Murderous Mabel

An utterly detestable soul.

No-one would’ve believed that young Mabel could grow into such a cantankerous psychopath. Born in a settlement on the fringes of the Mojave Wasteland, Mabel’s ambitions were to be a courier delivering hope (amongst other things) to those in need. However, after one client demanded her life as payment, she became addicted to a cocktail of chems, and decided that the Mojave could only thrive if it were cleansed of human life. All human life. Barbarism such as this was readily expressed by the odious soldiers of Caesar’s Legion, and thus her journey across the Mojave began.

Her expertise with explosives led her to the Powder Gangers.

But their ambitions to claim Goodsprings for themselves weren’t grandiose enough. Not that she isn’t going to help Joe Cobb and his men, but he, like Caesar, is going to outlive his usefulness sooner or later. Mabel will sow discord and despair across the entire Mojave or die trying.

I’ve found it difficult to revisit Fallout: New Vegas in recent years. I’ve built around Guns, Energy Weapons, Melee Weapons, and even (to a lesser extent) Unarmed. I’ve aligned myself with Mr. House, Yes Man, and the NCR. But I’ve never built around Explosives, nor have I aligned myself with Caesar’s Legion. Hence the birth of this character. It’s an unconventional build that utilises both the Cowboy and Grunt perks, rather than either one individually, allowing me to use numerous weapons, and experience the Mojave Wasteland from a new perspective. An explosive perspective peppered with conventional weaponry. Through this build I’ll also be embracing the zaniness of Wild Wasteland. I’m not entirely sure how much will change as a result, but this is a good opportunity given her (thematic) dependency on chems.

Thanks, Victor. Now I’m envisaging buttery robot cheeks…

I’ve taken a fairly standard approach to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L distribution, though. Favouring high Agility and high Intelligence, while completely ignoring Charisma. As most do. Not that I could justify high Charisma with a character whose sole ambition is murder. I’ve also taken Kamikaze to further increase her action points, while (slightly) lowering her Damage Threshold. Which is easily countered with the Sub-Dermal Armor implant or the Reinforced Spine perk. Or both. Regardless of Damage Threshold, the latter is required to make use of the heaviest weapons affected by the Grunt perk.

I had considered the Weapon Handling perk.

But I’ll be visiting Old World Blues first (for various reasons) and I’m unlikely to require the extra Strength until after its completion. Perks that affect critical hits (such as Better Criticals) may be worth taking, too. But I’m not sure how (or even if) explosive damage is affected by critical hits.

It’s been quite a while since I last experienced the joy of Fallout: New Vegas, so this is going to be a nostalgic trek across the Mojave Wasteland and possibly one of my last. It’s going to be interesting to see how my approach to things has changed in that time, too. I’ve never been known to comb through the sands of the Mojave looking to uncover all of its secrets, but with Wild Wasteland making the wastes wackier than ever I may want to. Or maybe they’ll be painfully obvious differences. Or maybe it’s aliens. It’s probably aliens. It has, however, been such a refreshing experience conceiving this character, as I’m able to consider many different possibilities and outcomes. Possibilities that, despite having played Fallout: New Vegas for nearly three-hundred hours, I’ve not encountered or considered with other characters.

Have a nice week, all!


Amorphous Experiences

Exploration is at the heart of every great adventure.

Whether you’re exploring the irradiated ruins of post-apocalyptic societies, the vast expanse of space, or the vibrancy of ancient Greece there’s always something new to see or do. I seem to be drawn to these experiences nowadays. I don’t really know why, though. Whether it was a conscious decision wrought from previous experience, such as the hours spent scavenging the desolate landscape of the Capital Wasteland, or whether it was the various MMORPGs that encouraged me, is hard to say. But it’s been an interesting transition from the countless JRPGs of my formative years.

Not that I’ve abandoned JRPGs entirely.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom were both excellent JRPGs. I’ve just decided to invest hundreds of hours into the most recent releases of the Assassin’s Creed series, too. Mostly because of those pesky question marks. Oh, how they haunt me.

Prior to Assassin’s Creed: Origins I’d never experienced anything from the Assassin’s Creed series. While that entry (and those that follow it) are considered the black sheep of the Assassin’s Creed family, I found myself wholly absorbed by the sheer breadth of content available. It’s an incredibly competent RPG with an enthralling main campaign story. I feel the same way about Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, too. Not that I’m anywhere near finishing its main campaign. It’s like a towering chocolate gateaux, where each layer of sponge is a new task to complete and each chocolate curl playfully dusted atop its peaks is a new mechanic. While it may be incredibly alluring- and undoubtedly satisfying- it is best consumed in smaller portions. It would be unwise to attempt to eat a chocolate gateaux of such magnitude in one sitting.

Some doors are better left closed.

Not that I’m complaining. I couldn’t be happier with these purchases, not only have they exceeded every prior expectation but they exhibit complexity often woefully absent from modern RPGs. Divinity: Original Sin has similar immensity, as does its sequel, Divinity: Original Sin 2, both featuring noteworthy character development mechanics. I’d always considered statistical development to be the staple of any RPG but I’ve found many RPGs to be sorely lacking. Offering no attributes (or abilities) to invest in, or affording insignificant progression for doing so.

