Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Starfield is not a good game

 Here are my thoughts on Starfield after eight hours of play: Starfield is not a good game.

 I had big hopes for Starfield.  Not out-of-this-universe hopes, but I really thought it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime game launch.  A launch you'd tell your grandkids about it (I am getting old!) like you tell your kids about World of Warcraft's launch.  Sadly, I was wrong about Starfield.

 Before we get to the bad I can at least admit that I dig the NASA-punk style.  Sitting down in the cockpit of your spaceship is an amazing visual feast.  Zipping around with lasers and ballistic cannons firing in space while all the screens and dials whir in your cockpit is awesome.  The spacesuits are slick.  Building exteriors are cool.  The few cities in the game are visually stunning.

 However, as far as nice things to say though; that's about it.  The game looks good some of the time.  I can't even say it looks good all of the time!  There is a lot of, to put it politely, grey-green-brown mush in this game.  Right alongside amazing starships and folks boost packing around in epic space suits is planet after planet of visual famine.

 There are so many things wrong with the game, but the biggest grievance I have is the number of loading screens and traversal via game menus (fast travel).  I recorded one such chain of events:

  • Menu to fast travel to destination
  • Loading screen into space
  • Menu to land on planet
  • Loading screen to land
  • Loading screen to exit ship
  • Walk short distance to building
  • Loading screen to enter building first room
  • Loading screen to exit first room
  • Loading screen for second part of building
  • Loading screen to exit back to first area
  • Loading screen to exit building
  • Menu to fast travel back to ship (walking is for suckers)
  • Menu to pick destination
  • Loading screen to launch into space
  • Menu to pick destination
  • Loading screen to travel
  • Menu to land on planet
  • Loading screen to land
  • Loading screen to exit ship

 That may seem extreme as an example but that is literally how you play the game.  Menu, load, menu, load.  Some will say "but you are supposed to do it the hard way and you will see the real Starfield, all the random encounters!".  Huh!?  Sure I can scoot around in space for a bit and fight a random pirate for the 10th time, but at some point I still have to go through menu + loading screen to get anywhere.

 The loading screen approach really kills the excitement for the game.  Other than the arcade-lite space combat system there is no point at which you or your crew is flying your ship.  Want to go somewhere on planet; it is menu > load > menu > load > hoof it out on foot.  They couldn't even bother to give us land vehicles in the absence of being able to fly our ship around the surface!

 To make the menu > load loop even worse the UI is trash.  So much so that one of the first mods for the game to gain traction was a mod for a better UI.  In a matter of days modders have better UI than Bethesda after how many years of development?  I admit that UI is a very hard item to get right, especially when the game crosses consoles and PC, but I swear to all that is noodly that if the Starfield UI swaps the function of a button one more time from one screen to the next I'm going to scream. It wouldn't be that bad if I didn't have to spend half my time playing the game buried in the damn UI!

 The story in Betheseda RPGs is something you either like or dislike.  I've never been a huge fan, opting to "click and get on with it", but there has always been a certain quirky quality to them that got me through.  Starfield's story though, barring some major improvement past where I am at currently, is a dud.  It is hard to follow and is nothing more than glorified fetch quests.

 Then there is the combat and general character experience/progression.  The gun play feels terrible; my pistol whip does more damage than 100 bullets.  Melee is garbage and has zero variety of choices.  Enemies are braindead; easily fooled or just outright skipped.  Ammunition is stupid scarce and you'd be better off just buying a new spaceship vs trying to buy enough bullets for one fight.  My best weapon is my freaking mining laser.  The progression makes no sense.  Loot drops way too much.  You can carry almost as much as your entire spaceship can... and inventory management is a nightmare.

 Systems are sometimes over explained, then others are not explained at all, and so few systems seem to connect together in any logical way.  Sometimes we say games are "made by committee" to indicate they are generic; Starfield is a game that feels "made by lots of committees that didn't talk to each other".  Every system is just mush and boiled down to basics.  As mentioned; space combat is arcade-lite. Researching, mining/gathering, ship building, outpost building, crews... all of these systems are feature incomplete and none of it makes any sense. 

 Oh and there is space magic.  Why? Who the freak knows.

 I am baffled by anyone playing this game that thinks its good.  I would never recommend the game and am very happy it was just a freebie with my GPU update (I had planned to upgrade anyways for New World).  I'd be seriously pissed if I spent money on this game (note: I did technically as I bought a copy for my 14 yo son; he seems to enjoy it but his context is Minecraft).

 Summed up: Starfield is like a box of random toys dumped in front of a kid with a parent trying to make up a story as they got along playing with them.  Starfield is not a good game.


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Twitter? X? How about you join us on Mastodon!

mastodon logo

 Now seems like as good as time as any to recommend Mastodon.  If you are wondering "whats after Twitter/X" with Musky-boos latest dumb idea then let me suggest Mastodon; specifically come join us on Gamepad.Club's Mastodon instance (where all the cool MMORPG bloggers hang out).

