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Name's Josh. I'm 25, play pretty much any kind of game, and have since I was old enough to hold a controller.
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Fenriff
10:20 AM on 12.15.2014

I'm back friends! Apologies for my absence last week; my internet has been out for about a week and a half. It was actually the first time I've missed my weekly piece in the 6 months or so I've been doing this! Sad times, but I've returned so let's get this show back on the road!

2014 has been a hell of a year, full of great releases and great experiences for me personally. I've played some awesome new games as they've come out, and I've gotten the chance to finally play some older games that I missed out on. Let's start with the more personal bits of the year for me and then we'll move on to the releases.

The biggest accomplishment for me this year I think is that this is the year I really started taking this writing seriously. I wrote stuff every now and then before, but February was when I really started putting out stuff that I wanted to be read. For the first half of the year I wrote reviews mostly. I actually released my full review of Divinity: Original Sin long before many big sites did, which I was pretty proud of (even if barely anyone read it)!

Around June I decided that I was going to really take this seriously and push myself to put out at least one piece every week. I'm actually incredibly surprised I went so long without missing a week! Most importantly though I was lucky enough to have an incredible number of people around the world read my writings on different sites this year. I've been shared to the front page of both Kotaku and Destructoid this year, and was even the Community Spotlight on IGN this past week! I never expected near this amount of attention for my stuff (and definitely didn't expect such pleasing reactions), and all of that is thanks to you fine folks!

Aside from just writing about video games I've actually gotten to play quite a few that I had missed out on. For instance, before this year I had never gotten to play Persona 4, which is now one of my favorite games of all time! I also played Breath of Fire 3 and 4 for the first time, finally finishing off the series that I loved so much as a kid. Earthbound and Mother 3 also finally entered my life this year, and I'm sure glad they did!

But what about stuff that was actually relevant this year? Well, here are a few titles that stood out to me.

Transistor

Supergiant Games is, in my opinion, one of the most talented groups of people currently making video games. Bastion was one of my favorite games ever, and I was so unbelievably excited for Transistor when it got announced. It delivered in such a great way upon release. Beautiful visuals, fun gameplay, an intriguing story, and one of the most fantastic soundtracks around make Transistor the second unforgettable experience in a row from Supergiant Games. I can't wait to see what they have in store next.

The Wolf Among Us

While I enjoyed Telltale's The Walking Dead, it didn't stand out to me as quite as much of an amazing experience as it did to many others. The Wolf Among Us is currently my Telltale adventure of choice. The world and story are so intriguing, the characters are cool, and the art style fits it well. It actually got me to start reading the Fables comic series that it's based off of, which is also fascinating! The fact that it's not another zombie apocalypse survival story also helps it out a lot.

Dark Souls II

A lot of people look down on Dark Souls II, and while I can certainly understand many of the criticisms lobbed at it I still feel that it is a fantastic game. I found the world of Drangleic to be incredibly interesting and the story to be both creepy and satisfying. It changed a decent number of things, some for the better and some not so much. Power stance? Awesome idea! Health lowering over time? Cool! Weapons breaking really quickly? Eh... Still, I've played a ton of this game and always have a fun time.

Infamous: Second Son

Infamous has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I saw the appeal of the first one, but it just didn't strike a cord with me. I found it's city boring, it's characters largely uninteresting, and it's array of powers disappointing. Infamous 2 I actually quite enjoyed though. The environment was cooler, the combat more varied. Still had Zeke unfortunately, but what can ya do? Second Son though? Second Son blew me away. A lot of people were disappointed by its length, but I got so much fun out of it that I definitely got my money's worth. Fun combat, interesting characters, and some of the most impressive visuals on the market today are what await you when you step into this finely crafted game.

Divinity: Original Sin

Old school crpg's are very intimidating in my opinion. Big stat sheets with little to no context or direction and you're asked to plan out the future of a character in a game you haven't even begun yet. I never got to play any of these when they were relevant due to me not having a computer of my own until I graduated High School, but when I got the chance I had a hard time getting into them. In fact to this day probably the only one I've made it all the way through is Planescape: Torment because of it's incredible storytelling and ability to play it without combat. I gave Original Sin a chance and, while I certainly have some problems with it, it's a ton of fun. The combat is so deep and the visuals look great. While flawed, it's a great modern take on the classic crpg style of game.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Talking about Dragon Age as a franchise with people can be difficult. So many different people want it to be so many different things. I enjoyed Origins, but I'm certainly not one of the people who saw it as one of the greatest rpg's ever. Likewise I (for the most part) enjoyed DAII through it's faults rather than thinking it was a worthless piece of junk. In my opinion, Inquisition takes what made the first game great while mixing in what they were trying to accomplish in II to create one of the most enjoyable large scale rpg's around. The combat is so much fun, the world is huge and varied, the story is interesting, and it's got so much content that you won't feel bad for replaying it. I've beaten the game once as a dual wield rogue, I'm right at the end of an archer playthrough, and am halfway through a mage playthrough as well! Talk about getting your money's worth.

