Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Moder-ing! What's your price per flight?

Sunday night was once again upon Team Spode. Calrain and Tipa had expended a ton of effort prepping for what was surely an anti-climatic fight for them, but epic for myself and Lars Spode.

Since there was no way I could have been any help to the team in close quarters, I spent more time crafting fire arrows than actually fighting Moder the dragon. 

Once we were in position, Tipa spawned the mighty dragon and we did glorious battle with the beast.

Just look at those beady, blue eyes!

It was long and uneventful aside from a random Stone Golem attack, but there was a lot of dodging and running back and forth as Moder's mighty breath weapon rained down upon us. We also discovered a delightful viking song, sung to the tune of Sister Christian by Night Ranger, that we could sing to while slaying the dragon: "Moder-ing, what's your price per flight. I've got him in my sights. And slaying through the night." 

What a beautiful gradient of blue and red coalescing in the horizon . . . oh yeah, and there's a dragon.

Eventually Moder had broken into tears and we had the head of the beast, which Tipa, Calrain, and Kasul had already ensured was on its sacrifice stone, but we paid a visit to it anyway.

Let no dragon stand between Team Spode and our conquests

And that was that . . . I spent the rest of the night crafting the mighty Iron Sledge and going on a walk about with Tipa and Calrain. We actually tip-toed into the deathly silent Mistlands to look around amongst all the cobwebs and creepiness. 

I'm gonna just go out on a limb and say there's probably spiders in there

Then I found an old tower and hammered it to death with the Iron Sledge just to say I did it.

That was super satisfying, not gonna lie.

Unfortunately Iron has been one of the harder resources to obtain, so I'll need to make a trip or two to an unexplored swamp biome to secure more. Once I have more Iron I can fully upgrade said Iron Sledge and really do some damage with it.

Since that time, I've also logged in and crafted (and fully upgraded) the Frostner epic weapon as well since Team Spode has infinitely more silver than iron. Wow! What a difference having this weapon makes. I'm finally able to stand toe to toe with Trolls and destroy them with a melee weapon -- obviously good gear and food help as well.

Taste the steel of my mighty weapon, troll!

I finally feel like I can just run around and explore this world instead of creeping around and fearing for my life at every turn.  It feels great!

Thanks to my buddies in Team Spode for making Sunday night a fun evening . . . all that's left is that final boss, Yagluth the giant skeleton. BRING IT!

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Stingite Unleashed -- Bless my Soul

 A few days ago I was reading through the feed over on MassivelyOP and found an article about an MMO that hadn't hit PCs yet, and that MMO is Bless Unleashed. So I thought to myself, "Self, we has a PS4 ya? YA! Self, shall we download? YA!"

I went to the PS4 and lo and behold it's a free to play MMO just waiting to be downloaded. Cool!  I downloaded it over lunchtime and then finally came back to it late in the evening.

Character creation was less than impressive, but the graphics were pretty great for my standards -- look I played Project Gorgon for a year, I have low standards. Bless Unleash has amazing graphics as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, you don't really get to choose minor details of your face and classes and races come bundled together (at least for the Beserker), so the customization of your character is a bit lacking. That said, I created a pretty sick looking version of Stingite and began following the main quest line.

Stingite the Beserker at your service

Apparently I'm a Varg, which is a race of wolf people. The in-game lore doesn't seem to give a lot of details other than Varg are pretty agile and come from the forest . . . also that I'm peaceful unless provoked.  I can get with that.

The controls for attacking took a bit to get used to, but I suppose that's my problem. I don't typically play with controllers . . . I'm a WASD warrior of the keyboard clan, so it was a little weird pressing Left 1 and then pairing that with the main buttons of the controller to attack. It took me another 15 minutes to realize that Right 1 and 2 were my standard attacks, so I was killing stuff with opening moves only and thinking WTF is going on with this game.

It's not too hard to follow on the main quest line so far. The mini-map puts a big blue shield over the main quest givers, a beacon shining in the sky, and a blue trail of sparklies to lead you to your objective.  Nice and easy.

It took me another 15 minutes to realize pressing the left joystick down makes you run.

When you're playing a free-to-play MMO, it feels like the whole time you're just wondering in the back of your head . . . ok, game . . . when are you going to show your ugly monetization head.  It's just how it works.  Eventually you're going to hit that enticing pay wall and want to leap. That nagging feeling of anticipation is actually super annoying.  I guess I've just hit it too many times to know that . . . yup . . . it's coming.

The first real signs of it happened when I talked to the "Equipment Specialist."  He wanted to teach me all about fortifying my gear.  Yup. Future me was saying, "You know what that means . . . costly failures at high levels when the stakes are high. Brace yourself."

Hello fellow Varg. Yes! Teach me the ways of your expensive fortifications.

I did notice after I fortified my weapon, stuff was dying much faster . . . so it helped! I am both interested and frightened to see where the real monetization hooks are. Until then, I guess I need to just quell that nagging thought in the back of my head and enjoy the ride.

