Gaming Round-Up: ESO, Bless, Zeratul, and MMO Mobs

Once again I find myself with a number of gaming topics that are worth discussing, but not worth filling a full post on their own.

A story cinematic in Bless OnlineBless Online: Actually okay

With its launch as a full free to play title, I decided to give Bless Online a try. Given the incredibly negative buzz, I was surprised by how decent the game is.

Once again I feel the need to point out that the universal and hyperbolic negativity of the gaming community has made word of mouth entirely meaningless. I no longer know which games I should avoid, because basically everything is decried as a broken cash grab, regardless of reality.

That’s not to say Bless is a masterpiece. It’s not. I actually gave up on it fairly quickly. But this is much more symptomatic of how jaded I’ve become than the quality of the game itself. It’s got a lot going for it.

The graphics are gorgeous. The world is detailed and filled with personality. The story is surprisingly high effort and actually halfway interesting. The combat is very flashy and engaging, if once again much too easy. If I weren’t in a period of feeling somewhat burnt out on video games in general and traditional MMOs in particular, I’d probably have played a lot more.

In the end, that may be Bless’ one major sin: It launched too late into a market too crowded.

A flightpath in Bless OnlineESO: Home sweet villa

After months of hard work and with the assistance of an ESO Plus trial event, I’ve finally finished decorating my Grand Psijic Villa home in Elder Scrolls Online.

I am not sure why I did this. There is no gameplay reason to spend time in my own home, and I have no friends who play to show around the place. I suppose it’s a nice virtual environment to wander around and reflect on my life choices.

Ahem.

The place is so huge I had to wall off a few rooms because I didn’t have the resources or energy to furnish them properly. Even so, I did manage to include a feast hall, bedrooms for both my Aldmeri characters, a kitchen, and indoor gardens. Meanwhile the exterior is home to as much plant life as I could cram in, a campsite with a hammock, some lovely statuary, and a semi-submerged coral garden, among other attractions.

It is fun to express yourself through design like this. I’m beginning to catch a glimmer of why people are so passionate about player housing in games. I just wish it was a more fleshed out feature.

SC2: En aru’din Raszagal

Surprisingly soon after the release of Tychus, StarCraft II has gained another new co-op commander: Zeratul.

I preface my thoughts on him by saying that I think Zeratul is fun to play, and I don’t regret purchasing him. He has some cool abilities, a unique mechanic in the hunt for artifact fragments, and his unit skins are gorgeous.

That said, he does somewhat reinforce my perception that the co-op team is running out of ideas. Aside from the artifact mechanic, he could basically be described as “Nova, but Protoss and somehow even more overpowered.”

Zeratul is very powerful, and very easy. His macro is simplified to the point of being almost non-existent — even his upgrades are researched automatically — and he also has surprisingly low micro requirements.

Your only real strategic choices are what top bar abilities to pick (which is a neat mechanic, I grant), as his unit selection is limited, and you really don’t need anything other than Void Templars and Enforcers with the occasional Shieldguard for back-up. His only real micro in battle is casting blink and dropping his calldowns. Meanwhile his base runs itself.

Zeratul in StarCraft II co-opI mean, I hate economic management, and even I feel Zeratul may have gone too far in eliminating it.

Zeratul’s fun, but I can’t pretend there aren’t a lot of ways in which he’s simply a failure of good game design. If nothing else, I have to believe there are more interesting things they could have done.

New article:

In other news, I’ve published a new article on MMO Bro. This one seeks to rethink the design of open world mobs in MMOs.

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BlizzCon 2018: It’s Worth It for the Warcraft III Remake

There was a profound level of cynicism going into this year’s BlizzCon. Blizzard themselves put a strange amount of effort into telling people not to get their hopes up, and the whole community — myself included — seemed to look toward the convention not so much with excitement as fatigue.

A shot from the cinematic trailer for Warcraft III: ReforgedI can’t say that pessimism has proven entirely unjustified, but for me, there is one silver lining.

