Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Atari VCS First Impressions

Hello team! It was Christmas just a few days ago, and I got a cool new present from Santa, an Atari VCS. Check it out!

Going Retro!

Lemme just do my best to quickly catch you up on the world of Atari VCS in case you have no idea what that is. A couple years ago Atari released a modern console that plays the Atari retro games you came to know and love back in the 70's and 80's in a brand new expensive package that includes an exclusive game shop, a few streaming video services, and even a blank slate PC Mode. It's Linux based, and it comes with an updated classic joystick controller, a more modern controller, and a free series of games known as the Atari VCS Vault.

Now for the bad news . . . just on the 20th of December (8 days ago as of writing this post), Atari provided a statement to Tom's Hardware that sounded troubling. Basically they stopped manufacturing the VCS with their current partner, but Atari swears up and down that they are committed to keep the VCS platform software chugging along. The best guess here is that the early adopters of the Atari VCS that accounted for a 2.44 million dollar hardware revenue in 2021 have fizzled out, and last year they only made $212,466 in hardware sales. That's a big drop in sales. (Honestly, the sticker shock of paying $250 plus for a newfangled trip down memory lane has got to be the big stopping point for many people.)

Over the past three days I've had a chance to dabble a bit with my new VCS and have some initial impressions and stories that I wanted to share.

Day 1

My first experience (after downloading updates and whatnot) was loading up the Atari VCS Vault and playing a few of the old classic stand up arcade games that they featured . . . and it was awful. I mean it. The classic joystick controller they give you is actually pretty cool -- they've tied a paddle controller function to the joystick so you can rotate it like a paddle, but even after turning the sensitivity down, it was still bad. This was exactly the same for all the games that would have traditionally required a paddle controller. 

Trying to turn the sensitivity down is an adventure unto itself

Side note: The VCS can't take screenshots . . . so . . . camera photos it is . . .

Atari likely knows this and simply doesn't care, but MAN . . . that's a really bad first impression to provide me with a classic game alongside a poor play experience.

Day 2

On my second day of the VCS, I dove back in to give it another shot and reloaded the Atari VCS Vault app after I read somewhere on the Internet that there were a lot more games in the vault than I realized.  You're actually able to go down a level from the classic arcade game cabinets and play a slew of classic Atari games.  It's just a menu selection down. (My bad for not reading the line of text at the bottom of the screen)

Adventures of the Atari VCS Vault

Now we were talking.  The classic Atari games really played well with both of the controllers, and it was an absolute blast down memory lane.

My favorite comment was from my youngest who was watching me play Slot Machine (an Atari game I never got to play with as a kid), "Imagine coming home from school and this was the game you were looking forward to playing."  It's got such bad graphics. LOL. On the other hand, I had a chance to talk to him about slot machines and how they work. By the end of the play session he was cheering me on while I went on a losing streak that amounted to losing 300 bucks of game money while trying to hit the jackpot. 

He then got in on the action and played against me in the classic Atari games of Basketball, Bowling, and Combat.  Good times.

Day 3

The VCS comes bundled with a game streaming app called Antstream.  You can download this app on to your phone by the way. You don't need a VCS to play, but the controls on phone are really lacking. 

It's all about the challenges! The Pac-man challenges that is!

Antstream asks you to subscribe, but you can play for free until your gems run out.  A little tip here. Don't use Facebook to log in to Antstream if you're also going to use it to login on Atari--also, don't use the number sign as a part of your password . . . for some reason the Antstream keyboard doesn't have a number sign.  

Anyway, with Antstream you can play "challenges" that give a new twist to classic games . . . things like, get a high score in Pac-man using only one life or play Pac-man with power dots disabled and see how high you can score.  Your score earns you a medal and a placement on the leaderboards.

So there you have it.  That's my first experiences with the Atari VCS. It's a quirky little machine that's probably being discontinued. You have to struggle a bit to use it, it doesn't take screenshots, and has some weirdness to it, but once you figure it out, there is actually fun to be had there.

Up next for me with the Atari VCS is actually buying some of the weird games they have for sale in their Atari game store for the VCS. There's some cheap games in there that look pretty fun. 

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Who plays VR Dungeon Knight?!

I saw my son kick up a Steam game the other day, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to have some fun since I hadn't ever talked with him on Steam before. 

who else has the friendly necromancer blogspot in their description?

He cuts deep with those comments. I've taught him well. But he's got a point there, who else plays freaking Dungeon Knight VR?

Zero players online . . .

