Archives for posts with tag: PC


I’m a little more than a fortnight into my new Eorzean adventure, so I thought I’d post a little update on my progress.

In the time since my last post, I’ve joined a Free Company, run the first three ‘beginner’ dungeons of Sastasha Seagrot, The Tam Tara Deepcroft and the Copperbell Mines with a mix of fellow guildies and randoms – god bless the Duty Finder, which immediately put myself and a tanking friend into a couple of instances – and progressed past level 30. Having joined the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, I’m now heading towards a showdown with the Primal Ifrit, and reeeaaally looking forward to getting my chocobo soon. Because sod running about everywhere.

Upon hitting level 30, I was given a million gil and fifteen extra days of game time, which is very handy as I wouldn’t have been able to re-sub until the end of the month. And while waiting for FC members to run Sastasha, I also decided to try out some other classes; on my previous character I was a level 33 Bard, 17 Conjurer, 15 Pugilist and level 9 Weaver, so I decided to try a couple of different classes this time, just to see how they felt. So I’m now a level 31 Conjurer, 11 Thaumaturge and a level 6 Arcanist. If anything, trying these classes out has just reaffirmed that I want to continue on with my Conjurer until she’s ready to progress to White Mage.

Hanging out at Aleport, waiting for a Sastasha run

I’ve also since grabbed the Stormblood expansion, which included Heavensward, from CDKeys for just £15, so I guess I’m in for the long haul now. I’m still really enjoying my time with Final Fantasy XIV, and though I’m still a fair way away from where I was before (I was waiting to run Haukke Manor with members of my old Odin FC at the time), once I get there, I’ve got a hell of a lot of new content in front of me. Of course, it’s been a bit of a different experience anyway, seeing as I’m maining a healer this time rather than ranged DPS – I had played Conjurer to level 17 on my old character, but I don’t think I actually ran any dungeons on that class – and it certainly felt fresh, creeping through Sastasha while keeping tabs on a group’s HP (who am I kidding, I was basically the tank’s pocket healer!).

I’ve got some work to do before I can become a White Mage, however. It used to be that you needed a second class at level 15 to progress to a full job – in the case of White Mage, you needed Conjurer at 30 and Arcanist at 15 – but things have changed while I’ve been away from the game. I’m actually not sure how I progress now, but I know I have to be at least level 30 and to have completed a certain main scenario quest – I think it was a quest to do with the Sylph tribe, and all I can remember about them is endless dancing… /dance

Hopefully I can make White Mage before poor Khroma dances herself to death.

In other news, I’ve also been playing the recently-released Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which I just couldn’t get into back on the PS2. I played for about 12 hours, made it to the Imperial Dreadnought after a meeting with Marquis Ondore, and just left it there. Whether it was the story, the characters or the gameplay, FFXII just didn’t grab me back in 2006, yet this time I’m absolutely loving it. I think the fact that it was so different from Final Fantasy X put me off a bit, and the perception that it was an ‘offline MMO’ didn’t help things much. Having actually played an MMO in the intervening years, however, they really don’t have many similarities in my opinion. If anything, FFXII‘s ‘Active Dimension Battle’ system makes me think more of realtime with pause systems seen in western RPGs. I had wondered quite how I’d manage, playing both Final Fantasys XII and XIV at the same time, but I needn’t have worried – it actually feels fantastic to be playing two expansive fantasy-based instalments with plenty of lovely Akihiko Yoshida design work informing the look and feel of both worlds.

Square Enix have done a great job with this remaster.

The Zodiac Age features a ‘speed mode’ option, which allows you to speed up the action by either two or four times, and using that to zoom through the more mundane sections of Final Fantasy XII – like dungeon combat against trash mobs – means that I made it back to the Dreadnought in around seven hours, rather than my previous 12 or so, and I’ve even been taking my time to more thoroughly explore towns and other environments this time out. It’s a fantastic quality of life improvement that has helped me to genuinely fall in love with Final Fantasy XII – something I never thought would happen, and certainly not 11 years after its initial release. I thought at best that I’d feel more favourably toward this most idiosyncratic episode in one of my favourite series, so the fact that I feel this positive about it is an absolutely wonderful thing; having played so little of XII in the past, it may as well be a new Final Fantasy game to me.

One thing that’s still a bit of a mystery to me is the Gambit system. I thought I had my head around it in the early hours, but upon arriving at Bhujerba, hoping to rescue Penelo in the Lhusu Mines, I happened to stop in a Gambit shop and dear god, the options I saw in there. There must have been hundreds of them! I’m going to have to do my homework and figure out more than just useful early-game Gambits, because that shop made my head spin at the potential intricacies of the system. My next stop is King Raithwall’s Tomb, but I think I’ll need to do a bit of housekeeping before I set out, and try to properly wrap my loaf around Gambits. It feels exciting though, rather than a chore; can I get my battle party working like a well-oiled machine without me even needing to intervene? Time will tell!

