Tuesday, 12 September 2017

My Usual Spiel - Verdun, Finally some proper trench warfare

Release date: April 28, 2015
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: M2H, Blackmill Games
Developer: M2H, Blackmill Games
Engine: Unity
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Modes: Multiplayer Only

Verdun, one of the bloodiest battles of The Great War and an appropriate name for the most realistic WW1 shooter out today. It was my housemate Brok that first introduced me to it, the game was curiously released in the shadow of Battlefield 1 yes even a year before it came out there was a lot of talk about the new Battlefield game would be going to the World War 1 front. When I first saw game known as Verdun I realized that this was actually a much more realistic first person shooter then Battlefield will ever be and decided to give it a go.

The treacherous Front lines
Verdun is set in the midst of the First World War and as the title says specifically the western front from 1914 to 1918, it features many of the famous battlegrounds of the time including Battle of Champagne, The Meuse-Argonne Offensive and Fort Douaumont itself. The game has a heavy squad focus rewarding you for teamwork and especially rewarding players who play in the same squad regularly, it features Realistic World War 1 gameplay: Authentic weaponry with realistic bullet physics, skill based weapon handling, gore, poisonous gas with a claustrophobic gas mask experience, realistic gore and artillery barrages. The “Frontlines” game mode is true trench warfare that forces you to attack or defend in tandem with the enemy. Each side fights over a turn-based frontline map that consists of multiple sectors that can be captured by either side. Staying true to the typical attrition warfare of that time, both sides attack and counter-attack each other in turn, so you will be forced to defend each captured sector of trenches. The goal is to capture the enemy‘s HQ sector in order to win the game.

The trenches of Argonne, I think I had HDR on at that point.
Verdun it looks the part too right when you load the game you’re in a trench with some classic WW1-era music playing on the stereo and the whole setting feels very true to the era. Though the menu is a bit confusing in the way you choose your gamemode first i.e. the most prominent mode: Frontlines. You need to join a squad first and then it loads you into whatever map that squad is in, and then you also have the option of “Playing Now” which is bloody annoying cause I keep accidentally pressing it twice and it jumps into the first available squad which wouldn’t be a problem apart from the times it dumps you into servers with no players. There are various other modes including: Attrition which is basically team deathmatch with a ticket bleed and Rifle Deathmatch which is pretty self explanatory. The only offline mode is “Squad defense” which pits you against waves of NPC opponents that are pretty damn stupid, they often run right past you then all crowd at the objective and whoever was lucky enough to go the machinegunner class gets to mow them all down, it was all quite ludicrous but anyway we didn’t play that mode much.

The Game mode screen with the map of the western front
In Verdun the main game is Frontlines, and you join a squad in either the Western Powers or the Entente, you have a role within the squads themselves which are in the nation’s language so are often hard to decipher. The squad roles are called various different things depending on which military you are fighting for but usually encompass a Sharpshooter who has access to Sniper Rifles, a Bombardier who has access to grenades, traps and other explosive devices, a Machinegunner and an Officer. The officer is different as he usually only carries a pistol but has various abilities including being able to issue attack and defend commands and the ability to be a forward spawn point for the team. Officers also have special abilities such as the ability launch artillery strikes, mustard gas and recon planes to reveal enemy locations. Playing Frontlines restricts the areas that you can move around as when you are defending you are forbidden from running forward of the trench area and when you are attacking and there are obviously edges of the map you cannot go like every other game. In all of the maps there are capture points and capturing these within a certain time allows you to move forward and eventually capture the enemies main base and in turn the enemy can “gain a foothold” and capture the area back if they have enough soldiers in the area similar to  the tug of war trench warfare of WW1 with a shifting frontline.

A basic display of how the Frontlines mode works, one side attacks, the other defends and the rest is hotsory :D

Verdun seems to focus a lot on Squads which are based on historical units such as the British Tommies and the German Sto├čtrupp, the squad levelling system is quite confusing as you can only level up the type of squad you are in. So for example the Canadians are an Assault type squad therefore have more assault type weapons and the officers can launch gas attacks at the enemy whereas the French Chasseur Alpins are a Recon type squad with sniper rifles and espionage abilities and officers have the recon plane ability. Additionally to this the squads have Abilities and Progression trees which are sort of like a tech tree in a game like Age of Empires, as you level up you gain additional abilities such as better sprint time, reload times, spawn times, weapon efficiency etc and also the officer abilities are upgraded from more lethal types of gas to bigger artillery rounds. Playing the same type of squad regularly with the same people is the best way to level your squad abilities but sadly if you play on your own this is almost impossible as there are 7 types of squads and you’re always playing with different people.

The Squad Ability Tree
Confused yet? So now we get to your personal progression system. In the past you obtained new weapons and equipment by levelling up your specified squad role in order to obtain more equipment i.e. rifleman role would unlock the scoped rifles. But now as per this post by the developers , everything is done through the ‘Career system’ In this mode you have a personal career level with 77 as the max level and you obtain 2 career points per level so as per the diagram below you can use your career points to open up the different types of loadouts for your squad role. These new unlocks are not inherently better (i.e. tier 3 may not be better then tier 2) they just give more options of equipment for your role.

Picking your squad Specialisation
Once you have all this stuff worked out it’s time to actually play the game! It’s pretty self-intuitive, it’s your regular WASD keys to move and you can also crouch, prone and sprint, and the shift key also allows you to hold your breath when aiming which is quite useful when trying to shoot enemies from afar and I keep forgetting to do it. There is also keys for grenades and your gas mask, and yes you can jump. When playing the game it’s very important to play the objective and help your squad by performing your squad role correctly, the abilities of your class may give you the chance to earn additional points. For example the machinegunner will get more points for assists and the sniper more points for longshots and of course running ahead in a gung-ho approach really does not work. When attacking yes you have to move forward but your best tactic is to conserve your sprint power and run between cover and shell holes and inch your way to the front, this is especially true with the Officer class as you can act as a forward spawn point right near the capture point.

Playing as an Officer and Machinegunner on Artois with my friends Brok (Ya Gramps) and Tyler (The Barron) towards the end we encounter mustard gas unfortuantely.

The fighting in this game true to real life is brutal, almost every rifle and machinegun in the game can kill a player with one shot to the chest or head, so everyone is running around with the itchiest trigger fingers ever. A split second could be the difference between you seeing and shooting your opponent to them doing the same and damn is it alternately gratifiying and infuriating if you make the shot or fall face first into the mud and fall you will, successfully getting a bullet into someone while they run through the dirt and watching their body slump onto the ground is one of the most satisfying sights ever in contrast to the Battlefield series where you have to riddle them with bullets or get a headshot before they go down. What makes things worse is that all of the colours blend into each other with the gritty realistic scheme and environment and the character models look very similar so often you don’t know it’s an enemy until it’s too late especially when you are changing factions with different uniforms all of the time so thank god for friendly fire being off as more than once I’ve fired at a random shadow in the darkness then realizing it was a teammate. Some of the best moments I’ve had are as the machinegunner and racking up lots of kills with the rapid fire.

I try out sharpshooting on the Picardie map, I swear I had a scope on but the movie oddly doesn't show it.

