Devilish Sorcery

Unearthing esoteric knowledge.

Despite having the highest potential Magic attribute, Sorcerers have no inherent talent for magic, and instead rely on spell books found in the treacherous depths of the cathedral. Making them the most fascinating of the three character classes. Once their devastating potential is fully realised, they can easily trivialise the majority of the content, as few can withstand the ensuing onslaught, but they possess no spells unique to them. Their heightened Magic attribute only affords them the opportunity to learn spells more readily, and to cast those spells more freely.

Unless Mana Shield is available.

Then their heightened Magic attribute affords them an impenetrable aegis that drains their mana (instead of their health) when they take damage. I’ll admit that I’ve undervalued Mana Shield prior to this build, both as a Sorcerer in Diablo and as a Sorceress in Diablo II, as it is absurdly powerful.

Even if I’m not sure how Mana Shield alters incoming damage. It definitely reduces incoming damage, which is to be expected of elemental damage, as elemental resistances adjust incoming damage accordingly, but it seems to be reducing physical damage by an unknown (but significant) percentage as well. I also don’t know whether reading additional Mana Shield spell books provides any discernible benefits. Utility spells, such as Town Portal, probably won’t change regardless of their level, as they have a very specific use. Unless those spells eventually become much cheaper to cast. Spells on staves are slightly confusing, too. Because I don’t know whether their effectiveness is tied to the spell level (if known) of the Sorcerer, or whether they’re set to predetermined levels that remain fixed regardless of spell level.

Nightmarish horrors stalk the forsaken depths.

But that’s why I enjoy conceiving different builds, as I’d only built Warriors prior to this, and Sorcerers defy many of my previously established conventions. Especially those concerning which affixes to pursue. +To All Attributes proved to be less useful than I’d first believed it would be, as Strength and Dexterity were (mostly) meaningless to him, while Vitality offers such a staggeringly low amount of hit points per point invested, thus making Magic the only reason to pursue that affix. But affixes that solely increase Magic are more common and less expensive.

Expense being a noteworthy consideration.

Because my luck with random drops is such that I will find every variant of everything that I can’t use or don’t want, and will rarely find what I do want, unless the main campaign is drawing to its conclusion, then Wirt will finally decide to sell me a ring with a decent amount of +%Resist Lightning.

Not that this occurrence was unexpected. I’d be more surprised if I found a unique two-handed axe with the Warrior build that actually used two-handed axes. Or if I ever found Windforce again when I inevitably revisit Diablo as a Rogue. I also didn’t need to obsessively bolster his elemental resistances, because Mana Shield substantially heightened his survivability. But obsessing over statistics is what I do. Which is why the elegant simplicity of Diablo is so enthralling, because it doesn’t require particularly complex calculations or extensive research, but allows me to satiate my unerring desire to crawl through perilous dungeons, and to experiment with unusual builds without committing too much time to their success or failure. Making it perfectly suited to those times where I’m looking for an experience both relaxing and fun.

Have a nice weekend, all!


Extracurricular Questing

Better than extracurricular studies.

Not that Rean doesn’t have those, too. But he spends his supposedly free days undertaking various tasks at the behest of others; diligently completing each within its specified time frame. Tasks that have included, but are not limited to: procuring coloured bath salts, making deliveries to instructors, tackling absurdly dangerous monsters, and feeding a mysterious black cat at different times of the day. Not that anyone ever asked him to feed her. But he is wholly committed to ensuring that she is well fed, and is often seen scouring the campus looking for her.

But that’s hardly surprising.

What is surprising is how immensely satisfying combat mechanics can become so dreadfully dissatisfying in gimmicky boss encounters. I had nothing but praise for the complexities of combat prior to those encounters, but that praise diminished rapidly with each painful passing encounter.

Equipping different kinds (and colours) of Quartz is crucial to capitalising on elemental efficacy. Knowing how (and when) to interrupt or delay enemies is crucial to controlling the turn order. Understanding status ailments is crucial to either avoiding or dealing ludicrous damage. But none of this mattered with these gimmicky boss encounters, as they were often immune to status ailments (or being delayed) and their elemental efficacy was such that they rarely took additional damage from Arts. They don’t seem to take damage from regular attacks, either. They’ve also got ridiculous amounts of health. And they will instantly kill the entire party should some arbitrary condition be met, despite being relatively harmless otherwise. Artificial difficulty of every conceivable form was demonstrated during these ludicrous encounters.

Found a cat. Never leaving.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is an unorthodox narrative-driven JRPG which is frequently– and unashamedly– punishing, but gimmicky encounters have made it such an infuriatingly polarising experience. These encounters didn’t add anything to the experience besides needless frustration, which (usually) led to shuffling Quartz around and using your own gimmicks to defeat them before they defeated you. Thankfully, these encounters are few and far between, but that doesn’t excuse the disservice they do to an otherwise enjoyable adventure.

Which is why I loathe them.

