Early Impressions: Dauntless

A couple of weeks ago, Dauntless was ported to PS4. I remember hearing chatter about the title when it was coming out on PC, and comparisons were made to Monster Hunter World. Given my history with MHW, I didn’t think this was a game that would appeal to me. However, when games end up being free to play I’ll usually give them a spin to see what they’re all about. As such, I have some early impressions from my first couple of sessions with the game.

I can see why comparisons were made between Dauntless and Monster Hunter World, mainly because you play a hunter and you’ll team up with other hunters to go on hunts to kill big bad creatures. Another similarity is that though you don’t have a class per se, you do have different attacks and abilities if depending on the weapons you decide to use. It seems that you can craft them pretty easily and you can change up between them pretty seamlessly, so certain weapon styles are likely to work better on different creatures. That’s about all I really see, but I suppose that’s sort of a lot as it is. In a way this feels like a more westernized version of a Monster Hunter game. It looks more like Fortnite than Final Fantasy, if that makes sense. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but it doesn’t feel as foreign to me.

The story follows that your hunters are just trying to clear up these floating isles to get resources and protect humanity, or something like that. Honestly I don’t really think the story matters here. Hell, even this map doesn’t matter, as it doesn’t show you where you’re going, just what you’re going to fight. You start off in a small town with vendors and quest givers. Think of it like the Tower in Destiny. Quests tend to involve going on hunts, and in that sense the town is basically a lobby, and you queue up to co-op these hunts with other players. Hunts are instanced. There isn’t much in the way of open world. That feels different (and kind of worse) than MHW, but at the same time I didn’t really like having to chase monsters all over the damn place so it’s kind of okay.

Combat is pretty straight forward. It’s pretty much a button masher, with some other button presses mixed in for special abilities. The creatures follow basic patterns of attacking and being staggered. They take a while to kill, but with four people beating on them it hasn’t been too challenging. I’m sure there’s more to the game beyond this, but as it stands so far this is all that I’ve experienced. Further customization comes from adding perk points to your gear, crafting new gear, and apparently there is a store where you can buy skins and whatnot if you feel like throwing some cash at it (I don’t see enough here to warrant that just yet).

It is pretty when you’re out in the field. I found the town to be a bit laggy when many players are nearby, but otherwise it seems fine. The instanced hunts feel smooth and responsive. The variety of weapons feels pretty good, and you get to use some new tricks pretty quickly after starting. What I’m most curious about is if there ends up being open world bits, more involved quests, or perhaps other modes like PvP. I assume something more has to come because if this is the totality of the game I’d get bored with it pretty fast. Anyone play more of this than I have? Does it stay pretty much the same, or does it start to add more layers and depth as the game progresses?

State of the Game: Recent Free Things

I’ve been a Playstation Plus subscriber for a few years now, but outside of a few key titles, there is little that I get overly excited to receive for free. For a time, I used to write about my experiences with these free games each and every month, but to be honest, there are months when I don’t have time to play them all or I have no interest in any of the titles. There has also been a recent change to the service, in that the Playstation 3 and PSVita systems are no longer supported, so we only get a couple of games per month, where there used to be times when we’d get cross-play PS3/Vita games and sometimes they were decent. Nonetheless, I took some time over the past week to check out some of the recent things we’ve seen through the service and thought I’d share some short thoughts on each. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Conan Exiles:

One of the offerings from this month, Conan Exiles is a title that I didn’t give a second thought to. The Survival Sandbox genre saw its height a few years ago, and I honestly never really got into any of the games despite picking up a few. As such, this wasn’t a game I was ever going to buy, but I tend to try out the free stuff given to us each month anyway. The first thing I noticed when firing up the game was that it doesn’t look very pretty. The character creation has some pretty ugly models, apparently there’s some nudity options which seem irrelevant, and the overall look of the game was muddy and overall unattractive. The introduction didn’t do anything for me. I honestly only ran around for ten minutes before uninstalling. It appears that it’s the same old shtick, but I assume there are things that set this particular survival game apart from the others, I just couldn’t be bothered to find out what those things were. I didn’t even take screenshots to share because it was that bad. I’d skip this one.

