Monster Hunter World

As you know, I got dragged into playing MHW after a concerted harassment/peer pressure campaign by two of my best nerd friends. Now that I’ve had some time to settle in, I have some thoughts and opinions.

As someone who has absolutely no prior experience with the MH franchise, I was totally unprepared for the level of utter nonsense in this game. I’m not just talking weapon design or the grind required to progress. I am talking about adorable cat friends who wear fancy costumes and have adventures and bring back monster parts. Also you can catch and collect tiny animals from your travels who live on your carpet in your fancy church/spa of a room. Also there’s a friendly pig you can pet and dress up. Also there seems to be a proud tradition of event quests that reward ridiculous hats. Basically, for a game that comes across as nothing but boss fights and gear grind, there’s actually a wealth of fun silly side things to do. I am a fan.

Of course this is still a game about murdering giant lizards and things and stealing their bones. There is plenty of that to go around. This game has a very tight core loop. There is not a lot in the way of forced downtime activities. Yes, you can seek the silly side things discussed above, but the game never makes you do boring side jobs to progress the main plot. You’re here to kill monsters and that’s all it asks of you. If you enjoy those fights then it is fantastic. If you were looking for more variety you might have to find your own fun.

I’ve discovered that I enjoy the game most when I don’t force myself to push the story forward, and instead focus on side quests and exploration until I actually feel the need for something new. Right now I have the self-imposed goal of killing every monster I have encountered before I work on the story again. There’s no shortage of things to do if you enjoy the core mechanic of the game.

I also realized that my enjoyment went up substantially when I stopped worrying about catching up to my friends who started playing weeks ahead of me. The game is reasonable about letting us play together no matter where I am in the story, so there’s no urgency. It took me a while to accept this because in the MMO world playing with friends so often feels useless until everyone is at the endgame. Here, as long as I don’t faint too much everybody is happy and we all go home with sundry monster parts to feed into the gear machine.

So all said, I’m still quite happy to be playing Monster Hunter World with my friends, and I’ve mostly forgiven them for dragging me into the game. Now I just hope they stay interested long enough for me to catch up.


Games While I’ve Been Alive

Belghast posted a list of the most important games to him for every year of his life. I decided this would be a fun thing to do too. Little did I know how much I would agonize over some of these choices. There were a couple years where I just could not choose only one game. Conversely, there were a few years where I barely played anything worth remembering. Without further ado here is my list:

1979 Asteroids
1980 Pac-Man
1981 Frogger
1982 Pole Position
1983 Spy Hunter
1984 Tetris
1985 Super Mario Bros.,  Oregon Trail
1986 Bubble Bobble
1987 Space Quest II
1988 Super Mario Bros. 3
1989 Prince of Persia
1990 Dr. Mario
1991 Lemmings
1992 Wolfenstein 3D
1993 Myst
1994 Final Fantasy VI
1995 Descent
1996 Diablo,  Tomb Raider
1997 Final Fantasy VII
1998 Parasite Eve
1999 Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast
2000 Icewind Dale
2001 Pikmin
2002 Ratchet & Clank
2003 Beyond Good & Evil
2004 Katamari Damacy
2005 Metroid Prime Pinball
2006 Kingdom Hearts II
2007 Portal
2008 World of Warcraft: WotLK
2009 Dragon Age: Origins
2010 Plants vs. Zombies
2011 SW:TOR
2012 Diablo III
2013 Final Fantasy XIV: ARR
2014 WildStar
2015 Undertale
2016 Stardew Valley
2017 Horizon: Zero Dawn

Necromancer Set Mastery

Screenshot058There is no fancy wing reward for mastering the Necromancer set dungeons, which partly led to me ignoring these set dungeons for so long. Like all of the other classes, there are still two banners to get though, one for basic completion and one for mastery. At this point there’s also the principle of the thing. I’ve come this far, I might as well master all of the available dungeons. Plus it is my secret hope that Blizz will continue to add more classes, and eventually add another cosmetic reward for mastering everything. In any case it’s finally done, and here’s how it went:

