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Month: May 2016

The Warcraft Movie Review!

This article was under a review embargo until Mon 30th at 12pm, but that appears to have been lifted, so without further ado…


Introduction

The (World of) Warcraft movie has lingered in development hell for nearly as long as there’s been a World of Warcraft. It has been in a seemingly perpetual state of development for exactly 10 years now, since May 2006, and has had various writers, directors and approaches considered and rejected over the course of its history.

However with Duncan Jones, director of the superb Moon signing on to direct, things began to look up…

Currently on Metacritic, the Warcraft movie is polling terribly, with an average score of 37. Professional critics appear to hate the film, yet anyone who’s actually seen the film that is a fan, or not, has enjoyed it. In fact that last review link is from Mark Kermode, a well respected film reviewer in the UK, and HE liked it, despite never playing the game and approaching it as a completely blank slate experience.

In fact it’s currently sitting with an average score of 8.2 on IMDB!

So what gives? What side of the fence did I fall on?

Well, let’s dig into it in a bit more detail first…


The Story

The film is set during the events of the First War, when the Orcs first poured through the Dark Portal and attacked Azeroth, bent on claiming this lush new world as their own. This came about as their own world, Draenor, was dying and wouldn’t sustain life for very much longer.

The film opens on modern day Azeroth, with an Alliance Soldier facing off against a modern day Orc Warrior, standing astride his firmly planted Horde Banner, and the voice of Lothar begins narrating, stating that the war between the Horde and the Alliance wasn’t always so.

We are then taken back 30 years or so to the main events of the film.

Led by the noble Durotan, he and his wife Draka are our main “Horde” PoV characters for the film. We open up with them, seeing a quiet moment demonstrating their relationship together. It’s a warm, loving, jovial relationship the two of these characters share, and it’s utterly charming and believable.

Durotan leads his clan alongside other clan leaders, like Rend Blackhand, Grommash Hellscream and others, following under the guidance of the Warlock Gul’dan. Gul’dan has promised them a new world, a world ripe for the taking as its denizens are weak and easily broken.

The story then takes off, and tells, what to old school Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans players, will be a very familiar tale.

The film switches between the viewpoints of the Horde characters, primarily Durotan and Draka, with those of the Alliance characters, primarily in this case Anduin Lothar and the mage Khadgar.


The World

The world of both Azeroth, and fleetingly Draenor, are excellently realised. Even though the world in the film is much much bigger than what we see in-game (obviously the in-game world is much compressed for game-play reasons), regular WoW players will see much that they recognise and can delight in.

I spent most of my time in awe over how well presented the landscapes were, and instantly recognised many many locations, not just the main city of Stormwind.

We visit many locations in the movie:

  • Draenor
  • The Black Morass
  • Dalaran
  • Deadwind Pass
  • Karazhan
  • Stormwind
  • The Barrens
  • Ironforge
  • Elwynn Forest
  • Edit: Forgot to include Westfall, which appears briefly!

So many visual treats for WoW players to gorge their eyes on, and so satisfying to see them up on the big screen, painted with millions of dollars as the brush.


The CGI & SFX

This was a worry for me beforehand, as bad CGI can break an otherwise great film.

However for me this turned out to be a significant plus point of the film. The Orcs are all 100% CG, and they are so damned gorgeous in their detail. Small things like darting eyes, pores, hair, grime, sweat; it’s just all so fecking beautiful. I saw the film in 3D, and 3D normally takes away some of the HD details, so I’ll be seeing it again in 2D next weekend, but the CG throughout the film, not just the orcs, was absolutely top notch. As you’d expect with the royalty that is Industrial Light & Magic at the helm.

But the thing for me that stood out in this department?

The visual representation of the use of magic. It’s stunningly beautiful. Seriously gorgeous, I fell in love with it. I wish our spells in-game looked even half this good.


The Acting

The acting in the film ranged from the excellent (Khadgar & Taria), to the simply passable (King Llane Wrynn).

Now normally I quite like Dominic Cooper, here King Llane. I enjoyed his portrayal of Howard Stark in the 2 seasons of Agent Carter (now sadly cancelled!), but here he largely failed to bring any real sense of authority or gravitas to the role of the King. He seemed to squeak his way through most scenes, and any time Travis Fimmel appeared on screen, he was blown away.

Speaking of Lothar? He was great, and Travis Fimmel did a sterling job. He showed Lothar to be a completely badass mofo, and a warrior that even the orcs feared to take on.

