Gaming Round-Up: Li-Ming Impressions, Grey Goo’s Shroud, TSW, D3, and a Moose

It’s that time again: I’ve got a bunch of gaming topics that I want to discuss, but which aren’t quite meaty enough to fill an entire post.

The splash screen for Li-Ming in Heroes of the StormLet us not waste time.

She’s so good she astounds herself:

At last, the final playable character from Diablo III has reached Heroes of the Storm. I might complain about them taking so long to add my favourite, but clearly they were just saving the best for last.

There weren’t many characters left I was super excited to see in Heroes, but Li-Ming is one of them, and on the whole, I’m fairly happy with how she turned out. I’m not sure she’ll threaten Jaina’s position as my go-to assassin, but she’s definitely a fun character.

The interesting thing about Li-Ming is that she feels very different from the game’s other heroes without resorting to coo-coo bananas weirdness like Abathur or Murky. Not that I don’t enjoy coo-coo bananas weirdness, but it’s good to know Blizzard can make heroes feel distinct in more subtle ways, as well.

Li-Ming is one of those hyper-specialized heroes. Her ability damage is absolutely ruinous, but her auto-attacks, much like the goggles, do nothing, and her health is so low that she instantly evaporates under any kind of pressure.

IMMA FIRIN MAH LAZORBased on that, I’m finding the best strategy is actually to not auto-attack at all and simply hang way at the back and bombard the enemy team with spells. Her spell range is very long (she even out-ranges towers, which makes for some intriguing possibilities), so it works surprisingly well, and it keeps her well out of harm’s way.

Zeratul is the bane of her existence, though. Why are all the characters I play hard countered by Zeratul? What did I ever do to him?

She looks amazing, too. The detail on her clothing and the expressiveness of her face are unbelievable. Makes me sad she looks so much crummier in her own game.

My only complaint with Li-Ming is that she’s another character who rides her mounts side-saddle. It was bad enough on Jaina, but it could not be more hilariously out of character for Li-Ming. Because we all know how shy, demure, and proper she is.

*Eye-roll.*

At least I’ve got my hoverboard from the Legacy of the Void CE.

Zoning into a match as Li-Ming in Heroes of the StormRandom fun fact: I had a bit of trouble early on because I kept trying to teleport using the Diablo hotkey for it.

Grey Goo: Descent of the Shroud

Much to my surprise, sci-fi RTS Grey Goo launched a free DLC a few days ago that adds an entire new playable race. To the Beta, they are the Silent Ones. To the Goo, they are the Shroud. To all sentient life, they are the enemy.

Unfortunately, the new story content in Descent of the Shroud is limited to a single, very brief mission. At that point, you have to wonder why they even bothered. There aren’t even any new cinematics, which is a real shame because after all the hype I was eager to witness the Silent Ones in all their terrible glory.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the developers wanted to do more but simply didn’t have the resources. Again, it’s a real shame.

Mmm, free gooI did play a skirmish map just to see what the Shroud are all about, and they turn out to be pretty interesting. They’ve got much of the creative design found in the Goo, but without being so awkward or irritating to play.

Some of their units are very clever. For instance, their artillery, rather than firing a traditional projectile, summons an invulnerable unit that will run through the target area, damaging all it touches, until the artillery dies or is told to move.

As increasingly unlikely as it seems, I really do want to see a sequel or ambitious expansion to Grey Goo. It’s a game with some rough edges, to be sure, but some of the ideas behind it are really good, and the story represents some of the best science fiction I’ve seen in a video game.

And I definitely want to learn more about the Shroud. Where do they come from? What is their motivation? They’re such a mystery. I find it interesting that their entire mythos is about silence, but all their unit names are sound-related. Echo, klaxon, banshee, howler…

A Shroud base in Grey GooThe Secret World: Shambala

I remain very happy with TSW’s new group finder. Queue times are very quick, and I’ve yet to have a bad run. Recently I got to run the Facility for the first time in forever, and I was reminded how much I truly love that place. It’s the sort of strange and fascinating story you can only find in The Secret World — mad Soviet scientists tear into reality deep beneath the earth to understand the deepest mysteries of the universe.

But the dungeon finder isn’t the only new addition of note. The game has also gotten its first new PvP mini-game post-launch, Shambala.

Having recently changed my view on PvP in TSW from “wouldn’t touch it with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole” to “it’s a decent diversion now and then,” I made sure to give Shambala a shot.

It’s definitely not like any other MMO PvP I’ve experienced. Shambala is single elimination death match. That is, if you die, you’re dead. No respawns, no second chances. Last team standing wins.