Apparently I'm it . . . at least anymore. There are 273 people in the official VR Dungeon Knight discord, so I'm definitely not the only player EVER.  It's far too good of a game to be the only player EVER.

The problem is that the developer was one single, solitary guy, and back on August 19th, 2022, he announced that amidst burnout and depression he was calling it quits on the "in development" game, noting that there were enough bugs in it that he wasn't confident calling it a full release. He also said that he was happy about the game in general though since it had become the VR Co-op Dungeon Crawler he dreamt of.

Where does that leave me, a guy who just bought the game in 2022? Well, it leaves me playing a solo VR dungeon crawler with an interesting progression system and some unique side systems. This is now my fourth VR dungeon crawler game. I started with In Death Unchained, then tried Vanishing Realms, then Karnage Chronicles, and now VR Dungeon Knight. It's a genre that interests me. From all appearances, Ancient Dungeon VR is next for me to explore. (Gonna be honest though . . . I hate the Minecraft look)

Right out the gate in VR Dungeon Knight, I ran into my first bug in the tutorial.  The enemy monster is buried in the floor.  Yeah, that's a sad first impression.

that bump in the floor is the top of the enemy's head

Just want to say that as far as VR tutorials go, this is a pretty great attempt.  Most VR games don't give you NEAR this much tutorial, so I have to give it up for the attempt. By the end of the tutorial you'll have learned how to climb, swim, swing a sword, shoot an arrow, cast a spell, and dodge a trap. Great!

I was kind of freaking out at first because the little wizard guide looked an awful lot like a squashed-small version of Merle Ambrose and the voice over sounded an awful lot like my old friend Damon Brown, who would make the marketing videos for KingsIsle. (It was close enough that I contacted him just to see . . . it's not him.)

I swear that's merle ambrose . . .

It's surprising how many weapons there are in the game, and I think the poor single dev bit off way more than he could chew here. It would have been so much better if all he had focused on was a couple weapons, and just got those polished and feeling good. The bow is incredibly difficult to use and the aiming just doesn't feel right.  The magic staves feel like they're shooting in slow motion. The magic books are strange.  The guns have awful reloading. In fact, the only thing that really feels good is a sword and shield, but the sword and shield suffer from exactly the same thing that most swords in VR RPGs suffer from . . . realism, messy combat where you can get inside the monster, and just generally feeling unsatisfying.

That all said, sword and shield is exactly what I would play in this game. It feels the most natural.

The inventory system isn't nearly as good as it is in Vanishing Realms or Karnage Chronicles. You basically have 4 slots that snap around your body. 3 at your waist and 1 on your back . . . although I couldn't get the back slot to ever work. I don't get it.

After you successfully navigate a dungeon, you enter a results room and earn "chests" based on your performance.  If you complete one of the three main objectives, you get to enter a bonus room and claim its prizes as well.

Seven rooms cleared! Yay!

These bonus chests are then used to unlock random weapon upgrades in your armory, which is a pretty neat mechanic, but since there are so many weapons, you can end up with a powerful weapon that is really hard (or that you just don't like) to use. 

As you delve dungeon you'll also be leveling up, when you do, you are allowed to assign points to dexterity, strength, or intelligence, but leveling each comes with a detriment to some other aspect of your player, so it feels . . . strange.

The dungeons themselves are randomly generated rooms, and that's pretty neat, but what isn't neat is once you aggro one enemy, you aggro them all.  They all come charging at you at once, which is kind of lame. I guess it does get combat over quickly so then you can spend your time hacking open crates, which, in typical Diablo flair, is extremely satisfying.

All in all, there are some interesting features here and I think I would like to spend some more time playing this game, but as far as gameplay, In Death Unchained and Karnage Chronicles have my vote for best VR RPG . . . so far.

I'll be hunting, and if you know of a good one, leave me a note in the comments below.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Swearing Off Icarus Solo Play

 My Steam profile says I've put in 128 hours on Icarus this past year, and the last 10 of that was done completely solo over this last weekend . . . and I'm swearing it off. I never want to play Icarus solo ever again.

Many wolves, boars, and bears died to collect this data

The problem here is that up until a couple weeks ago, I was just jumping in to my buddies' games (one Lessah Ismorah and Mythery). I was happy with this: I was leveling, and I felt like we were all progressing along nicely, but then I found out that because I hadn't done a solo mission or two right up front, my progress in my friends' games was all for naught. None of what we had done was counting for my actual mission progression. 

