Tag Archives: loot

Meet me in the Dark Zone in Tom Clancy’s The Division

gd impressions TOM CLANCY THE DIVISION BETA

You can’t see my face, but my eyes are both blurry and extra droopy today, and that’s because I put about four hours straight into Tom Clancy’s The Division last night, only stopping once to grab a glass of water. Specifically, it’s free, open beta thingy, happening from February 18 through the weekend. Xbox One owners got to get in a day early, which is better for me, since I’ll be traveling and visiting family over the weekend. Either way, this is actually my first experience with a beta/early access kind of game, and I’m coming away from it with a better understanding of what The Division is about, and maybe what it might become down the line. All in all, I think I’m in.

Story details are not the focus of the open beta, but here’s what I know so far about The Division. A smallpox pandemic, transmitted by a virus planted onto banknotes, spreads on Black Friday, throwing the United States into mayhem and panic. The U.S. government swiftly collapses in five days, and basic services follow after that. Without access to food or water, the country quickly descends into chaos. You play as an agent of the Strategic Homeland Division (SHD), or “The Division” for short, which is a classified stay-behind force of self-supported tactical agents under direct orders from POTUS to prevent the fall of society.

The Division‘s core mechanics are similar to other action-based third person-shooters of the last generation or so, like Gears of War and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, in which the player character can carry multiple firearms, grenades, and equippable skills that create effects on the playing field, like dropping a mini turret or pinging the area to highlight enemies from allies. Players can take cover behind objects during firefights, like cars and barriers, to avoid taking damage from enemies and provide a tactical advantage when attacking. Or you can do what I do often, which is forget to hide behind cover and stand right in the lines of enemy fire, taking shot after shot to the chest and wondering why I’m bleeding out so fast.

There’s also loot, which is where this begins to be more of an RPG like Diablo than a straightforward corridor crawl of just shooting fleshbags and moving on without a care to their corpse. First, there’s customizeable gear for your person, like new coats, shoes, breathing masks, and such, which are cosmetic only. Then there’s actually new pieces of armor and backpacks, as well as different types of weapons. You can carry two larger weapons, as well as a pistol-sized gun, switching between them with the press of a button. Naturally, there’s also a ton of mods to loot or purchase, which provide new grips, scopes, and muzzles. I’ve been focusing on using the pistol and Ballistic Shield ability, hanging back to heal myself and others via the First Aid ability.

Lastly, let me talk about the Dark Zone, since there were only two story-based missions in The Division‘s open beta, one of which was a surprising amount of fun, but they are over rather quickly. Basically, the Dark Zone, besides being the name of my forthcoming new wave death-metal band, is a player-versus-player competitive multiplayer mode, where a lot of high-end weapons are left behind when the military retreats in the game. It is separate from the main campaign and even has its own progression system, represented as a purple experience bar that fills up as you do stuff. Basically, players can discover contaminated loot inside a Dark Zone area, and these valuable items can be stolen by other players in the zone; the only way to permanently add this gear to your inventory is to extract them via a helicopter, which arrives after a timer countdowns. Other players can join you in hopes of extracting their loot, but both A.I.-controlled enemies and agents gone rogue will attack in hopes of performing a successful robbery. This means that every new non-lethal agent that pops up in the area has the potential to be a threat, which raises the tension of extracting higher.

Visually, The Division is extremely sharp, with dynamic weather effects and time of day changing somewhat unnoticeable…until you notice it is dark out. I’ve only been in NYC a few times, but the recognizable areas are there, and the map seems to correlate directly to real life, which is both cool and staggering. I played with a buddy of mine, and that definitely made for a more enjoyable–and learned–experience as he taught me some of the systems and lead the way. I do worry that if I can’t team up with people that The Division will be less fun to grind through solo, and even more tough to survive out in the Dark Zone.

Either way, I’m looking forward to playing a bit more during the open beta, and then we’ll see if I’m committed or not to The Division next month when it actually releases to all. This could be addicting, or it could be like Diablo III: Reaper of Souls was for me, addicting for sure, but only for a little bit.

