Saturday 31 July 2021

July 2021 Review: 20 is the new 80

I'm still in lockdown but it feels like I've been busy, with my Black Desert season corsair getting interrupted by lots of other games such as the full Banner Saga which I'll be posting about shortly. Neverwinter wise, Shintar has a nice recap of what was removed (Cryptic's theme) in Mod 21: Jewel of the North. Part of this includes being level 80, since level 20 is the new max. In exchange we get the return of soloable mini-dungeon Throne of Idris, some tidy up quests, and a lot of bribes reward chests. I quite enjoyed the surprise Valindra duel but otherwise its just business as usual I guess, so no review of that coming from me.

After almost a year at the helm of the alliance we finally shuffled again back down into a sword position while preparing for the final push to 20. Will there still be Strongholds by the time we get there? Who knows! Meanwhile our Friday night co-op has returned to being GTFO and Ghost Recon Wildlands since the fix for both problems was simply Jim getting a new computer. :P

For those interested Blaugust is starting up again next month, and for those seeking to escape Blizzard here's a handy list of alternatives by Belghast. And for a fun game: whenever you watch a TV series or movie and characters are "going to eat" something, take note if anyone actually eats anything. It's surprising how many times food doesn't even make it to their mouths.

Most Viewed Posts in the last 30 days:

BDO: Unfinished Gem
BDO: Row Row Row, you're Sunk
BDO: Across the Sea

It's nice that the Black Desert posts have been getting attention! Funny that these are also the ones I fail in the most. =)

Thursday 29 July 2021

Warcraft (2016)

The arrival of the orcs.

With their world dying (possibly because of a Blizzard fiasco), the orcs step through a magic portal to invade the world of Azeroth, but not if Lothar (Travis Fimmel) has anything to say about it! It is much more than a simple blue versus green story though, and the action sequences and CGI are absolutely top notch. If anything, it's the pacing which throws us all across the vistas of Azeroth which seems a bit rushed,.

How are opposing sides always color coded?

As someone who isn't familiar with Warcraft lore I can't compare it for accuracy/continuity so I can only credit it as a stand alone movie which I enjoyed quite a lot. Definitely recommended for fantasy action fans in the same boat as me (no Warcraft knowledge), I give it three and a half griffons out of five.


A steampunk match-three roguelike.

France and England are at war, but to make things fun they are fighting using steampunk mecha and as the pilot of one of these it is up to you to go on missions to take out enemy armor and ultimately the boss... via tile matching. Base tiles give you either ammo, energy, coolant or repair and filling up your reserves let you do various things on your turn such as fire, power up shields, run, etc.

Still a large element of luck as usual.

In between missions you can upgrade your mechs systems and gain abilities through exp points but if you die, prepare to start from (almost) scratch. Yes, its a roguelike but the further in the campaign you go the more campaign unlocks you receive meaning you can start with different pilots, mechs and upgraded stats. For such a simple game I had quite a lot of fun with this one and actually do recommend it for idle or non-gamers as it is super simple, yet quite addictive. I also quite like the France boss theme so I'm scoring: two and a half shields out of five.

Insight: You can chain diagonally and always kill enemies if you can for their salvage (unless you are going to lose). Also, its worth spending to upgrade so that you last longer through the campaign. Make it to the boss and you'll probably have enough to unlock some campaign stuff even if you do get killed!

Tuesday 27 July 2021

BDO: The Second Questing

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

Repeating the quests on my corsair has been a lot faster than the first time around because it turns out "knowledge", which is often required to be gained to complete a quest objective, is shared across your family (characters on the same account). Furthermore, this extends to the knowledge you gain by fight enemy types which make them progressively easier to combat. It's also interesting that there seem to either be new quests or quests I missed previously this time around, like this reliable source that Illezra isn't quite dead yet. Apparently she's fled into the new dungeon: Atoraxxion.

Anyway, my goal of getting her to level 61 (on par with my main) is now achieved. This is good, because she's currently stuck in both the O'Dyllita I (shadow wolves are annoying) and Dreighan main quest lines (which in turn blocks Star's End). All her big movements and super-armor moves don't help too much against Garmoth it seems. I'm also getting the inkling that the main game here isn't actually fighting monsters, but upgrading armor and weapons.

Apparently GM's here are winged plague doctors!

Insight: After your first time through, Valencia II and and the Chenga Tome quests are a breeze. Also, if you combo Mareca: Whale Song into Prime: Wipe Out there's a clothing glitch where the corsair decides to get naked, especially in areas of high particle effects. Even more noticeable if you are over burdened which makes everything you do move in slow motion.

Critical hit indeed!

Mazinger Z: Infinity

"Diversity is the problem."

