#464: The Lost Sector

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In Destiny 2, there are hidden areas marked on your map for you to explore on each of the planets in the solar system. Sometimes the areas are difficult to find, other times they’re simple and easy to access. Regardless of the difficulty level, though, the lost sectors are an interesting addition to the exploration and completion of every planet. In order to say you’ve completed your exploration of a specific planet, you have to have explored every lost sector, essentially, to earn that title.

Personally, I’m not that interested in the title or the accolades associated with exploring everything there is to explore. I did that once in World of Warcraft and that was enough. I thought it was a huge achievement at the time, to have explored every part of the map possible, and I remember getting it in Wrath of the Lich King, when achievements first came out in the game. I was playing during a time when flying was impossible in the regular old world, so I had to do all my exploration in zones like the Blasted Lands and Feralas by foot. It wasn’t especially difficult, but it was mostly just time-consuming. A lot of the achievements in this game are like that; they don’t require an immense amount of skill, just a lot of time and dedication and effort directed at one thing.

Back to Destiny 2, though. Lost sectors are part of the game, regardless of whatever complaints people may have about them. I don’t think they’re a huge source of contention in the community, although I’m not even sure if they existed back in the original Destiny game. Regardless, I think they’re pretty fun and I’m glad they’re a part of the game. Hopefully in future Destiny releases they continue iterating on the formula they started here.

#427: The Great Sea

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Cabana deeds, great seas, everything you could ask for. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is one of my all-time favorite games, unquestionably, and part of the reason for that is all the flavor absolutely oozing out of every moment in the story and gameplay. Whether you’re sailing the high seas on your boat or exploring deserted islands to scour for treasure, this game has it all when it comes to living a seafaring lifestyle. It absolutely captures what it would be like to live in that kind of world or universe, and Link is as fearless and intrepid as ever.

No matter what you’re after, this game has it all. It has adventure everywhere and every minute seems to be exciting. It doesn’t have many dramatic set pieces like games like Uncharted, but it does have a full world to breathe in and explore, which differs from other games like it. Legend of Zelda, as a series, has always been great because of its worlds more than anything else. Hyrule is a fantastic example of taking an idea and running with it in different incarnations. Hyrule always looks different no matter which game you’re looking at, but it also has some aspects that are the same, like Hyrule Castle being situated near the center, Link starting off with humble beginnings, and more like that.

When I saw on Twitter recently that a few more Wii U games would be coming to the Switch soon, my first instinct was in favor of Wind Waker HD, a game that released near the end of the Wii U’s lifespan and really captured the essence of the original game. After all, it basically was the original game minus a few changes to the late game to really speed things up and make life easier.

#399: The Champion

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The battle with the Pokemon champion is always one of the more difficult and epic fights in the course of the game. It’s usually the one that culminates the entire game’s story, and after it’s over, you’ve generally beaten the game. There are of course more objectives for you to complete, if you choose to do them, like EV training, Pokedex completing, and battle tower scaling, but for me, the game is pretty much over as soon as the “final boss” is taken care of. I don’t care much for the other stuff going on, so once the champion is beaten, I feel like I’m able to put the game away without having to worry much about what I’m missing out on.

In my eyes, I have so many games that need to be played and completed as soon as possible that it’s a little unrealistic to expect me to want to play more Pokemon after beating the game. Monster Hunter World, on the other hand, I’ve played for countless hours and have devoted lots of time to, even after beating it.

But back to the champion. The champion of this game is Leon, and he’s a brash, directionless character who you see throughout the whole region’s story. He’s involved from start to finish, and when you face him, you won’t be surprised at all with who’s on his team, either. He practically announces it to you during the introduction to the game: he picks the starter you and your rival didn’t pick, and he has a Charizard that follows him around forever. Being able to face off against him with the crowd cheering for you and the music reaching an epic intensity felt great, though. I’m a huge fan of the new Pokemon game, if anything for the change in atmosphere between this one and the last few.

#397: The Towers of Time, Part 2

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This post is a continuation from the previous one, about the Towers of Time game mode in Mortal Kombat 11. I compared it a little bit to the story mode and talked about how it feels to play the game despite being less talented than the average player.

