 30th.

This is what astounds me the most: until now absolutely no part of any event has been reused for another, it’s all been brand-new every time.

Just look at this one, it’s almost a piece of art

Of course there are also two possible downsides to miHoYo’s approach.

One, it certainly seems like a lot of developmental time and effort spent on something that’s only in the game for a week or two. One might argue that this much effort – we’re talking multiple chapters of story including fully voiced cutscenes in some cases – should rather be spent on content that stays in the game permanently. As it is now, if you haven’t played the game while the events were active you’re simply out of luck. Unless they bring them back at a later time you won’t be able to experience them.

And two: fear of missing out. If you play the game more casually, maybe not even every day (imagine that!) the time-limited nature of the events combined with the generous rewards they offer may well make you feel like you have to log in and do them regardless. I know that Lakisa would much prefer the events to come at a much slower cadence than they currently do.

Free character? Hell yeah, I’ll take it, even if it’s a nutter like this one…

Personally though, I’m pretty happy with how things are going. Again, the gameplay is mostly fun, the rewards are great, and it isn’t actually all that much to do every time either. On average I’ve probably spent about twenty to thirty minutes per day on event stuff while any were active, and with few exceptions it was absolutely possible to take a day or two off and still finish everything. Seems like a pretty good balance to me.

The most important bit though is this: I have always stuff to do, but it’s pretty much always something new. This is so much better than running the same dailies over and over and over, and I’m tremendously thankful for that.

So, yeah, as far as I’m concerned look no further than Genshin Impact for ‘events done right’. Keep ’em coming!

Cyberpunk 2077 – First impressions

Welp, only one of my four most anticipated games for 2020 managed to actually launch. Considering what kind of year it’s been that’s the least of my worries though, obviously.

Anyway, Cyberpunk 2077 is finally here. Or is it? Depends on who you ask, really. As far as the majority of console players as well as some PC users are concerned the game isn’t even remotely close to being a finished, playable product.

I won’t rehash the stories about myriads of bugs, Microsoft and Sony offering full refunds and the latter even pulling the game from its store, corrupted save files and everything else that went wrong. Let’s just say that it ain’t pretty.

Like that guy on the right. Not pretty at all.

If I didn’t actively follow the gaming news I’d know nothing about all of this though, as my own experience with the game has been drastically different. A few graphical glitches here and some (unimportant) items that I wasn’t able to pick up there…that’s the whole extent of problems I’ve encountered during just shy of 30 hours played.

And I’m having a lot of fun, too. I’m not quite as enthralled as Jeromai and Belghast seem to be (at least not yet), but as a fan of the genre roaming around Night City is definitely a great experience.

I actually can’t tell you why I’m not totally in love with the game at this point, because I honestly don’t know. It has a lot going for it, that’s for sure.

This city feels more alive and real than any other place in any other game I’ve been. The atmosphere, already very good by day, cranks up to 11 at night. The contrast between rich and poor, people with power and those without, is palpable. Death lurks at every corner, it feels like – not for the player, mind you, but for normal people.

I didn’t really have a preconception of what the game world should look and feel like beforehand, but if I’d had one it probably wouldn’t be very far from what we’ve got.

The quests are pretty good too. Each and every one of them, even those of the shorter, optional variety, has a story to tell. You will find no kill ten rats quests here.

The tone is very bleak though, and while I’d expected as much going in some events still managed to get to me pretty good.

[Spoiler] For example, one side quest asked me to retrieve some stolen meds. Once I’d made my way into the culprit’s hideout I could’ve just killed him and called it a day of course. Instead I managed to talk him into just handing the meds over peacefully. He turned out to be a former soldier with PTSD who just wanted the stuff to make the pain go away.

