Who Knew Exile Could be so Fun?

Path of Exist Title

Now, with a week of experience under my belt, I can safely say that Path of Exile has swiftly become one of my current favorite games outside of the Fighting genre. What I initially took to be a Diablo clone and nothing more has swiftly proven that it can stand on its own within a genre that it certainly didn’t create, and could even prove to bolster that genre in the coming months, or even years if Grinding Gear Games plays their cards right.

Beheading hordes of undead and unraveling thousands of yards of demonic ribbon is inherently fun, but Path of Exile offers more than hour upon glorious hour of mindless slaughter through it’s incredibly deep character customization system–the depth of which can only be matched by the now decade-old Diablo 2. Now, I’m not going to rag on Diablo 3 for lacking character build customization, because it does have a lot to offer, but what it offers is very modern and, well, “softcore,” when compared to PoE. PoE takes a step away from modern gaming norms of easy respeccing, quick fixes for bad decisions and clear-cut, obvious paths of progression and forces players to–at least attempt to–map out a build for a character before making it. It doesn’t have to be anything complex: for example, I wanted to play a Ranger based around the idea of a high mobility archer (cliche, but a simple place to begin). So I took to the passive skill tree builder with this idea in mind and set out a rough path, read a couple of guides on the official forums, tweaked my build to suit what I had read and then I got started. Thus far, I have taken skill nodes that involved bow damage increases, accuracy increases, critical hit chance modification and projectile speed modification, as well as evasion nodes for defense. It’s not a perfect build by any means, but I’m having a great time launching volleys of arrows at anything that wriggles toward me from the darkness.

Demon Ribbons

It’s easier to shoot these things with arrows than you might think.

Character build planning like this appeals to the mathy side of me–friends and family might note that I inherently hate math, but, for some reason, if the math involves betters my ability to fell swarms of demons with some sort of magic, it’s way more appealing. Who could have guessed? Theorycrafting has been a favorite activity of mine since the days of Dungeons and Dragons, where I would map out an entire character up until max level (and sometimes beyond, just for kicks) after one evening of play. These sort of things excite me. I have applied this side of my brain to MMOs as well: the Burning Crusade era of World of Warcraft stands out in my mind because that’s when I discovered the website Elitist Jerks and found out that I’m not entirely crazy for desiring to build the perfect character (maybe on a little bit).

If you’d rather just hop right in and get to playing, as opposed to poring over text to find the best build for you, the official forums offer an insane amount of builds that have become popular since release, as well as archives of builds that have fallen from popularity due to changes in the game’s mechanics. To give one such build a try, just for kicks, I picked (mostly at random, but sort of based on this picture) a Shadow that revolves around heavy evasion/mana shield (standard, I know) and uses a single claw weapon and a shield for forcing its way through the armies of of the undead. For new players, I’d recommend trying an established build like this one before moving on to trying one of your own. Chances are, through playing the game with a build that works you’ll learn why such a build works and will, in turn, learn what makes a build truly good within this engine.

Current Shadow Build

My current main build (in progress), based on Perz’ reave Shadow

Once build choices like these are made, they do become, more or less, “locked in.” Builds can be changed through Orbs of Regret, but when a full build at max level contains 120 points which would need to be refunded in order to completely start over, it’s quite a bit more efficient to just remake a new character and try again.  To give an idea of how rare Orbs of Regret are, in a playthrough of the game on normal difficulty, I came across two of them. This can be offputting to new players, but if you’re on the fence about playing PoE simply because of the system’s lack of respec ability, I encourage you to give a popular build a shot. If you like Action RPGs, especially with a touch of different flair than Diablo 3, I can only imagine you’ll love PoE.

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Red Focus, Ultra Combo Doubles and Unblockables

How Do I Ryu

In an event more exciting than anything I could have recorded and put together myself for today’s post, Capcom has announced two new mechanics being added to Ultra Street Fighter 4: red focus and ultra combo doubles. Ultra combo doubles (I hope this is a working name for the mechanic) currently allow players to select both ultras instead of just one at the cost of reduced ultra damage from both of them. I can’t honestly see myself using this with Ibuki, because both of her ultras have incredibly similar applications and typically require super jump cancel setups in order to use effectively. Sure, there are some situations where ultra 2 can punish (Honda’s LK headbutt, for example) that ultra 1 wouldn’t be able to punish, but I’d still just take ultra 2 in that matchup and not worry about it. Of course, having a command grab ultra in my back pocket all the time could produce some interesting mind games that I don’t normally have at my disposal, since I almost always pick ultra 2. This could encourage me to give ultra 1 a shot without having to break from my old habits.