 

There have been so many other great releases this year that I didn't get to mention in detail. The Banner Saga, Strider, Wolfenstein, Bravely Default, Hyrule Warriors, Freedom Planet. So many great games came out this year! And there are so many more that came out that I've been too broke to play like Bayonetta 2 and Persona Q. What a fantastic year for games and, thanks to all of you reading, it's been a fantastic year for me to write about them as well. Thanks for reading.

 

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The world of video games is ever changing. Some games get swept along with the tide and evolve with the medium, and some get left behind; lost, but not forgotten. We've seen many great games and even great series come and go over time, but what if you could revive the ones we've moved on from? There are a lot of great games in the past, so let's talk about a few that I'd love to see make a come back!

ActRaiser

I absolutely loved this game as a kid. It was definitely one of my most played SNES games. If you're unfamiliar with ActRaiser (bless your heart) it is a game of two halves. You take on the role of a god who has been slumbering, but have been awakened now that the world is being threatened by an evil force. The first part of this game is a side scroller; sort of a mini-Castlevania experience. You run around with a sword and fight off enemies and do a bit of platforming and fight a boss.

The second part makes use of your godhood by having you direct your followers on the ground to build upon their lands in a Sim City sort of manner. After getting a ways into the world building you'll unlock the next dungeon and then repeat the process. The game was a blast for me as a kid and their was a sequel to it but it removed the world building, which was a bit disappointing. I'd love to see something similar make a return!

Legend of Dragoon

Legend of Dragoon was an incredibly interesting PS1 JRPG that came out of nowhere for me. A friend of mine in high school told me about it and once I had hunted it down I quickly understood why he was so enamored with it. Legend of Dragoon is the story of...well...dragoons. Or at least a group of heroes who will become dragoons.

The combat is probably what stands out the most in my memory of LoD. Attacks have a sort of qte element to them for increasing their damage; a system probably best compared to that of Super Mario RPG. The story is delightfully bonkers in that typical jrpg way and it's full of heartbreak and heroism. I'd love to see this game make a comeback soon.

Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse

Recently we saw the return of Castle of Illusion, but this is the Mickey Mouse game that took up my time as a kid. Magical Quest is a game in which you play as Mickey Mouse and go on a Magical Quest. What, you want more? Ugh, fine. The plot for this game is delightfully simple, as you'd expect for a SNES Disney game. You and Goofy were playing catch when one of you dropped the ball and Pluto ran off after it. You go chasing after Pluto and discover that he was captured by the evil wizard Pete. Now you must save him!

Magical Quest is a platformer in which you'll acquire multiple powers in the form of costumes. Your default Mickey outfit gives you access to a basic jump and a grab/throw mechanic. You'll then get a magical turban which will turn you into a wizard who can shoot magic, then a firefighter outfit equipped with a functioning hose, and finally a mountaineer outfit with a grappling hook. It's a very short game but a very charming one as well.

Vagrant Story

This is a game that, although it originally released back on the PS1, I never actually got to play until this year. I had always heard about it and it's made by the creator of Final Fantasy Tactics so I knew it would at least be interesting. When you're playing it you can clearly see the influences that it got from FFT. The art style and in many ways the story itself have many similarities.

From a gameplay perspective it's very unique; it's sort of a (for its time) new take on the idea of an action rpg. The best comparison I can make would probably be to Parasite Eve, but in a fantasy setting. While the game has a lot of cool and interesting systems in place, it is also unfortunately one of the most unintuitive games I've ever played. You pretty much NEED outside help to get a full grasp of the systems in place in Vagrant Story. While this may hold back the original, it also presents a fantastic opportunity for a remake or spiritual successor that takes these things into account and seeks to fix them.

Dark Cloud / Dark Chronicle

Dark Cloud is a game that was given to me on a whim for Christmas when I received my PS2. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I'll be damned if I didn't play that first game nonstop til I was at the end. Dark Cloud is another game of two halves; in fact both halves are strikingly similar to ActRaiser's two halves now that I think about it. The first part of Dark Cloud is a dungeon crawling action RPG, and the second is another world building type of game.

The story of the first revolves around an evil man summoning a dark genie to wipe out life on the planet, but by the grace of a benevolent fairy king you are saved and given the power to bring back those who were locked away by the genie. While crawling through dungeons you find the locked away bits and pieces of the world and then return to the overworld to place them back down in whatever way you see fit. Dark Cloud 2 (Dark Chronicle outside of America) wasn't directly connected to the first but refined the formula a bit by adding a little time travel and gave it a fantastic cel shaded art style that gave it an extra bit of charm. I would love to see Level-5 bring back this series because these were certainly two of my favorite PS2 games.

