Saturday 31 October 2020

October 2020 Review: Level 14

Been awhile since I talked about my guild / alliance in Neverwinter Online, and despite DL's best recruiting efforts the going is still pretty slow. Fortunately our guild (now  on level 14) has advanced to taking a sword position in the alliance, which means more discounts in building construction and if talks of us taking the helm spot hold through, the discounts would even be larger! We're lucky that our alliance is happy to keep shuffling around to give everyone a turn at stuff. :)

Our castle isn't quite as fancy as Strahd's though...

Meanwhile because Epic is such a shit launcher that only has free games going for it, I'm struggling to balance when to download the bigger games. A slow download speed plus losing any progress should your PC shut down midway really blows. This really makes me appreciate Steam even more. As such I'm going to stop putting a backlog list with these month end posts as it's really not important anyway as I'll eventually write about whatever game I finish (or am done with).

Just to push that point, it's almost like any game over 20GB is not worth it due to the amount in increased electricity I would pay to keep the computer on to download for such an extended period. Instead if I really like a game that big, I'll just ask someone to gift it to me on steam. Much simpler.

I'll finish off with some random tips like always also use a secondary search engine when looking for stuff on the internet as your primary is likely hiding and/or shuffling results (for example google + bing) and if you want to save stories from instagram you can use Oh and for those who enjoyed Civilization VI, here's an epic cover of the theme song by Peter Hollens and the OSU Chamber Choir.

   End 2020 with less weight (dropping this for the more specific goal below)
   +Lose 1kg this month (last month result: success!)
   Web comic (even more world building... too much world building?)


One Year Ago

Wow, has it already been a year since Blizzard stepped in the China vs Hong Kong poop? Let's go check how things are going with that... ah, I see Hong Kong is still f*cked and Blizzard hasn't really taken any increased damage, just the usual self-inflicted version from their own releases. Status quo restored?

Five Years Ago

I was running about in A Tale in the Desert, tale six - an interesting MMORPG that features zero combat and a whole lot of player interaction. It seems this game is still going and is now in tale nine! Good on them!

Most Viewed Posts last Month

Waterdeep: The Dungeon of the Mad Mage
Eschalon: Gramuk!?
R3B1 - Theshold (Part II)

That's a nice grouping - a review of a board game with a popular name, a story post that uses name dropping, and a GTFO tutorial that includes a minor bug exploit. :P

Friday 30 October 2020

AC Odyssey: The Flaming Sea

[Part of the AC Odyssey journal]

With most of their land forces defeated it falls upon the Tempest, captain of the huge Persian fleet, to lock in and tighten the noose on the trio of rebels and their supporters hiding out in a small portion of Greece. Regarded as a skilled tactician, she is immediately suspicious when a single enemy vessel - the Adrestia - appears on the horizon to challenge them.

She is right to be suspicious too as it becomes clear the enemy vessel was outfitted with a weapon meant for her flagship, a forward facing flamethrower! She desperately tries to keep her distance but the Adrestia is too fast and its captain too ruthless as one by one her ships are sunk, with her own flagship cleaved in two.

Her luck really runs out when she awakes on the shore, only to face the Eagle Bearer waiting nearby and already sharpening his blades. "How are you here!?" she coughed, as she looked out over the waves to see the Adrestia still in pursuit of her few remaining vessels. All of her intel squarely put the Eagle Bearer as the captain of that vessel.

"Oh, I've been training someone else to captain the ship," answered the Eagle Bearer. "And she's very good at it."

Deimos knows how to keep people in line.

With no options left the Tempest drew her weapons and charged her enemy but was easily outclassed and stabbed through the gut with a half-spear. As she lay bleeding out on the sand she whispered "They will find you. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow... but someday..."

Insight: You can upgrade the forward flamethrower for more damage. It works extremely well with the battering ram.

Thursday 29 October 2020

Superman: Red Son

In mother Russia arms are crossed behind back, not in front.

What a different world it would be in the Kryptonian who would become Superman crash landed in Russia instead of the USA. This movie follows the comic of the same name, with a few liberties of course, to show what a Russian Kal-El might do differently. The answer is "a lot". Voice acting is good and the art is around the regular level of these DC shows, with some decent fights to boot.

Too bad he doesn't actually wield a hammer and sickle.

The story has a few things I'd like to nitpick, like Lex, and how the hell did this version of X beat Y? You'll know those variables when you see the movie and guess what, it's never explained, but I guess that's just canon? All up its a rather "meh" outing, especially as it's a stand alone story which is disappointing. DC and animated superman fans might enjoy it but otherwise feel free to skip. I give it 2.5 Stalin's out of 5.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

AC Odyssey: Darius

[Part of the AC Odyssey journal]

Darius wasn't sure how the Persians had found him, or how they now had Spartan allies, but he wasn't going to let them take him alive. Leaping from his perch he smashed his hidden punch-dagger down on the unsuspecting Greek warrior that had followed the trail of bodies he had left behind. Unlike the others this one could parry the surprise attack and subsequently go toe to toe with the old assassin.

Moves pretty well for an old man...

"Father! Stop!" cried Neema, his daughter who arrived only minutes into the fight. "This is the Eagle Bearer, the one sinking those Persian ships!" The two men stared off and lowered their arms.

"You can call me Alexios," said the Eagle Bearer, his golden Minotaur axe still firmly grasped in his hand. "Now can someone tell me why the Persians are so interested in invading Greece?"

"They simply want to expand their empire," replied Darius, not wanting to admit his murdering of their previous ruler, King Xerxes, had led them to these shores. "But if we work together, we can stop that from happening."

Alexios readily agreed.

Insight: The Legacy of the First blade adds a new cult to hunt down and fight against - the Order of the Ancients, with new members arriving in each chapter.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Have You Ever... the Gaming Edition!

A continuation of sorts, this time with a gamer slant!

Have you ever rage quit a game?

Yes. Life is too short for annoying things. You'll do this more often as you get older.