Every click burns a little brighter in Torchlight II

torchlight 2 ghostboat011

Though I’ve not really mentioned it much here on Grinding Down, I’ve actually been playing a lot of Torchlight II for the last month and a half. Well, more than I expected. It’s a game that I bought during the most recent Steam Winter sale for a sexcellent deal and boot up for a bit every now and then, like while I’m waiting for my hot cocoa water to boil or if I got a half hour to kill before Tara and I head off somewhere. Bits and pieces, clicks and flicks. So far, I’ve not really thought of anything profound or illuminating enough to create a blog post around, but having just beat Pokemon White 2, I see some similarities between the two, and that’ll do just fine as a place to launch.

Now, to start, I liked Torchlight. Alas, I played it first on the Xbox 360, and so I had to experience tiny text syndrome on my TV, which lead to me missing out on reading all the various loot stats and spells descriptions and just going with what seemed best, defeating the purpose of caring about loot and equipping my character to the nines. It was not the most involved way to play, I’m afraid, and I later purchased the very same Torchlight for just under $4.00 for the PC during last year’s Steam summer sale, which helped rectify that problem. Though I didn’t really play it again for too long as there were a number of other distractions available. And then I picked up its sequel, which quickly eradicated it from my mind as something I needed to play.

In Torchlight II, you do a lot of the same things from the previous game, but it all somehow feels new. Or at least polished to appear new. Switching things up, I am playing as an Embermage, which is a highly trained spell-casting class with elemental attacks. His name is Mosley, and he uses gem-enchanted wands and relies on a lot of electrical-based spells, as well as some random happenings. My favorite being when a giant meteor falls from the sky onto everyone. His pet is a Badger, but sadly, I don’t remember what name I gave it. This class is a great mix of things, and trying to decide on skills is a fun challenge, as the Embermage can totally go in a number of ways. It’s definitely spicier than previous classes like…the Alchemist (basically, a wizard) or the Vanquisher (in short, a ranger).

Allow me to now compare Torchligh II with Pokemon White 2, as well as probably enrage some diehard fans from either boat. In both games, there is always something to do. For the former, it’s clicking on things until they are dead and picking up loot; for the latter, it’s battling Pokemon to gain EXP or capture them for your team. It’s all about collecting, moving forward. That said, there’s a story around both these main game mechanics that exists high above, nothing more than a blur and disembodied voice telling you where you should go to next. You can, if you want, get invested in this, but there is very little point. I don’t remember any specifics from the the original Torchlight‘s story, and I couldn’t tell you what is going on in this one. Same goes for Pokemon White 2. The story is such a non-issue that it is nothing more than perfunctory, which is a disappointment, especially in a fantasy realm as colorful and quirky as Torchlight II.

And with that odd comparison, let me say that I’m really enjoying my time with Torchlight II. Constantly finding new and interesting gear is a joy, as well as customizing it with gems and enchantments to make it even more unique. You are constantly improving with every new piece of armor and skill perk. Everything is streamlined, and playing solo is completely viable, even against some of the huge raid-like bosses. My Mosley is creeping up near LV 20, and I have no idea where we’re going story-wise; I just head to the starred locations, click on things until a new starred location pops up, and then I head there. That probably sounds a little underwhelming, but all along the way I’m clicking and having an excellent time. Looking forward to more with Mosley, though I suspect he’ll be my only character and playthrough for Torchlight II. Eventually, the light will gently fade.

Hacking and slashing greatly outweigh looting in Hack, Slash, Loot

Don’t let the Skyrim picture above confuse you too much because I’m actually going to talk about a little unassuming game called Hack, Slash, Loot, which I got as part of a recent bundle from Indie Royal. Alas, that game doesn’t do well in terms of screenshots and me throwing stupid text over it, and so I typed in “loot” into Google and found the above. Such is the way the cogs turn behind Grinding Down.

