Gaming Round-Up: Anthem, Bound by Flame, and New Articles

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but I’ve managed to fit in the time for both a bit of gaming, and a blog about what I’ve been up to.

Anthem: Wading into melee

MY Colossus Javelin in AnthemAnthem continues to impress, to the point where I put off writing this post for quite some time as it cost me time I could have spent playing.

I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of shooter games. I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them. They always end up feeling a bit shallow to me.

Anthem isn’t like that. In terms of pure moment to moment gameplay, it’s easily the most fun I’ve ever had playing a shooter. It stands with the best of RPGs and RTS games for addictive, satisfying gameplay.

I’m an incredible slowpoke when it comes to this game, so I still haven’t reached max level or finished the main story. I feel like I’m close to the latter goal, but I’m still only level 18 (cap is 30) at the time of this writing.

I have, however, unlocked two new Javelins, and while the Storm remains my overall favourite, they’ve both proven surprisingly fun.

First, I went Colossus. Going from a squishy mage to a tanky bruiser seemed like a good change of pace.

Owen, you magnificent bastardAt first, I wasn’t feeling the Colossus. It seemed very weak to me. Most of your survivability comes from a physical shield you can throw up, but you can’t use your guns or abilities while the shield is equipped. It seemed pointless to me, at least when playing solo. Sure, I can’t die, but I also can’t fight back.

Then I figured out you can bash people with the shield. It all started falling into place after that.

Now I’m having a grand old time charging into the fray and weaving between guns, abilities, and smashing things with sheer brute force. Tank classes can be hit and miss for me, but the Colossus is definitely my kind of tank.

After the Colossus, I was torn on what Javelin to unlock next, but I decided to go with the speedy Interceptor. Like the Colossus, the Interceptor is focused on close range fighting, but unlike the Colossus, it’s even more of a glass cannon than the Storm.

I like playing an Interceptor, but it’s not relaxing. You have to constantly be in motion, and a moment’s error or hesitation can cost you dearly. It’s very exciting when it goes well, but it can be pretty stressful. It’s not a Javelin I’d recommend to new players, that’s for sure.

My Interceptor Javelin in AnthemThere’s likely more I could say in regards to Anthem, but that would waste too much time that I could instead spend playing. I maintain some concerns about its longevity, but it’s definitely turned out to be a much better experience than I expected.

Bound by Flame: Wasted potential

I’ve been so caught up in Anthem I’ve forgotten to talk about what I was playing beforehand.

To kill time in the weeks leading up to Anthem’s release, I delved into my Steam backlog and gave the action RPG Bound by Flame a chance.

I want to like Bound by Flame. It’s got a good premise. You’re a mercenary possessed by a demon who could consume your soul, but who also has the power to save humanity from an apocalypse brought on by the Ice Lords, a faction of undead sorcerers with a strong Fallen Lords/Ten Who Were Taken vibe.

The trouble with Bound by Flame is that, well, it’s just not that good. Pretty much every aspect of the game is bogged down by a lack of polish and a general feeling of low budget and amateurishness.

My character in Bound by FlameThe voice acting is hit and miss at best. The dialogue writing is dodgy throughout. The menus and journal entries are full of typos. The story is poorly executed, with twists that come out of nowhere with no apparent explanation. According to the achievements, there’s romances of some kind, but I never figured out how to initiate any of them despite exploring all dialogue options with all characters.

The game’s main virtue is its combat, which is mostly very fun and what carried me through the game. The dodge mechanic is very well done — if you time it right, your character will automatically rush back in for a riposte, and it’s super satisfying — and I like how you’re encouraged to mix magical and physical attacks.

But even then, there are still issues. The difficulty tends to be a bit over-tuned, even on the lowest setting.

When last I played, I spent about ten minutes on what I presume is the final boss battle, an absolutely grueling slog, only to die moments away from victory. I had to start over at the beginning of the fight, and it frustrated me so much I logged off rather than attempt it again. Then Anthem came out, and I haven’t been back since.

The completionist in me feels I should finish it off to see how it ends, but I’m struggling to find the motivation.

A cutscene in Bound by FlameNew articles:

It’s time for another round-up of my latest articles at MMO Bro. First, I pat myself on the back for cracking the secret to a successful MMO. Next, I argue that MMOs should be built for more alts, not less.

Finally, I vent about the inescapable negativity that seems to be swallowing more and more of the world of online gaming.

