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This Weekend: Looking for Skyrim Smithing Advice

What are you guys playing this weekend?

I’m playing a lot of Skyrim on the Switch. I’ve been leveling a warrior-type using 1h and block. Having not played Skyrim for years, I wasn’t aware of so many of the little changes. The biggest change is to Smithing. My goal was the level up Smithing and craft some pretty epic items. Turns out, it’s a little more difficult now. Smithing in Skyrim now works off the value of the item. From what I read, the best ratio of resources to skill gains comes from making ‘gold rings’, but I’m also reading some info about Dwarven Smithing. Looking for some advice here.

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When is The Elder Scrolls 6 Coming Out?

When is The Elder Scrolls VI coming out? Sorry, I don't know. That's why I'm asking.

I've recently been on a Skyrim kick thanks to the Switch version being an awesome way to play the game on the go and/or away from a traditional TV setup. 

I'm also watching a lot of Oblivion being played by a streamer named DansGaming. He's currently playing a modded play-through and I've decided if by the time I'm done with Skyrim and bored enough, if nothing else is out to play, I'll be doing the same.

All this Elder Scrolls has me thinking that we're due for a new release here soon. Technically, we're way past due. Morrowind came out in 2002. Oblivion came out in 2006. Skyrim came out in 2011. It's now 2018, and even accounting for the increased development time between games, we're due.

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What are You Playing this Weekend?

This weekend I’m looking forward to having some time to relax and invest in some games. This week was marred by food poisoning (or something unpleasant…) and a ton of client work. I’m ready for some R&R.

I’ll be clocking time in Skyrim for Switch, finishing up an Assassin’s Creed 2 play-through with my wife, and perhaps looking at getting We are Billions.

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Skyrim Survival Mode

I think the idea of a Skyrim survival mode is awesome.  What a cool way to keep updating a game that is getting up there in age.

Survival mode transforms the world into a "land of unrelenting cold and harsh wilderness." They're adding hunger, fatigue, cold, warmth, freezing water, reduced carry weight, sleeping to level up, and lots more.

I think some of the neatest additions are having to eat to survive. This means more random hunting will happen, and cooking food (or having to stop to do so) will make the world feel more immersive and sandbox.

Skyrim Survival Map

The world is also being updated to include climate regions, and other items for survival.

What I'm a little disappointed about is that instead of being a core update, this will be a "mod" to the game. I get how classifying it as a "mod" makes sense, but that also means restrictions.

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players will get to experience Survival Mode and other Creations early next month. Both PC and console players will get Survival Mode free for one week once it launches on their preferred platform.

I'm planning to pick up Skyrim on the Switch, and unfortunately there won't be any "mods" on the switch. Since Skyrim Survival is going to be a "mod," that means I'm out of luck. 

I don't really want to play it on the PC if I'm going to spend the money to get it (again) on the Switch. Just a grumbly bit detail for players like me.

Otherwise, a very cool (pun intended) update mod.


Adventure Log: Skyrim and Dragon’s Dogma

This week’s Adventure Log is surprisingly Dragon-centric.  Both of us worked hard to finish up games with open worlds and freedom.

Graev: Dragon’s Dogma

I beat Dragon’s Dogma yesterday, and now I’m working on New Game Plus (NG+) which means I beat the game and I get to play it over again while keeping my character’s stats and items.   I was originally a Strider which is a ranger guy that uses two daggers and a bow, but I changed to a Ranger that uses larger bows.  Then I became an Assassin which can use daggers, swords, and bows, adn beat the game.   Now that I’m in NG+ I might change to an arcane archer — changing classes is easy by going to an NPC and changing points; Some abilities even carry over.

I haven’t fought the huge world dragon yet.  I have to get back to that location in NG+ because I wasn’t ready for him in my first play-through.  He’s that dragon you get to fight for 8 minutes at a time and after 8 minutes or you deal a certain amount of damage he flies away.  The whole community playing Dragon’s Dogma gets to contribute to the fight.  If you contributed to fighting him you get a reward, but if you’re actively fighting him when he’s killed you get REALLY good rewards.  The Xbox community has killed him 30 something times, and the PS3 community is on 80 something.   I’m excited to get to that fight.

The coolest fight I’ve done is the big red dragon, which is part of the storyline.  To beat him I jumped and climbed on his chest/stomach area and stabbed at his heart.  My pawn, or NPC companions, helped me out.  Sometimes the dragon would fly up in the air and to bring him down I would get in a ballista and shoot him down. At one point he shot up in the air with me on his back and I had to climb around him to stab some more.  It was a really cool boss fight.