The free set for Season 11 was Rathma’s, so that’s where I started. The two objectives were to get a total of 500 seconds of cooldown reduction on army of the dead, and to summon 100 skeletal mages. The summoning part was easy, especially with the ring that summons an extra mage every time. The cd reduction was a bit trickier. On my first attempt I didn’t get anywhere close. The second attempt saw me get the objective but run out of time trying to mop up the required kills. I finally mastered it on the third try. The “trick”, which wasn’t really a trick, was to make sure I was using army of the dead immediately when it came off cd so I didn’t waste any cd reduction. I basically got to a big room full of enemies and let my skeletons swing at them until I got the objective done, then summoned tons of mages and mopped up. I waited to summon the mages since when they’re up the damage buff means things die before they contribute much to the cd objective. Not a bad dungeon at all, and I appreciated that both objectives tied to the set, and weren’t gimmicky “don’t get hit by X” type things.

I worked on the Inarius dungeon next. The objectives also both directly tied to the set bonus: rip the bones from 100 enemies and kill 200 enemies affected by a bone armor tornado. This one was incredibly easy. I had the full set but no other specific legendaries, I just used whatever I had laying around in the season. I went in blind to the map and I got the mastery on the first try. Killing enemies affected by bone armor tornado is super easy, it will pretty much happen naturally. Ripping the bones from enemies required a bit more care, mostly because I was killing things before I could group them up. It was definitely easier than Rathma’s dungeon so if you’re having trouble with that one try Inarius’ instead.


Next up was Trag’oul’s dungeon. This one requires you to spend, and then heal, 1,000% of your life with your abilities. I basically just went at a cautious pace, alternated blood nova and devour, and beat it in one try. The layout of the dungeon has some nooks and crannies for enemies to hide in, but as long as you don’t leave stragglers you should have plenty of time.

After how easy the first three dungeons were, I was pretty nervous that I had saved the hardest for last. In retrospect I should never have worried. It was way harder for some reason for me to actually farm up the full set and bother to try this dungeon than it was to master it. The Pestilence dungeon objectives are to hit enemies with 150 empowered bone spears, and to NOT take 400k damage. The first bit is the easy part, it will pretty much happen with any build that you would want to use in this dungeon. Avoiding damage wasn’t that bad either, I just had to play a bit conservatively and not rush into the middle of swarms and elites. I mastered this dungeon on the first try, with over a minute of time to spare. Easy as bone spear pie.


Overall the Necromancer set dungeons were some of the easiest in the game. The worse of this lot was definitely Rathma’s. I one-shot all of the others, so I guess they were all equally easy. You can find my thoughts on the other classes’ dungeons in this post from September. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to finish the Necromancer, especially with how easy the last dungeon was to master. It felt a bit anticlimactic after the long journey it took to get to this point. At least now I’m officially finished with set dungeons, at least until they release a new class!


Gaming Time

Between the upcoming holidays and various real life happenings, I haven’t been immersing myself in gaming like usual. A lot more of my free time has been dedicated to various creative/crafty things instead and I feel really good about that. It’s relaxing in a different way than gaming is for me, and at the end of the day I have something more tangible to show for it. I will never consider time spent gaming as time “wasted”, but I do sometimes have to think about what I really have to show for all the hours spent.

Playing through the story of a single-player game, or questing through the main story of a MMO are easy to justify. To me that’s the equivalent of watching TV or reading a book, consuming content. Group activities like raiding are more like sports. You’re developing a skill, but also socializing with your teammates. Then there’s the repetitive, grindy stuff I often do in games. I find it hard to find an analog for that in other leisure activities. Leveling that 15th alt is a bit like binging reruns of your favorite TV show I suppose. But grinding? Whether it is gearing for raiding, chasing primal ancients in Diablo, or gaining reputation for a cosmetic reward, grinding is a lot of work and time spent for very small gains. Yet those grindy tasks are the things I gravitate toward toward when I am using gaming as an escape from daily stress.