Satisfied with myself for not killing the poor guy I turned around to leave the place, when a gunshot cracked. I immediately knew what had happened, and sure enough there he was, his head blown off by his own shotgun. For a minute I just stood there, feeling numb. Then I just left without giving the place or anything in it another look. I didn’t take his gun to sell or dismantle either, although that’s what the game teaches you to do all the time from the get-go…but I just didn’t feel like it. For some people there just isn’t a happy ending in the cards in this world. [End spoiler]

The gameplay of shooting, slashing, sneaking and driving works well enough, although nothing feels quite as smooth and polished as a Call of Duty title or a racing game, respectively, but I guess that’s kinda expected when a game has everything and the kitchen sink thrown in.

Variety comes in the form of hacking, which is unfortunately nothing more than a little, non-complex mini game, and the braindance, which is to relive a recorded segment of someone’s experiences, including everything they’ve seen, heard and even felt. It’s basically an advanced version of the SQUID clips from Strange Days. The kicker here is that you can switch to ‘editor mode’ and analyze the scene thoroughly to catch every little detail, even if the recorded person perceived something only subconciously.

Despite the overall dark tone the game isn’t completely without humour, thankfully. Some conversations, and especially the dialogue options my character is given, are hilarious, and there are many little details strewn all over the game world that made me laugh.

He doesn’t know how to use the three sea shells, he he ho ha he…

What I really don’t get is how we don’t have a proper wardrobe system. I mean, this is an RPG, right? One that even lets us freely choose any combination of male and female looks, voice and genitals (not kidding!). When the ability to define who and what exactly my character is is so damn important, why the hell can’t I wear the clothes that I want to wear without compromising my defensive stats?

I mean, seriously, look at the shit I’ve worn so far:

Stop laughing, this is NOT funny!

I’ve been doing all kinds of serious stuff, even given a speech at a friend’s funeral, while looking like this…I can’t think of much that kills immersion quicker and more thoroughly than that.

Maybe that’s why I’m not completely enthralled by the game despite liking a lot about it – it kinda doesn’t feel like it’s my adventure. This character, V, is doing all that shit, and I’m just along for the ride.

Quite literally…

This is definitely complaining about first world problems though, because the game is, in my opinion and on my hardware, really good. If you like this kind of game and own a decent PC I can absolutely recommend giving it a shot.

And now I wish you all a good and healthy start into the new year. May it be better than this one. Not too much to ask for, is it?

How to level up slowly in Genshin Impact

Whenever a new game with any kind of RPG mechanics hits the shelves it usually takes mere hours until a plethora of videos pops up on YouTube showing us how to LEVEL UP FAST!!, or something along those lines. Of course it’s been no different with Genshin Impact, as you can see above.

My general bewilderment about people’s urge to be “finished” with a game as quickly as possible notwithstanding, in this particular case it really, really puzzles me. As I talked about last time, while playing at my usual pace my adventure rank kept rising much faster than I would have liked, all the way up to 40, and although the required amount of XP increases with each rank it didn’t slow down all that much even then.

To prevent the ever increasing world level from ruining my enjoyment of the game I decided to do something about it, so I took a closer look at how much adventure rank XP each activity actually yields. It’s true that a lot of stuff awards some of it, but as it turns out the amounts vary by quite a bit.

Without further ado, here’s what you can do to LEVEL UP SLOWLY, as it were, in Genshin Impact.

Let’s start off with the big kahuna: daily commissions.

Once you’ve reached adventure rank 12 you can do up to four daily quests, depicted on your map by a purple symbol. They are usually quick and painless (also sometimes fun) to do, and they award a whopping 250 AR XP each, as well as another 500 once you’ve completed all four. That’s 1,5k XP per day right there, or up to 10,5k per week.

To put this in a bit of context, at AR 12 you only need 1,650 XP for the next rank! At AR 24 it’s 4,300 XP, and still only 7,175 XP at rank 34. As you can see refraining from doing these commissions will slow down your levelling speed considerably.

Unfortunately there is one big drawback to this however, as these quests are also a source of free primogems, the game’s funny money used to buy more resin and, most importantly, to wish (gamble) for characters and weapons. By not doing the commissions you’re missing out on 60 primogems total per day, so you need to decide what’s more important to you.

