What games have you been playing, and what's your opinion on them?
What have you been playing lately? Discussion about video games and board games are both welcome. Please don't just make a list of titles, give some thoughts about the game(s) as well.
I have many thoughts about World of Warcraft - Dragonflight and its relationship with WoW Classic.
After hitting level 60, progression got much slower. Which is good. The game is more lethal, I have to think my way through things and engage with the world. I mean, the story is crap, but I don't think anyone cares about it.
I queued dungeons as soon as my gear level allowed, and it was a brutal awakening. The increase in difficulty was to be expected, but the level of toxicity was not. To be fair, the vast majority of my interactions were entirely cordial, but the negative occurrences can be traumatic. Given that I'm a tank, people expect a degree of foreknowledge I don't have yet, and saying I'm a "beginner tank" at level 62 doesn't fly. Sometimes, this puts me in the spot in a way that can be detrimental to my enjoyment of the game. The problem is not so much with my performance, as I welcome criticism, but some people are just assholes.
I suspect that similar behaviors may be common in Classic when you hit level cap, but I'm not sure if that would happen in the same frequency or to the same degree. I'm talking specifically about the Dungeon Finder, which pairs you with random players to run an instance. In Classic, the Finder facilitates the creation of a party. Because you still have to manually invite people to the party and use chat to coordinate their arrival, you become a group before the instance begins. I believe those steps are fundamental for players to understand that an instance, as well as any group commitment, happens in a social context. You're primed to see your teammates as human beings. I don't know, maybe I'm being too romantic. But that seems fundamentally different than being thrown directly into a dungeon where you must perform immediately at your highest level. The consequence, in Retail, is that the chat is only used when things go very wrong. And, because there are no prior relationships in the group, people are shitting on someone they know nothing about, and that they'll never see again. That is, essentially, a license for toxicity, much like you'll find in any other competitive games with automated pairing.
Dragonflight dungeons are fun, and the difficulty I wanted is there! I'm getting by, but clearly have to step up my game to be consistent and to communicate security to my teammates. At that point, the limitations of the standard UI become very clear. The level of difficulty, the complexity, and especially the number of elements on the screen makes it nearly impossible to do well without addons. I'm resisting the idea of using certain kinds of addons that, I think, would prevent me from learning about the game and facilitating things to a degree that would reduce my enjoyment. There are, for example, "rotation helpers", that tell me at every second which spell or skill to use according to some optimal calculation of effectiveness. I fear they might reduce me to the position of a mindless button pusher even more than the game already does. Today I discovered a so-called Paladin "one button macro" that reduces a lot a Paladin can do to eternally clicking on the same rectangle. I didn't even bookmark it, what a sad experience that might be! As a healer, I used Healbot (not actually a bot), which superimposes a grid representing all players so I can more easily cast spells on them. It's a good, essential addon, but it's way too good at its job. That is common with addons: they fix the issue alright, but can "fix" the fun in the process too. Given that addons are pervasive, I am expected to perform at that level. If you don't use certain kinds of add-ons, people will think you're bad at your job and give you shit for it. For the same reason, Blizzard will determine the correct difficulty of the content taking addons into account. This is similar to the "Adblock wars".
In place of rotation helpers, I have been developing my own rotations using TellMeWhen (like rotation helpers, it merely tells me the skill/spell according to conditions I dictate. I still have to press the buttons). If I'm doing the "coding" based on my own research and understanding of the game, that's okay in my view. I also made Bartender4 show/hide my action bars according to conditions I wrote (party/no-party, combat/no-combat, targeting-enemy/targeting-friendly, etc). I don't like when my screen is cluttered with things I don't need. Next step will be to get and understand a plates plugin, especially one that measures threat (aggro). I could probably use something like Grid2 to make it into a grid, but I'll resist that for as long as I can. Grids are efficient, but they take your eyes off the game and I don't wanna spend hours looking at tiny ugly squares while the real game is happening right in front of me. I'm using Details! with Tidy Threat, but this only shows the aggro for my current target. I'll probably figure out how to use the Threat Plates addon for that. Maybe it can track conditions as well since the Protection Paladin has many dispels I should be using on my teammates. Sometimes I can even assist the healer.
