Anthem – Storm Guide

A collection of my thoughts to play a well balanced Storm.  This is specifically in relation to end game content – the journey from 1-30 is what you make of it.  As of March 5, 2019.

Purpose

The Storm has three main goals – dealing massive damage, setting up combos, and not dying.  The first one is simple enough, the second takes some practice and coordination, while the third can be a real nightmare.

Pros /  Cons

Storm is very similar to a mage class in a standard RPG.  They are masters of elements, and long range combat.  Up close, they have very poor defense, and a very weak melee attack.

To that end, properly playing a Storm is not about going all out crazy, it’s about picking your targets for optimum carnage.  You solo vs a shielded elite is not smart.  You standing behind a Colossus and raining AE damage on multiple enemies is very smart.  You freezing a large enemy so that the entire team can flank is also very smart.  You need to play smart to be a good Storm.

Hovering

Storm are unique in that they can hover indefinitely, and doing so increases their shield capacity.  Hovering means off the ground, whether a foot off the ground or a mile.

The downside to hovering is that you are going to be wide open to take attacks.  Continual strafing is important, and lots of dashing as well.

Weapon Choice

You are not melee, should never be close to anyone.  Standing farther back, you’ll find that aiming is a challenge as well, leaving limits as to what type of weapon you want to use.  Since you’re going elemental attacks, the actual weapon you use will be sporadic.  Only the effect from the active weapon applies, so your 2nd weapon is essentially a stat stick.

Some options include, in my order of preference:

Thunderbolt of Yvenia – 33% chance to hitting with lightning.  This is really quite deadly when combined with other elemental boosts.

Elemental Rage – Hitting an elite gives a 5% boost to elemental damage for 10 seconds, stacks to 20.  Since all your skills are elemental, this is a significant boost.

Death From Above – Increased weak point damage while hovering, which is really useful for tough enemies.

Divine Vengeance – Every 3rd hit on a weak point applies fire damage.  This is effectively a “free” primer.

Truth of Tarsis – Hits on weakpoints set off combos.  The boost here is less important than the actual damage potential.  Devastators have only 1 ammo, but it deals insane damage.

Skills

Ice slows/freezes enemies.  Fire causes area damage, as well as some damage over time.  Lightning deals single large strikes, that in some cases can chain to other targets.  The chart below shows the primer/detonator skills – of particular note is that none of them are Impact or Blast effect, they are all elemental.

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While leveling, I don’t think it really matters much.  At GM1+, there really is only 1 viable choice for Focus Seals, and that’s Frost Shards (or Ice Rime as MW).  The ice effect is essential for shutting down spawn points, you can apply it to multiple targets, and if a Storm manages to detonate the effect… then it spreads to everything.  That and the fact that Ice Rime increases Blast Seal damage by 125% after freezing an enemy…hello!  (Arc Burst / Stasis Chain is neat when there are multiple targets, but the damage is still quite low, and does not prime/detonate.)

Blast Seals are a different matter, and you’re really looking at the MW effects.  My choices:

Ponder Infinity – Increases electric damage by 60% while hovering.  This is the most damaging baseline attack, and it gets even better.

Binary Star – Launches 2 living flames instead of one.  Decent damage, with a DoT, and applies a primer.

Venomous Blaze – Applies acid damage after a 3 hits.  Part of a solid fire build, and can melt through armored enemies.

Components

These are passive boosts to your javelin.  In all honesty, the way the game works today these require a significant amount of balance.

In concept, components come in 3 types – increased armor/shields, increased elemental damage, gear (equipment) modifications.  You can only use 1 type of component at a time, and with 6 slots it’s pretty easy pickings since only 5 are of real benefit.

Token of Daring – increases Seal damage by 20% when shields fail.  Shields are always failing on Storm and this is a decent boost.

Tome of Precision – Sniper rifle kills boost lightning damage by 60% for 5s.  The baseline effect also increases lightning damage by 5%.  You’re not going to have too many chances to get the sniper rifle boost on bosses, but regular combat certainly will.