The Surge:

I was a bit more interested in The Surge on the other hand. It looked like a pretty decent Souls-Like but after learning that it was created by the same developers as Lords of the Fallen I wasn’t as enthused. I tried the latter at some point (wasn’t it free via Plus as well?) and felt that it was lacking compared to the Souls games, and didn’t play too much of it. This is still a case of a company copying a successful formula, but whereas with Lords it felt like a cheap, poorly made rip-off, in the case of The Surge the game feels like its own beast. I think the Sci-Fi setting is perhaps the reason for it not feeling like a cheap copy, but whatever the case is I actually enjoy this game.

You start off on a train to some sort of research facility, and it turns out your character is in a wheelchair. You venture further into the facility, where you get to choose your class, but it’s not so much a class as a couple of different job titles. I’m not sure what the differences are, but I went with the Lynx, which was tagged as being speedy and whatnot. I assume with the heavier class you might have different stats or abilities, but for now let’s move on — that’s what I did. You get a surgery which attaches this exoskeleton to you (though it looked quite painful since there was no sedation and quite a bit of nuts and bolts entering flesh) but the robots mistakenly say there is an issue with you and throw you in the trash pile. From there, it’s time to figure out what the hell is going on, as you are thrust into a scrapyard fighting sentient robots and talking to very few humans. The combat is action oriented and uses targeting and a variety of button presses to do things. You’ll get gear and implants that give you various abilities. It feels like its own thing, and it’s quite fun. I’d recommend checking this one out!

Path of Exile PS4:

Path of Exile obviously isn’t a new title, but it was just recently ported to the Playstation 4. Being a free-to-play title, this is available for anyone to download right now. I decided to download it just to see how an action RPG like this might perform on a console. My only other ARPG experience on a console was Diablo 3 on PS3, and I absolutely hated it. Action RPGs have been around for a very long time, and typically they are played on PCs with mouses, with click-to-move and click-to-attack mechanics that tend to not lend themselves well to play with a controller. I also have a long history with this title in particular, but only based on years, not time played. I helped to back it when it was in development, throwing some cash at Grinding Gear Games in order to play it early. I liked what I saw, but at some point I got on the Diablo 3 train and didn’t really play any other ARPGs for a long time. I’ve gone back and checked on PoE a few times since then, but haven’t ever done too much. So anyway, I downloaded and played for a bit the other day, and I have to say that this actually feels like a damn fine port!

Graphically the game looks great and it runs really smooth. I’ve seen games like this with a lot of action going on, on-screen at one time, bog down on consoles just because the processing power isn’t the same as PCs that released at the time of the console’s released. So this long later, you can imagine that the PS4 is a toaster compared to even my few year old gaming PC. Whatever the case, things look and play well. The controls are pretty intuitive, and it wasn’t too bad moving with a joystick as opposed to clicking a mouse. Instead, now you’ll be spamming that basic attack button but it feels pretty much the same. The menus are probably the only frustrating part, mainly because this game uses them quite often. You’ll want to manage your inventory, you’ll want to slot abilities into your weapons, to apply different effects, crafting, and navigating that huge skill tree. It feels like the game you already know, but stays fresh if you aren’t a grizzled veteran. I’d check it out if you’d rather play with friends on your console.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition:

This one came out a few months back but I hadn’t gotten around to trying it. A typical First Person Shooter, Bulletstorm came out several years ago. I remember when it originally released it wasn’t met with the best reviews, and playing it for a bit now, I understand why. Graphically, it looks alright, and feels like its running on the Borderlands engine. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it has graphical similarities. It’s a sci-fi shooter, with some hoorah bro nonsensical story line. It’s forgettable to say the least, and not intriguing enough to even pay attention to. This was a game that I went into feeling like I wouldn’t really care, and that turned out to be the case. The gunplay is fine. There are some cool parts where things slow down and you do some action movie stunts but overall it’s a pretty “meh” experience. I’d pass. I’ve uninstalled it.