Leisure activities, by definition, don’t actually have to be productive. Leveling through Outland for the 1,000th time is as valid as writing a novel. But societal pressures put very different values on those two tasks, and personally I get a bit more gratification from creating rather than consuming. I think I’ve got a good balance now that I’ve been doing daily creative things for a few months. Sometimes I don’t have a ton of time for both creating and consuming on a given day, and I’ll devote my time based on how much energy I have.

I’m not entirely sure what the point of all this is, except that creating things is hard work and it’s ok to consume things like games. You don’t have to be productive all the time, but it is nice to feel creative when you can.


WoW Announcement Analysis

Blizzcon has come and gone and now it is time to settle in and think about all the new things that got revealed. Time to look at the things I listed last week and see how they match up with what was announced.

The things I wanted to see:

  1. More Naga. It looks like there might be more naga? Kul Tiras seems like a likely place to run into some. But there’s not the Azshara emphasis I was hoping for with the expansion story.
  2. Better handling of professions. I haven’t heard much one way or the other about professions, so I’ll have to reserve judgement on this one.
  3. Housing/ Guild Halls. This looks like it is still a no.
  4. More Puzzles. Seems likely.

The things I really didn’t want to see:

  1. Sylvanas or Jaina as a raid boss. Based on the expansion theme I am really nervous about this one.
  2. Amped up faction BS. They completely doubled down on this. I was so disappointed it made the rest of Blizzcon way less enjoyable for me.
  3. More endless grinds. Looks like the Heart of Azeroth is the new artifact weapon, but we’ll see how endless of a grind it becomes.
  4. Removed leveling game. This is the only point in this section that I feel good about. Level scaling in brackets for the whole world seems great.

Overall I’d say that the announcement of Battle for Azeroth was a disappointment for me. Of course I’ll end up playing it, I’ve been playing WoW for way too long to think that I’d miss an expansion launch even if I think I won’t like it. The launch cinematic looked amazing, I especially loved seeing the Banshee Queen go all actual banshee. But the amped up faction tension thing is a huge turn off. I want more ways to be able to play with my friends, not more barriers. If they let you play cross faction, join cross faction guilds, etc., then I’d be so much happier. I think the Horde and Alliance going to war at this point in the WoW story is incredibly stupid, but I’d put up with it if the devs said “sure the story is one of war, but mechanically you can still play with whoever you want”. Instead they doubled down. I hate it.

The PvP on every server thing doesn’t help. Some leveling zones are notorious for people trying to draw out world PvP by shutting down quest hubs. Sure, now you can level in a broader range of zones, but you also encourage people to do dumb things to fish for world PvP. I understand why they think they need to do this, but I still don’t like it.

About the only announcement I did get excited over was the Classic server announcement. I hope that they have the resources to move that project forward quickly. At this point I’m much more interested in a trip down memory lane than moving forward with the story they’re telling now.


With BlizzCon hype in full effect and only hours left before the big show, I can’t help but get swept up in all the excitement. We’re almost certain to get an announcement of a new WoW expansion, but what will it be? I don’t have any insider knowledge, and have mixed thoughts about what might be coming. What I do have are some ideas about what I do and don’t want to see in the next expansion.