Have you ever earned all achievements in a game?

Yes. To the Moon only has one achievement. Go get it (and cry)! :P

Have you ever pulled an all-nighter gaming?

Yes, once all the way to sunrise which was crazy. Now my group usually stops at around 2 or 2:30am.

Have you ever live-streamed your gaming?

No. Why worsen the performance of the game (and the player)?

Have you ever pre-ordered a game?

No. Only a fool invests in promises.

Have you ever bought a game and never played it?

Yes, when I buy things as gifts for others. I don't "buy" games for myself. I only get free ones.

Have you ever been jump-scared by a horror game?

Yes - this happens often. Doesn't even need to be a horror game, if something shows up unexpectedly that I need to react to. That almost describes all games right?

Have you ever had a set squad for a specific game?

Yes and no. On multiplayer games I usually run with my brothers. For single player games that use squads, I try use people from previous my stories.

Have you ever bought a game on multiple platforms?

No, that would be a waste. Even buying it the first time would be a waste, just get it for free (unless its for someone else).

Have you ever got a console for the games specifically?

No. If a game doesn't release on PC, then I never play it. It's that simple.

Monday 26 October 2020

AC Odyssey: Herald from the East

[Part of the AC Odyssey journal]

"What have you done!?" demanded Herodotus angrily as he confronted his old friend in Samos. What was supposed to be a visit due to the death of his parents had quickly escalated into an investigation on the mercenary attacks on the island village; attacks propagated by the man now before him.

"You've been gone too long Herodotus," came the reply. "The Persians are paying good coin to establish a foot hold here and their fleet is already en route. I'm afraid I can't let you interfere with our plans."

The distinctive face masks gives them away.

 "Then I am sorry too," Herodotus nodded as his comrade Alexios, better known as the Eagle Bearer, lunged from a nearby shrub and within a blink of an eye killed the conspirator and all of his armed guards. "Looks like you've recovered from that tree incident nicely," said Herodotus.

"I'm getting there," nodded Alexios. "Come on, we need to sent the Adrestia to sink that fleet!"
Herodotus didn't move. "I... I can't. While I've enjoyed our adventures, Samos needs me now."

"I understand," Alexios said approvingly as he shook hands with the scribe. "And don't worry about those Persians. I'll take care of them."

Insight: Now that I got gifted the DLCs for this game, this story can continue! Thanks Juris!

Sunday 25 October 2020

GTFO: R4A1 - Cytology (Normal)

Rundown #4 - Contact was released three days ago, and this first mission (if you don't do the optional Extreme mode) is easier than R3A1. As usual we are a team of three, with DL packing a DMR/Sniper/Mines, Jim with DMR/Combat Shotty/CFoam, and myself with Carbine/Choke Shotgun/Mines. The choke shotgun is new, and while it only holds four shells in the chamber even clipping shots at mid-range seem to kill the scum buckets. Anyway, the objective here is simple - find 6 hard disk drives (HDDs) and extract with plenty of terminals around for you to practice your DOS commands on.

While the map is pretty big, the general idea is to simply head North. The path we take from the drop point is around through the small left door, then in the next room right through the mist through the big door, and then left again to the very end to the small door out of the fog (which is non-harmful at this point). Ideally clear all the rooms you go through with hammers as per normal, with your target priority being nape > back of head > back tumours > face.  Anyway, in this room is a normal / non-fighting team scan so just get it open then head north through the "bridge room" and up the stairs in the room past that. We usually just open the big door right there, but if the spawn is crap you can swing to the small left hand door for a better entry.

This big chamber is the Bulkhead room, which is new in this rundown as it gives you a choice of difficulty. For now, since you can't open anything but the small door on the right do that to find yourself facing a Class II alarm door (4 circles). The swarm will be coming from the little door past the upstairs section so that's where we put five mines. Once done, it's on to clearing that next area looking for HDDs and the Bulkhead key which you need to bring back to the upstairs part of the Class II door to plug it in. At this point your team will be given a choice to either complete the mission regularly (Hard) or with extra challenges (Extreme). This write up follows just the regular mode. Also note: the selection spots sometimes switch so pay attention! :P

Back to the bulkhead room to open the North facing bulkhead, which is another class II alarm (4 circles). This time the enemies will be coming mainly through the big door and a few through little door right next to the regular bulkhead so prep accordingly. From there its just a matter of pushing North until you reach the class III alarm door (8 circles) where the baddies will be coming primarily from the little door down the lit hallway. Prep as needed. After that, its just a matter of picking up the HDDs which don't slow you down or anything, and just waltz back to the drop point for extraction. Nothing will be chasing you if you killed everything on the way in, making this a cinch! Also note, in the normal route we encountered zero scouts. Yay!

However if you decided to take extreme route, that radically increases the difficulty. In addition to ALL THE ABOVE, you must also open the extreme bulkhead - class III alarm (8 circles), open two class II cluster alarms (16 circles each I think, but fast to clear/stand on) both guarded only by one door, deal with scouts and up-link at two terminals (3 codes a piece I think) much like in R3B1. I'll go through that in more detail when we survive it!

Even without doing the extreme extra, the basic success will already unlock Floor B. :)

Saturday 24 October 2020

For the King: Victorious Defeat

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The ship Queen Rosomon provided Nemo, Davy and Ahab was fine indeed and could stand up to the powerful blows of the Sea King. Alas it was their human bodies that gave out in the end as Nemo was crushed, Davy drowned and Ahab eaten by the towering monster. They did severely hurt it though, forcing it to retreat into the deep once more to rest for a few centuries and saving Fahrul from the imminent flood.

"Your life is in danger my Queen," said Hildebrandt. "With his grand plans in the wind the wizard is sending assassins for you instead, as that would be the next best thing to cause chaos."

"It's true," said Face, the last remaining A Team member who was left as her on again/off again body guard. "He's put a public bounty on you and the rewards are... lets say even your guards might be tempted. We need to get you out of here any lay low until this all settles down."

