Quick check-in

Just wanted to pop in and let you know I’m still alive. I’ve been going to school full time and working, so the blog has kind of been in the back of my mind. I’d like to get back into it.

In the meantime I’ve been playing a lot of Black Ops 4 and have been having a blast, especially in Blackout mode. I’ve also been enjoying Forza Horizon 4 and Madden 19 quite a bit as well. I hope to write about some of these games in the near future, but right now school is taking up most of my time.

 

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Sea of Thieves Review

A few nights ago my brother and I set sail to hunt down a couple treasure chests. It was the first time I had set sail in Sea of Thieves with another player, and it was my brother’s first time playing at all. We tracked down a few treasure chests, sailed them back to an outpost and for the first time in our time with the game we spotted another ship. It was sitting idle outside the outpost as we tried to slowly cruise toward the shore to unload our bounty. As we unloaded the treasure, I felt my pulse pick up as I wasn’t sure if the players on the ship would be friendly or try to spoil our efforts. At first it didn’t seem like anyone was around, however as I emerged out of the water and onto the beach I saw a figure jump off the mystery ship and start swimming toward our own. I quickly ordered my brother to head back to the ship to protect our other chest as I sprinted to the vendor to turn in the one I was hauling. Just as I returned to the water I saw the figure atop our ship burst into a puff of smoke as my brother dispatched him before he could steal the other chest.

We were able to turn both chests in without further trouble, and set sail again. Shortly after we happened to see another small ship in the distance and decided to sail toward it to see what it was doing. As we approached we began to hear the burst of cannon fire as a menacing galleon came into view. Luckily, it wasn’t firing toward us, but rather at the other small two person ship. We watched from a safe distance for awhile, and eventually decided to sail directly between the two while I stood on the deck of our ship playing my accordion. One of the players on the galleon waved and then got back to firing cannonballs over our ship, occasionally landing a hit on the other sloop. At that point my brother dropped the anchor and joined in on the music as cannonballs flew back and forth over our heads. After some time had passed there was a short pause in the cannon fire. Maybe the ships had decided to leave each other alone?

A moment later the cannon fire continued, but sounded much closer. I turned around and saw one of the players from the galleon loading cannon balls into one of our cannons and firing at the sloop! Unsure what to make of the situation I walked up to the player and continued playing the music, at this point bursting out laughing at the absurdity of the situation. He fired a few more shots from our cannon and then nonchalantly strolled over to our barrel of cannonballs, emptied it out and jumped overboard toward his ship! The laughter continued as he reappeared on the deck of the galleon and continued firing from his own cannon with our cannonballs. My brother and I were left defenseless, but at least no one seemed bothered to fire on us. Eventually the sloop decided to give up and sped out of reach of the galleon. The galleon returned to port, and my brother and I departed on our next adventure.

I’ve seen a lot of people complain that Sea of Thieves offers too little for players to do, and therefore is boring. While it is true there’s little variety in the structured quests or missions of Sea of Thieves (you’ll either hunt down treasure, collect and deliver merchandise or hunt down skeletons and return their skulls) there’s still plenty of fun to be had. You can almost compare Sea of Thieves to Minecraft in a sense that the real fun comes from the experiences you have interacting with other players. You may have some fun building structures in Minecraft, but for me some of the most memorable moments were born out of interactions with my brother while playing (for example, the time we burst out laughing after filling our entire inventories with railing, lying down an incredibly long mine cart track, only to realize we left the mine carts all the way on the other end and had to slowly trek back).

I’ve had fun hunting for treasure in Sea of Thieves, but there’s not a lot of reward for completing the tasks assigned by the factions. Sure eventually I’ll have enough gold to customize my ship, but most of the tasks feel like busy work. This would make the game boring if it weren’t for all the high jinks  to be had along the way. There was the time I was up in the crow’s nest and spotted a rock poking out from the rough waves dead ahead. I called the obstacle out to my brother, but we still continued right toward it. I turned around to see the ship’s wheel unoccupied and heard laughter in my headset as my brother apparently decided to get drunk below deck and couldn’t navigate back up the stairs to take the wheel. We hit the rock.

