SkyDSL

Full disclosure: this post is incentivized by SkyDSL GmbH with a potential reward of €500. Since I am not entirely happy with their service, I decided to publish and enter this into their contest anyway just to see if they can stand criticism. If this gets me a few years of free subscription, so be it. I am certainly not doing their advertising for them, this is a recount of my personal experience.

Living in the countryside sure has its benefits, but at least one significant downside: internet coverage can be quite terrible. I am probably “lucky” to be able to even have a DSL line instead of the usual dual-channel ISDN, but come on – 1 megabit (around 120 kilobyte/sec) downstream and 100 kilobit upstream is absolutely not state of the art anymore. It shows every day – simple emails with attachments take forever to send, Windows updates can clog the pipes for hours and let’s not get started about anything fun like digital game downloads or streaming video. While my brother enjoys the benefits of his blazing fast connection with Netflix and Steam downloads going by within minutes and even my father, who doesn’t use his tablet for more than web browsing, is enjoying the speed of LTE, I am still in the dark ages. Hell, 15 years ago when I rented my first apartment, I had a Vodafone DSL connection with more than what I have now – for the same price!

Despite the German government promising a 100% coverage with high-speed internet until 2018, nothing has changed so far and nothing will change in quite a while. Because our small community here has only seven houses and four of them are covered by LTE, there’s hardly any interest among the providers to upgrade our pitiful connection.

Since download sizes became an issue even on my consoles, I took matters into my own hands. Early in 2013, a friend who is also living in a remote area told me he had installed satellite internet and was quite satisfied with it. His connection was provided by SkyDSL and since he already had experience with installing it, I didn’t think too long about ordering it. Since their contracts can be cancelled every month, I didn’t feel like it was much of a risk – worst case would be a loss of the rather small setup fee. I ordered the 16 megabit option at a price of €39,95/month; the same price as my DSL line, only 16 times faster.

However, things didn’t start out all that well. Soon after ordering, I got the first two bills, but no hardware. When I asked support about it, they told me they had technical issues and my hardware would be shipped shortly, but in the end, it took about two weeks to get the dish and router to my home. Considering how long I had waited for a proper internet connection already, that’s not all that long, but over these weeks, the weather had shifted and installation wasn’t really possible. At least they told me they’d refund me for the time I was unable to use the connection, which they did. Fair enough.

The dish installation on the roof, plus frightful looking weather.

The dish installation on the roof, plus frightful looking weather. Winter is coming.

My friend installed the dish and router for me, which was looking more complicated than it was in the end. I would never have done it on my own, though, since the antenna had to be installed on the roof of my house. I am afraid of heights, so I was glad to have help. The antenna is very heavy as well, which turned out to be a problem, since the roof could not support it properly. We installed it anyway with the idea that should it ever tilt from its original position, my friend would weld some kind of support to the pole the dish was mounted to. Fine tuning the antenna position took some time, but since my friend knew what he was doing from his own installation, setup took about 20 minutes after installing the antenna.

The router is just as small as any other router, and doesn't bother me much.

The router is just as small as any other router. And yeah, that’s a can of Raid – I just hate insects in my room.

At first, things worked out pretty well: while the ping was (of course) terrible due to long round-trip times to the satellite and back, the download speed was greatly improved with up to 1 megabyte per second from Steam. Since I also kept the DSL connection as a backup, I wasn’t concerned with the latency – I could simply switch WiFi networks to play games or download big stuff.

Unfortunately, after just a few days, the download speed started to dry up to a degree where the connection was not even usable for normal browsing. Sometimes, the speed would go up again in the morning, but just for a few hundred megabytes – afterwards, it would quickly drop to ridiculously slow levels far below my DSL connection and stay there for the rest of the day. It was absolutely useless most of the time. At first, I thought our not-entirely-stable antenna setup was to blame, so my friend and me checked the entire thing again, including the fine-tuning. Nothing helped, the speed was mostly just abysmal.