Some characters, like Zangief and Akuma, stand to gain a whole lot more from this mechanic, though. Zangief always being able to protect the Russian skies in addition to having his ultra 1 gives him an incredible grounded threat as well as the best anti-air in the game instead of making him pick between the two. Akuma’s situation is similar: Raging Demon doesn’t really have a lot of applications,  but when it does apply, he’ll always have it ready to unleash. Because of this, I have initial concerns with just how much damage reduction these ultras will see and fear that Akuma may become even more solidified in the top tier because of this.

Red focus, on the other hand, will bring a lot of new options to the table for all characters. Obviously, it isn’t currently balanced the way it will be in the final release, but at the moment, it can absorb several hits (the video footage shows as many as three hits; there is also a screenshot of Makoto possibly eating all of Ryu’s super with a single red focus). Armor breaks still break it and so do throws, but as it stands, it looks as though mult-hit, non armor breaking moves (machine gun blows, hundred hand slap, lightning legs) will be completely absorbed and allow for easy retaliation. I already play a focus-heavy game and have been looking into new ways to spend my meter since I’m trying not to waste so much on midscreen EX tsumujis, so this is a very welcome addition to the game.

And to top off the great news, Combofiend claims that unblockables have been successfully removed from the game. This comes as a bit of a shock, because it didn’t seem possible. I was under the impression that unblockables emerged because of the way 3D models work in a 2D setting; it’s a little buggy, and it seemed like something that would just always exist. It still may in one form or another, but Combofiend encourages players at future location tests to come and try to use whatever setups they have to “break the game,” so that they can eliminate as many unblockables as possible, which further proves Capcom’s dedication to making Ultra Street Fighter 4 the best Street Fighter title yet.

Also, last night I recorded a huge amount (a few hours) of footage with Breedo/Josh/RaspingBike (whatever you want to call him) over a few several beers. We both did “commentary” and talked about completely unrelated things while I fought opponents online and while we fought each other. I’m trying a method of recording multiple audio inputs, so we both had a mic, but syncing the audio tracks could be quite the difficult task. I’ve got a lot of editing ahead of me, but I have a feeling this may be my most entertaining video yet. Look for it in the coming weeks (soon if I can figure out how to sync the tracks, later if I can’t).

Path of Exile Beta Ends Tomorrow

Path of Exist Title

Tomorrow, Grinding Gear Games‘ Path of Exile leaves open beta and switches over into its full free-to-play mode. I had the pleasure of getting involved with the game at a much earlier stage of development a little over a year ago. It’s a lot of fun, but the timing of the closed beta to which I was invited overlapped very poorly with the retail release of Diablo 3, a title which I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I couldn’t justify spending time in Path of Exile‘s beta when I could be slashing down hordes of undead in a game that had actually made it all the way through the development cycle (though at times it still feels questionable whether or not that’s the case; looking at you, Jay Wilson). Now, on the other side of Diablo 3, I can take the time to fully appreciate Path of Exile for what it is: a hardcore-oriented take on the isometric ARPG genre.

Path of Exile can be best described as an Action RPG that’s more Diablo 2 than Diablo 2. The inventory is clunky by modern standards–each item occupies an incredibly large amount of space–so you have to really pick and choose what to pick up; the currency works like an in-depth barter system, even when selling and trading with NPC merchants (there is no gold); the passive skill tree–which mimics the skill tree in Final Fantasy X–is positively massive and honestly a little daunting; respeccing isn’t as easy as it is in most modern games and the system in place doesn’t look to be changing at any point in the future. The developers wanted to create a game where, if you felt the need to try a different build of your character, you’d need to reroll the character entirely. Small changes can be made if you just end up not liking a recent decision in your build, but a sweeping overhaul is time consuming to the point that you’re better off just making another character and trying again. This adds to the game’s replay ability in a very old-school manner: each time you want to try something different, even within the same class, you’ll need to start back at the beginning.

It’s gritty, it’s gross. The atmosphere is bleak; monsters limp and writhe forth from shadows and do their best to cut you down where you stand. It’s a whole lot of fun. Fans of the genre would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t check it out.

Weekly Vortex 13: Ibuki Progress Report

Ibuki KO

Since It’s going to take a bit of farming to move forward in Dark Souls and since my schedule has been so tight this week, I decided to throw up a progress video featuring some Ibuki ranked matches. Dropped combos aside (check out the Viper match, it’s brutal), I feel like things went incredibly well. I positively abuse my opponents with command run shenanigans if they prove not to know how to deal with them. I fight four vastly different opponents: Zangief, Viper, Guile and Yang, two of which I’m not entirely certain how to fight to begin with. I opted for the “brute force” method and tried my best not to let them have time to think and begin mixups on me. It went fairly well.