Sea of Thieves isn’t always lighthearted fun. There have been plenty of tense moments as we approached a port only to spot the lantern light of a galleon in the distance. Did they spot us? We ask ourselves as we frantically run around the ship extinguishing all of our own lanterns before dropping the anchor and hoping the rough waves make us difficult to spot. We patiently wait, afraid to risk our bounty beneath deck by approaching the port while unknown players lurk about the island. Eventually they sail away and we creep in as dawn breaks and we unload our chests and skulls in exchange for gold and faction reputation.

Another time we were approaching port when a ship starting tailing us. Maybe they’ll be friendly? As the close the gap between us I break out my accordion, my go symbol to show other players we mean peace. I barely play a note and a cannon ball whizzes past my head. Uh oh! The next one hits the ship and we begin taking on water. We have four skulls below deck that were an absolute pain to retrieve (we probably died 10 times int he process of recovering them) so we decided that fighting back is probably too risky. Instead, in the cover of a storm I jump overboard and carry one skull at a time through the choppy water to the port to turn them in. The enemy ship doesn’t seem to notice as they continue trailing my brother as he circles the island. Slowly but surely I managed to unload all the skulls without losing any of them or the ship. It felt awesome to get away with it all unscathed, even if the ship eventually sank.

Visually, Sea of Thieves is a beautiful game. The first time I looked up at the night sky I was in awe! The water looks amazing in its many forms (from calm, peaceful light blue to menacing dark waves that thrash the ship about) and sunrises and sunsets are impressive. I’ve on occasion just gotten lost admiring the world of the game as I’ve sailed about aimlessly. The game runs smoothly on both my Xbox One X and my PC (GTX 1060, AMD FX 8320 running at 4.0 GHz). I haven’t had any server issues whatsoever, though it may be because I’ve only played at night (after 11 MT). Because of the server issues no achievements have popped for me since launch day (they’ve been temporarily disabled), but other than that I haven’t run into any technical issues with the game.

I’ve played about an hour or two of the game solo, which as many have said already is not the ideal way to play the game. It was fun at first to just sail around the seas listening to a podcast while hunting down skeletons, but without companions the game can be a tad boring. Ultimately Sea of Thieves is an incredible playground that is what you make of it. If you’re driven by quests and accomplishments maybe Sea of Thieves won’t do much for you. However, if you focus less on a more traditional video game experience and open your mind you can have a ton of fun with the game.

Sea of Thieves is available on Xbox and Windows 10 for $59.99 or as part of a Game Pass subscription ($9.99/mo).

An update, and my experience with the Xbox One X so far

Hello there, it’s been months since I’ve managed to post anything here and it feels like it’s been days. I’ve started a new job, my wife and I bought a house and life has been busy. I feel like I’ve been playing less video games than ever (may or may not be true) while there are more quality video games than ever vying for my attention. I still need to finish Tacoma, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, What Remains of Edith Finch, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn and so much more. I’ve recently gotten into Civilization Beyond Earth (I really dig the look of it) and have spent a lot of time playing PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS on both PC and Xbox. Also a few weeks ago I decided to purchase an Xbox One X and have been pretty much blown away by it.

Since getting into PUBG on Xbox I think I’ve had more fun than ever, despite its shortcomings. When I first launched it on the Xbox One I felt that I made a mistake. The textures looked so horrible and I hated that I couldn’t see the buildings while I was in the plane. Despite all of this I’ve had so much fun finally being able to play with my brother who is primarily a console gamer. We’ve had so much fun hiding in boats or escaping a firefight on a motorcycle only to ram it into a tree and die moments later.