The first half of the Olympus Mission line in Icarus

So, to explain, there are two mission progression paths in Icarus: Olympus and Styx. We've been playing missions in the Olympus quest line. You land on the planet, you fulfil the objective, and you blast off. Each time you start over, building everything from scratch . . . but with the money you earn, you can craft equipment to take down with you on subsequent missions.

When I discovered that all my hard work wasn't counting for anything on my mission progression, I felt a little . . . angry? Like I had fully been putting in a lot of time on these missions, but not getting any credit . . . simply because I didn't do the first mission on my own. I'm sorry, but that's kind of a bad game design call. 

I appreciate that I can just jump into my friends' games from day one, but there was no warning and no compensation. What it SHOULD have done was either warn me that I needed to do those intro missions or instead retroactively marked those missions I've completed with my friends as complete after I completed the first mission. It could have just caught up and counted all those previous missions as done. Yuck.

Since we decided that we wouldn't be playing much around the holidays as a group, Lessah put it out there that maybe I could use the time to catch up my progression line. That sounded fair, and I've already done most of these missions with them, so it should be a breeze, right?! It wasn't bad too be honest . . . right up until the grindfest known as Agriculture Supply Stockpile.

Beware the 15 day tasks . . . just don't do them solo

Now, Icarus always gives you way more time than you need to get a mission done. A ridiculous amount of time in fact, and because of that I had no qualms taking on a 15 real-time day mission. This was another that I had done with Lessah and Mythery in the past, and as I remembered it, it's just a bunch of running around collecting pumpkins and carrots and stuff . . . no big deal.

Blasting off a billion supplies into space . . .

I got it done, mind you, but I had completely forgotten about collecting and cooking 1000 meats in addition to running around collecting pumpkins and carrots and stuff. By the end of the day yesterday, I was so done with that mission . . . what an incredibly boring grind fest.

And with that, I'm done soloing in this game. I never want to do it again. There are plenty of other games where I don't mind soloing around, but Icarus just isn't captivating enough for me (at least at this point) without my buddies there to talk to. We each kind of excel at doing one or two things, and we do our jobs well. It's fun to play as a group! Solo . . . no thanks. I've got plenty of other games I can play to keep me happy.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Pokémon Violet's Post-Credit Victories

After the credits rolled on Pokémon Violet last week, I was left with the task to revisit all the old gyms and give them a workout on official Pokémon league business. I went back through the eight gyms post-haste and didn't really have any troubles besting them once again in their more powerful forms. 

It was pretty straight forward without a lot of surprises, and also pretty fun getting a little more insight into the trainers and their thoughts.  Who knew that Katy from the Cortondo Gym was holding back because she realized she was the first gym along the path for new students? I just thought she was naturally a chump.

Y'all know she cooks bugs into her food, right? Savage.

After the post-credit gym battles, it was back to the school grounds to participate in the Academy Ace Tournament, where you battled four randomized NPCs in a row to make it to the top and get awarded with a hat and a ton of cash for doing so. From what I can tell, if I wanted to do the Academy Ace Tournament again, I could? I haven't tried going back again to give it a second try.

Long live the gamer handle!

After this, you're given a master ball and alerted that five-star rating Tera battles are popping up all over the Paldea Region, and that you'll want to check 'em out. NOW THIS is where the real challenge is in Pokemon Violet. 

The Five-Star Tera battles seem to be the greatest skill check of them all. I've really only had a successful fight with one of them using an over level 80 Pokémon to fight, but the rewards for beating the Tera battles are pretty great. Rare candies, xp treats, and random items come gushing out of those little sparkling caves . . . not to mention interesting Pokémon that you might be missing from your Pokédex App.

Let's flesh this out a bit . . .

And really the spirit of "gotta catch them all" has to be the true end game of Pokémon Violet. Catching all the 350+ Pokémon seems like the ultimate goal.  The question I have is . . . why? Am I going to get something cool for catching them all? My gut is telling me that I won't, but just having a checklist is almost challenge enough.

As I was playing Pokémon Violet, I kept running into these weird spikes in the ground randomly and not knowing what they were.  I also was running into these covered mystical manholes randomly, and I remember thinking . . . huh . . . guess those are something to do with some future DLC? No no no . . . the spikes and the manholes are related.  You find all the spikes, pull them out, and it allows you to open the magical manholes.

Knock knock! Who's there? Wo! Wo Who? Wo-Chien the Legendary, that's who!

The magical manholes are actually "ruinous shrines" where the legendary Pokémon live in Paldea. There are four of these ruinous Pokémon in the game, and catching them is definitely on my agenda before calling it quits with Pokémon Violet. They seem to be the crowning jewels in your Pokédex App.

