How’s Trove Holding Up?

 

20190407115049_1.jpgI’ve been away from Trove for over a year. I have a love-hate relationship with the game. On the one hand, it hits the right buttons in my brain that makes me want to play it for hours. On the other, there’s been some shady cash shop practices and bad development choices through the years.  But it’s been a year, I’ve been back in for about 2 weeks and much has changed

For starters, Trion as a company is no longer in control or in existence after it was bought up by Gaming. Many wondered what the future would hold for their games. Unfortunately, one title, Atlas Reactor, is set to sunset in June. It’s hard to say where Trove is at right now. There was a fairly large update last year with the Geode Expansion. Geode added 2 new game modes Bomber Royale, Troves take on a battle royale, and Geode, a timed noncombat gathering activity. They’ve also done away with the old portal system for getting into adventure worlds. No longer do I have to hunt around my club world for the correct portal for the activity I want to do. Now the Trove Atlas I can access any world/ difficulty from anywhere.

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I didn’t plan on getting back into Trove. I was intrigued when one of my friends told me some random person had been promoted to our club leader. After some research, we discovered that Trion had promoted him because he was the most active person. This is a feature in case your club leader quits I guess. It’s a bit weird and Jay was not happy as he had spent years working on that club. The plan was to be active enough and hope that this particular person doesn’t log on in the next 45 days to get our leader rank back.

I ended up reminiscing the night with Jay about all the fun times we had in the game. We tried out Bomber Royale as a joke to see how bad it was and were hooked. Much like Trove itself, it’s not complicated. You can throw bombs that bounce around and explode at other players. This damages the player and destroys part of the map. There are different power-up scattered around the map that gives you your other abilities the stick bomb and the jump bomb. As time goes on the outer portions of the map disappears as a “ring” of sorts. It’s great because the maps all start out looking the same but by the final 5 or 6 people, it’s different every time.

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While I was logging in to play PVP, something I haven’t done in a long time, I decided that I might as well do some grinding. That part of Trove hasn’t changed, the game has and will always be one big grind. I find it quite relaxing and it’s mindless enough but keeps my hands occupied enough to listen to a podcast or 3.General chat is still alive, for better or for worse it’s hard to tell sometimes. I constantly see people around in all of the activities. I’ve gotten into some PVP matches in Trove quicker than in other titles. The population is enough for the game to feel full.

I do wonder about how much longer Trove will be around. There hasn’t been much news about updates in recent months. Just last weekend the servers were down for hours and when they came back up the leaderboards were broken. They stayed broken until late this week with very little communication from the developers. The same old issues are still there. Trove can be a laggy mess where you wait around for chunks of the map to load or rubberband minutes on end. It crashes, there are unexpected downtimes,  it’s not shy about asking you to spend money, and it’s a very simple game.

And yet I’m having a blast with it right now. I’m sure after a month or two I’ll move on to something else but for now, I’m quite content to grind dungeons, progress my classes, and play Bomber Royale much too late into the night.

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Going West

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I left work on Thursday ready for the 3 day weekend ahead. I left earlier than usual because the place was dead. I do IT at a school and, trust me, no one wants to deal with a broken computer the day before a break. That’s what Monday is for.

I got home and went to boot up Trove only to find that I was getting a network error when I tried to log in. Shortly after, the launcher reported that the game was offline for some emergency maintenance. My plans for the evening were put on indefinite hold. So I went hunting around on my desktop for something else to play.

I settled on World to The West. I believe this game came from a Humble Bundle Monthly and I had no idea what to expect going in. From the few screenshots on the store page, it looked like a top-down RPG of some sort. As it turns out, this game is actually a standalone follow up to Teslagrad. I’ve played Teslagrad on the PS4 thanks to PS+. I didn’t get very far but it’s a solid Metroidvania.

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World to the West turns out to be less of an RPG and more of a puzzle game with a story.  So far I’ve played as 3 characters. There’s Lumina the teslamancer who can teleport a short distance,  Knaus the miner who can dig under the terrain to avoid enemies and crawl through small spaces, and Miss Teri the mercenary who can grapple onto ledges with her scarf and, uh, mind control animals. Ya, that’s something I didn’t see coming.

The story has Lumina accidentally getting teleported away from her family after messing with her parent’s machines. She ends up in an unknown location, runs around for a bit, and then promptly falls into a hole. Cut to chapter two where we meet Knaus who is trying to convince his mining operation that they are not, in fact, on the moon. This revelation is made after he and a group of others find a tree growing underground. After explaining this to the higher-ups he’s exiled to wanter the caves alone. Cut to chapter three and we meet Miss Teri. A daring mercenary hired to retrieve an ancient relic from a cave. Shortly after venturing out from the town Teri meets Knaus at a totem with 4 faces on it, two of which are theirs. At this point Knaus if following Teri and this is where the real heart of the game lies.