 

The world may never see the return of these brilliant games, but a man can dream. In a time when a studio that many had deemed mediocre was able to bring us a fantastic revival of Strider AND Killer Instinct I suppose anything is possible. What games from your past would you like to see make a come back? Let me know! Oh, and thanks for reading.

 

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6 months have passed since Andy Dixon, the bathrobe wearing bastard, was run off by the robotic police officer Sephzilla, who came to the rescue of Gajknight, Dreamweaver, and their Uncle Chris. The city of Destructville has returned to it's old bustling self. People filled the streets, going back and forth every day; none of them suspecting that in the shadows of their fine city a war was taking place. A war that they would soon be unable to ignore.

Though to be fair, Seph had had like 6 months to catch Andy, who was for all intents and purposes just some dude in a bathrobe. I mean, he's obviously not the best robot cop around. Maybe if he spent a little more time apprehending criminals and a little less time bitching about spectacle fighters on the internet the city would be safe by now. But-thats-none-of-my-business.jpg

Leaving work for the day, a young psychologist named Jonathan Holmes was fumbling with his keys in one hand, holding a stack of papers in the other, trying desperately to lock up his office and head home. Finally turning the correct key in the lock, the stack of papers slipped from his arms and flew off with the wind down the busy street. His palms slapped onto his head, “Oh man, what a sucky day it's been.” Jon was the kind of guy to get walked over pretty easily. Soft spoken and with opinions that no one really agreed with. You know what I mean; “Pokemon X/Y wasn't that great”, “Let's all get along”, that kinda stuff. SJW's, amirite?

He gathered up what papers he could and crossed the street, heading to his car, when suddenly an explosion went off in the building high above him. Just before he could get his car door open, SMASH! Who should come crashing onto his car but a large robotic man. People on the street shouted and scattered. “My car! Oh my god, sir are you okay?”

“Please step away citizen, it's dangerous here. I'd suggest returning home as soon as possible.” The robot pulled himself from the wreckage and looked up to where he had fallen from. “You'll not escape today Andy! I've finally tracked you down, and I'll tear this city apart to get to you if I need to!” Without another word he leapt up and grabbed onto the side of the building and began scaling it! A dark haired stranger ran up to Jonathan, “Woah dude, was that Sephzilla? THE Sephzilla? Oh shit, he fuckin' totaled your car, that's rad! I'm Steven by the way. Steven Hansen.” Jonathan sighed, “Jon Holmes.” The two looked up the side of the building to find the cyborg cop just reaching the hole he'd flown out of.

There was silence for a few seconds until once again someone came flying from the building, but this time it was two figures instead of one! Landing on his feet this time the robot officer now had his hand around the throat of one Andy Dixon, who, despite the bloody nose and lack of non-bathrobe attire, was smiling rather than showing fear. “I don't need to run from you today Seph. I have a surprise for you. It's time you got a taste of your own medicine.” “Look out officer, someone's behind you!” came the shout from Jonathan. A metallic tap fell upon Seph's shoulder, and when he turned his head to see the source a robotic fist smashed into his face.

Andy Dixon went flying to one side while Seph's body fell to another. Andy stood up and brushed off his bathrobe. “I believe you know each other.” He smiled, showing his bloodied teeth. “Long time no see Seph.” If Seph's eyes could be seen through the weird visor thing that covered the top half of his face, his eyes would no doubt be wide. “Hyper!”

“Hyper? I hardly know her!” came a call from the sidelines. Very clever Steven. No, really.

Standing above Sephzilla was another robotic man, this one more mega than Seph. His white and blue metal armor covered all but his face, which seemed to show that he had been a young man at one point. Upon his helmet was a large red crystal. Code name Hyper Lemon Buster Cannon, a.k.a. HLBC, or Hyper. Former partner of Sephzilla. They were once a force of good in the city of Destructville, but obviously something had changed. “I watched you get crushed 10 years ago!”

“You sure did, but Mr. Dixon here fixed me up. Improved me even. I ditched the old armor for something a bit more slick. Now it's Hyper Lemon Buster Cannon X, and you're about to be X-terminated.” His fist flew towards Seph, who rolled out of the way just in time. Hyper's fist smashed into the ground with such force that his arm was dug into the ground up to his elbow.

“What the hell is going on here?” asked Steven. Jonathan's face took a serious turn. “...A Robot War.” “Umm, a who-de-what?”