Heeding the advice, Queen Rosomon quickly changed into adventuring attire and with Hildebrandt and Face descended into the cave system designed as the royal escape route. A route known by the wizard's assassins apparently as soon bandits and all sorts of scum began attacking from the maze like caverns. In an attempt to lose them, Hildebrandt led the party to the lower depths near the magma river, but even here an assassin followed them. This one had a pet owl bear that ripped Face's face off then pinned Hildebrandt and gorged itself on his innards while he was still alive.

Their owl bears stand upright!

His final screams didn't distract Queen Rosomon who used her own significant magic prowess to battle the assassin but she was no match for the priestess once known as Lucia. With a flick of her hair, Lucia sent the good Queen off her feet, and tumbling right into the lava river behind her with a splash, head first. With her task complete, the smirking priestess then wondered if she should take the throne of Fahrul for herself.

Insight: "Hildebrandt's Cellar" mode is an infinite dungeon which tests how far you can reach. Goblin shops and treasures are available on each floor and there are bosses (in the form of scourges) every 3 floors.

Friday 23 October 2020

Northmen - A Viking Saga

If you can't edit fight scenes well, don't have them in the first place.

A small band of vikings (led by Tom Hopper) with a huge amount of bad luck get shipwrecked on a foreign land and immediately draw the ire of its king who sends his ruthless mercenaries to slaughter them. If that sounds like non-stop action its because it almost is, especially since there's not much of a plot outside backstories to fill here - yet somehow it still manages to leave questions unanswered!

Even that sword grip looks odd to me... but hey, I'm no expert.

Anyway, it's a fun enough adventure with a good body count but only if you are happy to turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. Just a heads up the fighting scenes are of the many quick cuts variety cinematography wise, which is crap. All up I would probably watch it again, but wouldn't go out of my way to do so and give it two crazy monks out of five.

Thursday 22 October 2020

For the King: Gnarly Seamen

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The A Team had already destroyed a number of chaos devices when they entered the Obsidian Keep which was guarded by Ferghus and his Royal Droll skeletal band. Baracus easily KOed the fugitive and in an epic rock battle (skele bards are my favorite fight) the A Team destroyed the skeletal band once and for all. Unfortunately the wizard had sent reinforcements to defend the chaos device here, and weakened from those boss battles Hannibal and Murdoch were both relieved of their hearts by a wraith while Baracus was felled by a most terrible foe... a wizard crab!

Yes, it's a bearded crab with a wizard's hat... :P

Meanwhile back at the demon cave, the vampire was just about to finish drinking Dijaam when a harpoon suddenly burst out of his chest, killing him! The stripped captive had been his meal for days now and couldn't quite make out the trio of sailors that had come to her rescue. One of them also was carrying the equally nude and equally alive Esme, and both were taken for a ride aboard their ship and delivered to the safety of Parid.

Queen Rosomon and Hildebrandt were more than concerned at the state of the women but had to ask about the safety of the realm first. "What news of the Sea King?"

"Aye its as ye said," nodded Ahab. "Th'wizard be usin merlings to summon'im to drownusall!"

"It is a good thing these heroes already slew their Kraken," added Nemo, referring to the two women they rescued.

Davy, standing behind them blew out some pipe smoke while scratching his beard. "Wreckin tha temples is only delaying tha ine.. inevite... delayin tha water though."

"Then your task is clear gentlemen," said the Queen rising with regal composure. "You must face and defeat the Sea King."

Insight: "Into the Deep" is my favorite mode in the game which replaces chaos with tides. While more chaos makes things harder, maximum tide is a game over which forces you to be fast. Shutting down the temples delays the tides, but there is only one way to actually win: defeat the Sea King.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Marco Polo (TV)

Well, they needed one white dude.

This is mainly the story of Kublai Khan (fantastically portrayed by Benedict Wong), his governing of the Mongol people and the intrigue of his court which is where a young Marco Polo finds himself stuck at. The sets are great, as are the action scenes especially any involving Hundred Eyes. The huge number of extras also warrants a mention.

The true hero of the show.

Acting wise, everyone is pretty good and as usual it is the plot that is a little wobbly but entertaining nonetheless. There's blood, gore, fighting, nudity, explosions - pretty much everything I enjoy in a series! They do not show mass battles though as it's obviously out of budget, but it's fine the way they do it. Pity that it got cancelled after two seasons, I would have definitely liked to see more. Something worth trying out, I give it 3.5 golden passes out of 5. There's also a special episode called "Marco Polo Hundred Eyes" that sits in between seasons one and two.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

For the King: The A Team

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Now with a clear target, Calia, Dijaam and Esme were sent from Parid into the hot lands to find fuel for an airship - the only method available to directly attack the wizard's dark spire. A demon cave was their first stop, and it also turned out to be their last when they unexpectedly encountered a vampire! He caught Calia by surprise, shoving her right into the maw of a giant carnivorous clam whose jaws shut fast upon its new meal.

His merling assistant easily clobbered Esme and dragged the bard deeper into the darkness while Dijaam fought a losing battle against the bloodsucker. Finally exhausted and disarmed, she was helpless as he sank his teeth into her neck... and everything went black.  

Queen Rosomon was no fool though. A direct attack would be the most obvious one for the wizard to counter, which is why she set that task for the B team. She had another team already attacking secretly, via the destruction of more chaos devices at the bottom of dungeons. Elsewhere at an ancient quarry, the elemental scourge Deimos cried out in horror as it fell to this trio of adventurers, their white haired leader grinning while saying "I love it when a plan comes together!" Hannibal, Murdoch and Baracus are... the A Team.

Getting rid of foolish scourges all across the land!

Insight: The "Dungeon Crawl" variant follows the same story and rules as the base game using chaos as time pressure. I believe the only difference is that you don't have to go attack the dark spire at the end.

Monday 19 October 2020

The Siege of Jadotville

Using every bullet twice.

