Re-Exploring The Sky

No Man's Sky Next, perfect planet, Ocho II, Mucalls system

Flying over Ocho II, it’s lush red grass as far as the eye can see.

It’s been a while since I’ve played No Man’s Sky and, to be fair, I thought I had completely written this game off entirely. When it first released in August of 2016 I fell deep into the hype trap, even shelling out the full $60 tag, something I am usually loath to do, and was subsequently burned. Once bitten, twice shy. After some more recent hype revolving around No Man’s Sky, though, this time with a $0 pricetag since I’ve already bought into it, I decided to hop back in and check out what has really changed since launch. Find out what the ‘Next’ really means of the now titled ‘No Man’s Sky Next’. Turns out, quite a bit has changed.

First of all, I find it weird that I’m using terminology and treating this game like it’s some sort of MMO, which now that there is some sort of real multiplayer going on I guess it is much closer to that now. For all intents and purposes, though, No Man’s Sky still feels mostly single player. Which is fine by me. Usually, as a solo player, encountering other players in MMOs turns adversarial. We’re either fighting over the same drops, the same mobs, or fighting each other. That, as players, we’ve grown to consider this infighting ‘good, normal’ and ‘the way it should be’ is… odd. But I digress.

No Man's Sky Next, freighter

Coming in for a landing on the freighter Deep Space Ocho.

I remember when No Man’s Sky launched it felt like a wide ocean of content that was only a puddle deep. Everything was large and grand, but nothing felt important. There was no weight. Upgrades were acquired almost by accident and the primary focus was exploration… of similar, not-that-exciting locations. You could complete 99% of the game by just staying on the same planet you started on.

Now? Well, I’m not *entirely* sold that it’s monumentally different, but it does feel a lot better. The focus has absolutely changed. Now the focus is about building up your properties, your freighter fleet and your base, and completing the story missions. Your time spent on planets is transitory, hitting up only the points of interest you need to, and moving on. Which is good, because the less you see and pay attention to the procedural generation, the better. There was just not enough difference in the generation before. Now, it just feels… better. Planets feel more varied and look more populated. There’s more variety. I mean, there could always be even more variety in a game like this, but you don’t see the man-behind-the-curtain as much as you did two years ago.

No Man's Sky Next, random creatures

What were the devs smoking when they made *this* a possibility?

Upgrades, too, seem to be made more from progress than from randomness, which is a much better feeling than just stumbling across the best weapon/ships in the game. That random big find is still included, too, though, but now instead of finding a big new ship, you now find a big *broken* ship that you need to spend a good chunk of time and resources fixing.

Again, it feels productive, not accidental. This is good.

No Man's Sky Next, big red ball

Ah yes, the big red ball… things.

Also, we need to talk about the screenshot capabilities. They are, hands down, the best screenshot options I have ever seen in any game. Period. And I consider myself a screenshot aficionado, so I don’t say this lightly.

At any time you can pause the game to take a screenshot. When you do, you can move the camera to any position around your character to take it, within a large distance. On top of that, if the lighting isn’t right, you can change the time of day and the position of the sun. You can add/remove clouds, change the depth of field, and even add an Instagram-like filter on top of all that. For real, all other games need to take a page from No Man’s Sky’s screenshot book. Screenshots are your players methods of advertising your game for you, and having a system like this only helps you.

No Man's Sky Next, rings, ringed planet

The Rings at Night! Glow Big and Bright! *clap clap clap clap* Deep In the Heart of… of… wherever this is.

So will I keep it up? No, of course not. I’m a rambling gamer and will pass quickly from game to game as my whim takes me. However, with No Man’s Sky focus having changed to one that feels purposeful instead of accidental, I’m a lot more apt to keep it going. Plus, the entire game fits into only a 10 GB footprint, which is efficient and impressive as anything.

It currently is still sitting at $60, though, which I wouldn’t say feels entirely worth it, but if it falls back down to $30, or even $40, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest snapping it up.


// Ocho


P.S. – If you’re looking for a good planet to settle down on, I highly suggest planet Ocho II in the Mucalls system. Red grass, bright sun, abundant resources, and a pleasant temperature all year long. Nice place to vacation. Just don’t murder me, okay?