Personally, I’ve stopped doing them almost two weeks ago and I’m much happier with the game for it.

The next biggest source of AR XP are non-repeatable quests, meaning your archon, story and world quests.

Of course I’m absolutely not suggesting to ignore those, as they are one of the game’s strong suits and so much fun. However I do advise to take your time with them. There isn’t that much story content in the game yet anyway, so rushing through it will only make you run out of ‘stuff to do’ sooner (as per usual).

Also, world quests usually award 100-400 XP each, story and archon quests even more on average, so doing quest after quest after quest will contribute to raising your AR pretty quickly while not helping a lot with progressing your characters to match.

Then there are the various repeatable activities you need resin for: ley lines, abyssal domains and bosses. These all award AR XP too, but as your available resin is limited you can’t do them ad nauseam anyway.

Hence my only advice here is not to use primogems to buy more resin – which I wouldn’t do anyhow as I’d rather be able to make more wishes.

The other source of additional resin, fragile resin, one-use items awarded by some quests and for hitting certain adventure rank milestones, are best saved up until you reach at least AR 40, as you’ll get much more bang for your buck then. At that point the 100 XP per 20 resin spent aren’t going to speed up your levelling all that much anymore, so knock yourself out.

Various aspects of game world exploration also reward AR XP.

Treasure chests, for example, spit out some XP in addition to weapons, artifacts and upgrade materials, but the amounts are pretty negligible. A common chest gives a mere 10 to 20 XP (I believe it’s 20 when you open it for the first time, and 10 after respawn), exquisite chests yield 20, precious chests 30 and luxurious chests 40. At least the latter two types don’t respawn (I’m not sure whether there are exquisite chests that do), so overall this doesn’t contribute to your AR all that much.

Unlocking teleport points, turning in Anemoculi/Geoculi to level up your Statues of the Seven and stuff like that also gives you some AR XP, but these are things that you’ll always want to do at the first opportunity for obvious reasons. As none of this is repeatable it isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things anyway, so I don’t see any potential nor need for savings here.

Of course there are also activities that don’t award any AR XP at all.

Running around the map and killing stuff, for example mini-bosses like ruin guards or abyss mages, is fun and supplies you with many different materials you’ll need to ascend your characters and weapons.

While you’re doing that you can and should take the time to also pick up any flowers, fruits, ores…basically anything you come across that isn’t bolted down. These, too, are needed for ascension as well as cooking and forging. Keep in mind that some characters can help you hunt down specific stuff. Having Klee or Qiqi, should you be lucky enough to own them, in your active party makes region-specific gatherables appear on your mini-map in the Mondstadt and Liyue regions, respectively, and Ningguang does the same for all kinds of ore no matter where you are.

You can also always do Spiral Abyss, but since I’m not a big fan of that mode I can’t tell you much about it. I think that it doesn’t award any AR XP though, so there’s that.

One last tip, if you want to finish your weekly battle pass challenges but don’t have enough resin and/or don’t want to get the AR XP you can still do ley lines, domains, elite bosses and weekly bosses, just without claiming the rewards at the end, and you will get credit for the battle pass.

In summary, if you want to slow down adventure rank progress in Genshin Impact you should stop doing the daily commissions, take your time with questing, not use primogems to buy additional resin and only start using fragile resin at AR 40 and up. Other than that you can pretty much do whatever you fancy while levelling up at a much more casual pace.

I enjoy the game a lot more when I play like this, and maybe you will too.

Genshin Impact – A Janus-faced jewel

For about five weeks now I’ve been playing Genshin Impact each and every day, and I still enjoy it a lot. A couple of days ago we got the first content patch since the game’s release, which gave us some more things to do, new characters to chase and a whole bunch of great quality-of-life upgrades.

I’m playing in my usual middle-of-the-pack kind of way, neither chasing to max-level (or max-something) as fast and efficiently as possible, nor “just” exploring and goofing around.