A carnival of disappointment:

For the most part, BlizzCon 2018 has felt underwhelming thus far. Most of what’s been announced is predictable, uninspired, or otherwise disappointing.

World of Warcraft’s news so far consists only of a release window for WoW Classic, which I have no interest in, and a breathtakingly tone-death speech in which Jay Allen Brack sung the praises of Blizzard’s inclusive and welcoming community and then immediately pivoted into talking about Battle for Azeroth, an expansion specifically designed to divide the community and foster animosity between players.

Oh, yeah, and a new cinematic, which didn’t really offer much, actually.

Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch both got the expected new hero reveals. Am I the only one who thinks the Overwatch character looks like a grown-up version of the girl from Heroes? They’re both girls with white hair and red eyes…

Hearthstone has another new expansion, themed around Trolls this time. Maybe this is exciting for Hearthstone fans, but this just seems like more of the same to me.

A vision of the Xel'naga keystone in StarCraft 2: Legacy of the VoidStarCraft II saw Zeratul of all people announced as the next co-op commander. This got barely a mention in the opening ceremony, and I had to go to the official website to see the trailer and get details.

My knee-jerk reaction was serious disappointment. I can think of lots of more interesting characters to become commanders. However, having looked over the preview, he does seem to have some unique mechanics to offer, most especially his ability to enhance his army by collecting randomly generated Xel’naga artifacts.

His army is also more themed around the Xel’naga than the Nerazim, so it seems he won’t just be Vorazun 2: Electric Boogaloo. So Zeratul for me has been upgraded from “couldn’t care less” to “might buy, maybe.”

I still would have strongly preferred Selendis. Seriously, she’s been one of the most requested characters since co-op launched. What do we need to do to get her in the game?

Surprisingly little hype was built around the fact everyone on Battle.Net is being given Destiny 2 for free. That seems like it should have been a bigger deal. What I’ve played of Destiny 2 didn’t wow me, but now that I own the full version, I might give it another try at some point.

The wizard class in Diablo: ImmortalOf course, I’d be remiss not to mention the new Diablo mobile game, Immortal. As these things go, it actually looks fairly cool, but as it’s mobile-exclusive, I’ll never play it. I don’t use mobile devices. Never have.

Honestly, I’m wondering if Blizzard games are just not for me anymore. The company has evolved into a new direction. There’s nothing objectively wrong with it, but it’s not the same developer I used to love. And it’s just not the same without Metzen.

However, there is one thing here that excites me.

Warcraft III: Reforged

Now this was a pleasant surprise. I thought it possible a Warcraft III remaster might come someday, but I was not expecting it so soon.

I tell you, when they rolled that remake of the original Reign of Chaos trailer, I literally started shouting “Yes! YEEEESSS!” at my monitor. Such a moment of pure nerdgasm.

It seems too much to hope for, but how amazing would it be if all the cinematics were redone like this?

Arthas and Jaina in a cutscene from Warcraft III: ReforgedEven if they’re not, the updates to the in-game graphics are almost cinematic quality. It’s stunning. This is not a slapdash effort like the StarCraft remaster. This is a true modernization. In fact, the official site describes Reforged as a true remake, including balance changes and gameplay tweaks.

My one complaint is that it’s a bit over-priced. Pre-orders are already live, and even the base version is a whopping $40. Even considering what an impressive effort this is, that’s a steep price for a game from last decade with no new content.

I suppose I should try not to get too hyped. The other game remakes I’ve played — even good ones like The Age of Empires Definitive Edition — didn’t hold my attention for long. At the end of the day, it will still be a nearly twenty year old game I already played to death.

But Warcraft III was my favourite game of all time, at least until TSW came along, and even now it’s kind of a tie between the two. The thought of bringing it into the modern day brings out my inner twelve year old and sends a shiver of excitement down my spine.

If nothing else, I hope this encourages people who never played Warcraft III to give it a shot. It’s a true classic, and one of the greatest epic stories in gaming.