Ruth Negga, some iffy accent issues aside (starts off as cut-glass English RP, then slips into her natural Irish brogue by film’s end), she did an excellent job as Lady Taria, wife of the king and mother of Varian Wrynn.

Medivh, played by Ben Foster, sadly fell into the slightly iffy camp for me. He, for some reason, seemed to be playing Medivh with a somewhat Cowboy-southern drawl at times. Half the time I expected him to tell the orcs it was High Noon…

The standout for me though? Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar. He portrays a young Khadgar, before he’s aged artificially, and he really did a fantastic job IMO.

There were some great buddy-cop moments between him and Travis Fimmel’s Lothar that I really loved, and you can tell the two of them enjoyed working together. He brought more gravitas and worth to his role as a disgraced Kirin Tor initiate than Dominic Cooper did to his as King Llane. Superb work.

And lastly for the in-camera actors, Paula Patton did a great job as the Orc/Draenei warrior Garona.

The MoCap and voice work by the orc actors shouldn’t be dismissed either.

Toby Kebbell’s Durotan is believable, grounded and he portrays the young Frostwolf clan leader as both a likeable person, and a respected warrior.

Draka was in the movie only fleetingly, in a few short scenes throughout, but what was there, saw Anna Galvin acquit herself with much aplomb.

Rob Kazinzky as Orgrim also did a fantastic job. The lucky bastard that he is, (as he’s a current WoW player) he gets to act in his dream job, bringing such an iconic character as the original wielder of the Doomhammer to life. Both him and Durotan share a deep friendship, and that comes across on screen with ease.

Clancy Brown and Daniel Wu as Blackhand and Gul’dan respectively each did a great job as well. Imbuing their characters with a menace and threat that came across even through the MoCap.


Music

The music was absolutely bloody superb throughout, but what do you expect when you hire the guy, Ramin Djawadi, that wrote the music for Game of Thrones?

In fact, you can listen to the entire soundtrack here for a limited time on SoundCloud for yourself. In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I’m writing this! Loved it!

What didn’t work…

There were some elements for me that didn’t quite work. Be warned though:

Spoilers abound within!

[su_spoiler title=”Spoilers for Warcraft: The Beginning!”]

Ok, so Draka and Durotan are the main Horde PoV characters.

Draka gives birth to Go’El (Thrall) at the very beginning of the movie, and in fact she goes into labour during the portal loading screen for want of a better term. She gives birth immediately on the other side, but the child is still-born.

Gul’dan, perhaps to prove a point, drains the life force of a nearby deer and invests that life force into the infant’s lifeless body, thus infusing him with fel and turning him into the future green jebus we all know and hate(ish). So, what? Thrall’s a fel-orc now?

However, as long-term fans know, both Draka and Durotan die not long after entering Azeroth, and this was my biggest complaint about the entire film.

Draka dies a quiet, noble death, protecting her baby by the riverside, from Gul’dan’s betrayal when he wipes out the Frostwolves.

Durotan however? He died in a rather cheap, off-handed, dismissive manner and was left for dead with barely a second thought. This irked me more than anything after coming out of the theatre. In fact Lothar’s very incidental, bit-part, son died with more importance and gravitas than our main Horde PoV character did.

Durotan’s needless (IMO) death should have had more importance placed on it, or left for a more appropriate point in the film, but to me it was treated like the death of a random orc or alliance guard: “Yeah he’s dead, right let’s move on and ignore his existence”.

Very disappointing, and leaves one major question: With both Horde lead characters dead, in the event of a possible sequel, who will act as the eyes of the audience on the red side of the conflict? Garona? Orgrim?

The pacing seems a bit rushed at times as well, jumping from scene to scene seemingly in a hurry to get through the story before closing time.

Medivh, as per the game, betrays the Alliance, and is revealed to be the one who beckoned Gul’dan and the Orcs into Azeroth. He claimed that he was corrupted by “The Fel”, but before the orcs came through, there was no Fel Magic on Azeroth.

We, as players, know he was born already possessed by Sargeras, and know that’s why he summoned the orcs, but general audiences won’t have a clue, and may be utterly confused.

So we, as an audience, are meant to believe he summoned Gul’dan to Azeroth, by himself, without prior knowledge of the existence of Orcs or Draenor, and furthermore retained no memory of it, as he stated after his betrayal was revealed? Hmmmm.

The romance between Garona and Lothar was completely unnecessary and went nowhere.

Speaking of Garona, she was shown to be a proper “good guy” throughout the film, and whilst she does kill Llane as per the lore, it’s not because of any mind control by Gul’dan. Llane sacrifices himself for the sake of a future peace, and asks Garona to kill him and become a hero in the orc’s eyes.