Monday, September 18, 2023

New World Player Numbers

 New World is enjoying a resurgence in player interest as The Rise of the Angry Earth expansion nears.  We are still 2.5 weeks out from the 10/3 launch but up go the Steam charts!

new world player numbers

Friday, September 15, 2023

Big changes to New World PTR for Season 3 + Expansion

 DukeSloth has a good video out today on changes coming to the New World PTR for the Rise of the Angry Earth expansion and season 3.

My summary of changes:

  • Regeneration Serum is removed; it was too strong
  • PvP artifacts won't be locked to 100+ level so don't stress about not being at 100+
  • Artifacts on the free season pass track will be available as world drops later on; still worth getting on the free season 3 track vs farming later.  No artifacts on the paid track.
  • Magnify will now show when you are setting attributes; not after you set them so you know exactly what attribute it is applying to
  • Outpost Rush (OPR) crates dropped AFTER the update will drop up to 700 GS; so you could OPR day 1 and get a 700 GS reward
  • Runestone Stopwatches are no longer used in crafting; TBD what they will reward when salvaged (it better be good or I'm gonna be upset)

 These changes hit a few of the areas I was starting to get worried about. Specifically the regeneration serum was going to be a mandatory super potion if left as it was.  It would have made no sense to have in the game in the same patch where they are specifically nerfing healing potions in many aspects (especially in PvP).

 I am curious what Runestone Stopwatches will salvage into.  It would be ideal to know before the patch.  If it's not a great salvage then it would be much better to spend them now on something like crafting bags that you won't be racing out to change.  If it's really good then I will want to create more stopwatches and since they are daily cooldowns then I need to know now or each day I lose out!

 Lastly its good to get confirmation that OPR crates, dropped AFTER the update, will go up to 700 GS.  I am sure it will be rarer but the possibility along with the PvP track rewards should keep PvP players neutral (I'd say happy but us PvP players are a tough lot to make happy).  Also this means anyone saving up OPR crates currently won't get an unfair advantage once the update is live.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

New New World: Mounts

 Mounts are coming to New World and it truly is a BRAND NEW NEW WORLD!

 I am very excited for mounts and everything I have seen in the videos and on the PTR show that the team went above and beyond to deliver mounts.  I can't find the exact video but I remember distinctly at one point Scott Lane (lead boss man) stated if they were going to do mounts it would be when they could do them well and boy was that spot on.

 Mounts in New World will be much more than just a speed boost.  There is a riding skill, races and timed challenges, cosmetics, buffs and food, and multiple nice quality of life features.  

 One of the coolest finds on the PTR was realizing that your mount will try and follow the road if you set it to run on the road.  I had suggested exactly this in my Oct 2022 post on the topic when we first found out about mounts being in development.  I was comparing it to The Witcher games where the horse auto-paths:

...the horse in The Witcher will automatically follow paths/roads and the player can basically AFK to their destination if its at the end of the road.

 Speaking of the Witcher; the infamous "roof horse" is also a prevalent meme in the New World PTR.  This indicates there is some good movement capability with mounts to navigate them in tough terrain such as the roof of a building.


new world roof horse

 Another exciting note about mounts is that they will be allowed in Outpost Rush.  Gone are the days of long runs back to the action. This should spice things up as it should be much faster to help get to baron fights or to attack/defend back caps.  I know some players will complain about mounts in instanced PvP game modes but screw em... who the hell wants to spend 1+ minutes running back to the fight.  Note: mounts will not be available in wars.

 I am also looking forward to the mount tradeskill and building up my riding skill over time.  It doesn't look like it will take long to level up and some players may ask why it has to exist if it goes by fast, but just like leveling in RPGs it is a mechanism to train the player on the multiple features of mounts and unlock more and more capability in a controlled manner.  Crazy to think lots of players like it when a game walks them through a new feature!

 As far as mount variety I didn't want to see anything more than horses as I am not a big fan of New World getting too far down the fantasy path vs the original "age of discovery - the new world" vibe it had originally.  With that said I concede the "new world" ship has sailed and we are very much in knights and fantasy so I can live with horses, wolves, and lions as mounts.  Just glad it wasn't things like spiders.  I'd be cool with hippos though.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

New New World: Crafting Changes

 The buzz keeps on buzzing for New World's expansion and changes for Season 3.  Today we have a great breakdown of crafting changes from Jay Oddity.  My hat off to Jay; he is owning it on the coverage of the current PTR.

 There is a ton of minutiae to go with the crafting changes so I want to avoid getting too far into the weeds and cover more of the "what does it all mean?".