The story of Dragon’s Dogma is reminds of of the JRPG style that doesn’t make any sense — perhaps it’s lost in translation — but at least parts are interesting.  What keeps me playing are the boss fights and monsters.  Dragon’s Dogma feels like a mix of Monster Hunter and Shadow of the Colossus in combat.  The world is not terribly big but it’s open and feels larger than it is because of the number of monsters you have to fight to travel.  Limited forms of quick travel help create that sense of distance.

This has turned into a bit of a review, so I’ll end by saying that I recommend Dragon’s Dogma and give it a 4 out of 5.


Keen: Skyrim

Whiterun on a clear day. So many riches to steal and marks to assassinate.

I finally finished the main story and quest in Skyrim! I started a new file about a month ago because I lost all hope of continuing one of my other characters that became lost in their own misadventures in the world of Tamriel. This time around I played with a focus: I wanted to be chaotic neutral with a sense of duty to the birthright of Dragonborn, but a clear sense of my own self-importance. I went the route of a sneaking assassin that specialize in dagger/shield and Bow.

Before I started the main story, I joined and completed the Dark Brotherhood quests. I had a lot of fun coming up with unique ways of assassinating my marks. As a bowman, I found it was often in my best interest to find an accessible rooftop with shadows, hunker down in stealth, and snipe my mark without anyone seeing me.

I joined the thieves guild shortly after and began my work stealing, sneaking, and attempting to get rich all-the-while avoiding killing. It was hard to abandon my Dark Brotherhood ways, but I made up for it by taking far more than necessary in loot.

The main story was next, and this time I pushed through it with dedication. Minor spoilers ahead. Fighting dragons became very easy for me. Using a dagger was off-limits because I could never 30x sneak attack a dragon. Instead, I pulled out my bow and hid behind rocks — popping out to shoot then ducking to avoid breath. This is how I beat Alduin both fights without trouble. Dragonrend + chicken tactics with a Bow trivialized the fights — or was I just that good? My character likes to think so.

All I have left in Skyrim is to finish exploring crafting and finishing some quests with Molag Bal. Oh yeah, if you’re interested in the storyline for The Elder Scrolls Online, the main bad guy of the MMO actually gives you quests in Skyrim. Actually… I found myself serving several Daedric princes throughout the game. Hermaeous Mora was quite good to me.


TESO: Evolving or Devolving to be a MMO?

Last week I wrote that MMORPG’s are not single-player games as a response to the revelation that TESO will have a “core” part of the game be entirely single-player in which we pretend that other players aren’t even in the same world.  Matt Firor, Creative Director,  was published on PC Gamer today with more about the nature of TESO’s “evolution”.

TESO will have traditional MMO classes.

I want to approach the subject of TESO from a different angle this time.  Instead of saying MMO’s aren’t single-player games, how about The Elder Scrolls aren’t MMORPG’s?  I think too much of The Elder Scrolls is having to change in order to accommodate the MMORPG mechanics.

“Since we have a PVP component to our game it’s very difficult to make a skill based game like in Skyrim, so we went back to a more traditional character based system like in the older Elder Scrolls games just to make it easier to balance to make sure the PVP system worked,” Firor explains.

“Well the Elder Scrolls formula has kind of evolved over time, and if you look at Elder Scrolls 1: Arena to Daggerfall to Morrowind. Things have evolved in every game, so it’s not like they’re all exactly the same as the one before, there’s a clear line of evolution. What we had to do to make it an MMO is to kind of evolve over to the multiplayer side and there are some things that come with that.” [PC Gamer]

Despite having classes, previous Elder Scrolls games were reliant upon a skill-based system.  Most of you are probably familiar with the way Morrowind and Oblivion handled choosing a class, where the class simply determined which primary and second skills helped your character level.  Skyrim changed in a way that removed classes entirely and became more of a free point allocation to be whatever you want.  Arena and Daggerfall had classes, with skill components.  Matt is correct by saying that things have evolved in every game, but in my opinion he’s very wrong by saying that TESO is evolving by changing to a MMORPG class system.  It feels much more like devolving.

I love MMO’s more than most people, but I won’t pretend for a second that the traditional class system is evolved ahead of anything else out there.  The single-player approach, an obvious themepark nature, and looking at how far they’re going to have to alter their winning RPG formula to accommodate the oft clunky MMO mechanics worries me.  I foresee a very tough future ahead for TESO.

Hopefully I will be proven very wrong.  I won’t mind at all.


The Elder Scrolls Online

We’re excited about The Elder Scrolls Online.  The announcement feels old because we’ve had rumors floating around for months.  With so little information available, we have to grasp at the few straws and extrapolate whatever we can get.

