Things have slowed down for me in WOW and SWTOR, and while I’ve enjoyed my dabbling in GW2 I am pretty much soloing there as well.  TSW Mondays are still going strong.  At this point I think they would survive an Apocolypse, which only makes sense really.  But with no intentions yet to jump into the new MMOs all the cool kids are playing, I decided to check out some games truly designed for me to “solo”.

After picking up Mass Effect 3 on a massive sale, my interest in playing through that series is reinvigorated and I’ve been plowing through the first one with regularity.

One game that has caught my interest in the last year or two is XCOM: UFO defense.  I previously mentioned that Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness was basically my introduction to PC games in college.  2 other classic titles deserve credit for making me waste vast amounts of time in college and securing my future in this community: Master of Orion and Microprose’s original XCOM: UFO defense.  So it was more than curiosity that drew me to this remake.

I must say, nostalgia-induced rose tinted glasses and all, the remake compares very favorably from what I’ve seeen so far.  Naturally graphics are improved, but I like how you interact with the heads of research & engineering.  Little moments, like the whole comm center breaking out in cheers the first time your interceptors shoot down a UFO, really add life and immersion to the game’s atmosphere for me.

Of course, XCOM is ultimately about tactics, and this is where I worried a remake would fall short.  Thankfully that is not the case.  The new game manages to be different, and yet every bit as deep and engaging as the old one.  The early game feeling of being outmatched every time you face the aliens is intact, as are the moments of panic when you realize the enemies are not where you thought they were when you so cleverly positioned your squad behind cover.  The fact that you share most “oh, ****” moments with other characters is more enjoyable than I would have expected.  The vocal feedback from the squad members is nice, although the interactions with other characters have me wishing the soldiers had more personality back at base.  Overall though, I am very glad I picked XCOM up, even though it is a remake of a beloved classic.

After weeks of swearing I would be good and had way too many games to try to play anyway, I gave in and had a look at the steam sale.  I promptly found 4 games I’ve been wanting to play for 5 bucks each: Skyrim, Tomb Raider, Batman:Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.  Yeah, I’m in trouble.

For some reason, many people seem to take sentiments like the title of this post as a slam, as belittling somehow.  I’ve always seen it as more of a lament, an acknowledgement that something could have been done better.  The feeling that I haven’t bothered to get to know you as well as I’d like indicates a failing on my part, not yours.  The fact of the matter is I’m the kind of person who has many acquaintances I’m friendly with, and very few close friends.  That has little to do with the situation I’m posting about now, however. 

 

No, I hadn’t had a ton of interactions with River, at most I followed his blog and twitter for a few months.  But I’ll always have definite memories, from the stunning post about #yesallwomen to something more personal.  You see, the first feedback I ever got on this blog was a follow and a comment on Twitter from none other than River.  How grateful and excited I felt that a near-stranger was so encouraging and enthusiastic are vivid memories I relive every time I tinker with this blog.  I only wish I had more memories of the guy to smile about.

 

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So far I have been able to bend but not break to the “wild” reports friends and aquaintances are giving about enjoying a certain newly released MMO.  While I am willing to admit I probably would enjoy the full version myself, I still don’t know that I’d be able to give it the kind of time that would justify purchasing it in my mind.

 

Likewise I have been paying attention to reports from the ESO front.  Really, one of two things need to happen for me to even consider diving into this one.  1)  Overhaul of how grouping works,  2) going FTP.  Honestly FTP alone might not convince me, since my 250GB “games” drive holds fewer and fewer games each year.  The irony is not lost on me: due to level disparities I spend the vast majority of my time soloing MMOs anyway.  But apparently the potential of experiencing content with hypothetical group members is very important to me.

 

That does not mean I’ve been idle.  Still plugging away in WOW SWTOR and GW2.  I was also excited to finally grab the Starcraft II expansion, Heart of the Swarm.  I played this at an interesting time, with all the controversy surrounding Blizzard’s attitude toward women springing up. Personally I love Sarah Kerrigan as a character.  I think she’s much deeper and more believable than most video game characters, and I had the same opinion of her in the original Starcraft as well.  In fact, I remember being offended at Arthas’ fall in Warcraft III because it seemed like a weaksauce version of Kerrigan’s story.

