TeamFight Tactics: Galaxies

So it’s been a while since Teamfight Tactics officially went live, and since then I dipped my toes into the game with their Elemental set. I had only played the game once prior to that during the beta, when the original set was introduced, and honestly didn’t know what would change with this game nor how often these changes would occur. I had also basically written off the genre after I wasn’t really intrigued with DOTA Underlords or Teamfight Tactics in its earliest form. When friends convinced me to give it another go, I found a surprising amount of fun could be found while not really controlling the action. I suppose this should be common sense, since people have been playing idle or clicker games for years now, but those styles of game rarely appealed to me on a personal level. Regardless, I managed to play enough to start to understand the rules, the champions available, their classes and item builds and then jumped headfirst into ranked. During that season (which are rather short) I climbed from Iron to Bronze, but abruptly the next set was released and progress was reset. The next new thing? Galaxies.

The previous set had a special feature, where certain tiles of the battlefield would be enhanced with buffs that would apply to whichever champion you stood upon them. This time around, those tiles are gone, replaced by a random chance to enter into a different galaxy for that game. Above are examples, and honestly I don’t even know if I’ve seen either of these or if there are more of them. I have probably played more games since the new set kicked off than I did last season, so I would imagine I would have seen at least one of them, but honestly there is so much new information to absorb after a reset, I couldn’t tell you if I have.

New items were introduced that can help you to get to those higher origin/class tiers faster, along with a couple that are utility oriented. Having used both the Shroud and the Portal, the Portal is the better of the two but the Shroud still has its uses. I like putting it on my tank that has an item or two by late game or is level 3 and it’s effectively a guardian angel. It’s really good. The others rarely pop up in the carousel and you don’t get spatualas often either so you’ll see less of them.

Just when I started to understand which origins and classes worked well together, they switched things up on me. I have managed try most of these to the minimum or 2/3 that they need to go online, but have pulled together a Mech Pilot team one time, a full squad of 6 Chrono and Star Guardian. I really enjoy Chrono because it grants attack speed across the board, so if you have a couple of other strong champions that don’t quite fit they still benefit from the attack speed. Speed = more mana = more spells = more DPS. Fighting against Mech Pilot comps feels shitty but I actually got crushed when I ran it so I guess I didn’t have the proper support.

There are some similar classes this time around, but a couple of others that do something a little different. Snipers only require two units, and actually stack quite well with Chrono. Vanguard is a solid choice too even if you only get to 2 units. Starship basically replaces Alchemist in that the character runs around aimlessly, but has a powerful ability. Infiltrators are basically Assassins. Blademasters function mostly the same. Overall the bigger changes occurred with the origins, and many of these I haven’t fully delved into due to having other preferences.

Anyway, as I said I’ve been playing more often now than I had been mainly due to being home basically all of the time. I’m really starting to enjoy it as well, after learning more about the new abilities I felt confident I could get further in ranked than I had previously. I managed to come out of my placement matches in the same spot I had ended the prior season on, so there was nowhere to go but up! Since then, I have played a few more rounds and managed to get my first victory of the season (with the aforementioned 6 Chrono 2 Sniper build) which promoted me from Bronze IV to Bronze II. I think I’ll be able to run up to Silver at least before the reset. Looking forward to trying, and I’ll check back in the next time we have something new to tackle.

Apex Legends: Season 4 – Assimilation

I’m a bit late to this post, and honestly it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for some time now. Season 4 of Apex Legends kicked off back at the beginning of February. It, like seasons before it, came packed with a new Battle Pass option (containing new skins, animations and artwork), a new Legend enters the fold, and of course the promise of new limited time events. Truth be told, I have had a relationship with this game since it released a little over a year ago, and though I’m not done with it, I’m riding one of those lows right now. It’s still a fantastic game. I love the fact that they have done something new each season. While the first saw an extended time on the same version of the original map, the 2nd season warped that map in new ways. With the 3rd season we saw a whole brand new map, and to fall in line, season 4 has torn the new map up giving it new life. This means an adjustment in your specific game plans, though the broad scope of the game remains the same.

The main new attraction is this big laser drill in the center of the map, while a huge lava filled canyon split the major city in two. Overall it’s still the same map but the new touches are cool and provide variety if you continue to play regularly throughout the years.

The new character Revenant seems really cool in appearance, but I find that his skills are a little underpowered. He’s much like Wattson who is a little limited when it comes to combat I feel as well. They’re more support oriented characters in my estimation, despite maybe having a different title in the game. Whatever the case, Revenant is a little more mobile due to his passive, but his tactical silencing grenade doesn’t feel too hot. His ultimate is also debatable in usefulness, mainly because you have to drop a totem, then press a button to activate the “death protection,” and then have to die within the time limit for it to do anything. If you place it properly and happen to die it’s nice, but it seems too much of a pain in the ass to be worth it. Have you played Revenant with success? Am I just stupid? Comment below.