Maybe I was already data capped? Most providers do that in order to prevent constant downloads at high speeds, but when I ordered SkyDSL, the website didn’t state anything about data caps. The only statement in that regard was that there was “no fair use policy”, which in retrospect should have rung a bell. I asked support, and they quite brashly told me that I had agreed to the terms and conditions and that there was no data cap, however, the available bandwidth was divided among all users with “my usage profile”, and if they were power users, well, bad luck. “Don’t like that? You can cancel any time.” I did have other questions – especially why the website didn’t contain that interesting piece of information – but they were never answered. The terms and conditions I had received with my order confirmation didn’t contain any information about that, just something about a “fair use policy” (which usually means  “use it as much as you like as long as it doesn’t bother other users or breaks our business”).

At that point, I probably should have cancelled, but since my other options were none, I decided to give them a little time. Maybe things would get better over time, maybe their capacities would be increased, whatever. A second, albeit slow, connection wasn’t the worst thing anyway since I could connect my consoles to the satellite WiFi for downloads – even if it took more time, I could at least use the DSL internet else while they download.

Not long after that, a storm knocked out the satellite dish – the original installation simply wasn’t strong enough, as we already expected. It took me a while to get it fixed, but when we finally got it done a few months later, the speed wasn’t as unbearable as before, but still not great. At least I could occasionally download a 1-2 gigabyte file in a few minutes before it slowed to a crawl once more. At that time, I didn’t really need to download huge files on a regular basis any more since I mostly gamed on my Xbox 360 where updates were few and usually small, so I wasn’t bothered. I mainly considered the satellite as last-resort backup now.

One thing I have to mention is that while my connection was down for a few months due to the dish not being installed properly any more, I got a call from SkyDSL. An Indian sounding fellow asked me in broken German if I had noticed that my connection didn’t work, and what might be the cause for that? I told him that it was a fault on my end. Despite my insistence that the problem was the poorly installed dish, he told me he’d call again if the service wasn’t restored within the next few weeks. He didn’t, but that was okay – I appreciated the attempt at supporting the customer regardless. I also got an e-mail about the same issue, so they at least monitor their customer’s installations.

At the end of 2014, my friend was finally able to fix the broken dish by welding a support beam to the pole it was attached to and screwing that support beam to the roof’s wooden structure. That way, no storm would be able to move the dish any more, and that turned out to be true – the winter storms didn’t bother the satellite connection one bit, it still works today without any problems.

However, the speed is still an issue. In August 2015, I got a mail telling me I got lucky: they’d upgrade my connection to “up to 16 megabit up and 4 megabit down”! That way, I’d “save €6,90”, but unfortunately, since prices went up and stuff, I’d end up paying €5 more. It’s an offer for their most loyal customers, who can say no to that?

Well … I didn’t say no, and they ended up billing me €55 instead of €34,90. Huh? At least this time their customer service was friendly and told me it was a mistake. They’d refund me immediately and make sure it never happens again. And it didn’t, which is the least I can expect. What I also expected – but didn’t happen either – was an improvement in the connection speed, but I wasn’t all that disappointed anymore.

So, am I satisfied with SkyDSL? It’s complicated. On the one hand, the connection speed is borderline unusable, although my girlfriend does use the satellite link to browse the web on her iPad without much trouble – at least it’s good enough for that now. But for anything else? Not exactly. I can’t start a large download and go to bed – it’ll start fast, then drop down to almost nothing over night, wasting energy it shouldn’t have. Occasionally, I would get lucky – one time, my Xbox One was able to download the huge patch for Ryse: Son of Rome within a few hours – but it’s still too flaky to be of much use.

The upload speed is better, however – I used the satellite to upload my YouTube videos, which was significantly faster than via DSL. So that’s the main reason I keep the contract running, although I am occasionally deliberating if I should cancel. The main problem is that I’d have to return the dish, which means I need help to remove it from the roof … and that help isn’t readily available at the moment.

In their defense, I’m not certain all this is the fault of SkyDSL as satellite internet in general isn’t the most reliable thing in the world. I should have know that – maybe I was a little too desperate to “fix” my download speed issues.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue

I'm going to NYC next week, so here's a picture of "me" close to where my hotel will be a few hundred years later.

I’m going to NYC next week, so here’s a picture of “me” close to where my hotel will be a few hundred years later.

Another month, another Assassin’s Creed – this time, I played through the last-gen exclusive Rogue, which is basically Ubisoft saying “okay, next current-gen got a shiny new title, here’s something we hastily cobbled together from assets taken from Black Flag and Unity so even the last Xbox 360 or PS3 user will want to make the switch”.

