MH Rampages

Rise brings a new mode to the gameplay, and I’m still on the fence for it. Rampage is pretty much a different take on tower defence, what with installations, waves of enemies, and a large final boss at the end.

The mechanics are pretty straightforward. You have a big gate on one end, and you need to protect it from a pile of baddies. As each battle progresses, and you complete sidequests in that battle, you gain levels allowing to use better defensive structures. You get a layout, plenty of locations to build, and auto or manual structures. Monsters come in 4 types – gate crashers, melee, ranged, and then the apex bad guy. You can use ballista, canons, wyvernfire, bombs, and town NPCs as potential defences, each with their own strengths. Some require a whole lot more setup (wyvernfire is a laser tripwire, so positioning and aiming is key).

The thought process here is that you prioritize targets in order to protect the final gate, picking off enemies with the right tools, which will allow the final monster to show. I will say that it’s hard to fail the first part, if you’re paying attention to what’s going on. At least, at the initial levels.

The high rank Rampages though, that’s really a different bit. Quite a few have 3 waves, and the monsters within are quite a bit more difficult than the lower level ones. There’s a big difference in challenge between an Azuregos and a Mizutsune. Thankfully you’re given access to powerful tools, like the Dragonator, which deal tremendous damage to those bosses, if you can get them lined up.

Apex monsters, the final boss, are the equivalent of triple enraged monsters. Where a normal monster could take 1/4 of your HP with a hit, odds are an Apex will deal 80-90% per hit. tldr; you’re going to die if you go toe to toe and are not paying attention. Thankfully, there are no death limits… which gets me to the larger point with this mode.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer mode adds an HP multiplier to enemies to account for more players. This is offset by a standard 3 death limit across all players. Any 3 deaths and the mission fails. Rampage has no such penalty.

Manual defences allow for aiming, and since there are a dozen or so stations that can be used (replacing them before breaking saves a good 30s cooldown), so there’s a very high incentive to manually oversee everything. Clearly, more people make this process a LOT easier. Which effectively makes this mode designed for online play.

The rest of the game has a small weight towards multiplayer being better than solo. The max death count and collision detection make it so that you need to coordinate attacks for success. The gains are generally in terms of time spent, where battles are typically half the duration, less so in terms of overall success. Rampage though… I don’t think it’s possible to fail if you’re in multiplayer, while it’s certainly possible in solo mode.

Different Focus

All of my issues with Rampage mode are nitpicky items. It has a half dozen mandatory missions throughout the campaign, and the rewards within are generally within their own progress tree. It’s linked to the main game, but clearly quite optional. It’s also quite well balanced, and shows the overall design quality that Monster Hunter is known for. The environment has always been a key factor in taking town monsters, so it’s interesting to see this mode for all-in on the concept.

I personally find less enjoyment here, because you’re not really fighting the monsters, things are fighting them for you. It’s certainly an interesting mode… maybe it will grow on me.

Timing and Games as a Service

It’s weird to be playing both Monster Hunter: Rise and Outriders, two games that have really different models on hand, yet both offer similar end game incentives.

Timing

First the world context. Quite a lot of folks are in the 3rd wave of the pandemic, with more time on their hand than money. Tons of media has been delayed to allow for proper development from remote locations, and there’s a general lack of new in the gaming space. As much as Valheim is a truly amazing game, had this released in a regular game window I’m not sure it would have caught on as much. With that said, any game launching today has a crazy opportunity for wide eyes, and by proxy, a lot of gamer patience for any potential issues.

Well, issues in the general sense. Not the mess that Cyberpunk delivered.

MH:R is a time-sink game to get the most out of it… dozens of hours to get through it all. Advantage that so many folks have so much time on hand to really dig into this.

Outriders is different, in that there are some rather serious bugs (inventory wipes!) that are hiding a quality game underneath. The end game portion itself is better in a social setting, but it’s honestly quite a pain to get through and there are some server optimization issues that remain (the wipe for one, but some mods don’t work well in MP).

The flip side to this, is that gamers are much more locust focused, with the rapid ability to consume content. Makes you wonder how much success Blizz would have had with Shadowlands if it had launched in February instead…

Games as a Service

What actually fits into this model? Any game with on-going micro-transactions?

MH:R has a huge content roadmap at zero cost, and I’m not currently seeing any MT. Maybe it will come for cosmetics? Doesn’t seem like it, given that you can reset your character looks for free. There are only a few games that come close to this amount of free content.

Avengers also gives out tons of free content, with the MT focused on cosmetics. Clearly they are limited by Marvel/Disney as to what cosmetics they can use, just like the older Marvel Heroes game. There are only so many options for the Hulk after all… he’s always going to be big, green, and half naked. It lists itself as a game as a service, just no one seems to be at the door.

Diablo 3 has no MT, and while it didn’t have extra free content (RoS was an expansion), it does have seasons and huge balance changes. The game today bears minimal resemblance to the initial launch.