Which is why the release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has inspired me.

The original release, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, is an outstanding RPG, and one that I’d like to revisit. Naturally, the remaster would (arguably) be the best way to do this. But I’ve still got a handful of achievements to unlock in the original release, and I’d like to attempt to unlock those first.

As a result, I’ll (eventually) have two character builds. I’m considering a Finesse/Sorcery hybrid build for the original release, while I’ll probably settle on a Might build for the remaster. I’ve not actually done one of those before. I’ve built a Might/Sorcery hybrid before but never solely Might. I’ll be focusing on various quests in the original release, as many of the achievements I’ve yet to unlock are related to certain quest lines. While I’m greatly interested in the post-release DLC, Fatesworn, in the remaster, as that promises new content. I’ve been intending to revisit Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for some time, but much like Dark Souls or Fallout 3, which I’d also like to revisit, I’ve not set aside the time to do it. I’m always busy with something else. But I’m going to try to make time for these (and my creative pursuits) in the future.

Have a nice week, all!


Thunderous Fists

Righteous punching ensues.

Unlike many of the surprises that I’ve had this year, the full release of Chronicon is a very welcome surprise. I wasn’t aware that it was due (or even planned) to be released this year. But it’s available now and I couldn’t be more excited about revisiting the main campaign, while finally being able to explore the infernal landscape of Act V. I’ve been looking forward to doing that. The patch notes for the full release were extensive, while its lone developer has continued to show their unwavering dedication to delivering the best possible experience by addressing numerous known issues.

Resulting in three post-release patches in less than five days.

Which is why it’s been a pleasure to follow its journey through Early Access, and why I’ve experienced each new update with my poison Warlock while anticipating the full release. It’s been a great journey, too. I’ve known few Early Access titles to change as extensively as Chronicon did.

I’ve decided to temporarily retire my poison Warlock for the full release, though. I’d like to experience the main campaign from a fresh perspective. To see everything from start to finish as a freshly built character would. Not that I’ll be freshly built, as shared progression affords certain advantages, but I won’t be relying on those advantages. Besides taking two Bottomless Bags out of the shared stash. But that’s purely for convenience, and because I have an irrational desire to hoard items. I’ve been actively avoiding the services of Theo, Chantie, and Gemma as well. I doubt that they’d significantly change anything prior to the conclusion of Act III, but I’d rather not use them. I’m hoping to be able to increase the difficulty to Legendary before arriving at Act V, too. Allowing the fabled True Legendary equipment to start appearing.

Drawing strength from the skies above.

I’d been deliberating between a lightning Berserker and a holy Templar prior to release, and eventually settled on the Berserker as they better represented my intentions for this build. Utilising various skills from the Sky Lord tree allows them to deal impressive damage with shouts, while they become exponentially more powerful as their rage increases. They’ve also got excellent base mobility. Alongside naturally heightened health and mana regeneration. This allows them to endure close quarters combat when needed, but easily reposition if they’re taking too much damage.

They can certainly hold their own when facing tough opposition.

Besides Shouts I’ve invested in a single Brawl skill, Lightning Jab, which replaces my default attack, and is solely used to regenerate mana. I won’t be actively increasing the damage for Brawl skills and/or Lightning Jab, as my intention is to greatly improve the damage and efficacy of Shouts.

The diversity and complexity of character development in Chronicon is one of the reasons I’ve been so excited about it. Despite restricting myself to a poison Warlock build, mostly to keep other builds fresh for the full release, I’ve seen how each character class offers new opportunities, and could fundamentally change how you experience the content. I’m also fond of being able to fully customise my equipment to suit my chosen build. I’ve nothing against wading endlessly through a sea of viscera, but actually being able to make use of equipment that you’d otherwise sell or salvage is great. I’ve got nothing but praise for Chronicon (and its developer) because it’s one of the most refreshing, engaging, and wonderfully fun ARPGs in recent years. It’s definitely worth your time if you’re looking for something familiar yet fresh.

Have a nice week, all!


Snakes in the Dark

They’ve escaped from their jars.

Sneakily slithering with sinister intent in the inky darkness of ancient tombs, relentlessly biting your shins should you be foolish enough to explore such places. I’m not sure who has introduced these snakes to these environments, or how the snakes have remained alive, as there’s no sustenance of any kind in these crumbling halls, but they’ve got a sense of humour. They sometimes leave bundles of rope around to make you eternally paranoid about being bitten. I’ve finally begun my adventures in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and it’s just as impressive as I’d hoped that it would be.

It’s an incredibly content-dense experience.

After thirty hours of rambling across the Greek countryside I’m still finding new mechanics, which makes the experience more linear than Assassin’s Creed: Origins, as following the main campaign unlocks the potential of the Spear of Leonidas, and allows you to realise the misthios’ true strength.