Gunslinger’s Mark – The MW effect is broken right now, but the baseline effect decreases skill cooldown by 50% while lowering damage by 20%.  Without getting into the math, this is a 60% increase in damage potential.

Mark of Wrath – While Focus is on cooldown, Blast damage increases by 50% for 5s.  This is an easy effect to keep active.  It also increases skill damage by 50% but increases cooldown by 20%.  Again 60% overall increase.

Token of the Master – Hit an enemy with Blast and Focus damage is increased by 60% for 5s.  Useful if your Focus skill is decent damage.  Also increases Blast damage by 35%, but that doesn’t seem to impact a single Storm skill.

Support Seals

This appears pretty broken at the moment.  Windwall goes down in 1-2 shots, while Quickening Field’s effect requires you to stay still (bad idea) and a 20% haste for 10 seconds isn’t at all noticeable.  Consider both of these slots as stat sticks.

Inscriptions

God rolls focus on the following:

Javelin damage – Extremely useful, and applies to guns and seals equally.

Gear damage – really only useful for Blast Seals and the weapon.

Seal Damage / Cooldown – Nearly all your damage comes from use of skills.  Increasing their damage and lowering their cooldown makes for a much better experience.  At around 50% cooldown bonus from inscriptions, you likely won’t need to use a weapon at all.

Elemental Damage – Increasing this is a major boost to damage.

Luck – Caps at 90, and has a significant impact in the quality of item drops.  Has no other impact.

The rest of inscriptions are so-so.  Increasing the number of combo targets really only applies to specific spawn points.  Weakpoint damage doesn’t apply to elemental attacks, only weapons.  Ultimate damage/cooldown is useful, but with experience you’ll quickly learn that combos fill up that bar very quickly (Practice on Tyrant Mine boss, you should be able to fill the bar after every spider cave spawn.)

That means that of the ~50 inscription types, only 6 have any tangible value.

Final Thoughts

As of now, there certainly is some build variety at GM1, but top end content really only has one option – Ice Rime + Ponder Infinity, and the necessary items to reduce cooldowns and increase damage while hovering.  It will take some tweaks to make Fire a viable attack type (either increased duration of DoT, a short disorient, or a continuous interrupt), to combat Ice’s major defensive benefits, and Electric’s insane instant damage.

New Rig

All that fussing and I decided to just go with it.

Of all the features I listed previously, there were really only 2 options that presented themselves – either the MSI Raider or the ASUS ROG Zephyrus/SCAR.

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Lots of pretty keyboard colors

As you can tell, I went MSI.  Three main reasons.  1) MSI is significantly less expensive for the same specs (I’m essentially losing out on Thunderbolt) , 2) it’s actually available in Canada, and 3) it has an expandable storage slot.  It also shipped in 3 days, which is pretty neat.

The slight quirk in this is that the model I wanted, the GE73 Raider, was practically impossible to find at a decent price.  I ended up spending $200 more for the GE75 Raider, which came out in January.  Four things impacted – the display (120mhz vs 144mhz), the graphics card (RTX 2070 vs GTX 1070), the display bezel is much smaller, and the lid doesn’t have strobing lights – yay!   Honestly, I didn’t realize what a difference a small bezel had.

I took the 500GB SSD main drive, with a 1TB HDD.  It has an extra NVMe / PCIe slot so I can add another super fast SSD later.  16GB of RAM, expandable to 32 if need be. The setup phase is the fun part, and to avoid having to download GB of games, I’m in the process of transferring what I can from Steam et. al to the new box.  Thankfully that’s pretty straightforward – just

One of the good bits is that MSI doesn’t have much bloatware.  One game optimizer, one to controls the keyboard lights (I turned them of to give 90mins more battery life), and Norton (which will soon be removed).

Anthem

The game doesn’t load all that much faster, which is a real disappointment.   I’m running it off the NVMe drive that has the highest possible read/write on the market.  The computer boots super fast, and other items are near instant… so this is clearly an Anthem issue.

