Weekly Roundup: Where Another Two Weeks Fly By

WoWScrnShot_062814_224320I don’t even know where the time’s gone. Another two weeks have gone by and I haven’t published a single post. It’s almost as if Blizzard and Steam (including failing to keep up with TI4 with Dota) have banded together to make time fly by in the rare moments I do have spare time.

Of course that’s far from saying I haven’t had time to game, I just haven’t had time to both game and write about what I’m gaming on at the same time, or I’ve just been enjoying myself too much and letting time get away from me – with the beta launching and me falling totally in love with Shadowmoon Valley in Warlords, it comes as little surprise that I’ve just been going and going with finding out more and more about what’s coming up later this year. The screenshot above is the skybox through the trees when you first enter Shadowmoon – that alone was gorgeous enough to set a great precedent for the rest of the zone, and it certainly does not disappoint at any stage of the story. Even just this morning I had my first sight of a Draenic mine. We haven’t had anything Draenei in such a long time in WoW, every corner you turn is such a delight to behold. It makes me eagerly anticipate what we’ll see in zones such as Spires of Arak where the Arakkoa are at the peak of their civilization, or see what the Fields of Farahlon were like before they were ripped through the nether and became Netherstorm.

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I had a chance at testing out Frostfire Ridge too, though when alpha first launched I already had some sneak previews from multiple streamers as that was the only zone available to begin with, but it certainly feels much more action-focused and faster-paced than Shadowmoon feels. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an awesome scenario in the SMV questline that’s got plenty of action in there, but it just feels that the Draenei are more methodical and go into things with purpose, whereas in Frostfire Ridge you’re mainly chasing after a certain NPC that seems to put action before thought most of the time. It probably helps that in FFR you’re introduced to Bladespire Fortress near the start, whereas in SMV the Temple of Karabor is toward the end – both hubs being the original ideas as being the capitals for Horde and Alliance respectively.

Without trying to give too much away however, the version of Draenor we’re going to is certainly an alternate universe and not just time travel. Even to the point in time where Garrosh goes to at the end of the War Crimes novel is an alternate universe, as I’m sure lore-fans will work out in the Shadowmoon experience. So while there is an element of time travel involved in the sense that it’s not taken Garrosh 30+ years to mobilise the Iron Horde to attack current-day/universe Azeroth, but there are some story and plot elements that indicate that the Draenor that Garrosh (and we) go to isn’t the same one that invaded Azeroth all those years ago.

Spires of Arak

To those that say that Blizzard are going with lazy writing for this expansion couldn’t be any more wrong. If anything, this is one of the hardest things they could try to fit into the game lore-wise, and while we don’t know what’s happening after Warlords (heck, we barely know anything about 6.0 storywise, let alone patches later on) as they’ve got to create all this new content for the alternate Draenor, while keeping the same underlying theme for the characters that we already know and love.

There’s got to be a lot of backchecking bits of story to make sure we don’t have another Red Shirt Guy incident, but having that alternate tag on there gives Blizzard at least a bit of leeway when it comes to a very archaic story they started writing in the early 90’s. Especially when they themselves have stated that a lot of their early stuff was based on the Warhammer universe, Warcraft really needs to set its story identity apart from that at this stage of its success, so serious retcons would have happened if it was truly a time-travel expansion, notably including the Draenei.

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Weekly Roundup: Betaaaaaaaa!

warlords-of-draenor-1280x800After working the past 13 days with only one day off, I can only apologise for not only missing out on writing posts altogether, but I just didn’t have time for writing a weekly roundup for last week. Turns out that when you work like that your life turns into work, eat, sleep – I did have time for other things but no real headway to make anything worthwhile for a weekly roundup last week. This week however, Blizzard turned a swift alpha into beta, with first invites aimed toward veteran players! Turns out I’m veteran enough for them, and downloaded the beta client and hopped straight on in the evening!

… And it seems that Blizzard thought many players were veteran players. The first few days of the beta was nearly unplayable, not because of bugs or whatever, just because of the sheer amount of people trying to access the same things at the same time – from US, EU and Asia regions as well. Also, with both factions in the same starting area to begin with, I can’t help but think that this experience will echo at the start of Warlords release (unless Blizz are trying to stress test that starting experience to try and make it as smooth as possible).

Expansion Logos

The main problem I can foresee happening though is that because we have no new races or classes, pretty much everyone that buys Warlords will be doing that same 45min-1hr starting experience. In TBC we were split between Hellfire Peninsula, Azuremyst Isle and Eversong Forest; in Lich King, we split up between the Scarlet Enclave, Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra; for Cataclysm we had the biggest choice of Gilneas, Kezan, Vashj’ir or Hyjal; and Mists brought us the smallest choice so far Jade Forest and the Wandering Isle… And those who were at launch in MoP, at least on Alliance side, know how great the helicopters were at the start of Jade Forest with players hovering around in a small figure of 8, constantly getting in the way of each other trying to blow up ships, or just constantly circling around the Horde base waiting for the helicopter UI to give you your action buttons. Fun times.

Now in Warlords, the current plan is to not only have no new classes or races to split people off into, but to also bring BOTH Horde and Alliance to Tanaan Jungle for the first hour of the expansion. Admittedly after that first hour we’re then funneled into Shadowmoon Valley and Frostfire Ridge, but even still it’s a lot of strain on the servers especially with the new lag batching function coming in Warlords. When I was testing, it was around midnight local time but on US servers, so I have no idea how that interacts with how busy the servers were while I was on there in comparison to how it’ll be on expansion launch. Overall it wasn’t too bad when I was testing it, and now too much time has gone by to try and test it out again, but the quests were mainly either shared tap or fast enough spawning mobs to keep flow steady. Oh yes, and there was the latest quest of immaturity, where you get to draw a picture with gunpowder and set it on fire.