No you’re not, Vaan. Stop being a silly billy.

It feels good to be so fully immersed in the Final Fantasy series again. I was cautiously optimistic about XV in the lead-up to its release, and I did find a lot to like in the final product, but even though they’re each very distinct within the wider Final Fantasy canon, XII and XIV are giving me all kinds of nostalgic, old-school FF feelings. I’d love to see another Matsuno take on a big-budget Final Fantasy, or to see what Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida could do with an offline instalment. Who knows what the future holds? With Yoshida’s MMO going from strength to strength (and with a Matsuno-penned, Ivalice-themed raid on the way!) and Final Fantasy XII finding a new audience, I’m genuinely excited for the future of Square Enix and their marquee series.

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Recently, I wrote about my return to the time-sink that is Destiny after almost two years away from the game, and it seems as if there must be something in the water; just this weekend, I returned to the realm of Eorzea more than three years after I last logged into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

Though there are similarities here – both games are persistent worlds that require a large investment of time and a willingness to group up with others – the situations surrounding me leaving each game were quite different: where Destiny disappointed as much as it thrilled, I loved A Realm Reborn right from the get-go. I took part in phase 3 of the game’s closed beta on PlayStation 3, pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition, bought a PS4 almost solely to play the upgraded version, and even had a small series on here, called ‘Postcards from Eorzea’.

But around April 2014 – not long after I’d upgraded to the PS4 version – I just drifted away from the game. From the official launch on PS3, I’d been playing with a good friend, levelling and running dungeons together, spending hours working on our digital avatars almost daily, and eventually, that friend decided that he didn’t want to pay the sub anymore. I understood, of course: a subscription MMO is a commitment, after all, and if you’ve paid for access you feel like you have to play the game as much as possible. These games have a habit of monopolising your time.

After my friend quit, I tried to soldier on for a bit. I had a group of fellow Eurogamer forumites that I’d chat with in our Linkshell, but they were all far more hardcore than me, and so were much further ahead in the game. It just wasn’t the same. So I stopped, and I’ve honestly missed it ever since. I’d still pay attention to news from the game, I’d sometimes look back through my captured screenshots and reminisce over some of the beautiful landscapes that make up the continent of Eorzea, but I didn’t have any plans to come back. So what’s changed?

My interest in Final Fantasy XIV was reignited in a big way when noclip’s excellent three-part documentary covering the game’s development was released just last week. Most people that follow the game will know that the original iteration of Final Fantasy XIV – what Square Enix now refer to as “1.0” – was an absolute disaster, with then-CEO Yoichi Wada going so far as to claim its launch “greatly damaged” the Final Fantasy brand as a whole. Square Enix embarked on an ambitious plan to not only continue to support 1.0, but secretly make an entirely new version of the game under new director Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida, dubbed A Realm Reborn. The three-part documentary from noclip is an excellent, in-depth look at the death and rebirth of Square’s latest MMO, and I’m honestly quite surprised how open members of the development team were allowed to be in their interviews. It’s well worth a watch even if you aren’t particularly interested in visiting Eorzea.

However, the main reason behind my decision to dive back in actually does relate to Destiny, in a somewhat round-about way. If you read my piece about going back to that game (and I am still playing! I’ve recently picked up Rise of Iron and am currently trying to get my hunter up to the required level to do the Wrath of the Machine raid), you’ll remember that I joined a group on the100 – a good group of chaps united under the banner of Town Called Malice. One of the players there has also dabbled in Final Fantasy XIV in the past, and had also expressed an interest in going back. So now I had someone to go adventuring with! I was heading back to Eorzea.

I considered grabbing the Starter Edition on PC, as it’s currently £7.99 in the Steam summer sale; I already have the PS4 client installed (and it took an entire evening to update!), but I quite liked the idea of splitting my play time between the two platforms. However, I remembered that I’d once bought a Square Enix mystery box which contained a Windows license that I never redeemed – I was fairly sure I wouldn’t be playing the game again, back then. So I searched my inbox, and found the email containing my keys from the Holiday Surprise box bought in December 2015. Sure enough, there was a key for A Realm Reborn, but with it being a year-and-a-half old, I wondered if it might have expired. I headed to Mog Station, redeemed the code, and was granted a Windows license and a thirty-day sub! So I’m back in the game without having to spend a single gil!

As my original character, Khroma Midgard, was a male Elezen bard on the Odin server, I decided to roll something different this time. Please welcome Khroma Moonsong, a Conjurer on Louisoix.

I created a pink-haired catgirl. Yes, I know, I’m a walking cliche.