The game supposedly takes place across all of Tamriel, “from Elsweyr to Skyrim and everywhere in between.” [Source]  That’s jaw-dropping huge.  Look at the map below.  We played Morrowind and it was enormous.  Oblivion wasn’t as large, but Cyrodiil was still decent size.  Skyrim was also plenty big.  Daggerfall was Hammerfell and High Rock.  Combine all of the areas we’ve seen in all of the Elder Scrolls games and it becomes obvious to us that they’re going to adapt the world to work as a MMO.  There’s simply no way they’re going to handcraft this to scale with a projected release date in 2013.

We have our doubts that players will be able to steal anything, attack anyone, or how this will translate  into an MMO unless it’s a standard issue MMO using the same game world.  We have nightmares that it won’t be a sandbox.  We’ve been somewhat skeptical all along, but those are fears we’ll have to set aside for now.

Cyrodiil will be the site of a three faction PvP conflict.  I’m sure this comes from Matt Firor being being the game director.  Who will be the three factions?  We can think of a few, like the Aldmeri Dominion and the Empire who would be at war during the time before Skyrim.  Our memories of Elder Scrolls lore needs to be refreshed.  Anyone have any ideas or info we’ve missed? How the three faction PvP will work is also completely left to our imaginations.  We’d love to see the area completely open full of locations to control.

Public Dungeons are also mentioned, and again Darkness Falls comes to mind because of Matt Firor’s involvement with Dark Age of Camelot via Mythic.  Darkness Falls is a public dungeon that all three factions can enter together, but the portal/entrance to the dungeon is only active in the realm for those holding the most territory in PvP.  If not Darkness Falls, perhaps EQ or DAOC’s straight forward open dungeons that do not use instancing but remain open for everyone — imagine going into a random dungeon you find in a game like Skyrim to hunt monsters that respawn, and others would be able to enter right behind you.

The possibilities are so great with an Elder Scrolls MMO, and expectations are so high, especially with ambitions of three faction PvP, that we fear it’s a task no one out there will be capable of pulling off gracefully.  This is either going to be really great, or really awful.


Diablo, Bhaal, and Fus MMO Da all in one day

Just one of those days that I can’t get away without doing a conglomoblog post.

Diablo 3 releases May 15

This makes me wonder just how much of of the delaying can be blamed on the PvP they recently postponed.  Now that the game has a release date, I think I should start looking at what character I will play as first.  I know I’ll be doing a lot of playing in a ‘regular’ mode before going to hardcore.  I’ve also been looking at the skill trees, or lack thereof.  I didn’t realize they removed skill trees from D3 like back in 2009.  D3 now uses a very streamlined “you level up, you get 3 new skills” system.  Hopefully the ‘runes’ that can be slotted into skills will be enough customization.  This is one of those “wait and see” how it plays out situations for me.

Elder Scrolls Online?

We’ve talked a lot about an Elder Scrolls MMO’s being an awesome idea… if they do it right. I guess we’re going to see if they can.  It’s no secret that an MMO might be happening, but some sort of official announcement, according to rumors, will come in May. Make this a sandbox title true to the franchise and you’ll make some very happy fans.  Mess it up, and this could be the end for Elder Scrolls.  I really can’t even begin to speculate how they’ll pull it off because, in reality, the idea of an Elder Scrolls MMO actually happening has always been more of a “it’s cool because it’ll never happen” concept.

Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition

I don’t know whether to be mad or excited.  Graev and I just bought the original BG1 and BG2 from GoG.com and now an enhanced edition is coming out with more content and ‘enhancements’.  Right now we know a whole lotta nothing about the game other than its release date: Summer 2012.  The debate has already begun as to whether or not we continue with the originals or play the enhanced edition when it comes out.  I guess it depends on if there is multiplayer?

Information overload.


Reckoning Impressions Part 2

Killing rats is fun when they're this cool looking!

I want to update you guys with more of my Reckoning Impressions.  I’ve logged over 10 hours with the game which is far fewer than I would like, but I’ve been cramming for a midterm.   My pure mage is coming along awesome.  I have some very powerful spells now like my upgraded lightning, a passive chain lightning component, some fire executions, a summoned skeleton, a heal, and soon some ice shards.

Reckoning’s combat is still winning me over.  Combat is very action-packed, but don’t get the impression that it’s all crazy swinging and spazzy.  Combat feels very thought out.  If mobs get close, I’ll staff attack them with three attacks to cause an ice push-back.  When they’re at range, I’ll continue attacking with my chakrams.  If the mobs gang up on me, I have my fire and lightning to bring down larger numbers.