That being said, I’m now rapidly closing in on adventure rank 40, which means that my world level and thus the game’s overall difficulty will increase for the fifth time (the world level goes up every 5 ranks starting from AR 20), and let me tell you, this is having a dramatic impact on how I play the game. Or rather, how it pretty much has to be played.

Casual players’ reaction to the difficulty curve; power-gamer in the back, smirking

I feel Genshin Impact is basically a mashup of two very different types of game, and if you plan on playing it long-term you’d better like both of those, else you might find yourself having a hard time.

On the one hand it’s a lighthearted and funny, well-written story-driven RPG-light with lots of exploration and many oohs and aahs along the way. I haven’t laughed this much while gaming for a long time, and that world…just wow.

It’s also one of the few games that give me dialogue options I would actually say myself

Until about AR 25 I was primarily running all over the place, doing quests, opening chests and collecting anything that wasn’t bolted down. I didn’t pay much attention to my characters’ stats at all, only when I saw mob levels noticeably higher than mine did I use some XP items – of which I had plenty –  to push my weapons and characters to match.

However, at AR 30 at the latest the game turns its head and shows its other face, and this one is a very much progress-oriented and exceptionally grindy not-so-light-RPG that gets harder and harder quickly and has you scrambling just to keep up.

Sounds bad? Well, again, it depends on whether you like this sort of stuff or not.

I am liking it thus far, yet I can clearly see the downsides too.

This required more effort than meets the eye

My main DPS character, Razor, is maxed out for my current AR bracket, meaning that he’s level 70, as is his weapon, and his skills are all level 6. My go-to support DPS, Xiangling, and my main healer, Qiqi, are close behind.

All other characters I own are much below that though, and many are still at level 1. Which is a shame, as I would really like to, for example, check out Fischl as another support alternative, or see if Chongyun could be a good main DPS for my second team, but I just can’t afford to “waste” any resources on them. I don’t even have a second team to speak of. Because, again, I need to focus on my main characters as the next world level increase looms.

For the last three weeks or so I’ve even kind of followed a schedule, as this is just how the game works.

On Mondays and Thursdays I farm talent mats for Qiqi and, to a lesser extent, Barbara. Leftover resin, if any, is used to farm whichever elite boss I need character ascension mats from.

On Tuesdays and Fridays I’m going for Razor’s and Xiangling’s talent mats, as well as ascension materials for some of my secondary weapons.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays it’s heavy farming for Razor’s claymore, my main source of DPS, and more elite bosses.

Lastly, on Sundays I only kill bosses as the domains are on a weird random-drop rotation that’s pretty ineffective.

Getting the three aforementioned characters up to snuff required spending pretty much all my available resin – which, by the way, is the game’s slowly-regenerating energy resource aka gating mechanic most mobile games have (or so I hear) – on these activities. Even now I’m not allowing myself to branch out much as I want to be ready for AR 40, meaning that I continue to farm the exact same mats so I can spend them on these characters the moment the game lets me.

In addition to the above I do the daily comissions, try to fulfill all daily and weekly tasks for the battle pass, and also make my rounds around the map to kill various mini-bosses for their drops. It’s a busy day, every day.

As I said, so far I’m having fun doing all this stuff. I’m just not sure how long it will last. I really hope that adventure rank progress slows down significantly after 40, because it just rises too fast for my taste. I’d like to try out other characters, I want to go and explore again (still have some Anemoculi and Geoculi to find), and do all the quests I haven’t done yet because I didn’t have the time (and because they give massive amounts of adventure rank XP, speeding up the treadmill even further).

Technically there is a way to slow this process down a bit. At AR 25 and 35 you are offered an ascension quest. Until you’ve finished it you don’t get the perks attached to that rank (being able to ascend characters and weapons further, getting more/better loot etc.), your rank doesn’t go any higher and the world level stays the same too. At the time I didn’t see the benefit – who doesn’t want to get better rewards for the same activities? In hindsight I would have liked to stay at 35 for a week or two. Or maybe rather not, as the XP you get during that time isn’t lost, and you might well skip a couple of ranks if you wait long enough, possibly even resulting in a double world level increase. *shudders*

Bottom line is, there’s no escaping it. If you like the game and play a lot your world level will rise constantly no matter what you do, and you’ll have to try and keep up if you don’t want the game to become tough as nails.