Retail is intense, and in the past few days, I found myself missing Classic WOLTK. Yes, it is slow, but everything in it is alive, from start to finish. Even trash mobs in the open world can kill you if you're not attentive. I've been watching videos about the Hardcore Challenge and I think it would be a wonderful experience. In HC, death is permanent and you can't trade so every item counts. Hardcore is a community challenge with an addon, but dataminers found evidence that Blizzard will implement it in the game. That would be awesome!
I really enjoyed Dragonflight, but quit mostly due to the prevalent toxicity in the community. The raids and general difficulty is tuned to people with a million addons these days. For example, try doing heroic/mythic raid progression without WeakAuras. Great comment, very relatable.
Yeah... it seems that I'll eventually have to surrender to WeakAuras. It is the defacto default rotation UI.
There are lots of talk about Classic+, a now theoretical development of Classic WOLTK that would deviate from Retail as an alternative timeline both in design and narrative. There's a slim chance they'd evolve Classic in a way that is more in line with the origins of the game with some of the QOL features we expect from a modern game.
I use Hekili addon, not WAs, for Shaman/DH rotation. My only WeakAuras are Tama's todo list and the /say Thundering chat bubble spam for m+, which will thankfully be unnecessary next season. I don't raid, but I am up to 2700 M+ rating as Enh Shm and 2500 as Veng DH.
Fortunately I haven't encountered the toxicity you've described here. I don't pug a lot, but when I have it's been pretty smooth. The exception is PVP. Solo shuffle is the most toxic cesspit I've been in, especially playing as a healer. If Blizzard quadrupled the size of the block list I might give it a go again, but yeah.
With regards to rotations - and keep in mind that I've been out of the game for some months now - I found that rotation helpers helped me get a feel for what I was meant to be doing, but I could out-dps the rotation helper by understanding my character's priorities, because the rotation helper doesn't understand what's actually happening; it assumes a patchwerk style fight. So I used Hekili as training wheels to learn about the basics, then switched it off once I understood what was happening.
I also am going to suggest a guild again. The general community is just... not great. Find a group of people, or a discord full of like-minded people, to play with, and don't try to play with PUGs. It might completely change your experience from a negative one to a positive one.
I'm actually in a guild already and they are all very nice, but they're at a higher level than me so the things they group for I can't really participate yet.
Great explanation on rotation helpers, they don't seem as egregious now. Maybe I'll use them. Thanks!
Ah, I'm glad you've found a guild. Our guild also does group runs for things to help people get gear or to learn dungeons, which is especially helpful for tanks I've found; if you have a tank run as DPS with you to talk you through some standard strategies, it can be really helpful. Basically, though, I would always do everything I could to never have to play with people from LFG. There are also some group finding discords, or even the WoW discord, which can help you find generally positive people to do groups with.
Also to hearken back to your first comment - the WeakAura / UI war is a real drag, and kind of showcases a whole subsection of mythic raiding, which is that a lot of the teams have programmers who write WeakAuras to make things easier, and that's kind of a goofy way to make your way through the game, in my opinion. That said, I personally found M+ dungeons to be the sweet spot for "hard enough to be fun , rewarding enough to work through, fun enough to repeat".
That same thing happened with MUDs, MMORPGs predecessors. I mean, I don't think they hire programmers, but scripting got so advanced and widespread that in some games top-level PvP is essentially a coding competition. Not my idea of fun.
EDIT: I am more and more convinced that online competitive games should have strict and enforced rules for scripting and addons. Otherwise, the game becomes a monstrosity where the correct way to play is to replace and automate a lot of it.