Based on a true story, the main bulk of it pertains to an United Nations force of peace keepers deployed in the Congo and their desperate attempt to hold their position against superior enemy numbers despite lack of resupply, air support, and reinforcements. Actually the movie does a good job of showing just how screwed they are at every turn.

Mandatory explosive action shot!

This and the many action sequences make it highly entertaining. It helps that the acting, sets and effects are decent too, and that the film doesn't try stretch itself out to more than what it is - basically one long fight. If you like stories with war, guns and action, you will enjoy this and I personally wouldn't mind watching it again. I give The Siege of Jadotville three mercenaries out of five.

Sunday 18 October 2020

For the King: Keys and Tentacles

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Given their initial success, the three Enderalians were sent onto the city of Parid to collect pieces of a key to enter the King's Maze. While the first two are easy enough to collect (though one held by a mindflayer mindlord was more challenging), the third is off shore somewhere on the Rogue Isles. Fortunately, Fahrul boating was back in business and could sell the party a small raft to brave the seas. What they didn't count on was running into the legendary Kraken!

Uh oh! This little raft can't take something of that size!

The beast easily destroys their craft and shipwrecks the trio at some unforgiving swamp which happens to be the home of the Bandit King, one of the scourges of the land who makes everything twice as expensive as they should be! Calia makes quick work of him in combat and with prices back to normal, they are able to buy another raft upon reaching civilization and easily find the final key to unlock the King's Maze and manage to defeat the monsters within, destroying another major chaos device.

This one deactivates the shield around the dark spire, prompting its owner - the ex-court wizard - to magically broadcast a message to the Queen and her champions: "Killing your king was just the beginning! All of Fahrul will soon fall to chaos! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Queen Rosomon sighed as this was typical of one who has gone mad with power. In this case their... 8th court wizard? Honestly, she had lost count.

Insight: A dead character can be revived by spending a life point or using a sanctum, which will take the death instead of the character should they reach 0 HP. Life points can be replenished via quest rewards, visiting fountains of life or winning at the dark carnival. That last option is very risky though.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Delores: A Thimbleweed Park Mini-Adventure

A Covid Freebie.

This point and click adventure sees the player in control of the titular Delores, who is trying her hand out at photo journalism for a small town paper. With pretty intuitive controls, there's not much of a learning curve in this purely find the spot game. Though in this case, "the spot" you need a picture of might need some puzzle solving to find.

That's about all the story you're going to get.

Your tasks are given in batches of five, at which point you pretty much have to quit the game. Don't worry, that's actually the very odd save mechanism and some things actually progress. An entertaining enough little exercise which is freely available on both Steam and Epic I think, perfect if you happen to be really bored and in the mood for something different. I give it 2 cameras out of 5.

Insight: Remember where things are to help your future assignments.

Friday 16 October 2020

For the King: The Cult of Chaos

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The mood was dour that night at Oarton as Hildebrandt announced "The King is dead and we need your help to find the responsible party. By the Queen's grace, this is your chance to earn your citizenship."  The three female foreign refugees before him bowed, each capable in their own right: Calia the warrior, Esme the bard and Dijaam the smuggler. Hildebrandt distrusted Dijaam the most as she was just let out of jail for this very mission, but he accepted the Queen's will.

Geared and given a purpose the trio headed out into the forest where Esme shared her suspicions about a new cult she heard rumors of. "No one calling themselves the Cult of Chaos could be up to any good!"

Those robes also reek of evil.

It wasn't long before they found a group of said cultists and followed him back into a nearby mine filled with all sorts of creatures guarding a large device at the bottom that was generating some form of dark energy. Without hesitation, Calia destroyed it with her heavy hammer. In that instant a powerful spell of invisibility was deactivated, letting everyone see an ominous dark spire in the far distance... and one the trio would easily spot upon returning to the surface.

"That's new," mused Dijaam. Calia nodded.

"Whoever owns that probably knows who killed the king."

Insight: Prices to buy gear or services goes up each time you complete a quest. Buy pipe upgrades and godsbeard early!

Thursday 15 October 2020

Good Design: Nine Lives Stealer

Something to translate into MMORPGS.

The Waterdeep: The Dungeon of the Mad Mage board game is full of bad design ideas, perhaps that's what made this one item stand out for me. The Nine Lives Stealer is a powerful magic sword that you earn by beating the death knight who wields it (and boy does he wield it well). As a player item, it does above average and consistent damage on a hit, and on a roll of 20 on a 20 sided die it instantly kills whatever you hit, including bosses! Should that ever happen, the sword is then lost.

That would make a fantastic weapon in MMORPGs, which should translate to doing damage equal or a little better than the top tier weapon at every release. It is something people would want to grind for and want to have a supply of. Something pay to win people would buy from the auction house and/or the cash shop. Something that would always be in demand. Obviously you won't want to use it as your "main" weapon because I know a lot of people don't want to suddenly be fighting barehanded (obviously monks / martial arts don't exist or aren't effective in that world), and you definitely don't want to risk losing it against a minor add.

But as something that could potentially cut down the time in a dungeon and/or instakill bosses? Or even that annoying guy in PvP matches? Hell yes. Take that Tiamat! In your face Zariel! This is one reward I'd definitely like to see implemented.

Wednesday 14 October 2020

For the King: A New Priestess

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Since the keys to the armory at Ravenhook were lost during the goblin siege, Lucia decides to gear up the old fashioned way: piracy. She, Sunbro and Sahkarov raid other vessels and enemy camps near the shore to improve their equipment and supplies.  It is slow going however, and with impatience getting the better of her she leads the team into a temple of ice said to hold untold treasures.

Piracy is all the rage in these parts!

Alas, Sunbro is speared through the heart by a merling guardian while Sahkarov and Lucia are captured by its wizard master. Over the next few days Lucia, who was stripped and placed in a small cell, is horrified to watch the wizard transfer Sahkarov's soul and consciousness into that of a guardian snowman, like one of the many they destroyed on the way in. "What are you going to do to me?" she asked in a trembling voice.