Call of Duty 4 Remastered:

This was one of the freebies for Plus last month, and was honestly one of my favorite Call of Duty games of all time. I haven’t played much but I did check out both the campaign and the multiplayer. Unlike newer Call of Duty games, this one’s multiplayer didn’t have all of the skins and extra bullshit that has been shoehorned into the series over the years. Killstreaks were simple. The maps are still pretty memorable. I remember playing this on my PC for hours on private servers with differing rulesets, and though you can’t exactly do that now,  you can experience one of the better games in the series and that’s a plus to me. Playing through part of the campaign brought back a lot of memories as did murdering other players in multiplayer. I don’t think I would have ever paid for this, because it is pretty much just a visual update to a game that was already played years ago, but for free, it was a nice diversion.

That’s it for this round up. Happy Gaming everyone!

The Darkening of Tristram

Season 16 recently began in Diablo III, and with it there are some new features as usual with these seasonal updates. I haven’t really played through a season in quite some time, despite sort of jumping into season 14 after having purchased the Necromancer DLC pack. I didn’t stick with it that time, and I haven’t yet leveled a Necromancer to 70. There was a bit of hype around this season for whatever reason, and I caught wind of many people on my social media feeds giving it another go. I decided to do so myself, and also learned of the “Darkening of Tristram” limited-time event that was running as well. I remember hearing about this event before, that a chunk of older Diablo games would be recreated in this newer engine, but having played through the special event, I now know this isn’t quite what has happened. The event is marked on your adventure mode map with a pentagram. You can go to that particular zone and will find a portal in what remains of Tristram to go back in time.

The first thing you’ll notice is the grainy textures, but the UI is also simplified and animations not quite as smooth. Essentially it’s a lower quality filter over the top of the existing engine, but it does what it sets out to do. Sounds and music from the original game are present and this gives a great nostalgic feel, if not being a little harder to follow. It’s amazing how bad old games look after a few decades, and this is already running much better than those older titles in the series. Whatever the case, you are now in the original version of Tristram, but it’s clear that everyone and everything has been decimated. Your only objective is to “Slay the Dark Lord,” and there is no real direction on how to do so.

Those of us who played the older games will remember that you would head into the labyrinth and continue on down until you finally face Diablo (a feat I never accomplished when playing the original Diablo). On the way down, there are various sub-levels that are one-offs and will contain various enemies. Some are more familiar than others, like the Butcher (pictured above), and many of the unique creatures feel like they are designed with RNG, but that’s the nature of this style of game.

I made the mistake of taking a break from my run the first time around, and was already about 11 or 12 levels deep. Fair warning, if you log out of the game while running this dungeon, you will have to start all over again when you come back. So today, I decided that I would run the dungeon again and make sure that I didn’t log out until I completed it. Thankfully, there are only 16 floors to conquer before you run into the Dark Lord, and there wasn’t any one part of it that was really a challenge. I was only running on Normal difficulty, so that’s probably why, but when you run hardcore characters like I do, you want to avoid death and I didn’t know what to expect.

The Dark Lord caught me by surprise, randomly appearing on the 16th floor, but I had a feeling it was coming up soon due to being teleported to a mini-dungeon and fighting some important sounding mini-bosses, and then being teleported back to the “same” floor that looked completely unexplored. The fight was over before I knew it, mainly because I’m running skeletons and the golem and I sit back and syphon life, so he was downed quite quickly. After killing him, what I assume is the original end game movie from Diablo plays, and that looked horrible but set up the events to follow in Diablo II. Afterwards I was able to collect my loot, earning this interesting gem:

I haven’t seen exactly what this does just yet, but I did slot it into my current helmet. There were banner unlocks and a new transmog that came along with completing this event, and I earned a few achievements along the way. As a whole, I’d say this limited event was successful and a good little time waster. I look forward to other things like this added to the game, but with Blizzard doing Blizzard things, it’s unlikely we’ll see much more before we end up with a new Diablo (or they move completely to mobile with that Immortal thing). If you haven’t checked this out and want a little nostalgia trip, the event is still running, so hop in game and check it out!