But yeah. Hacking, slashing, and looting. The game promises all three actions, but really only delivers on two, and those two are technically interchangeable, which results in one out of three. I’m not a school teacher, but I know a few, and I can imagine the type of letter grade a score like that would translate into. Despite that and a few other major faults, there are parts that I really do like about David Williamson’s independently developed roguelike that skimps on graphics and strives for missed dice rolls. There’s just something really charming beneath its brutally difficult skin.

Hack, Slash, Loot begins with choices. You have to pick a class, and they range from a Human Saracen to a Woodland Elf Archer. I went with a wizard most of the time. Once you’ve decided who you are, you need to figure out what to do, and there are six different quests to pick from: Journey to the Kimon, Mask of the Boy King, They Dwell Beneath, Dark Hearts and Evil Minds, Battle for Stormrise, and Tower of the Magus. These differ in terms of conflict and goals, but you will ultimately end up in a dungeon, killing monsters and searching for stronger weapons and gear. And each dungeon is randomly generated, making every quest, every adventure, new and unpredictable. In fact, one dungeon spawned my character in a room with two monsters right next to me, which helped to earn me this Steam Achievement:


Wooden Spoon: Die in less than 20 turns

Sweet, delicious failure!

But randomness is good, and it’s one of the reasons that I can go back to Diablo II, Torchlight, Dark Cloud 2, and the grottos in Dragon Quest IX today, in 2012, and still have a fresh experience. The graphics are retro and not distracting, with sprites taking center stage, which makes exploring the grid-based map easy. There isn’t much on the map, just a few candles and coffins, but it all looks good and recognizable. Again, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, but gameplay will always trump graphics for me, as it has to be fun to play, otherwise I’m just wasting my days.

That said, there is little loot to look for and the difficulty of Hack, Slash, Loot is more than enough to put someone off–it’s pure frustration. Healing your character does not happen in a conventional way; there are no spells or potions to regain health; instead, you have to loot tombs for scrolls which, may or may not, heal your little hero. This makes taking on more than one enemy at once a very dangerous situations, and I swear my character misses more times than he hits. Same can be said with enemies. It is a lot of missed dice rolls, which does not make for exciting combat; it just then feels luck-based since stats are not as visible as they need to be.

I never really got far in Hack, Slash, Loot, but I had a good time clicking around and trying out different weapons. Ranged weapons like staffs and bows were better for staying alive longer, but it was only time before I ran out of health. It was something to do while hanging out in bed, dog-sitting and watching Frasier. I just might go back again and hope that the next random dungeon is better suited…

Borderlands 2, a treasure hunter’s wishlist

Not surprisingly, Borderlands 2 has been officially confirmed. That’s cool. Looks like a possible April 2012 release window, which is also cool as I’m still plugging away at the original Borderlands and have plenty to do there. Mainly trying to find slices of pizzas, panties, and fish in bags, as well as creep towards level 69. Once most of that is done, I’ll definitely be done with the game as I am not interested in replaying it for like a third time with a brand new character class or anything. So a new Borderlands game sounds just about right.

And here’s a quote from Gearbox about the newest entry in the series:

“Combining invention and evolution, Borderlands 2 features all-new characters, skills, environments, enemies, weapons and equipment, which come together in an ambitiously crafted story. Players will reveal secrets, and escalate mysteries of the Borderlands universe as they adventure across the unexplored new areas of Pandora.”

Looks like we’re back on Pandora. I kind of felt like most of the planet had been explored, but I’m sure they’ll come up with truly new locations. I’m excited for this, but I do have some wishes. They seem sound in my head, but you might not agree. I’m sure all many want is just more shooting, shooting, shooting, and weapons with a thousand and four different stats. I get that. I’d like that…and more. Here’s my wishlist for Borderlands 2!