Someone in the chat was complaining about waiting in queue for a dungeon for a long time and there was some discussion of server population, but I encountered plenty of people right out the gate. The first "big" boss you fight is a giant wolf, and myself and three others downed him pretty easily. Later I was running down a long pathway full of wolves and a little mage fella and I were working great as a team clearing the path. He even shot me a friend request, so to me, those are all positive signs.

By the end of my first night I was level 6 and had enjoyed myself.  The story was interesting and I felt like I was part of a world undergoing a shift in power. If I can get a hang of the controls, I'll for sure be playing this game a bit more.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Of Swamp Crypts and Bonemass -- Spodeheim Adventures

Team Spode continues our delve into Valheim and has started a serious look at what lies beyond the Meadows and Dark Forest, and I gotta be honest . . . the real heavy lifting in the group has not been done by me. I've been busy trying to restructure my life after a bit of bad health news (I have diabetes now -- got the news a couple weeks ago), tending to our nana (who's visiting from Colorado), and playing a little Tomb of Annihilation (guilty as charged).

The real heavy lifting for Team Spode has been from Tipa, her boyfriend (Kasul), and Calrain.  These cats have set up a smelting and refining station and have it all down to a science. I started to fall behind once the Bronze Age hit, but the heavy lifters have brought us all solidly into the Iron Age.

Last night I got to reap the rewards of their heavy lifting with a pretty great adventure to down the mighty Bonemass, a blob of a boss where poison resist and frost arrows are a thing of beauty.

You like cereal, Bonemass? Have a taste of frosted arrow crunch!

This was their second dance at the Boss, but my first. (Edit: Apparently it was their third dance with Bonemass according to Tipa!)  It actually went very smoothly thanks to their practiced hands and generous gifts.  In fact, when I logged in, Calrain had put a chest of goodies right outside the door to my house.

Did I craft them myself? No. Do I care? No. Do I have cool friends? Yes!

After defeating the Bonemass, we collectively decided to head to a Swamp Crypt that Calrain and I had spotted earlier in the week and gather what goodies we could.

Team Spode outside the Swamp Crypt -- a successful haul of iron in hand

We cleared the place with ease . . . then we decided to go into the Plains biome. Whoo boy. There was a herd of Deathsquitos and Fulings that made quick work of me. Again, the heavy lifters took care of the problem, and I was once again strapping on my gifted armor. Let's go team!

Up next is a visit to the mountains.  Apparently that's gonna happen sometime this week, and we'll all soon be opening up "current endgame" gear with a dead Dragon in our rear view mirror. 

Apparently updates for the game are in the future! Viking Minecraft is a hit! Valheim goes on. :)

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Tomb of Annihilation Pt2 -- Surprisingly Short, Surprisingly Fun

I finished up Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation yesterday on normal mode, and it was pretty great! Acererak was a worthy final foe, but I almost wish he was a tad harder! 

Imagine if THIS GUY was an unlockable and playable character . . .

Halfway through the fight he starts teleporting all over the board and healing each turn while dropping AOE nukes on  you, but it was nothing the dream team of adventures couldn't handle.

Things in the game actually got better in the last half of this game than they were in the first. Especially after two things happened:

1- I learned I could rotate the map using the Q and E buttons -- then I could finally solve some of the puzzle tiles that popped up while playing.
2- There was finally a tile aesthetic change.

Yup, as you descend into the Tomb of the Nine Gods, you ditch the jungle themed tiles and enter into the dungeon themed tiles . . . and a few other interesting surprises like being chased by a gigantic Stone Golem steam roller.

I may have to play this map again and actually try to kill the golem instead of running . . .

Unfortunately the biggest surprise was how quickly the game ended when there appeared to be so much more map to explore. I'm guessing that they planned for expansion, but the game didn't do well enough monetarily to warrant it.

Just look at all that empty unexplored space to the east . . .

The game does have DLC material, but unfortunately it comes as an additional hero you can play (the druid) or a pay to win weapon and supplies for each of your characters.

The only point here seems to be to sell me something I didn't need.

So after defeating Acererak, the game becomes about unlocking Steam achievements and finishing the game on Horrific mode and also trying to craft all the items for each character. Each character has a main hand, off hand, armor, and an accessory that can be crafted up to legendary.  To get the items to craft, you basically just need to play the game.

Basically . . . can I turn the nodes on the map purple . . .

I like the game well enough that it'd be a fun challenge to turn all the nodes purple, and I very well may do that, but I'm unsure how much longer I'll play the game.  

I did like how playing this game reminded me of how much I enjoy turn-based combat and Dungeons and Dragons in general. That's reward enough.

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Long Road to the Tomb of Annihilation

I've had a super bad case of the D&D blues the past couple months. I started jonesing for a game and the first thing I did was search up playing dungeons and dragons alone. It's not nearly as pathetic as it sounds. There were several interesting options including something called Endless RPG, A book dedicated to soloing D&D,  and an advertising heavy site called RPGBOT that has basically an advanced text adventure using D&D Mechanics. Ok, maybe that does sound a bit pathetic.

