ARK: Survival Evolved

ARK: Survival Evolved

Summary

Learn to survive on an island full of dinosaurs. Hunt creatures, gather resources, craft items, and build structures. You can also tame, breed, and ride dinosaurs in this open world sandbox game.

Review

ARK is an Early Access Game, but it already feels like a complete game. It has a huge community of players, gets updated very frequently, and can keep you entertained for hours upon hours. There is even an alternate play mode called Survival of the Fittest, which is essentially The Hunger Games in a world with dinosaurs.

My biggest complaints are that it is a resource hog (the developers are actively working on improving the game’s performance) and that the world is a fixed map and not destructible (not a big deal, but it would be nice).

I was really skeptical about ARK at first, but it’s a lot of fun. Highly recommended!

Taming Penelope
Taming my first dinosaur, Penelope the Parasaur
Character Screen
The character screen
Riding a Trike
Nick riding Timothy the Triceratops

You might like this game if you like…

Want to play?

$29.99 on Steam (Early Access)

Guild Wars 2: Release Day

Standing on a hill (by nebse)
Standing on a hill (screenshot by nebse)

Nick and I started playing a new MMORPG: Guild Wars 2, which was just released yesterday. We hadn’t been planning on playing it; in fact, we knew nothing about it prior to Monday. My coworker casually mentioned that it was coming out and that evening, Nick happened to see a screenshot (on right) posted on Reddit that made him want to play the game. How cool is it that the character’s knee is bent while standing on a hill?! We looked into it a bit and once we found out that there was no monthly subscription fee and that there was even a gnome-like race (the asura), we decided to give it a try. A few clicks later, we were downloading the game.

Getting started

When we started the game, we had to pick which world server we wanted to play on. Unfortunately, you can only play on one server in GW2 (unlike World of Warcraft, where you can have characters on multiple servers). You can switch servers, but it’ll cost you. Apparently, you can still play with friends on other servers, but you won’t be able to participate in World vs. World PvP.

Character customization

There are 5 races to choose from: Asura (short and clever), Charr (aggressive and feline), Human (boring!), Norn (Nordic shape-shifters), and Sylvari (inquisitive plant-like humanoids). There aren’t factions in GW2, unlike WoW.

There are 8 professions (aka classes) as well: Elementalist, Engineer, Guardian, Mesmer, Necromancer, Ranger, Thief, and Warrior.

Character customization
Character customization

Character customization is pretty detailed, reminding me more of Skyrim than WoW. You can tweak all of your facial features, height, skin color, etc. AND you can dye your armor! I wish there were more colors to choose from when dyeing armor, but 21 colors isn’t bad.

After you’ve picked out your race and profession and customized your appearance, it asks you a few questions about your character to help create your character’s personal story. This affects your character’s personality and in-game storyline events. I think it’s really neat that the decisions you make have an effect on the game.

Playing the game

I have to say that our first hour or two of playing the game were a bit overwhelming. The controls and UI were pretty straight-forward, but figuring out where we had to go and what we had to do took a little getting used to, as can be expected when playing a new game. It probably didn’t help that we were trying to stick together in a party with a friend of ours instead of learning the game at our own individual paces. At one point, we became separated and couldn’t figure out how to get back to each other (it seems like the separation was probably due to server overflow).

Cinematic conversation
Cinematic conversation

One thing that impressed me right away was the cinematic conversations that take place in the game. The characters in the cinematic conversations move and do a pretty decent job lip-syncing the words. It’s a lot more interesting to watch and listen to these cutscenes than it is to click through a bunch of dialogue screens. And if you don’t care about the storyline, there’s a button that let’s you skip over it.

Dynamic world event
Dynamic world event

Another aspect of the game that I really like is the dynamic world events, a lot like rift events in Rift. When there’s an event nearby, it alerts you and everyone else in the area. Everyone who wants to participate can then work together to complete the task.

I’m still learning how combat works, so I’m not going to blog about that just yet. I really like how quickly health regenerates when out of combat, though. That was one of my complaints about WoW.

Overall Thoughts

It’s too early to say for sure, but it seems like Guild Wars 2 is going to be a pretty fun game. It doesn’t feel radically different from other games in the genre, but they’ve obviously learned a lot from other games about what works and what doesn’t and they’ve added some neat new features. I’m excited to see more of the game!

TIL – Chrome, LoL, and Baby Dovahkiin

What have I learned so far today?

  1. Chrome has passed up Firefox for the first time in terms of worldwide market share (source).
  2. League of Legends now has more active players than World of Warcraft (source).
  3. A couple is going to receive free games for life from Bethesda because they named their son (born on Skyrim’s release date, 11/11/11) Dovahkiin, which means “dragonborn” in Skyrim’s Dragon Language (source).

Skyrim: Faendal and Frost

Faendal

In my last Skyrim post, Faendal (my companion/follower) had unexpectedly disappeared. I searched high and low for him. I tried fast travelling to see if he would catch up to me. I went back to the last place I could remember being with him. Nothing. No sign of poor Faendal. In Skyrim, companions are immortal… unless you kill your companion (accidental or not) yourself. So, I sadly concluded that Faendal must have stepped in front of one of my firebolts without me noticing. He does that a lot. :-/ Thankfully, I still had an old save I was able to revert back to. I had to redo a bunch of things I lost from reverting, but at least I still had Faendal. 😛

Most people who play Skyrim prefer to have Lydia as their companion… probably because she’s the first companion most people get. Because I like fooling around and talking to the people of Skyrim, I got Faendal as a companion  before Lydia (Faendal was involved in a love triangle and felt indebted to me after I exposed the other guy as a scoundrel). One of the great things about Faendal is how helpful and cheerful he is. When you start a trade with Faendal (to give him better gear or have him carry things for you), he politely asks, “What do you want me to carry?” Ask to trade with Lydia, however, and she sighs, rolls her eyes, and grumbles, “I am sworn to carry your burdens…” Regardless, people love Lydia. Someone has even taken the time to drag Lydia’s corpse up to an open casket at the top of a mountain (not an easy task!) after she died.