I played a bunch of Slime Rancher 2 on Game Pass. I had a ton of hours into the first Slime Rancher after it came out on the Switch, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I guess the devs were banking on people liking the first one because this new one feels like pretty much the same game. Gathering resources is a little more annoying this time around--you have to hunt around for them at various spawn points on the map instead of crafting extractors that you can place anywhere, and so far I've yet to unlock anything like the drones that could take over some of the menial farming tasks for you, but other than that the mechanics, graphics, and gameplay feels more like an expansion to the first game than a whole new game. It's a little disappointing because I feel like I'm burning out on the experience much quicker this time around. If I had paid for it instead of getting it through Game Pass I don't think I would have been happy about it.
In addition to that, I bought Uncharted 4 because it went on sale for $10, but instead of playing that I'm going back to finish Uncharted 2 first (and then will play Golden Abyss and Uncharted 3), since I've only ever played the first one before. Such a great series, loving all of it so far--these games and Horizon Zero Dawn were the only reason I even got a PS4 to begin with but after finishing Horizon I just sat on them for years. I'm glad I remembered I have them.
I like the expanded construction elements in SR2; you may need to travel the map, but as you build things up you can remove many of the things that make it slow. Once you have water guns to deal with aggressive slimes, bounce pads to deal with slow traversal, and teleporters to return to base at the end, many resources are just a hop skip and a jump away.
No idea how it'll feel as a finished game, though. It's possible that the cost of construction will feel more onerous in a game they aren't expecting people to return to with each new area being released.
Honestly I haven't even tried bounce pads yet... I didn't realize they could speed up travel, I thought they were for traversing height not distance. Hopefully they don't need strange diamonds because I think I've only found 2 of those in all my time playing, which is also why I don't have any teleporters.
The first area is mostly horizontal, but the further areas often have pretty extensive switchbacks at various heights. Combined with the jetpack, there's a lot of freedom of motion you can make happen. Pretty sure they don't need the diamonds, which are indeed super rare.
I've been playing a bit of AFK Arena on my phone and while it is incredibly pretty and the characters are cool I'm experiencing what I can only describe as ludonarrative dissonance. When you first start the game you're told about these two gods, the god of light and the god of darkness (or something like that). The god of darkness (I'll call Dave because I can't remember his name) attacks the god of light (I'll call Martha) and she dies. Right before Martha dies she creates 7 (I think) relics that get scattered across the world.
So far in all of my playing none of that backstory has had any relevance at all and the game is not very AFK, a lot of the game play involves active battles against the AI (whose team can involve characters that are also on your team which is kind of weird, and are canonically good characters so seeing them on the bad guy's team is bizarre). There is a faction system but you're never told about it, I discovered it by accident.
All the characters have backstories which is pretty cool but reading them is difficult as you can't swipe up/down or left/right you have to press the "Next page" to get to the next bit of lore.
The game has been out for a couple of years now and is still being updated but is still kind of rough.
I've been playing AFK Arena for the last week+ after @smoontjes' recommendation, and I don't feel like it's unpolished or rough at all. It's just not a narrative driven game. The backstories and whatnot are mostly there for some additional flavor, but they're not important at all, and the core auto-chess gameplay is solid. The game name is definitely a misnomer though, since it's not an idler, and you can't really play it AFK since it requires constant clicking.
Tried out Hogwarts Legacy for a while. It's alright.
It's basically a really good Ubisoft open world game. But it's by WB, so it has more Arkham style combat than Ubisoft's combat styles. The controls are a bit odd, I don't think it's the most intuitive to mash on the Right Trigger for everything. Decades of gaming has ingrained that such combat should be on the face buttons like... well, the Arkham games.
It's also really, really easy. This is definitely a game made for everyone so it's not very challenging. Many of the puzzles are also not exactly difficult, they're more just about "Do I have the spell for this or not?"