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There are totems throughout the world that serve as both save points and fast travel points. The catch is each character has to touch the totem before they can use it to fast travel. So if Teri reaches a totem using her special abilities then you have to find a way for Knaus to reach that totem using his abilities in order for him to use the fast travel. I like this concept as it makes you really pay attention to the environment.

I ended up switching between characters a lot. Sometimes there’s a key that one character can’t reach so I would have to switch to the other character, run them back o where I was and pick up the key for the other character to use.

Here’s what typically happens to me with puzzle games. I really enjoy the beginning where the game teaches you all the mechanics of the game.  I start to feel confident leveraging all the different parts to complete the puzzles, progressing at a good clip. And then the game throws a curveball where I’m stuck. Then I put it down and never come back.

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I’ve been attempting to get better at not quitting when games get complicated. I don’t think I’m far enough into World to the West to hit a major head-scratching challenge. I have run into a couple of areas where I ran around for a few minutes trying to figure out how to progress. This almost always came down to me missing something like a small side path or a key.

This game has great music. I don’t often pay attention to music in games but, when it’s good, it sticks out. Each area seems to have its own track. I find myself trying to complete a difficult area just so I can hear the next song.

I’m looking forward to playing more. The writing is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I want to see where this story goes and the core gameplay is enjoyable. Maybe next time I play it won’t be because the other game I want to play is down for emergency maintenance.

 

My 2019 So Far

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In February, we decided to put the brakes on our Twitch channel indefinitely. If you didn’t know about our Twitch channel, WelpsquadTV, it’s because I didn’t write much about it. We were on Twitch for about 2 years and somewhere along the way, I think we forgot streaming was supposed to be fun and not something we had to do. We were by no means a large channel,  but we had a decent little community of regulars, we made a little money, and we put in a ton of hours Now, it was a 4 man channel, but Jay and I were putting in 4 or 5 multiple hour streams a week, that time adds up.

Stopping wasn’t an easy decision considering how long we’d been doing it but a necessary one. No one was having fun anymore and the time commitment just wasn’t fitting into our lives anymore. Plus, I always felt that blogging was much more of my style than streaming ever was.

For most of  February, I didn’t touch Twitch and had very little interest in games in general. Then Anthem came out. I subbed up to Origin Premier to try it out, flew around and did story missions for 8-10 hours and didn’t go back.

I decided to give Apex Legends a try towards the end of  February and I’ve found surprisingly engaging. It’s been a blast with friends and has quickly become the defacto: “I don’t know what I want to play tonight, let’s see who’s on Apex” I haven’t had this much fun in a multiplayer FPS since Modern Warfare in high school, in fact, I think that’s the last time I enjoyed a multiplayer FPS.  It helps that I have enough people to play it with when I want to play because going in alone is an exercise in frustration.

I started up Black Desert in early March after a recommendation from a co-worker. I had bought the game 2 years ago and never got into it. I have a bad habit of playing something until it gets complicated and then quitting and Black Desert starts off complicated and continues to add to the complexity. The first time around I just couldn’t wrap my head around the combat. This time I decided to power through and see how I liked it. It helped that my co-worker kept telling me it was the “greatest single player game of all time”. And you know what? He’s not wrong. Once I got the hang of the combat and some of the systems the game really opened up and has more to offer than grind to the end to PVP.

Most recently I’ve been playing Trove. I always seem to come back to Trove, especially when I’m looking for a progression fix. It’s been about a year since I last logged in, long before Trion was acquired by Gamingo.  My old max level  Stellar gear is useless but was replaced with a much easier to obtain Crystal gear. There are new gem slots so that your Power Rank numbers can go up even higher. And 2 new modes have been added since I last played: Geode, a non-combat gathering activity, and Bomber Royale. I’ll have to write a whole post on Bomber royale, it’s possibly the most fun I’ve ever had in Trove and probably the only Battle Royale game I will ever win on my own.

Yes, this is yet another one of my many posts where I say I miss blogging and I miss writing and yes, it probably won’t be my last. But I always come back here and I’ve been away from my little space on the internet for far too long.

 

 

 

2 Frying Pans and a Horse.

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I got a text earlier this week from Greg that said “Hey remember Fallen Earth? I just downloaded it We should play.” Two things flashed through my mind, that game is still running? and isn’t that the game with the giant crafting system?

Well, it turns out Fallen Earth is more than just still around, it was recently bought by another developer and there’s been some talk about updating it. Like really updating it, rebuilding it even. So far Little Orbit has resurrected some holiday events and has plans to move the game to a new engine. You can check out their State of the Game post here  So I said why not I’ll download it, run around in it for a little bit and if nothing else it will give me something to blog about again.