The wizard laughed. "To you? Nothing you haven't already done to yourself!"

Lucia was confused as to what he meant, but after a few more days she didn't care. In fact, as the cold began to feel quite nice against her skin her memories from before the wizard's dungeon began to fade, including that of her precious sister and even her own name. Eventually, the wizard simply let her out of her cell with a bow. "Welcome, priestess."

The priestess ran her hand through her magic locks and grinned.

Insight: Two classes you should work on unlocking are the Herbalist, who collects free herbs anytime they finish on wilderness areas or on their turn in dungeons and the Lumberjack who is a superior version of the Blacksmith starting class. Also, your tank should ALWAYS be the middle character as that position takes the most damage with enemy AoE.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Waterdeep: The Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Where stupid design decisions begin creeping in.

The next game after Tomb of Annihilation, this sees your cooperative party of up to five intrepid adventurers tackle the infamous Undermountain, which is home to the mad mage Halaster Blackcloak and his monstrous apprentices. This time the game adds more spell wielding foes as well as elder rune cards that can either have a bane or boon, depending on the situation. Some of these are rather minor, offering one free reroll or simply stunning you. Others are noticeably stronger - like being unable to heal yourself for the rest of the adventure!

Also, it's as if the designers looked at the previous game and thought "this one needs to be harder" - a trap many stupid designers seem to always fall into. Monsters are more dangerous in many ways. Some don't just hurt you, they "weaken" you meaning you can't get that HP back. Others, like the intellect devourers only stun you if they can hit, but if they hit a stunned person they do 5 points of damage. For comparison your tanks will have 12 HP at most. Oh, and there are thugs later who upon death spawn into those intellect devourers. There's a small chance three of them spawn simultaneously as well.

Bring Cormac!

Unable to think of clever boss mechanics, they also just decided to make them hit point sponges - the most stupid and boring way to upgrade a boss. In exchange, you can actually reach level 4 in this game, two levels higher than any before! Of course, my party finished all 13 adventures on level 2 as per usual.

The worst sin however, is misprints, one especially significant one on the sorcerer's card. While we still finished and enjoyed this outing, we all agreed it is the weakest of the existing set, as such I rate it 3 death knights out of 5. Only recommended if you've played and enjoyed all the others. If not, Tomb of Annihilation currently holds my highest score. For those who prefer competitive board games, check out Lords of Waterdeep instead.

Insight: It is almost mandatory to have a cleric with the "Path to the Grave" daily power ready, and get someone that anti-stun ring or you will have a bad time.

Monday 12 October 2020

For the King: Magic Hair

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Sahkarov was impressed that Lucia decided to give the sizeable haul and all the vessels of the pirates to the authorities. Hildebrandt, a representative of the court in the region, immediately used the funds to pay the dock workers and get naval shipping back on track, as well as rewarded the trio with a small vessel for their efforts. Soon the group is sailing into colder weather, and back to where Lucia hopes to reunite with her sister.

It is a short crossing to reach the snowy North continent, and they make for the village of Ravenhook which is under attack from frost goblins! After three waves (of increasing difficulty) the village is saved but they report the other towns are also under attack by a multitude of other aggressive beasts that are too strong for the trio to currently face. Instead they decide to visit a ruined church where the leader of the frost goblins makes camp. She is not a frost goblin at all but some sort of Foul Priestess!

With cronies!

Despite her strong magic she is defeated, and sensing power coursing through her locks, Lucia decides to shave them off the priestess' head and use them for herself - much to Sunbro's concern. "Don't worry," Lucia assured him. "I just want us to get as strong as possible, as fast as possible." Lucia could already feel her magic powers increasing, but she wasn't sure that it would be enough.

Insight: In "Frost Adventure" the further North in the map you go, the more cold damage you take if you end in a place with no fire (camp or town).

Sunday 11 October 2020

Den of Thieves

Cops and robbers for action fanatics.

At it's core, this is a heist movie focusing on heavy violence as Merrimen's (Pable Schrieber) thieves go up against Nick's (Gerard Butler) bad boy sheriffs. After the initial action packed intro the story dials back a lot though, with flash backs and back stories aplenty which drag the pace down somewhat. Most of these could probably have been cut from the film altogether which would result in a cleaner and shorter story.

The perfect tool for thieving.

Anyway, the acting is passable, the heist itself is pretty good and there are some surprising plot twists but are they enough to save that mire in the middle? Eh... kind of. I'll only recommend this one for action fans, and only as a "there's nothing else to watch" flick. Den of Thieves steals 2.5 Chinese takeaways out of 5, and I wouldn't watch it again.

Friday 9 October 2020

For the King: To get a Boat

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The Midnight Woods was appropriately named for blocking out the sun and was home to bats, goblins, kobolds, skeletons and ghosts. It was the perfect place for Ferghus to hide his vault of embezzled funds which he acquired in his new position as the Farhul boating manager (turns out being a blacksmith didn't work out for him), but he didn't count on having a trio of brothers from Dragonarm raid his vault, defeating his trio of skeletal bard guardians (yes, musical skeletons because Ferghus is cheap)! Vowing vengeance, there was little more he could do than hide from the law and hide from his failure...

Skeleton guitarists are awesome!

"Sorry, no one is working until we get paid," said the clearly grumpy dock hand as he sat idle on a barrel. "But I need a boat to find my sister!" argued Lucia in frustration, to little effect. She returned to her two companions with the news.

"It's alright little one," said old man Sahkarov, a retired soldier who had helped Lucia recover from a near death experience. "There are other ways to get a boat."

Sunbro, who now served as Sahkarov's guardian, smiled and nodded. The man was always quiet and had a strange practice of praising the sun each morning, but he had a muscular build that was befitting a tournament champion. That strength would soon be needed as the trio found themselves a rowdy tavern hidden in the woods. A tavern full of pirates spending their ill gotten gains!

"Gentlemen," Sahkarov announced as they entered the establishment. "I need your ship."