Making things even more frenetic are constantly spawning buffs and environmental hazards, and the arena regularly shrinks as a deadly winter storm closes in. Win or lose, it’s always over fast.

A Shambala match in The Secret WorldAll the matches I’ve played have been terribly one-sided, but they’re over so fast it’s hard to get frustrated. Even if you get your ass kicked, it’s not like you’ve wasted much time. It’s certainly a change of pace from the more drawn-out capture mechanics MMO PvP tends to focus on.

D3: New zones

Diablo III has also had some more free updates recently. Patch 2.4 added several new areas, the most significant of which is Greyhollow Island.

It’s an interesting zone. It’s not really clear what’s gone on there, but clearly there is something terribly wrong with that island. Normally I find this kind of ambiguity in story-telling obnoxious, but when it comes to horror, I’m okay with it. The unknown is always scarier than the known.

It’s an incredible looking zone, too. I’ve often ragged on D3’s graphics, but Blizzard is getting better at making the best of a bad situation. The detail in the textures is outstanding. It also has lovely audio and some pretty interesting monster designs.

The new Eternal Woods area of the Ruins of Sescheron is also gorgeous, though it seemed a bit light on content when I went there. On the plus side, I ran into a new (to me) event in the older section of the ruins while I was there and finally met Abd al-Hazir.

A disturbing ritual in Diablo III's Greyhollow Island zoneThat was neat, but after so long, I would have liked to have his appearance be a part of some larger story, rather than some throwaway event in the middle of nowhere.

I did like how he followed me around and provided occasional commentary on my surroundings even after the event, though.

As nice as these updates are, and as much as I do respect Blizzard for offering new free content entirely out of the kindness of their hearts, I still remain impatient for an expansion announcement. These little tastes of content only leave me hungry for more. I want a new class, a new full-length storyline, whole new lands to explore.

WoW: MooseQuest 2016

On top of everything else on my gaming plate, I have reluctantly returned to World of Warcraft.

Why? Because moose, that’s why.

I mean, I’m Canadian. Clearly I need a moose mount.

Initially my plan had been to gear up my rogue and earn it legitimately through a PUG, but apparently I dislike Warlords of Draenor more than I thought. It only took a day or two for burnout to hit and hit hard.

My monk riding her grove warden mount in World of WarcraftSo long story short, I paid a raiding guild thirty-thousand gold to carry my newb ass. Yes, it’s cheating. No, I don’t care. I have a moose, and that’s all that matters.

I had initially planned to level my monk to 100 while I’m here, but as it turns out, I’m really not in the mood to play WoW right now. Not Draenor, anyway. It seems like a waste — even if I paid for the month with gold, not real money — but right now I’m not sure I want to embark on this slog right now.

Be easier if she was Horde. Alliance gets stuck with bloody Yrel. Ugh…

My Dragon Age Dream Team

It’s certainly a strange relationship I have with the Dragon Age franchise. I’ve had plenty of harsh words for it over the years, especially where the first game is concerned. But Inquisition’s DLCs seem to have converted me to a true fan, at least until the next disappointment, so I find myself eagerly anticipating Dragon Age IV.

My inquisitor and Sera in Dragon Age: InquisitonWe’re in an interesting spot because the next game hasn’t been announced yet, but Trespasser gave us a pretty good picture of what it will entail. The one big question mark is who we’ll be adventuring with in the next game.

I started to ponder who I would like to see, so I now present my Dragon Age dream team. This is very much a wishlist, but I tried to make some basic concessions to realism. Balanced classes, for instance — left to my own devices, it would basically be 80% mages.

Mages:

Morrigan:

I was pondering recently why I like Morrigan so much, despite the fact that she is, shall we say, not the most easily likable person around.

It occurred to me that Morrigan is sort of like the fantasy genre personified. Her family is full of mythic figures, and she’s all about history and uncovering ancient mysteries both wondrous and terrible.

Meeting Morrigan in Dragon Age: OriginsIt’s that sense of history and the wonder (and terror) of the unknown that really defines the fantasy genre, and it defines Morrigan, as well. So no wonder I like her so much.

It was nice to see Morrigan again in Inquisition, but I never stopped wishing that I could ask her to come adventuring with me.

Merrill:

Merrill is history’s most adorable necromancer and the centrepiece of my favourite in-game romance arc to date, so naturally I want to bring her along.

Of course, the odds of playing as Hawke in the next game are basically nil, so I wouldn’t be able to continue her romance arc, but that’s fine. It’d still be lovely to see her again. She’s a fiercely likable character, and considering the likely subject matter of Dragon Age IV, I think her expertise would be most welcome indeed.

