What I’ve been up to lately

As you might have noticed I haven’t been posting a whole lot as of late. Or more precisely, even less than in previous months.

The main reason is that I’ve been looking for a new home. In real life, that is. Finding a place in Cologne – or any other major city, really – that’s nice, located somewhat conveniently and affordable is quite a challenge, and it took about six weeks and almost a hundred applications just to get viewing appointments for a mere handful of places that weren’t complete crap.

In the end I found the perfect apartment though. Still a bit more expensive than I would have liked, but I feel it’s worth it. I’ll definitely show off some pictures once it’s all done.

Which it isn’t yet, of course. Far from it. Tomorrow the keys will be handed over to me, then the real work begins. Out with the flooring and wallpapers, new wallpapers in, painting the ceilings and walls (maybe also the doors and/or radiators), replacing part of the kitchen, in with the new flooring. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget shopping for furniture and of course the move itself. Le sigh…

No, this is not it. Despite what you may have heard we have actual buildings and stuff in Germany

In between all of that I still got a bit of gaming done though, because of course I have.

My main game right now is Arknights, which I stumbled upon a while ago when I went through my favourite Genshin Impact content creator’s backlog.

It’s a tower defense Gacha game for mobile platforms, and it’s surprisingly great.

Why are we beating up a giant tentacled flower, you ask? It’s evil, that’s why!

It’s by far the most complex and motivating tower defense game I’ve played. Not that I’ve played many. Anyhow, I’ll go into more detail in another post; for now all I’ll say is that it’s a lot of fun and also fits my current schedule perfectly because it doesn’t require a big time commitment.

For the record: No, I technically still don’t play mobile games, I use the Android emulator BlueStacks to play it on PC. 😉

The one time we both weren’t dressed like complete lunatics

I initially didn’t intend to buy New World because not much of what I’d seen and heard about the game up until launch made me feel like it’s a game I’d enjoy.

Lakisa and a couple of our friends were pretty keen on playing it though, and once Amazon Game Studios had assured us that we’d eventually all be able to transfer our characters to our friends’ servers I ultimately got on board so Lakisa didn’t have to play on her own until then.

Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing that the server transfers indeed worked out as planned for our whole group, because otherwise Lakisa would now be playing on her own regardless.

It’s not the queues, bugs and exploits that bother me. I mean, sure, those were/are huge problems, but stuff like that can and hopefully will be fixed. The game just doesn’t manage to make me want to play it, is all. Which is kinda weird since, on paper, many of its individual design aspects do seem right up my alley after all. Only, as it turns out, it doesn’t do any of them in a way that appeals to me.

As you know I’m a huge fan of virtual worlds. Having to get to places on foot never bothered me in other games – it even enhanced the experience more often than not – but in New World I got sick of running back and forth while questing well before reaching level 20. I like action combat, but here it feels clunky and cooldowns are too long for the few abilities we have. I like tanking, but aggro management in this game is a complete clusterfuck. I like gathering, but the long gathering times and severe weight restrictions suck the fun out of it. I like the idea of players fighting over towns or regions, but being at the mercy of other players regarding whether or not I can craft certain stuff in “my” hometown and how much taxes and rent I have to pay isn’t something I appreciate.

This could almost be a real photograph though, couldn’t it?

The world of Aeternum looks exceptionally good, I’ll give it that. However, right now that’s pretty much the only nice thing I have to say about it, and that’s obviously not nearly enough. Lakisa and our buddies are having a blast, and I’m happy for them, but I’ve called it quits for now.

Behold the Argonath! Err…no, sorry, wrong game

The title I would be playing the most right now had its launch not been delayed is, of course, Lost Ark.

I didn’t want to spoil the actual launch experience by playing last week’s beta too extensively, but at the same time I was too curious to not play at all. In total I got seven hours in and played two characters to about level 14 or so, the Striker and…err…a gal with two pistols, a shotgun and a sniper rifle. I can’t remember most of the classes’ names, now that I think about it. There’s a Bard on offer though, should you be so inclined.