By the end of the tutorial, you’re a clone armed to the teeth and thrown into a post-apocalypse world given a horse and told you’re on your own. I forgot how weird this game was and after a couple hours playing it, I thought it wasn’t for me. The stat/skill system in the game is not very intuitive and not well explained in the tutorial. I’m level 10 and I’m still not sure if how bad I’ve messed up my character already. You get AP to spend to level up skills or stats. Skills have a maximum value that can be raised by putting points into stats. But there’s a limited amount of points and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to focus on 1 or 2 skills to max out or if I can spread out a little.

This game is really locked down for free to play players. Like almost unplayable. Experience is decreased, harvesting speed is decreased, there’s a currency cap, and the biggest issue is you only get one crafting slot. You can only craft one item at a time and most items take anywhere from 5-10 minutes to craft. It makes the experience

But Greg insisted we play a little more, so I did. I also figured that if I was going to play this game I’d see what the cash shop was like. Turns out there are some subscription tiers that up crafting slots, experience gain, and harvesting speed and give you some other perks. For $4.99 it wasn’t going to break the bank. And suddenly the game became a lot more tolerable.

After playing a little longer some of the systems are starting to click. Crafting is fun, there’s no loot drops that I’ve seen so far, only materials for you to craft your own stuff. I’ve been giving myself little goals in the crafting so I can make the next piece of gear or my next weapon to go to the next zone. Let me tell you, those 20 extra crafting slots from the Premium subscription really help with crafting. I can set filters on the crafting list to only show recipes that I have the materials to craft and that will increase my crafting skill. At the end of a play session I just go through the list, fill up my crafting slots and when I come back I’ve leveled my crafts up a few points.

I decided to be different and go for the melee combat over the guns. I’m still trying to figure out how armor works, I die so often when I accidentally aggro tow or more mobs. But this game has some unique and weird melee weapons that I just couldn’t pass up. For a good 2 or 3 levels I was touting 2 frying pans. They made a fantastic clunking sound every time I hit something. They have since been replaced by the meat hooks. I’ve also crafted a 2X4 as my two-handed weapon. No one wants to fight the guy who only carries a giant slab of wood around. But if there’s a wardrobe slot for weapons, I’m definitely using the frying pans.

 

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The weapon descriptions are fantastic

 

So Fallen Earth is growing on me. I like the setting and the crafting feels meaningful at the moment. The low player base was kind of off-putting at first. Sometimes you can count by hand the number of players in the world. But the chat is surprisingly active and I have run into more low-level players questing than I would have thought. I can’t say that Fallen Earth will become one of my main games but I’m really interested in seeing what Little Orbit can do with it.

 

October 2018 Gaming Goals

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

It’s October! Haloween, horror movies, haunted houses, pumpkin patches, and hayrides. I love this time of year it’s the beginning of the months of holidays and fair weather before it’s cold and miserable. Especially in Ohio where we won’t see warm weather and clear roads until May.

So let’s take a look back at September’s goals. I know I probably sound like a broken record but I haven’t had that much time for gaming lately. I lost interest in gaming for a couple weeks in September and ended up reading a fair bit more than I have been. It was a welcome change. October will likely be the same so I’m keeping my goals short this month.

  • Complete Guild Wars 2 Living Story Season 2 and start Heart of Thornes. I wasn’t expecting the Living World to have so much content. I’m still making my way through it and I’m a little over halfway through I’m starting to feel like Guild Wars 2 is a great game to drop in and out of every once and a while when the mood strikes but I think I’ve had my fill for the time being.
  • Beat at least one game from my backlog.  I beat Hiveswap Act 1 and really enjoyed it. I’ll keep an eye out for Act 2 but I don’t expect it anytime soon.
  • FIgure out a writing schedule. Still a work in progress.
  • Finish a book. I actually finished 2 this month. The first one was The Regulators by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) and the second was Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. Maybe one of these days I’ll write some book reviews.

October Goals

  • Finish another game from my backlog.  Sure one game a month doesn’t do much for chipping things away at things but it gets me in the mindset to play a single player game once in a while.
  • FInish another book. I get these intense bouts of wanting to read and lately, I’ve been wanting to read some fantasy, a genre I haven’t read in at least a year.

Returning to Summoner’s Rift

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Wow, I underestimated how busy this month would be. Where the heck did it all go? Me and my fiance were doing some last minute wedding things before the big day next month and suddenly it’s the 23rd of September?!

I haven’t played anything most of the month partly because of a busy schedule and partly because I just wasn’t feeling it. Every now and then I’ll end up in a gaming rut and just don’t want to play anything for a week or two. Sometimes I just need something new whether it’s reading a book or watching TV. But I’m back to my regular gaming schedule now.

Actually, last week took an unexpected turn. One of my friends asked if I wanted to come over a play League of Legends. Feeling a little nostalgic I said sure. I used to be really into League of Legends in college right when the game was at its peak. My whole dorm floor played and we always played with and against each other. It was awesome. But after college, it just wasn’t the same playing alone so I drifted away from the game for the past few years. The last time I played, Braum had just come out. Now there are almost 2 dozen new champions I’ve never heard of.