After years of peace, ex-Mazinger Z pilot/now scientist Koji Kabuto is part of a team that discovers a gigantic Mazinger robot hidden in Mt. Fuji right about the same time that nefarious forces invade from a parallel universe to use it to rewrite reality! If that sounds super wonky, its because it is. I mean, there's a character who has a headless body and a floating head so when he gets into a robot... its a headless body and floating head.

Eye candy for the older Mazinger fans.

Also, everything Mazinger does must be voice activated because moves are yelled out all the time - and there are a lot of them! For an end of the world scenario, everyone is pretty chill too - and there's always time for comedic characters to somehow survive absolutely ridiculous encounters. Fortunately the animation is really good. Not just the fight scenes where no one ever runs out of ammo, but in particular just conversation scenes which I give an thumbs up for. Still not one I'd watch again, and only recommended to Mazinger Z fans. Two breast missiles out of five.

Sunday 25 July 2021

GTFO: R5A2 - Recollect (Extreme)

To get Archer another win we replayed the normal version of this mission then Jim cleverly suggested we try extreme mode, which is almost exactly the same as the normal version, with one main difference: you'll mainly be doing the whole thing in pitch black darkness. Loadouts for the Extreme run were as follows:

Jim: DMR/Shotgun/Sniper Sentry
Archer: Heavy SMG/Sniper/Auto Sentry
Me: SMG/Shotgun/Cfoam
DL: DMR/Sniper/Mines

The start is pretty much the same: find the early bulkhead key but this time unlock the "Extreme" bulkhead, which surprisingly has no alarm. Inside is a massive room where you need to find a terminal to "REROUTE_POWER". Before doing so, take note of the other security door in this area which you currently cannot open and remember where it is. Also, you might want to load up on glow sticks. Once ready, input the command in the terminal and do a regular non-alarm scan on it.

Then something goes wrong and all the lights turn off but the security door you previously could not open has now opened by itself. You need to get the bulkhead key in there, but look out for the pair of scouts patrolling. Fun facts: darkness doesn't help scouts too much. You can hear them walk, and when they stop and send out their feelers they light themselves up nicely. Thus, archer and DL did simultaneous head shots on these which was pretty awesome.

Afterwards, plug the bulkhead key back near the start to open the hard (regular main mission) bulkhead. The only difference now is the spawn will likely show up through the open extreme bulkhead door so prepare accordingly (still close the normal door though but don't bother icing). Other than that, everything else plays exactly the same as the regular mode - only in the dark, making this a pretty easy level to get an extreme win to help unlock the lower levels.

Airplane! (1980)

An oldie but a goodie.

Mainly following the story of how cabbie Ted Striker (Robert Hays) chases his flight attendant love interest onto a terrible flight filled with food poisoning, bad weather, and numerous suicides, this comedy and the effects are very entertaining despite its age. As always, some gags fall flat but for me those were very few.  

That's how you fly a plane!

Definitely not for everyone but give it a try and if you haven't enjoyed the first fifteen minutes, you probably won't like the rest of the film. If you like Leslie Nielsen comedies (he's in it too) then this might be one for you.

Saturday 24 July 2021

The Spectrum Retreat

Who knew colors could be painful?

Waking up with amnesia as the sole guest in a hotel run by automatons which you can't seem to exit, you are soon contacted by an outside guide who confirms you may be being held against your will. Escaping involves getting to the roof by finding codes for key pads and more annoyingly, a lot of increasingly difficult color puzzles.

At least it's a nice looking place.

While the voice acting and graphics are pretty neat, and the story is somewhat interesting - what kills it for me is the amount of backtracking required, and not in the "you found key A so walk back to door A" though there's a tiny bit of that. The puzzles themselves require you walking back and forth so many times to work them out. Quite likely I just suck at puzzles! :P Still, that means I didn't enjoy this one and can only recommend it for those who enjoy wracking their brains. One and a half color cubes out of five.

Thursday 22 July 2021

Mare of Easttown

So many scum bags, so much yelling. Glad I don't live there.

Detective Mare (Kate Winslet) seems to be related to everyone in Easttown, and when she is put on a case of a missing girl she gets to highlight just how scummy so many people there are, including her own family. This is obviously intentional as it makes it really hard to figure out whodunit when there are so many suspects.

Don't lie to her or she'll yell at you.

While there is little action here the story is more than enough to be interesting, especially for people that enjoy murder mysteries. You might find more yelling in this one than in other crime series though, but that's only because IT MAKES THINGS MORE INTENSE!? Worth a watch, I give it three vapes out of five and if they do make a season 2, I'll probably watch it.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Horizon Chase is Other Demons Obduction

Three more games that aren't for me.