The environment and setting of Verdun are all top-notch, all the locations have that gritty WW1 feel and the attention to detail is incredible. I actually only realized after a while that I had the gore turned off by default, and when I turned it on boy was there a change, there were body parts being blown off and soldiers screaming and writhing on the ground and oh that was more like it. The various historical maps looked great too, from the barren trench laden Argonne to the heavily wooden Aisne. Some of my favourites included Vosges which was set in a sparse rocky pinewood forest and Champagne which was the only night map and prime example of heavily entrenched forces, with that map you had two choices, run through the deep trenches as they wind around or risk running along the top where there is a high chance of being shot or getting tangled in the barbed wire and boy is there a lot of it. Flanders  is probably one of the hardest maps to move forward as it’s caked in mud and water and there is barely any cover. Moving through these environments feels great and you really feel like you are part of something compared with other FPS games where you are in a team but it’s still every man for himself.

Playing the night map 'Champagne' with my friend Brok, there were only a few players in this game.

The graphics in Verdun are very crisp and realistic looking, there is so much detail in the player models and the maps, the trees the branches the leaves the rough terrain, everything is modelled true to the era, I can run the game at ultra setting with no problem so it’s very optimized as well, even when it’s raining. I play everything on Ultra but leave off the fancy features such as “High dynamic range” “Depth of Field” “Ambient Occlusion” and all that stuff that’s supposed to make the game look better but just downs your FPS, High Dynamic range actually look pretty cool but it makes the sky to bright and the dark bits too dark, I still leave anti-aliasing on though I know have a 1440p monitor now. The sounds are good, rifle shots sound great and so do the explosions and the whistles from the officers, there isn’t really any music apart from the excellent authentic tunes coming from the radio In the menu screen and the squad intro music when you join a squad depending on which type of army you are in .

I try out Sniping in the Wooded Vosges map
 If you were to ask me which game I enjoy better between Verdun and Battlefield 1 it’d be a hard choice, Battlefield 1 has many more features and classes and of course vehicles but that’s not what this game is about, It would be nice to be able to be a medic in the game though. Of course BF1 is a bit arcade or generic FPS and has arguably been the same game since Battlefield 3 just with a different skin. Verdun you can tell has been made specifically to be as accurate as possible to the trench warfare of WW1, the kills are so much more satisfying then BF1 and you congratulate yourself on each one. Playing Verdun with friends is great especially if you play regularly, there is enough content in there including maps, weapons and classes to keep you busy for a while. Verdun is the best modern WW1 game out there that I know of and fills a void that is missing from Battlefield 1 which glosses over trench warfare in its entirety and If you’re a fan of first person shooters at all then you should give it a go at least once. When I’m sick of all the constant explosions and planes and tanks rumbling all over the place I know where to go to

JD

Verdun official trailer

I’m happy in my hole.

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Past and Times of Yore - Banjo Kazooie, Rare shows it's platforming excellence on the Nintendo 64

Release date: July 17, 1998
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Rareware
Platforms: Nintendo 64
Players: 1

My first experience with Rareware came with Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest which being spectacular games in themselves set the bar quite high for future Rare games I would play. Though I actually never owned a Nintendo 64 myself which has led to my housemate Bro suggesting few to try including Diddy Kong Racing, Star Wars Rogue Squadron and Conkers Bad Fur Day to name of a few, all of which I haven’t quite finished yet. It’s always a hard choice whether to play these games on the original console with the original graphics and controller the way they were intended, or on PC via emulator with much sharper albeit flawed graphics with a Logitech Playstation style controller. The latter now being my preferred choice as it allows you to save anytime, anywhere, which as you can probably guess, makes difficult sections much, much easier. But anyway no matter where you played or what with you had high expectations as Rare was held in very high esteem.

Kazooie and Banjo
I have now fully completed Banjo Kazooie, and I experienced it both on Nintendo 64 and emulator and I’m glad I have. This was one of the most popular Nintendo 64 games of its time along with all of the Rare classics including Diddy Kong Racing, GoldenEye 007, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark and Conker's Bad Fur Day. A sequel titled Banjo-Tooie was created immediately after the first game and is also critically acclaimed. Previously being a staunch Playstation supporter with its excellent Spyro the Dragon platformer being my favorite I didn’t really have much interest in the N64 platformers, especially since I did actually have a go of Super Mario 64 at one point but just couldn’t get into it, I don’t know I just found it a bit dark and soulless and empty (what am I? an emo?) But anyway I decided to try out Banjo-Kazooie and it actually turned out to be quite a good platformer despite my usual distaste of the Nintendo 64 controller.

Banjo's Sister Tooty in Spiral Mountain with Gruntilda's lair in the background. How they can live there with that thing looming over them I wouldn't know.
Banjo-Kazooie tell the story of Banjo a lovable kind-hearted straight-arrow bear and his friend Kazooie a sassy, foulmouthed, wise-cracking red-crested bird of somesort who lives in Banjo’s backpack, why? I will never know. So Banjo has a sister called Tooty and this witch Gruntilda kidnaps her to steal her ‘beauty’ and so you gotta do all this crap to save her and that pretty much sums up the story. Expanding on that a little when you start off in Spiral Mountain where Banjo’s house is located Banjo can’t really do much, most of the moves you can do apart from Banjo’s punching and rolling are done by Kazooie

Banjo's roll move which I used quite a bit
 In order to learn these moves you speak to Bottles the Mole who Kazooie has some problem with and you learn all these different abilities such as the Beak Barge where Kazooie attacks an enemy with her beak and the useful Talon Trot where Kazooie pops her limbs out of the backpack and runs along with Banjo on her back and gives the duo the ability to tackle steep slopes which Banjo cannot jump up. Some abilities require items or level features to use such as the Shock Spring Jump needing the Shock Jump Pads and the Wonderwing ability requiring Golden Feathers to use. Running around Spiral Mountain and learning moves from Bottles was fun as I always like the basic starting areas, controlling Banjo and Kazooie is pretty easy to get used to with a small challenge of remembering the button combinations of each move.

Banjo and Kazooie using a shock jump pad
Having finished learning all of the basic movies available on Spiral Mountain you soon enter Gruntilda’s Lair, a confusing mass of caves and tunnels leading to different areas. Grunty’s Lair is actually the main hub of the game and you access all of the other worlds from this central location. This is also where you receive your first Jiggy, jiggies are Jigsaw puzzle pieces that you can use to complete world puzzle paintings in order to enter them though it seems that it doesn’t matter what size or shape they are any jiggies can be used to finish a jigsaw painting of a certain world. Then once you collect enough Jiggies to finish the painting you need to find the world portal in a different area which is often confusing navigating your way around. You need to collect Jiggies from both Grunty’s Lair and the worlds themselves but this is only one of the collectibles you need, I had a bit of trouble getting my head around all these things you needed to collect so I’ll make a list of them here:

