I Have No Idea What I’m Doing (Kairo)

The somewhat jokingly but later canonically termed “Walking Simulator” genre gets a lot of flak for being a lot of nothing. Walking Sims are filled with games such as Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture, games which contain little more gameplay or story than what the title will already tell you. But people often forget that this genre also contains gems such as The Stanley Parable, arguably a masterpiece by the common standard.

I wouldn’t call Kairo a masterpiece. And I wouldn’t call it a brilliant game. But I certainly wouldn’t call it a waste of time, either.

Kairo utilises abstraction to maintain the player’s interest in their surroundings as they traverse the simplistic but highly atmospheric world. The game benefits highly from not attempting to shove a narrative down your throat, opting to instead let you explore at your own pace and leisure. There’s plenty of narrative to be soaked up in secrets, pictures, environments and the odd set-piece, but you could – if you wanted – ignore all of these things entirely, and it would not impact your ability to enjoy this game.

I suppose I am cheating somewhat by discussing Kairo like it’s purely a Walking Sim. The game is actually a puzzler, containing many rooms that don’t tell you what to do, simply leaving you to work it out as if you truly were a wanderer coming across these bizarre places for the first time. If you really do get stuck, the developers had the foresight to add a hints screen in the pause menu, and even they don’t give everything away if you choose to read all three levels of hint. There’s also no penalty for reading them, in achievements or otherwise.

The game itself is fairly short. I finished it in around three hours, not accounting for collectables. And while I’m sure that there’s a full story in there somewhere, I personally couldn’t garner anything from the conclusion as to what was happening or what I’d ultimately done besides just turning things on. But I had a good, satisfying time completing the puzzles before me and admiring the abstract, boxy world.

There are a few rooms that aren’t linked to the overall completion of the game, containing no hints and straying from the typical logic followed by the main puzzles. There’s achievements that these seem to be tied to, so I look forward to returning to the game and figuring them out. I always welcome a game that gives you something to do after you’ve effectively beaten it; it adds to the sense of a wider world as you make your way to the end.

The default price is £4.00, so if that’s too much for you to spend on a Walking Sim / Puzzle game that lasts a few hours (as it is for me), then wait for it to appear in a bundle or dip down to a pittance in a sale. But if you’re looking for a calm, perplexing experience, Kairo is a safe bet.

The Worst Blogger

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From my Steam profile

What you’re looking at is the precise reason as to why I have no gaming blog post available for you today. I’ve created virtually no new gaming experiences outside of World of Warcraft, and I’ve blogged about that for 2 weeks running (and have practically nothing left to say on the matter). I’ve considered writing about a particular topic in gaming instead, such as split-screen gaming or Sony’s new PS4 Pro, but I can’t think of anything to say that’d fill up a blog post.

Come back next week! We’ll see what we can rustle up then.

World of Warcraft: Legion (The Endgame)

So, as is typical of when you hit the level cap in a World of Warcraft expansion, the natural progression of your character falls to your gear, which is quantified by your item level. In Legion, you have to be item level 810 to start running heroic dungeons, and that was my primary target, mostly so that I could queue for a dungeon without it taking an hour. And that’s not an exaggeration. With part of the class order campaign requiring items from dungeons, I was keen to get in and grab them, but the new queue system prioritises people who are running and dungeon for the first time over people who aren’t, leading to a ridiculous inflation of queue times.

Fortunately, there’s now plenty of content to do when you’re max level, and when it comes to the newly introduced World Quests, you can choose to pursue the ones which yield particular rewards, so that sped up the process. On the topic of World Quests, I have so far completed over 50 of them, and must admit that some of them are simply repeats of levelling quests. I’ve also seen two (non-profession) quests pop up twice in one week, despite claims that this is unlikely to happen. However, this is only a minor complaint, and I’ve found that many World Quests are unique, have entertaining content and giving great rewards. Some people have complained about the rates at which certain reputations are gained via the system, but given that I’m already halfway through honored with most factions at my middling pace, and it’s only been a week or so since release, I think this is simply a remark from the impatient.

Lastly on the topic of gear, each class has a set already available to them via the order hall, and you unlock the different pieces through completing various milestones, such as completing all dungeons or reaching certain reputation levels. These item sets are recolours of the now unobtainable Mists of Pandaria Challenge Mode Dungeon sets, and some of them look very cool. Unfortunately, I main a druid, and ours looks… like bolognese.

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No, really, it does.

 

Blizzard have been very firm in stating that the Order Hall is an evolution of the Garrison system that will not repeat the failings of its predecessor. As far as I can see, you can now only earn gold, XP, artifact power and champion XP / ilvl enhancements from missions, and you’ll only ever get around 3 or 4 missions available to you at once. You also can only have 5 champions active at once, including whoever you assign to assist you out in the world, and missions take hours. Blizzard’s approach with this was to make your Order Hall mission table a side project rather than a dominating game experience, and whilst I’ve not seen any complaints so far, I do have to say that I feel they strayed a bit far to the side project side of things to the point where it doesn’t necessarily feel fulfilling, and will likely be something I stop doing altogether.