Really, Why Are There Levels in Guild Wars 2? [GW2]

So, when it seems like everyone else is hitting the level cap or close to it in Guild Wars 2, last night I hit the half-way mark, level 40. The odd part: I haven’t even ventured outside of a level 15-25 zone! Slow? Well… that’s just how I roll. I really do stop to smell the roses. I’ll delve into that unknown cave, I’ll try to beat that random mob that says “group” but I know I can do it solo if I just keep trying. I’ll fiddle with my build over and over until I get it just the way I want it. So, this takes time.

But level 40, without even touching a zone above 15-25. This made me look at how my gaming choice of checking out and completing the starter areas, and maybe the next higher ups, are affecting my character growth. Well, from completing 4 full zones, I have a decent amount of skill points, so my skill choices are fairly nice for my level. However, my gear? All the basic stuff. Since my main upgrades are coming from drops (as drops appear to be tuned to your character’s level, not the level of the area), they just aren’t coming fast enough to beat out what the vendors sell at each 5 level increment. So, my gear is to my level, but it’s bland.

So then, am I hurting myself by being slow? I very well could be, since my gear is so basic for my level. This then begs the question: Why are there even levels in the first place? I’ve mentioned previously how I think that levels in GW2 are a very useless stat. With the majority of zones and dungeons just down-leveling you, and levels coming at such a fast and furious pace that most people don’t even notice them, the fact that the game puts a number to your development seems counter-productive. Guild Wars 1 had levels, true, but you hit “max level” before you were even out of the introductory area. This feels the same, but at the same time, it’s not.

So what do levels prevent us from doing? From what I can see, all the levels are doing is holding us back from getting into the high level areas. That’s it. Maybe, since higher level crafting materials are located in those higher areas, also forcing a level component to crafting, too, but there are plenty of ways around that.

So why even have them in the first place? They’re a time-block, and that’s all. Guild Wars 1, for example, is supposed to be played at max level, with power coming from different skills attained, builds, and player skill. Difficulty is decided by the area that you’re in, which is mostly determined by how far you are along in the story. Guild Wars 2 seems to be following the same pattern, with down-leveling of content to make the areas themselves far from trivial. But now, if I were to attack, say, Ascalon Catacombs, I’d be at a disadvantage because my gear sucks compared to my level. I’d be down-leveled, and all the white gear I have is down-leveled, too.

If those levels weren’t there, it wouldn’t be so much the gear that I have, but what attachments I put onto said gear, and how I use it. The gear would be an extension of my playstyle, not just something to replace every screamingly-quick 5 levels. I’m hoping once I finally hit max level, I’ll be able to really start replacing my gear with something nice that won’t be outdated by leveling. But until then, I guess I’ll just be underpowered.

Even if you stop to smell the roses, sometimes you’re left behind in the dust.

\\ Ocho

Race and Religion in Skyrim is a Gray Area. Choose Wisely.

One of the main storylines that goes on in Skyrim is a big civil war. On one side, you have the Imperials, the main army of Tamriel trying to restore order to the nation that has stepped out of line with the emperor’s decree. On the other side, you have the Nord rebels, the Stormcloaks, who are against Imperial control. However, which side to join is not the easiest choice, and without a second full playthrough, you will never get to see both sides. So, I decided to make a list of qualities of both sides to see which one is better to join.

The Stormcloaks are the uprising rebels. At the beginning of the game, you find yourself face to face with the executioner’s axe. Why? Doesn’t matter. Every Elder Scrolls game starts this way. You’re imprisoned or finished your sentence or something. Just a good literary point to have a “new beginning on life”. Alongside of you to be executed is the head of the Stormcloak rebellion, Ulfric, who is proud of his Nord heritage. Before the execution can take place, a dragon attacks and you and Ulfric escape. So, automatically you’re thinking of joining the Stormcloaks as there is already a bond there. So, I visited the Stormcloak’s main city of Windhelm to join up with them… and found the city in trouble. With Ulfric in charge, the other races in the town who weren’t Nord were segregated. If you weren’t Nord, you were nothing. Argonians only live outside the city and are used for slave-like labor on the docks. Dark Elves are relegated to a single area of the city. Racism runs rampant under the Stormcloak rule. So, these people who fight for their freedom from the Empire are also taking away the rights of others. It also doesn’t help that when you first meet Ulfric, he’s kinda a jerk.