Character customization

In Borderlands, there were four classes: soldier, hunter, siren, and berserker. I’ve only played at length with the soldier, Roland, but I did give the other three a sporting chance. Meh. Once you have your class and increase in levels, you’ll gain skill points, which allow you to customization your character’s skill tree and how he or she plays more effectively. What you can’t tweak is what they look like, other than changing armor colors. I guess this isn’t a huge deal as you don’t often actually see your dude unless they are getting in or out of a vehicle, but it definitely doesn’t give you the impression that your treasure hunter is any more special than somebody else’s.

Stronger story

There’s so much potential in the Borderlands universe for a great story, and alas, the first game did not do the best job telling one. It had fantastically cool characters, but it lacked a conclusion and a true goal. I mean, if the Vault was supposed to house all this crazy treasure, why did we not get to loot it at the very end? Hmm? The quests and sidequests featured some great lore, but I suspect many gamers didn’t spend a lot of time reading and scrolling down to finish reading. I think some actually dialogue between characters could help strengthen the story, really immerse the player, and maybe even offer some choices in how things play out.

Storage space

I know Gearbox added some kind of storage bin with one of the DLCs (not one I have), but this element should have been implemented from the get-go. If you’re going to have an astronomical 17,750,000 weapons, please give us a place to store all our favorites. It became frustrating to have to either drop or sell gear simply to keep space open for more loot. A lot of times, I wouldn’t even get a chance to try out most of these weapons before giving them the axe.

LESS DRIVING

I hated the driving in Borderlands. Hate, hate, hate, hated it.

Varied multiplayer modes

Okay, the online multiplayer bug has finally bit me. I’d like to see more online interaction for the Borderlands franchise other than co-op. Not just deathmatch things, but maybe online challenge modes or something even wackier. Imagine an online mode where players would be dropped into a randomly generated map, given a time  limit, and instructed to kill as many skags as possible. At the same time, another player is also on the map trying to do the same thing. You may kill each other as well to slow progress/steal skag kills. This I want.

This is just a few tidbits, but I’ll wait until more details about Borderlands 2 are revealed. Until then, Gearbox…please deliver!

Games Completed in 2011, #9 – Torchlight

Back in the day, ranging somewhere between my senior year of high school and my sophomore year of college, I played a lot of Diablo and Diablo II. However, I never beat either game, and constantly restarted new characters. My absolute favorite aspect of these now legendary dungeon-crawlers was organizing my inventory. See, Diablo and Diablo II strived for a more realistic inventory system, meaning if you couldn’t fit it in your bag with your dozen of other goodies, well…you’re not taking it with you. Simple as that. Here, let me show you:

Oh man. That image is beyond delicious. It’s like a puzzle minigame!

Anyways, I mention this because Torchlight, despite being heavily influenced by its Diablo big brothers, does not support this kind of inventory. At least not in the XBLA version. PC players get to enjoy this deliciousness:

Instead, us Xbox 360 doods get lists. Lists after lists after lists. Many of which are unreadable. And that makes it difficult to even determine if your character is fully armed. Oh boy.

What’s the story? Well, it all revolves around a mysterious ore called Ember, which is the essence of magic, as well as the keystone in alchemy. Deep below the small excuse for a town called Torchlight, miners dig, searching for the coveted ore. However, these miners quickly discover that there’s more below Torchlight than shiny, special rocks: a dangerous labyrinth of caverns and ruined civilizations, brimming with monstrous creatures. Evil begins to surface, and a champion is needed. Players can pick between three classes–Destroyer, Alchemist, or Vanquisher–and then begin slaughtering evil enemies, collecting loot, defeating bosses, and progressing further below the town. It’s a pretty typical storyline, with 100% shallow characters; in fact, the most creative character exists only to hand out sidequests, and yes, I’m talking about Trill-Bot 4000, that one-man band/aspiring bard/robot. Why can’t I have him as a pet?!

