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…

Review: Grey Goo

It saddens me to no end that the RTS genre has fallen to the wayside as it has, so I try to snap up any decent-looking one I can find.

Enter sci-fi RTS Grey Goo.

Lucy Tak in Grey GooI’ll say upfront that this review focuses on the single-player campaign. I’ve heard it said that the multiplayer community for Grey Goo is virtually nonexistent, and I didn’t have much interest in playing it competitively anyway.

Grey Goo centers on the conflict between three races: a ragged group of alien refugees called the Beta, a hyper-advanced far future version of humans, and the titular all-consuming nanotechnology.

Interestingly, we first experience the game through the eyes of the Beta, not the humans. The Beta have spent generations fleeing across the stars to escape something called “the Silent Ones.” When hostile probes begin appearing on their world, they fear the Silent Ones have found them again, but the new threat is discovered to be something altogether alien to the Beta — though rather familiar to players.

And through it all is the rising danger of the Grey Goo, a ravenous breed of nanotechology consuming all in its path to attain some unknown goal.

Based on the setting and the trio of races, I had expected Grey Goo to be something of a StarCraft clone, but it turns out to play more like the old Dune or Command and Conquer games. I have since learned a lot of former Westwood people worked on Grey Goo, so that explains that.

A human base in Grey GooIt’s not my favourite style of RTS, but with the genre flagging as it is, beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s been so long since I played a game in this style that there was something pleasantly nostalgic about it.

There’s just one resource to gather, catalyst, and the races aren’t terribly distinct. Beta and humans play pretty much the same with only subtle differences.

The Goo are a bit different. Their units are still fairly similar to those of other races in a lot of cases, but there are more deviations (the Goo, for instance, cannot field air units), and their economy is completely different. There are no structures, only protean blobs of Goo that then transform into units.

Each race can also field epic units, which are akin to Age of Mythology’s Titans. They are very difficult to create, but nearly unstoppable once produced. Although Goo were my least favourite race to play, their epic unit, the Purger, was the most fun for me. Nanotech Cthulhu.

This is a rare case where I actually liked the humans best. An interesting twist is that in Grey Goo, humanity plays the role of the super advanced aliens, with the Beta technology being far more basic and rough around the edges. At one point a human dismisses the Beta as primitives by saying, “They’re still using bullets in their guns.”

The Hand of Ruk wreaks havoc in Grey GooI mostly enjoyed the campaign, but it does suffer from two major flaws, which sort of feed off each other.

The first is that it’s very short. There are only five missions per race, and I was able to finish the entire campaign within ten hours.

As a result, it can also be quite rushed. There isn’t enough time to fully flesh out the characters or develop the story arcs.

The other issue is that this is one of those games that really throws you into the deep end and hopes you learn to swim. This is true of both the gameplay, as Grey Goo does offer a relatively steep learning curve, and the story, which throws you right into the middle and leaves you to try to figure out what’s going on. It took until midway through the final campaign for me to get a clear picture of Grey Goo’s backstory and what was really going on. This is undoubtedly the result of how small the campaign is.

There’s a DLC campaign, Emergence, to help flesh things out, but it’s quite brief, so while it does add some welcome insight into the events of the campaign, it doesn’t do much to help the game’s length issue. It’s also very difficult and thus somewhat frustrating.

A cutscene in Grey GooThere are a few other hiccups, as well. The mission design is old school in the extreme, with nearly every mission being some variation of “go destroy the enemy base.” The difficulty is a bit oddly tuned, too, with some missions being fairly simple, but others, especially near the end, being incredibly frustrating even on the easiest difficulty setting.

That said, once you finally figure out what’s going on, the story of Grey Goo is pretty interesting, with some good twists and excellent use of its core sci-fi concepts.

This is definitely not the same style of sci-fi StarCraft is — IE just fantasy with space ships and guns — but a game that is serious about its science fiction. Grey Goo is about as close to hard sci-fi as I’ve yet seen in a video game. Which still isn’t that close, but still.

Putting aside the issues mentioned above, the storytelling is of a high quality. Cutscenes are frequent and spectacular, and the voice acting is very strong.

Despite some stumbles, I would like to see a sequel or expansion to Grey Goo. There’s a really interesting premise here, and the world needs more quality RTS games.

Overall rating: 7.3/10

Also, because I can:

This is how you get Grey GooI’ve only ever seen one episode of Archer. The ants thing was the only part that made me laugh.