It all sounds pretty bad, and it occasionally happens to look pretty bad as well: asset recycling is abundant, bugs are aplenty and I had the game crash twice during my play through. The lack of optimization is staggering; on some of the more hectic missions I experienced strange frame rate drops all the way down to zero for several seconds, and that with a mandatory hard drive installation. Why that installation was even necessary in the first place is beyond me since Black Flag ran perfectly fine without it and it’s more or less the same game.

Yep, it's Black Flag without black flags.

Yep, it’s Black Flag without black flags. Oddly enough, there are absolutely no real pirates in these waters while the south seas were absolutely infested with them.

These technical issues aside I did enjoy my time as a Templar, even though it became pretty clear that Ubisoft didn’t bother much with coming up with an excuse to reskin Black Flag. No matter what the player character is supposed to be, the whole piracy thing is still on, although you’re now sailing under the British flag and the victims are usually French – as opposed to just everyone in Black Flag. Several missions feel like they have been lifted directly from Black Flag in terms of objectives and mechanics with only slight changes to the story. Having completed Black Flag only recently I felt somewhat fatigued by the repetition, but I guess that was to be expected.

One thing that annoyed me a bit was that while the game duly recognized my efforts in the previous games and awarded me with a specific costume for each completed prequel, I still had to go through the tutorial missions like some newbie who’d never played an Assassin’s Creed game before. At this point in the franchise’s lifespan they could really come up with a way to be able to skip all that crap and get right into the meat of the game.

No idea what secondary sequences even are because the completion tracker doesn't seem to list them, but I can't really be arsed to do more.

Something fishy is going on with the completion tracker – the three cyan bars all say 100% while the identical-colored “secondary sequences” count reads 69%. That can’t be right …

Still, the ~28 hours spent on the game weren’t a time I didn’t enjoy. However, I’m happy to leave the Americas trilogy behind and finally get into big cities like Paris and London again. The American cities really weren’t great for climbing with their small buildings and all the samey-looking forest environments just lead to extremely easy and dull climbing puzzles. And seriously: they could have put more effort into designing trees. Having only one tree per climbing mechanic is just lazy.

Since I’m going on holiday to the USA next week I don’t really want to start a big new game before that (and certainly not AC: Unity!) so I don’t know … maybe I’ll throw in Call of Duty Black Ops II since I just noticed I kinda missed that too.

Order & Chaos

Well, Ryse: Son of Rome was a bust.

Frankly, I suspected I wouldn’t enjoy it because it’s a typical launch title with style over substance, but that wasn’t even the problem. The controls felt rather easy to get a grip of, with every fight consisting of more or less the same movements, and I did enjoy the game for what it’s worth, but when I came across the first real boss fight – some savage woman called Boudica – I totally hit a brick wall. And it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying, but the fight felt almost entirely broken compared to how easy the game was up to that point. After dozens of attempts with seemingly random outcomes – sometimes I’d be able to block every attack only to get creamed by her adds, sometimes she’d basically two-shot me – I was ready to throw the controller through the screen. Fortunately, I was able to calm myself and just gave up instead, which is likely the better (if not cheaper) way of dealing with this.

One game I’ve wanted to try for a long time was Borderlands 2. Considering how much time I spent playing the original which I completed it to 100%, it should be logical for me to enjoy the hell out of the sequel, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes, the writing is once again a complete riot and the colorful cast is as stellar as ever, but when it comes to actually playing the game, I … just don’t know. It’s so slow! There’s so much damn padding, so much backtracking, and most of it on foot through endless areas full of rapidly respawning monsters … not to mention strange design decisions like having a certain story mission – the one to free Roland – last bloody ages without any way to take a break and pop back in later unless you want to keep the console running. The one-way travel station at the end of the mission sure was a riot too – nobody told me I couldn’t get back, but I needed ammo …

I played to level 21 or something and then just couldn’t be arsed any longer. Even the most entertaining story can’t make up for the lack of pacing and when even the early game reminded me of the – terribly padded out – finale of Borderlands I guess it’s just time to play something else.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), Windows 10 was released and gave me a break from console gaming. I never had a computer with Windows 8.x so I never had the ability of using the Windows Store, so you can imagine I just had to try things out after upgrading my laptop. Windows 10 works flawlessly and I do quite like the new look, but some design choices certainly feel off, like for example the two system configuration apps. Still, I’m happy how that turned out and that the upgrade didn’t kill my system is a nice bonus.