Without unlocking that potential you’ll rapidly grind to a complete halt, which makes me wonder why it’s locked behind main campaign quests. I’m naturally inclined to explore each new region as I find it, and I’ve found many, but exploring them and completing side quests is less rewarding than it could be, when I can’t upgrade certain abilities until I’ve begun to upgrade the Spear of Leonidas. Acquiring the first upgrade introduces an entire progression system which fundamentally changes your chosen misthios. Upgrading further relies on you assassinating key targets found throughout the world, who remain hidden until they are discovered by various means. You’ll also encounter mercenaries who reward progression once they’ve been defeated, and who utilise the bounty system to follow your wrongdoings.

Kassandra’s confidence never fails to impress.

You’ve also got the Adrestia and her crew to tend to. Not only will you need to gather raw materials to upgrade this fine vessel, but you’ll need to scout new crew members and recruit them to your cause. Mostly by kicking them. It endears people to you for some reason. You’ll also be using those raw materials to upgrade your equipment or customise it by engraving it. Not that I’m criticising the wealth of content present in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I’m just surprised by how much there is to do, and I’m reasonably sure that there’s more out there, as I’ve yet to access the DLC.

I’ll admit that I grossly underestimated it.

I was under the impression that it would be more grandiose than Assassin’s Creed: Origins, but it has exceeded every prior expectation. In the best possible way. Not only is it brimming with a ludicrous amount of content, but exploring the beautiful landscapes of ancient Greece is immensely satisfying.

I’m also glad that the misthios is a mercenary in every sense of the word. They have no inherent allegiance to Athens or Sparta, despite what their familial ties might suggest, and can freely fight for either when engaging in conquest battles, which gives unprecedented freedom when exploring the world. You really can go anywhere and do anything. Certain actions and activities are frowned upon, though. Which is where the aforementioned bounty system tries to make you accountable for your actions. Not that it’s wholly irreversible, as you can either pay a fine or murder the bounty sponsor. Both of which solve the problem. Or you can fight three mercenaries at once because the Overpower Attacks are (as the name would suggest) overpowered. That’s my preferred approach now that I have a shred of proficiency in combat.

Have a nice weekend, all!


Imaginary Aliens

None of these aliens are real.

Except the ones that are real which you think are hallucinations but aren’t. It’s all very confusing. But then nothing about recreating memories to invoke the ire of an alien voice isn’t confusing, especially when you try to explain how hallucinations inflicted horrific flesh wounds against living agents. That’s the last time we’re going to believe that someone injected mysterious gas into a hangar for science. Hangar 6 R & D is the post-release DLC for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, that serves as a prequel to the events of the main campaign and explains how the invasion began.

Ideally it should be experienced before the main campaign.

However, be forewarned that this approach can be slightly overwhelming, as the DLC expects you to know what you’re doing, and rapidly presents increasingly complex missions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Mutons and Elite Mutons in one pod before. Nor do I want to see that many again.

You won’t start the campaign with freshly recruited agents, though. So they’ll have a few abilities that’ll help in the first few missions. You also seem to rapidly acquire new technology by exploring the laboratory prior to each mission, and extensive caches of alien technology are awarded for completing later missions. It feels ridiculously accelerated much in the same way that the Tactical Legacy Pack from XCOM 2: War of the Chosen does. But it also feels incredibly satisfying and never particularly unfair. Rarely do encounters feel insurmountable but they remain challenging throughout. I just wish that I had some idea of the opposition for each mission, as that would influence my squad composition, as some agents perform better in certain encounters, but it’s a minor issue that doesn’t drastically affect the experience.

Somehow they’ve managed to make Sectopods even deadlier…

I had similar feelings about XCOM: Chimera Squad. Both opted for a handful of individually talented agents instead of dozens of trained soldiers, which works fine but I felt that it would’ve worked better if you had any indication of which talents you’d want per mission. But not knowing means that you’ll need to be prepared for anything. So you’ll need to adapt to situations as they develop, and assess threats as they present themselves. Making the real time combat of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified fast-paced, which requires quick thinking not usually present in turn-based combat.

You’ll be able to catch your breath when issuing orders, though.

Which allows you to recognise the threats you’re facing instead of wildly flailing as everything happens all at once. You’re also able to issue multiple orders to an agent at a time (that seem to activate in sequence), which makes the order of your actions as important as the actions themselves.

I’ve been greatly enjoying the intensity of combat so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how increasingly dangerous opposition affects the prioritisation of targets. When enemies are able to rapidly close the distance between you and them it certainly makes some a higher priority than others. Which is also true with turn-based combat, but they’re usually only able to move on their turn, so you might not consider them a threat because they’re so far away, but with real time combat you need to consider how (and where) they’ll move. It’s definitely an interesting approach to real time combat, and is (in my opinion) preferable to real time with pause combat. Which tends to make combat slow-paced and twitchy, whereas this proves to be fast-paced and fluid while presenting a consistent challenge.

Have a nice week, all!