Jiggy’s: Jigsaw puzzle pieces gained from completing challenges in a world, used for completing world portraits and gaining entry to that world.
Musical Notes: which are needed to open up Note Doors to progress through Grunty’s Lair
Jinjos: Imprisoned by Grunty throughout each of the worlds who actually help you in the final battle, collecting all 5 Jinjo’s on a level also gives you a Jiggy
Mumbo Tokens: Given to Mumbo Jumbo in order to be transformed into various creatures related to each world usually required for completing the level and collecting all the items.
Honeycombs: There are two of these on each level and are used to extend Banjo and Kazooie’s health meter.
Witch switches: You find these hidden inside the worlds and you need to hit them in order to uncover the Jiggies inside Gruntilda’s Lair
Extra lives:  Gives you an extra life obviously

A yellow Jinjo in Bubblegoop swamp
So I entered the first main world Mumbo's Mountain and spent awhile playing through the level learning different moves and doing challenges for Jiggies as well as looking for musical notes and other secret including extra lives and Mumbo tokens etc, it was fun doing the Talon Trot and turning myself into a termite in order to infiltrate the termite mound, I’ll admit I had to turn to a gamespot guide in order to %100 the level. The more I explored Grunty’s lair the more intriguing and confusing it became making my way through the caves adorned paintings and statues with Grunty’s likeliness, the world portraits and entrances themselves are in different places so you might get a certain way ahead then have to backtrack and sometimes you need to exit the level as a Crocodile or whatever morph Mumbo has you turn into in order to progress further into the lair or collect extra items or jiggies. As you run around her lair Grunty taunts you with her rhyme-speak but you occasionally run into Brentilda, Grunty’s much nicer sister who is reminiscent of the Fairy Godmother from “The Wizard of Oz”. She tells you various facts about Grunty which you need for one of the final levels and also restores your health.


Mumbo's Mountain level and Grunty's Lair

I began to notice that the world entrances were set in a ‘themed’ area which was a nice touch. For example to warp to Treasure Trove Cove you go through this Pirates of the Caribbean’ themed cave and jump into a treasure chest and the Mad Monster Mansion entrance is appropriately in the middle of a Graveyard. Another nice touch is that the same tunes plays throughout Grunty’s lair but changes slightly depending on when you are i.e. underwater or a level themed area the tune will change slightly to match that area, cool huh? Anyway the rest of the worlds are great to look at with all of your usual themes including a Egyptian level, a snow level and a swamp level though there was one level I particularly liked called Clanker's Cavern which is sort of “sewer pipe” themed level where you run into one of the weirdest and most unsettling of all the creatures I’ve seen in a cutesy platformer. Clanker appears to be this large metal whale with sharp teeth though he doesn’t seem to be mechanical his body looks like a mix of flesh and rusty metal as you can see some flesh showing on the side of his body like he’s cut up or something and you can go inside of him and there’s all these fleshy bits and metal and razors and blergh it’s like what the hell is he doing in this game but it’s fun nonetheless. The level is in this big room filled with water and there are pipes leading everywhere in and out of the water and you get the crap scared out of you by these goddamn monsters which burst out of the pipes.

Clanker himself, it was kinda hard to get a wide shot and the field of view is quite

I enjoyed the levels where you had free reign to fly around like Gobi's Valley and I loved all the activities you did in Mad Monster Mansion as they all seemed really well done. Click Clock Wood was another interesting one as you visit the same large tree 4 times in each season and things are different each time.

The Mad Monster Mansion Organ Room, these were some of my favourite Jiggy activities

Banjo Kazooie is pleasantly challenging, there are easy bits, there are hard bits, man that Jiggy challenge in Bubblegloop Swamp where you compete with Mr. Vile as a crocodile to eat more apples had me sweating, but most of the time the challenges weren’t too hard to complete once you knew what to do, there wasn’t too many times when I wanted to throw my controller hah. Learning the moves and pulling them off correctly was also very satisfying, probably one of the most difficult things to do was swimming underwater, using Banjo you kicked through the water very slowly but could maneuver easily then you could use Kazooie to dart much faster though the camera often faced the wrong way so you were swimming blind sometimes, not to mention that you had limited oxygen so it was always a bit nerve wracking. Controlling Banjo is fine with the N64 controller as long as you have a good one, it’s basically just running and jumping and then remembering which button combinations do what but it works so well.

Swimming is sometimes challenging to maneuver correctly.
One of my few of frustration in this game was dying, your health is listed as Golden Honeycombs that you can gain from defeating enemies, breaking down beehives or simply finding them around the levels, when you lose them all you are transported back to the start of the level retaining the Jiggies you have obtained thank god but you lose all of the musical notes and Jinjo’s you have acquired. This was annoying but bearable, it was actually around the time I go to Rusty Bucket Bay the most challenging level yet and was trying to do the Jiggy in the engine room, this Jiggy is rumored to be the hardest in the game involving jumping and running across moving platforms and an abyss down below. Needless to say I died a lot of times and thinking about what lies ahead I decided to cut my losses and go through the game again on Emulator where I could save whenever I wanted to, and also humorously speed up the gameplay at will.

The engine room of the Rusty Bucket and yes if you fell down you died immediately.
Another thing about playing on emulator is that the 3d graphics look so much better, crisper sharper, much higher resolution, that’s not to say the Nintendo 64 graphics were bad, they just don’t work well with modern TV’s. on emulator the screen is smaller obviously but oh man did it look much better, I could also now use my Logitech Playstation gamepad which you can use absolutely fine with N64 games by the way. Anyway the game’s graphics look great for their time, they are the usual bright and happy Rare style that works so well, the levels look and are almost *ahem* comparable to Spyro from rolling green hills in Spiral Mountain to the rough metal deck and oily water of Rusty Bucket Bay to the magnificent tree in Click Clock Wood it’s all very beautiful. 

Click Clock Wood in the Summer
One of the main things that drew my attention was the sound and music, there is no dialogue in the game the characters all make their distinctive sounds and then their dialogue comes up as text on the screen. It’s hard to explain you’ll just have to watch one of the videos though it kind of works really as cartridges don’t have the best audio reproduction, the other sound effects in the game are fine with all the jumpin’ and the flappin’ and the rollin’ and the slappin’.


Banjo-Kazooie intro video featurin all the talkin' and the squawkin' etc

The music is probably my favourite thing about the game, right from the starting tune with Banjo and the cast jammin’ on their instruments though as I mentioned before the best thing is the way the music changes depending on where you are and what you are doing. When in Grunty’s lair (which has excellent music by the way) the music starts off with a basic tune but when you approach a different area the music changes slightly for example when near the Treasure Trove Cove painting or portal area the music takes a more ‘seafaring’ tone and when in the snowy area of Freezezy Peak it’s suitably more Christmas themed. In fact the music changed even when you were near things for example it changed when you were near the Gorilla in Mumbo’s mountain or when you were near the Sphinx in Gobi’s Valley, it also changed when you dove underwater for a more gentle under-the-sea tone. Another of my favourites was the Gobi’s Valley Egyptian themed music which I could never get sick of, in fact I don’t think I ever got sick of any of the soundtracks even if I was on the level for a while.

The Gobi's Valley Level

 Overall I enjoyed Banjo Kazooie despite the frustration, though that’s just the way games were back then, and I can take heart in the fact that I almost finished it entirely on the Nintendo 64, it was a good experience playing a Nintendo 64 platformer all the way through and I think one day I might actually get all of the way through Mario 64 or even the sequel Banjo-Tooie though I won’t be playing you-know-what anytime soon. I’ve yet to experience the others but the original Banjo-Kazoooie stands as one of the best Rare has to offer.