I disabled motion blur, and have a few more tweaks to apply on the video.   It runs ultra smooth, with significantly more detail, and the display is so much crisper.  Feels a lot like when I swapped my my standard TV for an HD version.  I’d have to run FRAPS or something similar to get a FPS reading.  This is not the RTX 2070 MaxQ (that’s a smaller form factor).

I’ll need to run some other bits to see how it goes.

Other Bits and Bobs

I like the keyboard and numpad.  Good size, distribution, movement and weight.  That looks weird when I type it out, but people who use a computer daily understand the value.  Trackpad actually works, which was a concern for me with MSI.  Not that I actually use, what with a gaming mouse.

The sound is ridiculous.  It has 2 speakers and 2 woofers, which is better quality than all my bluetooth speakers.  The sound range is impressive.  The speakers point down, which isn’t much of an issue since I have a cooling pad.

Tons of lighting and performance options on this rig.  It’s going to take a while for me to figure it all out.  I have never been a fan of keyboard backlighting (it’s off now), but lighted USB ports in a dark room isn’t a bad idea.

The fans max out with Anthem, and are noticeable.  Less so than my older Clevo/Sager, but you know they are present.  Can barely hear them at normal mode – or when casting a video through Chrome.

While the same screen size, it is an all around smaller laptop.  Fairly close to 15″ laptops I use from work, as they have a larger bezel.

Older Laptop

I’ll need to reset some of the settings and clear some room to make it a family laptop.  More than capable to keep running for a few more years without needing to pump out ultra settings.  I’ll certainly need to transfer some things to the NAS, and other bits to the new box… and as with everytime I do this, I’m going to forget a few things.

Nice Gift

I am not a frivolous spender, and I tend to over research things.  Pretty obvious if you’ve been reading this blog the past few months.  It took a bit of self-convincing that this was the right time, and that the funds could be spent for what I wanted.  The good news in this is that since the bitcoin mining phase is dropping, now’s a great time to get a GPU.

Content Expectations

The more bits I get from the Anthem devs, the more I am both fascinated and curious.  I don’t think my expectations for a AAA game are high for 2019, but maybe I’m in the wrong.  For a multiplayer launch, I would expect:

  • Social tools
  • Player customization (non-power related)
  • Solid mechanics (with numerical balance over time)
  • A dual path for progress
    • Learning the game/story/mechanics (e.g. leveling)
    • Repeatable and engaging content (e.g. end game)
  • Build / role diversity
  • Game stability

I realize that this is quite generic, and that there are multiple ways to achieve this.

Social

Destiny has an alliance mechanic, which provides some weekly benefits.  Off your friend’s list, the top 5 provide give a score that gives extra coins at the end of the week.  Those with no friends, there’s a catch-all bucket for the randoms you play with.  That’s neat and actually better than most other games.

There are no guilds at launch, which seems like a really odd choice.

The social hub should be there, which is good.  The game really feels empty, in particular Freeplay mode where the world can fit 100+ javelins and you’re only ever 4 at max.

There’s matchmaking for everything, so that’s a serious plus.  Not being able to see other people’s loadouts beforehand is going to make the top-end content a pain to manage, pretty much forcing pre-made groups.  Will be interesting.

Customization

Javelin-wise, Anthem has this nailed.  The outlines of Javelins make them recognizable, but the attachments, colors, textures, vinyls – all of it really does add a sense of individuals.

There are no gun customizations that I can see.  Maybe the legendary drops will look a bit different.

Mechanics

I think flight works really well, adding a 3d portion to most combat.  I am extremely hopeful that the devs never add another swimming section to the game.

I think the gunplay is average at best.  It is very loose, and makes weak-spot based combat ineffective.  I also can’t seem to find a realistic difference between all the gun types.  Pick the rifle with the largest magazine.  (‘Cept the heavy weapons for colossus).

The abilities are really quite awesome.  Primers and triggers make for some interesting combos.  I like that there’s a requirement to work together, and that some targets must be flanked.

