Review: Dark Matter, “Isn’t that a Paradox?” + MMO Link Dump

Immediately after watching “Isn’t that a Paradox?”, I turned on the radio. Milky Chance was on, and the first line I heard was, “We don’t talk about it.”

That seems an apt reaction to this episode.

A promotional image for Dark Matter season threeMost sci-fi shows will eventually accumulate at least one or two episodes the fans would sooner pretend never happened. I believe we have come to that point in Dark Matter’s history.

Okay, so, time travel. I’m not in love with the idea of time travel in Dark Matter to begin with. Its strength is its characters, not in its sci-fi elements, and it just doesn’t really seem to fit in with the grittier tone of the universe.

Still, it might be forgivable if it was used to tell an interesting story, but it isn’t. It’s just an excuse for an endless string of fish out of water gags. To be fair, some are pretty funny, but it’s not enough to carry an episode.

We also need to acknowledge the fact that, by all appearances, a blink drive can be used to travel through time as easily as space. This means that from now on either the series is going to solve every problem with the deus ex machina of traveling back in time to fix every mistake, or be constantly raising the question of why the crew isn’t going back in time to fix their mistakes. The latter is preferable, but neither is desirable.

And do not even get me started on the utterly cringey sub-plot about the tweenage boy falling for Five. That was physically painful. I mean, I always say I love seeing Five get screen time, but not like this.

Not like this.

Two and Three in Dark Matter season threeThe requisite end of episode teaser for the next episode looks interesting, at least. We’re overdue for a good Sally episode.

Overall rating: 5/10 I was going to give it a four, but I’m adding an extra point because it references Dungeon Siege III, one of the most criminally underrated video games of recent memory.

I want to believe Five is an Anjali main. Two would play Katarina, of course.

New articles:

I’ve been getting lax about linking my recent articles for MMO Bro, so it’s time for a good old-fashioned link dump.

First, I do a two part series looking at what Western MMOs can learn from their Eastern counterparts, and vice versa.

Next, I run down a list of the best level-scaling systems in the MMO genre. I really do love level-scaling, and the more I play games with it, the more I wish it was universal. It opens so many doors.

Finally, I get a bit more serious and talk about the issue of player toxicity in MMOs. Specifically, some practical solutions for how I think communities could be improved.

On Pet Classes

Pet classes in RPGs tend to provoke strong reactions. Most people either love pet classes and play them at every opportunity, or hate pet classes and avoid them like the plague.

Fighting the undead in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing IIII’m a strange case in that both of those are true of me. Depending on the game, I either love or hate pet classes.

For example, you’ve probably heard me complain bitterly about pet classes in World of Warcraft. Yes, one of my most played characters is a warlock, but I started her as a leveling challenge to see if I could play a lock without pets, and once Grimoire of Sacrifice became a thing, I’ve used it as much as possible. The pets have always been my least favourite part of being a warlock.

Similarly, pets are one of the bigger reasons I haven’t spent much time playing a hunter, and it’s not entirely a coincidence I started losing interest in my mage around the time they made frost a pet spec.

On the other hand, when it comes to single-player games, I tend to embrace pet classes with open arms. When the Van Helsing games revamped their classes, I went straight for the Constructor and terrorized Borgovia with my army of dismemberbots.

I don’t have a lot of fond memories of the gameplay of Diablo II, but one of them is definitely having a posse of skeletons following my necromancer around. In D3, I never quite managed to click with the witch doctor, but I have done my level best to rekajigger my crusader into a pet class (a “zoosader”). At a maximum, he can be accompanied by three swordsmen, four archers, Kormac, and a demon minion summoned by his sword.

And let us not forget my zombie goons in Lichdom: Battlemage.

My zombie posse in Lichdom: Battlemage“…Zombie goons?”

Then there’s party-based RPGs to consider. We generally seem to separate companion characters from pets, but practically speaking, they’re pretty similar. AI minions who assist you in combat. And I definitely enjoy party-based RPGs — I prefer them to games where you only control a single character. In fact, my most common complaint about them is that the parties aren’t nearly big enough. Dungeon Siege spoiled me with its nine party slots.

So what accounts for this split?

Honestly I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think it’s necessarily one factor as much as a combination of them.

Broadly, it seems to be a difference between single-player games and MMOs.

For one thing, MMOs never really seem to take pets into account when balancing the difficulty in the open world, so while pet classes are at no particular advantage at endgame, they’re brokenly OP when soloing, and since most MMOs tend to make their solo content rather insultingly easy to begin with, it just makes the whole experience a snorefest.

On a related note, most tab target MMOs have incredibly stilted combat with little meaningful interaction between the player and their opponent. You kind of just ignore whatever the enemy is doing and mindlessly drill through your rotation. Having a pet tank hits for you exasperates the issue.

My party in Dragon Age: InquisitionMMOs also usually use an over-the-shoulder camera, which causes pets to take up an obnoxious amount of screen real estate. They mess up screenshots and cause all sorts of problems.

Meanwhile, a lot of the single-player RPGs I favour use an isometric camera, which makes pets far less of an encumbrance.

Perhaps due to less concerns about lag, single-player games also tend to allow you to control much larger numbers of pets, and I definitely prefer a swarm of minions to just one.

It could also have to do with the rigid threat mechanics that tend to exist in a lot of MMOs, but not in single-player games. Most MMO pets have taunt abilities that ensure enemies will focus on them almost 100% of the time. This, again, robs you of any meaningful interaction with your opponent.

In single-player games, pets usually don’t have taunts or threat modifiers. At best they’re a physical barrier between you and the enemy. Even in Dragon Age, where the warrior in your party will likely have taunts, it’s rare for them to hold aggro on every enemy. This means that you still have to look to your own defenses and survival at least a little.

Another divide is that MMO pets tend to require a lot of micro-management, at least in group content, whereas single-player pets and companions are almost always fire and forget. I definitely do not want to have to spend a lot of time baby-sitting my pets — that defeats the purpose as far as I’m concerned.

My Imperial agent and Lana Beniko in Star Wars: The Old Republic's Knights of the Fallen Empire expansionAll that said, I can still find exceptions that muddy the issue even further. I quite like the companion characters in SW:TOR, for instance, and they’re essentially pets. In that case I suspect it’s a combination of the fact they’re meaningful characters within the story and the fact I already dislike the combat in that game, so how much worse can the companions make it?

In ESO, also, I’ve leaned heavily on my Clannfear pet, perhaps because unlike most MMO pets it doesn’t require much management. Then again it’s also worth noting that I have been moving away from using it recently — it doesn’t fit my character’s RP very well, and it bugs out a lot.

It’s definitely a very muddled alchemy that determines whether or not I will appreciate pets. The one thing you can be certain of is that I will always have strong opinions on pet classes one way or another.