Ahem. Anyway, on my previous character I had played Archer up until Bard (levelling Pugilist along the way to unlock the Bard job, of course), as well as playing Conjurer up to level 17 and dabbling in a bit of Weaving. This time, I want to focus more on healing, so Conjurer is going to be my main class until I can get into White Mage at level 30 (I’ll obviously have to get Arcanist up to 15 as well!). I think playing supports so much in Overwatch has conditioned me to dish out the heals rather than the DPS!

So far I’m still in Gridania, and it feels like the pace of levelling has been increased somewhat – after just a few hours I’ve already hit level 10, and though the last time I did this was almost four years ago, things do seem to be moving at a much faster pace than I remember. I’m guessing this is done to help newcomers get up to speed for the recently-released Stormblood; now that Final Fantasy XIV is two expansions deep, I suppose the dev team want to offer new players an easier ramp up to the late-game content and encourage them to get into the newer stuff.

I don’t know what’s possessed me recently and made me dive back into two games that demand so much of your time, especially when I’m struggling to get through single players games (I still need to finish Nier Automata, Mass Effect Andromeda and Breath of the Wild) and my backlog continues to grow (Oh hi Valkyria Revolution!), but right now, all I seem to want to do is wander through these populated, persistent worlds. Hopefully this time, I’ll actually be able to make it through the base 2.0 storyline, and then I can think about moving onto Heavensward! This time, I’m planning to stick with it. And who knows, maybe I’ll even revive Postcards from Eorzea!


Back before Destiny launched – about three years ago now – I wrote an excitable, detailed piece about the PS4 alpha test. Clearly I was onboard. But if you were to search my blog for more on Bungie’s shared world shooter, you’d turn up a single extra article since launch – an unboxing of the game’s limited edition.

So what happened? Did I hate the game? Did I abandon it altogether? No. I played Destiny for a while, and for a while I loved it. Then I reached the end of the story, and I fell out of love.

My issues with vanilla Destiny are manifold, and I’ll get into them later (indeed, some of them still persist, to varying degrees). But as the release of Destiny 2 looms ever nearer, I find myself getting drawn back to the game I so desperately wanted to love. And so, over the last few weeks, I’ve been revisiting it, now as different an experience as it is similar, to see if I really want to buy in to the sequel.

I’m probably going to get Destiny 2.

To be clear, this isn’t the first time I’ve returned. After walking away from the original game shortly after reaching level 20, and having killed a weird, pulsating cosmic heart that no one cared to even begin to explain, the excitement around the following year’s The Taken King piqued my interest. “It’s got a story now!” people would tell me, adding “there’s a lot more for solo players to do,” and “levelling is much better explained this time!”

They weren’t wrong, to be fair. I swallowed a mouthful of bile at having to re-buy Destiny and its first two expansions to play The Taken King and again, I had a lot of fun with it. And what do you know, it did have a story! A fairly decent one too, even if it still could have done with a touch more explanation (pipe down, Stranger).

Eventually though, I stopped playing again, and it’s at this point I should probably detail what my issues with Destiny were (are?). To begin with, it’s probably worth pointing out why I was so excited for the game; as a huge Halo campaign fan, I’m used to being a bit of a lore nerd, scrounging around for clues about the mysteries of the universe, be they from snippets of obscure dialogue, hidden terminals or even extended universe novels, and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Bungie’s next big mythic sci-fi setting. What I got was… well, a mess, quite frankly, with a campaign that almost gloried in paper thin characters sending you on inexplicable missions packed with vague objectives against inscrutable enemies. True, the Grimoire card system hinted at a deep, interesting pool of lore beyond the surface, and it’s worth pointing out that some stories are told in those cards that probably wouldn’t work in-game, but the campaign itself exposed virtually none of that storytelling to players, instead choosing to offer up a disjointed, unsatisfying attempt at a narrative that had quite clearly been chopped up and sewn back together wrong sometime prior to release – something that Kotaku’s Jason Schreier later confirmed. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but it genuinely saddened me that Destiny‘s story was such a shambles, and I don’t think it’d be unfair to call it a disaster.

Oryx: not a looker.

As mentioned, 2015’s big expansion The Taken King did much to fix that state of affairs, offering a simpler yet more engaging tale told by actual characters, rather than cardboard cut-outs. It also introduced the Books of Sorrow, which remains the best storytelling in the entire saga (even if, again, we see very little of its intriguing detail in the game itself).

Another big reason for my interest in Destiny was my love of roleplaying games as a genre. A Halo RPG, you say? Sounds like my dream game, sign me up! Unfortunately, another of Destiny‘s missteps was the arcane levelling system after you hit the soft level cap of 20, whereupon any further XP earned would be converted into Motes of Light which you then… You know what, I can’t even remember. I barely engaged with it. I briefly tried to wrap my head around it, and then walked away, rather than grind my face against the backside of RNGesus. Thankfully, The Taken King changed things so that every piece of armour you wear and weapon you wield adds to your overall Light level. Equip a better piece of gear and your Light will go up. Simple! Quite why it had to be so mind-bending in the base game, I don’t know. Still, even with these changes in place, I once more walked away from the game partway through The Taken King, just as I had with vanilla, because my main issue with the game still persisted. And honestly, it’s a complaint that isn’t even fair to level at the game.