As I said, I wouldn’t say I’m burned out but I played 324 games last season and I was already on the uptick during season 2. I basically played the shit out of the game prior to seasons, then didn’t play season 1, started getting into it more seriously in season 2 into 3, and then basically didn’t play much at all during the whole first 3rd of the current season. Whatever the case, you can make comparisons between my last season and what has occurred so far in season 4 above, and draw your own conclusions. I have padded that total a bit more recently as in the past week or so I’ve played a couple dozen games, and I am working it back into my rotation a little bit just because I’m playing with friends due to our quarantine situation. My total stats are listed in the last picture for reference, and you can see I’m nearing 800 games played, which is an average of about two games a day for the past year or so. I guess you can say I enjoy the title, despite my couple of breaks. I’ll check back in once the next season starts and see where my interest lies at that time.

First Thoughts: DOOM Eternal

I absolutely fell in love with DOOM 2016. It was a reboot of the series to some degree, basically starting over what began in the 1990’s and updating it with modern graphics. At the time, my computer had just been built a few months before, so I was able to run this at Ultra settings and though I was still running my rig in 1080p, it was gorgeous. The action was fast paced, the glory kills were over the top fun, and overall it hearkened back to a simpler time when we played games by ourselves. The follow-up to that game was announced a couple of years ago as DOOM Eternal, and it was instantly a part of my most-anticipated games list. Slated to release in November of 2019, it ended up being delayed to March 2020, just in time for us to be cooped up in our houses with plenty of time to play games (or at least, this about the most positive thing I can say about the current circumstances of the world). Sadly I would not have been able to pick the game up on release, but was lucky enough to be gifted a copy regardless, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on my first 5 hours with the title.

This time around, there is a bit more focus on the story, with a multitude of cutscenes, set pieces that want you to wonder about what’s going on around you, and collectible codex entries that shed some extra lore on an otherwise straight forward demon slaying experience. Apparently the original DOOM games also had a bit of story to them, though it was never really well conveyed in-game. I suppose this is an attempt at creating a story you kind of care about, despite the fact that all of the glory takes place during combat — which is still this series’ strength. As it goes, this title follows the story of the original DOOM II: Hell on Earth from 1994. Its uncertain if this is meant as a reboot sequel as most of us expected, or if this is sort of a separate more detailed timeline. However you want to look at it, at the end of the day DOOM 2016 ≥ DOOM as is DOOM Eternal ≥ DOOM II: Hell on Earth. That isn’t to say either is better than the other, but they are certainly good examples of how a game that pushed boundaries in the 1990’s can still do so in 2020 but with far more realistic graphics. So we know that while the Slayer was out and about on Mars taking care of business a few years ago, he’s now come back to earth and shit has hit the fan. So it’s up to him to get down to slayin’ business immediately.

Unfortunately, being such an action packed experience, I was unable to get many action shots, but the backdrops I managed to capture are fascinating. Some of the same mechanics from DOOM 2016 have returned, and some have been expanded upon. Not only do weapons get upgrades via modifications found in the world, but then you can spend weapon points on additional modifiers for those mods. Once unlocking everything on one weapon you’ll be able to then complete a mastery challenge that will unlock another perk for the gun. From there, you can also put points into your Praetor suit, which are passive bonuses that mostly have to do with your auto-map amongst other things. Runes can be found that give you further passives depending on which ones you have equipped (max 3 out of 9 at a time). There’s another layer of perks called crystals that you can equip which increase your health/armor/ammo maximum amounts, but also grants bonuses to your equipment, which is a shoulder mounted grenade launcher, frost bomb launcher, and the flamer. There’s a lot of depth here despite it just being another FPS in a long line of games that you’ve already played. In a sense it’s more of the same (which was good) but takes things just that much further. I can say for sure that the movement around maps is vastly changed, with many more open spaces to jump and dash around in. This means some creative level design was in order, and I find myself having to back track a lot less as a result. However, there is a fast travel system and because of the sheer amount of collectibles and secrets you’ll want to use this system to go back and finish the content presented.

Challenges are still a thing, but this time they’re called Slayer Challenges and you have to find a nearby key before being able to access the special zone. Once you have access and head in, you’ll be in for a challenge. I think now I could probably go back and complete a few of them, but on my first attempt I was stomped. Beyond completitionist status, there is a Battlemode that I have yet to check out, but also already included with the deluxe edition, you get access to future campaign and multiplayer content. I’m looking forward to having a reason to come back to this title beyond just deathmatch, as DOOM 2016 included but I wasn’t really a fan of. Here’s hoping the multiplayer here is better, but I can already highly recommend this title just for the single player alone. Well worth the investment price, and if you can get it on sale, even better!