So, there you go, this is what Pokémon Violet has been like for me post-credits. It's been a fun game, but mostly what it's done is made me want to play through Pokémon Legends: Arceus next, which I haven't done before.  My kids played it, we own it, but I haven't touched its gameplay myself. It might be a fun Christmas Break activity for me!

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Pokémon Violet Completed!

Uber wife surprised me with the gift of  Pokémon a week ago when she came home with a copy of Pokémon Violet to play. Woot!

Rated E for EVERY Pokémon

I was pretty forthcoming in saying that I kind of wanted to play this one, and she took that to heart knowing that I'd sit and waffle on that decision and probably end up not buying it. Why am I like that? Anyway, social media certainly has been trashing this game a lot because of "the glitches" but I have to say that for the most part I didn't encounter much of the weird stuff other people saw.

What I did notice was: 

  • I was able to see through ground geometry at the end of battle when the camera would focus in on the butt end of my  Pokémon and I was on an incline.  
  • There was a bit of graininess to the screen once in a while. 
  • Characters out in farther draw distance would hitch their walk animations.
  • Environment art in general was of a lower quality than character art. 

It might just be that I have a more forgiving eye or perhaps it was because I didn't do group online play, but for me the gameplay was as solid as any other Pokémon game. If you were to listen to the grumpy lady at my local Gamestop, this was the worst Pokémon game ever and the glitches were so bad it was unplayable. Um, no. 

This was not unplayable . . . in fact, I beat it yesterday!


I had a great time playing Pokémon Violet! At first gameplay felt very childish, and it took me a while to warm up to my character, but I finished strong by roleplaying him as the youngest member of Daft Punk.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

I gave every Pokémon I caught a unique name . . . kinda. I mean I had to name every one of them some variant of "boi" at the end of their name. My yellow Oricorio became known as "cheerboi." My starter Feucoco was named "dumboi." My Iron Treads was "wheelieboi."  It was a theme, save for special occasions like when I caught a Salandit and instead named it "Slayqueen" instead knowing it would evolve into Salazalle, aka the "hot looking lizard" Pokémon. (Props to my oldest for tipping me off to that.) The suffix "queen" then became a revered term amongst my Pokémon boxes.


This game basically has three main story paths you take. The first is the traditional Gym Championship path. The second is to take down Team Star. The third is more complex, and what I'd call the real story of Pokémon Violet.  In Pokémon Violet you begin the game by coming to the aid of a legendary Pokémon named Miraidon who is badly injured. As the story progresses, you take down Titan Pokémon and obtain their Herba Mystica to heal not only Miraidon, but your friend's Pokémon, who is badly injured. Eventually list story leads you down to Area Zero where you uncover the plot of the game. (I'm trying not to give away too many spoilers here)

It is done . . .

As for gameplay, this was pretty much what I'd expect from a Pokémon Open World game. The Team Star "slay 30" quests seemed odd, I will admit. Why did they give me 10 minutes to complete a course that took 2 minutes to complete? Outside of that, great! I don't have a lot of gameplay complaints. Difficulty did in fact scale up toward the end, and I even failed a battle with Headmaster Clavell there at the end and had a couple nail biter battles.

My favorite character in the game tbh

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the new Terastallizing feature in this game. Basically what this is, is a one-shot buff to your Pokémon per visit to the Pokémon Center (or you can use a ground spawn crystal to recharge as well). Every Pokémon in Pokémon Violet has this ability, and it can be a pretty cool way to swap your battle type . . . but mostly I used it to boost a move’s power. If you're interested, you can check out the deets here.

Terastallizing has got to be the weirdest name ever

After the credits rolled last night, I was presented with a new challenge which seemed to be a request to go face off against harder versions of the gym battles and continue to explore the open world environment of Pokémon Violet as I try to catch them all and get all the Pokémon registered in my Pokédex app.

Ultimately this has been a great game and really fun to play. If you've been playing, feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you thought of the game.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Falling with Style - The Guild Wars 2 Griffon

Hey! Well, it's been a fun couple of days in Guild Wars 2 over the weekend! I spent a bunch of time today finishing up world map completion and also earning the infamous Griffon mount. That's right, I earned one of the HARD ones. *flex*

Time to Fall . . . with style!