Check back next week to see me (hopefully) kill Queelag and move on into Sen’s Fortress!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

GW2 Title

Today’s patch rebalanced a great deal of traits and abilities for all classes in an effort to make support builds more viable. Quality of life changes were made as well, including my personal favorite: an icon that tells which conditions are hitting when their numbers come rolling off of the heads of enemies. Most importantly, though, Mad King Thorn has made a triumphant return with his son, Bloody Prince Edrick. The lore goes that Edrick brought shame to his family, so they decided to punish him by locking him in a coffin and stuffing his mouth full of candy corn–totally reasonable.

And it wouldn’t be Halloween without the return of the most frustrating and awesome jumping puzzle that Guild Wars 2 has ever seen: The Mad King’s Clocktower. I never actually completed it last year, but I intend to this time around. With a full year of GW2 platforming under my belt, perhaps I’ll have a better chance at making it to the top and claiming the King’s new reward. I’ve got plenty of time to try, too, because the festivities will run for the next four weeks!

Weekly Vortex: I’m Going to Die Edition Episode 3

Dark Souls Title

This week’s video didn’t end up being quite as long as last week’s. There’s only one boss fight and I ended up speed running through Blight Town (made the area a lot more palatable), which ended up making the video clock in at just under ten minutes. This week I fight the Gaping Dragon, which is probably the most boring encounter in the game because he doesn’t really do anything. He flies sometimes, he waves his little arms around sometimes, he whips his tail at you sometimes and after the halfway point, he falls into vomiting fits sometimes; mostly, he just runs into the wall for hours on end as you slap away at his hindquarters. Sounds like me on a typical Saturday afternoon.

The next boss, Quelaag, didn’t stand out in my mind as a particularly difficult encounter. She took a few attempts my first time through–which was to be expected–but this time around she can kill me by looking at me crossways. The importance of a fully-upgraded weapon from this point on has become incredibly clear, as surviving hits from bosses no longer seems like a possible strategy. Luckily, the area around Quelaag’s domain houses all sorts of mobs that drop green titanite shards, so once I off her, I’ll be able to lightning enchant my axe for future encounters. My favorite area in the game looms just on the horizon, too. After I ring the second bell, I’ll be getting into the trap-laden Sen’s Fortress. I look forward to doing a super cut of all my deaths in there, because it’s not going to be pretty.

See you next week!

Terraria 1.2 Update Vastly Expands an Already Huge Title

Terraria Title

Before I can talk about how great the patch has proven so far, I need to gush for a minute. Dudes, Terraria is one of the best games out there. It seamlessly combines RPG, platforming and sandbox elements, adds in just enough crafting to make things interesting and effectively lets players do whatever they want in completely randomized worlds. All of this combines to make Terraria one of the most replayable games ever created. Sick of the world you’re playing in? Make a new one. It’s a clean slate; a pristine, untouched, digital wilderness for you to explore and conquer. The first time that I sat down and played Terraria, it was about midnight. I thought, “Hey, I’ll get a feel for this and play some more tomorrow night.”

Nope.

At some point after throwing together our first refuge from the harsh outside world, Breedo and I entered a state of gaming Zen–something that I can’t say I’ve done with many games. By day, we uprooted trees, flattened out the surrounding land and began planting crops of blinkweed and daybloom for potion harvesting; by night we locked our doors tight to keep the swarms of surfacing undead from ripping us apart and expanded our in-house mining excavation. We geared up through the game’s excellent crafting system, then went our separate ways in the world to explore on our own, each building a new refuge of our own. Hours passed with neither of us saying a word or even acknowledging the other. We just kept swinging our picks into pixels, removing raw elements from the earth and combining them to create new, better things.

As the sun split through the blinds, I realized just how much time had passed since we began our journey that was supposed to be “just for a little bit.”

Version 1.2 adds more variety to every aspect of the game: new biomes, new  enemies, new graphics for existing enemies, new bosses, a larger inventory, the addition of a mini map, randomized ore types (I ended up making a suit of lead armor because Iron didn’t spawn in my new world), weather, over a thousand new items. Any aspect of the game that felt just a bit lacking–and a lot of aspects of the game that felt amazingly well fleshed-out–before the patch has seen a complete revamp, or the addition of enough new stuff to keep Terraria players busy for several more months. My personal favorite addition to the game is the ability for a world to spawn with tree house-like structures, which provide a really swell base for a fortress!

Terraria Tree House

The patch isn’t the only good news, though. Last week, RockPaperShotgun interviewed Terraria creator Andrew Spinks about the future of the franchise. During the interview, Spinks revealed that a sequel to the game is currently in the works and promises to have “infinite worlds. You can travel anywhere.” Spinks went on to say that while a sequel is being made, he still has plans to finish the current title’s end-game progression through the addition of a final boss and says that “I also have some ideas for a Halloween update I’d like to do too. I think people will get a kick out of that. So there might be a few more updates, maybe three or four months out.”

Check out the full interview here, look at the full patch notes here and a list of potential future content additions here!