Because I’ve genuinely enjoyed the majority of the time that I’ve spent with The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, and I was looking forward to continuing its fascinating story in the sequels, but these encounters have truly drained the enthusiasm that I once had for this subseries.

Not that my scathing judgement should discourage you from experiencing this exhilarating narrative-driven JRPG for yourself. I just detest artificial difficulty. The abrupt introduction to (and implementation of) Divine Knight mechanics was slightly irritating, too. Collecting different kinds of Master Quartz, acquiring legendary weapons, and finding rare accessories feels (somewhat) pointless when it doesn’t contribute to your success. If you can overlook this infrequent unpleasantness, then I highly recommend The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel for its captivating characters and delightfully cohesive ever-evolving world. I could probably write a thousand words and still fail to convey my feelings towards this experience, so I do hope that you’ll forgive me if this post comes across as inherently (or unfairly) negative.

Have a nice week, all!


Cataclysmic Conflagration

Encircled by grotesque monstrosities.

Creatures wrought from the foulest sorcery conjured to protect their detestable master. One who twists the deceased into despicable shadows of their former selves, that fashions lingering souls into horrifying beasts, and that wreaths their fragile mortal shell in an explosive shroud of flame. Who proves that heroism manifests in different forms, and that wielding a righteous blade tempered by unshakeable faith is only one way to smite the wicked. Some employ poisonous beasts that spew corrosive acid instead. Or ravenous beasts engulfed in hellish flame.

Or rapidly deteriorating skeletons.

But then these trials could be nothing more than a convenient plot device. One designed to plunge would-be-heroes into ceaseless combat against seemingly inexhaustible opposition, which would only facilitate those who wish to bask in the magnificent radiance of abundant randomised loot.

But that’d be silly. Silly and ever-so-slightly addictive. Not that I’ll ever find any equipment appropriate for my chosen character class amongst that abundant randomised loot. But that’s why I store that equipment in my shared stash, so that it can be neglected by every other build because I’ll forget that it’s in there. Even if I did retrieve an amulet from the shared stash for this Warlock. That was a fluke, and only happened because I let randomised loot dictate his development. Hence why he now relies on his pets and minions to deal damage for him. It’s been a fascinating experience, though. I’ve been considering statistics that I tend to ignore (such as +%Companion Health and +%Gem Strength). I’ve also been experimenting with different equipment sets, enchantment bonuses, socket types, and gem bonuses.

Devoured by the voracious horde.

Repeatedly scrutinising the benefits afforded by each to get the best returns. I usually prioritise +%Critical Hit Chance and +%Overpower when adding sockets, but I’ve been weighing both +%Critical Hit Damage and +%Companion Damage heavily with this build. Guaranteeing critical hits is relatively easy, but multiplying the damage of those critical hits is just as important, especially when he has the inherent +%Gem Strength from Kingsrock, as each individual gem is far more effective than it usually is. Allowing him greater diversity for his favoured statistics.

Diversity being his greatest strength.

Unlike the frost Warden build who had but one pet, his merciless menagerie demands that he be proficient with multiple elemental damage types. He doesn’t have the staggering damage of the lightning Berserker build, nor the retaliation of the holy Templar build, but he does have flexibility.

Hence why I tend to avoid builds that rely solely on their pets or minions. Not only does bathing in demonic viscera in close quarters suit me better, but I’ve never felt comfortable relying on others to do what I could do myself. I also don’t trust an AI to not make perplexing decisions. Not that this build is solely reliant on pets or minions, but I’ve been collecting pieces of both the Demon Lord’s Regalia and Summoner’s Garb sets, and I’d even consider swapping Kingsrock for the ring in the Master’s Command set were I to happen upon one. This is just an unusual build (for me) but it does offer a fresh perspective. A surprisingly passive perspective. Much like the aforementioned holy Templar build, which relied on enemies dealing damage to her for her to be able to deal damage to them. As unconventional as that may be.

Have a nice week, all!


Mass Effect Legendary Edition: Intergalactic Renegade (Pt. 10)

On the precipice of extinction.

Everything depends on these fleeting moments and the decision that Sordid Shepard makes. Which would be terrifying under normal circumstances, but these circumstances are far from normal. She also has a personal stake in this decision. So she may, for the second time in her life, make the right decision, rather than the one that awards Renegade alignment. But I guess that we’re going to have to wait and see. Prioritising her own egocentric ambitions over millions of innocent lives would not only be her greatest betrayal, but would also be a fitting end for her.

She’d be nearly as selfish as the salarians.

But events in the Mass Effect trilogy are rather subjective. So it’s difficult to say which is the best or the worst outcome in any given situation. Making decisions solely because it is the Paragon or the Renegade approach is not advised, as the repercussions of those decisions might surprise you.