"Ye can't afford it mate!" laughed one with missing teeth. His fellows heartily joined in. Sahkarov smiled quietly.

"I wasn't asking."

Before they realized in, Sunbro was upon them - smashing heads into tables, breaking limbs in manners that they should not bend, and ripping apart jaw bones with his bare hands. Lucia looked on in shock.

"You disapprove?" asked Sahkarov, still standing at the doorway with his hands clasped behind his back. He smiled as Lucia was unable to answer.

Insight: "Gold Rush", which takes place in the Midnight Woods, is actually the competitive mode of the game in which your three heroes work against each other. Ironically, it also is a great place for beginners to get the hang of the mechanics before having any time limits imposed on them - which happens on most of the other modes.

Have You Ever?

Long ago (or it will be long ago by the time I post this), there was this internet questionnaire floating around so I thought I'd answer it too! :P

Driven or been driven at 100 mph/160 kmh?

Nope. I dislike driving, so when I drive I try to be as careful as possible and drive as little as I can. That kinda goes for all vehicles actually. If I can walk, I'll walk.

Learned a possibly deadly skill?

Capoeira is possibly deadly, so yes... though it is unlikely deadly when I use it. I'm pretty good with guns though. :P

Ridden in a helicopter?

Nope! Never had a need to. This also falls into the "its a vehicle" thing for me.

Gone zip lining?

Nope. Seems unnecessarily risky. If someone managed to attach the other end of the line, I'll find the bridge to get there instead.

Been to an NFL game or Ice Hockey?

Nope, neither interest me.

Watched Dr Who?

While I might have seen bits of an episode or two, nope. Doesn't interest me.

Been to Canada?

Nope. I might do this one day.

Visited Disney?

Yes but I was so small I hardly remember it.

Visited an actual castle?

Nope. Someone really needs to build one of these nearer to me.

Visited Vegas?

Nope. Again I might do this one day, though Canada seems more likely.

Eaten alone at a restaurant?

Yep! I've got no problems doing that.

Played an instrument?

Yes, a few. I try to sing too.

Ridden a motorcycle?

Nope. This one is highly unlikely too being a vehicle and all.

Ridden a horse?

Yup! I rarely get to do this though, and I'm not very good at it.

Donated blood?

Nope. I need mine thanks.

Been skiing/snowboarding?

Nope. Never seen snow. I hear its cold.

Gone camping?

Nope. Never had a need to. Definitely not going to "for fun".  

Gone to a festival?

No. Oh, wait yes I have. Not really going out of my way to go to them though as there are people there. I try avoid people.

Driven a stick shift?

A manual car? Yes. Automatic is much simpler and less stressful.

Ridden in a police car?

Nope. Never needed to.

Driven a boat?

Nope. This combines a few things I dislike. "Driving" "vehicle" "water". None of those appeal to me.

Eaten Escargot?

WTF is Escargot? (Looks it up). Oh, so "have I ever eaten snails"? Blech. Hell no.

Been on a cruise?

Nope. At least I wouldn't have to drive it? LOL.

Been on TV?

I don't think so.

Been in a paper/book/magazine?

None of those... but a flyer yes. And the inside part of a music CD cover.

Eaten Sushi?

Yes. Not going to make that mistake again.

Seen a UFO?

Nope. I don't actively look for them though, and for me many aircraft/drones would be UFOs at night.

Been Bungie Jumping?

Nope. Seems like a really bad idea, so not going to do that.

Rescued an animal?

I walked a lost dog home once (good thing he had an address on his collar), but other than that nope.

Met someone rather famous?

A few - yeah, and that's not counting the ones that show up at conventions.

Thursday 8 October 2020

R3B1 - Threshold (Part III)

To recap, we've previously reached the main chamber, found the magic wall and completed the alarm scans of the APEX doors and both security doors in the wings which we will now proceed to cheese (lol). Open up the "short light" side and make your way through all the rooms - sniping scouts as needed. Remember if a room wakes up, its more resource saving to just magic wall the lot of them.

Eventually you'll find the first objective terminal (which doesn't change spot) on a tiny platform up a ladder at a dead end cavern. We mined the approach (5 mines) and each of the three doors in the adjacent area which we obviously closed. Jim then c-foamed the base and top of the ladder and took up overwatch positions on the tiny platform where the terminal is. My job was to do the typing.

To start, you need to UPLINK_CONNECT (to whatever the random IP is). Once done the waves will start coming and you need to input four instances of UPLINK_VERIFY xxxx (to the four letter code on your screen, which you can't see if you are staring at the terminal). So it may ask for ZO9, ESC out of the terminal thing, find what ZO9 is in the list (lets say "JUMP"), then type in UPLINK_VERIFY JUMP. After a short loading sequence, just do the next.

At around the third one enemies started reaching the ladder, but Jim and DL had me covered. Also after entering the fourth one no need to wait for the loading sequence - I could start help clearing the left overs. Who knew tops of ladders were good spots? At least as long as you have ammo.

Next, time to open up the "long dark" wing and do the same clear/magic wall method as before. We usually had two scouts in the chambers ahead (and once both in the same chamber). Locate the second objective terminal but before turning it on you need to do some extra prep - like open the APEX door beyond which is the extraction point for this mission. It's worth a practice run so no one gets lost.

I put five mines beyond the APEX door, and Jim iced the ramp approaches to it. At the same time, DL mined the approach to the 2nd terminal (at the single entry to the room) which Jim iced as well while I did the techy UPLINK stuff. They held easily and once I put in the fourth code it was time to go (don't wait for it to verify/finalize). Sure we had to sprint through a few shooters but we all made it to the extract spot past the APEX door and each threw a previously prepared c-foam grenade.  

This was enough to help us defeat the incoming wave and hold out to GTFO! VICTORY!

Wednesday 7 October 2020

R3B1 - Threshold (Part II)

After completing the first 12 circle alarm scan you will find yourself in a small foyer that is adjacent to huge "main chamber" of this map. If there are enemies in the foyer that wake up, try your best to keep the fight in the foyer area as to not wake everything else, which usually includes a scout in the main chamber. If everything goes to sh*t though, don't panic - you have reached the magic wall.

