Wednesday 28 July 2021

There is no armour against fate

Being a bit disconnected from the gaming zeitgeist I almost missed this year’s Steam summer sale, which would’ve been a shame. Not for any sort of shopping bargains but the associated Forge Your Fate adventures, 14 little vignettes associated with various genres. Selecting options gave an animated sticker reward, with a badge on offer at the end of it. They’re worth catching up with, the writing had a good dollop of Old Man Murray about it; I felt particularly singled out by the RPG story of spending a full day in the character creator, then another to finalise the hairstyle and waistcoat colour selections.

It particularly struck home as Melmoth had pointed me to an article about private servers resurrecting defunct MMOs including City of Heroes. I’d read about the Homecoming project a couple of years back when there was a bit of a kerfuffle as it was revealed, didn’t have the bandwidth for it at the time, but I’ve got such fond memories of it as my first MMO I had to give it another go. The Homecoming launcher is very slick and easy, it was a quick process to get everything up and running, and sure enough the character creator (particularly the costume design) can still keep me occupied for hours. Launching into the game itself was quite the Proustian trip, talking to those same contacts in the tutorial from 20-odd years ago. The game itself does feel a bit dated in some areas, those initial few levels with a limited number of powers are quite slow (Shoot… miss! Wait for recharge… in part a legacy of working with all sorts of connections including dial-up, I guess). There are things to help, a vendor to supply many of the temporary powers made available to veterans later, and you can get a proper travel power at level 4 which is a blessed relief. Perez Park isn’t such an inescapable trap of doom once you can fly. It doesn’t take long to round out your power tray and get back into frantic mob-pummelling fury, as well as planning any number of character concepts; just seeing Magical as one of the character origins popped Magical Trevor into my head (and once there it’s awfully hard to shift), so I had to roll a quick Beast Summoning Mastermind (the opposite of disappearing a cow, I guess, but close enough for government work), though someone else beat me to the name.

It’s still eminently playable and looks pretty good, though the odd interface quirk and low resolution texture remind you of its age; I did try and delve a bit further back into my formative gaming with 1989’s Curse of the Azure Bonds in Good Old Games, but the pre-mouse interface was just too much to grapple with. The main reason I’d fired up the GOG launcher was that they were giving away the Shadowrun trilogy, which got a good write up. I’ve made a start on the first game and it seems a pretty solid turn based RPG, not a vast amount of tactical depth in combat so far but then I’m low level so don’t have many abilities to employ. The story is pulling me along nicely, there have been some fun investigations/puzzles, and it’s told in sensibly-sized chunks of dialogue that convey what they need to without dragging on excessively. There’s no voicing; while a good voice actor can make a tremendous difference to a character I’m more text-oriented and certainly read faster than I can listen, sometimes I prefer to get on with things rather than settle in for lengthy conversations, so it’s not something I’m missing.

Over in idle world I’m still kicking off adventures in Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms in the background. Having progressed from initial bafflement to getting a handle on the mechanisms it’s now settling down into the everlasting grind of progression, earning various forms of currency, unlocking characters and gear. On a previous post Jeromai pointed me to Crusaders of the Lost Idols, a sister game from the same studio; I gave it a try, but having unlocked a fair number of bits and pieces I didn’t fancy starting over. I could’ve switched between them, but running both in the background seemed like another rung on the ladder of impending madness (why not not play two games at the same time!!!) I wasn’t actively looking for another free to play game with endless grinding potential, but PC Gamer had a piece on 9 card games better than Hearthstone and one of them was the intriguing looking (but terribly named) Kards, a Second World War themed CCG. Being a sucker for that sort of thing I’ve grabbed it and played a few matches, and quite enjoyed it for the most part. It can have that inevitable frustration where you just draw situational cards in entirely the wrong situation and/or your opponent pulls out perfect combos that really complement each other, but either through luck or exceptional skill (I think we all know which) I’ve been winning more than losing. It’ll probably be a different story if I get matched up against more experienced players rather than other rookies. Steam reviews are a bit mixed, with a fair number of complaints about expensive/rare overpowered cards (people on the internet in “Annoyed About Game Balance” shocker), so I’m not sure I’ll throw too much money at it just yet, but I might dabble a while longer.

Destiny 2 ticks along; I sank a bit of time into the Solstice of Heroes event for the shiny armour, it needed a good mix of different activities for the various tasks, some of which I hadn’t run for an age. I think it might be time for another break, though, as there’s plenty of competition on the gaming front; Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is still there on the back burner, along with The Division 2 and any number of other titles accrued in Steam, the Epic Games store, Origin, UPlay etc. Time, my old nemesis, we meet again!