Now, of course I know that some players like their games tough – or don’t perceive the same things as tough that I do – so your mileage may vary. Personally, I was fond of the gameplay as relaxed as it was in the beginning. I get by, but I really don’t want it to get any harder still, hence I keep grinding to be as strong as possible.

So…is it even worth playing if your preferences are more on the casual side, then?

Right now my answer would be yes. The characters are fun to play, combat is slick and the progression systems motivating. It’s grindy, but doesn’t feel like a chore, is what I’m saying. That story, character development and voice acting are far above average by video game standards and the game’s open world just sublime goes without mentioning at this point….and yet I did just now. Fucked that up, didn’t I? Anyway, yes, it’s worth it.

This doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never played a game quite like this though – one that combines two extremely different and, arguably, contradictory playstyles and absolutely does not let you opt out of either. Maybe over in Asia this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but to me that switching of gears came very unexpected.

At least you now know what you’re getting yourself into should you pick up this game, if you haven’t already. What to do with it is up to you.

Just let us play our characters please!

The other day I finished the Glassmaker storyline in Warframe. I’d been looking forward to the big finale quite a lot, as this was the first Nightwave episode that I really liked in terms of lore as well as gameplay.

The investigation part played out as usual, and while the last item gave me a bit of grief because it was really hard to spot I still enjoyed it overall.

Then came the inevitable boss fight.

Dude, where’s MY big-ass sword??

I’m not a big fan of boss fights in general – multiplayer games usually being the exception – though this one, while a forced 1 vs 1, wouldn’t have been too bad were it not for one huge design “twist” that all too many game devs seem to be so very fond of using – taking away our weapons and/or abilities and replacing them with something else.

So here I am facing off a 50-foot monster, having equipped my most efficient, highly powered tools of destruction, the acquisition of which has taken much effort over the course of months – and I can’t fricking use any of it.

Instead, I have to dodge lumps of glass the baddie is throwing at me (when he’s not busy swinging his one-hit-kill sword), then pick them up and throw them back at him. I’m not even kidding!

Did I still whup his ass on the third try and got my rewards? Sure. Was it fun though? Hell no.

Game devs use this weird design crutch again and again – and that’s what it really is, isn’t it? A crutch. Beating this particular boss would’ve been a cakewalk had I been able to use my regular weapons and frame abilities, so they just didn’t let me.

*sigh* Alright…let’s do this!

Ok, sometimes it might not be that. When The Secret World takes away our powers so we have to punch our way out of the baddies’ underground lair with bare fists it’s for lore reasons and also for, well, fun, I guess. That whole mission chain is one big homage to the Indiana Jones movies after all.

And it is fun…for about two minutes. Unfortunately it gets old really fast, but the cultists keep on coming. By the time we got out of there on our very first playthrough I was determined to never do that mission again.

If this is what the afterlife’s like I want no part of it!

Over in Transylvania another quest tranforms us into some sort of wraith – and again all of our familiar abilities vanish from the hotbar, to be replaced with two simple, rather underwhelming attacks and one self-heal once more. The following fight was…not pleasant.

I sure hope you will, because I fucking can’t

Of course Everquest II did it too. I guess over the span of 16 years it was bound to happen at some point. Being a rat was good for some laughs at least, I’ll give them that.

Look, I get it. Stuff like this probably seems like a good idea on paper.

It gives players a diversion from their usual gameplay – which can get somewhat stale when you play an MMO for long enough, no argument there – and might also serve as an unexpected twist or even comic relief when done right.

I do not think that the benefits ever outweigh the drawbacks however.

You see, dear devs, by the time you throw this stuff at me I’ve most likely long made my choices. The class I play or frame I use, the abilities or skillsets I’ve picked and the weapons I wield – all of this makes up the character I want to play. You know, because it’s the combination I have the most fun playing.