JD

Banjo Kazooie Original 1997 Trailer


JINJO!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

My Usual Spiel - Brutal Doom and the Hell on Earth Starter Pack, what Doom and Doom 2 should have been

You may have noticed I’m playing Doom a lot lately, and there has been a lot of talk about Doom as well, this is generally because of the latest DOOM game, yes DOOM (2016) another “reboot sequel” as I like to call it. You may have noticed I complain about this a bit specifically in my reviews of Alien vs Predator (2010) and Need for Speed (2015). But anyway I decided that before I played the latest Doom I had to go through and play all of the Doom series again which I sort of already have played most of it using the Skulltag Mod as per my post late last year. I had already played through Doom II: Hell on Earth many times, I played through The Ultimate Doom once with the Skulltag mod and have played through Final Doom’s TNT: Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment once each. While I was doing research for the post on the Skulltag mod and the Plutonia experiment I came across a video featuring the Brutal Doom mod and then after watching the video for the Hell on Earth Starter Pack I hit peak rage and knew I had to try it and wow, was it good, oh so good.

One of my favorite screenshots from the WAD, the lighting the graphics, the sky, the trees and the buildings all look amazing.
To explain a bit more the Brutal Doom mod was designed by the somewhat infamous Marcos Abenante aka Sergeant Mark IV and was originally designed to simply add more gore the mod, but now has had much more things added and changed such as the sounds, graphics, and combat including smoother animations and increased difficulty. I had actually heard of the mod a while ago but just dismissed it as a “gore mod” as it might just have been back then but now it’s so much more, it makes Doom look better than ever and brings it into the 21st Century and I reckon it does this better then all of the other mods I’ve seen. Brutal Doom features many new graphical effects, such as new death animations, fake flares and 3D blood effects for OpenGL, and also changes the gameplay by revamping the weapons and monster AI. It has been in active development since 2010 with the Sergeant going on to create Brutal Doom 64 a “brutalized” version of the N64 game and the mod itself has its own addons including the popular Project Brutality which further modernizes and enhances on the Brutal Doom Mod.

Lots of blood and guts, and this was only on the "realistic" setting
Although I did want to try out Brutal Doom on the original series I thought I may as well try it with the MegaWAD created specifically to be played with it, the Hell on Earth Starter Pack. To explain a bit of Doom Lingo a WAD file is a data file for Doom, MegaWAD are the most commonly referred to as they are a WAD that contains 15 or more levels, The entire Doom and Doom 2 were each a single MegaWAD so when the community refers to WADS it is usually a custom set of levels created by an individual. As I mentioned before the “Hell of Earth Starter Pack” is the MegaWAD created specifically to be used with Brutal Doom i.e. in order to progress through the levels you need to crouch, duck and jump all of which you could not do in the original Doom. One new feature in Brutal Doom is the ability to kick with the Q key, while this is a relatively useful way to knock enemies backwards it doesn’t know them back far but the ability is also used to activate some switches, in fact to get out of the room right at the start of the game you need to give the wall switch a whack with your boot , took me a while to work that out hah. 

The first level of the WAD, a good overview of whats the mod looks like the new features.

One thing I did find weird was that why Sergeant Mark IV had chosen to call it the “Starter Pack” I’m guessing that was because this is what you use when playing Brutal Doom or the first thing you should try I guess but a more appropriate name for it would have been “Brutalized Doom 1 and 2” as it actually re-creates the story of Doom 1 and 2 from the Invasion of Phobos and Deimos, to the return to Earth then the entry into Hell then back to earth again.. all contained in a huge 32 level MegaWAD. While playing through the game the graphics were great of course as per the mod, but what impressed me was the amount of detail put into the levels, the first few levels were in a space station for example but even so the computers looks like actually computers, the bathrooms looked like bathrooms the toilets looked like toilets you can even see yourself in mirrors. It wasn’t until I got to the part when you returned to earth that it really blew me away.

Oh look it's a kitchen
You see in the original Doom II you were technically supposed to be on earth as there were levels such as Downtown, Suburbs and Industrial zone that were supposed to resemble cities and towns but are basically just the normal Doom sci-fi, space base and generic themed textures arranged in shape of buildings/houses etc with nothing resembling a normal house inside. But in this mod when you first get to earth, there is grass, there’s trees, there’s rocks, there’s a normal looking cityscape and modern steel power lines. And when you get to the neighborhood it looks like an actual neighborhood with roads and footpaths and grass and trees and lampposts and the houses have full bedrooms with desks and computers and  even games consoles of all things and the city part is even more insane with full on office and tenement building and shopping malls and restaurants with fully stocked kitchens. It’s what Doom 2’s levels should have been like all along, and wow don’t get me started on the hellish levels which are now scarier than ever, the horrific "Sacrificial Grounds" level will remain etched in my mind forever not to mention the game's final boss.

The 'Twisted Neighbourhood" level, fighting through with other marines

I’ve mentioned before on my previous post with the Skulltag mod that Doom looks much better with the advanced graphics but Brutal Doom is something else, it looks amazing when you look at the before and after shots of the original Doom and Doom 2 then with the mod installed. Everything is as high res as the engine can go and the mod supports a full range of resolutions and graphical tweaking. You also have the option of playing with the monsters set to their original settings though I admit when you have full mouse and keyboard control it’s a bit too easy. As I mentioned before there is a wealth of new features added in the mod all of which you can read about on the Doom Wiki some of my favourites include the fatalities which you can perform on monsters and monsters can perform on you and I also like the fact that Invisibility spheres have been replaced with captured marines that can assist you and are quite capable themselves. 


One of the most epic moments from the game, the 'Push into Hell' level where you and the army invade Hell itself.

The weapon revamps are another good thing while not a weapon I love the new melee punching and kicking abilities, while the kick is not that effective the punching really feels good especially once you have the Berserk powerup where you can alternate between ‘Rip and Tear’ mode where you can perform fatalities on fallen enemies or ‘Smash’ mode where you simply smash them to pieces, I sometimes went through whole levels just smashing with my fists hah. The pistol has been replaced by an awesome very accurate assault rifle which comfortably matches the player sprite and is useful even late in the game and you can now pick up grenades from zombie soldiers which are very powerful doing even more splash damage then the rocket launcher. All of the other weapons have been revamped to look and sound hardcore, I almost winced every time I used the shotguns they were so loud, you can also now dual wield the assault rifle and plasma gun for even more damage. You can now also use the weapons from fallen enemies such as the Revenants missile backpack and the Mancubus flame cannon which was pretty cool. The new and revamped old guns were great, very powerful and sounded awesome along with the new death animations.


Smash Rip and Tear! you'll notice I do a fatality on the Cacodemon.