4 Things I Really Want to See in the Next Expansion:

  1. More Naga. Playable naga even. I enjoyed the naga bits in Azsuna and always love getting more Azshara lore. It seems likely that Azshara is going to keep turning up, and I’ll be happy to see more naga around when she does.
  2. Better handling of professions. The devs had their hearts in the right place with Legion. I like the idea of having some quests along the way with professions. Where Legion professions fell down was in the huge amount of RNG for getting quest drops and recipes, and with the need to run dungeons and even mythics to progress. I’d like each profession to have a mini story told in a quest chain again, but no groups required. My 10,000 alts shouldn’t need to rely on darkmoon faire to skill up to max.
  3. Meaningfully customizable player and/or guild spaces. Housing. Guild Halls. Whatever you want to call it. Garrisons were okay but not customizable at all and very isolating. Class halls are a bit nicer, they’re much more flavorful but again not customizable in any meaningful cosmetic way. Give me a space where I can show off my achievements or those of my guild!
  4. Continuation of puzzles/riddles with cosmetic rewards. I still haven’t gotten the newest “riddle” mount yet, but I like the idea of these. Even though I’d never be able to figure out the answers on my own, I enjoy looking them up, learning about how they figured everything out, and going through the in-game scavenger hunt. I hope there’s more of these to come.


4 Things That Could Sour a New Expansion for Me:

  1. Sylvanas or Jaina as a raid boss. Both of these lore figures have been showing signs that things are changing for them. Both have had treatment at the hands of the story that has been “inconsistent” to put it mildly. I personally love Sylvanas and hate Jaina as characters, but neither of them deserve the Garrosh treatment. If either of these ladies ends up as a boss fight that might be the thing that makes me check out of WoW for good. The creative team can and should do better by these characters.
  2. Amped up faction tensions. I’m proudly “FOR THE HORDE” but I’d also just as soon ditch faction boundaries so I can play with my friends. The faction conflict in Legion in Stormheim felt stale and useless to me. The world is ending, it’s time to stop the petty faction bickering and band together. An expansion that puts renewed emphasis on faction divides will be a major disappointment to me.
  3. More emphasis on endless grinds. I loved the artifact weapons in Legion, right up until concordance became a thing. Keep the idea of class- or spec-specific story quests and gear. Ditch the endless slog of endgame grinding for one more 0.01% upgrade. I get satisfaction from feeling “finished” with a character for a patch. In Legion once I saw that there was no end in sight I checked out instead of signing up for the grind.
  4. No leveling game. Every expansion it seems like people predict “this will be the one that gets rid of leveling”. No. I enjoy the leveling experience. Heck Warlords, one of the worst expansions ever in my estimation, still had a pretty decent leveling story. Leveling forces a little bit of slowdown before the rush into engame group content. It also gives the devs breathing room to tell a big story plus plenty of smaller ones. Having lots of zones and stories also gives my alts something different to do when I’m leveling 12-15 characters at the end of an expansion. A WoW without levels is a WoW I’m not very interested in at all.

I was trying to make a list of 5 and 5 but just couldn’t come up with anything else that would really make or break a new expansion for me. And I think that’s a good thing. I’m long past the point of getting super excited or super angry about anything WoW throws at me, but I do still love the game and enjoy my time there. So no matter what the news looks like from BlizzCon, I expect I’ll be gearing up to play the next installment.


Smooth Destiny 2 Launch

Destiny 2 launched on Tuesday afternoon and by most accounts it was a success. The only problem I’ve encountered is that the Clan interface seems to be broken. Other than that I’ve seen no bugs, lag, queues, or any of the other headaches that usually accompany an online game launch. Impressive!

I’m recently back from a vacation so I can’t take extra time off to play, but I still managed to get to level 20 already. The main story of the game feels exceedingly short, but this is expected. The meat of the game happens at the level cap of course. I spent so much time running around doing public events and “adventures” that I hit 20 well before I was finished with the story. That meant I got to motor through the story in one go late last night. It didn’t have much in the way of surprises but it was fine. I don’t exactly play Destiny for the compelling story anyway. It did have a couple great cutscenes and some epic battle sequences and that made me plenty happy.

Speaking of happy, the game runs great on my machine and I’m fully converted to PC controls. When I tried the beta, I used a controller since I was so accustomed to playing on the PS4. For the actual launch, I decided to give the mouse and keyboard a try and I’m extremely glad I did. I think if I didn’t have a gaming mouse with extra buttons I probably would like the controller better, since my tiny hands have trouble hitting all the keybinds quickly. However, with my Naga I had no trouble swapping weapons and using my abilities. Since the control scheme is so different I don’t have any outdated muscle memory interfering with my progress. Now I just need to get better at aiming.

