Saturday, May 15, 2021

Some Things I Know

The most reliable indication of whether I do, in fact, like a game or whether I'm just trying to convince myself I do because either I've spent money on it or because peer group pressure makes me think I ought to, is if I find myself wanting to play it rather than other games I'd normally be playing. Today, after I got home from getting my second vaccination (a five mile round trip on foot) I hurried through my dailies in Guild Wars 2 and my Overseer quests in EverQuest and EQII, then I logged into the Bless Unleashed final beta again.

Of course, what this proves is that I want to play BU now. It says nothing about whether I'll want to play it tomorrow or next week or next month. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, as the financial services industry is so keen (when compelled by law) to remind us.

I do like the game, though. It has a good feel to it. Even though the world is going to rack and rooney, as Wellington would say, the general tenor is uncommonly jolly. In part that's a corollary of the character I'm playing, although it really shouldn't be, if I stop and think about it. 

That's not a trick of perspective. The puppy really is bigger than my character.

After all, pretty much everyone she's ever known was killed in a terrorist attack just days ago, her home has been taken over by sociopaths and she's living on charity as a refugee in a foreign land. Not to mention she was already an orphan to begin with. Some people just can't catch a break. 

Still, mustn't grumble, eh? And she doesn't. One of the prime reasons I try to play small, ridiculous races (Asura, Raki, Ratonga, Gnomes, Goblins, Lalafel... there's no shortage of them, is there?) is that it's a lot harder to take any of the gloom and doom seriously when you look like a six-year old who's been given free run of the dressing-up box. Just the running animations alone are usually enough to make it impossible to take any of it too seriously.

It's not just that, though. The whole game doesn't feel serious. Quests and dialog are largely lighthearted in tone even when the subject matter is quite dark and the nature of some of the threats is hard to paint as sinister or evil. There's a whole sequence of the main storyline that involves giant mole crickets, for heaven's sake.

Wait a minute... is that the Roswell alien on the table back there?

I spent another couple of hours playing this afternoon and by the time I stopped I was Level Ten. That's an average of half an hour per level which seems very nicely paced. It would obviously go a bit faster on later runs, what with not having to learn a new system or mechanic every five minutes, but in my experience any time gained by knowing what to do and how to do it tends to be lost again when that knowledge inevitably leads you to do more things.

In today's session I learned the following useful facts, tips, tricks and skills:

Mail: You get a present in the mail every time you level up and a special present every five levels. Also a load of other freebies, some related to the testing process, some not. When I opened my mail for the first time it had more than a dozen gifts waiting to be unwrapped and all of them were useful.

Sweet Blush Sheep Plush. Say that six times quickly.

Mounts: You can get a mount very early in the game. I got a goat from a quest and there was a knitted sheep and a big cat waiting for me in the mail. They come as cards that you click on and then you have to collect them from the stables.

Stables: Your mounts may live in the stables but that doesn't mean you have to go to an actual building. I spent ages scouring the map for a symbol indicating where I might pick up my crocheted sheep. I couldn't see one so I jogged all around the city hoping I'd spot some bales of hay or something. Eventually it occurred to me I might have seen the word "Stable" in the UI somewhere. I opened the main menu and there it was. Convenient, when you know.

Guilds: I do like a game that doesn't discriminate against antisocial loners. I kept running past the Guild Registrar in the main square and in the end I stopped and had a word with her. She doesn't care if you're Johnny No Mates so long as you're Level 10 and you can come up with thirty thousand gold pieces. That might sound like a lot but by that point I had well over a hundred thousand. Now I have a guild of my own, too, although apparently it's too much to ask that the guild name can have spaces in it.

Okay, we're going to need about thirty more people...

World Bosses: I love World Bosses. One of my favorite things in any mmorpg. There's nothing like an oversized pinata that hits you back. I ran into two this afternoon, both level nine, both giants. One was really easy. He died in a minute or two. The other was really hard. He took ages and I died three or four times. Both were chaotic fun with dozens of low levels throwing everything they had into the effort. In most games a big fight like that usually generates a lot of "amusing" commentary but I never heard anyone speak. Not once. In fact, I'm not sure you can speak in public in Bless Unleashed. 

Screenshots: I found the Screenshot key! It's F9. And the Hide UI key is F7. That's an excellent set-up and I immediately swapped to using it instead of the Steam alternatives. Then, naturally, I couldn't find the screenshots but luckily the game prints the full path in the chatbox every time you take a picture. Very considerate and excellent design.

Hotkeys: How did I find the Screenshot key? Easy. I noticed one of the always-on screen prompts said "F8 - Hotkey Guide". How handy is that? Someone's been thinking about all this. Whoever it is really ought to go and have a word with the thug who designed the tutorial.

The guard, who turns out to be a total bigot, claimed he was barring Kutco for being naked, which, as well as being culturally insensitive, isn't even accurate. He's wearing a hat! 
 Fishing: One of the demented cat-people (I learned today, by way of a socially-aware quest involving inter-species discrimination, they're called Shabiki) will give you all the kit if you ask nicely. I don't know how it works because I haven't started the quest yet. I have done some fishing, though, because I pressed the "Credits" button on the login screen by mistake and you can fish during the credit sequence. It's almost as if someone understood that no-one would ever sit through the credits on a video game unless they had something else to do that was more interesting.

Crafting: There's a bunch of crafts. You use crafting stations in the town. I saw a forge, a loom (I think it was. It made cloth robes, anyway), a big flask for alchemy and I think maybe one more. You can cook at the same thing you revive at when you die, the Soul Pyre, where you can also salvage armor and weapons for some kind of shard or crystal used in enhancement, another system I haven't figured out yet. The recipes pop up automatically and you have to go mine or forage or chop wood for the necessary materials. That's about as much as I know so far. 

Achievements: There are plenty, only for some reason they're called "Trials". It's true I have often found them to be so but I don't imagine that's the reason. 

Only 98.97% to go!

Healing: Is weird. You never recover health unless you do something to make it happen. Obviously some classes can heal but mine can't so my choices are potions, going to the Soul Pyre and hanging around (same as by a fire in Neverwinter) or eating some kind of food. Or, and this is the really weird one, you can forage. You don't have to eat what you pick. That would make sense. Picking it is enough. I got in the habit of checking where the bushes were before a fight then runing to them after. Seemed to work but it was very strange.

Travel: Other than running or riding around on animated knitware there are teleport posts. You have to visit each to open it on your map (same as the Soul Pyres) and it costs gold each time you use them. You can access any posts you've opened directly from the map but it's a lot cheaper to click on a post in the world and go from there. It cost me 300 gold when I did it, which is chump change, but I only went about half a mile. I suspect it scales by distance.

There was probably a lot more going on that I've forgotten already. New stuff was happening faster than I could take it all in. 

And roll credits!

I would have carried on playing - I wanted to - but I forced myself to stop when I dinged ten. I had to keep reminding myself it's a beta and what's more it's the final beta before the game goes live (or into open beta or Early Access or whatever they call it). The point is, whatever progress I make now I'll have to do over when that happens because (I'm assuming...) beta characters will all be wiped.

Since I'm sure I'll be playing at least for a while it makes sense to wait for a permanent character. I'll probably have forgotten everything I've learned by then, of course.

Good thing I have this blog to remind me.

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