Seph pulled out his gun, but as soon as he pointed it towards his robotic rival Hyper was already in arms reach and snatched it out of his hand, flinging it into the distance. The officer wouldn't be disarmed so easily though, his whole body was a weapon, and the two robots began a fist fight like none the world had seen before. Metal clanged against metal and Andy Dixon laughed maniacally from a safe distance away, loving the chaos he had fueled right in the center of the city. It was some real life Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots bullshit.

“What are they fighting about?” Steven asked Jon. “I don't know...but I feel like, whoever wins...we lose.” Steven looked to Jon, absolutely dumbfounded. “Really? The AvP tagline? That's what you're going with?”

Tiring of the games, Hyper shoved Seph back and in one fluid motion his right hand dematerialized and his whole right arm became a large cannon! It started to charge with a satisfying hum and you didn't need to see Seph's face to know that he realized how totally boned he now was. Suddenly a voice shouted from a nearby alley. “HOLD IT!” Hyper froze, seeming to recognize the voice. A smile broke across Seph's face for the first time. “Looks like you're not the only one coming back from the dead today.”

Out from the shadows strode forth a slick, dark haired man in a fantastic blue suit and red tie. “Bullshit!” Andy began. “No fucking way. Hamza Aziz?! YOU'RE DEAD!” The stranger adjusted his glasses and smirked. “I'm afraid not, Andy. I mean, that's what I wanted you to think. I let you win that battle 15 years ago, but you'll not win the war!”

Seeing his opportunity to strike, Seph rushed for Hyper with unbelievable speed and smashed his metallic fist into the red jewel on Hyper's helmet, shattering it. Beneath where the jewel once sat now shown a broken circuit, one that must have been integral to Hyper's functions because his entire robotic body was now seizing up, unable to fight back. Why was such an important piece of Hyper's physiology placed where it could be easily punched by another robot? Well you see-Oh look, Steven has something important to say!

“Wait, isn't that Hamza Aziz? Didn't he die in that explosion 15 years ago?” “Yeah I thought so too.” answered Jonathan. Good talk guys.

“Dammit!” shouted Andy, his plans quickly falling apart. “It is just IMPOSSIBLE to find good help these days.” He pulled out a small remote and pressed the button on it and off in the distance from between the buildings a strange object flew onto the scene. It was like a large flying bowl, with a propeller on the bottom and a clown face on the front. It came flying down towards Andy who hopped in, but Hamza wouldn't let it end that easily. He sprinted for the flying machine as it started to take off again and was able to grab onto the edge, pulling himself in.

All control of the machine was lost as a battle broke out within the cramped flying space between the suited savior and the robed rascal. Punches were taken and knees rammed into abdomens as the flying machine crashed back and forth between the buildings like a pinball. Finally Andy got ahold of the controls and flipped it upside down, causing Hamza to fall out down onto the street as Andy cackled and taunted “Should have worn your seat belt Hammy!”

Hamza rubbed his head, bruised but okay (fuckin plot armor, eh?), as Seph helped him up. “There's nowhere to run Andy!” Hamza was right, and Andy knew it. This was the final showdown. “Grrrr, when you're right you're right old pal. I guess I'll have to call in the cavalry. You may have bested me, but you'll not best my true master!” Andy reached into the machine and pulled a strange cyndrical machine with a handle on each end. He twisted each end in opposite directions and began pulling it apart slowly, and as he pulled the very earth seemed to quake below them. The sky darkened and Andy's cackle howled through the air over the sound of the tectonic plates moving in the ground. Hamza's face became terror stricken. “Dear God, what has he done?!”

Suddenly all of time seemed to stop around the heroes. The quaking earth, Andy and his flying machine, all were frozen. Hamza and Seph looked around confused. Their eyes fell upon sweet innocent Jonathan Holmes, straining his mind to keep them all safe. Hamza smirked, “He's a psychologist! He's using his mental powers! I never thought I'd see one in the flesh.”

Poor Steven, completely lost now, was at his wit's end. “Wha...but...THAT'S NOT HOW PSYCHOLOGISTS WORK! Are we stealing a fucking joke straight from Anchorman 2 now?!” “Quiet, you'll break his concentration!” demanded Hamza. “But...ugh fuck this. I'm going home.” Steven's hands fell to his sides and he turned to leave. “The rest of you should flee too!” shouted Jonathan. “I don't know how long I can keep him held back!”

“There's nowhere to run friend. Only one thing can save us now. The chosen ones...and look, they've just arrived.” Hamza smiled and took a step forward and pointed beyond Jonathan to where a new car had pulled up, and out of the car came the twins: Gaj and Dream. Their Uncle Chris followed suit, stepping out of the car. “I brought them Hamza, just as you asked.”

Hamza stepped towards them. “I'm afraid there's not much time young ones. Only the two of you can save us from the fate that now approaches.” “But we don't know how to fight!” replied Dream honestly. “With some help from your father that should change.” answered Chris, leaving the boys confused. “But we don't even remember our dad!” replied Gaj. How convenient.