Overall my opinion of D2 is that it’s a very solid successor to Destiny. My two complaints so far are that shaders are now single-use, and that you can only infuse gear of the same item type. Otherwise the game is so similar to the original that it feels almost like a PC relaunch instead of a new game. For some people that might be a bad thing but I enjoyed the heck out of Destiny and I foresee a lot of enjoyment of D2 in my future!


Finally Invisible

Last week we saw the introduction of “Appear Offline” mode in the newest beta of the Battlenet client. That news brought much rejoicing from me and from some of my more introverted friends. This is a feature that is standard in almost every possible messaging or social gaming service. I’ve been using it forever in Steam. Somehow it took Blizzard around 5 years to implement it.

When Bnet friends lists first became an option I stayed away. I’m extremely introverted, and one of the ways I recharge my internal batteries is to play games by myself. Having a long friends list full of people who might want to hang out with me can sometimes feel like a burden. I did eventually start adding people, because I didn’t want to lose touch with folks as I changed servers or factions over the years. However there are days where saying “sorry I don’t feel up to hanging out right now” feels like too much social interaction, and I often stayed away from Blizzard games rather than risk having to chat with one of my friends. It can be hard to explain to folks who don’t suffer from this personality quirk, but honestly the anxiety of maybe, possibly, having to turn someone down is sometimes enough to keep me from logging in at all. I actually have a second account for WoW and D3 for exactly this reason.

I think I need to be clear here that the people on my friends list are my friends. I do enjoy talking to them and playing games together. I’ve seen a lot of reactions on forums where people say things like “if you don’t want to talk to people they aren’t your friends and shouldn’t be on your friends list.” No! I love my friends! My close friends mostly know that I sometimes need to “turtle” and hide for a while to recharge. I don’t feel obligated to explain that to the various other old guildies I want to keep in touch with, or fun folks I ran a pug raid with, or various other folks that end up in my social network. Now I have a hassle-free way of making myself available when I’m feeling up to social interactions, and hiding when I just want to kill some demons in Diablo by myself for a little while.

When I found out about offline mode I joked that my friends will never see me in Bnet ever again. The truth is that they will probably see me less often, but when they do see me they can be sure I’ll be happy to chat with them, and in a good mood to hang out!


Where Would You Visit?

I got my inspiration this afternoon from the WoW blogosphere. Alunaria’s post asks “which place would you visit, if you could somehow transfer it from WoW to real life – and why? Or, if the world of Azeroth suddenly would change forever, … where is the one place you would go to, to see it one last time?”

WoWScrnShot_100217_160334These two questions definitely have different answers for me. The first one took a little thought. I suppose if I could get a potion of water breathing I would love to visit Vashjir. How cool would it be to meet a giant sentient sea creature? Or see all the strange glowing deep sea fish? I always quest there instead of Hyjal when I get my alts to Cata, partly because it is so different and partly because it is so quiet. Everyone loves to hate that zone so it’s always empty and peaceful. I suppose some of my fondness for it stems from the fact that I spent a ton of time there on my druid, zooming around in aquatic form and picking herbs for hours on end. So relaxing.

WoWScrnShot_100217_155308.jpgAs for where I’d go to visit one last time if WoW were closing or getting another Cataclysm? That one’s easy. Ulduar. The couple times I’ve thought I was quitting the game for good, I’ve always logged my priest out in front of Ulduar, riding her iron-bound protodrake. Even after all these years, some of my best memories of the game were made in that raid. I was learning how to be a hardcore raider, and I was accomplishing things I never knew I could do. At a time when my real life was in a very bad place, Ulduar was a perfect distraction. It also helped that the raid was gorgeous and the fights were fun as hell. Except XT. Eff that guy and his tantrums. As for a specific spot, I love Vezax’s room and the path leading down to it. I can still remember the first time I saw those amazing stained-glass windows.