The first game I tried out was Despicable Me: Minion Rush by Gameloft, your typical endless runner with also typical free to play mechanics – but who can resist the charm of Minions? Certainly not me! Unfortunately (or fortunately), I had trouble falling asleep when playing Minion Rush right before going to bed, so I kind of had to throw the towel on that one before it consumed me. One thing I have to comment on is the insanely greedy cash shop asking for up to €20 for a single character – Minions or not, that’s just plain wrong.

Next on was Order & Chaos Online, another Gameloft-made game and probably the most blatant clone of World of Warcraft I’ve ever encountered. Originally released as a subscription game (!) in 2010 as an iPad exclusive, it’s now a free to play title and also available for Windows Phone and Android. I did check it out on iPad back then and was quite stunned by the quality, but since I was already playing WoW I wasn’t really feeling the need to invest my precious time into a mobile game.

Minutes before hitting 60 in the Burning Steppes/Hellfire Peninsula clone zone

Minutes before hitting 60 in the Burning Steppes/Hellfire Peninsula clone zone

Five years later, the game looks like ass but turns out to be a quite entertaining and accurate Vanilla/TBC WoW simulator, if nothing else. There are loads of quests that easily get you to the level cap but are also all rather soulless, there are three trading skills plus cooking – all of them an absolutely horrid grind – and there are dungeons nobody seems to bother about. Obviously, there are other players as well, but you can ignore them mostly because nothing about leveling is difficult at all. Every single quest can be done solo – even those pitting the player against elite monsters because they are little more than a different portrait frame on your screen. It’s a really laid-back game and it’s easy to forget it’s free to play because it barely ever pesters you with that aspect – there’s a cash shop, but until you are at the level cap, you might as well not know about it. There are no raids, but that’s probably because it was a mobile game. Otherwise, it’s as much a MMO as it could be on these platforms.

Nope, this doesn't look like Scarlet Monastery at all!

Nope, this doesn’t look like Scarlet Monastery (or Stormwind Cathedral) at all! Not a bit!

For the most part, it’s the perfect casual MMO and also a great throwback to a time where WoW wasn’t a game of garrisons and dungeon finders. I just got to level 60 today and while got a little worn out around level 40 or so I never really lost interest during these ~12 days. I’m not going to bother to level to the cap though because the game’s community is absolutely horrible.

You see, Gameloft more or less abandoned the game years ago, and while they did update it with some content and even a new race after a time, they never bothered to address the real problem: immature people, hackers, and the combination of both.

I’ve encountered quite the odd Barrens chat during my tenure in WoW but I’ve never faced a public chat like the one in Order & Chaos Online. Evenings on the weekend are like someone flooded the chat with racism, religious hatred, any combination of the two, plus your dime a dozen swears and f-bombs. It’s really hard to stand any minute of that, but try playing for an extended period of time without feeling the urge to stab someone (preferably the morons on the chat, but anyone would do at that point).

Tameable mounts are something not even WoW can offer. Cool idea!

Tameable mounts are something not even WoW can offer. Cool idea! Unfortunately, chances to actually tame the mount are pretty slim unless you spend real money.

If you are in luck and there’s no swearing, hating kiddie on the chat spewing their nonsense all night long, there’s bound to be someone who’s either claiming to be a hacker – or who’s an actual hacker. Turns out Gameloft made some extremely strange design choices and didn’t bother to secure their game as much as they should have, and thanks to all that, hacking the game is as easy as abundant.

I’ve even encountered it myself when I was invited to a guild by some guy I’ve never seen before. I accepted, eager to see where that would lead me, and it turned out he was standing next to me. He asked me “do you have room?” and when I said yes, he proceeded to fill my inventory with an abundance of boxes, each of which contained several valuable items. I had no idea what the hell was going on, but since the boxes looked like they might be some kind of reward for PvP I didn’t suspect anything right away. I even asked him if these boxes would cost money (some games sell items on the cash shop which can be given to other players as gift, and I thought that maybe I had hit a gold mine or something) and he said yeah, but it’s no bother.