 

There’s one other thing I’ve done, and that is roam around in The Secret World again.  I just love this MMO, but my laptop has real problems with it when other players are around.  During the Halloween event last year, I joined literally hundreds of players fighting a world boss.  My framerate dropped to about 1 every 30 seconds.  About half an hour after I heard guildies say the fight was over, I saw myself die and found out I would get no loot from the encounter.

 

I only forgave The Secret World for that about a week ago.  Currently the excitement is about the new Tokyo zones.  I am just starting the second zone in the game – Savage Coast.  Solo content has not resulted in 30+ minute lag… so far.  I even managed to group up with 1 or 2 strangers briefly, with no discernable trouble.  I might even bother my guildies for an instance run if they get tired of Tokyo for some reason.  Just gotta remind myself to STAY AWAY from world bosses/events for now.

About a month ago, maybe more, I saw an ad on some gaming news site for Guild Wars 2 being 50% off for about a week.  I passed, and spent the next several weeks REALLY wishing I hadn’t.  And then, the sale happened again!  Obviously I wasn’t in any kind of shape to resist the second time ’round.

 

For 3 days, I thought I was going to regret buying the game even more.  Download after download ended in an error message; some after less than ten seconds, some after more than an hour.  Don’t ask me what I did to finally make it work, because I’d swear I hadn’t tweaked, turned off or uninstalled a thing that time or the previous 10 tries that night.  But, eventually, I managed to get the patching done.   I have a friend from some fan fiction sites who wrote a story based on the human street gang origin, so naturally my female warrior had to have the same background.  I also made a Nord defender and a Sylvari engineer because Altoholic.  Those 5 measly character slots are at once frustration and relief for one such as me.

 

Once I actually started playing, I realized I didn’t know what to expect as well as I thought I did.  What surprised me, though, was just how much I liked it.  I found myself enjoying the free-form style to completing hearts.  While I am not one to bash questing, I am also quickly becoming a fan of GW2’s heart system.  The frequency of the orange special events popping up was also nice, though I could see myself becoming annoyed with them, especially since I always run toward them when I see them.  I only have 13 levels between the 3 chars I made so far, but I have to say I’m finding GW2 fun in a way that I only find the MMOs I’ve stuck with for a long time (WOW, SWTOR, LOTRO, TSW).

 

After being all “meh” in the ESO and Wildstar betas, I had been afraid I was becoming jaded about the whole MMO scene.  Or even worse, just bored by everything.  But GW2 has restored that optimistic side of me I try to deny most of the time.  For now, at least.

Wow, did I pick the right title for my blog.  Posting about something fun, exciting and important (to many I’d like to consider my peers as well as myself) almost a week after it starts?  Who, me???

Root canal on Wednesday, drugs galore since.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Back to the actual topic though, I’ve read about this for at least 2 years now thanks to Syp and Belghast.  I thought it was a pretty cool idea for “those ppl” but didn’t give it much attention at the time.  And now, here I am.  Most of my time since May 1st (and before, really) has been spent poking through the other newbies’ blogs.  And wow, I’m listed in impressive company!  Already I’ve had quite a bit of interaction with other bloggers just because of this, and if that’s all I ever get, it’s more than worth all the hooplah.

One of the reasons I keep coming back to WOW is the larger franchise it’s part of.  When I was a freshman in college, computers were virtually a new world to me.  The “Big New Game” at that time (among my new friends, at least) happened to be Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness.  Yes, it was Blizzard 15 years ago who first showed me just how much I could “get into” video games.  MMORPGs are fun, but there will always be a big, warm place in my gaming heart for strategy games.  Whether RTS like Warcraft I-III or TBS like Heroes of Might and Magic I-VI, I like my war strategy games.

Which brings me to this post’s topic: mobile games.  Let me be blunt: I hate ALL mobile games that call themselves MMOs.  I hate the MMO strategy games where you start to build a town and suddenly you’re waiting days and weeks for anything to happen.  I also hate arcadey mobile games like candy crush or the latest movie “run”.  What other kinds of mobile games do I hate?  I’m glad you asked!  I hate the card battle games and most of the rpgs Android/Itunes have to offer.

“But… but, you just hated on 99% of all games for mobile phones!”  Yes, I sure did.  However, there are a few games I’ve tried that I’ve actually managed to keep on my phone and play.  A lot.  And as my earlier reminiscing might have hinted, most of them are war/strategy games.  So here it is, my must-play mobile game list.  Full versions of these are not free, unfortunately, but they all should be around $5 or less.