The Xbox One X has so far been a worthy purchase. I have a moderately capable gaming PC (GTX 1060, AMD FX8320), however it’s tucked away in my ‘man cave’ and doesn’t have access to a 4K TV. Sure Forza 7 still looks really nice and runs well on it, but Forza 7 in 4K HDR is beautiful. Add to that having 5.1 surround sound in the living room and I’m in love. Last weekend I finished Wolfenstein II on the X and it was an incredible experience. The game looks beautiful on the One X, but the sound design really blew me away. The thumps from the subwoofer as I fired various guns mixed with the exciting soundtrack really sold me on the game. I loved every moment of it! Beyond the visuals, I’ve also been impressed by the improved performance the One X offers. In Madden 18 I would often notice slow downs right after scoring plays (usually while the Xbox was processing the auto recording game clips). With the One X I’ve noticed everything runs so much smoother, I haven’t noticed a single slowdown yet in Madden. PUBG also seems to run smoother and of course looks better, but I haven’t played enough yet to know if I just got lucky with a good connection to the server or if things really have dramatically improved on the X.

Hopefully things start to slowdown soon so I can get back into the habit of blogging. I feel like as I get older each time I accidentally take a break from blogging the gap between posts gets longer, and I occasionally wonder if I should just let this domain disappear into the cobwebs of the internet. I enjoy blogging, but I often don’t feel that I have the attention span any longer to write something worth reading. I almost wonder if I should try to hold myself to some sort of schedule, but ultimately every time I feel obligated to sit down and write I’m less motivated than ever. I wish I could say ‘look forward to hearing from me again in “x” days, but that’s unlikely. So until next time, thanks for stopping by.

I think I figured out how to speed up PS4 downloads

So after posting about trying to install an update for Uncharted 4 recently (that took all night despite my 200mbps connection), I came across a tip that seems to work for me. A lot of people have said to try to pause and restart downloads, but that didn’t seem to have any effect. What did work, however, was to close all open apps and games. Before doing so the time remaining for the update file for Everybody’s Golf crept upward of 4 hours! After closing Twitch and a game I had running the download finished in less than ten minutes! I had similar success while downloading Destiny 2, so it seems like this is a solid fix for the problem.

Hope this helps!

First night of Destiny 2

I played Destiny on the Xbox One and often had mixed feelings about it. That was until I completed my first raid, with the help of some strangers found through the Destiny app. It was a crazy experience that lasted hours but was never frustrating, and at that point I was hooked. A week later I did the next raid with another group and had just as much fun. Unfortunately, I ultimately fell away from Destiny. It became too time consuming to try to arrange groups through an external app, and I really wished there was some sort of in game matchmaking for raids, though I often wondered how many people would actually communicate (I’ve never heard a single voice during strike matchmaking). As for the “singleplayer” content, or story missions, I often found them frustrating to complete solo, and again there was no matchmaking to easily create groups. I could try using the LFG features on Xbox to group up for story missions, but it was a royal pain.

I think the difficulty of finding groups partially led to my decision to play Destiny 2 on the PS4. That and the idea that it should look better (it’d be in some form of 4K at least) and run smoother on the PS4 Pro. The Sony exclusive content would just be a bonus.

Last night I started playing Destiny 2 on PS4 and enjoyed the opening hours. I played through a few missions and public events before calling it quits at level 6 at around 2AM. So far I’ve enjoyed it, but I still wish there was an easier way to group up for story missions. I died seven or eight times during the early missions and it started to become frustrating. Maybe I’m just terrible at the game, but playing as a group with the ability to revive would have certainly made the process more enjoyable. It seems the only way to group up for story missions is again by posting a LFG message in the app and hoping it doesn’t take half an hour for a few other people to express interest. I’ll try to find a group for some story missions later today and see how it goes.