Horizon Chase Turbo

A simple car racing game across various tracks which clearly has driver assist since it is actually difficult to go the wrong way / off the road. While it also offers some vehicle customization and upgrades it obviously pales in comparison to other car racers. Alas with the best art kept at the unreachable horizon, I doubt many would opt to stay in this game where your only main choice is deciding when to use your nitro boost (spoiler: the straights, duh).

Hell is Other Demons

Because apparently hell looks like various shades of red and purple pixels, this game is quite minimalist when it comes to graphics. It does capture a feeling of hell though, in that each stage / room is predominantly vertical, and to escape all you have to do is blast away the spawning enemies (most of whom fly because AI gravity is too much work) with your upgradable hand cannon. This does get old really fast and given the controls aren't the best (eg. you can't jump while shooting, but can shoot while jumping) people will quickly realize they have better games to be spending their time on.


Thank you, hologram.

"From the makers of Myst" should have been enough to turn me off since I found Myst to be a really difficult puzzle game and Obduction is no different. Basically tasked with escaping from an alien planet I have to give credit where credit is due: the place looks amazing and the theme is quite interesting. Then come my problems - firstly FINDING stuff is tough! Luckily keen-eyed explorer-type players should be able to get by. Second problem: I'm just no good with these puzzles - making the hours I spend trying to work them tedious instead of fun. Now, for those that like puzzle games I think you might enjoy this one. If not, then be like me and stay away.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Rurouni Kenshin: The Final

After battling Shishio, Kenshin and his friends soon become the target of an old enemy in the final manga arc which never got animated. As a side note it will be funny if they do movies on what did get animated though but they'll need to fix up those plots majorly!

Enishi finally appears!

Anyway, the sets and cast are ok (Cho again is overacting lol). The action bits which all seem to rely on heavy wire work are fantastic again - at least in the small scale fights. Against mobs of enemies there's still that effect of lots of guys "waiting to strike / get hit" which is a shame because I remember specifically that anime Kenshin usually runs to narrow passages to remove that advantage from his enemies. Meanwhile movie Kenshin took a few (more) levels of bullet dodging.

I only have two other gripes with this flick: some quiet scenes go on longer than needed, and there seem to be fan favorite characters thrown in just for the sake of them being there. If that actually happens in the manga, I don't know, but at least two people definitely didn't need to be in this movie.

I still enjoyed this and if you like Kenshin you will too. If you are only here for the action, then there might be a few parts you'll need to be patient in. All up I give it three judgements out of five, and would watch it again... for the fight scenes.

Monday 19 July 2021


"You are a worm through time."

Set entirely in an "intelligent" building run by the Federal Bureau of Control which is experiencing an inter-dimensional invasion, this over the shoulder shooter has you play as an outsider simply trying to find her brother. The story is pretty good, as are the visuals and the easy to learn controls. The camera is something you might be fighting a bit with though!

Even the protagonist is classified.

Now I'm pretty average when it comes to shooters, so this game got pretty difficult as it embodies the lazy trope of "Surprise! Bad guys spawn from thin air!" To make matters worse, it throws in RPG elements where you need to grind random side missions to get various currencies to upgrade your weapons and abilities. The abilities are pretty cool, but grinding in a single player game reeks of laziness.

Oh noes, I need 30000 more unobtaniums so I can better kill the level 27 dude who looks exactly liek the level 1 dude but has a bigger number over their head! DUMB DUMB DUMB. At least they do have very adjustable difficulty settings in the game to suit the players abilities. I do still recommend it but with much less enthusiasm than before and give it three janitors out of five.

Sunday 18 July 2021


That's who messes with him.

A home invasion triggers regular family man Hutch (Bob Odenkirk) to revert back to his more violent, previous life. It's a very similar story to John Wick, with equally gratuitous violence and some good fight scenes, but this definitely takes a more humorous approach to the whole thing.

You should see the other guys.

Alas, the big finale involves lots of people who can't seem to shoot stationary targets in the open and while I could probably head cannon a few of them simply dodging (they aren't), one of these people is a very old dude. The plot armor runs thick, and while John Wick also has that - he covers it with a good layer of actual armor (yes BS fabric but its something). Still an entertaining film, and probably more so if you have no idea who John Wick is. I give it three kitty bracelets out of five and would probably watch it again.


Depression is a dish best served cold.

It is the beginning of a new ice age and it is up to you to lead your group of survivors to outlive the cold. To do this, you'll need to get them working to build shelters, outposts and other stations to keep your community happy. They'll also need to mine resources to keep feed the furnace to stay alive. Expect to restart a few times as there is little in way of tutorial.

It's a pretty game though, and managing the warmth is an interesting concept. I quite like the book of laws too, where often you need to do devious things to ensure everyone's continued survival. Do good things and your colony's hope will rise - preventing people from abandoning you. Do bad things and discontent will rise. Max that bar out and its an icy execution for you.