Hamza adjusted his glasses. “Gaj. Dream. I am your father.” Motha fuckin plot twiiiiiiiist!

(Click here to add drama to this scene.)

 

TO BE CONTINUED

IN THE CHILLING FINALE OF THE DESTRUCTOID SAGA:

APOCALYPTOID.

 

 

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Fenriff
2:39 PM on 11.28.2014

With Thanksgiving having just come around, I thought I'd take the time out to say thanks to everyone here at Destructoid, both in the community and on staff, for giving me a fantastic place to hang out, read some great material, and have my own stuff read as well. I've been doing my best this year to keep writing on a regular basis and have been doing my weekly piece for about 6 months now, and having it read by fine folks such as yourselves makes it all worth it.

Also, today I would like to announce a little something special. It's time for the release date for the long awaited sequel to the Top-Sauced, HLBC Stamp of Approval winning Dtoid Fanfic! Without further ado, I present:

The Destructoid Saga Part 2:

The Robot Wars

 

Coming November 30, 2014

 

What happened to the bathrobed bastard Andy after he escaped the top floor of Hoffman Industries? Who does Sephzilla work for? Learn the retconned answers to these and other burning -plotholes- questions left over from Part 1! Get hyped for what can only be described as “a mediocre sequel to an okay fanfiction.” Preorder now for your exclusive, iconic 1080p desktop wallpaper, found HERE! Don't you dare just download it from there for free though, you have to preorder. I mean, you wouldn't download a car.

 

If you missed Part 1 it can be found HERE! Read what people said about the breakout hit, such as:

“I couldn't stop laughing! 12/10!” -Gajknight

“10/10. Would fap again.” -Nekrosys

“Lol” -PhilKenSebben

 

Thanks Dtoid!

 

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Warlords of Draenor is the newest expansion for long running MMO World of Warcraft. It promises to provide a bit of something new in terms of how content is handled but also something old by returning to its roots from a lore perspective. After a very rocky launch and some very long queue times I've reached 100 and played around a bit, so today I want to give you some of my first impressions on this expansion.

Before we get into let me tell you very briefly about my past with WoW, so that you know where I stand with the game. I've played WoW in an on again, off again manner for many years now. I started back in early Burning Crusade originally. Over time I've done everything from PvP to raiding and leveled more characters to max level than any one person should ever do. I was fighting heroic Lich King in content and attempting to go through heroic Bastion of Twilight and Blackwing Descent before Firelands ever came out.

I wasn't entirely sure that I was even going to pick up Warlords of Draenor to begin with. I loved the idea of the new character models that were getting introduced but as time passed after it's reveal and more and more things began changing I started to waver. Learning about how you wouldn't be able to put your garrison where ever you wanted and that entire zones wouldn't be in the game at launch made me question whether I should grab it. In the end, as per usual, the sound of friends having a good time playing around in the pre-xpac patch lured me back in.

The setup for WoD is that after the end of the Siege of Orgrimmar raid in Mists of Pandaria, Garrosh Hellscream, former Horde Warchief, escapes captivity and, with the help of some chronomancy, escapes into the past to the home of his birth; Draenor. Rather than changing the future this creates an alternative timeline and he convinces the old leaders of the orcish horde on Draenor, led by his father Grommash, that he is a prophet of sorts and convinces them not to drink the blood of Mannoroth and instead to create weapons of gunpowder and iron to become powerful and to take over the world on the other side of the Dark Portal.

Rather than go into detail about all the horrendous problems with the launch of the xpac we'll just skip straight to the content. Right off the bat when you start up the new expansion material you're thrust through the dark portal with Khadgar, Thrall, and others to take the fight to the Iron Horde on their doorstep rather than yours. You get to experience a very cool and fun instanced scenario where you'll meet each of the warlords of the Iron Horde and try to take out the Dark Portal. The scenario serves two purposes: to introduce you to Draenor and the enemies you'll be hunting down, and to help those who've used the recently implemented instant 90 boost to get a feel for their class. The presentation for this scenario is fantastic and it's just an incredibly fun way to start off the expansion.

Once you've finished there you'll begin the real leveling experience, getting dropped off in either Frostfire Ridge if you're Horde or Shadowmoon Valley if you're Alliance. I play Horde so I'm afraid that's the only perspective I can give you for the leveling experience. Right away in the new zone you'll be tasked with setting up your garrison, this expansions newest and possibly most interesting feature. The Garrison is WoW's answer to the player housing question that's been getting asked for years now. This is a personally instanced zone where you can place buildings, send followers out on missions, and just hang out if you want.