Heating it up with the Mancubus' flame cannon
 As mentioned before the monsters and demons move much faster and have new attacks making them more difficult to kill, I admit I was having trouble staying alive through the first part of the game, and when you get to the end of the first chapter and have your first boss fight I was getting slaughtered and eventually had to rely on god mode, which wasn’t too bad actually, playing the original series with god mode got boring but got better without it, but playing brutal doom without being invincible is goddamn tough so I wasn’t too ashamed to do it, plus I was going to see the entirety of this WAD if it was the last thing I did. I was amazed at the amount of effort that had gone into it, there were things that you would never dream of seeing in the original Doom, I’m no stranger to mods for games putting in new features but this was something else, from all new sprites of tanks and centaur-like demons to skyscrapers and hellish castles the starter pack had it all. In this episode it was probably the first time ever in Doom that you felt like you were not alone, there were lots of other marines, tanks, aircraft and even civilians at one point. The WAD I noticed had quite a bit of content and assets borrowed from other games including the civilian and tank sprites and some custom sounds one of which I recognized from Half-Life. It didn’t take me long to recognize the Quake 2 soundtrack as well which made some rather bangin music.

This is the 'Push into Hell' level again but I couldn't help including it as it looks awesome
I look forward to taking this mod further in conjunction with other mods including Project Brutality which adds even more new weapons and also maybe the HXRTC HUD as well as per Martinoz’ videos as there seems to be no end to mods for the original Doom, maybe it’s just because it’s so popular and easy to mod. I’ll never forget how I felt when playing the mod for the first time and seeing the changes and seeing the reimagined story of Doom and Doom 2 it just blew me away so hats off to Sergeant Mark IV for a great mod and campaign. I have decided to try and complete the Doom series finally having recently played Brutal Doom 64 which was also very good. Doom 64 is now actually considered to be the proper sequel to Final Doom though I will still play Doom 3 BFG edition for completeness before I play Doom 2016. In any case, if you have never played the original Doom and want something as modern as possible, this is the way to go.

JD


Get ready for one epic trailer.

This is Doom, but not as you knew it

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Past and Times of Yore - Armagetron Advanced, Light Cycle deathmatch staying true to the original Tron

Release date: 2001
Genre: Arcade
Publisher: None (Open Source)
Developer: Dave Fancella ("Lucifer"), "epsy", Fred ("Tank Program"), Jochen Darley ("joda.bot"), Luke Dashjr, Daniel Harple ("dlh"), Mathias Plichta ("wrtlprnft"), Manuel Moos ("Z-Man")
Platforms: Linux, OS X, Microsoft Windows
Players: 1 and Online

They say that games based on movies are never good, though there are exceptions the obvious being Goldeneye 007 on the N64 of course. The tagline of Armagetron quite simply is "A Tron clone in 3D." though it was never meant to be a full story-driven gaming representation of the famous movie Tron. It was actually based on section of the 1982 arcade game of the same name by Disney Interactive Studios, which consisted of 4 subgames one of which being a representation of the ‘Light Cycle’ sequence from the film albeit in a format akin to the snake concept which the original Armagetron game was based back in 2001. The game has now evolved into Armagetron Advanced or simply Armagetronad which now features 16 player mayhem, with highly advanced AI, network game play, and of course all in a 3D environment and is available on a multitude of platforms including Linux, OS X, Microsoft Windows, AmigaOS 4[2] and OpenBSD as free and open-source software. The game also has a decent online community with a Wiki Site and Forum.

A classic game with bots
Armagetron works in a similar way to the original Tron Light Cycle match that was in the original movie, let me point out right now that this has no relation to the recent sequel whatsoever as there is definitely only one flat surface with walls, no lower levels no inclines, no spiral no jumps or anything like that. You basically just use a and d to turn left and right and use v for braking (which makes you slower but you cannot stop completely) you can also use the numerical keys for looking to the left and right and behind you. Jumping in for a quick match against computer controlled opponents is fairly daunting as you start facing each other on opposite sides of the map and after a brief 5 second timer you’re off and hurtling toward each other at speed. If you’ve seen the film you’ll know the only way to eliminate an opponent is to somehow get them to crash into your, theirs or anyone elses ‘energy wall’ or simply just ‘wall’ that is generated by your light cycle eliminating them from the game, this is most often accomplished by just staying alive but there are many tricks including ‘boxing’ an opponent in with your walls or just dueling by traveling next to each other and trying to overtake.

A basic way of "boxing" or "speed killing" an opponent
 The basics of the game are this: in classic mode the ‘arena’ is a square box The ‘Light Cycles’ generate a ‘wall’ behind you that anyone can crash into including yourself, the cycle speed is fixed at first but works on a unique concept that a cycle can only accelerate by riding on another player's wall. The closer you are to a player's wall, the faster your cycle will accelerate. Brakes are provided, but they are disabled on many servers. Your cycle turns in right angles, typically, and leaves a long wall behind it wherever it goes. By default, movement keys are z and x, where z turns left and x turns right. v is your brake control. This stuff is fairly self-explanatory, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Turning slows your cycle down. This is a useful fact on servers that disable braking because you can use a series of rapid turns to slow your cycle down if needed. As already mentioned, you make your cycle go faster by getting close to another player's wall, or your own wall. The closer you can grind the wall, the more speed you will gain.There are of course more Advanced Tactics but I won’t go into those, you’ll find yourself creating your own tactics whether it be ways of avoiding players or taking them out.

I accidentally crash into myself :(
I’ll talk now about customization, almost anything in the game can be customized though I usually just stick with customizing the area and my cycle. There is a few things abound the arena that can be changed, you can add effects such as digital clouds and mirror effects which are a nice touch or you can make the game look as basic as possible to reduce your fps. The only thing you can change about your cycle is it’s colour which includes the colour of the wall you generate and of the cycle itself, I liked to choose a colour that is not currently being used by anyone else to make the match nice and colourful hah. The graphics in the game are fairly simple as you can see, you can run the game in your desktop resolution which is good, there is no music only the humming of the Light cycles and sound effects for turning, grinding and crashing. I had some fun with changing the size of the area and the speed of the game, it seems that the faster you go the more the game zooms out I guess so you can see where you are going.

A tiny arena
A very large arena :D
Historically I’ve only really played Armagetronad at LAN parties and only recently got into some multiplayer purely to grab some footage as I always forget to get any footage while at the lan. It’s a hit at parties as it’s easy to pick up, simple to play but challenging to master, and requires almost no hard drive space and graphical and processing power. We usually play just the basic Free-for-all classic mode where you try to speed kill other players and box them in with the only modifier being the “win” and “death” that appear late in the game in order to speed up the end of the match if it has become a stalemate. When a player drives into the ‘win’ they instantly win the match and the ‘death’ zone kills any player that enters it, these zones grow bigger until there is a decisive winner of the match though they are not often used at the same time.

I had no idea what I was doing in this multiplayer match XD
There are now many more modes of play or ‘gametypes’ including ‘Sumo’ where you have to stay in a circle and force your opponents out and Fortress: a complicated new game where you need to capture the enemy base. There is also some non-combat types I really want to try including racing, Labyrinth: where you navigate through a maze to get to the middle and Roulette: where multiple players create a "maze" Then try to navigate out.

This is supposedly a Labyrinth server but it was bloody impossible
There are of course many things I have not tried in Armagetronad Advanced but nonetheless it is a great game to play at Lan parties or even when you just want a bit of simple fun. The sheer level of customization, complexity for the experienced players and reasonably strong online community add to the longevity making this game well worth putting some time into.