Forced child labor for the win!
(or not, because your people are more likely to kill you)

Personally, I dislike building games but this one held my interest for longer than I thought, so if you enjoy building games this one is definitely worth a look. I give it three corpse pits out of five.

Insight: You don't need streets to everything. Also, on some warmer days you can leave the generator off. Always try get it on at night though.

Saturday 17 July 2021

Danger 5

Showing how difficult it is to kill Hitler!

From the makers of Italian Spiderman, this two season comedy follows a quintet of allied operatives on their ludicrous missions to stop various Nazi plots and as always, to kill Hitler. Low budget and with incredibly stupid and silly plots, this is definitely not a show for everyone - but for those like me who enjoy such things... it is absolutely amazing.

Yes, that is Hitler carrying a shark.

The quality actually improves in season two, and I have to admit that this show has one of my favorite representations Hitler (thanks Andreas Sobik). Anyway, if you feel game - you can check it out yourself for free on Youtube! And as a bonus here's another short work from the same people: Computer Man.

Friday 16 July 2021

The Lion's Song

Everything is (loosely) connected.

This four chapter point and click game is pretty different from your usual adventure ones and is very much story driven. While your choices do affect outcomes down the track, its really the experience you will be playing for... which isn't helped by the seemingly stagnant first chapter (stuck in a one room cabin for most of it) or grindy second chapter (guess I didn't like the protagonist).

I had that feeling too, but I'm glad I stuck it out.

At least the music is good, and I really got into the game by chapter three but I'm wondering if that's simply too late for other players. Anyway, not a bad game but I wouldn't go out of my way to go get it. I give it two train stops out of five.

Insight: Even when solving math's puzzles, its still a find the spot game so just move your cursor around.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Legends of Andor

A different take on heroic fantasy gaming.

Evil has returned to the land and it is up to four players to cooperatively -save the day- prevent the day from being lost in five varying scenarios, aka "Legends". Obviously this is just what comes in the base box, as there are more missions and characters (which let you play up to six) on the web site.

Despite the differing goals of each legend, your main adversary here is time and it works in such an interesting way in this game. Each player has 7 moves per turn, or up to 10 if they're willing to take damage - which in turn makes them weaker in combat, to do things. Once all players have moved it is then the monsters turn to take one step (or two if its a dog) in the direction of the handy white arrow on the board. 

Prepare your mathematics well before facing the dragon.

This makes them quite slow, but since they are not allowed to share a space with each other they can leap frog which suddenly speeds their movement to their destination, and in almost all cases too many reaching wherever they need to go will result in a loss, or a shortening of the time track.

The other thing that shortens the time track? Killing monsters. Yep. So these things you need to "block" also shortens the game, which is why most of the time the quest objective is only to kill one thing or deliver one item. This is compounded when you are also required to find things in the fog, gain gold (by killing things) to buff up to fight a boss and generally need to be in more places than time allows.  

Definitely more of a thinker than most of our other cooperative games so far, and I like it. I give it four black dice dragons out of five but only recommend it for game groups who are strongly cooperative.

Insight: Break monster chains to slow them down. Usually, there's also only one way to win each Legend so plan first.

Play through chapters:
Legend 1 - The Heroes Arrive
Legend 2 - Long Live the King
Legend 3 - Darkness Descends
Legend 4 - A Mine Full of Gems
Legend 5 - The Dragon's Wrath
The Star Shield?
Legend 7 - Find the Cartographer (Andor 2)
Legend 8 - The Storm Begins
Legend 9 - Lords of the Sea
Legend 10 - Hadria

Tuesday 13 July 2021

BDO: First Mate

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

The newest class!

With all this ocean exploration, I thought I should introduce you to my first mate: a corsair, named and customized by wifey for the new "season server"! Each season runs for a few months and achieving goals on them nets rewards for the entire account so I thought, why not? Instead of doing the story all over again, she takes the Crow merchant "simplified" path instead which just gives massive boosts to level gain during grinding and it's so effective that she's now almost the same level as my main character in a sliver of the time. The path I took to achieve this is as follows:

Main quests with the dig team up to Velia (then stop questing, grind instead!)
Cron Castle to level 19
Al Rundi rebels (barricades are good xp), swamp fogans, bloody monastery to 35
Mask Owls to 40
Troll Fort to 43, then upgrade Naru gear to Tuvala
Saunil Siege to 47
Catfishmen to 51
Helms to 54
Sausans to 55, and finally spend those combat skill points
Desert Nagas to 57
Back to regular questing to 58
Collect Chenga Tome
On to Valencia I

My goal is to get her to 61 to collect all the season prizes, and I have to admit that she is very fun to play once you get used to all her big movements. Her ability to slide over water is also super handy, and for those who like Tower of God, she makes a crossover appearance at the end of this chapter. If you don't know what Tower of God is, why don't you start out by watching it: It's a very cool anime. :)

Insight: In hindsight there are obvious flaws to what I did, with one of the biggest being that I should have tried get her the Chenga Tome from my main ASAP. It turns out that is one of the best leveling aids in the game and I was late to get one for her!