Letting us pick – or, more often than not, work hard for – our favourite toys and then, out of the blue, being all like “Nah, you can’t use those now; here, have a dull teaspoon and some cotton balls instead” is, honestly, kind of a dick move.

I can’t be the only one feeling that way either. Actually, I know that I’m not. Bhagpuss talked about really disliking it when several of Guild Wars 2’s Living World issues pulled that kind of stunt more than once, for example.

I feel aversion is quite a natural reaction to this, because, again, we don’t play the characters we play by accident. We do because we like them just the way they are.

What my Bruiser’s hotbars normally look like…

Of course the fact that whatever it is that our familiar gameplay loop gets replaced with in such cases is, more often than not, objectively worse and less fun doesn’t help one bit. But that’s not really a surprise, is it? The core gameplay of every MMO, even a freshly released one, has usually been years in the making. How could some ‘gimmick mechanic’, only meant for one event, one quest or one boss fight ever match that?

So, dear game devs, please stop doing that kind of stuff.

My favourite restaurant doesn’t serve an old loaf of bread instead of the meal I ordered for the sake of ‘variety’ or ‘surprise’ – or just because it’s easier and cheaper to do – either, does it?

This is why I don’t play video games on mobile

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing Genshin Impact. A lot. It’s really awesome. I’ll probably talk about it in more detail sometime, however Bhagpuss’s first impressions and his fondness of the game’s fantastic exploration aspects mirror mine to a T, so I feel like I don’t have much to add at this point.

What I do want to talk about is my experience playing it on mobile, which is what the majority of players seems to be doing (I don’t know this for a fact, but I highly doubt that the PC and console versions combined come even remotely close to mobile’s 23+ million downloads).

In a word: Thanks, but no thanks!

Ok, that’s actually four words, but you get the idea.

Of course I was pretty stoked about the possibilities at first. Being able to play my current favourite game on PC when I’m at home and on my phone whenever I’m not? Hell yeah!

During my first two weeks in GI I made it a habit to fit 10-15 minute play sessions into my lunch breaks to burn some resin, the obvious benefit being that I didn’t run into the resin cap before getting home. Also, well, playing a great game during lunch break for a bit – what’s not to like?

Here’s the thing though: it isn’t nearly as much fun to play on the phone. At least to me it isn’t.

Genshin Impact might have been developed with mobile platforms in mind first and foremost, yet as far as I’m concerned it is a ‘real’, a ‘proper’ video game. What I mean by that is that it sports a fair amount of complexity, not only in terms of progression systems and such, but also when it comes to the actual gameplay and control schemes needed to execute said gameplay. Play itself this game does not.

Maybe I’m just too old for that kind of stuff, but playing the game on my phone instead of the PC kinda feels like playing with one hand tied behind my back. Hitting the right buttons for normal attack, special attack, ultimate and dodge, swapping characters in and out as needed, all while making sure to actually face the enemy I want to hit and being in range…it’s too fiddly and, frankly, too much for my thumbs to handle. I have only two, after all.

It isn’t just the combat either. Exploring the game’s gorgeous open world, collecting countless doodads and solving puzzles is tons of fun – actually more fun than the combat in my opinion – if the controls play ball. Which, on mobile, they do not.

On PC I have no problems whatsoever climbing walls and statues, doing balancing acts across narrow ledges or performing pinpoint-accurate landings with my glider. On the phone though? Oh boy. I couldn’t walk in a straight line with those controls if my driver’s licence was at stake. When one quest asked me to scale the largest statue in Mondstadt, stand on its hands and spread some dandelion seeds to the winds I was this close to throw the damn thing out the window.

So, yeah, it’s not fun and I’ve stopped doing it.

Gameplay issues aside, my phone doesn’t like the game much either.

I use an iPhone SE2, which sports the same CPU as the iPhone 11, so processing power shouldn’t be lacking. The game runs smooth enough for sure, but the device gets freaking hot within minutes. I’m not talking Need-to-wear-oven-mitts-hot, but it comes really close to that.