Each time, what made me walk away from Destiny is the fact that you can only get so far as a solo player. After a while, you need to group up with others if you want to actually progress further and see everything the game has to offer.

Well d’uh, you’re probably saying, and yes, I know – like I said, it’s not really a fair criticism of the game, given that’s its fundamental nature. It’s just that it doesn’t really work for me, as a typically solitary player that happens to jump into a game whenever I have the time; it’s difficult to schedule a raid when you don’t know if you’re going to be free (or if you can even be arsed when the time slot rolls around). I also don’t really want my gaming time to feel like a commitment, like I have to do something, rather than want to, because that way resentment lies.

Yet even with all that said, Destiny has always been in the back of my mind, and I’ve long thought that I’d like to go back to it and see what the end-game is all about. It’d take a bit of effort on my part (and I had once made the effort to get in on a run through the Vault of Glass, the raid that shipped with the base game), but with Destiny 2 on the horizon, and the thought that I’d quite like to get in on the ground level with the new instalment, I managed to ingratiate myself with a group of friendly players and go raiding. And it’s been great! Having recently run through both Crota’s End and King’s Fall, I can finally see what all the fuss is about. Destiny‘s raids really are the game at its very best, and that’s even more evident when you have a good, patient, friendly group to talk you through the often opaque, dense mechanics. I’ve never had a group to play the game with before, which has always made it very easy to walk away from, and it’s really thanks to the guys over at Town Called Malice that I was even able to experience them. It’s also pretty much down to them that I’m almost certain to buy Destiny 2 now, whereas before I was just sort of interested. ONE OF US. Or, them, I guess.

Destiny has always offered some incredible vistas. Sorry this one’s a bit rubbish.

I’m not sure how well I’ll adapt to scheduling playtimes and such, as it’s probably going to take some kind of rewiring of my brain to get properly into Destiny full-time, but I definitely want to get deeper into it this time out. And as much as I’m fully on-board the hype train now (or, well, I at least have a ticket), there are some things that have given me pause lately. Last month, it emerged that Destiny 2 was doing away with the Grimoire system, with Bungie’s Steve Cotton telling Forbes, “we want to put the lore in the game. We want people to be able to find the lore.” On the face of it, this is a really good change; the Grimoire has long been a complaint for a couple of reasons, mainly that it keeps the lore outside of the game, and having more story exposed to players while they’re in-universe is very obviously a good thing. But as I noted above, the Grimoire also plays host to some excellent story content that simply couldn’t be done in the game – unless it was loaded with lengthy cutscenes and flashbacks, which people would also complain about. As a counterpoint to this, how fucking cool would it have been to discover bits of the Books of Sorrow in a mission on the Dreadnaught, where you slowly pieced together the history of the Hive and discovered the means to defeat Oryx? If this kind of storytelling is what Bungie is going for, then consider me all in. But if all the stuff that doesn’t play an active role in the current story, yet manages to provide flavour and context to the universe is gone? Well, that’s probably not great.

More worrying are the recent pieces of news taken from a couple of interviews with Design Director Luke Smith, where he suggests that seemingly important pieces of the Destiny puzzle may not make a return. First, responding to a question from PC Gamer about whether we’d see the mystery of the Exo Stranger cleared up in Destiny 2, Smith explained that “we have a bunch of characters who are interesting, but the Exo Stranger is one that always makes me chuckle a little bit. Because I feel that’s one character where we actually wrapped up the arc. She gave you a sweet gun and then dissolved, presumably off to do something else. So I feel like, of all of our characters we’ve introduced and exited, we actually exited her effectively.”

For those not familiar with the character, the Stranger was a female Exo that effectively led you by the nose through the original game’s campaign, directing you as much as, if not more than, any other character in the story. She never explained herself, her goal, or her reasons for aiding you, and was often heard talking to some unknown ally before abruptly disappearing. At the end of the game, she offered you her rifle, which is seemingly made of parts that shouldn’t yet exist, before telling the player, “all ends are beginnings. Our fight is far from over.” So to consider her story over is odd at best, and to think her arc was ended “effectively” is absolutely ridiculous. Imagine if Cortana just didn’t turn up in Halo 2! I suspect (hope?) that, given the character’s popularity and potential for future storytelling, that she will eventually wind her way back into a future game or expansion, but given Smith’s statement that her arc is done, I won’t hold my breath until I see it for myself.

I don’t even have time to explain why her story wasn’t “effectively” wrapped up.