God of Highschool (Season 1)

All schools need some blood sport!

This action heavy anime focuses on the titular annual tournament called the God of Highschool, where high schoolers and I imagine older people who haven't finished high school can fight each other in a no rules skirmish for the chance at the title. While the animation of said fights is top notch at the start, the story pacing is strange at times and it soon descends into Dragonball territory of huge special moves that people yell the name of while performing.

The combat animation shines best when it sticks to reality.

And the special moves do get quite insane, we have someone summoning a dragon, summoning Lu Bu (look him up), and one character is actually an amnesiac god, and there's a doomsday cult that summons other gods to try end the world... Yeah. It's very confusing, but no one questions any of this.

Also, due to the art style it's like everyone perpetually has a cold. Anyway, if you like your fighting anime with a huge bunch of WTF then this might be the one for you. I give it two commissioners out of five. Also, all of this is just season 1. Looks like there's a lot more manhwa content if they decide to continue.

Sunday 11 July 2021

GTFO: R5B2 - Discharge (Normal)

Skipped a level today to hit this one and brought a fourth teammate, Archer, who while being new to the game (only his second win so far) highlights that having a full squad simply makes missions easier. Loadouts today are Jim: DMR/Shotgun/Sniper Sentry, Archer: Heavy SMG/Sniper/Auto Sentry, DL: DMR/Sniper/Mines, and my spray and pray load out of Machine pistol/Machine Gun/C-foam.

The normal mission is mostly straight forward: collect 9 GLP-1 canisters then return to the drop point. There also isn't much in the way of getting lost since you WILL need to visit every zone you encounter (except the harder level bulkheads). Other than sleepers this map also has some small segments of infectious fog and a lot of "spitters": cancerous growths on the wall that do minor damage to you if you walk to close without shining a light on them. No way to kill these, just remember where they are and pick your "fight/kill rooms" carefully. You will need these as there ARE scouts wandering around, and if they're in the mist - its simpler to snipe them.

There will also be blood doors in the way, but mining these properly (pointing into the door or with mines slid into the blood door) makes them non events which leave only three tricky parts to the level: #1 - be sure to look at what you plug the bulkhead key into. Can't grab it back if you accidentally put it in a harder lock. #2 - Once you get to the "bridge room" (two bridges flanking a lower courtyard) you will have a choice of doing the hard/main mission bulkhead with a CLASS III alarm or the blood door.

We did the alarm first (BUT NOT OPEN THE BULKHEAD), c-foaming the door till scans are done then using the long middle section to kill left overs with turrets. Turn the setup around to face the blood door, and repeat as needed if a scout happened to hear the blood door combat (one did in our run).

The last tricky part is a class IV alarm on a bulkhead door that needed cell generator power (the cell is in the blood door). There are two doors into this room, and for us the lower small door had been breached prior to the scans so for this setup we closed the other door, but gave more tool kits to mines and turrets. DL mined the small outer hall and ladder up, which both Archer and Jim's turrets were covering. I used the last of my ice on the floor of the breached door and the ladder access along with a cfoam grenade to buy us the most time possible.

This worked very well as only towards the final scans did we need to fight. For us this scan was 2 big circles - 4 little circles - 1 big circle. Beyond that door is the last GLP we needed so after locating it we quietly returned to the extract spot to GTFO and nothing spawned to chase us. First try victory! :)

Sherwood Extreme

Radical Robin Hood?

Currently free on steam, this very light hearted shooter sees you completing some rather short levels while blasting away orcs with your crossbow while zip lining across tree tops or doing some other acrobatic feats. Levels are designed to be repeated with a variety of challenges, and you can bring a friend for co-op fun.

Complete with bouncy shrooms and lava.

Also fun is the ridiculous amount of explosives laying around and/or being carried by the enemies because things going boom always makes things better! Still, it's unlikely this will keep your interest for very long but its a good time filler while waiting for the rest of your team to play some other game. I give it two exploding chickens out of five.

Friday 9 July 2021

BDO: Across the Sea

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

Having some naval experience now, I befriend the Lamute gang who are exploiting a war between the otters and papus (cute cat things) out on the islands. It's puzzling why there's a war at first, as otters primarily trade in fish while papus trade in fruits but I soon discover it comes down to their opposing religions. Opting to leave them to it, I rob the Lamute gang of their cog ship instead and make my escape to the Crow merchant guild's island base and get roped into their arena combat.