The best and most notable part of the game is the world. This is the most we've ever been able to explore the Wizarding World and they've done an amazing job with it. The world is surprisingly big and it's a joy to explore Hogwarts and the countryside around it including Hogsmeade and some other villages. There's a ton of references and details from the books and world strewn around the game. There's also more than a little fanservice but I suppose that's to be expected.
But after a while, most of the game simply feels like it alternates between collecting a ton of things and fighting off enemies with what most games would reserve for end-game magic spells. In a way it kind of reminded me of the original God of War games where I wished I could skip the combat and play the rest of the game. But if I wasn't in a mood to collect anything, that left me with just not really wanting to play more... which is why I stopped played after a while.
So, yeah, like the best Ubisoft open world games, this game is alright. It's not amazing or groundbreaking or a must play in any way that I can find except that it's finally a detailed, beautiful, interactive version of the Wizarding World.
I don't recall exactly what it was that made me buy it, but I bought Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope on Steam last weekend.
I've owned the PS3 version in the past, but I never finished the game because a certain boss battle hit harder than a brick wall and no amount of grinding could make me strong enough to overcome it.
The visuals on this game are just so good, though It's hard to believe it was originally made more than a decade ago. The higher quality textures and shaders do a lot to improve the overall visual quality. I'm playing this game on the Steam deck and while the added anti-aliasing does a great job of cleaning up the image, the game really is designed to be viewed on the big screen, and playing this in 4K would be particularly nice. That's actually the only major downside to the visuals; it's geared to be played on a big screen, so finding secrets on small screens can be somewhat difficult.
But playing through this again has made me realize that it's probably the most emblematic of my love for Tri-Ace. The aesthetics are top-notch. The music is fantastic - It's probably one of the most luscious works that Motoi Sakuraba has ever made (and it honestly makes me a bit sad that his newer soundtracks tend to stray further away from his prog-rock inspired roots). The combat is pretty fantastic; I know the game will get grindy soon enough but the combat is engaging enough that it's really not that painful. It's got a battle system that the Tales series wishes it had. Although I wouldn't say it's a game for everyone, It's a pretty good overall package overall.
Also because I am completely crazy I bought the PC versions of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, which I'll start playing after I finish Star Ocean 4. I never played the sequel since I hated the original, but I'm hoping the second chance will make the first one more appealing the same way SO4 did. Besides, the second game had the support of Tri-Ace as well, so maybe it's actually good! Ha ha ha....
I've gotten back into Magic: The Gathering. My brother and some friends go to play Commander every other week or so, and I've joined in a few times this year. I've also started to catalogue my Magic cards a bit more, and have realized that some of my old cards are actually pretty valuable. I started off by cataloguing and pricing the two Commander decks I have, and I found out that my favourite deck (Slivers) is worth about $1200CAD. I've updated the coverage with my insurance agent; I had the cards covered for about $3k, but I've catalogued about 2% of the cards I own, and I've already gone right past that. I'm also going to store them in a better way, and pull all the expensive cards out and put them somewhere more secure than they currently are.
I'm coming around on Commander as a Magic format. It's better than I remember. There are a few peculiarities to this play group that I'm still adjusting to; they have banned any infinite combos, for one thing, which I don't love. Their argument is that when infinite combos were around, people would do stuff to win early and games weren't fun, but I think that's more about relative power level of decks. There's also another rule that I find intensely grating, which is how they define some things that are definitely not infinite as "infinite combos". For example, there's a combo between these two cards (forgive the simplification):
This basically makes a machine gun, which allows you to keep drawing a card and doing a damage. It is clearly bounded by how many cards you have in your deck, which has a maximum of 97 (the decks are 100 cards, 1 of them is a "Commander" that doesn't go in your deck, and these two cards wouldn't be in the deck to be functional). However, this is just not allowed within their house rules because it is "infinite".
No matter how many times I see it, I can't get past the fact that 97 is not equal to infinity.