Calpernia:

I really wanted to put Anders here, but then I remembered Calpernia and decided she was just too intriguing an option to pass up.

Calpernia, leader of the Venatori, and Corypheus in Dragon Age: InquisitionOtherwise known as “the only good reason to side with the Templars,” Calpernia is one of Inquisition’s many missed opportunities. Her role in the game is small, but in what little time she was on screen, she was established as, I think, one of the more complex and compelling characters in the franchise.

I tend to think of her as a dark mirror to Dorian, but even that might be overly harsh. Despite her role as a major antagonist — Hell, she’s the right hand of Corypheus — she comes across as a very admirable person.

Here’s someone who has lived through the absolute her country has to offer — which says a lot when your country is Tevinter — and yet she’s still a patriot. She still sees good in Tevinter wants to see it reach its full potential. It’s downright inspiring.

Considering Calpernia only appears to roughly half of Inquisition players and can potentially be killed, the odds of her appearing in later games at all, let alone as a party member, are incredibly slim. But I’d still love to see more of her.

Rogues:

Sera:

Yeah, you knew this was coming.

My inquisitor and Sera in Dragon Age: InquisitionSera may be crude, undisciplined, and kind or racist, but she’s also one of the most deep and layered characters Bioware has ever come up with, which says a lot, and for all her many flaws, I find it very hard not to like her.

I also have purely selfish and somewhat spoilery reasons for wanting Sera in the next game, which you will understand if you read my gushy post-Trespasser post.

…How long before I have to stop worrying about spoilers for Inquisition, anyway?

Also as I outlined in that post, Sera is one of the few characters on this list I believe to have a decent chance to show up in the next game.

Scout Lace Harding:

I personally think it’s all but guaranteed that Harding will be a party member in the next game. She seems to have been pretty popular, and I really don’t think that they snuck her into the final shot of Trespasser for nothing.

Scout Harding in Dragon Age: InquisitionNot much to say about Harding other than that I like her. She’s tough, but still warm and friendly. Seems like a good person to have around when things go to pieces, and I’d enjoy getting to know her better.

Bianca Davri:

Yes, I want two fem Dwarf rogues. Why not?

Bianca’s appearance in Inquisition was brief, but memorable, and since I don’t expect we’ll have Varric joining us this time, she can fill the sarcastic Dwarf-shaped hole in our hearts. Good opportunity for a Varric cameo, too — perhaps we can learn more of their complicated history.

Warriors:

Fenris:

And again, you probably knew this was coming. It was not my intention to have an Elf of every class, but I certainly don’t mind the idea. I would love to be able to have a party made up entirely of Elves. Came close in Inquisition, with the ability to have a 75% Elven and 100% non-human party thanks to Bull.

But I digress.

Fenris in Dragon Age IIFenris is interesting because he’s anti-mage, which normally I loathe, but in his case at least he has understandable reasons for his feelings. He’s not just blindly bigoted. Also he’s badass as Hell, and I have a man crush on Gideon Emery.

The Iron Bull:

Bull is another sad entry in the “probably won’t show up because he might be dead” file, but I’ll hold out a little hope anyway.

I’m not as big a fan of Bull as some people I know, but he’s a very hard character not to like, and since I imagine the Qunari will have a big role in the next game, his unique perspective on the Qun would be very welcome.

Plus, I did feel Bull was yet another aspect of Inquisition that didn’t get as much development as he deserved. His story always felt a bit unfinished to me. Bringing him back could help address that.

Cremisius Aclassi:

Those who know me might expect I’m including Krem to support the inclusion of a transgender character, but honestly? I just like Krem. He’s a good guy.

Epic side-eye

Skeptical Krem… is skeptical

The progressive angle doesn’t hurt any, but yeah, I just like Krem. Would like to see more of him.

Plus, the next game is likely to put a big spotlight on Tevinter, so another Tevinter character would be a good fit.

Honourable mentions:

For all their other flaws, Bioware games never lack for good characters, so there are lots more I could have included. As mentioned above, Anders is the best, and I’d love to see him again. Blackwall was a close second for the final warrior slot, narrowly beat by Krem.

Of course, I’d welcome Dorian back into the party. I mainly didn’t include him because of stiff competition in the mage category, and because of my belief his role in the next game will be comparable to, say, Leliana’s in Inquisition — important, but not a party member. Be nice to have Varric back, too, but I don’t see it happening.

I would be happy to see Bethany Hawke again, unlikely as that is. Shaper Valta would be a very interesting prospect — the first ever Dwarven mage, perhaps? And it’d be very hard to complain about venturing forth with Zevran once more.

Who you pick for the ultimate Dragon Age dream team?