Dodging and blocking are thoughtful as well.  I’m learning to intelligently dodge attacks to give me better positioning for attacks.  Blocking at the right moment parries, giving me the chance to either roll away or strike them with my staff.

Reckoning mode makes fights much easier. Try to save it for when you need it most.

The stories in Reckoning have received mediocre reviews from some sites.  I’d challenge those sites by pointing to their reviews of Skyrim, which was not docked for side-quest mediocrity when the quests read nearly identical.  In my opinion, both games have good quests.  I just finished a quest line in Reckoning where I tried to figure out who was behind attacks on a village.  The story started out simple but culminated with a great boss fight and a great reward.

I don’t want to compare Reckoning to Skyrim all the time, since they’re quite different, but Skyrim is a newer RPG that many are still playing or contemplating playing over Reckoning.  Reckoning feels more ‘pick up and play’ than Skyrim.  One reason I haven’t progressed as far as I would like in Skyrim is that I get discouraged when I realize to get anything done in-game I have to sit for several hours.  I can hop on Reckoning for an hour and get things done.

Yes, Reckoning is more linear than Skyrim.  The world has a slight funneling feel.  I would argue, though, that the world of Reckoning is very large and given how much of the map I’ve explored vs. how much more I have to go, I’d say it feels as big as Skyrim.

More to come.

[If you’re looking to buy Reckoning, Amazon has the PC download version 15% off.]


Best and Worst Games of 2011

This year was stellar for gaming!  Great hits released for nearly every genre, every platform, and every style of play.  To begin our roundup of 2011, we want to share the games we feel were the best and worst or most disappointing this year.  These are games we played and we’re weighing them on our own personal scale, not by how they were received by the majority.

Best Games of 2011

KEEN:  Battlefield 3 – BF3 almost made it onto my list of most disappointing games because of several issues (UI and performance being on the top), but I had to put it on my list of best games because of the fun I’m having and what the game represents.  When a lot of games went the way of console ports, BF3 brought a huge boost to PC credibility.  BF3’s multiplayer is a ton of fun and it’s never been easier to play with friends via the new Battlelog, a love it or hate it new feature (I love it).

KEEN:  Skylanders – I absolutely have to give Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure my vote.  The brilliance of combining cross-platform compatible toys with video games, and actually having the video game be fantastic is reason enough for Skylanders to be recognized.  The adventure mode has depth as you progress and upgrade your individual Skylanders.  Co-op increases the enjoyment.  Take your Skylanders into battle mode and fight them.  Even take them to a friend’s house and YOUR Skylanders are there with you even if your friend has a different plaform.


GRAEV:  Batman: Arkham City – Probably the closest we’ll ever have to a big open-city Batman.  This game let me do everything Batman can do.   Akham City is a great example of how sequels should be made.  When making games, you should keep all the good things and expand upon them instead of taking things away.  All the great things from Arkham Asylum were included, but bigger and better.

GRAEV:  Dark Souls – It’s hard, which is a rare thing these days!  There’s a feeling of accomplishment when I progress and take down bosses.  Although primarily a single-player game, Dark Souls offers a multiplayer experience that enhances the single-player experience.   Players can go into other people’s games and help with bosses or go for a more pvp aspect by invading enemy players worlds to steal their souls.  Dark Souls offers a unique experience.

Worst or Most Disappointing Games of 2011

GRAEV:  Skyrim – Even though I enjoyed Skyrim, and played through twice,  it was disappointing to me in many ways.  Bethesda is taking the franchise in a direction I don’t like, into a more streamlined and action game approach which diverges from what made Morrowind great.  Certain things bugged me more than others.  Bethesda removed all of the stats from the game, changed the level up process, removed spellcrafting, magic feels incredibly underwhelming, and the addition of dragons was neat at first but quickly became repetitive and lost the ‘wow factor’, making the cliff racers from Morrowind look good.


KEEN:  Brink – I expected so much more from Brink.  It was supposed to be a thrilling new approach to the team-based shooter experience, but it ultimately fell flat.  The maps are too underwhelming with balance issues.  The gun play wasn’t there, either.  Looking back, this is one of the few games I would say gave me buyer’s remorse.

KEEN:  Rift – The second game which I felt buyer’s remorse over was Rift.  I wanted to love this game; I tried.  Despite having disappointing PvP, it’s the PvE that killed it for me.  I couldn’t get past how generic and repetitive the quests were and how “blah” the zones felt.   I couldn’t get into the story and ultimately I was never attached to my characters.  I couldn’t bring myself to reach the max level.