My plan to start Uncharted 4 yesterday foiled by the PS4’s sluggish download speed

I planned to start Uncharted 4 last night soon after finishing The Lost Legacy, however when I put the disk in the game required a 14GB update. No problem, nothing my 200mbps connection can’t handle right? On PC or Xbox this download would have taken a matter of minutes. I started the download and walked away, only to come back twenty minutes later to find that the progress bar had barely moved! The time remaining counter showed over four hours of download time left!

I’ve often heard people moan about slow download speeds on the PS4, but I must have never paid attention because I’ve never felt the pain until now (I’ve only had a PS4 for a few months). I’ve downloaded plenty of games (the only reason I have a disc copy of Uncharted 4 is that it was on sale at some point and I impulse purchased it) but I guess I’ve always started the download and walked away. Who knows how long it actually took to download Persona 5 (I don’t even want to know)!

Fortunately, the download should be done by now (I would certainly hope), so I’ll finally get around to starting Uncharted 4 after I get back from the gym. I’ll post first impressions sometime this weekend.

Reviewing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy as my first Uncharted game

Just a few moments ago I finished Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, the recently released standalone Uncharted adventure by Naughty Dog. As someone who is relatively new to the Playstation platform (I fooled around with a PS3 but didn’t end up owning one very long) I’ve never played an Uncharted game. I dabbled in the first and third games via Playstation Now, but neither caught me. I especially didn’t like the first game as I died a lot by falling off of stuff within the first hour or so which frustrated me enough to get me to quit. Shortly after getting my PS4 Pro I ended up acquiring a copy of Uncharted 4 on sale, but never felt the urge to put it in. I had heard nothing but good things about the game, I just never had the time to give it a try.

When The Lost Legacy got announced I didn’t think much of it, but I happened to see the game at Redbox this week and decided to rent it. Early on I was amazed at how good the game looked presented in 4K with HDR. The lighting in the game is incredible and the character models look great.

I was also impressed by the quality voice acting, facial expressions and how the characters moved around inside the world. Everything looked and sounded so lifelike, it was easy to get lost in the world. As I continued on in the game I found myself repeatedly in awe of the landscapes presented to me. I guess this is something Naughty Dog is known for, as I’ve heard people say they grew fatigued at just how often Uncharted 4 would effectively nudge the player almost saying to them “hey, look how great everything looks!”. The Lost Legacy even addresses this at one point where a character says something to the effect of “I’m running out of things to say at these” which was kind of amusing.

I played the game on the easiest difficulty setting (don’t hate me) and never found it overly frustrating. Some puzzles were a bit of a pain, but the game seems to know just when the player is starting to get frustrated and uses NPC’s to offer hints when things slow down. In some instances the NPC will even step in and complete a step of the puzzle themselves which I enjoyed. The combat was not hard at all, and I never once died during a combat sequence. The only thing that killed me repeatedly throughout the game was the climbing and jumping. The climbing for the most part is intuitive, but for some reason at random times my character would just plunge off a cliff even as I knew exactly where I was trying to get to. At other times Nadine would get in my way and I would bounce off of her to my death. This was annoying, but luckily the game has a really smart checkpoint system. In fact, after some deaths the game automatically restarted me past whatever obstacle had killed me. I’m not sure if this is a result of playing on the easiest difficulty system, or if it’s like that across the game, but I truly enjoyed it.

The story for the most part was unremarkable, though it picked up in pace and weight as it approached its rather thrilling conclusion. Even as I wasn’t enthralled by the story, I was invested in the characters mostly because of the excellent voice acting and interactions throughout the game. I enjoyed listening to their conversations and looked forward to seeing Chloe and Nadine’s relationship progress.

I was able to finish the game in just over five hours, which is shorter than the average completion time most likely because of my difficulty selection and the fact that I breezed through many of the combat sections unscathed. The production value of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is superb, right down to the end credits (probably my favorite credits since Portal). I’m excited to check out Uncharted 4 after seeing this adventure through.

If I were into giving games numbered scores, I would probably rate Uncharted: The Lost Legacy a 5/5.