Hence why I’ve always praised the concluding events of Mass Effect 3. They’re fairly controversial, but I’ve always appreciated being able to make the decision that best suits the character that I’ve built, and not the decision that best suits the choices that I’ve made. Choices that I may not even remember making. Or that I failed to realise the significance of at the time. I’ve meticulously fumbled through key events to arrive at this perplexing conclusion, and while these events may not have dictated her decision, they could easily result in an immensely underwhelming decision being made for her. Citadel would make for an absurdly enjoyable alternative conclusion were events to unfold that way. But they don’t. So it’s probably best to accept what actually happens instead, even if the wounds are still fresh.

Walk towards the light…

Revisiting the Mass Effect series through Mass Effect Legendary Edition has been a pleasure, though. It’s an exhilarating one-of-a-kind narrative-driven adventure that takes you on a truly unforgettable journey. One that explores one of the most fascinating and diverse RPG franchises in recent memory, which still holds its own even after all these years. Mass Effect 2 was easily the most frustrating of the three. And that was (mostly) due to the sheer absurdity of Insanity difficulty, which wasn’t at all necessary, but did inspire a tremendous amount of profanity.

I honestly didn’t know that I had it in me.

Maybe that’s why Insanity difficulty is usually reserved for those with considerable experience with the Mass Effect series, as it was only available after completing the main campaign(s) prior to Mass Effect Legendary Edition. Now it’s immediately available to any reckless enough to attempt it.

Of the changes made in Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and there are many, none seem to significantly affect the experience, making me wonder whether it’s best considered a remake or a remaster. Not that this makes any difference to its content. I’m just curious as I believe it leans towards a remaster and not a remake, but it isn’t either entirely. Which is oddly fitting as the original trilogy was difficult to classify, too. But I’ve always felt that was part of its charm, as there wasn’t anything like it before it and there hasn’t been anything like it since. Being able to revisit Mass Effect in (arguably) its best form has been one of the highlights of my year. Which is why I highly recommend Mass Effect Legendary Edition, as it allows those who have never experienced this outstanding trilogy to embark on an incomparable adventure.

Have a nice weekend, all!


Mass Effect Legendary Edition: Intergalactic Renegade (Pt. 9)

Whispers from the deep.

Reverberating in the minds of those affected by their treacherous indoctrination, which should (but doesn’t) include Sordid Shepard. Her mind is filled only with her own egotistical self-importance. She does need to address this situation, though. Lest more innocents be led astray by these ancient behemoths. So unto the depths of the ocean she goes with nothing more than a rickety old diving suit, as these creatures may be the last hope that the universe has for winning this war. They may also try to murder her once she’s confined to their undersea domain.

But that’s understandable.

And it’s still better than revisiting Omega at the behest of Aria. I can’t pretend that I was entirely committed to that excursion, as I wasn’t. And that was before the developers brought back the worst combat mechanics of Mass Effect 2 for its sparse (but monotonous) combat encounters.

Monotony that was only bearable because she is now able to use Flare (inherited from Aria), and that allows her to tear through barriers with ease. Meaning that she is no longer terrified of Banshees because of their barriers. Just because of their erratic movements and surprising deadliness in close quarters combat, which are arguably greater concerns. But those can be solved by simply running away. Not that there’s much sense in running if you can’t fight back, as even bullets empowered by Incendiary Ammo are ineffective against their formidable protections. Hence why they’re so terrifying. Insanity difficulty has undoubtedly made them more aggressive, but aggressiveness is inherent in their design, as Mass Effect 3 boasted considerably challenging combat on every difficulty level. Which I couldn’t be happier about.

And thus her synthetic army was born.
No excursion was more embarrassing than agreeing to meet Joker for lunch, though. Not only because she fell through a fish tank in a sushi restaurant, but because she had to fight her way back to her newly acquired apartment with nothing but a silenced pistol. She then had to suffer through the worst boss encounter in Mass Effect 3. One that seemed conceptually interesting but failed spectacularly in its execution. Fighting an enemy Vanguard should be an exciting prospect, and should demonstrate how proficient you’ve become with your character class.

But it was just constant Nova spam.

Which makes no sense whatsoever, as the enemy Vanguard didn’t have a barrier- they had a shield- so they shouldn’t have even been able to use Nova. As it exhausts your barrier when used, and requires your barrier to be intact before use, so they definitely shouldn’t be able to spam it.

However, as ridiculously frustrating as that encounter was, it did result in Sordid Shepard being able to go to the best party in the universe, so it was (mostly) worth it. I believe that this was a post-release DLC brought together specifically for the fans, and was meant to serve as an affectionate goodbye to those enraptured by the trilogy. It certainly felt that way to me. And I believe it probably felt that way to the talent that brought these experiences to life, as it’s not possible to be involved with something for so long and not grow attached to it. I know that I’ll miss Mass Effect Legendary Edition once Mass Effect 3 draws to a close. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, as I’ve completed the Mass Effect trilogy before, but I suppose it never gets any easier saying goodbye to experiences that you have fond memories with.

Have a nice week, all!