While the first fight against a large wolf is easy (just Dark Souls it and stay beside their hind leg), the second one against Liono a lightning lion man proves tricky but beatable. The third fight is against the female black dragon bandit again, who I've previously fought at Gahaz's canyon and Altinova arena, which I didn't even write about it because it was easy. Here though, she has learned a new kagebunshin clone ability which absolutely thrashes me and thus I lose spectacularly.

Side note: I seem to always get my ships thrashed too.

At least the fight was entertaining enough for them to tell me about a distant land across the great ocean which I try sail to - to no avail. The wind and current is simply too much, possibly because I attempted the crossing in a storm, and so I turn back and instead catch a ferry (automated) across the vast sea to Port Ratt in China the Kingdom of Haso. While the rest of the Kingdom is currently closed to outsiders, I do manage to help the town retrieve their holy kite while doing dive quests in the area... but some are just way too deep - even with the dive mask they gave me!

Insight: The great ocean is much like the black desert in terms of navigation. Unless you have a working compass you won't be able to use the map. Also if your ship gets stuck, jump off and swim a little bit away then right click the ship anchor icon to move it.

Thursday 8 July 2021

BDO: Row Row Row, you're Sunk

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

Not long after taking care of Illezra, I am asked to investigate a growing pirate threat in the nearby islands. Turns out there are A LOT of islands out there, and while some do have a few pirate scouts it takes awhile before I find the large land mass that holds their main base. They aren't pleased with me nosing around and promptly give chase and sink my rowboat with cannon fire, which I narrowly avoid by jumping into the water!

That's the end of that boat...

Luckily I have one of Ellie's magical maps to teleport me out of there as it would have been a long swim to anywhere. The Calpheon council is most interested in my reports and I am granted a two-cannon sailboat (which needs crew and supplies) to continue my efforts against the pirate scum.

The first thing I use the cannons on is a baby sea monster though, and it is really tough to man both the guns and steer the ship while in combat. I still win, and take my damaged vessel back to the pirate base where I kill a few of them while freeing some of their prisoners before taking refuge on a different island. Since there's a town here I put the boat in for repairs while I checkout a deep cave nearby full of mutated fish people "Prottys" whom I slaughter hundreds of, only to realize they are peaceful? Oops. They do make for a good grind spot though.

Apparently these folk were displaced by ancient weapons (golems) that crashed into the sea with that meteor. I swim down to their underwater city (which looks amazing and has air) to beat up a few of them before heading back to report. This earns me a shiny new cog ship which has no cannons but needs no crew and absolutely flies across the ocean - a big improvement from the slow sailboat! Alas, while doing dive quests I manage to get this speed boat sunk in a storm.

Insight: To reach the depth of the "air gates" of Sycraia you might need to get the 5 minute swim buff from the NPC just to the island on the beach just South of it. Fortunately, you can't actually drown - but running out of air forcibly makes you swim up.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

BDO: Case Closed

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

Thankful for my previous aid at the Northern wheat plantation, Elina Leight - who happens to be its owner and knows of my interest in Illezra, sends word via Nella that the Shen merchant guild is in possession of another of Illezra's "rings" and so I quickly buy it from Neruda Shen in exchange for a magical Dreighan blade (magical in name only I think). This one is the earth ring which I hand in again to the Tarif sorcerers who put me back on the case.

As they already found one in my absence I am sent to locate and retrieve the water ring from its ocean resting place (right beside Altinova) and then am sent to get the ring of wind from a very sneaky, and very strong, monstrous bandit who I can't seem to hurt! It turns out he is invulnerable to everything... except water balloons blessed by the Church of Elion. Yep, I literally use holy water balloons to win this boss fight, which is annoying since you can't dodge while holding them.

Handing these rings in reveals that the lead sorceress on this case is none other than Illezra herself, having used someone else's body to avoid detection. With all the rings in her possession, she turns into Captain Planet a huge skeleton/mud golem thing who is weak to one thing: easily craftable magic bullets. With rifle in hand it only takes three of these to end the miserable witch, and as a bonus the person she was hiding in is freed, unharmed and back to her younger self - with no memories of anything she had done. Probably the best result.

Kinda sad I don't get to fight her white witch form...

Insight: The holy water balloons and magic bullets are only useful in their respective quests. I tried them on random wild life afterwards and they did zero damage.

Monday 5 July 2021

BDO: Settling Down

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

With the refugees cured (or getting there, because vaccines like to be delayed) I spend a lot of time helping them get settled across multiple farmlands from Calpheon's Northern wheat plantation all the way across to Gilsh and up to the farms of Heidel and in the process I learn how to make a simple camp and grow some crops (omg, I finally found something worse than fishing).