This didn’t sit well with me, so I visited the Imperial capital of Solitude. Their side of the story isn’t so clean either. From their side, they are trying to end the rebellion to restore order to Skyrim. However, it also comes at the cost of taking away the right of free religion. During the big war that happened before Skyrim’s beginning, the elves dictated that one of the game’s deities, Talos, a mortal whose accomplishments made him a god in the eyes of the people, was blasphemous to the worship of other gods and his worship was to be abolished. The elves are essentially the main power in Tamriel as they forced the signing of a treaty to end the war. The banning of worship of Talos was part of the treaty. So, the Imperials are also fighting to stop the practice of the Nord people’s primary religious figure.

So, the choice is definitely not one that is supposed to be easy. Side with the racist rebels trying to protect their religious freedom and create a free Skyrim? Or with the race accepting, but anti-religious Imperials who are just looking to establish order? Either way, the choice feel dirty.  Establish freedom at the cost of racism, or create order at the cost of religious tolerance? Personally, I don’t consider myself racist. I think I’m a very accepting individual, accepting others of races and religions not my own. However, freedom is a very important human right. Everyone, doesn’t matter their race or orientation, deserves the same basic rights.

In the end, I see the abolishment of en entire religion to be the bigger offender. Racism will always exist at some level, and though it is terrible, racial tolerance will eventually prevail in the long run. Religious freedom, especially one that doesn’t harm anyone else, might not survive the war if the Imperials win. So, in this case, fighting the war for religious freedom seems more justified. Despite Ulfric being a prick, his fight seems right. Most important, you don’t have to like the leader to agree with their cause.

Aside from the philosophical discussion, I have a gaming goal. Essentially I want to get as far as I can in Skyrim before Guild Wars 2 launches. I’m afraid I simply won’t be able to make this goal as Skyrim is… well… Skyrim. I’ve hit level 42, so not too much can stand in my way at this point… but I STILL haven’t even really touched the main storyline. There’s just so much to do!! I haven’t even visited every major city yet! So, my gaming plan may be to even give the Guild Wars 2 launch a little bit of a pass until I complete Skyrim. I know that by the time I’m completely done with Skyrim, I’ll be so tired of the game that I won’t want to touch another Elder Scrolls game until they release the next one (Hopefully… I know there is an Elder Scrolls MMO on the horizon, but I’m really hoping they don’t stop making the single player titles because of it).

So, anyway, thank you for reading and here are a few more screenshots for your enjoyment.

Game well, my friends.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – I added a few more mods to the game, including ENB Cinematic Lighting, which completely overhauls the lighting in the game. Hence why all the screenshots above look a little more shadowed, bright, and colorful. Without it… the game just looks muted and dull. Plus, light spells, torches, and lanterns are useful again.

GameTime! Max Payne Screenshots

I’m currently working my way through the original Max Payne, and I’m loving it. Its exactly as I remember it. Gritty, raw, and with one of the best “bullet-time” iterations in any shooter. Although, at one point, I overheard a conversation between two guys warming up around a burning trashcan, and one said “It may be the end of the world as we know it, but I don’t feel fine.” Yeah, that definitely dated the game a bit.

Warning… these screenshots do have a little blood in them…

I made it up to and through the level where Max was slipped something and ended up in a nightmare, reliving past horrors. Not pictured in the last shot: the endless cries of his wife calling for help and his baby crying. If you haven’t played it and enjoy a little of the macabre, I highly suggest you pick it up, although really, I’d wait for a sale first. $9.99 is a little much for an 11 year old game.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – If you’re looking for great deals on games, I recently found It shows all the discounted games across many different services, like Steam, Impulse, and a ton I’ve never heard of.