For the most part, the somewhat arduous quest chain to get the Griffon is a solo effort, but there are a handful of group events that absolutely cannot be soloed. That said, I think I was lucky yesterday. There seemed to be plenty of people out and about doing the group events. And when there wasn't, the clouds would part, the universe aligned, and suddenly a stranger would pass by and help me with a more difficult boss as if pre-destined to happen . . . aka, the luck o' the necromancer.

So, yeah, I actually had a really fun time hunting down all the bits and pieces needed to learn how to tame and ride a griffon, and that final battle to obtain your griffon was epic!

I'm helping preserve the species . . . not just get myself a cool mount

To boil it all down, in each of the five zones of Path of Fire, you need to buy two 25gp items from faction vendors, collect 3 to 5 eggs from griffon perches, and complete 2-3 events.  Once you do this, you travel to the Dark Library, defeat 11 elites to gather 11 keys, and open 11 hidden chests for books. THEN, you do an amazing battle with the Champion Mordant Crescent Hierarch (whomever that is) and badda bing badda boom, you got yourself a griffon.

Death to all Champion mordant Crescent Hierarchs who oppose me!

Just have to say . . . it is a little weird that you have to pay 250 gold along with completing the quest steps to get your griffon. I mean, isn't just buying the expansion and doing all the quests enough?  It's fine though, I'll jump through your hoops ArenaNet. It's fine.

And it's all worth it for the ability to swoop underneath bridges with my cool new mount!

You better believe I'm flying under ALL the bridges in GW2!

Because I had done so much exploring while getting the griffon mount, it wasn't too bad just finishing everything up with map exploration and getting that achievement for expansion completion as well. Done and done.

So, it appears that my next objectives will be finishing up Living World Season 4 content so that I can get the other difficult to get mounts.  LET'S DO THIS!

Happy Dueling!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Earning Mounts-a-Plenty in Guild Wars 2

I've been going back through the zones of Path of Fire and earning as much Mastery Experience as I can. That and unlocking Mastery Points are pretty essential for acquiring and leveling the myriad of mounts that are available to you in this expansion. 

What?!?! I own the PVP mount?!?! That's so unlike me.

Can we just marvel for a second at how impressive the mounts are in Guild Wars 2? Each mount type has its own function, mastery track, movement style, and more skins than you can shake your wallet at. 

Skimming around with my old buddy Clever Clara

To explain it briefly, most mounts are unlocked from a vendor by completing a faction quest. Once you can purchase your mount, you buy its base model for in game gold.  This unlocks 5 levels of mastery that improve the mount with each level of mastery.  If you obtain the last level of mastery, a trait of the mount is applied to all your mounts.  It's kind of genius.

Thank you Jackal Mount for this hidden mastery point in the sky

So now I own the raptor, the skimmer, the springer, the jackal, and the pvp mount known as the warclaw. I still need to earn the griffon, the roller beetle, the skyscale, and the siege turtle. In other words, I have the easy ones.

That all said, I'm having the most fun with this jackal mount!  I love all the custom puzzles they've built in the game for this mount and magically blinking around on it is an absolute blast.

This view brought you courtesy of the jackal mount . . .

Don't you worry, reader . . . the challenge of the more difficult mounts means only one thing for The Friendly Necromancer . . . BRING IT ON!  I love a good challenge.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Sunrise, the Legendary Weapon, is mine!

Hello my friends! It is a good morning for me, as after years of first wanting a legendary weapon, this happened just this morning.

Here comes the sun, dee da doo da!

That's right . . . after years of wanting a legendary weapon, I own the Sunrise!  Here's how it went down for me.

Waaaaay back when Guild Wars 2 launched, I was all onboard. I was one of those that played the Vanilla game to the ground and during that time I crafted my Gift of Mastery.

So excited I'm leaving behind pee puddles everywhere I run

To earn this you need to combine a Bloodstone Shard, 250 Obsidian Shards, the Gift of Exploration and the Gift of Battle in the Mystic Forge.  The big one out of those four is the Gift of Exploration. It's something you only receive upon World Completion -- that's filling every heart, conquering every hero point, finding every waypoint, viewing every vista, and chugging past every point of interest in the original world. 

I felt pretty good about that when I put it into my bank a decade ago, and it planted a seed in my mind that someday . . . someday I would return to it and craft the other, seemingly insurmountable tasks. That's why it feels so good to now come back to Guild Wars 2 and finally finish this thing up.

As for the other three parts . . . well it all went pretty quickly once I bought the precursor weapon and put my mind to it.  I spent a lot of time in the past hoping that a precursor would drop from one of the World Bosses and started hitting the world boss tour over and over and over.  It became "the thing to do" and really kind of burnt me out. Just outright buying that was about a billion times easier.