As for the Class Order questline – well, I can only judge it based off of the Druid one (no spoilers ahead), and assume that the other class ones follow the pattern. The actual quests were very unique, full of lore and a pleasure to play through. However, in between them were painstaking mission table quests, the second of two being to send champions out on a particular mission ten times with long waiting times between. This led to some frustration as I simply wanted to proceed, though it seems that Blizzard are of a mindset that at the beginning of this expansion, progression will be heavily controlled to be slow at first, and then much faster for those arriving later. Whilst this is a clever ideology for those with raiding in mind, it also leads to pacing issues such as the aforementioned, and has led to some other bemusing issues such as Nomi the cook burning most of the ingredients you give him rather than turning over recipes. Blizzard have simply stated that as the expansion goes on, he’ll become a better cook.

To stop us from being here all day, I’ll rush through the next topics. Firstly, I’ve not finished questing through Suramar, the story-driven endgame zone, but from what I’ve seen it’s fun, though a little less phenomenal than I’ve heard many exclaim. The overhauling of the PvP Honor system has actually spurred me to try it out, with the various awards for prestiging being a large motivation and the ability to have seperately balanced class gameplay for PvP being something I’ve longed desired in the past. And as somebody who doesn’t raid much above LFR difficulty, it should come as no surprise that I’ve not bothered with Mythic dungeons and therefore have nothing to say about them. Oh, and as much as I like the profession, Blizzard have made archaeology a huge pain in the ass.

There’s still plenty to see, do and rave about, and if the story is heading the way I think it’s heading, then I’ll have plenty to froth at the mouth about over on my WoW-exclusive Twitter account over the coming weeks and months. But that’s about all I have to say about Legion for now!

 

World of Warcraft: Legion (The Levelling Experience)

Well it’s finally fricken here and it’s so brilliant that I’m going to have to restrain myself from gushing about it for the next few hundred words. I’d hoped to reach level 110 before writing this blog post but as I type these words, I’m currently sitting in The Dreamgrove at a very disappointing level 109 and a half, with only half of Stormheim left to do.

The class order halls were probably one of my personally most anticipated features of the expansion, and I’m still yet to explore any of the classes outside of my main, my druid. But as far as the druid class order hall goes, it’s beautiful. We always had a bit of a private druid dance party club in the form of Moonglade, but one of the first class quests you’ll get pretty much sends you there to open a portal to your order hall, which is greener, druidier, and substantially HDer. The class specific quests have been good so far and whilst the mission table is an initially alarming reminder of Warlords of Draenor (and everything it did wrong), there’s actually far less to do on it. It’s more of a side project than a base of operations.

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I’ve wanted to meet this guy in game ever since reading Stormrage! It’s a shame he has to wield those ridiculous looking paws.

Profession quests are in, and they tie in very well with the open world gameplay – provided you pick them up at the right time. I’ve had some quests that go hand-in-hand with the zone’s quests and can be completed side-by-side, but there’s others that have sent me off to kill dudes that I’d already killed a few hours prior, and the drop rates on those quest items kinda need an accompanying quest tied into the same mobs to stop you from going crazy. This is an inevitability of non-linear zone levelling, though, and might be something that they fix in the future.

I can’t speak for the majority of Artifact weapons, but my Scythe of Elune is sitting comfortably on my back and I’m a big fan of the systems that come along with it. Of course, putting points into arbitrary power increases could have been baked into simply levelling up your character or acquiring new gear, and the same can be said for the abilities that you unlock through them too. But a new method of progression and power acquisition is hardly something to be faulted. As far as the common criticism about sharing a room with 50 people that all have that one legendary Scythe of Elune (or Doomhammer, or Ashbringer)… well, the criticism has merit, but I don’t feel like I’m wielding some legendary weapon as much as I’m simply in possession of a staff that everyone else has. And whilst it is jarring to run into so many Ashbringer-wielding paladins in the world, this effect will lessen as time goes on and players unlock more customisation options… or simply get sick of looking at it and transmog out of it.

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Holy goddamn balls it’s the Scythe of Elune.

As for the core gameplay… well, that comes in two parts. The first part is the questing, and whilst storytelling is at an all-time high (especially in Val’Sharah and Azsuna), it’s still the same old combination of kill these, collect that, interact with these 6 objects and return to me, with a few vehicle quests thrown in there for crazy hijinks. That’s not to say that the expansion isn’t littered with more unique quests, but there’s certainly a fair share of your copy / paste kobold adventures from level 1.

Balance Druid, as a specialisation, is wonderful. In Warlords of Draenor, it was an ugly mess of watching the UI and having your DPS mess up the second you break out of casting to avoid something. Now, I’m in control of what I cast, when I cast it. And the main artifact ability lets you drop freakin’ moons on people, so that’s cool.

I’ve not dedicated much time to discussing dungeons, but that’s because I’ve only done three of them so far – Darkheart Thicket, Eye of Azshara and Neltharion’s Lair, in that order. What I can say is that they’ve all upheld a unique theme, enjoyable boss mechanics and so far, I have no qualms with the prospect of revisiting them several times over the course of the expansion.

There’s plenty left to do. I may have to dedicate an entire blog post to post 110 content, such as world quests, raids (when they come out), the continuation of order hall related activities and more. Whether this will be a regular or a bonus blog post rests purely on whether I play anything other than WoW in the meantime!