The buildings you can set up have a range of uses and are categorized by different sized plots. You can set up a blacksmith to either help you get the most out of your blacksmithing profession if you have it or just to help you get access to the blacksmith's daily cooldown of creating True Steel Ingots. You can set up a trading post to one day have access to an auctioneer in your garrison or even set up a stable that will allow you to capture wild animals and train them to be mounts. The garrison and each of its buildings have 3 ranks. You'll get your rank 1 garrison for free right away and you'll have it to rank 2 by the time you finish the first zone. By performing tasks in the new world and killing powerful enemies you'll acquire garrison resources, which can be spent to upgrade various buildings as you progress.

As you continue through the game you'll meet npc's who, after witnessing your skill, will choose to join you as a follower. These followers will hang out around your garrison and can be sent out on missions (think Assassin's Creed style stuff, like the ship managing minigame in 4) which can level them up or give you yourself rewards. It adds a fun little element of micro management to do when you want to take a break from the leveling.

Scattered around each of the zones are various “rare” creatures that have been designed in an interesting new way. Every rare has a specific drop and anyone who participates in killing it is guaranteed that drop, but once you've received it's drop it will no longer be considered a rare to you. These will mostly be blue gear drops useful for leveling, though on occasion you can receive companion pets and toys as well as garrison resources from them. It's a really cool way to get you to explore and anyone who so much as touches the rare before it dies gets the loot so there's no fighting for tags or groups.

There are also really cool treasure spawns in the world that work in a similar manner. While exploring a frost cave I found the body of an orc frozen in ice, only it's hand sticking out of the block of ice. In its hand was an axe that I could click on, and doing so gave me a cool little blue quality one handed axe. Each zone also has “bonus objectives” which will appear on your map. Moving into proximity of one will open up what is essentially just a side quest that offers a substantial amount of bonus experience for completing it.

Another very cool system added in is that every time you receive gear from anything while leveling, be it quest rewards or rare drops, there is a chance that that item will upgrade to a higher item level. You can do a quest that promises to reward you with a green ring with 70 strength and then upon completing the quest it suddenly upgrades to a purple with 85 strength, and upgrades are just frequent enough to feel fair without either flooding you with better gear than promised or being so rare that you feel left out for not getting them.

The leveling experience on the whole was far more enjoyable than I expected it to be, and I've heard similar praise from my guildmates. Having played in BC, getting to return to what you once new as Outland in its original true glory is very cool. Getting to see all the zones as they were meant to be seen and meeting fantastic characters when they were relevant is awesome. As someone who plays an orc I was more than happy to run around with Durotan, chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and father to Thrall, to help fight off the Iron Horde. Out of the 5 zones I went through on my way to 100 the only zone I was really disappointed with was Spires of Arak, which hopes to tell you the backstory of the Arakkoa (the bird people from BC) but there is a lot of stuff there that has nothing to do with them that feels like filler and the bonus objectives there feel like they're more trouble than they're worth.

While you only get the one actual garrison, each zone afterward will have a spot for an outpost that you can set up. Each outpost will have two possible setups that give you something special for that zone. For instance, in Nagrand (the final leveling zone) one of your two options is a corral, which gives you a frost war wolf mount that can be used only in that zone but allows you to fight while still mounted. In Talador (the original form of BC's Terokkar Forest) you can gain access to a very cool artillery strike.

For as much as I enjoyed the leveling experience in Warlords of Draenor, I was equally as lost when I finally hit 100. There is simply nothing laid before you when you hit max level and that is where I truly began to think “Oh dear, this is where it slows down.” In other expansions you would be given dailies to gain rep with various factions to get gear from them, but that simply does not exist this expansion. I've encountered 2 dailies at level 100: one you receive from your garrison and one to go do a challenge mode dungeon. The one from your garrison gives you a choice to either do a solo mission which usually requires you to grind your way through a bunch of mobs until you fill up a progress bar, and the second may be a group version of the first or a mission to go win in Ashran, the PvP island and offers more Apexis Crystals (this expansion's “justice points”).

This lack of dailies was an especially big bummer for me as I had long had my sights on getting to exalted with the Frostwolf Orcs so that I could purchase the fantastic looking mount from them, but doing all of the quests had only left me a bit into revered. I went searching online for how you gain the rest of the rep with them, and do you know what advice I found? Farm mobs. You go to a part of Frostfire Ridge where there are level 100 mobs and you just kill them. Over and over until you finally get the last, oh I don't know, 19000 rep needed to hit exalted at about 5-10 per kill.

Now, that's with me already being at revered (if you're unaware of how reputations work in WoW you start at Neutral and move to Friendly, then Honored, then Revered, then Exalted), having a read through various guides on Wowhead you can see that there is also a reputation called the Laughing Skull clan, which you only have access if you get a certain building placed in your garrison. When you have access to this faction you will not be at revered, but there will still be no quests or dailies for you to do. You will simply have to grind the entirety of the rep out through kills.