Frost

I have another new friend in Skyrim – a horse I acquired in the southeastern parts of Skyrim. Like companions, horses don’t seem to be that helpful and just end up getting in the way… but one still grows fond of them. Horses can run faster than the player, but it’s not that much of a speed increase, especially because followers can’t join you in riding on the horse, so they quickly fall behind. Another issue is that horses apparently think they’re invulnerable. They have no problem running up to baddies (even dragons) and attempting to stomp them to death. Frost once went into the water, pulled out a fish, brought it onto the land, and stomped on it until it died. Thanks for protecting me from that fish, Frost. 😛

Lydia and Faendal in my house
Lydia and Faendal in my house
Riding Frost
Riding Frost

Skyrim: College of Winterhold

I started my day today by slaying two dragons. I also got into a fight with a giant and a mammoth (at the same time – not easy!!) and survived due to lots of kiting. 😛

I spent most of my time in Skyrim today doing a bunch of silliness and exploring, but I did make it to the College of Winterhold, where I impressed the mages with my arcane knowledge. 😉 At the end of the day, I upgraded my house and it looks much better now. I seem to have lost my faithful companion, Faendel, though. Not sure where he disappeared to and I’m hoping he’ll show up tomorrow.

Today in pictures:

Slain Dragon
I slayed two dragons this morning!
Skinny dippers
Found some people skinny dipping 😉
College of Winterhold
I made it to the College of Winterhold
Cave exploration
Exploring a cave with my buddy, Faendel
Night sky
Pretty night sky
Breezhome
My redecorated home
Oh, and I also had to switch strafing from buttons Q and E back to Skyrim’s default A and D. I found that I couldn’t loot books without remapping my keys (ick), so I gave up and went back to default. 😛

Also also, when I was fighting my first dragon today, I actually killed it twice. Skyrim crashed on me as I killed the dragon the first time, so I had to kill it again. 🙁 It’s the first (and only) time Skyrim has crashed on me, but it’s crashed a few times already for Nick.

Skyrim: Slain dragon and new home

I killed my first dragon and then found out I am a Dragonborn (which means I am super special and can use dragon shouts). 😮 Then, I squandered all of my gold on a house in Whiterun, leaving me with only 69 gold. My house is pretty shabby and sad, but I’ll be able to upgrade it once I have more gold.

Slain dragon
I slayed a dragon!
Breezehome
Breezehome, my first house

Well, I think that’s enough adventuring for today. I will travel to the College of Winterhold tomorrow to get some mage training and join the mage guild.

Skyrim: Fun with baskets

Yesterday, on 11/11/11, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released. Nick and I bought the PC version and he spent most of the day playing. I wasn’t feeling well, so I opted for cocooning myself in a blanket on the couch and reading The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. I’m feeling better today, though, so I adventured into the world of Skyrim. Inspired by the following video, one of the first things I was determined to do was put a basket on someone’s head.

Skyrim Basket
Success! I put a basket on someone's head. 🙂

My biggest complaint so far is (of course) that there isn’t a way to play multiplayer, even on LAN. My second biggest complaint is that there isn’t a way to run Skyrim well in windowed mode. Very annoying. Also, the left/right equipping thing is counter-intuitive. When you equip something in your left hand, you use your right mouse button (mouse button 2) to use it and you use your left mouse button (mouse button 1) to use something in your right hand. Thankfully, you can remap the keys. 😛 Unfortunately, the tooltips don’t always change when you remap keys. Silly Bethesda developers.

I haven’t played enough yet to really review the game yet, but it seems enjoyable so far. I’ve spent most of my time goofing off and chatting with the townsfolk… and getting used to the controls.

Now, back to the game! I must venture to the city of Whiterun!

From WoW to Rift

WoW - Eris and Lich King
Me and the Lich King (WoW)

After over 2.5 years of playing World of Warcraft, Nick and I finally called it quits in early February. In that time, I played all 10 classes (every class except for two (rogue and hunter) up to level 80+). We had fun questing, raiding, and PvPing together, with friends, and from people we met from all over the world… but eventually we grew a bit tired of it. And the task of leveling my eight level 80’s to level 85 with the new expansion, Cataclysm, was daunting… having to repeat the same quest chains over and over again did not sound fun. 🙁

We had (or, are having?) a heck of a time finding a good replacement, though. We played Little Big Planet 2 for a while. Then, we started playing old favorites like Age of Empires 2 (best game ever?), Warcraft 3, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Nick and me (Rift)

A month ago, we started playing Rift with some of our friends from work and personal life. It feels a lot like WoW. It has a couple of nice features, like rifts and invasions, that keep the game interesting. It also handles groups well. In Rift, you are able to easily join public groups and merge groups to form larger groups. This comes in handy, especially during a zone invasion, when everyone in the zone is working together to extinguish the rifts and invasions. When it’s over, hitting “unmerge groups” removes your original group from the larger group. Very cool. Nick and I are still learning a lot about Rift (so we haven’t made our minds up about it yet), but for now, it’s a fun outlet… even though there aren’t any gnomes. 🙁

We’re also looking forward to playing Diablo 3, Torchlight 2, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. 🙂