Path of Exile has a huge content roadmap and the business model is entirely driven through cosmetic MT. Warframe is a similar bag, where the business model is community driven. They do compare to MH in terms of free content, and in some respects have delivered more in less time.

Outriders has no MT, and no content roadmap. What shipped is what you get. Which on the one hand is kind of smart given the lack of return on these types of games over the years. I can’t see how they would compete with Division or Destiny in terms of looter/shooter, and Warframe is just at another level. Anthem, Anvengers, Godfall are all really good examples of how not to do this type of game. Surge 2, Remnant, Borderlands are examples of how you can. It’s a really tough balance. Who knows, maybe Outriders can generate the type of demand that would generate DLC.

Not every game fits the GaaS model, particularly those that are focused on the single player aspect. But if you want people to play together, it seems like a really good opportunity to put it to practice. Just need to make sure the core is solid before pitching DLC..

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Outriders: Expeditions

The End Game as it were.

Think of expeditions as pre-set quick dungeon runs, with all rewards provided based on clear time. You have gold, silver, bronze, and then consolation prizes. Most of the runs are balanced around the concept of always moving forward, which may be a shock to people who leveled as Techno or Pyro.

As with all dungeons, there are ones that are easier and ones that are faster. Easy really focuses on the way the zone is designed, enemies spawn (line of sight), and then the final boss spawn. Fast is more related to the linear nature of a run. Eventually you’ll find one that seems to fit both. I find that Boom Town is the fastest (~6m) and that Chem Plant is the easiest (~8.5m). I personally prefer to have Monsters as enemies rather than gun toting enemy and Chem Plant’s boss is a monster.

Risk vs Rewards

Clearing in time means the final cache has more loot, and generally better odds of good loot. Gold will have 4x drop piles with say 10% legendary, and silver would be 3x at 8%. This highly incentivizes gold runs! If you’re doing the max level CT, you’ll see that for most, just clearing an expedition will open the next challenge tier.

The risk in any given run is that you’re going to die. Dying means restarting the entire run, which sucks. Especially when you’re on the last boss and have some bad luck (damn you frozen!!) The good news here is that depending on how far you’ve made it through a run, you’ll get a consolation chest between attempts in the starting area. You get rewards no matter the outcome, just not great rewards.

Successfully clearing a run also gives Pod Resources. These are used to upgrade items post-40 AND to buy items from a vendor (including unique items). You get way more resources on harder difficulties. Something like 1900 for a gold run on CT11.

Resetting Expeditions

Start one, abandon it, and the list of Expeditions will reset. If you really don’t like your options, this is a great way to get the one you want to show.

Defence vs Offence

Outriders is a game focused on offence. You’re going to take a PILE of damage, and need to make every effort to get to the 85% armor cap. Mitigation from Death (stacking armor if you kill down sights of gun) is therefore mandatory. You have other options depending on your class, just remember that for most of them there are conditions – e.g. behind cover.

Damage is really important, and you need to make a call between skill damage (anomaly) or weapon damage. Health is currently useless as a stat. Armor and Max Firepower roll in ranges, and that range really matters at higher levels. The rest of the stats are locked based on item quality (blue/purple/orange) and level. Depending on playstyle, you’ll want to stack crit damage, short/long range damage, cooldown reduction and so on.

There is likely 1 critical class mod to help you in terms of damage uptime, in particular around status effects. The rest of the mods will be focused on other attacks. Death Chains is crazy DPS, Bone Shrapnel, Lightning Whip, and Killing Spree are all quite solid DPS boosts. Up until CT10 you’re going to be able to clear with OK gear in mostly blues. Past that point… you’re going to need to optimize.

Gearing Up

You’re going to be swimming in drops. As with any looter, most of them will not be useful. What to do?

Well, up until level 40 I do recommend to just disassemble everything. The mats will help you with your stock levels and improve items going forward.

Post 40 though… you want to sell all blues. The scraps (money) is going to be super useful at the vendor to pick up some rarer mods. The vendor inventory respawns every expedition. You won’t find legendaries (I haven’t seen them) but it’s a good way to get rank 2 mods… or to buy Titanium.

Always disassemble purple and orange items. The mods obviously are useful but you’re really wanting the titanium to upgrade items, not to mention the stat scraps for later on.

A note on orange items… they roll the same mods all the time, and same secondary stats. What changes is the primary stat (Firewpower / Armor). It’s entirely possible to get a decent legendary at say level 20 and it be viable at 50 if you upgrade it. The material costs to upgrade are likely prohibitive! What this means is that a purple with a solid rank 2 mod and good rolls can be modded to have a rank 3 mod and be miles ahead of a legendary item. The good news is that legendary items look damn cool.

What If You’re Stuck?!

In most other looters, you progress through plateaus of power. One item will complete a build and put you at another level. Diablo3 is a great example, where a 4 piece set bonus can often push you through 4 difficulty levels.