Might not look like much, but this little cylinder shed is magic!

To use this crutch, you need to jump behind this wall from the opposite end of this picture. With enough patience, you can then hammer through it (bug we used to our leverage) to kill any striker foolish enough to wander up to it. Shooters will remain at a distance though and will need to be dealt with accordingly.

Note: while super handy and ammo saving, you are not 100% safe behind the wall. Shooters and occasionally strikers will flank around to cane you. Also, it won't really help in parts where you need to stand on red circles, which is what you're about to do soon!

Clear the main chamber as you see fit, and then open all the normal doors on each wing - the "short light side" and the "long dark side" (preferably the side without a scout first if he's there) and clear those too. If everything is done properly you are now left with one alarm door on each side (8 circles each, not counting initial one), and the alarmed APEX door in the center (13 circles, not counting initial one and last one is a big circle).

Before doing any, its worth practicing some parkour in the main chamber. This is the only way you'll be able to escape the armies about to be on your tail. A few handy ones I suggest:

-Go up the stairs opposite the APEX door and sprint jump over the balcony onto the truck below.
-Next to the upper door of the "short bright" wing, you can angle jump to the truck below (harder).
-Near the upper middle door of the "long dark" wing, there is a gap in the banister where you can drop off (don't jump)
-From the APEX door running to the magic wall via the lit hallway, you can diagonally hop on boxes to clear a banister.

APEX mining time. For this I put seven mines. Five in the foyer hall where the enemies will approach from and two at the dark staircase directly ahead of the magic wall in the main chamber. We shut the all the wing doors again then initiated the APEX door scan.

That prep buys around five circles worth, leaving the next eight as panicked mayhem which favours Jim's combat shotgun and my 4 burst carbine. Just remember the loops and note if you have the lions share of scum on your tail - dragging them to the magic wall will buy your team mates time to complete the scan.

Did you survive? Great! Don't open the APEX door though. Next up is the "long dark" wing, so open the doors on the "short light" side and shut all the ones for the "dark side" except the small one upstairs near the APEX door. See how the handrail forms a sort of tunnel? Thats around four mines worth.

We left that door open to bait the horde, and it works - just make sure someone goes to man it / shut it after finishing the first scan circle. This buys the others plenty of time to finish the eight circles. Once done, magic wall the remainder and then its on to the short light side. Again, DO NOT open the unlocked security door on the dark side. We're trying to control where they spawn. :P

The "short light" side is next and this time we kept the upstairs door open while mining the staircase leading to it. Again, someone needs to man the door after the initial scan but it should be easy to finish all the circles before enemies enter the room. Once they pour in, simply open the ground door (which I hope you unlocked before hand) and exfiltrate back to the magic wall to finish the wave.

Done? Great! Now we just need to do the actual objectives... in the next post! :P

Tuesday 6 October 2020

R3B1 - Threshold (Part I)

Been awhile since our last win in GTFO, and the main thing we ended up needing this time is mines which both DL and I brought while Jim remained on his C-Foam launcher. If you thought the previous A floor had a lot of enemies, you are in for a (bad) surprise in this massive level.

On a plus side, you can/should be practicing double/triple bop now if enemy clusters allow. It is also a good time to remember that to stealth hammer shooters you need a full swing to the back of the head / nape or it might not die. Don't get lazy with positioning and always unlock both sides of a door - closing one while being chased by a horde buys you time to reload. You can also shut it from the side you are coming from and run under it before the shutter closes. Got it? Let's go!

After the drop you've got two chambers to clear. The second one is massive and you might be able to just stealth past sleepers here, but I prefer killing them all to have a fall back position. You then can choose to either take the one door down the ramp into the "basement" or one of the two doors higher up. Go up first and clear the small chamber to get access to a terminal to ping gear.

Proceed through the big door into what we call the "balcony" room, noting the ladder on the mid-floor which sleepers can and will use to flank you. If you go loud at any point, its best not to fight in this room. Now the small doors lead back to the "basement" room from before, and if you pinged gear in there you might consider sneaking in to steal it or clear the room.

Only one way forward through Area H and a non-violent security scan into the long hallway where there are always scum who always need to be cleared. Note this hall is magnificent for the hel gun and long range rifles. Up the ramp to the right is "the prayer room", a tiny enclave which occasionally has gear or sleepers or both. Usually worth a peek.

The actual way forward is at the end of the hall - a large room which again always has scum. Bop em if you can, go loud if you can't and take the fight into the long hall and as far back as you need. As usual, for any scouts - DL is on snipe duty (though I did manage to successfully bop one once)!  

Once clear its time to prep for a 12 circle (not counting the initial one) ALARM scan. One mine on the inner part of the door you came in, one or two to box the door, four or five in the long hall outside and one (usually retrievable) at the prayer room door just in case. Cfoam the door and start up the scan. With Jim on re-cfoaming door duty, DL and I easily have enough time to clear all the circles before the door falls. With the infinite spawn halted, you can then win the fight at your leisure. 

If you plan on making use of the long hall again, ensure all the enemies are in the room with you. Suddenly running into a giant striker in the long hallway on your way out is going to ruin your day.

Once done, head through that now unlocked alarm door to a little foyer with the "magic wall" and the main area of this map, which I'll cover in the next post...

Monday 5 October 2020

Amnesia: The Dark Descent / Justine

The dark is your frenemy.

Waking up in an old castle inhabited only by terrifying monsters with no way to fight back, you only choice is to sneak around while solving puzzles and collecting stuff with a few heart pounding chase sequences thrown in for good measure. Annoyingly, you need to sit still in the dark to hide from the enemies and the main kicker is... you can't look at them. The more you look at them, the more they "see" you so expect a few good minutes of this to be crouching in a dark corner staring at the wall.