To be honest, my first hour playing the Striker was rather boring. After that the game fortunately picked up the pace and I started to have quite a lot of fun. Combat, obviously the heart and soul of any ARPG-like, felt pretty good once I’d gotten used to it, and had me coming back for more. I chose to skip the prologue with the second character and consequently had fun with her from the get-go.

Strangely zoom levels are either very far out or very close, nothing inbetween

Had it not been for the fact that all progress was going to be wiped after the beta ended I certainly would’ve tried to get some more hours in, so I was clearly enjoying myself a lot. Can’t wait for the actual launch.

At the end of the day nothing beats the classics

Lastly, we’re also still playing Diablo II Resurrected from time to time. Our duo of Fireclaw-Druid and Frozen Orb Sorceress has just defeated Baal on normal difficulty, and my solo Skellymancer has arrived in Act II on Nightmare, which means that he now finally has a mercenary with the damage-boosting Might aura under his command.

Baal kicking the bucket never looked this good

And there you have it.

As I said in the beginning, posts will most likely continue to be thin on the ground around here for the forseeable future, but once things have settled down a bit I’ll not only be the annoying acquaintance who can’t shut up about his fancy new place with the great view, I’ll probably also have ample time for gaming and thus more stuff to talk about again.

This fall is going to be (a) killer

It’s been almost two years since I stumbled across Lost Ark and wondered when the heck I might be able to get my hands on it. Well, it looks like the wait is almost over now.

Turns out the mysterious-but-not-really publishing deal between Smilegate, the game’s Korean developer, and Amazon was indeed about Lost Ark, and now we know that it’s slated to release in the NA and EU regions “this fall”.

Which is great. Of course my personal hype for the game had waned considerably after hearing a whole lot of nothing about a western release for so long, but I’d still very much like to play it, for all the reasons I’ve talked about in the post linked above. So, yeah, bring it!

Only that…

… just yesterday we learned that Diablo II Resurrected will launch very soon too, on September 23rd to be precise.

Half a decade ago this would have been a must-buy no questions asked for Lakisa and myself. However, given how much goodwill Blizzard has managed to squander in recent years, especially when it comes to remastering their old classics, we’re taking a much more cautious stance. In other words, we’ll wait for the launch, see how it goes and what people have to say about it, and then decide.

What we’ve seen until now looks promising though, and if they indeed get it right this time we’ll sure as hell play it. Diablo II is nothing less than one of our all time favourite games after all, and even gems like Path of Exile or Grim Dawn, superior as they are content- and mechanics-wise, haven’t quite managed to recapture its magic.

Which basically leaves just one question: with not one but two great games I’ve been looking forward to for years launching almost simultaneously, how will I find the time to actually play them both as extensively as I intend to? All those monsters aren’t gonna kill themselves, you know.

On the other hand, if that’s my main worry right now things are really looking up, aren’t they?

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.

Looking forward to Lost Ark

I don’t often get hyped for a game before I can actually play it, at least not anymore. As we all know sky-high expectations almost inevitably lead to disappointment, so I’m trying not to fall into that trap.

The gaming industry has given me a helping hand with that in recent years. There just weren’t many game announcements for me to get excited about, sadly. Of course I’m looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 though. I mean, who isn’t? But even in this case I’d describe my current feelings as mild to medium anticipation rather than anything resembling hype.

Cyberpunk_Keanu
More Keanu is always a good thing though

So nobody was more surprised than myself when I stumbled upon this video review of a Korean game called Lost Ark, and somewhere in the middle of watching it I already wanted to play that game right fucking now!

The funny thing is, I’d actually been aware of the game’s existence because I’d read about it over at MOP a couple of times, but somehow I hadn’t quite grasped what kind of game it actually is. The fact that we can’t play it here in the west without jumping through some serious hoops surely helped with filing it away under not interested without a second thought.

Thanks to Quin’s review I now know that it might be the almost perfect game for me.