Not so with Outriders. The progress up to CT10 is somewhat linear. CT11 and beyond, you will always be underpowered. You need damn good rolls to progress, and most of your items need to be at the right item level. A lvl 43 gun is like a fly swatter on a lvl47 enemy.

My suggested approach is to run expeditions at a CT level where gold is easy, often your max minus 2. This will guarantee a huge pile of resources at the end, and you can farm one with decent stats and mods. Finding a purple armor piece with the ideal stats – for me, Max Firepower, Long Range damage, and a good rank 2 mod – is not something that’s guaranteed. The stats aren’t the challenge, it’s that there’s like 40+ rank 2 mods!

The weapon is actually harder to judge, as the primary firepower roll is very hard to judge as being high. For that, I suggest that you always keep a purple in the inventory with the highest damage stat as a comparison, regardless of mods/secondary stats. That way, you can tell if a new drop with good mods/secondary is worth keeping or not (firepower + 2 mods >>> secondary stats)

Once you have those good items, you’ll upgrade them to max level. That will take a fair chunk of resources, which is why you’re farming. You absolutely want to upgrade the weapon first. The armor piece you will want to upgrade the one with Mitigation from Death first, then the mods where the bonuses are fixed (like Bloodlust). The mods with % gains should be upgraded last.

The end result is that you’re probably going to unlock CT15 with items you found at CT9. You may really luck out and get a god roll while leveling along the way, but after the time I’ve spent so far, that seems quite unlikely.

The Grind

This begs the question if Outriders has a shelf life, if you’re in a grind for stat sticks doing the exact same content. D3/PoE helps in this with the randomness of it’s dungeons. Division and Destiny dungeons are much longer, but also have a different method of increasing your power level.

I’m not saying Outriders is bad… far from it. But it’s not great. In the middle of a pandemic… it scratches a hell of an itch.

MH:Rise New Players

I’m a jaded middle-aged fart, with nearly 40 years of gaming under my belt. There are a lot of things I take for granted in gaming, and when those basic tenets are broken, I get frustrated. Basic things, like movement with the left analog stick, that jump is spacebar, that X = OK, or that shooting is the right trigger. When games swap that stuff around, like Dark Souls having attacks mapped to triggers, it messes up with my brain!

MH is not an accessible game. Blizzard’s old motto of easy to learn, difficult to master is not applied. You are thrown into the deep end, and then the game throws rocks at you.

This could not be more evident than watching my eldest take a try at the game. She created a character just fine, not really understanding all the choices. Game starts, she sees the Chief give a speech and asks ‘is he the bad guy?’ The game then says she needs to find someone in town, but doesn’t explain how to find anyone. Sure, there are tutorial screens but they are so high level it’s really not of any value.

After 10 minutes of tutorial screens and the main town, she figured out how to start a mission. She couldn’t figure out how to ride her Palamute (the game’s commands buttons are not really explained), and then after 5 minutes she couldn’t figure out what to do. Finally sees the icon on the mini-map, then a bunch more tutorial screens that don’t say anything useful. Finally fights some tiny lizards, but couldn’t figure out the attack buttons or combos. She really enjoyed the Wirebugs though!

Contrast that to my experience after World. I know what 90% of the mechanics are in this game, I’ve configured equipment and item loadouts, I get food, I have a configured action wheel. I really understand the concept of counters and evasion. Going HAM doesn’t work in Monster Hunter (it certainly does in Dauntless). I’ve killed dozens of monsters and only failed one mission – Almudron – as I was learning it’s movesets and got chain stunned. But I’m good at this because I have like 100 hours in World.

My daughter has ZERO experience in any MH, really no experience in anything that’s this complex with perhaps Ghosts of Tsushima as the closest bit. Compare that to something like Mario Kart 8, where there’s a gradual learning curve and she’s just getting miles better every time. Or Rocket League, where she pulls off moves that I am really stunned to see.

Now, I realize that my daughter is not the typical gamer, and that there are plenty of folks that love the complexity of an MH game. Further, that with some practice I’m sure she’d be better than I am. It’s just a weird situation to see the gap between my experience and her expectations so clearly put on display.

Maybe I can find some YouTube newbie videos she can take a look at, then practice some together. Would be really neat to see this expand as a family thing.

Outriders: Campaign Complete

Color me surprised, Outriders is quite good! Or at least it scratches that looter/shooter itch that’s been sorely missing. It’s not a perfect game, but it does a LOT more well than not.

Story

The demo focused on the first town and quests. It feels like it’s pulled straight out of an 80s sci-fi story, and really isn’t remarkable. Honestly, the story is just bad until you hit the forest (hub 5 if I recall) and then it starts getting mildly interesting. The next few hubs, until you get to the gate to the ‘other side’ all do a decent job expanding on the story and characters. The post-gate items, which is pretty much the second half, is a slow descent into madness. It swings wildly in moods between serious and camp towards a very serious topic of genocide for colonization purposes. The tone is hard to follow, and the final act is a rather large let down.

