About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Writer, gamer, and nerd of the highest order.

Gaming Round-Up: Torchlight II, Star Trek Online, Anthem, and More

Time for another quick round-up of some of the gaming I’ve done in recent weeks. This month I got a free month of Origin Access (somehow…), which allowed me to check out a bunch of games for free.

The Icetide season in Anthem.Torchlight II

The main coup of the free month of Access is that it let me play through Torchlight II, which means I’m now caught up and ready for Frontiers.

TL2 is an upgrade over the original in virtually every way. It’s still kind of a by the numbers ARPG, and not a lot about it is terribly original, but there’s a lot more variety of enemies and environments than the original, and it’s fun.

I can’t put my finger on why, but something about this game reminded me of the original Dungeon Siege. Strange to feel so nostalgic playing a game that’s new (at least to me).

The highlight of the game for me was my class, the Outlander. It may as well have been built for me. Bows, dark magic, support abilities, pets… it’s everything I ever wanted all rolled into one.

TL2 is still a little repetitive, and the last few areas in particular turned into a bit of a slog. There was never a lot of story in the game, but in the latter half it feels like the writers gave up altogether. The Alchemist started out as a relatively nuanced villain with a sympathetic motivation, but that just flew out the window after a while with no explanation as to why.

My Outlander in Torchlight II.My other major complaint is that the skill system is pretty awful. I’m not a big fan of traditional skill trees at the best of times, and this one embodies all of the worst sins of the concepts. You don’t just spend points to unlock skills but have to constantly dump more into them to keep leveling them up. Everything is massively level-gated.

And worst of all the respec only lets you change the last three points you spent. I wound up with a bunch of points sunk into skills that I only took because I had no better option at the time (thanks, level-gating) and no way to reclaim them and put them into abilities I was actually using.

Frostpunk, They Are Billions, and Diluvion

These are some other games I tried via Access, but I didn’t stick with any of them long.

They Are Billions sounded really fun in theory — zombie horde mode RTS is something I’m all for — but there’s little to no story, and it’s just not that fun. It takes so long to build up your base and get your economy going. It’s tedious.

Frostpunk is another one that sounded cool (hurr hurr) but didn’t deliver. It’s brutally punishing, to the point it feels impossible to ever get ahead. It’s just one crisis after another.

My city in Frostpunk.Beyond that, it’s just not that fun. You spend the vast majority of the game just watching your town run itself. You can speed up the game speed to hasten things along, but it constantly resets itself to the default speed, which is painfully sluggish. Bafflingly, this is intended behaviour and not a bug.

Diluvion is something I tried on a whim when I was scrolling through vault games. A post-apocalyptic steampunk submarine RPG sounded interesting, but there’s no voice acting, and the controls are terrible. I don’t think I lasted fifteen minutes.

Anthem

I haven’t been playing a lot of Anthem lately, but I have dabbled a bit to check out the new Icetide season. While it is a bit disappointing to not see more new gameplay (just a new Freeplay event and the time trials), I am nonetheless surprised there isn’t more buzz around the fact Anthem literally reskinned the entire game world to reflect a real world season. Has any other game ever done that before? I’ve never heard of it.

It’s gorgeous, too. I always like winter zones, but even for me this is a cut above. The light dusting of snow paired with the vivid red leaves is so striking.

It seems a lot of art design work for what is otherwise a fairly small update, and that has conspiracy theories spawning in my head. Given the rumours of a reboot, I wonder if the snow environment is something they were working on for the reboot that they realized they could port into the base game…

The Icetide season in Anthem.Time will tell, I guess.

Star Trek Online

The real surprise lately is that I’ve suddenly started playing Star Trek Online again. I didn’t really see that coming, but between getting caught up on Discovery and the hype for the upcoming Picard series, I guess I’ve had Trek on the brain, and I wanted a fix.

It’s been a long time since I played last, and I didn’t get that far before, so I started over with a new character, though still a Romulan. Only real difference is this one’s an engineer rather than a tactical officer.

The one big change from when I played last — at least in my view — is the addition of scaling tier 6 ships, which allow you to just stick with one ship throughout instead of changing every ten levels or so. If you ask me that’s how the game should always have worked. Changing ships constantly never felt right to me.

The scaling ships are mainly a microtransaction thing of course, which isn’t ideal, but I can live with it. I bought myself a D’deridex warbird (or more accurately bought the T6 equivalent and reskinned it as a D’deridex) and named it the Tomalak, which is all I ever wanted.

My D'deridex warbird in Star Trek Online.I’m choosing ships purely based on aesthetics and nostalgia, so I had no idea what the stats of a D’deridex were like until I started playing it. Turns out it has all the cornering ability of a brick lodged in half-frozen mud.