Speaking of, I completed the story mode the other day. The final boss kicked my butt for awhile before I finally got lucky and, with critical health, managed to steal a kill on the final boss in the third round of our fight. It was intense, and I could feel my heart racing as I was, of course, mostly button mashing. I’m not much of a strategic fighting game player, except for while playing Smash Bros, but even then I follow what feels right rather than following a set game plan or strategy. I guess that’s what separates my gameplay experience from other fighting game players, but ultimately it’s still fun to play these games, perform the moves, see the animations, try your best to beat other, more skilled people, and conquer the story mode. There’s still a core experience there that’s worth the purchase of the title, just not at full price. Black Friday is good for those options, and it allows you to purchase things you otherwise wouldn’t.

(I know I keep mentioning that fake shopping holiday a lot on here, but I’m writing a lot of these posts the weekend after the holiday, and it’s still on my mind!)

But yes, Mortal Kombat 11 is an exciting, worthwhile game and I definitely enjoyed my time working through the game’s intense, sometimes cheesy storyline. Some of the scenes were weird and senseless, but ultimately everything came together fine in a climactic ending that satisfied me. And really, that’s fulfilling a lot in my eyes.

#396: The Towers of Time, Part 1

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Towers of time is a game mode inside of Mortal Kombat, and it’s apparently classic to the series. Because I haven’t played Mortal Kombat before the 11th incarnation of the series, this all comes as a new revelation to me. I don’t hold my stock in traditions, but if the traditions make sense and allow for innovation, then I’ll support them. It’s only when traditions hold back franchises from innovating that I have difficulty supporting them. For example, in the New Super Mario Bros series, it feels like the games have gotten progressively less and less creative over time. Whereas the Zelda series innovates and each incarnation has something unique to it, something to give it its name, the 2d Mario platforming games of recent years are really struggling to excite. I preferred Tropical Freeze over all the other platforming games of the past few years, except for Odyssey, but those are different experiences at their cores.

Thankfully, the Towers of Time game mode does allow for some innovation, and the developers do innovate on it. It’s similar to other timed challenges from games, except it features the same exciting core fighting gameplay of Mortal Kombat. I find the gameplay itself addicting and interesting, so the ability to instantly jump into fights with progressively harder challenges in store is exciting to me. The biggest difference is the addition of Konsumables, the Dragon Challenge, and the affixes that individual fighters and enemies have. You can also augment your items and gear, so that when you go into battle against each of your foes, you’re better prepared statistically speaking. There’s a bit of a grind in unlocking everything you need, and it requires time to unlock for sure, but the Towers will keep me coming back to this game even after I’ve finished with the story mode.

#393: The Passenger Seat

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Being in the passenger seat is fun. You don’t have to be the one driving, obviously, and it allows you to relax without worrying so much about where the car is going. I thought about this blog post based on a few things: one, my experience watching my friend Alex play Persona 5 the other day, and two, watching my girlfriend Alex doze off in the seat next to me while driving home a few weeks ago. She’s known to doze off in that seat, especially when we’re not listening to anything special. This past drive home, the one from Thanksgiving, featured Alex and I listening to the most recent Death Blart episode, the annual Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 podcast featuring the McElroy brothers. We are in love with the amazing tradition that is Death Blart, and we look forward to it every year without fail.

Being in the passenger seat means also feeling like you control part of the action, though. Alex is good about not directing me what to do while I’m driving, and I’m usually the one driving in these situations, but I’m the kind of person who becomes a backseat driver. It’s not that I like telling people what to do, I just get excited imagining everything going on and want to share it with others. I noticed that while watching my friend Alex play Persona 5; I was being a backseat driver. I kept telling him what strategy to employ, what baddies to beat up and how to beat them. I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious and in your face about it, but afterwards, when all was said and done, I definitely felt like I could’ve held back a bit and realized that the game is about experiencing it, including all the mistakes you make along the way.

#386: The Kombat

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Mortal Kombat is a well-known fighting game series with over a dozen iterations over the years. It’s become known primarily for its gruesome, over-the-top and bloody finishers, fatalities, brutalities, and the like. It’s the type of game that’s not for the faint of heart. Some of the fatalities in this game are so gory that it’s completely beyond normalcy.

I love the game so far, though. It’s been a blast to run around and beat people up with flaming nunchucks and fireballs and icicle spears. The variety of weapons and tools of destruction in this game has been amazing. I remember showing this to Alex, my girlfriend, and assuming immediately that she would like it because of how grotesque and ridiculous the fighting looks in this game. Needless to say, she loved it from the first few videos I showed her, and she watched later that night as my friend Alex and I played more of Mortal Kombat 11.