Thanks for the blog inspiration Alunaria, and gratz on the real life level up!


Set Mastery Wrap-Up

Screenshot051I finally finished my goal of getting some sweet wings by mastering all of the (pre-necromancer) set dungeons in Diablo 3. When set dungeons were first announced and they previewed those wings, I knew I had to have them. Unfortunately when set dungeons actually launched I did not enjoy them at all. There’s been a set dungeon requirement in every season since they debuted in early 2016, and it has always been one of the season journey tasks I’ve dreaded. I think that completing the full season journey in season 10 gave me the confidence and drive I needed to dust off this goal and get moving on it.

Working on set dungeon mastery made me realize that I needed to adjust my outlook and playstyle drastically in order to succeed. In a strange way the set dungeons remind me of PvP in MMOs, because you are playing the game in a different way than you are used to, and because you have to make your peace with the fact that you’re going to die a lot but dying is only a temporary setback. Making it all the way through a dungeon only to realize that you never found enough big groups to finish one of your objectives feels bad, but eventually you learn to weigh your success after the first minute of the dungeon or so, and just start over if you got an unlucky spawn. Also like PvP, knowing the map ahead of time and using it to your advantage will make life far easier. I generally tried to run each dungeon blind on my first attempt, but after that I looked up a map and planned out my route.

Having the right gear and builds is a huge part of this process, but I also found that, with a few exceptions, you shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. You need your set pieces to unlock the dungeon, and there are often 1 or 2 key legendaries that really make the objectives possible. Anything after that will make your clears easier, but is probably not required. There were several times when I had looked up the gear list* for a particular build and spent hours trying to farm specific items, then finally gave up and just ran with whatever I had laying around and it worked fine.


Speaking of gear, I got very good at farming during this project. Unless you’re aiming for a set mastery conquest, I would highly suggest using non-seasonal characters. On some classes, like my witch doctor, I already had almost everything I needed in my stash, and it was just a matter of running a few rifts with her to get the last few pieces. For monk and barbarian, which I had barely leveled to 70 before and had no clue how to play, farming everything was a more daunting proposition. My method was to primarily use my demon hunter to fill up to capacity on blood shards, then swap to the other class and take my chances with Kadala. If you had a buddy willing to carry you around, farming T13 on the correct class would be optimal. I used a combination of solo greater rifts, so I could get shards quickly and level up gems, and T13 farming with random strangers so I could also pick up plenty of death’s breaths. Just like farming on a fresh seasonal character, I used Kadala for armor and upgraded rare items in the cube for weapons and jewelry. Doing it non-seasonal meant that I had plenty of mats for hellfire amulets, and staples like focus/restraint laying around which saved me a lot of time.

This was a huge project and honestly at this point I’m very glad that it is over. It was occasionally fun, and sometimes frustrating. On average it was more entertaining than I expected it to be but I’m in no hurry to go through this again. On the plus side it did force me to try out almost all of the different classes and playstyles in the game. Only the necromancer is left, and I’m curious whether I will ever bother to master those dungeons since there’s no pretty wings to get. For now I’m going to savor this accomplishment and take a much-needed break from set dungeons.


*I used a bunch of sources to help me choose gear and skills along the way, but I want to give a special shout-out to Team BRG which was the most useful, clear, and organized. Most importantly, they included maps with optimal clear paths. I could have finished my mastery without their guides, but it would have been a much more painful process.

Collected posts for each class:

Demon Hunter: Easiest – Natalya’s; Hardest – Marauder’s

Wizard: Easiest – Delsere’s; Hardest – Vyr’s

Crusader: Easiest – Invoker’s; Hardest – Akkhan’s

Witch Doctor: Easiest – Zunimassa’s; Hardest – Helltooth

Monk: Easiest – Sunwuko’s; Hardest – Inna’s

Barbarian: Easiest – Immortal King’s Call; Hardest – Wrath of the Wastes