First Impressions: Black Mesa

I acquired Black Mesa from Humble Monthly a couple of years back, if I recall correctly. At the time, the only thing I knew about it was that it was a fan-created project that aimed to remake the original Half-Life (aka “The Black Mesa Incident”). It was billed as the same game, but with some quality of life improvements and “reimaginings.” When I first downloaded it, the title was in Early Access and the devs were talking about things that were going into recreating Xen, which is the final portion of the original. A couple of years later, and here we are. The game is complete, and has left Early Access. Despite being tempted to check it out on more than one occasion, I instead decided to see when/if it would be completed, and thankfully this one made it through the EA slog to full release.

First things first, I applaud the team for already having widescreen support built into the game. It should be a given in 2020, but I’m not surprised when a game ships without this support. Graphically the game looks and feels like Half-Life, but has a weird mixture of new and old tech that is somewhat confusing. Don’t get me wrong, I was instantly hit in the feels during the introduction and tram scene, but portions of the environment look like 1998 and other have higher res textures that look great. Where this remake really shines is with lighting and atmospheric effects.

The scene above where the reactor goes wild and you are temporarily teleported to another world was particularly good looking, but unfortunately doesn’t make as much of a showing via screenshots. Whatever the case, I can appreciate the love and care that when into recreating this beloved classic in a newer-but-not-new engine. I’ve only just played through the first couple of chapters, where shit hasn’t entirely hit the fan just yet, but I have enjoyed what I’ve played so far and it has brought back a bunch of memories from my high school days. The story doesn’t seem to have changed at all, but apparently there were improvements to AI, particularly the soldiers and alien fighters in later levels. It feels just like playing the original, but I can enjoy it on my modern machine, and for that I’m thankful. I do wish it was more of a remake on the level with the latest Quake/DOOM/Wolfenstein reboots, but it will do. Now can we have Half-Life 3?

Also included in the package is multi-player, which was for a time one of my favorites until modders made full on new games with the Half-Life engine, and then it was more about Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, and this other one I can’t remember the name of but you play as space marines vs. aliens. Whatever the case, multiplayer is supported, but I haven’t given it a whirl just yet. I’m curious to see if there’s an audience for it, with the loads of competition that’s probably just better. At the end of the day, I’m happy to see this game make it out of Early Access and I hope it’s a way for a new generation to fall in love with Half-Life, and the shooter genre in general. I’d recommend it for the nostalgic feels, though I’d say it’s a must-buy if you somehow haven’t played the original.

Next For Riot Games: Valorant

We’ve know about “Project A” since Riot’s tenth anniversary stream that went live late last year. At that point in time very little information was revealed outside of that code name and the fact that it would be a hero based tactical shooter, as if Overwatch and Counter-Strike had a baby. Despite the fact that I’ve loved Counter-Strike since it was just a mod, I never really cared for Overwatch. In fact, I haven’t really cared for many of these style of “Hero Shooters” and I’ve played a handful of them. However, I do think that if any company has the ability to get me to play their games without question, Riot Games does. They’ve built trust with me over the years and despite taking breaks from their main game League of Legends, I always find myself coming back around. So far I’ve enjoyed their other forays into new territory, with Teamfight Tactics and the little bit of Legends of Runterra that I’ve played. As such, I think I am the target audience for this new title, which we now know is called Valorant. First things first, let’s look at some fresh alpha game play to put things into perspective:

Wow, so this really does look like Counter-Strike, but with characters called “agents” who have various abilities. Otherwise, it’s still plant the bomb (called a spike here) if you’re on the attacking team, or defuse the spike if you’re defending. Otherwise, killing the entirety of the enemy team (as there are no respawns) will win you the round. Polygon has a ton of info up about the game, including a Q&A that addresses game play, fluff skins, and future plans, along with another article detailing all of the agents and their abilities. There isn’t anything inherently unique about the premise of the game nor the abilities of the agents, but it still looks like a lot of fun. I tend to be better at first person shooters than I am at other styles of game so I think it’s something I could actually be competitive at. Graphically it looks sharp, but apparently the minimum specs mean you can play the game on a toaster. Thankfully my aging machine is still more powerful than a toaster, so I should be able to jump in right away.

There is a planned beta that I assume will happen soon. The launch window is summer of this year so I think we’ll be able to beta test within the next couple of months and Riot can make adjustments from there prior to full launch. I can’t seem to find a way to sign up for beta yet, but as soon as I can play it and talk about it some more I will do so. I’m actually pretty hyped for this one, but I am trying to temper my expectations. Whatever the case, as more information drops I’ll be sure to throw my two cents out there.