I must give a shout out to my guildmates and especially John and Clara from Team Spode. When they heard that I was make a push for a legendary, they dropped a bunch of stuff in the guild bank for me to help cut costs.  My Gift of Fortune was as much theirs as it was mine. They also spent a night helping me get reacquainted with World vs World PvP so I could get some dungeon tokens that I needed for one of the recipes.

Thank you Zommoros! I declare this a fair trade

The Gift of Sunrise requires another sheer show of fortune in that you have to buy 100 icy runestones for a total of 100 gold. The real bears in that formula for making the Gift of Sunrise are the Gift of Metal and the Gift of Light.  One requires a 400 weaponsmith rating to craft. The other takes a 400 armorsmith to craft.  I had the weaponsmith already thanks to my earlier efforts.  The 400 armorsmith required an afternoon of grinding recipes on my alt, which I finally finished up last night.

When you finally craft the legendary weapon, the game plays fanfare music for you for a good while as you beam to yourself.  What a fantastic moment it is!

A light in the darkness!

I really love how bright this sword looks as you run around the now darkened-for-Halloween version of Lion's Arch. I spent a good 15 minutes just running around, stashing the weapon, pulling it back out, trying skills with it . . . good times!

Don't mind me, just admiring my glowy blur

Now that THAT'S finally done, I think I can concentrate on all the myriad of other things there are to think about in this game.

Happy Dueling!

Friday, October 28, 2022

Finishing Path of Fire -- Onward to . . . Legendary?

 And just like that, I finished up the story quests for Path of Fire in Guild Wars 2!

No need for praise, just throw money . . . thank you thank you

That's right! Five years after its release date, I'm here to save the day! Praise me, commoners! 

It's a fun story that all starts with you encountering the Herald of the God Balthazar. Balthazar is one of the six gods in the Guild Wars 2 pantheon and looks over the affairs of war . . . um, and fire . . . and uh, challenge. So I guess he's the god of PvP and Gene Simmons basically.

No need for forgiveness, just throw money . . . thank you thank you

I skipped Living World Season 3. As I understand it, if I hadn't done that I'd have more of a reason to hate Balthazar since that's where he's first introduced as an antagonist in your story. Jumping to Path of Fire wasn't too bad though as I was caught up to speed pretty quickly with what's going on. Old Balthy has been pretty busy turning the souls of the dead into a kind of automaton known as The Forged . . . basically his own personal army.

Since your journey is all about bringing balance back to Tyria, you ain't having none of Balthazar's nonsense and take down his herald . . . and then get the smack down by the god himself. OUCH.

No need for my destruction, just throw money . . . thank you thank you

It's cool though . . . he doesn't outright kill you . . . yet.  That's reserved for your second encounter with Balthazar. Instead Vlast, one of Glint's good guy dragon kids, jumps between you and Balthazar and sacrifices itself for you.  Old Balthy is super hyped about that cruel twist of fate.

When Vlast sacrifices itself for you, it explodes into a bunch of crystals that contain its memory, and you go on a pretty neat quest following all the clues and hearing all about Vlast's history and thoughts.  It's a lot like reading Vlast's personal diary, but instead of pages, they're crystals that talk.  

No need for warnings, just throw money . . . thank you thank you

Balthazar's end goal here is to create a Warbeast and power it up by using Aurene, the other good guy dragon kid of Glint, as a kind of Double A battery. As he sees it, once he's got the Warbeast, then he can lay the smack down on Kralkatorrick! Who's Kralkatorrick (Is it just me or does that name sound like a halitosis condition for a kraken)? It's ANOTHER Elder Dragon that's, I don't know, also pretty bad? (More to come in some follow on post in a few weeks I'm sure)

Anyway . . . Balthazar kills you to draw out Aurene. In fact, he kills you so badly that you completely forget who the heck you even are.  

What's money?

After undergoing a couple quests in the underworld, you finally figure out who you are and what you're doing.  It's a pretty cool sequence where you run into Palawa Joko, who's a legit proper necromancer that commands an army of undead and is basically the King of a little rectangle of Tyria known as the Domain of Vabbi. He's . . . not a nice person . . . which makes it feel even better when you steal his army of undead soldiers.

Can I have these guys follow me around all the time?

Legit jealous of this army of undead as a necromancer player in Guild Wars 2.  I WISH I could command my army of summons as good as this crew. 