We ended up playing 10 matches. We both hadn’t played in a while and made new accounts so we wouldn’t be placed out of our skill level starting out.  We won some, we lost some but it was a great time.  I don’t usually like PVP, I get in my own head too much about playing against other humans but playing with friends seems to take the pressure off. I still don’t think I’ll be playing much by myself. The community seems to be just as friendly as when I left it, which is to say not friendly at all. I found it amusing that Riot added voice chat. I guess when you get tired of being harassed in text chat you can take a break by getting yelled at over voice chat.

With a renewed interest in League of Legends, my friend also reminded me that LCS was a thing. I’ve always liked watching the League of Legends Championship series more than playing it. But every year I forget that it exists until the season is basically over. The same has happened this year, except I caught it right around the summer finals and right before the World tournament. I’m still surprised how good the production value is and I understand just enough about the game for pro play to be interesting. I kind of took a deep dive into the whole thing recently, listening to as many podcasts as I could find and watching the Gauntlet series to determine the 3rd team in North America to go to Worlds.

I do this a lot though. I find something super interesting and want to learn all about it and then after a point I lose all interest. This kind of feels like one of those things but I’m having fun learning about it all the same.

 

 

Backlogged: Hiveswap Act 1

In an effort to get back into playing games I already own I fired up How Long to Beat Steam. I usually use this when I don’t know what I want to play and sort by the time to beat the main storyline. This is how I sort my Steam Games on Deck sidebar and I haven’t updated it in a very long time.

This game was next on the list with a playtime of only 2 hours. This cam as a surprise to me, I thought I had avoided the cliche of a PC gamer who didn’t know all of their steam games, but I have no idea where I got this from. My best guess is from Humble Monthly as this isn’t the kind of game I would usually choose to buy.

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Hiveswap is kind of a big deal if you look at its history. In 2012, a Kickstarter was put up by Andrew Hussie to make a video game based off is webcomic Homestuck. The Kickstarter raised $700,000 dollars in just under 32 hours and raised $2.4 million dollars overall. It became the third highest grossing video game in Kickstarter history at the time. The game was supposed to be released in 2014 after starting development in 2013 but arrived for purchase 3 years later in September 2017. It went through a number of iteration, starting as a 3D game and eventually scaling back into a 2D point and click adventure game.

Before playing this game I had no knowledge of either the Kickstarter story or the Homestuck webcomic. I vaguely remember reading something on Reddit about it when it was released but other than that it hadn’t crossed my radar. From the perspective of going in blind, it was a good game, a little short without much challenge.

The game bills itself as a tribute to 90’s adventure games without any of the frustration.I can agree with that, it pretty much leads you by the nose to what you need to do next to progress in the story. There’s hardly anything challenging about Hiveswap, it plays like an interactive webcomic. Luckily the art, music, and writing really make up for the simplified gameplay.

Hiveswap starts off with two kids playing with their dog in the backyard when monsters appear in the yard. The kids are separated as they are chased around by monsters and Joey Claire ends up being chased into her room. Her brother Jude is stuck in the tree house and one of the first things you’re tasked with doing is finding batteries for your walkie-talkie to talk to Jude. The first half of the game revolves around Joey trying to get to the attic because her brother is convinced is the safest place in the house.

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Hiveswap takes place in 1994 and as a result, every room in Joey’s house is chalk full of 90’s childhood nostalgia. Including but not limited to a Light Brite, street sharks, and pogs. The art is fantastic and there is so much stuff crammed into each of the areas. There’s a lot of interactable objects in each scene, most of them don’t do much besides give some funny flavor text.

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In the second half, Joey finds a mysterious device in the attic that is activated by a family heirloom. Suddenly, she is ported into a nightmarish sci-fi world in the middle of a revolution. Oh, and it’s inhabited by troll people.  It turns out Joey has been swapped with Dammek, the child leader of the revolution in Alternia. It’s more of the same gameplay as the first half with a funky sci-fi backdrop. Presumably, this is where the rest of the story will take place in the later acts.

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According to the wiki, there are suppose to be 4 acts of Hiveswap and the second game following Dammek called Hauntswitch. I’m not a fan of episodic games because I don’t like waiting for more story. I’d rather have a full experience than one broken up into pieces. The story of Hiveswap isn’t anything new but I like the characters enough to want to know what will happen next. Unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge exactly when the next act will be released if ever. The original release was supposed to be Spring 2018, but spring has come and gone without much talk of a new release date. Meanwhile, the studio has pushed out 10 volumes of a Hiveswap visual novel. Where that 2.4 million went is unclear. The game has high-quality art and music but 2.4 million for 2 point and click games seems a bit steep.