This is not good. This is in fact very poor design. Now obviously grinding is at the core of MMO's, but that's why you hide the grinding behind illusions of fun and moderation. Instead of telling someone to kill 5000 mobs in their own time you give them dailies to kill them off in groups over the course of a few days, that way they don't feel like they're having to actually do such a large amount of work.

If you're not one for day to day tasks then you'll likely be focusing on one of two things: PvE or PvP. I haven't gotten to mess around with PvP much yet but I'll tell you what I can. If you're into PvP then you'll likely be doing the same stuff you've always done for the most part. I don't believe there are any new battlegrounds so that will be the same old same old. There is a new PvP zone and I've been there and honestly I can't tell you for the life of me how it works. Looking around online it seems others are equally confused. Also I play on an INCREDIBLY Horde heavy server so I literally leveled the entire way from 90 to 100 and even ventured to the PvP island and I have not seen 1 single Alliance player in the entirety of my time on Draenor. Not one.

If you're more of a PvE focused player, like myself, you'll be grinding through the new dungeons. Upon hitting 100 a number of non heroic level 100 dungeons will open up that require an item level of 600 to enter, which you should be right at or very near after doing your quests in Nagrand. These dungeons are...actually pretty cool. I've done four or five different ones in both normal and heroic and they seem to take themselves seriously.

Bosses have mechanics that matter. In Skyreach there is a boss who will target a player with a giant laser that leaves a trail on the ground, which the player must kite around the room. In Everbloom there is a spider boss who will teach you to kill adds that spawn during the fight or else it will eat them and recover health. The mechanics are meaningful, relatively easy to learn, and do a good job of teaching players basic systems that may come in handy when they venture into more difficult content later.

I am personally playing the new dps setup for protection warriors called gladiator, which is actually a lot of fun and so far seems very viable, but my healer guildmate seems pleased with where healing stands currently. Tanks have enough health to take hits without immediately falling to 5%. You're given time to recognize that a problem is arising and deal with it, without the MoP method of everyone's health bars flying back and forth from empty to full. Looting bosses also has a new mechanic. Rather than one piece of gear dropping and everyone rolling for it, each individual person has a chance for a piece of gear relevant to their spec to drop. So far this seems to work relatively well, and it will obviously cut down on “ninja-ing”.

Overall I'd say my experience with Warlords of Draenor has been positive so far. The leveling is very well designed and the dungeons seem like they'll be pretty fun to gear up in unless you get stuck in a group that just can't deal with mechanics. If you're a day to day kind of max level player you may find yourself disappointed with the lack of non dungeon content at 100 like myself, and I REALLY hope this is addressed in future content patches. I've gone on WAY longer than I probably should have, so I'll cut it here. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer. Thanks for reading!

*I play Horde on the Mal'Ganis server. You can most likely find me as Gavlan the orc warrior of the guild Kalidon Industries.*

 

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While watching the recent Sup Holmes interview with Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning (an incredibly fascinating watch if you've not seen it!) Mr. Lanning said something that I found particularly interesting. When talking about the events that led up to the creation of Oddworld he spoke about what made other pieces of media stand out before video games. He spoke of unforgettable experiences and how that needed to translate into a video game and it really made me start to think about just how often we've had experiences like that in the gaming industry. So let's talk about that.

Lanning mentioned films like Blade Runner, a masterpiece that still has the power behind it today that it had 20 years ago. It holds this power because of a few reasons; mainly because it isn't a film that feels like a marketing team made it and it didn't go on to be diluted by sequels and spinoffs. I thought at first “Well there are plenty of great experiences in games!” and then I immediately countered myself with “But are they really on that same level?” It's easy to think of games that you really enjoyed, but it's more difficult to really separate the good games from the experiences that are truly unique.

You could probably take the easy way out and say “oh Tetris or Super Mario Bros because they started it all” and that is true, but there also wasn't quite as much competition for something “new” back then. These days we have so many games of different genres. There are so many platformers, so many shooters; we really have to dig if we want to find something truly unique. The most difficult part of picking out these unique experiences is deciding just what makes a game unique, because surely that's largely subjective. I find the challenge pretty fascinating so bear with me while I talk it out.

The first example that pops to mind is Journey on PS3. When Journey came out I constantly heard from sites and gamers that it was such a profound and unique experience and all I could think was “How can a game be THAT good in a 2 hour experience?” I finally bit and gave it a download and I don't think I've ever experienced any game that so truly deserved the hype it was getting. Journey truly is a very unique and powerful experience in such a simple and beautiful way. It's a game that exudes raw emotion. Obviously there are people who may disagree, but I think the vast majority of people can agree that this game qualifies as a truly unique experience.