Bosses have interesting mechanics, though there’s a tad more focus on bullet sponge than deserves to be present.

I like that combat is built for offense, since there are very few defensive options present.  There’s no cover, shields are barely enough to get outta dodge, and you need to actively pay attention to succeed.

Leveling

Not sure how this will work.  From what was presented, the core storyline has more potential than delivery.  There’s just something off about Tarsis, and the way the people move/talk.

Missions do not appear to be repeatable, which seems a terrible waste of resources.  Warframe really did an amazing job on this front.

End Game

From what I understand, there are only 3 strongholds (dungeons) at launch.  We saw one in the demo (Tyrant), and that one takes about 30 minutes to clear.  What was there was enjoyable, but certainly not enough to keep attention for more than a week.

There are weekly/daily quests through contracts.  Haven’t seen how that works, so no comments.

Freeplay has random events.  The spawn rate in the demo was very low, and it looked like we could access 25% of the map.  I don’t understand how that will work at release.  3x the map and the same amount of players?

There are also game generated events, like shaper storms.  Demo spawned a large titan, which was neat to see but a bullet sponge.  Curious.

BioWare has stated plenty of times they have big plans for end game.  There’s a general lack of detail on this.  I haven’t seen any content release plans after launch, so maybe I’m just in the dark on this.

Build Diversity

In the demo, there was a lot of this.  Each javelin plays much differently than another.  Abilities make a huge difference in playstyles.  It’s a lot of fun to experiment.  There are QoL things here to provide more info on builds and options (to avoid having to reference a wiki), but that’s more than manageable.

Again on guns.  There’s not much here – they feel more like stat sticks.  That’s mid-game though, so perhaps end game has a reason to pick a 4-burst rifle vs a high ammo version.

Stability

I am not getting my hopes up for this.  Great that those issues came to light before launch.  Bad that those issues were so pervasive before launch, from a publisher (EA) that makes a living on on-line games with the Frostbyte engine.  Feels a bit like the ice cream machine always being broken at McDonalds.

There are some rather significant PC optimizations required for people to play this game.  I’ve generally been able to play any game at high or ultra, without much issue. For this, I’m running 95% CPU and peaking over 90s in temperature.

 

For now, it’s mostly conjecture until launch.  There’s a lot in the game now, a lot more than should be coming by launch, and ??? after launch.  I’m sure that next week we’ll get a view at the service roadmap, if not the week following.  It’ll be hard to get people who are on the fence to commit if what’s there now is all there is for the next few months.

Given EA’s recent report on a bad quarter, and pointing to Apex & Anthem as the next thing, it’s important to note that Anthem’s business model is nearly entirely built on box sales.  And EA wants to sell 6m of those.  Dollars to donuts, Anthem doesn’t hit that number.  Horizon: Zero Dawn sold 7m total.  God of War was 5m in a month.  Combined with Origin Access essentially giving you the game for $20 for a month’s access…the math here just isn’t going to work.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine game, but it is far from blockbuster.  This entire paragraph was an unpleasant typing experience.

Gaming on the Move

I’ve been building PCs since middle school.  Not sure why it clicked back then, but it was a pretty big deal for a long time.  And frankly, back then I could build a PC in about 30 minutes – with the OS build being the longest part.  Today?  It’s still easier than most people think, but it’s more of a science.

It’s been about 10 years since I built my last box.  I certainly enjoyed it, and the super flexibility of applying upgrades over time.  Replacing RAM or a video card is pretty simple.  Replacing a CPU… well that gets rougher.  Cooling options were starting to get a bit too complex for my tastes.  The next upgrade was a gaming laptop – a Clevo tank.  It provided all the benefits of desktop gaming, but allowed me to move around with it.

There are downsides to laptop gaming.  Replacing parts is more complicated.  Hell… just getting the parts is hard, as most video cards are only sold to resellers.  Plus, it’s not like you can get a new keyboard, or a new monitor.  It’s a complete package, and you’re going to pay a premium for it.  Plus, the thing can get hot as hell so a laptop tray is often a good call.