After giving me about 20 of these boxes he logged off, and I got suspicious. I asked Auntie Google for help and she quickly suggested the guy was hacking and all the goods I got hold of were basically stolen. After quick consideration I decided I would feel better about it if I a) reported the guy for hacking and b) deleted all the items I had obtained from him, and so I did.

Since playing an MMO where everyone can just cheat to progress – I’ve seen players get from level 1 to 70 within a few hours, certainly not of their own volition – feels a little bit pointless, I’m okay with just finishing the achievements and moving on. At this point I’m game for the next console title, which will probably be The Walking Dead Season 2, just because it’s entirely linear. After that … well, who knows? I’m going on holiday soon, and when I return, Skylanders will be released! Can’t wait!

Quest log update: July

Upon turning on my Xbox One today to install the next game on my quest to complete all the (interesting) AAA games I missed over the last years, I was greeted by yet another patch download. Considering how little I used the console since I got it, it’s probably no surprise, but I remember downloading a huge update only recently, so it’s getting a bit on my nerves. What’s even worse is that the update aborts all the time, but it doesn’t automatically try to resume, so I have to check on the console every few minutes. Argh!

Right after finishing the stellar, but technically flawed The Wolf Among Us, the new Batman Arkham Knight game was released. Having played none of the previous Batman titles I was interested enough to at least take a look at Batman Arkham Asylum, a game I had on my shelf for a good two years without even cracking it open. I must admit that I have very little interest in super heroes in general and Batman in particular because I am no longer 12 years old, but after watching a review on the latest game, the combat system looked compelling enough to at least take a look.

Well, what can a say – I didn’t really stop “taking a look” until I reached what I presume is the final boss fight. It’s certainly a better game than I had anticipated – and it’s still looking great despite it’s age – but I must admit the combat system didn’t really click with me. I could fumble and button mash my way to the end, but that’s probably it. Not sure if I’ll bother to try and complete it – even though I really liked the puzzles, I feel like I have seen enough of the game to move on.

Next on the agenda was The Walking Dead including its “400 Days” DLC. Oddly enough the technical issues The Wolf Among Us had weren’t present here at all, although I did run into my fair share of glitches, including an almost game-breaking bug where a door I was supposed to open wasn’t clickable until I replayed the entire scene. My verdict? Doesn’t quite beat The Wolf Among Us in terms of artwork, writing or characters, but it’s certainly an experience worth having. The DLC was nice, but rather short – I wouldn’t have bought it on it’s own, but it was included in the GOTY anyway.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

Finally I felt ready to tackle the next game in the seemingly endless Assassin’s Creed franchise: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. Having been severely disappointed by the mediocre third installment with it’s hodgepodge of systems, I was pretty certain the next contender would be even less enjoyable, but fortunately for me, that wasn’t the case. Black Flag certainly offers a lot of stuff, but it’s a way more structured offering than the previous game, and most of the systems actually make sense in context of the game. There’s still way too much nonsensical stuff to collect and most of the crap doesn’t even count in terms of achievements – I am looking at you, Animus Fragment! – but the treasure maps are a cool addition and I greatly enjoyed the thrill of exploring shark-infested shipwrecks. For a 360 game, the graphics were excellent, especially after AC3 was a step back in that department, and the music was also really good. One should not forget the fantastic Shanties, of which I got several stuck in my head now, especially “Leave Her, Johnny“.

Despite being not very interested in pirate life in general – again, I’m no longer a kid – I did enjoy the story very much, but the best “addition” was the almost entire lack of WTF moments in the “real world” sequences. Where all games including AC3 had a ludicrous storyline filled with crazy talk about beings of old trying to save humanity from certain doom, almost all of that got tossed out of the window. Instead, the player works for Abstergo Entertainment, a Templar-run company which is clearly a spitting image of Ubisoft, and this setup was much more fun to me than the usual doom-and-gloom setup of the older games. The cameos by certain Assassins during the present-day episodes were greatly appreciated as well, as well as the fantastic end sequence.

Not sure how the game's visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

Not sure how the game’s visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

After about 40 hours of sailing the seven seas, I got to a point where I didn’t care enough about the remaining achievements to continue playing. I loved my time on the Jackdaw, but I’ll take after Edward Kenway and move on.