On the plus side, though, it seems very tanky. I can just shrug off most threats like they’re nothing. That plus a powerful but very short range AoE DoT make this ship very much a bruiser, but I’m enjoying it. Using my cloak to get in close and then popping my DoT can get pretty hilarious.

Otherwise my view of the game remains much the same as it always has. It’s super janky and full of bugs and clunky, over-complicated systems.

But it does capture the look and feel of Star Trek very well, and for now, that’s enough for me. I just wanted a decent Trek fix, and STO is giving it to me.

Also, I was jonesing for a new MMO to play. I’ve mostly played single-player and “not-so-massively” games this year, and I’ve had a great time with that, but it did feel time to sink my teeth into a meaty new (or new to me) MMO.

I will say this game is a bit like crack to a fashionista like me. So many options for both my character and my bridge officers. It feels like I’ve spent half my time in-game so far just tinkering with outfits. It’s a shame you can’t save multiple outfits for your officers the way you can for your own toon…

My Romulan engineer and her bridge crew in Star Trek Online.I did pick a good time to pick up the game, what with all the holiday sales on. When I got my D’deridex, I got a package with tickets for three T6 ships for barely more than the cost of a single ship. I still haven’t decided what to spend the remaining two tickets on. I’m considering Akira class, Galaxy class, and Valdore class (or again their T6 equivalents, which I would then reskin), but I’m also tempted to try something that launches fighters. Carrier has arrived and all.

There’s also alts to consider, as well. I’m not sure if I want to stick with my Romulan or branch out. If any STO players are reading this, do you think alts are worth it as a story fan? Would I get a lot of different content playing Federation or Klingon, or would it just be the same stuff as my Romulan past the tutorial?

Awaiting a New Generation of MMOs

I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve once again become more plugged into things now that I’m working for Massively OP or if things are genuinely turning around, but for the first time in quite a while I find there’s not one but several upcoming new MMOs that I’m genuinely interested to check out once they launch. I’m always very leery of pre-launch hype, so none of these are “must plays” for me (yet), but they are games that I want to check out sooner rather than later, and not just out of intellectual curiosity.

A promotional screenshot from Amazon's upcoming MMO New World.New World

Of course this game is the talk of the proverbial town right now. Its reported PvP focus turned me off out of the gate, but some of what’s been trickling out since they announced the release date has me changing my mind a bit.

It now seems that PvP will be optional (though still a big part of the game), and that has me ready to give it a closer look. The setting does look intriguingly unique, and the environments look beautiful. New World also seems to be hitting a lot of other notes that appeal to me, like skill-based combat and classless progression.

There’s still a lot we don’t know, like how truly optional the “optional” PvP is. It might be a situation where you need to opt in for any meaningful progression. I’m also wondering how much story will be in the game. It’s a sandbox, so probably not much. Will I be able to maintain my interest without a constant plot leading me forward? Usually the answer is no, but for the right game maybe that could change.

Torchlight: Frontiers

I’m not the biggest Torchlight fan in the world — I’ve only recently been playing through the older games in preparation for Frontiers — but I like ARPGs, and a big new MMOARPG is definitely going to grab my attention, especially now that I’m heading up the Not So Massively column.

I’m also impressed by how clever and different the classes seem to be, though I do hope that it won’t just be the three we know about now.

A promotional shot for upcoming action MMO Torchlight: Frontiers.Lost Ark

To be honest, I don’t know much about this, but again, new ARPGs have my attention, and the buzz seems pretty strong. Pretty screenshots, too.

Corepunk

This has just been announced, and I have a lot of questions about it, but the magitech art style is intriguing, and it seems to have a pretty impressive feature list. A little worried they may be spreading themselves too thin, but we’ll see.

Book of Travels

I have a very low opinion of MMO crowdfunding, but if this actually launches in our lifetime, it looks like it could be a game to watch. I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy it or not — the emphasis on peaceful exploration could be a delightful change of pace or deeply tedious, depending on execution — but I strongly admire that they’re trying to do something genuinely different. The genre needs more games willing to take chances like that.

Ascent: Infinite Realm

This sounds like the most traditional MMO on the list, which isn’t necessarily a compliment coming from me, and being made by the same people as TERA isn’t exactly a sterling pedigree, either. On the other hand, the steampunk stylings look damn cool, and the emphasis on aerial gameplay could be really fun.

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings MMO

The Fellowship of the RingThis is the one we know the least about — we know that it exists, and pretty much nothing else — but it’s the one I most want to hear more about. As a longtime Tolkien fanatic, the lack of a truly good Middle-Earth MMO has always stung. I know Lord of the Rings Online has many fans, but at the end of the day it’s just a low budget WoW clone. The setting deserves far better.

Whether Amazon can do better remains to be seen, but they certainly have the resources to pull it off. Just depends on if they make the right design choices.