Totems, Totems, Totems

Shaman Banner Image (Logo on Maelstrom)

It could be said that I change characters within World of Warcraft as often and as fast as FOX cancels TV shows. So far this expansion (Mists of Pandaria) I have played a Death Knight, a Warlock, a Paladin, returned to Warlock, returned to Death Knight and now dusted off my Enhancement Shaman from Cataclysm.

When I first hit level 90 on my Shaman, which took some work, he sat around in an inn for some time before being deleted. Enhancement Shaman, much like rogues, are exceptionally squishy when undergeared. Even while questing/soloing – their survivability is their DPS. At least when you’re used to playing a DK, who can swap into Blood Spec & Presence to become an unstoppable solo war machine…. Shaman are squishy.

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Woelords of Draenor

Some time ago, November 8th, 2013 to be exact, Chris Metzen of Blizzard Entertainment unveiled that the forthcoming expansion to World of Warcraft would be titled: Warlords of Draenor. We all ooh’d and aah’d at the shinies as they unveiled Garrisons, updated character models, and a preview of some of the areas on Draenor, a world many Warcraft players have come to know it its shattered form of Outland.

I have waited to respond to this news, hoping to see something that truly knocked my socks off. Does it look pretty? Sure. Are the character models desperately needed? Most definitelyAm I thrilled about an expansion that is based on chasing Garrosh Hellscream – who has been an annoying character since he followed Thrall home after Burning Crusade – back in time and spending the next two years exploring Outland all over again after its been given a facelift? Nope.

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AC4: Black Flag – Inititial Response

I am only 25% through the ‘main storyline’ of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, but I have put nearly 20 hours into the game. This was my most anticipated title for the fall, and it has not disappointed me yet.

Leading up to its release on October 29th, I’m playing on PS3, I consumed everything IGN and other online media sources made available. Though AC3 was not as well received as its predecessors, I got the sense that the creative team behind this most recent installment had their hearts and heads in the right place.

I was thoroughly impressed at Ashraf Ismail’s mention that he scoured gamer forums for reactions to AC3 in an effort to not repeat its mistakes. He also stated that they were setting out to not only create the quintessential Assassin’s Creed, but an exemplary pirate game as well.

To those that know me, it is no secret that I am a huge fan of the pirate genre. Anything with roguish anti-heros and a fair amount of swashbuckling is right up my alley.  It was with this in mind that I loaded AC4 into my PS3 with high hopes. Even if it wasn’t the Assassin’s Creed the community needs, if it was at least the Pirate game we deserve, I was going to be happy.

So far, it is both. The storyline is a fresh departure from what we’ve come to know as the tangled web of the Assassin’s Creed narrative. I truly feel like I am gaining a new perspective on this fictional universe through Edward’s eyes.

In addition to this, AC4 is a fantastic open world pirate game. This is why I have been able to pour 20+ hours into it thus far without breaching 25% of the main storyline. Even when trying to simply explore the vast map, despite being a condensed version of the Caribbean, I find myself drifting off my path to engage ships in combat, hunt sharks or whales, and other side activities.

I will, of course, have more to say as I continue to progress through the game and the veil of spoilers begins to raise, but for now I give AC4 a huge 5/5.

How I returned to the light and learned to love Holy Power

A female Blood Elf Paladin Stands in front of a large statue.
The very first character I ever created in World of Warcraft was a Night Elf Warrior. Now this was because at the time, everyone I was starting to play with was rolling a Night Elf of some kind, and based on my previous MMO experience (FFXI) I thought it best to start in the same place.

However, a few weeks after launch, we had all toggled around a bit, and also discovered that while the world was vast – or at least seemed that way back then – and before long I was playing my first ‘main’. He was a Dwarf Protection Paladin. Again my FFXI experience fooling me into believing that I would be able to tank as a Paladin in World of Warcraft. Vanilla was a troubling time for Paladins, end game was filled with casting and recasting your short 5 minute blessings and cleansing debuffs.

Protection Paladins were fairly effective at this task, and could solo lots of things – but they struggled to be considered viable tanks.

After several overhauls of the class, and my having rolled a Warrior in the meantime, patch 1.9 finally landed. This not only introduced the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj world event and the two corresponding raids, but completely revamped the Paladin talent system.

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The Man of Steel – From Krypton to Metropolis!

Traditionally, I do not bother donning my spoiler blinders these days and make every attempt to absorb as much information regarding a film I am anticipating as possible. I find that spoilers do not affect my enjoyment of a film these days, as I will generally only seem films that truly excite me and peak my interest – being choosy enough that the experience is still worth it, despite the surprises being spoiled.

This was not the case for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. I watched the initial trailer, and even saw one of the TV spots, but generally speaking avoided blogs and news sites that might have spoiled the experience. This was not out of some desire to rekindle a childhood experience; despite being a longtime fanboy of big blue. Instead, this was out of fear that if I revealed too much, my desire to see the film at all would falter.

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Into the Borderlands…(2)

I’m really late to the game on this one as well, but I am finally getting into Borderlands (2). I played the first installment much closer to its release, and was not impressed. While the mechanics where compelling, I need more than a good replay structure to draw me into a game.

The sequel succeeds for me where the first game failed. While the story is pretty basic and generic, it is much more prominent in the early levels than in the first Borderlands. There is just enough there to draw me in, thus allowing me to enjoy the mechanics, loot system, and varied play-style of the classes – all things fairly uncommon to my experience in first person shooters.

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The Mass Effect

My brother purchased the Mass Effect Trilogy for me for Christmas, following a discussion he and I had regarding my wavering interesting for playing World of Warcraft, and a growing interest in returning to console gaming. I could not have had a better way to make a comeback.

At this point in time, I have completed the original Mass Effect, and am nearing the end of the second installment. I was somewhat frustrated at the end of the first game that despite the open galaxy feel, when I completed the main story-arc, the game was over and I was not given the opportunity to finish exploring the galaxy. Being that the people at BioWare are avid storytellers, I am certain this has to do with continuity, as everything I would have discovered on other planets would have been told chronologically before the events that transpire in the final chapter. And while I completely understand that from a narrative perspective, it still put a bad taste in my mouth, which is not how a developer should wish a consumer to feel upon the conclusion of a product that is the beginning of a multi-game franchise.

This did teach me an important lesson, however, and my play-through in the second game is going much slower because of it. I am making certain to consume all of the side-story content I can before progressing through the final stages of the central story, so as not to repeat my mistake. My initial experience with Mass Effect 2 wasn’t all that grande either. I understand having to lose my powers and levels and start at a base point, and I was pleased that they even found a way to explain this in the narrative. What I disliked was the way that, while much of the game-play and user interface stayed the same, there were both subtle and extreme changes.

Having to ‘activate’ being in cover, the change in team-mate display, as well as the ammunition, fuel and probe management systems were all hurdles for me; particularly having come straight from playing the first segment of the series.

Overall, the experience has been fantastic. I have often been unable to pull myself away from the console. BiioWare’s magnificent storytelling is definitely the strongest part of the series. It is an excellent scifi story, with roleplay elements added with expert precision. I look forward to reflecting to the series as a whole in the coming weeks.