Of course, your protagonist is also going insane and staying in the dark makes him lose more sanity making him really sluggish to control. Curing this is simple: turn on your lamp, light up a candle, or simply stand in a brightly lit place. While the story is decent, it doesn't do much to explain why some required puzzle bits are scattered in really far apart areas (and not destroyed in some cases) other than to simply make it harder for you. That aside, this game does horror really well - especially the first time you encounter the water monsters. Damn.

All sorts of scary stuff in this game!

While the enemies in The Dark Descent cheat somewhat in that they spawn out of nowhere, this is less true in the much shorter but equally scary DLC called Justine which came bundled with the main game. In it, there are less hostiles, but there is no save function. Either you win in one run, or die and start from the beginning. This makes the choice of trying to save other NPCs trapped with you a true test as often you are sacrificing your own time to escape in the process. Personally, I let them all die and saved myself. :P

Definitely one for fans of horror games, but for everyone else the main game is really oppressive. By that I mean even I could only play in short bursts. Backtracking in a horror setting is quite draining. I actually prefer Justine to it, simply because it is more "fair" and the length is perfect. As it comes as a package I have to rate it as one item though, and give it 3.5 memory artifacts out of 5.

Insight: Keep a mental map and plan on dark rooms to run back to for hiding purposes. Also, when exploring a room - shut the door behind you to prevent wanderers getting the drop on you.

Sunday 4 October 2020

Eschalon: Bastion Gem

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Caught by surprise, Gevlon succumbed to the fire rather quickly but instead of dying he transformed himself into a humongous giant spider! Rollo responded by drinking his last invisibility potion and setting the entire room on fire... until he ran out of bombs. Even this wasn't enough to finish Gevlon off and so Rollo attacked with his sword in an epic battle in which he finally managed to slay the goblin mage. After looting Gevlon's treasury, Rollo proceeded to use his teleporter into Bastion tower and put the gem back where it belonged.

Almost instantly, the nearby chancellor awoke from his puppet like state and realized what had just happened. He thanked Rollo for his part in restoring his mind, though he did not realize Rollo's part in causing the problem to begin with. With the immediate recall of the army and the death of Gevlon, the remaining goblin forces were crushed into the dirt and shit where they belong.

Possibly also because this guy showed up.

Meanwhile, Rollo is given a decent monetary award and is announced as the saviour of Bastion. Now flooded with fortune and glory, he can only wonder what lies next for him in the future...

Insight: Bring lots of potions (especially healing ones) for this last battle. The boss spider form can paralyze you constantly.

Saturday 3 October 2020

Code 8

Argues that robocops are better than sentinels.

Born to a poor home, Connor (Robbie Amell) is drawn to some dangerous and illegal work to make a lot of money in a short time to try save his sick mom. To make things more interesting, the world he lives in is heavily policed and (super)powered individuals like himself are treated as second class citizens. While the plot doesn't have surprises the world itself is interesting enough as are the segments where powers are actually used.

The Amell brothers back in action together.

Alas there are a few gaping holes in the story and worse, a few slow sections. I also can't bring myself to believe that "powered" people would be so weak in a world like that. Perhaps all that Marvel and DC media I've consumed has colored my judgement? Anyway, a good enough flick especially if you are a fan of the Amell brothers (yes, "Green Arrow" Stephen is here too). I give it 2.5 psykes out of 5.

Friday 2 October 2020

Eschalon: Gramuk!?

[Part of the Cursed story line]

It doesn't take long to find the massive goblin citadel, whose walls are patrolled by numerous minotaurs. With no time to lose Rollo simply charges through the main gate, zig zagging past the entire goblin army stationed there and makes it into the citadel itself where he must then navigate past the guards with sprinting and stealth (via invisibility potions) to unlock the gates to the second floor. More spiders and minotaurs await there, but good use of demon oil keeps them from pursuing (they don't like walking through fire) until he comes face to face with... "Gramuk!?"

"That's what I am known as here," replied the goblin who slowly turned around. "But you know me better as... Gevlon!"

Surprisingly not so well defended up here...

Gevlon! Could it be? An ally from an earlier time! Rollo's memories finally come flooding back. The goblin earned a huge monetary reward for his previous heroism and used it to forge a massive empire, so Rollo and Ragner came to work for him after sinking their own ship by accident, and were tasked with stealing the Bastion gem which they did... but things went sideways because...

"I still don't understand why you thought you could double cross me," Gevlon mused. "With the chancellor under my mind control, I would always be the highest bidder for that gem. Hand it over, and I'll see to it that our arrangement remains in place. You get a ton of gold, which you don't have to share now, AND you get to leave the continent alive. So, what do you say?"

Rollo couldn't believe it. All of this was his fault? All the death and destruction just to serve his own greed? After a minute of introspection, Rollo gave his answer.

He threw an exploding flask at the goblin mage.

Insight: Enemies don't chase across areas. This makes it possible to run "forward".

Thursday 1 October 2020


Cute, crazy and absolutely grindy.

Crash landing on an alien planet has never been so much fun. When you and your AI companion emerge in the cartoonish, bouncy world you can immediately set about harvesting the local flora and fauna to build your way to thrive. Crafting is definitely the focus of this game, and that is reinforced by having quests that reward either component schematics or component pieces. There's no EXP. It's basically, if you want to do this you need to build this. Weapons add damage. Armor adds HP. It's pretty straight forward.

Majestic indeed.

The interface is pretty cool too, letting you track how much of what you still need to build X item and there is a good critter variety that you'll need to learn to fight and harvest across the massive planet. It's actually pretty strange having everything bright and colorful with a cheery banter while you butcher alien cows in explosions of blood to collect their bones, flesh and various organs. Alas, it's not one for me as the main draw it one of my pet peeves: grinding. Lots and lots of material grinding to be precise. For those that like that sort of game play with a ridiculously heavy slant towards harvesting and crafting, definitely try this out. For everyone else, stay away.

Insight: Pick up everything! Also you can instantly warp to your crashpad and other telepads you discover by clicking on them on your map.