The obvious answer from an MMO perspective is to load up good old DDO or Neverwinter, but I'm feeling a bit burnt out on both to be honest. So many hours on DDO . . .

Next I went to Roll20 and found an interesting link to a Discord server that promised a Westmarch style world with multiple pick up games throughout the day where DMs post games and players sign up on an ad hoc basis. It was exactly what it promised, but what I found out is that my life doesn't necessarily promote picking up and playing for 3 to 4 hours on an ad hoc basis, so I left the server just after creating a character.

Several weeks later I had completely forgotten about my D&D quest, until just a few days ago when my attentions had turned to the subject of "What games can I play as a lizardman?" popped into my head.  Yes, these are the thoughts that pop into my head. Steam Curator had a list for me, but that's when I remembered . . . oh yeah! D&D!

And that's when I stumbled upon a game I wanted to get so many years ago called, "Tales from Candlekeep - Tomb of Annihilation."

What a lovely Yuan-ti with a flaming sword of doom. BRING IT!

You see, it's a 15 buck turn-based game that is basically the videogame version of the boardgame that costs around 60-75 bucks on Amazon. So I sprung!

Basically you play as a pre-generated (boo!) group of heroes going through the jungles of Chult in turn-based fashion, unveiling new tiles of the board one-by-one. I would have loved to have rolled up my own lizardman ranger beastmaster instead of a lizardman paladin, but c'est la vie..

. . . and you can play as a lizardman!

Gotta say that for a $15 game, it's pretty solid so far -- if you have the tolerance for all that comes bundled with turn-based games -- and that's usually time and patience.

Most of the missions involve kill quests, but others involve things like finding the exit before the dreaded death curse hits your party . . . though the really cool moments come when you find a big boss.

A six-armed ape! Yes please!

I actually bought the hard-cover Tomb of Annihilation back when I was playing D&D all the time before coronavirus killed the fun. My plan was to run the group through it, but all of that kinda . . . you know . . . fizzled out.

Anyway, it's cool to see encounters I had read about in the book being played out in the game. I dig it. Unfortunately, it does suffer from repetitiveness. I haven't seen much as far as tile-variation. It all has kind of the same look to it, and that's getting a bit boring, but I do love the exploration of the campaign map and the crafting system for improving your characters. Pretty neat systems.

Ahh, Nanny Pupu! It's good to meet you!

I don't think it'll fully scratch that D&D itch, but missions are typically pretty quick, something I can pick up and put down easily, and it hasn't been too bad working through the campaign map so far. 

All in all, this feels very much like a fun little distraction until I beat the game, then I'll probably be done with it -- never to return -- like so many other single player games that are out there. You know what I'm saying?

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Valheim = Spodeheim Fun!

Almost a week ago, Team Spode decided to make the jump into Valheim together. If you haven't heard, Valheim is all the buzz right now, and it's increasing traction in viral popularity.  We had to try it, and I have to say . . . I'm loving me some Viking Minecraft!

Sailing songs while heading to conquer unknown lands!

This game y'all -- this freaking Viking Minecraft game y'all -- it's super addicting and fun.  I can't tell you how satisfying it was to craft my own bow and arrows and sling an arrow to kill a deer.  It just feels so amazingly satisfying.

Oh I did!

In just a week's time, Team Spode is now in our "bronze" age and everyone is busy using their pickaxes on Tin and Copper all over the world of Spodeheim!

Lemme break down some of the major events so far:

1- Calrain was the first to stake out an area near some water and build a home.  

2- Tipa quickly followed Calrain and started building a home nearer to the Black Forest.  

3- I, as the infamous Stingite, then arrived on the scene and built my home (lovingly called "Junkertown") just next to Calrain's place.  

The Greydwarves would like to take a rip-tire to this place!

4- Tipa ups and tears down her house and builds a new one closer to us along with her boyfriend.  

5- We surrounded the whole living area with fencing and dubbed the town "Brendaheim" in honor of Tipa. 

6- Dreamy shows up and builds her house inside the now walled-safety of Brendaheim -- incidentally over a spot where I was keeping a pig farm (it didn't work out so well). 

7- Son of Spode and Lord Spode himself arrived to round out our little town, complete with a treehouse!

~~

I'm getting to the point where I can anticipate at least a couple of my enemies' movements. Like Greydwarves -- These dudes like to come in and swing -- if I back up just a touch so they miss, I can just zoom up and get in a couple swings and BAM dead.  Trolls! I kite those with a bow -- they give a very telling grunt when they're going to swing at you. It's the perfect queue for hitting the run button, swivvling around and plunking one with an arrow. It takes a bit, but that troll hide makes some really awesome leather. What I really need to figure out is how to melee one of these guys down.

All in all I've had some fine moments this past week, like this time when Tipa, Calrain, and myself went to down Eikthyr.

So much fun.

Next up is the second boss of the world. I'm sure we could take him down individually at this point, but what's the fun in that.

Happy Dueling!