The story really boils down to the price people are willing to pay in order to survive and never finds a balance – instead every character outside you group holds to the ethos that the ends justify the means.

There are some really cool ideas here, but they just aren’t used enough. The Wanderer is one, Moloch another. The Outrider Bunker quest line (the only true questline) is a highlight worth note…

That said, you’re in for a decent ride for 20+ hrs, and that’s more than on offer in most games out there.

Leveling Mechanics

I figure I should touch on this a bit… the main quest is the major source of all XP. Only do that and you should reach 28 (of 30) by the end. Complete all the sidequests for an extra level. Complete all the Beast/Bounty/History hunts and hit 30 easily. This is a really smart method for alts… as the main quest can be sped through in a fraction of the time for a full run.

World Tiers are a neat difficulty mechanic that only applies to the leveling portion. You get increased difficulty for the chance at better quality drops while leveling. It has zero, nilch, nada, bearing on the end-game activity of expeditions. So for a single player run, then fill your boots with a challenging run! If you’re leveling an alt, put it to WT1 and zoom through it all.

I’ll say that 30 levels feels meaningful. Each level has a meaningful impact on character progress… and enemy difficulty. The difference between a level 25 gun and a level 26 gun is significant. Gosh forbid you level twice and feel like you’re shooting confetti.

Crafting

Which brings me to mods and crafting. The cost to modify a weapon/armor, or level them up is super cheap for blue/green items. To the point where they are practically free. The downside to this is that the game is balanced around having all your mods slotted, so you can’t reasonably equip dropped materials past level 15 without modding back at base. You’ll end up completing a zone, heading to camp, modding, then taking the truck to the next zone.

Purple/Orange items have much higher crafting costs, and you should just mod them (for cheap) rather than upgrade their level. In practical terms, this means that if you find a well-rolled gun at level 5, you could theoretically keep it until 30, for no real cost.

Mod collecting is a neat mini game, that really shines at the later parts. Clearly some mods are astronomically better than others.

Expeditions & Challenge Tier

When you complete the last story quest, you unlock timed dungeon runs called Expeditions. They are generally less than 20 minutes, and depending on your speed you unlock higher Challenge Tiers. These tiers are identical to World Tiers in that enemies are harder, you get better drops, and can upgrade items to a higher level. CT scaling is odd, in that it goes 31, 32, 34, 35, 37, 38, 40 and so on until CT15. Every 2nd CT increase is a 2 level increment, which is really quite painful.

Dying (or a group wipe) has you restart the entire expedition. So if you’re 15 minutes in and the boss gets you, restart again. You do get a consolation reward if you fail (3 deaths), so there’s always some progress.

I find the beauty of expeditions (so far) is that the timers are relatively generous, the spawns are predictable, and the ‘farm’ runs are usually less than 10 minutes. You can run the same map again and again (just abandon an expedition until the one you want shows up), so it’s more muscle memory than much else.

God Builds

Right… the challenge here is that while mods are useful and interchangeable, the stats on items is the real meat and potatoes. My technomancer uses assault rifles at a distance with Blighted Rounds. That means I want a gun with crit damage and long range damage. Armor is similar, in that I want Firepower, Long Range Damage, and either CDR or short range damage. Finding those great rolls is one part – finding the right mods is the next.

Blue items have 1 mod, purple have 2 (level 1 and 2), and orange have 2 (level 2 and 3). Running full blue items is ok, and will get you through a lot – but to more easily push content, you want more mods. This is the looter part of the game, and the RNG portion can be a bit rough in the run to CT15.

Right now, I ran some simple ones to get to CT5. CT4 enemies died in a single burst. CT5 enemies take 2. That seems small, but it’s twice the damage. It’s clear that higher challenges are much, much more depending on damage spikes which are almost exclusively enabled through status effects (toxic, burn, frozen, etc…)

Long Tail

I don’t mind the grind in games. Diablo 3 still has regular play, and I enjoy PoE and Grim Dawn as well. Shooter grinds though… that’s been a while. Let’s see where it goes. This isn’t a game as a service – all you get are expeditions, no seasons or anything. There’s no customization/transmog either, which is a real shame given the look of some items.

I think I’ll give an alt a try – probly a trickster. Technomancer is a blast though.

Outriders pleasantly surprised me on nearly all fronts. Certainly worth a look.

Outriders

I think we’re well beyond the point of smooth online launches. Diablo 3 and SimCity Online proved this point 9 years ago. Since then, every game has issues at launch, mostly due to the insane peak load that just can’t be accurately tested prior to launch. Outriders had a HUGE stress test demo a month ago, and still the days of launch were really bad. I don’t see how there’s a solution here, aside from industry standard network management protocols that are cloud-hosted… but that’s a heck of a pipe dream. Hats off to People Can Fly as to taking this issue seriously and providing a relatively quick fix.

Demo Thoughts

I played the demo, across all 4 classes, and completed the tower quest with 2 of them. I had little interest in grinding gear or levels, just wanted to get a taste for what the game had to deliver. The demo itself appears to be a very accurate representation of the live game, with only the crafting part that wasn’t included.