At the end of Path of Fire, you find yourself commanding Palawa Joko's army of undead, and your old charr buddy Rytlock Brimstone hands over his uber weapon for you to take on Balthazar a third time . . . and hopefully not die a miserable death this time. 

Whoops . . . Um . . . wonder what consequences that's going to have *big wink*

Spoilers . . . you win.

That final battle with Balthazar and his Warbeast was pretty epic. I had a lot of fun with that, and overall I might even say this was my favorite story arc in Guild Wars 2 yet!

. . . and that leaves the question, what's next?


Spoilers . . . I bought the precursor Dawn at the auction house.

So until next time I'll be gathering the billion things you need to craft the legendary sword Sunrise and finally check off "get a legendary weapon in Guild Wars 2" from my MMO list of things to do.

Happy Dueling!

Friday, October 21, 2022

Finishing Heart of Thorns -- Onward to Path of Fire

I just finished up the storyline content for Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns last night. It was an epic battle to defeat the dragon Mordremoth from the inside out by attacking it within its mind.

Press F for Delivering the Death Blow AND Respects

I am, of course, seven years late on this content since Heart of Thorns released way back in 2015. I went back on my timeline and decided to look and see what had my attention instead of this expansion, and it looks like Team Spode had just made the decision to jump into DCUO again after our stint in Guild Wars 2.

Really, it's Team Spode that has brought me back in to Guild Wars 2 all these years later! It's where we're playing on Sunday nights these days. Last Sunday we were checking out the re-released Living World Season 1 content. It was a huge flashback to those old days. I did all that content back in the day, but apparently they've brought it back (it was limited time previously) and attached new rewards to it.

Guild Wars 2 -- it gives me that old Taimi Feeling

I gotta say, most "rewards" are a bit meaningless to me all these years later. My bank is chock full of trinkets and things I'll never use but earned as a reward sometime in the past. It's that very thing that makes me look at the achievement list for Heart of Thorns and think . . . yeah . . . do I care about that anymore? I mean, it might be cool to earn an exclusive back item for completing all the hard to do story achievements, but it'll just end up as another meaningless trinket in my bank.

Now that I've finished up the story in Heart of Thorns proper, next up is Living World Season 3 content and Path of Fire. I'd decided to skip Living World Season 3 for the time being and just jump into the Path of Fire. I want to get that hopping mount and the skimmer mount from working through the story. Now THOSE I want.  Not the billions of toilet paper rolls and skeleton illusion potions I'm getting in game for Halloween. That stuff is just bank fodder.

Setting sail to Path of Fire -- Man that makes me pine for Eberron and DDO

Anyway, just thought I'd do a quick post to say, yes, I'm still alive and look at me, I'm playing Guild Wars 2! LOL. 

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Karnage Chronicles -- Through the Eye of the Dwarves

Well team, I finished up the final dungeon of Karnage Chronicles, and it was pretty challenging. I was playing normal mode, but I can't even think of what this would be like on impossible difficulty. I might make an impossible difficulty game, but all this gets easier once you know the basic tricks of the game. Anyway, let me see if I can break this dungeon down for you, and how it played out for me.

The entry room for The Eye of the Dwarves is all about setting the mood. There aren't any enemies here, just nodes to mine, a howling wind, waterfalls, giant statues of dwarves, and a giant seal between you and an army of undead.

Laser Beams, Chains, Waterfalls, Giant Dwarf Statues -- this club has everything!

Once you beak that seal, you enter into a town, and it's immediate combat with enemies that are tougher than anything you've gone against. Of course, it's the same flair as before, but with a tougher, more intimidating skin. You have skeletal warriors, skeletal archers, skeletal crossbowmen, and skeletal brutes. Possibly the most annoying enemy however are the half skeletons missing their legs. You'd think missing your legs would slow you down, but not these guys. They speed up and crawl across the ground almost like a skeletal spider and reach up to claw your eyes out. It's terrifying.

Not your typical slow, half-bodied skeletons at all

The worst part of Karnage Chronicles continues to be the enemies that pop behind you and the jump scares outta nowhere. I hate taking two steps forward and pausing just waiting to get jumped, but I'm always prepared when it does. You just flee back 50 steps and kite. easy. 

The shop in the Eye of the Dwarves is actually up a flight of stairs in the town area. Don't think that just because it's a shopping area that it'll be safe. Nope. It's full of gosh darn skeletons. The best of which is the shopkeep! He's the only skeleton that actually doesn't attack you. He just smiles and waves as he watches over his shop. Once you buy some equipment from here, things get a lot more manageable with the OP skeletons.