As Alex and I played the game, it became evident that neither of us really knew how to play that well. We just started off by button mashing and using sporadic combos when they applied, but after awhile, things started to click a bit better. We spent time looking through the menus instead of blindly pressing buttons here and there. The game made sense, and all of its systems worked together finally. We ended up trading wins back and forth, and I started using Liu Kang more often. I’m becoming a fan.

Also, in case you were wondering, I titled this post “The Kombat” because in the game, almost all of the examples of the letter c are replaced with k for some reason. It’s a stylistic choice, but if you’re unfamiliar with the series and its idiosyncrasies, it might come as a bit of surprise.

#371: The Ghost

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I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but I do believe in some kind of supernatural mental space. I think every element of the supernatural can be traced back to a moment in time in which a person, at that time, felt that the horror was real, as if it really had a hold on them. Like, for example, vampires aren’t real, obviously, but vampires were inspired by prejudice and anti-semitism. The actual disease of the mind wasn’t the vampiric haunts, but rather the bigotry that enabled people to invent whole new classifications for humans in order to understand minorities.

The real reason I wanted to make this post is because I was thinking about running back to my corpse on World of Warcraft, a regular corpse run to try and restore my spirit to its body. It’s an obnoxious process (I’ve talked a lot about obnoxious behaviors on this blog recently, haven’t I?) and it’s always made worse by the fact that the spirit healer is so far from your body. Sometimes I just don’t want to run all the way across the ocean to restore life to my corpse. Sometimes I just want to get resurrection sickness and accept defeat from there on.

Being a ghost isn’t so bad when you’re a night elf, though, as you have the ability to turn into a wisp which increases your movement speed while dead. It’s preferable to being any other race while dead, and if you spend a lot of time dead, like me, it makes sense to roll that race.

Oh, who am I kidding? I just got a tattoo done for the Horde faction, and here I am advocating people make night elves. I’m a traitor to my own tattoo at this point.

But really, dying sucks in this game. I don’t know why I wanted to talk about this.

#344: The Halo, Part 2

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This post is a continuation from my previous one, so if you haven’t read that one yet, you might want to so that this one makes sense to you.

Halo 3 forge mode changed my life, the same way playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare made me one with the cool kids at school I wanted to be friends with. It felt like I was on the same level as them, and my skill in this game mattered to them in some ways. If I did well in Call of Duty or Halo, that meant I was skilled and they would respect me in some way. Video games were then an avenue towards social acceptance. My parents likely didn’t realize this connection at the time, but when I was online playing multiplayer matches on my Xbox on the living room TV, it was because I saw it as a way for me to make unlikely friends. Even to this day, video games have brought together people and communities I didn’t realize were possible.

Halo is where all my high school friends played. It feels so nostalgic to me not necessarily because of the game’s quality, but because it represents something to me, an era of gaming, that’s passed and won’t be repeated again. We’ve all moved on and lead different lives than we did then, and I don’t have the contacts of everyone I used to have. Joe, for example, and Steve are nearly impossible to communicate with these days, and they were both a huge part of that time period of my life. It’s odd to think back on those days and the people I spoke with then, how drastically that has changed from here to now. I talk to different online friends, and times have changed with my habits and proclivities.

#343: The Halo, Part 1

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Well, I had to write about the Halo series for my 343rd blog post. It’s only fitting.

For those not in the know, 343 is from 343 guilty spark, a character in Halo. It also was then taken as the name for 343 Industries, the game developer studio that creates and manages the entire Halo series. I haven’t owned an Xbox since the 360, back when I used to play on Xbox Live years ago, but those times have passed. I didn’t really have much interest in buying an Xbox One or a PS4 this generation, not until Persona 5 and Monster Hunter: World, which appropriately took over my world. I had a gaming PC for awhile and that was the most important gaming system I owned. It wasn’t worth it to spend time saving up money for a modern gaming console otherwise. I had my priorities set, pretty much.

However, every time a new Halo comes out I definitely have to switch over and figure out what’s going on with it. The series has always captivated me. I played a ton of Halo 3 online, zombie mode, ranked and competitive, team slayer, whatever was out there. I consumed Halo and Halo consumed me, back in the day. I loved the sticky grenades (or plasma grenades, as I think they were called) and I used to make tons of sick plays involving them, usually throwing them cross map and landing on someone unexpectedly. And then there’s the Forge! Nothing compares to that game’s creator mode. You could literally make anything happen there, and the game modes were unreal. I played a little bit of Halo: Reach online but it never stuck with me as much.

There’s also the campaign, which was rad and had four difficulty options, along with some “skulls” that added hidden effects and easter eggs to the campaign. You unlocked achievements for completing them all.