My thoughts on the demo continue to stand – it’s an aggressive shooter that’s much more in line with Doom than say The Division. While you can certainly use shelter to snipe targets from afar, this really only works for the Technomancer class. Trickster and Devastator require up-close attacks to regenerate health. The Pyromancer is in a really weird spot as a debuffer.

Level 12

I’ve completed the 3rd zone, which includes the first real boss (decent fight). I’m not sure how much content remains in the leveling path, but I’ve reached level 12 of 30. There’s some good and less good here.

The story is passable I guess. Does that matter though? The voice acting is better than quite a few other games. It’s far from the focus, and I’m ok with that.

The zones themselves are similar in structure. You have a main path with checkpoints, one lore item to collect in a sub-zone, then you come back after the main quest to do a few side quests. You fight waves of enemies (95% human so far), with the odd elite enemy or 3 along the path. While certainly enjoyable, there’s a distinct lack of variety so far. Hoping to have more enemy types, at the very least.

Weapons are worth discussing, as there are some significant differences between them, and seriously compounded by the gameplay. First note is that enemies have a significant amount of HP, and varying weak spots. The time to kill is certainly reasonable, but the amount of ammo required is something else. A max level sniper rifle should be able to take down someone in a single shot, but I still find enemies that I can head shot and they don’t drop. So I tend to go for high ammo repeating weapons. Compound this by enemy level increases that have some significant jumps in damage/hp, you find quickly that good items become useless with short order.

Which leads to crafting/modding. The tutorial doesn’t do justice to what’s really possible here, which is quite impressive. You build an inventory of mods and materials from disassembling gear. You use those to improve other items, with costs that so far are entirely reasonable. This means you can find a weapon that fits you perfectly and keep it up to par for quite a long time. You just need to remember to upgrade the item level! The whole mod inventory is really quite fascinating – there are some that are clearly WAY more useful than others and the swapping part is pretty easy to do. While quite useful for weapons, the real benefit is to armor as there are some real game changing mods that you absolutely want to try out!

Moving Forward

So far so good. I’ve avoided multiplayer completely due to stability issues – and a giant notice when you start the game. I can see hitting max level in a few more days, and hopefully that will include more enemy types. Not sure how longevity fits here, and truthfully don’t care all that much right now. The real time sink will continue to be Monster Hunter.

Rise Updates

Monster Hunter’s measure of progress is typically related to the weapon upgrade tree. There are 8 tiers of each weapon, and more weapon options than there are monsters. As you complete more quests, and kill more monsters, the tree ‘fog’ lifts and you can see what crafting material requirements are needed to make something. When you’ve unlocked the entire tree, then you’re in end-game.

I’m currently at rank 7, having taken down Magnamalo from the village, which rolls the first set of credits, giving access to 6 star quests. The village part is important, as MH:R actually has two modes. The Village quests are story related and unlock village items. Things like better food. The Hub is the regular mode and required to progress in order to improve your hunter rank and access tougher monsters (e.g. High Rank). I’ve yet to complete a single Hub quest…

I know I said 2 modes, but there are actually a few more. Arena quests are closed circuit fights against specific monsters, with specific gear loadouts. Better rewards if you clear faster. Training quests are just basic intro bits to the mechanics. There are plenty of requests/side quests to collect/kill things to have village upgrades (get Submarines!!). And finally, there are Rampage quests, which are a sort of tower defense mode. I’ll get into that in another post, it gets complex.

Easy Access

I tend to think of the Switch as an easy access console. I think that’s more because their first party games are more family oriented as compared to Sony/MS (God of War, Last of Us, Gears of War). Rise is not a first party game, and I would really struggle to call it accessible. MH: World was revolutionary in terms of making the series have global appeal, and Rise takes that foundation and then doubles down on the vertical aspect of combat. The World barrier of Anjanath shows up much earlier here. The map feels more claustrophobic than World, and that can cause some camera issues if you’re near a wall.

Put simply, you need to learn real quick about monster tells and how to tactically attack. A button mash approach is going to get you killed faster here than World. Now for the good news! Magnamalo is twice as easy as Nergigante was – there’s no insta-kill dive bomb attack here.

Wirebugs

This is the part that really ups the complexity. Wirebugs allow you to swing across the map, recover quickly from knock back and come with 2 specific attacks per weapon. A Charge Blade has a quick dash and a counter, both useful but not crazy essential. Longsword also has a counter, but the Helmsplitter is the real big show here. Knowing when and how to use them makes a huge difference! Heck, some monsters have area attacks that can be completely negated by taking a Wirebug to the sky and just hanging there. Which leads to the next interesting bit…

Monster Riding

With enough Wirebug damage, a monster enters a rideable state. Or, if two monsters fight each other, this will also trigger. Attack once and jump on board.