Torchlight Frontiers: Alpha Report

The weekend before last I was invited to an early Alpha test for Torchlight Frontiers. This Alpha invitation came along with an NDA, but it was only mentioned that you couldn’t post pictures or video of the game, but they didn’t say I couldn’t write about it, so here we are.

I jumped in on that Saturday and got down to business. As of now, there were only two character classes to choose from, a mage type and a melee class that is a steam punk robot of sorts. There was the first “frontier” to explore, this one dealing mostly with Goblins. Apparently each of these frontiers will feature different mobs but also different sorts of resistances you’ll need to success, and this is where their “horizontal progression” stems from. You’ll have to gear up differently for each frontier, which means you’ll have to have different gear sets for each area of the game. Or so that’s how it’s been presented thus far.

Graphically you can tell this is still a Torchlight game, though it does seem to be more of a hand drawn art style rather than a low poly one like the original two games. I liked the look of the game, the areas were interesting and there was a decent variety of mobs. There were plenty of other people running around killing things too, and this feels like the closest thing to Marvel Heroes that we’ll have now that Marvel Heroes is gone. I wasn’t a huge fan of that particular title, but I did play it a bit and it has that same feeling of playing alone but having a bunch of other people running around the same area do similar things. I imagine there will be grouping and public events too, but we’ll see.

Server stability was the only real issue I had. When I would run into others there was some lag, but it wasn’t anything too terrible. I honestly don’t know if it was the server or my Internet, so I’m not going to knock them for it.

My overall opinion of the game is that it looks solid, but I didn’t really put that much time into it. I’m sure in further Alpha tests there will be more to check out. I didn’t really care for the classes on offer and hope that there are some more interesting ones next time. I did like the idea of your own fort where you can get new vendors and things so you have a home base of sorts. This would be optimal for storing all of that gear you’ll need for different areas of the game. It would be nice to have guild functionality as well so that you could meet up with friends and do things together with your base as a starting point. I’m sure we’ll see more developments as time goes on, but for now it looks like a promising title.

Invited to the Torchlight Frontiers Alpha

Along with Isey and others, I was invited to the Torchlight Frontiers Alpha test this weekend. I must have missed the official announcement that they were going to be doing some alpha stress testing, but you can see that here. I took notice when I received the email that gave me a code to install the game:

It hasn’t been that long since I first mentioned the game, having heard about it a few months back. Since then there has been chatter about what the devs intended to do via horizontal progression and whatnot. I have been intrigued for a while, and with Blizzard blowing off Diablo IV in favor of the mobile Diablo Immortal, I have to find my ARPG fix elsewhere. I’ve been pinning my hopes on this title since then, and I’m hoping to get some time in over the weekend to check it out!

Installation requires a download of Perfect World’s “Arc” launcher, which hosts other games like Star Trek Online and Neverwinter, but was something that I didn’t have installed. It seems to have improved a bit since I last used it, but otherwise looks similar to Battle.net or Steam. I hate having a launcher installed for a single game, but it is what it is.

I’ll be sharing my impressions of the game after the weekend. There is an NDA, but it only says that you can’t post photos or video of the game, which means you’ll get a wall of text impression post, but I will share my thoughts nonetheless. Apparently my account name is built4sin82 (same as on PSN), so I assume you can add that as a friend if you want to try and play together this weekend. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll play but drop me a line if you want to try and meet up.