What else though? I'm already having to default to experiences that are much more subjective. Personally I feel that Jasper Byrne's Lone Survivor is a very unique experience. That's a game that could easily be looked at as just a 2D survival horror which, while different, may not really resonate with many. At the same time though, those who really pay attention to what's going on in the game and the themes and experiences that it holds will find something incredibly deep and meaningful hidden within it.

I'd also say that both of Supergiant's games are incredibly unique and unforgettable experiences for me. Bastion and Transistor have fantastic methods of narration and storytelling that really hit a special chord with me. Now that I think about these games though I can already think of plenty of people who don't see them in as fascinating a light as I do, but when it comes down to it you can always find someone who dislikes something that you love.

I feel like there's an added layer of complexity when it comes to making a game feel unique rather than a movie or book. What kind of things do you think about when you're considering how good a movie was? Well you think about how good the story was, how well the characters were written, how well they were portrayed by the actors, how good did the film look, etc.

Now what about video games? In a video game you could look for every one of those things but you also have to worry about the biggest component: how does it actually play? I could say that Silent Hill 2 contains some of the best story telling in any game, but that's just one aspect of a game. I couldn't say that SH2 offers a unique, or even terribly enjoyable, gameplay experience, and to many that's more important than any of those other components.

I could probably point to Shadow of the Colossus as a great example of these components coming together in a meaningful way. That's a game that is primarily gameplay, very enjoyable gameplay at that, but also features a very special story and a fascinating world to explore. It is unique in both gameplay and story, and as such still receives praise to this day.

Something else to think about is how much should we WANT a new and unique experience from a game? I think it's important to want the best for our medium and for the creators to strive to create something special, but I also feel that it's important that every creator not feel the need to carry that burden of “I have to make something truly unique and innovative or I've wasted my time.” We see this in plenty of mediums outside of games.

Regardless of whether you're looking at movies or music or games you always see what my friend Mike would call “popcorn flicks.” I'm talking about the Transformers and the Resident Evils of the film world. These aren't going to blow your mind in any meaningful way and you may not remember them for very long, but that doesn't mean that they're not fun in the moment if you're willing to switch your brain down to a lazy setting for a while.

Games have these types of experiences as well. You don't play Call of Duty or God of War for a deep meaningful experience, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't exist. The fact that people are willing to pump such an unbelievably substantial amount of money into those games with every iteration proves that people do want those types of popcorn experiences. More and more these days the titles that really try to be thought provoking and unique are in the indie scene. The problem then becomes standing out from those Call of Duty types of experiences when you've created something meaningful. How do you get people to look away from the flashy advertisements long enough to see this little gem that you've poured your heart into?

I don't know that this is a problem that can really be fixed, at least not in the current market, purely because what publishers seem to want to push into your face are the franchises that they KNOW will sell. They know you'll buy Call of Duty, they know you'll buy Mass Effect, but the amount of risk that comes with something that wants to test the boundaries is more substantial. We've got programs like greenlight for games that have been made but need to be made available and we've got kickstarter for those games that could be made if people would give creators a bit of help, but there seems to be a real need for someone with a real following to dig through these sorts of titles and find the hidden gems to show the world.

Now there are people who are legitimately trying to help make this kind of thing happen. Every so often on Destructoid or Rock Paper Shotgun or Kotaku you'll see a bit of “Hey, here's this interesting thing that we just heard about on kickstarter!” and I know some people on YouTube delve into it with shows like The Greenlight on Jesse Cox's channel or the TotalBiscuit's WTF is?, but it would be interesting to see someone with a following delving into these titles regularly. We've seen some fantastic games come from the indie scene that have taken the gaming world by storm, so how many more could we find if we really looked? The question then becomes will people actually watch such a show and how realistic of a goal is it to reliably find lesser known titles worth mentioning? These are questions I'm honestly not equipped to answer.

If we're totally honest with ourselves we can't really just blame publishers either, because it's also up to consumers to actually fork up the cash for the games that try to stand out. We can blame big companies for only pushing out big sequels and rehashes, but how many consumers are really willing to give their money to these smaller studios? Especially the ones who haven't gotten to prove themselves yet? Lanning also touched on that a bit when he spoke of people not wanting to spend $20 on a game just because it's an indie title, and it is a bit absurd. We're happy to bitch about big companies not giving us quality products but we're afraid that smaller guys might be small because they don't have quality to offer.

This is a very complex subject that just gets more and more out of my league the more I think about it. I'm sure there are far greater minds than my own who have been considering all of these things for far longer, but it's something I just felt like speaking on for a bit. If nothing else I hope it prompts a bit of thought from people and maybe even some discussion. Either way, thanks for reading!

 

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