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The servers, however, were not stable in the slightest up until last night. I got lucky with setting up my garrison, as I believe there was an issue similar to the Wandering Isle setting the scroll on fire, or several instances in Gilneas where only one person can complete a quest at a time. When you have a couple hundred standing in front of you all complaining that they can’t place down a banner on the floor. It only took me three attempts so I was either lucky, or people are far too entitled on the beta.

I’ve only had the opportunity to try out my Moonkin so far on the beta and only in questing content, but the changes aren’t actually taking that much getting used to. In longer fights, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be hitting Starfall out of habit too often, or taking Shooting Stars procs to mean that my Starsurge is instant cast… although one of the 91-99 perks is going to be instant Starsurge regardless of Shooting Stars at the moment, it’s mainly for 6.0 pre-patch it’ll be jarring.

Garrisons seem pretty fun so far, though I do want a sort of Zen Pilgrimage for the garrison, or to be able to send out a carrier pigeon or whatever to be able to send people on missions when I’m out in the world. At the moment, I only have access to half-hour long missions, and it’s kinda annoying to have to trek back every half hour to send people out on more missions. I know I don’t have to and those first missions are kinda terrible outside of purely levelling your followers, but when that popup comes up, I still feel like I should go back and go for more missions. For testing purposes. I swear.

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I’ll try and get other classes and specs tested over the course of the beta, especially when I finish SMV and have gone through a few dungeons on the moonkin, but I know that for my lesser played alts I depend on more my UI on live than I do muscle-memory my keybindings. I also love the fact they’ve given us access to pretty much every mount in the game, to test how flyers work in Draenor I guess (proto drakes have awesome running-jump animations by the way, seeming as if they try to fly, then realise they can’t), so running around on the Spectral Tigers have been dreamlike – I’ve also decided that I will no longer try to farm for Mimi’s Head, as unique and awesome as it looks, I can’t be dealing with the sounds that come from it.

 

Weekly Roundup: The Electronic Entertainment Expo

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E3 has come and gone for a little over a week now, and I’ve had a small chance to peek at the different games presented there. For those that don’t know what it is, it’s an exclusive, industry-only annual event for video game publishers to show off their upcoming games and merchandise related to the game. To apply to go, you have to verify you are a professional part of the video game industry. This year was just as big as any other year, with a wealth of different exhibitors, and of course there are a huge amount of games that look great and I can’t wait to get my hands on.

Assassin’s-Creed-Unity

Once again in my love-hate relationship with Ubisoft, we see some highly anticipated games such as the next installments of the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry series, among other games. In Assassin’s Creed: Unity, we see ourselves in Paris in the French Revolution in what looks like a gorgeous new game engine, and for the first time we can complete missions in co-op with up to three friends. It looks exciting, and it’s another time of history to explore (I swear I learn more in Assassin’s Creed games than I did in history lessons), as well as the opportunity to explore Paris as it was in the Renaissance era. In Far Cry 4, we’re headed off to the Himalayas to help create some mayhem. I’ve yet to play around with Far Cry 3 as much as I keep on intending to play it (if only there were more hours in the day and I was less infatuated with Blizzard games and Dota) so I can’t really comment on how much the new game changes the franchise, but it looks amazing and as long as I don’t play the games on day one with Uplay’s infamous authentication servers, I should love these! Though with a late ’14 release, I’ll probably end up grabbing them in the Steam Christmas sale or something. Tom Clancy is back in Rainbow Six Siege too with a 5v5 Counterstrike-esque shooter of terrorists and counter-terrorists, playing matches over 6 rounds.

Dragon-Age

EA brought us a bunch of games to look at this year, including Battlefield: Hardline, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Sims 4 and their annual release of multiple sports games. Battlefield is based around cops vs criminals in this latest installment, and overall looks like a pretty solid FPS for people to get into and fight over which franchise is better for another year running. Dragon Age gives us more insight into the templar vs mages civil war, and from what I hear our choices will end up shaping the world to how we like. I’ve enjoyed both Dragon Age I and II, so hopefully the third installment won’t disappoint. As for The Sims 4 – and partly the sports games – it looks like EA are just milking the franchise with these. I might check out The Sims, as it’s a great casual game to just muck around in to play God on a micro scale (whereas Sim City and similar games are great for playing God on a macro scale). Plus, it’s always good to get the fresh revamp without having to plunge deep into your pockets to pick up all the expansions of the previous games.

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Destiny… I wouldn’t be able to finish this article without including the coalition between Activision and Bungie without talking at least a LITTLE bit about this fantastic looking game. Rumoured to be the reason why Project: Titan keeps on getting restarted over at Blizzard, this MMOFPS simply has too many reasons for me to list as to why I hope it doesn’t end up just being overhyped and crashing into the dirt. It even makes me consider getting either a PS4 or Xbox One just to play it on the latest systems. Time will tell!

There’s so much other news, but these were my picks other than news of GTA V coming to PC soon with updated graphics and performance to match the clearly superior systems (picks up flame-retardant suit) and Nintendo are intending to come back strong with a Legend of Zelda update for the Wii U, showing massive open-world exploration that I’m sure will make many a veteran gamer’s heart jump a beat or two. Shame about it being on the Wii U though. Check out everything showcased this year at E3 Insider, or I’m sure you will find many more reviews at places like IGN and Gamespot.