A couple of days after the PC Gamer interview, Smith appeared on Kotaku’s podcast, where it was confirmed that The Darkness, the formless, ancient evil of the Destiny universe, would not be appearing in Destiny 2. This makes sense, as the Cabal are the main focal antagonist of the new game, and they aren’t really allied with the Darkness, certainly not in the way other races such as the Hive or Vex are. What was a bit worrying about this was Smith’s reaction to Jason Schreier’s question of whether the omission was because nobody actually knew what the Darkness was: “So, I think that at a point, just totally candidly? We had no idea what it was. Straight up. We had no clue.”

Hmm. Let’s go back to the earlier Kotaku story, which revealed that Destiny underwent massive rewrites a year out from release. We know that Joe Staten and his team of writers spent years building the narrative foundation of Destiny, and we know that the studio leadership didn’t like how it all hung together. Even if the Darkness wasn’t formally laid out, I find it difficult to believe that there weren’t at least deep hooks written into everything else that strongly suggested where the overarching tale was headed; 343 industries’ Frank O’Connor, himself a Bungie alum, has previously stated that much of the current direction of the Halo series arose from discussions at Bungie around what a potential continuation would be, as an example.

With Staten now back at Microsoft, I wonder how much of the comments surrounding the Stranger and the Darkness are about the current writing team wanting to throw out the last vestiges of the original outline, in an effort to more thoroughly put their stamp on Destiny. Smith’s elaboration perhaps supports this: “We didn’t know what it was, and we, for a period, we chose [that] we’re going to lump all the races [in together], and you see this in the tooltips in the game — ‘minions of the darkness.’ And we had taken all the races and said, ‘Ah, they’ll just be The Darkness.’ But that’s not what the IP deserves.”

That’s not what the IP deserves. That, to me, says the Darkness will return, but only when they’ve decided what the current team want their Darkness to be. I won’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing – it may even free them up to tell better stories – but I have to admit to some level of disappointment that we’ll likely never know how the universe of Destiny was originally meant to unfold. After the good work done on The Taken King, however, in both storytelling and gameplay terms, I’m certainly willing to give Smith and his team the benefit of the doubt, even if he does have a bit of a habit of inserting his foot firmly into his mouth and somehow managing to leave a bad taste for everyone.

Oops! I’ve been a bit lax with this recently, so time for an update.

As per previous updates, I’ve been trying to learn how to play Ana as a way to get back into a game I’d fallen out of love with. I began with a three step plan to figure out how to play Ana, as I wanted to get another support character under my belt, and Ana had always struck me as something of a high skill ceiling hero. So I thought it’d be a good way to remind myself why I loved Overwatch before the competitive slide started and it just became a source of frustration.

Step one was to jump into the firing range with Ana to get a decent feel for her various abilities. After that, I’d spend some time in vs AI matches to figure out how she works in a team. The final step was to take her into Quick Play and see how that goes. I mentioned in Update 2 that I’d just begun step 3, and a week or so ago I captured some of my gameplay footage, intending to write this update then. I’ve since been playing QP matches most days, using Ana where I can, and I feel like I’m pretty decent with her now.

I mentioned previously that one thing I kept forgetting about was her sleep dart. More practice has sorted that issue now, and I just can’t get enough of sleeping people. I don’t think there are many moments that can rival sleeping an ulting Genji as he lunges at you, or knocking out the enemy Reinhardt as he boosts toward you. Even better if you have team mates around to immediately melt your sleeping foe. Ana has very quickly become one of my favourite heroes in the game.

I’m pretty comfortable saying that I have another hero under my belt now, as I’ve been playing Ana quite a lot. This also fulfils the other part of the plan – to get me playing Overwatch again. I was thinking of moving my plan over to Zarya after I was happy with my Ana play, as I also really need another tank in my repertoire, but I think, with Sombra hopefully right around the corner, I’ll just continue to have fun in Quick Play until she drops for console players. Sombra looks like a really interesting hero, and I’m itching to try out an offensive utility character. I’m gonna hack all the things.

After months of teasing, Blizzard have finally unveiled Sombra, the newest hero for Overwatch.

The announcement happened at Blizzcon, Blizzard’s annual convention, and revealed Sombra to be an offensive hero. With the (overlong) ARG leaning heavily on her exploits as a world class hacker, many thought she’d be either a defense or utility support hero, and while she does have a few useful utility abilities in her bag of tricks, which we’ll get onto shortly, she’s basically a backline harasser who looks to be quite capable of dishing out large amounts of damage with her SMG.

As an offensive hero, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that Sombra has some movement abilities to help her get around. In some ways, she almost seems like a bit of a mix of Tracer and Reaper; like Tracer, Sombra can teleport, though she does this by throwing an Unreal Tournament-style Translocator that remains in place for fifteen seconds. Perhaps you’ll throw it on a health pack, go and cause some havoc, and then port back to replenish your health. Or perhaps you’ll fling it over the heads of your enemies to appear behind them and harry their backline.