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Dungeons and Dragons: TSW Campaign Complete + EVEN MORE CHARACTERS

After a few delays due to illness, my homebrew D&D mini-campaign based on The Secret World setting has wrapped up. Over the course of four sessions, my friends embarked on a twisted journey from a northern Ontario town (complete with a boss fight in a Tim Horton’s), to the haunted ruins of the Third Age, to the surreal realm of the Dreaming Prison.

One of the maps for TSW homebrew campaign for Dungeons and DragonsMostly I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Everyone seemed to have fun. I do think I could have done a better job describing locations and selling the ambiance of the setting. My performance anxiety holds me back a lot.

Also, while it could have been far worse given my inexperience, game balance was an issue. The new warlock subclass I designed turned out to be OMGWTFBBQ overpowered, and my version of Exquisite Corpse turned out to be pretty overtuned, too. Conversely the monsters I designed ended up being fairly wimpy. It took me until the end to finally start getting the balance right.

On the plus side, the last boss fight went pretty well. I didn’t manage to kill anyone, but our Enforcer went insane and tried to murder the rest of the party, so that’s something.

I do plan to publish all of my homebrew at some point in case anyone else wants to try D&D in the Secret World setting, but first I need to polish it up a bit more (and finish nerfing Backer warlocks).

I’m not sure if I’ll do anything like this again. Some of my friends have expressed an interest in returning to TSW at some point, and I obviously have great love for the setting, but if I’m being honest, I didn’t love being a DM. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.

The epic conclusion of my TSW homebrew campaignThe thing is it’s just really mentally exhausting. As much as it can be frustrating to wait for your turn as a player, that wait time gives you the opportunity to chat with friends or otherwise rest your mind. You don’t get that as a DM. Since I’m talking about these things now, I’ll just say: It’s rough on my burnout issues from being on the spectrum. My brain can’t handle that much input for that long.

Also, somewhat ironically considering I wrote the whole campaign, I don’t feel like I’m expressing my creativity as much as when I’m a player. I miss the experience of designing a character and role-playing.

At least I got to role-play as the Black Signal. I enjoyed that. There’s something cathartic about playing a truly awful villain.

For now, I return to life as a player.

On that front, my addiction to creating characters continues to balloon out of control. Mere weeks after posting an extensive list of my current roster, the cast has already increased.

Some of my friends (who somehow seem to have gone even more D&D crazy than I) have started running drop-in AL games every week. I’ve used this as an opportunity to import my Dwarf warrior, Davri, from WoW, as I discussed doing previously.

My Dwarf warrior receives the hidden artifact appearance for Strom'kar, the Warbreaker in World of WarcraftThe prospect of being a straight fighter bored me, but I finally found a good fit for her: a War Domain cleric. Ironically I’ve since multi-classed her, and she’s now more fighter than cleric, but mostly that’s just so I can get Extra Attack. Once I have that, I’m going back to focus on cleric levels (if I play this character long enough).

I’m quite enjoying her. She’s fun to role-play. She’s a distant scion of a royal house, and she takes herself very seriously, in both good and bad ways. She can be a bit haughty and joyless, but she takes her duty seriously and is very earnest about defending the innocent and making the world a better place. I also enjoy how she’s almost the total opposite of the usual Dwarf stereotype: cultured, refined, effeminate.

Mechanically, she’s wound up as the party’s main tank in most sessions so far. Though I haven’t loved melee in D&D previously, I’ve had fun with it on her so far. It’s incredible the amount of punishment she can soak up.

And I’m already considering yet more character concepts. I pitched the DM of our regular campaign on the idea of at some point doing a Mirror Universe one-shot — our regular party, but evil — and I feel like evil Mai would be the perfect opportunity to finally play a Great Old One warlock like I’ve wanted to forever. A nihilistic death cultist is the perfect antithesis of a life-preserving paladin.

I’m also toying with the idea of a Bladedancer (raise your hand if you’re surprised I took an interest in the Elf-only spec). That I want to play outside of Adventurers’ League, if I play it at all. To my eye, Bladedancers seem a little underpowered, so I may wish to tweak the mechanics a bit, and I’m also thinking of homebrewing a race for them.

See, for some reason I got it in my head that I wanted the character to have an Eastern flair, so I delved into the lore to see if Forgotten Realms has an East Asia analogue. It does: the distant continent of Kara-Tur. Kara-Tur is largely lacking in Elves, but there is some mention of a very obscure and nearly extinct Elven subrace called the Maraloi. So now I kinda want to homebrew new racials for a Maraloi.

The madness continues.