I also venture back down to O'dyllita to test my increased strength against the rebel turos there and only manage to kill a handful as they are just way too tough. Even dueling them one on one lasts up to ten minutes, and given I have to defeat fifty of them to advance the Ahib quest line that will have to be something I slowly chip away at.

Instead of smashing my head against that brick wall, I busy myself hunting down the tome of an ancient bard in Dreighan, who supposedly could command dragons with his song. Getting this Chenga Tome involves zero fighting but a lot of searching and riddle answering, with some riddles asked by a telepathic llama. It's ultra trippy.

Lastly, I finally decide to buy a house! While Dreighan is my favorite zone, it simply is too far out of the way. By this metric I opt to buy a residence in a back street of Heidel, which seems to be the crossroads of the main land. Had I known it would only cost contribution points to purchase instead of actual silver, I might have done this much earlier!

I still wonder where these random airships come from...

Insight: I like how player housing works here. There are fixed, static houses/apartments for sale that anyone can buy and decorate (multiple people can "own" the same house), but the trick is the house "doors" themselves which let you pick what instance / which player's house you want to enter. This loads the selected interior without actually leaving the open world. It's awesome.

Extra points for functional appliances too such as advanced alchemy benches and beds that can only go into lodgings. Beds are especially handy as they let you recover energy at an increased rate!

Sunday 4 July 2021

BDO: Blackstar Bomb

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

With all my new gear and consumable goodies, the aliens at Star's End still kick my ass - but only if the aliens are in a group. This means using caution to lure only one at a time (and carefully fighting outside the hours of 10PM - 7AM when the monsters are strongest) I can actually start beating them now which lets me advance through this quest line.

It's an ominous place.

As I thought, these aliens are actually infected people in the final or near final stage of transformation who refuse to leave the crater as its what gives them their power (and keeps them alive). With some sleuthing I eventually find out that the nearby Calpheon outpost which is run by the Church of Elion (specifically the cult branch that worships Kzarka) have been taking samples from this meteor for awhile to make anti-elf bombs. Looks like they took my invasion suggestion seriously as they'd already unleashed a few in the now empty (apart from elf ghosts) Northern part of Kamasylve forest.

Obviously they needed to test their weapon on someone first: the farmers who are now refugees outside Calpheon city. I manage to swipe the bomb formula and get it to a reputable alchemist who can go about making the cure which sorts out the sick refugee problem... now it's just down to a standard refugee problem.

Insight: When fighting against one monster, well timed blocks do wonders and I almost prefer going toe to toe instead of dancing around as I've previously been doing. It does mean you need more repairs though!

BDO: Life Skills

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

Since I skipped almost all the non-combat quests to do the main story line, I find myself back at Velia to learn more about these "life" (crafting) skills which is both super involved and very boring... especially fishing. God I hate fishing. Luckily the beginner fish quests can be cleared by fish stolen from fishing nets already lying around.

Doesn't matter what game it is: I always hate fishing.

I am also introduced to the beginner worker management and trade route marketing which involves hiring workers, getting them lodging, buying space for whatever factory you want (farm, smithy, etc), feeding your workers, making sure you have the "starting materials" in your storage and on and on it goes. It is SUPER technical and I don't really get my head around it, nor do I want to as it isn't my jam. I do earn a donkey, a small cart and a mini elephant from it though - and ride it back East, to train against Desert Nagas and Desert Fogans.

At Valencia, I finish upgrading my secondary weapon (which I could have done anywhere) but more importantly I rent a crescent blade (spear thing) from King Nesser which is stronger than the one I have. I also find Ellie's event food is more awesome than I initially thought (+AP which I need in the harder zones) so I buy a whole bunch of that too. With this new gear I am feeling pretty hopeful as I make my way back to face the aliens at Star's End.

Insight: I goofed up by ditching my weak Canon Awakening weapon which I would have been able to trade into Narchillan gear. Nesser's rented weapon is an easy next best option as it doesn't degrade and only eats up contribution points which I don't use for anything anyway since I'm not in the crafting game.

Saturday 3 July 2021

BDO: Unfinished Gem

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

On the way to the Ahib capital, Ataraxia and I travel through the Thornwood which is home to corrupted Ahib who prefer sacrificing their kidnap victims rather than enslaving them. Somehow Ataraxia is corrupted too and goes crazy when we emerge on the other side, forcing me to kill her. Parry/Counter attack when she "vanishes" works well.

Khalk man-bats serve as the city guards.