An undead shop keep hoping I buy some of his cheese

Down further is an interesting fork in the road, and they've done something here kind of unique with their save points. During the past two dungeons everything has really only been linear in nature. Sure, there might be a fork in the road, but these typically led to dead ends, and you'd have to backtrack to the main path.  In this dungeon, it feels LESS like a ride path and MORE like an actual town . . . well, for at least the first half of the dungeon.

You see, this whole section of the game really revolves around collecting three items so you can craft a magic wand that . . . opens doors.  Disappointing, I know.  You were hoping to hurl fireballs, weren't you?  Well, I was.  Anyway, to get each of the components, you have to travel to the different parts of the town.  The magic potion is hidden in the tavern.  The metal ore is down by the docs.  The crystal gem is around the back of the farmer's house. Return to the Alchemist's hut, combine all three, and voila . . . you have a crazy magic wand that opens doors.

A wand from a cauldron, who woulda thunk it?

It's kind of a cool trick actually, you hold the wand inside the spider egg looking thing and it busts open for you to proceed. Of course, once you do that, you're instantly jumped by some hell hounds.  OH, did I forget to mention those?  Yeah, it's not all skeletons down here.  You'll also be fighting some super fast, fire breathing hell hounds. Have fun with that.

Another cool thing that I got along the way was a pipe that heals you when you smoke it. Yeah, so . . . again, this game has its rating . . . and if you're anti-smoking, feel free to ditch the pipe here as you don't really need it, but man, what a cool effect!  You hold the pipe up to your face and smoke comes out of your mouth. It also somehow seemed to match my actual breathing. I don't know if it accessed the built in mic on my VR headset (I doubt it), but it was possibly my favorite item in the game.

Smoke break before the bridge of a billion enemies

Once you're past the town, the winding passageway begins again. I'm so disappointed in something this game did here by the way.  At one point early on in the dungeon you pick up a magic flower.  Later, around the base of a coffin 3/4ths of the way in, you finally find a place to put this magic flower and release the trapped spirit inside.  The spirit hops out and begins to SING. So he's singing about "necromantic lore" that was a gift to elven kind, and I'm like THIS IS AWESOME!  He continues on about a king getting stripped of his throne when bam . . . enemies around the corner start attacking, so I do my running away kiting thing, and . . . accidentally get out of range of the song. WHYYYY?!?!?! CURSES!!! Well, at least the coffin gave me a cool magic necklace for my troubles.

Just beyond the coffin here you have another long passageway and eventually end up on what I have termed, "The bridge of a billion enemies." This was quite the battle my friends. I ended up clearing a ton of the bridge and facing off with one of the caster mushroom men people. Right as I was about to enjoy my victory, I spun too far in a circle . . . and promptly disconnected myself from my tethered VR connection to my computer . . . and died. MOTHER FREAKING MMPHER!! As I talked about in the last post, when you die in an area, it all respawns again, so I had to kill the billion enemies all over again. Sigh.  No worries. Where'd I put my virtual pipe?

Maybe it's not a billion per se, but it feels like it

After lowering the bridge by shooting out a couple weights on the sides, you finally enter the end boss room, which is a big circular arena. Basically you fight a giant ogre magi.  Every few seconds, the portal nearby spits out a goblin add, so you have to keep taking them out while hitting the boss.  When you take him down to zero health, he wanders back into the center of the arena and a light from above heals him.  

The Ogre Magi and his goblin buddy in a footrace, starring me as the finish line

Now, I actually didn't figure out that I needed to hit the gem at the top of the arena until after he fully regenerated 5 times, but it was getting frustrating and stupid.  Eventually I figured out that I needed to bust that gem above him, and then he only healed to half life . . . but when he did, he gained the power of shooting slime balls at you as well.

After taking him down to nothing once again, I hit the heart above him one last time, killed the adds, and the treasure trove was mine!  Two big fat chests in the back alongside his club for loot. It felt pretty great.

Just past the treasure you once again find your old buddy the collector, and he tells you all about who you are and what you're doing here along with some info about his position in life as well. It involves a council of 12 magicians and you being a kind of servant to them? I think? Anyway, after this chat, you hop on a boat, click the exit button, and watch a giant thanks for playing message rise with the moon as your ship sets sail over the ocean. The crowd goes wild.

You're welcome.

I really enjoyed my time in Karnage Chronicles. I'd like to go back to Vanishing Realms and play it again after playing this to see how much they are similar and different.  This game seemed to be a much higher quality experience. I'd buy a sequel game if they made one.

Happy Dueling!