I’ll need a while to recharge my spirits before the next Assassin’s Creed, which will be Rogue, so the next game to cross off my list will be Ryse: Son of Rome. Despite having the Xbox One for over a year now, I never played anything on it except for Watch_Dogs which is multi-platform anyway and certainly doesn’t look like a next-gen title should. Now I just need to wait for my Xbox One to finally download the update … 1675 megabytes to go, moving at a snail’s pace. Oh well, I guess it’s time for me to relax.

Games to play, 2015 edition

This is more like a personal reminder to play through the following games this year. The order doesn’t matter, I’ve put them down as they come to mind. Let’s see how many I can get done …

  • GTA V (I am currently playing this and enjoying it tremendously) √ completed 2015-06-14
  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag √ completed 2015-07-29
  • Assassin’s Creed Rogue √ completed 2015-08-31
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity
  • Skylanders Superchargers (I preordered this today! More plastic junk to fill my shelves)
  • LEGO Dimensions (already preordered this a few weeks back)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order
  • The Wolf Among Us √ completed 2015-06-21
  • The Walking Dead, Season 1 √ completed 2015-07-16 and 2 √ completed 2015-08-21 (believe it or not, I have still not played even one episode of these games. Shame on me!)
  • Call of Duty Advanced Warfare (mostly because Kevin Spacey. It’s a bit too expensive for my liking right now so it can wait.)
  • Ryse: Son of Rome (skipped this at launch because it’s supposedly crap, but all next-gen games I played so far looked like crap, and this is supposedly flashy, so why not?)
  • Shadows of Mordor
  • Far Cry 4 (if I can stand yet another $Ubigame after all these Assassin’s Creed titles)
  • Saint’s Row IV
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Rock Band 4
  • Guitar Hero Live! (not too sure about this one … but I enjoyed Guitar Hero games so why not)
  • Mass Effect 3

That’s … probably far too much for one year, but now that I don’t spend time on WoW anymore, I might be able to knock out at least some of these titles. Looks like I’ll also spend some more time with Marvel Heroes 2015 – I’ve actually spent money on it now and the second anniversary seems to offer some nice freebies as well.

Freemium isn’t free

While I finally got to playing through GTA V, I also found another game worth my time: Marvel Heroes 2015. It’s a free to play game made by some previous Diablo II developers and is, of course, an ARPG with Marvel characters. Not that I care about Marvel comics or super heroes in general, but it’s a nice distraction between longer AAA sessions. I can say that I enjoyed it quite a bit over the last few days – an hour here, another there, that’s all I need.

One thing annoys me, though: thanks to the tons of loot you get, inventory space is extremely limited, and so is bank space. While you can’t upgrade the inventory at all, you can unlock bank slots, but they cost real money. And that’s something that bothers me.

IMG_20150519_155740

Don’t look too close, there’s a lot of rubbish in that collection.

I spend a lot of money on games. I have a huge collection of Xbox 360 titles – way more than I should ever have bought, but that’s the collector in me. As you can see on the photo, I also spent a ton of money on Skylanders figures – probably the most blatant pay-to-win series of games I’ve ever seen. Just two days ago I dropped €50 on three console games without thinking twice – and while I am playing one of them (GTA V) right now, I am not so sure when I’ll find time to play the other two (The Wolf Among Us and Wolfenstein: The New Order, if you must know).

steamprofile

Much games. So wow.

My Steam library is home to almost 500 games – most of which I have never played and have no desire to. I don’t even know when or how I got most of them.

A few years ago I had an active monthly subscription to World of Warcraft for months, but I barely logged on. I didn’t mind paying, because I was sure I’d come back anyway.

 

So when I spend so much money on games I barely play or don’t even care for, why do I have such an issue paying for bank space in Marvel Heroes 2015? I didn’t pay a cent for the game, there is no subscription required and I won’t buy tons of heroes or costumes because I am perfectly fine with the grind aspect and unlocking random ones by playing, so why is it that I just can’t seem to drop $20 on a few bank slots so I can enjoy the game more?

MarvelHeroes2015-2015-05-31-14-39-49-66

The problem: so much loot, so little space. Every dungeon run means I have to do 5 minutes of inventory tetris, and that sucks.