If you’re in a monster duel, then you can use light/heavy attacks on the other monster, which deals some decent damage and has a high chance at drops. If you’re just 1v1, then you can force them into the wall a few times for some damage and a quick stun. The cooldown for riding is about 10 minutes or so, and really makes a huge difference in terms of drops rather than damage. So you’re highly incentivized to use the Wirebug as much as possible.

Buddies

This is so much more complex than World… yet appears simple. You start off with a Palico (cat) and Palamute (dog) which accompany you on fights. In the basic sense, Palicos are very similar to World in terms of providing support. Palamutes are more combat focused, and simply amazing in terms of traversing the map. You can hire any two, so if you want two Palamutes, go nuts. Where is gets more complex is in how these buddies actually work.

Both have passive skills that are randomly selected and can be slotted. Things like Health Up or Knockout King. They only impact the buddy, so optimization here is more about ensuring they survive than much else.

Palamute attack skills are based on gear selection – similar to Palicos in World. Things like threat generation, or passive healing, or defense. This means that unless you’re super min-maxing, the starter Palamute is more than enough to get you through the entire game.

Palicos are different. They come with active skills that are a combination of role and RNG. The level 1 and 20 skills are locked to their role – healer, gathering, warrior and so on. Learners will want Healer, farmers will want Gatherer, and group play is likely to want Assist for some extra buffs. The random skills at 5, 10, and 15 can make a difference. Any level 5 Palico can access a healing bubbles skill, for example. So there’s some optimization to be had here.

How? Well, you can scout buddies based on a subset of items – looks and role. If I want a brown tabby Gatherer, I can narrow down my options from a pool, which resets after every battle. From that list, you can work through the RNG to find your optimal Palico.

You’ll use the Palicos and Palamutes in a mercenary mission mode (like in World) and submarines (similar to the garden from World). You can also train your buddies in a dojo, so that you don’t have to bring an underleveled one with you in battle.

Moving on Up

It took me this long to figure out how the basics work, and to unlock the foundational items. It feels like I’m just dipping my toe here and I have a LOT of time already in-game. I haven’t even looked at the multi-player component yet given the ability to pause is super useful!

I’m still trying to find the right Palico build, and will work on the Hub quest lines next. I’m really happy that I put so much time to learn the game in World, because that’s a major step of progress that Rise takes for granted. I really didn’t think we could have more systems in a MH game, but Rise somehow manages to deliver on this, and does so very well. And I can only assume as more and more content (monsters) are added, that this will eclipse World in terms of amazing gameplay and content. Absolutely worth the purchase.

Monster Hunter: Rise Quick View

So the Switch came in on time, awesome. Kinda bummed that we need to keep buying external storage for every gizmo out there though! 32gb of internal storage is bonkers for a device meant to be mobile. I found a decent deal on a 512gb card though, so that’s done. Initial setup was fairly easy, at least the physical parts. Nintendo online, or account management, still feels like it hasn’t left the early ’00s. The e-shop is just a horrible experience – Nintendo is leaving millions of dollars on the floor here by not investing in better UX. It’s truly baffling that a cell phone from 2015 does a better job.

The Switch itself though, that’s clearly gone through some ergo work. It feels really well balanced, it has a durable feel, it’s responsive, the screen is clear and bright. Really well done.

MH:R

I know I can take screenshots, just getting them off the damn thing is going to be a fun run.

Rise is a strange game. I did play a small amount of prior MH games before World, I’m aware as to how meticulous and grindy they felt. There was a LOT of busy work and complex systems. World streamlined it all into an absolutely beautiful package and remains Capcom’s highest selling game of all time. If you played World to any degree, you would not call it simple. There are dozens of integrated systems, a very thorough combat mechanic, and a world that feels like an actual world.

Rise has the unenviable task of following up on near perfection. And somehow, with half the processing power, manages to get a lot right. I’m only a few hours in, so really just scratching the surface of what’s actually here, so take a cup of salt with this.

I have only the barest of experience with the Switch, so comparisons to other games is a challenge. I can say that it’s ultra smooth, the load times are great (should be!), there’s minimal clipping, and the creature designs still stand out. It just looks good. I realize it’s not yet taxing, there’s no big bodies of water, and I’ve seen only minor fire/ice effects. Perhaps later on I’ll see things that cause some slowdown. (Compared to World, even with multiple massive monsters on screen, I never really saw dips.)

Combat is still really tight and responsive. Most weapons work the same way as they did in World, with the same muscle memory helping. Each weapon has a couple new optional twists. Well, the Hunting Horn is an exception – it feels like it was rebuilt. It is much more forgiving, and allows for offensive single player content. World HH mains were mostly support roles. The game defaults to the long sword, which I guess will keep it as the #1 weapon again. Yet..

Rise focuses on the vertical aspect of the game, and each weapon now has the ability to attack with relative ease from the sky. It is hard to describe what adding a new dimension to combat really has as impact. World felt like a chess match, with relatively large spaces and a face to face combat model. Rise… this thing is all over the place. Monsters feel more aggressive, and in turn, you need to have a much better understanding of controls to find success. And learning the Switch controls at the same time as learning a new game, well it doesn’t always work. I’m learning though!