JD

Some footage of me playing multiplayer and singleplayer Armagetronad including what I think is Fortress mode.

I just wanna ride my Light Cycle

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Hustlin' Through the Old Republic - Knight of the Eternal Throne, small flashpoints, big robots, am I finally the Emperor yet?

Hello again, it’s me JD here with more updates from my world of Star Wars the Old Republic or maybe my galaxy of. Anyway as you have probably read the Knights of the Eternal Throne 5.0 patch is now live bringing with it the next chapter in the Infinite Empire series, you’re now up against Vaylin and blah blah blah I’ll get to on my Jedi Knight later. You can also now level up to 70 which to be perfectly honest I couldn’t give a rats, I remember the first expansion in WoW where you could level to 70 and everyone lost their shit but even now in SWTOR I’m like mreh, I’m not quite sure why I think it was just the whole Epic/Flying mount and raiding thing when you got up to max level or maybe just the achievement of going the distance to make it to max level. But now in SWTOR you level so goddamn fast that you don’t even notice and also because SWTOR is much more story focused the milestones seem to come with the story more than the levels.

Knight of the Eternal Throne graphic

There is also the new Galactic Command system, this is basically your go-to screen for Endgame as you can access anything from Flashpoints to Galactic Starfighter, almost everything you do in the game now gives you “Command XP” I think it’s something to do with you having gained the Eternal Throne and are now in command of the galaxy or something like that. So anyway you gain command points and every new level you get Command crates which contain items including modded and unmodded gear, crew skills schematics, reputation items etc, these are quite useful and I have added quite a bit of custom gear to my legacy storage which I really need to use as it’s getting a bit crowded in that storage space. There is also the Dark vs Light system where you can choose to fight for the Dark or Light side of the force, this has no bearing on your character’s personal Force alignment so basically I just fight for the light side all the time, I suspect it may usually be the weaker of the bunch, you gain points in either side by doing pretty much anything and if your side “wins” you get a boost to command experience, it’s just a sort of passive system like when you used to wear a tabard to champion a faction in WoW, there are now new Dark and Light Side vendors and also bosses that appear around the galaxy as well.

The Galactic Command menu
So without further ado we start off with my Trooper who is currently up to level 55 and was starting out on Hoth which went well without a hitch, only thing notable to report was the recruitment of Yuun a Gand Findsman who was actually already in the Republic. It was around this time actually that I re-enlisted for the security key, for my SWTOR account, I figured I’d give it another try since I really wanted those companion appearance customizations , I’ve been using it on my phone again and haven’t had a problem since. So I decided I’d give some characters new looks just to be different from others, I gave M1-4X a new heavier more painted looking model and gave Yuun a new greenish tone look with removed mouth pipes, Aric Jorgan and Elara Dorne I left the same, Tanno Vik’s change was so minimal that I didn’t even bother.

Yuun, a Gand Findsman
So after Hoth it was time for the culmination of part 2 of the Trooper Storyline where Havoc Squad was tasked with the destruction of the Imperial Superweapon the Gauntlet which was one of those space station or ship missions in between the planets and we actually used that briefing room on the  BT-7 Thunderclap though I don’t know why we needed that many seats. This went pretty much as planned though it seemed depending on the choices you made one of your squad members would be seriously injured. It turned out to be Aric though I guess it wouldn’t have happened to Elara or M1-4X as that would have been out of character for them.

Is that two M14X's i see there? oh c'mon I know he's usually in this room but damn that's lazy


.


Is he really ok? the looks of him writhing around like that he didn't seem so good.

At this time I was using M1-4X as my tank styled bodyguard who is basically a Republic fanatic, I even garnered some Dark side points executing republic traitors though it felt good to do so, I then completed Directive-7 a long but worthwhile flashpoint about a droid uprising and had some fun with my guild members duelling on our flagship, it’s kind of sad now to think back to those times when they were actually around. The it was on to Chapter 3 where the Republic is now at war again as the Imperial General Rakton has invaded several Republic planets and Havoc squad is required to go to Belsavis to recover a squad of pilots called Dagger Wing which I did before finding out that my old squeeze Sergeant Jaxo is in trouble and I had to go rescue her and that’s about where I got up to on my Trooper.

Man Belsavis is a cool looking planet
So then it was back to my Bounty Hunter and I did Directive 7 yet again except this time in solo mode the only problem with this is you don’t get as good loot as if you were doing it with a group. It was then on to Alderaan and boy I had a lot of fun dealing with all the house and family drama on there. It was around this time that I started experimenting with different armor sets as I was a bit sick of what I was wearing currently and decided to try out some new gear. I always had this idea of making my character into a droid as it would be fun to play a droid character so when looking around I found out about the Cybernetic gear sets which were almost perfect though I had to choose the Series 212 Cybernetic as the better looking ones because others such as the Series 512 were hella expensive on the GTN. 

Well are you two gonna help or what?
So I tried out the set but found I didn’t really like it on my Bounty Hunter and would instead use it on my future Imperial Agent Sniper where I think it will look much better especially with that Sniper Rifle, very HK-51-esque. So went looking on the GTN and found some interesting looking pieces that looked sort of like some kind of ‘insect’ theme to it and it looked pretty cool when I painted it purple and orange, took me a damn while to decide which colour was primary but it looked good anyway. Though before long I did all of the heroic quests for the planet, which below level 60 give you new armor pieces which is pretty damn cool, so I ended up getting rid of that armor that I’d modded up and using the new stuff although that helmet makes both Mako and I look like we have KFC buckets on our heads. Speaking of heroics, I have found recently that when you hit level 60 the rewards for Heroics turn into supply crates which are used in the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion which to be honest are actually pretty damn useless to my character at the moment but on the flipside wew I can conquer more Star Fortresses XD.
 
The helmet actually has a moving 'jaw' under those tubes which is creepy
So anyway on Alderaan I was looking for someone called the “Durasteel Duke” but he ended up being dead already, after that I was ready for the final part of Chapter 1. So I was tasked with killing this Jedi and went to a ship and found my Arch Nemesis Tarro Blood in the ship’s brig, which I then had an interesting choice of fighting him or leaving him in the cell to die which I did much to Mako’s pleasure. After killing the Jedi I went back to good old Dromund Ass as was crowned the Grand Champion of the Great Hunt by that Wookie and soon I was off to meet Mandalore the Vindicated himself aboard his ship. On the ship there was a meeting between all of the tournament champions which was held by Mandalore, where he then instructed me to go BACK to Dromund Kass to kill this big monster and I happened to meet Torian Cadera so then I went back to good old ‘Mandy’lore  and then it was announced I now had access to the “Blacklist” a list of the most notorious high profile target which sends me to Taris which in the Empire side is in perpetual darkness for some reason where I’m looking for a man called Jincoln Cadera (yes he’s related to Torian) and do a bit of Enemy at the Gates style cat-and-mouse snipering wars. The Planet storyline involved a Sith Lord and his brat apprentice who is always trying to show you up which I remembered from doing it on my Sith Inquisitor and that’s basically where I finished up.