Like its Diablo brothers, Torchlight‘s greatest appeal is its loot. Killing special enemies drops a ton of gear, most of which will need identifying scrolls to truly get, and it’s an addicting thing. Grabbing loot, selling loot, grabbing loot, harboring unwearable loot for later–it’s truly what drove me forward, the promise of an even better staff for my Alchemist. What’s also nice is that, much like Dragon Quest IX, you can see everything your character is wearing or wielding, which gives reason for trying out a lot of odd gear. The graphics are colorful and cartoony, taking a page from World of Warcraft, and they seem right at place in Torchlight‘s less than serious world.

And now let’s discuss what I passionately disliked about Torchlight. We’ll start small. Whenever your pet loses all its health, it will flee from battle until it heals itself. You know this is happening because the voiceover dude goes, “Your pet is fleeing.” He says it even flatter than I’ve typed it. The problem is, sometimes your party is surrounded by enemies, meaning your pet is fleeing from one group to another, and the voiceover guy will just not shut up. “Your pet is fleeing,” he says, and then nine seconds later he says it again. Oh, is it? WELL, FLEE ALREADY THEN! GO AWAY! Sheesh.

I also discovered a sharp increase in difficulty from the Black Palace (levels 31-34) to when you have to fight the final boss in the Lair of Ordak (level 35). Playing on Normal difficulty, I have never died until then, and rarely had to use health potions as my Alchemist knew a Heal All spell which did the job just fine. However, towards the end, I found myself guzzling bottles of red faster than probably possible.

Lastly, my biggest gripe about Torchlight is its love for tiny text. Most of the dialogue between characters is readable, but when a weapon or special piece of gear comes jam-packed with abilities, the text drops to really tiny, making it hard to figure out what is what. Does that armor require my defense skill to be 27 or 29? It gets even worse if you try to compare it with another piece of armor in your inventory. I ended up selling most of my gear because I couldn’t read what it did. At the top left corner of all items is either a green dot, a red dot, or both. Green means it is greatly better than what you’re currently using; red is worse; and green plus red means it’s a mix of both. I used this as my guideline on what to wear, what to sell. A shame really, as I know I missed out on a lot of strong purple-colored loot.

Hate tiny text, too? Good news for you then! I’m working on an article about it for The First Hour. Stay tuned, fellow blind people.

So, is Torchlight worth getting on consoles? I’d say no. It’s a good game, but better suited for a mouse and keyboard, as well as a screen mere centimeters from your face.

It’s a good week to love slime in DQIX

Still haven’t beaten the second form of Corvus yet…

Trust me, I’ve tried. Twice actually since the last update on Dragon Quest IX. He’s supremely frustrating in that he seems to understand too well how badly I need Kingsley, our group’s priest, to stay alive in order to buff and heal and set up magic barriers for the party. Corvus kills him as fast as possible. Two or three hits, down he goes. Then the others fall quickly. I think everyone needs better armor and weapons, and the good news is that this week on the DQVC is loaded with awesome gear. Why? Well, it’s Metal Slime Week, of course!

According to the Internetz, metal slime items can only be obtained through treasure chests in high level grotto maps. So…there, and DQVC. Meaning, if one really wanted these items sooner than later, now is the time to jump on them.

The downside to all of this is that metal slime items are extremely expensive.

So far, here’s what I’ve been able to buy after many thoughtless hours of grinding during movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf:

  • Metal Slime Armour (bought for 38,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Sollerets (bought for 11,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Gauntlets (bought for 12,500 gold)
  • Metal Slime Shield (bought for 30,000 gold)

And here’s what I still really want to get, but lack the funds currently:

  • Metal Slime Spear (costs 49,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Helm (costs 25,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Sword (costs 45,000 gold…but I don’t know if I actually want or need it currently because Hadwynnn, my minstrel, rocks a whip)

I was also able to snag one oricalchum, a reset stone, some lava lumps, and a couple Hephestus’ flames. Either way, it’s a good week to be hopping online and doing some shopping. Just hope y’all have the gold to blow! I suggest trying to farm the Gold Golems near Gleeba because each one drops around 500 gold upon death. Other than that, just keep at it…the mindless button-mashing is worth it.