The home base portion is both smaller than world, and has more to do. Just feels like a better use of space. Canteen is still there, quests, smith, palico (and palamute dogs) to help out, missions for pets, argosy, and the list just goes on. The customization of characters is more fullsome here, both in terms of YOU and the variety of gear loadouts.

The zones themselves are rather well designed, though I’ve yet to discover a 2nd camp. Movement is easy enough with the Wirebugs (more in a future post), and there’s a LOT of vertical space to travel. The whole ‘find bugs for mission-specific buffs’ is a little iffy right now, truth be told. I really does put you in the space of optimizing a run to a monster, rather than just making it go as fast as possible with a canteen and food buffs.

I will say I had gladly forgotten about the 50m timers on missions. Dauntless had converted me to the 5-15m duration, and I’m not exactly looking forward to spending an hour in a fight again. At least the Switch has a super mega awesome pause feature.

So far, I’m rather enjoying myself. Monster Hunter has a certain polish and quality that just doesn’t exist in other AAA games. That trend certainly appears to continue here.

Now to try out a few more weapons!

WoW Update

I’m about 5 days in of the sub having lapsed. I’m sitting on a half dozen tokens, and last count had over 1.5m in gold on hand, so that’s really not a barrier to play. No, my challenge in WoW is that I’ve done all I need to do for now. This isn’t a slight towards Blizzard, there’s certainly more here than in BfA, and much less frustration. It’s just that the stuff to do is mind boggling boring.

Torghast

I’ve done enough to get a legendary and never want to step back in here. I’ve written a bit on this topic, and it’s an impressive take on rogue-likes, but with all the fun of a root canal. The corridor runs are for a special kind of player that wants to invest an hour+ and lose to bad rolls.

I will say it’s a weird shift from the island expeditions of BfA. I thought that system was great at the end, what with so many cosmetics available for short bursts of play. The state at launch was garbage, and the LFG portion made it much worse.

Add gear drops, gems, materials, cosmetics, ANYTHING to make it worth more than soul ash.

The worst part about Torghast, without question, is that you need to grind the Maw in order to get improvements.

The Maw

Timeless Isle, Throne of Thunder, Tanaris, Broken Shore, Argus, Mechagon, Nazjatar. All of these were solid takes on the concept of organic play. They all brought something different to the game (unlocking flight for one), and had multiple levels of rewards throughout.

The Maw does none of this. You go in, look for the blue !, do those, try not to get killed (while gearing) and then leave. The scaling doesn’t really work past a certain point, the group phasing makes it very hard to complete anything formally, and you’re ultra dependent on other players being around because the mob density is crazy.

The rewards here are only related to Torghast, so you only really need to do this with one character. That’s good, because it’s so painful.

I’d double the time on the eye of the jailer for starters, so that people can spend more time in here per day, and reduce the time to grind. I’d add a pile of stuff to Venari as a vendor, in particular themed armor cosmetics, or some sort of pet. Heck, even if it gave a temporary buff to anima gain, that would be HUGE!

Anima Gains

Anaemic. Getting 1000 a week and total costs being in the 300,000 area is just dumb. Not being able to use those cosmetics (or pets) if you swap covenants is even dumber. Which is really quite sad, because the actual content behind the anima covenants is fairly good. Kyrian in particular is impressive.

Covenants

From start to end, I think the covenants work really well. The storylines are solid, their integration to levelling is well done, the characters are interesting, the art styles are appropriate, the inherent rewards are comparable. There’s always going to be the square peg / round hole Blizzard level writing, but on the whole, it’s really well done.

Dungeons & M+

They feel better than BfA, but less so than the launch Legion dungeons. It’s still a shame that there’s so little reason to run dungeons for their immediate rewards – what with super low RNG.

M+ is evolving into an interesting beast. I did a couple, didn’t really like the artificial pressure, and I’ve watched from the sidelines since. In the current state, it’s suffering from the same issues Wildstar had at launch – it brings out the absolute worst in people. Valor points are a decent addition (funny that the community has been right about this for 10+ years).

The Grand Vault… that’s a weird meta incentive tool. I like the concept, but hmm. Bad luck protection is always a tough balance.

Raids

There’s one. I’ve done it on LFR. It’s interesting. I won’t comment on it further, as others have done a much better job than I could. My days of raiding are long behind me now.

Professions

I really thought BfA killed them, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Used only for crafting the base part of legendaries, and pretty much a money sink. They are practically pointless now… easier to just buy stuff from a vendor for a fixed price and use token drops for rare enchants. This would get rid of most of the bots.

I am disappointed that there is zero on archaeology, though not surprised. Fishing won’t ever match the Legion fun!

Zone Design

Ignoring flight points, I do think the zone design is rather impressive, again more in line with Legion’s approach than BfA. Most of the zones have a purpose rather than just being there. They have their identity and deliver.