The last one I purchased in 2015.  Solid box at the time, with a 970M card.  The 1070M  is ~100% better, but I can’t really find one to buy.  Box currently has 8GB of RAM, which could certainly use a boost to 16GB.  CPU is an i7 but a 4th gen.   I am pretty sure I can upgrade to 7th gen, if I can find a chip, again not exactly common.  I can’t get an 8th gen (let alone 9th), that will require a new motherboard and new RAM – essentially a new laptop.  So really the only viable option here is more RAM – $50 should be able to get a new 8GB stick.

I think I’ll spend the new few weeks scoping out other options.  I like the idea of building a great gaming rig and then streaming that in the house.  Pretty sure I could build an entire super rig for ~$1500.  Another top end laptop, that’s more like $2500.   Been a while, and the rust is showing.  Still, fun to shop!

 

Holiday Break

2 weeks without work, and just some good family time.  It was a bit odd not to blog, as I use it as a mental sieve.  It was still one of the best breaks I’ve had in a very long time.

A few interesting bits to start the week, with some larger posts coming later.

  • Wife got us an NES Classic.  I picked up some wireless controllers right after, since the 3ft cables on a 50″ TV makes no sense.  Whole family has had a turn at it.  Old school controls make for some interesting frustrations.
  • Family took a trip to see the Habs play vs the Canucks.  First time the little ones got to see an NHL game, and I think the bar may be set a bit too high considering we live in Ottawa.  We’ll do it again in the future, it was a super experience.  There’s something about seeing things through a kid’s eyes that makes you appreciate things even more.  Think my wife is going to convert to a Habs fan!
  • My wife bought me some tickets to see the Habs vs Leafs in Feb with a friend.  That’s a hell of a nice gift!
  • Everyone was spoiled for the holidays.  I really have a better appreciation for the family after this holiday break.  Everyday seemed to be just great.  Putting all the work aside and just living in the moment helped.
  • I think we had 1 day off in 2 weeks, where there wasn’t a party, or hosting, or sleepovers, or just things.  That day was spent watching Harry Potter movies.  It felt good to not move.
  • Outdoor rink is being used nearly every day where it’s not raining.  Which seems to be every other day this year.  Massive temperature swings are not fun.
  • Picked up some things from the Steam sale: Celeste, Slay the Spire, FFX/X2, Frostpunk.  All will get a post.  Of them all, Celeste is the must buy.
  • Saw Aquaman with the wife.  Apparently Jason Momoa is good looking.  So I’ve been told daily.  Movie is better than expected.  It’s rare that I take issue with the soundtrack, but it made little sense here.  Felt like Indiana Jones meets Lord of the Rings.  I will say that super hero movies continue to have horrible villains.
  • Pulled my back on Jan 1st.  Got a chest cold 2 days later.  It’s been a rough few days.

 

So New Year starts and we’ll see where it goes.  Hope everyone had as good a time as I did.

RDR2 – The Great Demise

I am a firm believer in karma, rather than some arbitrary being that picks a favorite.  In that there are direct rewards for an action, and indirect rewards.  Life just finds a way to balance itself out.

*Spoilers.*

Last I left RDR2, I was heading into Saint Denis trying to find the big score so the gang could buy some land and freedom.  Well actually, I was there to rescue a kid that was taken from a mob boss.

There’s the adage of big fish, little pond that applies well to Dutch, the gang leader.  He espouses some amazing views from his pulpit, but they are just hot air.  From a player’s perspective, that seems somewhat obvious, but from the character perspective you can see the attachment.  As the game progresses, you can also see the cracks start to show.  Dutch’s plans never really work out, there’s always someone else a single step ahead.  He’s never as bright as he thinks he is.  Always trying to reach for the sun and getting burned at every step.