I can only assume it’s because my mindset is still “basic features should be free” – and let’s face it, “basic features” in ARPGs are inventory and bank space. Isn’t it enough to have to pay for playable characters? I am also wary of paying ~$2.50 $5.00 for one bank slot because I know myself. I like to keep stuff, and in order to keep more stuff I need more bank space. Things like that tend to spiral out of control quickly, which is why I tend to stay away from them. On the other hand, I would never have looked at Marvel Heroes if it wasn’t free to play. And I guess paying a little – like the mentioned $20 – would be fair if I enjoy playing, right?

Still, I am not convinced. The entire business model just feels like extortion to me – if I want to keep playing, I can either pay up or face the numerous consequences that arise from being unable to even store the most basic things in a game with lots of things to store. I feel like if I do as they want me to, I am supporting that kind of business model, and that’s just not right. Five bucks just for a bit of convenience (or actually quite a lot of convenience given how the game is set up) seems to be a rather steep fee as well. On the other hand, the game’s so much fun … it’s the first freemium game I actually enjoy, with the exception of Team Fortress 2 but I don’t really count that as “free to play” because paying doesn’t do anything.

This kind of sucks and it’s also a new kind of dilemma for me. In my opinion, games should be about having fun, not about having to think how much I have to pay to have more fun.

Assassin’s Creed 3 sucks

Let me just go on record saying Assassin’s Creed III‘s finale sucks balls. Failing a mission for the umpteenth time for arbitrary reasons isn’t fun, especially not minutes away from the end of the game. When the game then crashes on me as soon as I manage to succeed is just cruel. And having to reboot my console four times just to get past the “logging into the Ubisoft server” part … ah well, I managed to completed the game now, but of all the Assassin’s Creed games I played so far*, this was clearly the worst in terms of bugs and stupid game mechanics. Everything just felt like a giant’s step backwards from Revelations – everything except the story, that is, which is fortunate, because that’s what I was playing it for.

Just please, no more stupid chase sequences or my TV gets hit by a controller sooner rather than later. It’s a nice TV. I don’t want it to get hurt.

* I am currently on a quest to play through all the AAA games I missed over the last few days, notably the entire Assassin’s Creed series since Brotherhood. I’m only on my second game now and already feel kinda worn out, but I hear they get better after Assassin’s Creed III …

Turrican Soundtrack Anthology

coverWay over a year ago, I became a backer on Kickstarter for a project I wouldn’t have imagined to happen in my lifetime – a completely re-recorded version of the Turrican game soundtrack. I fell in love with these games’ amazing music when I played Turrican II on my Amiga back in 1991 and was genuinely excited for Chris Huelsbeck to finally revisit all of the tracks (while he had released an OST CD for the second game, it wasn’t the complete soundtrack). So I backed the Kickstarter with 50 bucks for a signed copy of the physical CD set and hoped for the best. Release date was given as December 2012, which sounded very optimistic and in retrospect probably wasn’t remotely possible since Chris Huelsbeck is a busy man.

So it became December 2013 before the Turrican Soundtrack Anthology finally made its way into my home. And what can I say – I am extremely pleased by the results, with the exception of the orchestral arrangements contained on disc 4 which I find a bit weak compared to the electronic versions. The first three discs, however, are fantastic pieces of work, with every track having received the attention it needed. There are new details added everywhere, nothing sounds like a lazy re-recording.

Three of the four discs also contain one remix track by (more or less) famous musicians, and of these three, I certainly appreciate Machinae Supremacy’s fantastic version of “The Final Fight” the most. I didn’t really enjoy the work they did on Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams all that much, but the sheer power behind this remix is incredible and makes me wish they’d re-record the entire Turrican music in this style.

Currently disc 1 to 3 are on heavy rotation in my headphones and the music still gives me the chills it used to. Thanks, Chris Huelsbeck, for finally making this happening!

Defiance Auto Login no longer in development

Status

Richard

Just a quick heads up for anyone who’s using my Defiance auto login script that I’ve stopped developing it further. I haven’t played Defiance in months now and really don’t plan on revisiting it. You can still get my script here, but I reckon it’ll be outdated soon, if it isn’t already. Should be easy to update for anyone who cares though …