Flight points though… holy moley. Just travel in general is extremely painful. The hub/spoke model is archaic, the flight points are either super far apart or within spitting distance, which makes little sense. There really should be a portal on a LONG cooldown to get back to your covenant.

Balance

No real secret, 9.0 launched early. Could have used another 2 months in the oven to get some balance items through. I get the pandemic time tax, I do. I live with it, but I’ve pushed back on dates to make sure the stuff I’m delivering works. Similar to Cyberpunk and Anthem, I do put the blame squarely on Blizzard management – and most of it on Brack himself. That’s what he gets paid to do after all. 9.05 is what should have been there at release.

9.1 is unlikely to come around until August, maybe September. For sanity’s sake, I do hope that’s the case and that the devs get the time to release something that works.

Overall

It’s hard to provide judgment on any MMO expansion versus another. Each is a creation of their time period, and really only relevant to the one that preceded it. I am nowhere near the same player I was when I played Vanilla, nor should the game be.

In that context, SL is a notable improvement on BfA at launch in nearly every aspect. I’d love to say that was a compliment, but it would have been amazing to see Blizz strike lower. I will say that the covenants are as close as we’re going to get to Legion class halls as possible, and those are really the shining part here. The borrowed power mechanic is reasonably well executed, and the lack of multiple layers of RNG is welcome in that all progress is forward.

I can only imagine what this would have looked like without a pandemic around our necks. Both in more time for the devs to work on it, and less time for players to act like locusts.

Loop Hero : Second Thoughts

I’ve cleared the 3rd boss now, and have the top of the tree left to do. Technically, this is 3/4 of the content, but I am going to assume that it’s much less in terms of time. Some extra bits I’ve considered since.

  • RNG is king. Full stop. God-level items can make or break a run.
  • The RNG aspect is clearly weighted, in that not all cards are equal. Vampire Mansions are more common than Blood Groves – at least 4:1, for example
  • Deck building is crazy important, and you generally want to have as few possible choices in any run. This increases the odds of getting ‘good’ cards
  • Sadly, as you kill more bosses, you unlock more traits. Traits that are generally worse than what you have, which dilutes the pool of options. It’s really weird to be penalized for killing a boss.
  • Some cards are borderline worthless, unless you’re hunting specific achievements OR farming (e.g. storm temple)
  • There are some significant ‘under the covers’ mechanics that are not at all explained in the game proper. On the one hand, it’s fun to find interesting mechanics, on the other hand some of these are massive power increments and could use with a hint or two. Like collecting items after death, what are the skull icons?
  • Hunting for a specific stat usually comes with a specific look of the item. It’s neat for lower level items – less so as you start getting the super rare ones
  • Each class favors a very specific build, without a whole lot of wiggle room. The most flexible that I’ve found is the necromancer, as they only have 4 stats to manage. I cleared the 3rd boss with level 2 rings.
  • Each class also favors a specific type of enemy.
  • It’s entirely worth restarting a run to get an optimal layout and early slimes. Straight to start, 2 U-bends with one near the campfire are my go-to.
  • Map tiles can only spawn 4 creatures on the map, but can spawn 5 in battle (+ ranged). Battlefields will not spawn chests if there are 4 creatures on their map tile.
  • Bandits are ok when starting, but can destroy a late run with a destroyed item that is equipped. I’ve now built the habit of never deploying a 2n Village card unless I have an Oblivion card in hand to get rid of the Bandit Camp.
  • Goblin Camps + quest + vampire = you’re going to die. You need to count the number of rock/mountain tiles laid out and stop at 9 until you get an Oblivion card.
  • Farming is fine, but the RNG on specific cards + layouts is annoying. Doing 8 loops and not getting that 1 material is frutrating.
  • The best tiles for 4+ enemies seem to be Overgrown Fields, at least to me. Even Ransacked Villages are good. 4x spiders works.
  • The boss designs are really quite neat. I particular like the Priestess’ mechanics.
  • A boss fight deals nearly 3x the damage of an entire loop. In practical terms, this means finding a way to drastically reduce incoming damage AND a way to rapidly restore it. Regen per second is an absolutely worthless stat for bosses.
  • Attack speed is king, and doesn’t appear to have a cap.
  • Rogues are great for farming, but I can’t seem to make them take any boss down.
  • The game speed default should be 2x, and the ‘fast’ one should be 5x. It’s not like you can actually do anything while battles are taking place.
  • I am annoyed that I cannot save an expedition mid-run. 8-10 loop runs are ‘normal’, and that’s an hour or so without the ability to save. You can pause just fine though.
  • To its credit, the game absolutely nails the ‘one more loop’ mechanic.

It’s an impressive package, all told. Hades still take the crown for best rogue-lite, but Loop Hero is pretty darn close in terms of accessibility. I’ll see if I find the time for boss #4. My gut tells me that I’ll need to boost some other base parts before I am in a good enough space to take it on. Or have some crazy good RNG luck.