Finally I meet Queen Viorencia at her city of O'draxxia (which has the best city music) who asks for my help in assembling a magic gem which may or may not cure this disease affecting her people: they are slowly and painfully turning into trees. I agree to assist and collect a golem's heart and steal a sacred cup deep in the Thornwood. However the rest of the assembly has to take a back seat as their enslaved turos start a rebellion and since these are very strong (and quite frankly the Ahibs deserve it) I leave to let them sort it out themselves.
I report all this back to Queen Brolina who is happy at the turn of events, and then report to the Calpheon Council that it would be a good time to attack Queen Brolina now that half her forces are committed to the civil war on the opposite border of her land. The elves might have nature, but man has fricking cannons.

Insight: I've finally hit the gear wall on the main quests with both Star's End and O'dyllita II requiring kills outside my current power level. Now we'll see what else there is to do in this game!

Thursday 1 July 2021

NWO: Sharandar Episode 3 - The Odious Court

So that's where the bad smell was coming from.

It's safe to say that this final chapter of New Sharandar is the best, despite the new area being less visually appealing than the previous ones because its basically a swamp. That said, props to the very vertical Grung village which is always an extra pain to code NPC pathing. A few things make this one stand out: first it has an early and fast 25 currency repeatable, which is my  favorite of all three zones since it's literally step through portal, take ten steps over there and fight a boss.

Easy to access and no mobs make it perfect, much like Baphomet's weekly. Next up the repeating tasks are less painful this time around since some of them send you to the other areas. These allow for some breathing room from the repetitiveness. Lastly, the final story instance has some really pretty rooms, which kinda counteracts the ugly swamp it sits in. The finale also makes a good story end, much like Barovia's quest line where you feel you "won", prior to entering any dungeon.

The best area in the entire episode.

Those really are my favorite type of story structures. I absolutely hate stories where everything leads up to a ten man instance because suddenly the same enemies you've killed thousands of are more heroic than you. That absolutely kills the vibe for me. Lastly to keep players around, you can hunt not-so-rare critters in each of the three zones to gain some companion gear which is a decent lure if you don't already have said gear.

All up, not bad - but the release structure for New Sharandar simply sucked balls. Here's hoping it doesn't happen again.

Insight: The final repeatable quest lets you skip straight to the hag fight, which means you don't need to go through the earlier stages over and over.

GTFO: R5A3 - Mining (Normal)

Rundown 5 got extended in GTFO, meaning it got a few more missions. Alas it didn't fix the connection issues we were experiencing before but since we can play this one it definitely seems to be a level-centric problem. Anyway, our loadout today is DL with the regular DMR, Sniper and mines, Jim on Heavy Smg, Shotgun and C-foam and myself with more c-foam, machine pistol and machine gun. Spray and pray for the win. :P

Most of this mission is stealth bopping and even if something goes loud, joust bopping as we really need to save ammo for the final bit. Glowsticks are also handy in this mostly dark map. Past the first non-alarm security scan you'll find three terminals to download datafiles, but the problem is two of the terminals are password protected which you'll need to find on log files in other terminals to the West. Keep calm and carry on until you reach a Class III cluster alarm in a huge mine room.

Foam the South door and start it up, then I am on door foaming duty until I run out of foam - which buys Jim and DL enough time to  nearly finish all the scans. DL usually leaves one mine pointing at the door too so that when it breaks, most of the first wave is annihilated. Important here is I hold ground a little with the machine gun, since I want the enemy on me in case the others are still doing scans. There are always giants in this wave so don't hold for too long.

After this its back to stealth bopping Westward and you'll get a choice of left or right: we normally pick wherever the scout doesn't spawn, and if it didn't spawn in either path that means DL is on snipe duty when we run into it later as it will surely be in the way. The next hold is a class V diminished (wtf) in a tight chamber with three doors to defend. Good news: the top door opposite where you start the scan is never used by the enemy as long as you keep the other end of room H shut too (or just don't go in there). I use up whatever little ice I have to freeze one door and Jim does the other.

Jim then goes on door duty (double, because they can and will pound on both) while DL and I do the scan: 4 smalls, 1 big, 4 smalls and 4 smalls again. Usually they've broken through while the final scan is going so headshot well. Normally we hold up near where the scan started to end this wave. Beyond this should be the final two terminals with passwords / password pieces you need so look em up. If you missed the first one, you can get it on the way back (it's usually in a room on the way).

With all passwords hopefully written down, all the way back to the first three terminals and EXTRACT_DATACORE. This lets you use the Apex door just above you but it is another class V diminished alarm: this one is simply one big circle on the balcony with a catch: % only goes up (slowly) if all team members are alive and in the circle. If that is not the case, the % DROPS. DL mines the approaches and then its go time - hold position until 100%. DL on giant slaying duty while Jim and I watch the stairs. If you have more health step forward to tank if needed.

Once done, open the APEX door (slow to open, continue to hold - I was already out of ammo here, so hammer time :P) then get to the nearby (thankfully fast) extract circle to win and GTFO! :)