Sombra has long been thought to be a stealthy character, and her other movement ability ties into that. Her Thermoptic Camouflage renders her basically invisible for a handful of seconds, granting her a massive speed boost into the bargain, and it comes across like a stealthy take on Reaper’s Wraith Form, essentially taking her out of the fight briefly and allowing her to get around at speed. Of course, should she attack or be attacked while cloaked, Sombra will drop out of stealth. Using it in conjunction with the translocator should allow her to get in and out at will and really upset the enemy team’s setup.

But what about those utility abilities that we mentioned earlier? Well, being a top hacker, Sombra can of course, well, hack. Holding her alt fire (right click on PC, most likely left trigger on consoles) allows her to begin hacking an enemy, which will temporarily lock their abilities. Is there a Genji on the other team that’s really annoying you? Hack him to deny him his deflect and then go to town! Or hack that Zarya to prevent her from giving out shields.

BOOP!

Perhaps the most exciting use of Sombra’s hack, however, and the one that will probably be the biggest help to your team, is her ability to hack health packs. While hacked, these not only respawn much, much faster but can also no longer be used by enemy players. And while Sombra’s hack has a six second cooldown – and affects enemies for the same amount of time – a hacked health pack will remain so for a full minute and is not undone if you hack something else, so it should be possible to run around and basically salt the earth, so far as enemy health pickups are concerned. Focus down the enemy healer, and this becomes an ability that could seriously turn the tide. Hacking takes a second or two, cannot be initiated while in stealth, and taking damage will interrupt the attempt, so you’ll have to pick your targets carefully.

Sombra’s ultimate is also quite a Support-y ability, as she sends out an area-of-effect EMP pulse that not only hacks all enemies in range, but also dissipates all shields and barriers. That means Reinhart’s barrier is gone. Zarya’s shields are gone. Has Lucio just dropped the beat? That’s all gone too. It’s basically a massive leveller, and I can see it maybe being a touch controversial; I can’t argue too much with it cancelling out ults like Lucio’s, as his and Zenyatta’s ults basically already exist to nullify offensive ultimates. What might be taking things a touch too far is the added effect of also hacking everyone in range, disabling all of their abilities on top of the shield-wipe. It might prove to be too powerful, but I guess we’ll see as Sombra moves into the PTR next week, and then later onto the live servers for more players to get to grips with. But as things stand, I really quite like the look of Sombra as a stealthy, debilitating assault hero. She looks like she’ll be an absolute blast to play, and I can’t wait to get to grips with her.

Along with the character intro above, a new animated short was also shown at Blizzcon, detailing some of her background and operations with Talon operatives Reaper and Widowmaker. You can see the short, called Infiltration, below.

Also announced at Blizzcon were several updates and additions coming to the game. To begin with, we got some detail on a couple of new maps, beginning with a 6v6 control point space called Oasis, which is set in a shining, high-tech city in the Middle East, perhaps reminiscent of Dubai. The other new environment, Eco Point Antarctica, is a smaller map made to host some new modes under an ‘Arcade’ banner, which serves as a new spot for the game’s brawls to live in, as well as an outlet for a bit of experimentation. In Arcade, we’ll be seeing a couple of smaller-scale skirmish modes, like the 1v1 Mystery Brawl. A best-of-nine mode, the Mystery Brawl will see players given the same CPU-picked hero, with the first player to five rounds emerging victorious. There’s also 3v3 Elimination, which has no hero stacking and only allows players to switch out their characters between rounds. There’s no respawning, so get eliminated and you’ll be sitting on the sidelines waiting for the next round to begin.

It’s good to see Blizzard trying out some new modes in the game, but at the moment 1v1 just strikes me as a gimmick. It also remains to be seen how well team play, Overwatch‘s strongest suit, will be represented in what is effectively a TDM variant in 3v3 Elimination. Hopefully it won’t just boil down to three offense heroes lining up against another three damage dealers. The Hallowe’en brawl, Junkenstein’s Revenge, got us all hyped for a proper PvE co-op experience, so it’s a shame that we aren’t getting something more like that. Hopefully, as Arcade mode grows, we’ll see some more experimental modes.

Last but certainly not least, we’re also going to be seeing some changes to Quick Play, which will now have a one hero limit, bringing it into line with Competitive in that regard. Don’t worry though, if you love stacking heroes, there’ll be a mode in Arcade called 6v6 No Limits to pick up the slack. Whether it will be as well-populated as Quick Play, however, we shall have to wait and see – if hero stacking is what you love about Quick Play, this news might be a bit worrisome.

Still, it’s good to see Blizzard in something of an experimental mood with Overwatch, and with a new hero, new maps and Arcade mode all on the horizon, fans certainly won’t be short of things to do.