W00t I am now Mandalore the something! that ale doesn't look very black to me

It was now time for Guardians of the Galaxy 2! No actually it was time for Knights of the Fallen Empire (KOTFE), Empire style! yes it was time for my Sith Inquisitor to start the storyline for the Empire point of view. I’ll mention that I decided to give my Sith Assassin a slimming down as I originally had him as a large bodied character as he was supposed to be a tank but since I’m DPS on every single character now and don’t even need to bother tanking with groups I decided that a stealthy assassin would look much better with the average build instead of looking like He-man. Doing the KOTFE storyline from the Empire side wasn’t too much different apart from the start, there were only minor conversation changes etc, I actually went Dark side using Valkorion a few times.
Hi Maul, lookin good.
I also enjoyed finally getting out of my armor with that droid-like Citidel Duelist’s helm which I’m actually going to end up using with my droid outfit on my Assassin. It was fun to just take off random parts of the armor as they got upgraded just to see what it looked like. I ended up with some very non-Sith style military armor with an almost bucket-like helm but it was all a laugh and I could get new armor whenever I wanted though I wouldn’t bother as it’ll get upgraded again with the next part of the expansion. There was some special event on for killing Dread Master Bestia though my group wasn’t able to but I did find out I could disappear by using the vanish ability and save many a repair bill. I also did probably the most Star Fortresses I’ve done, more then on my Jedi and after that and defeating Arcann, that was it, speaking of Arcann, it was much easier after reading up on what to do.

Battle with Arcann on Asylum

My inspiring speech and meeting with Theran

Then it was time to get back on my moderately evil Jedi Consular Sage Qxan. I finished off Alderaan, I managed to get to be a representative of House Teral and gained access to the peace summit of the Alderaanian leaders in order to stop Jedi Master Sidonie Garen from starting an all out war. I killed her as usual for good measure and I can’t quite remember but I’m pretty sure I killed Bouris Ulgo this time at least I hope I did after letting him live all these other times, I’m supposed to be evil aren’t I? anyway. Then it was on to Tatooine without much ado successfully formed a group with others for all the heroic quests and I killed yet another Jedi Master who was under the control of Lord Vivicar who had a strong kinship with the sand people. 


I do some heroic quests on Tatooine, look at that do-rag looool

Soon after doing that Master Yuon Par and I had the breakthrough we needed and I boarded Vivicar’s ship and battled through the brainwashed Republic and Empire forces to get to him. When he was defeated however I was faced with a difficult choice. Vivicar had infected dozens of other Jedi Masters and if I killed him they would all die with him, or I could try to shield him as before and make myself weaker, well phuc dat, I killed the tard and indeed I did get a message for Master Syo Bakarn listing all of the Jedi that had perished because of this but screw it I’m hard as fack. Funnily enough this could not be further from what you actually sound like in the game as the male Jedi Consular sounds as straight and honorable as possible and playing a bad guy in some parts makes it all the more weird exactly like playing a good guy Sith, my Light/Dark ratio is more tilted to the Light Side but that’s because I’m always fighting for the Light side. After that I kitted myself out in some new armor and that was it.

I end Lord Vivicar like a boss, Qyzen approves.

Now after this you would have thought that I would go directly to my Jedi Knight to do Knights of the Eternal Throne, but no I was too excited to start an Imperial Agent and use my droid armor set which I mentioned earlier. I noticed that the character creation screen has been updated as per the change that required you to pick your advanced class straight away. I had decided long before to go Sniper as the Operative has similar sort of playstyle to my Sith Assassin but I’ll do that when I play a Smuggler, also an Imperial Agent Sniper is the only one which can use Sniper Rifles, so It was a no brainer really hah. I went with the Marksmanship as I wanted to be a full on Sniper and didn’t want to bother with droids or poisons though technically the Engineering tree might have gone well with my droid suit but meh I wanna strike from the shadows and take em down fast, and that’s exactly what I did.

The Advanced Class info screen when creating a character
The Imperial Agent starts on Hutta just like the Bounty Hunter, I walked into the same shitty cantina as last time and spoke to the leader of Sith intelligence ‘Keeper’, I was then charged with bringing Nem’ro the Hutt to the side of the Empire. I started off with one hellova gun for a starting weapon, looked sort of like a science-fiction version of a winchester Rifle. So I ran around and I shot a lot of people etc and I got my first companion the infamous Kaliyo Djannis who is quite the disrespectful bitch though so must you be if you want to curry favor with her which made for a bit of an annoying but fun experience with conversations. I decided to go with Armstech and Scavenging as the gathering skill (saving slicing for last on my Smuggler probably) generally these days because you level so goddamn fast trade skills don’t make things of much worth unless you get really high in them. I did The Black Talon and ended up killing the captain this time just for the hell of it which was a bit scary but meh had to see that version of the story and man killing that Jedi brat is damn satisfying. 

Well it's this shithole again ooh at least I got a sweet gun
 I arrived in Dromund Ass and decided that I now would try out my droid armor set which consisted of the Series 212 Cybernetic set and a similar style helm from the Brutal Executioner set which I paid a hefty 300,000 credits for. So I modded it all up then  painted the whole set black and white which looked pretty cool except unfortunately although your whole head was covered my voice still came out normal not with the static crackle when you were usually wearing a helmet. I think this may have been because it is actually a Sith helm and also someone did suggest a different helm, so ah well back to the drawing board there goes fackin 300k though but it’s not like broke the bank, I don’t really spend credits on much anyway. The quests I did do using that helm and armor set were fun looking like a droid, there was this ridiculous moment where I had to seduce a ministers daughter and we shared a kiss with me in my robo Sith helm and presumably had robo sex afterward, ouch heh. I mostly played with Kaliyo as a tank to distract the attackers so I could shoot them which worked well.
I still think that helm looks awesome lol
So I looked around for some more helms, I found a very “General Grievous” style helm one that this guy used to make a droid outfit though unfortunately it wasn’t an adaptive gear version, when looking on TOR Fashion which is a great resource for SWTOR gear details btw I found a helm called the Enigmatic Hero’s Mask worn very well in an outfit similar to mine by this guy, in fact I’ll probably be making something very similar as that helm looks damn good, though as it’s probably from a cartel pack hopefully I can find it and it’s not too expensive. Though the problem with modding up adaptive gear for a special outfit is that you always come across gear that is better but don’t want to change it cause you want the set, it’s part of that age-old dilemma of better-but-ugly gear vs worse-but-good-looking gear and the other thing was you get gear sets from doing heroics so there was that too. So I decided to leave my droid outfit till later and wear what I had, I also bought one of the Meirm speeders as it was cheap and a purple colour which suited my agent though he looked of silly.

Wooo silly looking speeder lol
 So continuing the story I met Darth Jadus, infiltrated Lord Grathan’s estate and then inevitably went into the Dark Temple to stop a terror plot then found that Darth Jadus ship had been blown up and this bloke called "The Eagle" a former Imperial fighter pilot was behind it. I was promoted to a Cipher Agent and got the X-70B Phantom ship which is freakin cool I might add possibly the sleekest coolest looking player ship in the game. Then it was on to Balmorra and I guessed that I’d just be hunting down associates of this Eagle fellow from now and I did indeed do that. I infiltrated a Terrorist cell on the planet, killed one of the Eagle Lieutenants and helped the Empire win Balmorra along the way. I did more heroics and went through more gear changes though I changed my rifle with one from the GTN as I was sick of using the same one.

