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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Borderlands 3 Review: Problematic Fav

There's a an obvious tell bad comedians have when trying to compensate for material that they either haven't thought through enough or don't even understand. They talk too loud and hit the punchline too hard. The vast majority of those guys wind up on morning commute radio. This is the tenor of the game and it's an albatross that hangs heavy over nearly every minute of it. It's not the worst written game I've ever played, that crown belongs to the ultimate flavor experience. But it has fallen hard since Bl2 and the prequel.

Borderlands 2, to me at least, was written by folks with a decent sense of humor. I love that game to death and it's with a heavy heart I condemn the entire crew of BL3 to comedy jail. Because they just don't get it and their desperation is exhausting. If you don't get the joke the first time they will beat you over the head with it again and again. I will totally understand people who play the first couple hours and walk away for good. That's a shame.

To be faiiiiiiiir, there are some rock solid side quests out there. Childhood's End in particular.

That's a shame because mechanically and visually this is everything I wanted and more. The last week has flown by in a glorious blur of gun fire and loot'splosions. The shooting has never been tighter. The weapons have never been more useful and varied. The skill trees have never been more clear and immediately impactful. This is Borderlands perfected and I god damn love it. If you never got on the Borderlands train in the past this definitely won't change your mind. What this game does best is a laundry list of tiny tweaks and improvements that slowly, but inevitably, bowled me over.

Your class mods now share the icons of the skills they affect so you don't have to remember all their  convoluted names  The map lets you know when a quest icon is above or below you by making them obviously bigger or smaller. Like, when you're right under a marker it will take up a third of the mini map. It's great. You can fast travel at any time to any FT station or to your vehicle which, on pc at least, is near instantaneous.

There's more I want to say about it's magnificent end game grind, but you should find that out on your own. The single best improvement to me is the loosening of the loot drop purse strings. In Borderlands 1 through the pre-sequel you would go hours without seeing anything purple and nearly entire campaigns without seeing anything legendary. It was an insultingly brutal grind meant, I think, to encourage co op play. What happened instead was that people cheated like hell. Strangers would vomit waterfalls of legendaries at you just so you could keep up with them. So I learned to cheat too. The loot tables for 3 are quite a bit looser than even I ever wanted them to be and it works. It works because you need to read closer to what weapons you actually like rather than the color. There may be blue sniper rifles more suited to your needs than gold smgs and it never stops being fun to experiment. Mostly because there are so many GD gunz.

A rifle most dashing.

That assault rifle may not look like much from it's bare stats but if I never gave it a spin I wouldn't have discovered it's cryogenic rocket alt-fire. Being able to switch on the fly between 2 different elements on a maliwan pistol was a godsend. Flipping a sniper barrel and turning it into a shotgun gave me so many ideas I cackled out loud. A revolver with homing bullets that lets you see invisible loot crates in it's scope was the only mission based weapon I've ever been sad to see whisked from my backpack. I haven't stopped being surprised for 30 hours and I probably won't for a year or 2.

And to finally throw the writers a bone, they made a damn good campaign. The story beats work, a handful of new characters hit (frikkin' loved Clay), the base idea behind most of the levels are fantastic. I also appreciated how the endgame discussions on how to save the universe were between 3 women. If you decided to play as Amara or Moze, it would be between 4 women. That was pretty neat. I'm not happy the entire ending of the pre-sequel was retconed out of existence but I did like fighting my favorite vault hunter to the death. I always thought she'd make a hell of a boss and I love being right.

All that and bunch of other showstopping fights save Bl3 from it's obvious shortcomings. But Anthony Burch should have still been there, David Eddings should still be claptrap, and Randy Pitchford should have stepped down. Pitchford is a pox on an otherwise talented studio. Eddings did damn good work on clappy for 7 years, for free apparently, and was let go when he wanted actor's scale. His replacement is insultingly sub par. Burch was a fun writer who gave the series it's best villain and if his sister Ashley's vanishingly small cameo as Tina is any indication; the parting was not amicable.What kind of self destructive jerk is responsible? The same genius who picks a legal fight with his own accountant.

I love this game but it cut off it's nose to spite it's face in the service of one man's ego. That's a tragedy and it infuriates me to think about what kind of good work we lost because of it. If you love this series, you're gonna get your money's worth, lord knows I'll be playing this sucker well into 2021. The galaxy map is suspiciously empty and I look forward to what this team comes up with even if they don't tighten up the dialogue. But seriously... they need to.

Never met a photo mode I didn't like.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Fix your Borderlands 3 framerate problems with this one weird trick.

This one time on Eden-6...

That title started out as a click bait joke but I think it may be, in fact, click bait. Either way, a frick ton of PC players are having framerate issues with a game that reeeeeeeally shouldn't have any. When you knock a game down to PS3 fidelity and you still can't get through a firefight without any chugging, it's not you, it's the code. But I fixed it. It wasn't because of nvidia tweaks, it wasn't because I turned off core 0, or any of the other of the arcane hoops message boards have you jump through. Though ending the Epic client did help a fair bit... curious, that.

I activated directX 12 and waited 12 minutes for the damn thing to boot up.