Ana AmariIt’s been about a week and a half since my last update on my attempt to get back into Overwatch. Part of the reason I’ve been so lax with my writing is that the plan seems to be working; I’ve spent a lot more time playing – and, crucially, enjoying! – the game again. I’ve spent the last ten or so days getting better with Ana, as a large part of my plan was to learn new heroes, with the support sniper being my first little project. Most of that time has been spent in step two of the plan: playing as Ana in vs AI matches, to get a reasonable feel for how she plays with a group.

It’s been a bit of a difficult learning curve in more ways than one. First of all, my most-played trio of heroes – Lucio, D.Va and Pharah – are all very agile, able to get around the map and up to higher places with relative ease, so getting used to Ana, who is pretty much planted on the ground for the entirety of a match, has been a bit of a shift for me. Additionally, it was quite hard at first to stop having my eye drawn by enemies and fighting the reflex to shoot at them, instead of focusing on healing my allies. And since I’m used to being in amongst it during a game – especially when playing as Lucio and D.Va – it’s taken a bit of time to get used to hanging back from the rest of the team to support them from a distance.

I feel like it’s all starting to come together though, and my aiming has improved a lot too – both scoped and from the hip. Really, this was one of my biggest misgivings when I started playing as Ana, as I’ve always been rubbish with sniper rifles, but the more I play, the better I get. Which sounds obvious, but hey, it keeps me coming back to the game! You can see some video of my vs AI games below, and you should be able to see a bit of improvement in those areas as the clips go on.

Over the last few days, feeling more confident, I’ve also made a start on step three by taking Ana into a handful of Quick Play games, though only on maps where I think I’d have enough space to support the team from the back. So far, it seems to be going well, obviously helped by the fact that I’m being a bit smarter about what map comes up – if I feel like I won’t be able to do a decent job with Ana, I’ll pick someone else.

This also means I’ve been delving into Quick Play a lot more recently, having almost ignored it recently in favour of my Ana practice and the Junkenstein brawl. I’ve been having a lot of fun, and seem to be back to winning a lot more than I lose. I still find myself falling back on D.Va and Lucio a lot, but that’s partly because I know them inside out and always end up doing a good job with them. And, more importantly, I just love playing as those heroes. I’ve also started to pick up a couple of heroes that I had been getting pretty decent with before taking a break from the game; I feel like my Mei skills are starting to come back a bit, but I think I’m going to have to put a lot more practice in with Junkrat to get back to where I was.

But when the option to play as Ana comes up, it’s great practice – playing against AI helps to figure out her place in a team, but it’s not so good for figuring out how she works against the enemy. Thanks to QP, I’m starting to get a good feel for when and how to use Nano Boost, and though I still occasionally forget that I even have a sleep dart, I have managed to pull it out a few times at very opportune moments; last night, in a game on Route 66, my team had just hit the second checkpoint and as we were all clustered around the payload, the gate began to open and out flew a Bastion in tank mode. I slept him almost by reflex, which felt absolutely amazing – that ultimate would have done a ton of damage to a closely-grouped team. Instead, everyone was able to focus on him when he hit the ground and take him out before he did any real damage. God, I wish I’d captured that!

Zarya

I’m getting to the point now where I’m happy enough to say that I have another hero under my belt – Ana needs a bit more work, but I’m fairly comfortable playing her more frequently in proper matches now, as I feel like I’ve got the basics down pretty well at this point. I’ll capture some Quick Play games with her for my next update, and then it’s back to step one as I repeat the process with another character. I said in my first Boot Camp post that I really wanted to learn Mercy, but I’m going to put her aside again to learn Zarya – I now have two supports I feel comfortable with, but I’ve only ever played one tank in D.Va. I need another one in my repertoire and the Russian bodybuilder is the one that interests me the most right now.

At this point, I think I can call the plan a success. The idea was to get back into a game I used to love by learning new heroes, and though I’ve so far only picked up one more character, I am absolutely back in love with Overwatch again. Let’s hope that continues as I move forward with Zarya from next week!

Mercy Witch
Well that was poorly timed! On Tuesday, I wrote about my plan to fall back in love with Overwatch by forcing myself to learn how to play heroes I’d previously neglected and, more importantly, ignoring competitive. And then that evening, Blizzard dropped the Halloween Terror event on us.

Featuring new, themed loot boxes that bring additional skins, icons, sprays and more, along with – most excitingly – a new brawl called Dr. Junkenstein’s Revenge, the update is now live on all three platforms. In a first for Overwatch, the new brawl is a co-operative PvE survival mode which pits four players against wave upon wave of fodder interspersed with a handful of boss waves that bring reskinned heroes – there’s a pumpkin-headed Reaper, Roadhog as Junkenstein’s Monster, Mercy as a Witch of the Wilds, and finally, Junkrat as the twisted Dr. Junkenstein himself.