LostArk_Gameplay

Lost Ark seems to be, at its heart, an Action RPG like Path of Exile or Diablo. So far, so good for my taste. However it has some qualities that no other ARPG I know does, most of which borrow heavily from MMORPGs. My favourite genres rolled into one nice package? Count me in!

Keep in mind though that I haven’t played it myself. All knowledge I have about the game comes from the videos linked throughout this post as well as a few others, so I might have misinterpreted some details. Also, most of the videos aren’t exactly recent and stuff might have changed already.

Anyhow, here’s why I’m anxious to play the game and hope for a western release, which unfortunately hasn’t been officially announced yet at the time of this writing.

LostArk_Map

The game world is huge and can be traversed and explored quite freely. It’s not an open, seamless world however, as the individual areas are all instanced. Still, I think compared to its peers this one should feel much more like a world rather than just an assortment of zones. The fact that you travel from continent to continent by boat and discover islands and who knows what else during your journeys adds a real sense of exploration and adventure, which is also lacking in most ARPGs.

LostArk_Fishing

Lifeskills! OMG, the game has lifeskills. There’s a whole talent tree that’s seperate from combat stuff and solely dedicated to six different forms of gathering: herbing, fishing, mining, archaeology, woodcutting and hunting. Apparently each character can learn all of them, but I assume that if you want to get really good at one you need to specialize.

What little I know about the skills themselves does sound pretty cool, obviously the devs weren’t content with doing your typical run-of-the-mill stuff. Mining, for example, doesn’t just let you mine rocks, you can also learn the ability to blow up certain obstructions and thus get access to resources you couldn’t reach otherwise. Or how about fishing without having to hold your rod all day, placing traps and bait instead? I like it.

LostArk_Siege

One thing I really dig and that I haven’t seen on this scale in any RPG whatsoever until now is epicness, for lack of a better word. Here are two good examples (I can’t for the life of me manage to embed the videos with a predetermined starting point, so I’ll just use links for you to click):

Watch at least 30 seconds of this clip for some epic siege goodness. A bit later on there’s more cool stuff as well.

Here you will see about 25 seconds of environmental destruction and oh crap moments. I highly recommend the video as a whole too, as it is an entertaining summary of how the first few hours of the game look and feel.

The only games I’ve played to date that have this kind of in-engine epic moments are the Uncharted titles and GTA V, but even those don’t have literally hundres of units on screen. Scattered across various videos I’ve also seen player characters riding zip lines, floating platforms and mine carts, jump over ravines, mount strange beasts and lots of other crazy stuff. Pretty impressive. Also, this:

LostArk_Mech

Then there’s the fantastic training room which lets you check out every subclass or ability before you make your decisions. You can spawn waves of mobs and even bosses so you can actually test everything in a somewhat real environment instead of just hitting thin air or training dummies. This is so great, I wonder why hardly any RPG has something like it.

What about content? There’s reportedly lots of stuff to do for PvE- as well as PvP-oriented players. Dungeons, raids, world bosses, instanced PvP, island PvP (whatever that is) and more. You can also have an island of your own, but I couldn’t find out what you can do with it.

Progression systems are supposedly more akin to those of MMOs than ARPGs, but I don’t know what that means exactly. Some people even feel that Lost Ark isn’t an ARPG at all, but rather an MMORPG that happens to be played in isometric perspective. If so that’s fine by me too.

LostArk_Boss

There are also some cons. Aren’t there always?

Many activities in the game are gated by a minimum ilvl. I hated that in FFXIV, and it will almost certainly piss me off here too at some point.

A lot of abilities have quite long animations which lock you in place. Since there’s a total of 12 classes with even more to come I just hope I’ll be able to pick a couple that suit my playstyle.

There’s other bits and pieces like genderlocked classes or weird pathfinding, but nothing too serious or even gamebreaking from my perspective.

Overall the game sounds right up my alley. I really hope it comes to the west, and soon. You hear that, folks at Smilegate? That’s soon as in soon, not as in soonâ„¢. Can’t wait!

A shoutout to Quin69, TheLazyPeon and ZiggyD for their awesome videos. Thanks guys!