Every job in Saint Denis goes wrong, at different levels too.  The one that seems to go well, takes a massive nose dive when the Pinkertons show up.  You lose a lot of good people whom you’ve spent hours/days getting to know.  Things go so awry, that you end up stowing away on a ship to Cuba, get shipwrecked, lose all your money, and end up freeing a slave camp to get out of there alive.

The trip back to town… the game throws you in a semi-dream state with the only voice-song that I’ve seen so far.  (Neat effect – you see more deer if you’re honorable, you see more wolf is you’re dishonorable.  Very reflective of native mythology.)

When this finished, I just stopped for a bit and started thinking.  After all the hell that Arthur goes through, he’s still bent on finding his people and trying again.  He’s doubtful of Dutch, but still trusts in his intentions.  The entire gang really starts to question the sanity of the man, and the decisions over the past months/years.

Blackwater is the watershed moment.  It’s when all the luck runs out and the dues start being called in.  Where Dutch is focused on the micro, the world around him is just taking massive strides.  Day by day, mission my mission, each previous decision has repercussions on the next set of events.  When you find out why the bank job went south, it’s a really impressive piece of art.

I’m nearing the clear end point now.  Arthur’s journey towards the grave is assured, it’s all about the timing.  And for the walls of the house of Dutch to fall down.

Hype for Diablo

Or not.  The Diablo panel is on the main stage right after the opening ceremony, which is usually reserved for ultra amazing news.  From Blizz.

BlizzCon 2018 is almost here and we’ve seen a lot of rumors flying around about our plans for Diablo at the show. These are very exciting times—we currently have multiple teams working on different Diablo projects and we can’t wait to tell you all about them . . . when the time is right.

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We know what many of you are hoping for and we can only say that “good things come to those who wait,” but evil things often take longer. We appreciate your patience as our teams work tirelessly to create nightmarish experiences worthy of the Lord of Terror.

While we won’t be ready to announce all of our projects, we do intend to share some Diablo-related news with you at the show.

November 2 will be an especially diabolical date—not only is it the first day of BlizzCon, it’s also when Diablo III arrives on the Nintendo Switch. If you’re planning to pick up the game (the digital download will be available starting at midnight on launch day) and are joining us in Anaheim, be sure to bring your console. We’d love to slay some demons with you on the show floor.

Again, we want to thank you for your patience and support. We are eternally grateful to you and the millions of other Diablo fans around the world whose passion for this franchise inspires us and keeps our fires burning.

We’ll see you in hell . . . and at BlizzCon!

There are two ways to read this.

Downplay the Hype

Blizzard is aware of the hype for a Diablo 4 announcement and are attempting to temper expectations.  I can’t think of anyone who wants to spend an hour listening to Diablo 3 on the Switch.  Realistically, there’s no way that Blizzard would announce a new title in 45 minutes and then not have any reasonable follow up sessions.

The ol’ Switcheroo

That was a bad pun… but it could be that they are throwing water on the flames to only throw gas back on it during Blizzcon.  That would require significant META thinking, which honestly… no.  Blizzard can’t go a week without leaking a new Overwatch character, or HotS option through seedy internet means.  The Diablo team  is the least subtle of the bunch.  Really feels like the no-BS dev stream.

Other Options

Thinking about this a bit more, I find that Blizzard is oddly quiet regarding the mobile app space.  Hearthstone is manageable.  The WoW mobile app seems designed by a slow witted chimp.  Diablo, Overwatch, HotS all have zero presence.  Could D3 work with mobile controls?  There are certainly other ARPGs that make it work, and it’s not like D3 has that many buttons to press.

Even a large stretch, Diablo has enough lore built in to make some sort of large media push – maybe a Netflix series – some sort of animated one.  I can’t really see them financing a movie.  There are likely still fresh scars around the Warcraft movie.

Blizzard rarely initiates anything – they react.  Torchlight Frontiers is out next year… so maybe they are trying to get in front of that message.  Hard to argue that D3 isn’t the most accessible ARPG on the market now.  PoE seems to require a degree in spacial physics, and Grim Dawn lacks an effective end-game.  Be curious to see how that turns out.