1) The Battle for Wesnoth

This game is a port from a freeware pc game.  Downloadable campaigns will quickly fill up your phone’s storage, but what the game comes with is plenty for a phone IMO.  The retro graphics should hardly be a turn-off to anyone willing to give such projects as Minecraft or Trove a try.  What I love most about this game is that each unit of yours has its own name, and they are usually upgradeable as they get experience from kills.  It is quite a nice hybrid of RPG and strategy.  If you enjoy it I highly recommend having a (free) copy on your PC as well, by the way, to experiment with all the user-made content.

2) Glory of Generals/Pacific War

Easy Tech has been pumping out games I enjoy for a while now, but these two are significant upgrades over earlier offerings, especially the artwork.  These World War II games focus on the European and Pacific theaters, respectively.  It gets tough to earn enough medals to purchase troop upgrades after a while, but such is the brave new world we live in.  I enjoy it enough to not mind the grind much anyway.  Campaign Great Victories give quite a nice number of medals (50), but only if you accomplish it on your first try.  The way to beat this is to restart the scenario before it ends if you’re not going to meet the turn limit for a Great Victory.   

3) Ravenmark

There are two entries in this series, but thus far only one is available on both Android and Itunes.  That would be Ravenmark: Mercenaries, mostly a multiplayer game featuring brigades that make up each player’s army.  Each player has two brigades to choose from, with various mixes of troop types.  The other game is Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion, which is a series of single-player campaigns, but as of now only available on Itunes.  The developers are working on an Android version, but I won’t speculate when that might be released.  The strategy elements of the Ravenmark games are really deep and a treat to learn and experiment with, but what really sets these games head and shoulders above most others is the lore.  You can literally spend hours reading through the codex in the game, which covers everything from game mechanics to the history of the game’s world and even the lives of the brigade commanders.

4) Elder Sign: Omens

This is really just a game of automated dice tossing.  No, seriously.  But it’s amazing how interactive they can make it.  This is based on a board game of the same name and deals in horror themes based mostly on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.  The board game’s more famous sister game is Arkham Horror, but this little game is a lot more fun than I ever would have guessed before I tried it.  With dice rolls you end up gathering clues, tools and of course the titular Elder Signs that will seal an ancient evil away before it consumes the world!  BOM BOM BOMMM!!!  Your team of investigators can be killed, but they can also be taken out by going insane from all the horror they witness.  Wins don’t come easy in this game; generally more than half the time you will lose, often badly.  That matches the doomsday feel of the game’s lore, however, and makes victory SO satisfying.  The biggest drawback is how its multiple expansions can really add up the cash dumped into it.

I don’t see a lot of gamer blogs mention mobile games, at least not the ones I follow, so I thought I’d do something a little different at least once.

So, about a week or two after my other friends playing WOW, I went ahead and got the new expansion.  Only 8 more months to go till I can play the new content!!!  Actually the only reason for this was to have a boosted 90 to run around with my friends’ boosted chars.  I’d made a little level one Tauren druid about 2 weeks ago.  Boosting her was a very smooth process, which was unsurprising to me.  Say what you want about Blizzard, I’ve always appreciated how they’ve made relatively polished releases a calling card of theirs.  I went with restoration and guardian as the primary/secondary specs.  I figure that will make her about as flexible as any char can possibly be.  Now all I have to do is search for glyphs, read up on the specs and their rotations, read up on general druid “good practices”, queue for dungeons/scenarios/battlegrounds where my character will be universally reviled, even by other boosted 90s I’m sure… I’m starting to remember why endgame content has hardly ever interested me in any MMO.  When a game starts to feel like work, I’d just rather be doing something else.

This may be confusing to many people.  Why, if not to rush for the glory that is endgame, do I even play MMOs???  Call me crazy, but I actually like questing and popping acheivements.  I like exploring the lore of a game, I like watching my character’s progression from weak nobody to notorious legend.  I’ve always thought WOW is generally given less credit for the richness of its lore than it deserves.  I’m sure the fact that we’re given the option to completely disregard any and all quest text is a large part of why.  I’ve caught myself clicking “accept” on a new quest without even looking at it more often than I care to think about.  When your tasks have no context, of course leveling is going to be a grind.  Let people have their max lvls within a day, I’ll be enjoying myself while lagging behind.

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