Also, the game sucks battery life like crazy. I usually charge the thing every three days or so; while I played those mere 10-15 minutes per day I had to plug it in every evening. Longer sessions would only be possible while charging at the same time – provided the phone doesn’t melt when doing that – which kind of defeats the purpose of playing on a mobile device, no?

In conclusion, playing Genshin Impact on my phone has, in my mind, confirmed what I’d assumed all along: there are mobile games and there are high-quality video games, and a game can be one or the other, but not both.

When I think of mobile games I mean those that are quick and easy to play, can be interrupted at any time and don’t strain hardware or player too much. Back when I had to commute I played stuff like Bejeweled or SEGA Heroes (which is Bejeweled, essentially) every now and then just to kill some time. It’s a good thing that games like those exist, don’t get me wrong. Even so, going by my definition this kind of game has as much in common with high-quality video gaming as Big Brother has with high-quality TV entertainment.

So yeah, please keep your promises of Our mobile game will be just as great as its predecessor on PC/console to yourself, dear developers – *cough*Blizzard*cough* – because it fricking won’t be.

Screen real estate, hardware specifications, power supply and, above all, controls – these are important things that set phones and tablets apart from ‘real’ gaming hardware, which is why even the highest-quality mobile game in existence – which, most likely, is Genshin Impact right now – can’t be nearly as enjoyable as its stationary counterpart, if it has one.

Hence, however great your game might be, if it can only be played on mobile I’ll never touch it, period.

Crossplay rocks!

A working colleague who became a good friend of mine is also a gamer, so you can imagine that our water cooler conversations revolve around our mutual favourite topic more often than not.

He’s a dedicated console user though, firmly rooted in ‘Camp Xbox’, whereas I’m a PC-gamer through and through, and what little console gaming I do happens on the Playstation.

So despite kwowing each other for about 17 years and even having occasionally played the exact same games at the same point in time we had never actually played anything together (except for Guitar Hero in the same room at his place once or twice).

Until last Wednesday evening, that is.

I initially wasn’t sure whether I’d buy Star Wars Squadrons at all, but once I saw that it supports crossplay I realized that The Day might have finally come.

Setting everything up wasn’t quite as easy as I would have liked though. We didn’t want to use the ingame voice-chat, so I had to figure out how to join an Xbox party first. I installed the Xbox App, thinking that I’d need that, but then discovered that Windows 10 comes with a thing called Xbox Game Bar pre-installed. Using that is more fiddly than it needs to be I feel, but once I got used to it hooking up with my buddy on his Xbox became quick and painless.

And lo and behold, we were voice-chatting for the first time. A wonder of technology, only two decades late.

As for the game itself, I honestly can’t remember how we managed to add each other to our ‘EA friends’ lists, but once that was sorted too we were able to form a squadron and queue up for a co-op match. The excitement!

Alas, the game isn’t great. It’s fun for a couple rounds, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t see me (or us) play it for weeks or even months. There’s just too few game modes, and the one where it’s at – because it has the big star destroyers and stuff – gets quite tedious rather quickly. Also, since we didn’t want to get our asses handed to us by more experienced players we only fought against bots – and got our asses handed to us regardless. By bots. On easy difficulty. Either we are just bad, or the game’s balancing is really weird.

Still, dusting off my old joystick paid off nicely, as I assume with mouse/keyboard or controller things would have looked even more grim.

I bought this for Battlefield 3 years back; still working great

Anyway, this particular game being not as good as hoped doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of finally being able to play together. I can’t stress enough how big of a deal this is for us.

I really hope crossplay will become more and more prevalent as time goes on. Most games are released for all big platforms anyway – and have been for years now – so tear down these walls, I say!

Speaking of which, a new game that also sports crossplay basically came out of nowhere a few weeks ago and has become all the rage in this corner of the blogoshpere – Genshin Impact seems to be a real gem, and Lakisa and I are definitely going to try it out. All that’s missing is an Xbox-port, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be in the works either, but one can hope.