Taking place on a portion of the Eichenwalde map, the four players – one each of Soldier 76, McCree, Hanzo and Ana – must defend the door to the castle from oncoming ‘zomnics’ that trundle endlessly to the door before exploding in an attempt to bust in, while ranged ‘zombadiers’ rain down mortars upon you. You’ll often find yourself trying to prioritise these ranged targets, accidentally letting a couple of the bumbling explodey ones sneak by, and every now and then a RIPtyre or two will come screaming toward you to divide your attention even more. The brawl is pretty tough on medium if you’re playing with randoms and have no communication going on, and even on easy you might find yourself overwhelmed now and again, though you’re obviously much more likely to pull it back from the brink.

It’s a really fun mode, and a nice palate cleanser for all the PvP madness that Overwatch is known for. I’ve always wondered what a co-op PvE mode could be like with Overwatch‘s roster and their abilities, and it turns out it’s something that I’d like to see remain in the game. Ok, so it’s heavily-themed, but maybe after the Hallowe’en period is over they could rework it somewhat to allow it to stay. Or maybe even use it as a jumping off point for something even better.

In a nice change, you can now purchase new cosmetic items with your in-game credits – something you weren’t able to do with the previous seasonal event, the Summer Games. To keep the items fairly rare, Blizzard have priced them at three times the going rate, so you’re looking at 3,000 credits for a legendary skin. Unfortunately, this does mean that I can’t afford that awesome Mercy skin, but I was able to buy Ana’s new look, which is equally fantastic. Ana isn’t even a hero I’ve played outside of the training area, but that’s something I’m looking to change, and indeed, the entire point of my plan for getting back into the game is to learn new heroes.

How cool is this!

How cool is this!

So how does this affect that plan? Well, originally I was thinking of focusing on Mercy first, as a new character to learn (and if that awesome skin drops for me, that’ll make me want to play her even more!), but given that this limited-time brawl focuses only on four characters, I’ve decided to use it as a way of getting used to those ones; I mentioned the other day that Soldier is a hero I’ve used a fair bit, but the other three are all essentially new to me. So before jumping into the brawl for a bit last night I headed into the training area to make sure I had their abilities straight in my head, as I wanted to know I’d have some idea of what to do no matter who I ended up playing as. It turns out that most players will insta-lock McCree, and that nobody wants to play Ana in this mode.

So I’ve been playing Ana. Again, she’s not a character I’ve ever really played, despite finding her abilities interesting; she seems like she’d be a pretty high skill ceiling hero, which makes me wonder if I could actually be effective with her, and I’ve always been really crap with snipers too. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to find I could barely hit anything with her at first, and I also found it difficult to get heals on team mates when they were at a medium distance and strafing a lot. Hitting them from afar is much easier, thankfully, so I took to the high ground in the back-right corner of the arena and tended to stay there, throwing out damage-over-time attacks to enemies for the most part, and then trying to pick up allies when they needed healing.

Ana also has a biotic grenade which heals allies while stopping enemies from being healed, and you’ll mostly be using it for its healing effects in this brawl; for the most part, enemies aren’t getting any healing. This changes when Mercy comes out as a boss wave with Roadhog, so this is a good time to use it on ‘Hog, to prevent Mercy from shoring him up. One thing I did find myself forgetting to use quite often is Ana’s sleep dart – in my first couple of games, I almost completely forgot that I had it, but then realised it might be a good idea to use it on Junkrat when he appears on the ramparts to rain down bombs on you. While this is happening, you’re generally dealing with a ton of adds, so it’s useful to stop Junkrat for a few seconds while you clean up.

I feel like I’m getting a good feel for how Ana handles thanks to Junkenstein’s Revenge. As I said above, since being added to the roster she’s been a bit of an intimidating character to me, so it’s nice to be able to get used to her in a (relatively) stress-free environment. One thing this doesn’t help me with is figuring out the best use for Ana’s ultimate, Nano Boost. Of course, in the brawl I only have three choices of who to stick it on, and given Hanzo’s relatively slow rate of fire, it seems like only two are actually viable to me. In a proper match, I’ll have many more options, so before long I’ll need to get out into a game and see what’s what. I think I’ll still move on to step two of the plan – playing a game vs AI – before I jump straight into Quick Play, just to make sure I know what I’m actually supposed to be doing with Ana.

So! A quicker update to my boot camp plan than I intended. I think over the next few days I’ll get some more practice in with both McCree and Hanzo against the zomnic horde, and maybe try and get into Quick Play with at least Ana. I want to spend as much time as possible on the brawl before it disappears though, and I really do wish it would stay. Overwatch could do some amazing things with a PvE mode and all of these amazing characters and abilities.

The brawl has actually had the effect of bringing me back to Overwatch when I was searching for my own way back, so in that sense it was well-timed. It’s a nice stepping stone to getting back out into the standard modes once it’s gone away, and below you can watch a quick match with me as Ana, where I start off awful and get ever-so-slightly better. I’ll be back in the coming days with another update.