 The big change is that crafters will be able to craft "perfect gear", but the components to do so will be time gated and take a bit of effort to collect.  Many of the high end components will be bind on pickup and thus require the crafter to put in the time.  Since materials are time gated daily/weekly we won't see a surge of perfect 700 gear score gear on day one from bankrolled crafters.

 Even though there is methods for perfect crafting; there is still the "gamblers delight" option where you get random perks.  Less material cost, but more risk.  It won't be as bad as current state crafting gambles as the perk pool is much, much better with far fewer garbage perks but it's still a gamble.  Some folks like to gamble so the option is still there for them.

 I do want to hit on the fact that some of the crafting materials for the better crafting methods are bind on pickup (BoP).  I understand why this was done and think it is fine, but it doesn't make me jump for joy as it forces crafters to participate in other parts of the game.  Forcing players to do things they may not want to do is never great.  I am hoping as we get farther away from the expansion that we see a transition away from BoP just like we saw the PvP perks become bind on equip instead of BoP.

 Another change is it seems items and buffs that increase crafting outcomes have a flat benefit now.  If a piece of armor grants +5 to minimum gear score that always applies.  It does not appear through gear and buff you can get to 700, but not clear if we are missing anything.  The way to 700 is the specific 700 GS crafting recipes... aka the "perfect gear" I noted before.  I may be misunderstanding this so don't take this as gospel yet.

 Crafting levels also have been increased to 250. It is not clear how much effort/material will be needed to level them from 200-250 but I am looking forward to pumping out some crafting levels.

 Over all I like all of the changes to crafting.  More meaningful outcomes is great.  I would like to see the BoP change but understand that it is needed to slow down how fast crafters get 700 GS items out into the game right after launch.  I am glad I have all of my crafting gear and trophies unlocked and look forward to pushing towards 250 in all my crafting levels.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

New New World: Umbral Shards

 Holy patch notes Batman!  I don't have the time between now and 10/3 when the Rise of the Angry Earth expansion launches to cover all the details, but without a doubt we are truly getting a NEW New World!  Today though I wanted to zero in on the change coming to umbral shards as we've all been waiting to know what would happen to them.

 Umbral Shards
  •     Removed the ability to upgrade gear with Umbral shards.
  •     Umbral shards can now be salvaged for coin at a rate of 0.1 coin per umbral shard.

 First I want to say "told you so" to everyone that thought the original information was false when it was reported by Massively OP that umbral shards would be converted to gold.  It was clear that Massively OP reported that correctly from the developer Q&A they were part of and good to see it validated now.

 Next; I don't think there was any "winning" consolation prize that could be given for umbral shards.  New World needed to reset gear and gear progression for it to have a more meaningful end game loop and to do that they needed to shutter umbral shards.  Any compensation was going to be only a half measure.

 Personally I think 0.10 gold per shard is a fine compromise.  Its not enough gold that you would race out to gather a bunch before launch, but it's enough that if you have some laying around you'll cash them in and feel good about it.  Also it's a small enough amount that I don't feel terrible about cashing them in now to upgrade some "fun" gear sets to play around with before October.

 And honestly this is how I really feel...

umbral shards new world

Monday, September 11, 2023

New New World: Only ONE New Zone?

 I wanted to start covering the myriad of changes coming to New World for it's expansion and season 3 balance changes.  There is a ton to unpack and no particular order to cover it in so I came up with this serious of posts titled "New New World: <topic>" because we are in fact getting an entirely new and fresh version of New World!  Today I want to talk about the "just one new zone!?" feedback for the Rise of the Angry Earth expansion.

new world elysian wilds

 There has been a small uproar in the community about the expansion only having one zone and there is an argument to be had that it's not even "new" since it is just the First Light zone redone as the Elysian Wilds.  That doesn't seem like much for an "expansion"; especially when we received all of Brimstone Sands as a free update last year.

 I can somewhat see the argument that it is not an "expansion" as we are used to in the MMORPG space.  Normally an expansion means an actual "expansion" of the game on the size and scale of the original game.  With that said, based on Brimstone Sands last year, and what we've seen so far from Rise of the Angry Earth it seems like this will be New World's annual "expansion" size: one new zone and a bunch of new features.

 I am good with that.  I dislike when games add too much new landmass and invalidate all of the old.  While there will be a period of time where the Elysian Wilds is the zone to be in I expect players will fall back to Brimstone Sands, Reekwater, Shattered Mountain, and other current end game zones along with Elysian Wilds.

 Also we can't forget about the other zone receiving a makeover with Season 3: Edengrove.  With the angry earth taking over First Light they have left Edengrove open for the taking.  Edengrove will now be a capture-enabled territory with multiple changes to go along with it.  So technically we are getting two "adjacent to new" zones for the Season 3 and expansion.

 Combine two reworked zones along with mounts, level increase to 65, gear score increase to 70, reworked mutations, and a new weapon with the Flail and it is silly to think $30 is too high a price tag for the expansion.

Sunday, September 10, 2023