See I like most people assumed after 10 minutes that dx12 just didn't work. It does! But it's in beta, covered in warning signs, and yes it's the same wait to get back in every time. BUT IT WORKS. Buttery smooth 60 fps with high settings. That's all I wanted and I can finally look down a scope without my target escaping through dropped frames. That was driving me absolutely apesh*t.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

After 15 years in hell, Terry Pratchett's The Watch, is finally getting casted.

Hi! How are you? I've drifted away from the blog pretty consistently for a year now and I'm sorry. I have no explanations, only excuses. I thought I'd make a fresh start with some good news. For the first time since his death we're getting another stab at the adaptation of Pratchett's best work: The Watch series. We've gotten the odd BBC film here and there (none of which I'm particularly fond of) Going Postal was actually not terrible and it was even casted pretty brilliantly in places. Ingrid Berdal was a damn good Sgt. Angua and they need to give Charles Dance whatever he wants to be the Patrician again.

But out of all the films they've never dared give Samuel Vimes the disservice of a one off cameo. He's the most lovably sardonic character of one of the most lovably sardonic writers who ever lived. Now he'll finally have a face. Richard Dormer's face. Or the guy with 9 lives from Game of Thrones. He had a flaming sword? You remember. This is not a bad plan and I'm on my knees praying this is, in return, not a bad show. I still believe Disworld needs to be a Groening level animated series to really click but there's no reason it can't get to Dr. Who levels of recognition. Right? Anywho, here's the rest of the cast so far.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lodge 49 Season 1 Review: Shell Game of the Gods

It takes talent to make a brutally honest point without talking down to anyone. Lodge 49 is like a low level LSD trip at your own intervention. I can't remember anything in print or film skewering my life choices as deftly as this. The kicker is it does all that while never being a total downer. It's a tight, intense, hug of a show. But you gotta jump in with both feet and roll with it.

The death of his father and the demise of the pool shop they ran together puts Dudley in a state of denial. His sister isn't any better off emotionally what with her hooters-esque waitress job and her dad's crushing debt. This sounds like it should be either boring or depressing but there's just something about the characterization and the way every scene flows that keeps you hooked. Plus once Dud stumbles into the lodge The gears shift into the rest of the season's comfy and occasionally terrifying groove.

The series branches off into two distinct halves. One with Dud and Ernie (plumbing salesman and Luminous Knight of the Order of the Lynx) trying to keep the place afloat in the wake of a leadership vacuum. The other is Liz's soul flaying journey of self destruction. This show is clearly written by service industry veterans and it all hit so close to home I jumped ahead more than once out of sheer PTSD. Dreaming I was at work was my last straw too.

Her story didn't arc the way I expected it to. Nothing arced the way I expected it to. Each story thread ends like a shaggy dog only for a new thread to pop up to make you forget about the other one. Then, If you really pay attention, answers you had for questions 3 episodes ago seep through almost like background gags.The Lodge's restraint from ever going full Twin Peaks is awe inspiring. It's got some fun mythology but it knows everybody is showing up for the character drama. A scene involving someone telling their mom that they hate her is the most brutal 2 minutes of acting I've seen all year.


The Lodge might be too weird for you and that's ok. There's a lot of purposely weird and dreamlike dialogue. I get that some people need to be in the right kind of mood for that. Or at least the right kind of inebriation. Do it. Fill that tumbler to the brim and ponder the eternal with Dud and the gang. You're gonna see some weird, messed up sh*t, man. Then you're gonna see those characters go straight back to work the next day. I frikkin' love it and hope you give it a shot.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Hey guys! I'm still here.

I've just shifted toward learning code and taking care of a bird. Also trying to figure out something new to say about gaming. That's been hard. I'm almost done with Lodge 49 and folks... I'm gonna have some sh*t to say about that. It's Twin Peaks meets Terriers. Whad'ya mean "what's Terriers?!" Educate yourself. Thankfully the Lodge isn't a one season wonder. It's so goofy and deep, you guys. That rarely mixes well.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Tales from the Borderlands is off the market

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"What's that sign say?"  "Dunno, something about anime."- Tales from the Borderlands

I have played the borderlands series for an absolutely disgusting amount of time, even before the 6 months I spent recovering from abdominal surgery. I love these games and appreciate their consistency in keeping up with their own lore. I mean, it looks like they've retconned the pre-sequel's end with their new DLC and that would bother me if it wasn't the only time in 10 years they've course corrected.

Instead "Lilith's fight for sanctuary" leans hard into two characters from Tales, welcoming them warmly into RPG side of the franchise. For everyone that got on board when critics were calling Tales the best borderlands game ever made, this is nice. For anyone who was into Borderlands 2 and checked out for 7 years... I got some bad news. As of June 13th Tell Tale game's bankruptcy really starts to sting because their best work is no longer available online. You could find a physical copy on ebay but that's absurd.

Could you just watch it all on youtube? That's a cynical way to look at interactive narratives but yeah, that's about 70% of the experience. This deserves to be played. I bet a ton of old fans will want to know how and when scooter died and there will be barely any legal means to find out. I hope this is just temporary. THQ nordic or something will snatch up the rights and put it back on the Internet. I hope that happens before BL3 launches because a lot more people should have played this in the first place.