Now that's a cool ship
I ran into an issue that there was currently an event on where you get triple xp or something ridiculous so I ended up breaking level 63 on finishing Balmorra. This was utterly ridiculous Balmorra is supposed to be levels 16-20 for facks sake, I kind of wished I hadn’t started my agent during this time especially when I was next going to be playing my Jedi Knight who was already at max level. Thank fack this isn’t world of Warcraft who don’t have the area-balancing feature so I’d be in an area for like a few quests before moving on either that or constantly be doing grey quests for shite all rewards. It’s taken away the joy of getting new abilities as at this rate I’ll be max level well before the end of chapter 1 and not be able to look forward to anything new. In any case that’s where I left off on my Agent and finally it was time for….

I did Cademimu on my Agent, one thing I had to get used to was one of the abilities bars changing every time you went into "cover" mode so when changing abilities you have to make sure you did both normal and "cover" mode.

Knight of the Eternal Throne! Yes it was a long time coming, but first I had to update my crew skills and give my armor a re-dye hahaha. ****BEWARE SPOILERS AHEAD*** As I mentioned before Vaylin is now on the Throne with SCORPIO by her side the her first plan of attack was Voss so all the bros and hos from the Alliance rolled up to that planet and started kicking ass, it turns out that Vaylin chose Voss because she somehow knew that this is where Senya and had run to, to try and heal Arcann. I enjoyed the new ‘vehicle’ mechanic where you pilot an assault walker and kick ass along the way. We end up successfully defending Voss and receive a mysterious call from Darth Acina the new ruler of the Sith Empire and you travel or Dromund Ass for talks of a possible alliance, though while talking to her privately your shuttle is ambushed with suspected treachery from those who dislike the idea. So you skip and jump through the storm on Dromund Ass near to Ass City then kill those responsible. You then go to the planet of Iokath which was the original planet for the GEMINI droids, SCORPIO, the Eternal Fleet and the Gravestone and wow this place is so amazing and you find robots and monoliths and a whole bunch of other stuff and it’s very 2001 a Space Odyssey-esque almost. The planet is now run by this guy called ARIES but you defeat him then SCORPIO takes over and that’s the last we see of her for awhile. 


Piloting the big robot on Iokath, I enjoyed these new "vehicle" based sections as the broke up the usual routine of play.

While doing this I made a new armor set for myself and decided to use up some of my dyes so used an orange and light blue one which made myself look absolutely ridiculous but it was funny. There was an interesting mission next involving infiltrating Vaylin’s coronation party on Zakuul where you and Theron are disguised as Zakuul Knights and you had to sneak you way into the party and destroy it from within Mission-impossible style where you came face to face with Arcann and have another fight with Vaylin’s forces. Then you head to Nathema the Birthplace of the Emperor, where Valkorion sent Vaylin to be trained in the force to look for a way to stop Vaylin though you run into her again. 

I am arrested by the fashion police
When you get back the whole base on Odessen is being attacked by Vaylin’s forces and you fight your way through though you have to make a decision of which comrade to save with the other getting killed. I then had a final confrontation with Vaylin and defeated her with help from Arcann and Senya, woo. It wasn’t over then though you journeyed back to Zakuul with Arcann and Senya and go to the Eternal Throne where you then enter your own mind to ‘repair’ it and prevent Valkorion from taking over your mind. This battle was long and kind of complicated with all the different things you had to do but eventually you persevered and Valkorion was gone for good.

Myself as Valkorion inside my own mind
You then get the option of ‘Healing the Galaxy as a Peacekeeper” or “Ruling as an Emperor” and of course I went for the Light Side option for first go though it made little difference in the end. There is a kind of epilogue afterwards as patch 5.2 brought in a new storyline where the Empire and the Republic return to Iokath to obtain a “superweapon of unimaginable power” and you as the leading of the Alliance have to choose whether to aid the Republic or Empire, so I guess with the Eternal Empire gone it’s back to that is it? Oh well good to be back to normal, there was a very brief couple of story missions then it basically changed to dailies. It appears that Bioware are bringing back raiding as there is a new operation ‘Gods from the Machine  based on Iokath but the only boss so far is only the God of Rage ‘Tyth’. I’m glad to see these features back as hopefully maybe my old guildmates will return, I haven’t really done any operations at all lately the last one being probably failing at Bestia. There are still places that I have to complete or even just see for the first time notably The Dread Palace, The Ravagers, Temple of Sacrifice and the new one on Iokath of course. Doing operations isn’t my forte, but I like seeing all the content at least once

The Eternal Alliance! Looks like they forgot to pose Senya, also I got some better looking armor for my position thankfully
 So now we come full circle back to my Trooper, I usually just go through all the characters only once in a post but since this is where I left off in the Subscription I may as well detail what I have done. So I finished off the Belsavis bonus series then hopped off the planet where I found I had to rescue some prisoners of war including my old fling Sergeant Jaxo which was apparently a trap set by that bstard General Rakton . Then I had this agonizing choice of saving her or all the rest of the prisoners, though it wasn’t that hard I was with Elara now so felt that I could now let go of Jaxo, and it was the right thing to do as well. 

Kapow! (I like this shot)
I then decided then I really needed a new armor set as I was sick of the silly looking outfit with the ‘radioman’ scout backpack and the hat with goggles and earmuffs, I annoyingly had to start Voss before doing this and level up to 65 so I could get the best mods. So after doing this I purchased the Stalwart Protector set from the Cartel Market and bought a helm from the cartel market. The helm was a bit shabby and battle-damaged looking for the set but it looked alright, I also got the Czerka CZX-4 Blaster Rifle as I had been wanting to use one of the Czerka weapons for ages but was just put off by the green colour. In response to this I actually coloured the highlights on my armor a Dark green to match it and it ended up looking pretty good. I actually found that there was an “adaptive gear vendor” on the fleet, which sold adaptive gear sets for all classes, so I could use them as well as the Cartel Market and GTN if I needed a new armor set. 

My new armor and Czerka blaster rifle
So then I swaggered back to Voss and was dealt with another political situation where this uppity-ass Senator who was keeping Troops near the planet in firm belief that the Empire was going to invade. So I did the usual Voss storyline as well as winning the favour of the Voss from the Empire who was up to no good. Unfortunately when I finished I had not yet done the heroics as I could not get anyone to do them with me though I guess it doesn’t matter that much as you only receive supply crates after level 65. So that was that really my subscription ran out in good timing, next up is Coreillia and the conclusion of my class storyline for the Trooper, this will be my third one now and looking forward to it.

A mission in a cave on Voss

Well hoooweee that’s one hell of a post right on 4500 words! Well I guess it’s been a while between posts, well I guess it has been almost exactly one year since the last one so it’s basically summing up a year’s playing. Well get ready people cause Knights of the Fallen Empire is finally over and we’re back to the good old Republic vs Empire and operations woo, hopefully we see a lot more people coming back to the game but only time will tell…

JD

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Gotta love that music

Squeaky droid makeouts