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Do it for Gortys.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Pillars 2 Deadfire Review: Melancholy Green Giant.

Image result for deadfire eothas

Fallout: New Vegas was the first video game consistently well written enough for me to appreciate like a good book. Every little nook and cranny told a story and it's still the best game I ever played. I've never forgotten that feeling of playing a game that both respects my intelligence while challenging my moral compass. Mostly because scant few since 2010 have even come close. To say that Deadfire is as good as Obsidian's apocalyptic western opus is pushing it... but its not pushing it far.

As someone who bounced hard off of the first pillars not once but 4 times, it took a lot of convincing to get me to think this would be any different. I'm pathologically allergic to crpgs and needed way more hand holding through the active combat than that game was willing to give. I'd blink and half my party would be dead. It wasn't a good time. But then came Deadfire's turn based mode which was so good my old roommate wouldn't let me look away. It was the purest distillation of dungeons and dragons into a single player experience to him. He said not only would I love it but I might give D&D another glance in the bargain. I don't know about that last part, but he was dead right about Pillars 2.

Now no character on the battlefield moves until I tell them what to do. There are no nasty surprises and if someone gets hit by a cheap shot I know exactly where it came from. That's all I needed to get into it, just a broad knowledge of which skills work and which don't. Pretty soon, 20-30 minute encounters breezed by on the strength of its mechanics. I'm told Original Sin 2 blows it out of the water but I had a damn good time all the same.

Every ship in the deadfire has their own flag. "Had" in the case of these.

Now that the game's dense lore has a chance to breathe and change things up the series comes alive. By trading the bog standard Tolkien fantasy setting for a pirate-y archipelago, pillars starts to really say something. Not that the last game's big reveal over how all the gods were just formally human rich pricks wasn't a bad turn... it just took 20 hours for that to be interesting. Pillars 2 takes that premise and wonders what those gods would do if they had to bargain with a pirate to kill one of their own.

That would be you. Only if you wanted to be a pirate, anyway. I decided to be the exact opposite of my usual taste and rolled a stoic, true believer, monk. If any developer was going to take this do gooder and put him through the politically grey ringer, it was Obsidian. I wasn't disappointed. The pirate factions weren't a fan of how unprofitable my charitable nature was and that locked me out of a ton of negotiation potential. Many a time I would have been able to flash a captain's seal and side step unnecessary violence.

This chart knows exactly how many times you've been a dick for no reason.

But I also understood them better than they did themselves. With high enough insight I was able to curb the wrath of politicians, pirates, and trading companies alike. You want bloody economics and colonialism with your high fantasy fare? That's a trick question. This is the second best branching narrative I've ever played. Its so good I can almost forgive the ending. It yadda yadda's over the final dungeon, describing it in excruciatingly intricate detail, only to dump you out in front of... well... the end. It's a total wet fart of a finale even if it involves a decent debate on whether humanity needs gods or an afterlife. I should have been more disappointed in it but the journey there was so interesting and poignant I didn't care. As much. They totally ran out of money, though.

This is a book as much as it is a game. Most of the time you will read about what's happening rather than see it. That's the most d&d thing about it. You'll play text adventure mini games about crossing rocky ravines or sneaking past lizard men. In the latter case the rogue in my party was able to gain the lizard's trust by doing fancy coin tricks. They ended up giving me food instead of killing us. You can finesse your way out of some truly stunning stuff including most major boss battles. I wanted to fight a krakken on my first run only to realize I'd already talked myself out of it.

This is how the game talks. If you can get into it... there's some pretty sick pithy burns in it for you.

Navel combat itself is a bit of a text adventure but it's commendable how much fun they can squeeze out of what is essentially just radar and text prompts. Your first couple bouts will end in failure but you'll soon be jibing with the best of them. You'll spend a decent amount of time sailing with your crew which brings me to my favorite inventory management thingy ever: feeding your crew.

The better food and drink you feed your crew, the more morale they gain. The more morale they have the more exp they get per ship encounter. But morale is expensive and maintaining the high 80's is harder than it seems; because rum in bulk is not something you can easily afford but better food isn't. Basically as long as you've got a ton of yummy +1 food with water (-1 morale) you'll be set. The single best loot drop for me personally, more than any weapon, was a +10 cake. My crew had just been through the sh*t and they really needed the break from watered down ale. Sailing is so engaging I didn't mind the lack of fast travel. I'll let you figure out why for yourself, there's a lot more to do than just raiding ships.

Who wants some evocative ass imagery?! Seriously, you're going to have to love it if you're going to finish this game.

Greed, politics, colonialism, warring gods, and the tragic impossibility of peace in the face of all of that is why you need to play this game. If you've ever prized story telling in your games, if you ever had a passing affair with the mid 90's crpg boom, and if you're a sucker for a good cast of bickering party members you need to play this game. It might teach you something about your politics that you didn't know. Long story short, their east India company equivalent made one too many good points for their survival over the opulent and internally racist native Queen. It really got to me. Which is Obsidian at their very best.