[/su_spoiler]

Plus, not really a spoiler, but where the hell are the Gnomes? Yet again, Gnomes get the shaft when it comes to CG or cinematic treatment. Seriously bummed about this, because we visit Ironforge towards the start of the film, yet there were none present here, nor at any of the Alliance chamber meetings?

Wasn’t really expecting this, but there were no dragons or drakes in the film either. Maybe in the sequel we’ll get to see Alexstrasza!

Also, only one demon in the entire film, but on the plus side, it looked friggin’ awesome (no, not the golem/infernal from the trailer)…

Plus: Lady Taria (Ruth Negga) and Lothar are meant to be brother and sister? Wot? One is black, with an irish/english accent, the other is a blonde aussie with what appears to be his accent from Vikings.

Yeah, ok…

One big disappointment? No Legion advertisement ahead of the film starting? Really? REALLY? You would think Blizzard would stipulate some sort of advert for WoW to be played with the pre-movie trailers. I found it astonishing that such an opportunity would be missed.

However I was at a press screening hosted by Universal, and they had all their own films trailed before the movie, so this may change upon general release.

Here’s hoping…

Short Highlights

MURLOCS! GRRLLLGGRRRGGLLLRRR!

Moroes before he went all Raid Boss!

Lothar’s gryphon? As much of a badass as Lothar himself. Seriously cool.

Polymorph! Yes, Khadgar polymorphs an NPC 😛

Garona mentions hearing Gul’dan’s master having a voice of “Fire and ash”. Kil’jaeden’s been busy…

The humour throughout the film is used appropriately and well. Some laugh out loud moments.

The fight between Lothar and his opponent right at the end of the film just shows what a badass he is.

The ferocious orc roar that ends the film 😀

PS: There are no mid or post credits sequences, trust me I waited. So once the orc roars it’s ferocious widdle roar, feel free to leave the cinema. Although if you’re a WoW player and a fan of the music? Wait for the scrolling credits….


Overall

I can guess why some critics are hating on this title, because it’s based on a video game property. Video game to movie adaptations in the past have all been notorious for how bad they’ve been:

  • Mario Bros
  • Street Fighter
  • Mortal Kombat
  • etc etc

But what all those source games had in common was one thing: They were all light to non-existent on storyline.

The one thing Warcraft, as a franchise, has in absolute bucket-loads?

Storyline.

In fact, there was slightly too much storyline presented here, leading to the slightly spotty pacing throughout. But overall I think Duncan Jones and the Cast and Crew have done a thoroughly excellent job.

Seriously, the small niggles aside, this was a great film and I enjoyed it immensely. Especially as a WoW player. But I enjoyed it as a fantasy film lover first, and as a spectacle for the WoW player in me secondarily.

I’ll definitely be going to see it again when it opens this coming week in the UK, because I want to support this effort as much as possible, because we all want to see a sequel, or perhaps trilogy or more come out of this initial foray into the cinematic world of Azeroth.

One of my favourite films of the year so far.

OverWatch: The Review

So OverWatch has been out for a week now, and after loving the Beta, does the full release live up to the hype?


Before moving to MMOs, I was originally an FPS player online. I played Duke Nukem 3D, Quake 2, Counter Strike, Unreal Tournaments of many varieties etc.

My main love of all time in online FPSs Quake 3, and I played it at all levels, including international online tournaments, organising and running entire leagues for Rocket Arena 3 and so on.

Then, shortly after I eventually quit playing Q3, Valve software released Team Fortress 2. TF2 for some, is the most direct ancestor for OverWatch, and in many ways they are right. However where TF2 has a very long list of differing game modes (King of the Hill, CTF, Arena, Team DM and so on), OverWatch really only has 2: Quick Play (basically LFG, either solo or as a group), and Arcade.

Quick Play is a quick queue system that pits you in and against teams of roughly similar skill levels. You can either queue solo, or if you’re grouped with up to 5 other friends you can queue up as a group.

Arcade mode is similar to the Tavern Brawl in Hearthstone. Different modifiers are applied to everyone playing that week. For example, this week?

  • All players have 200% Health.
  • Ultimates charge 150% quicker.
  • Abilities come off cooldown 75% faster.
  • Maps are limited to: Dorado, Hollywood, King’s Row, Numbani, Route 66 & Watchpoint: Gibraltar.

It’s a fun twist on the more vanilla Quick Play mode, and keeps the game both interesting and varied. Even though the base game is very fun in and of itself.


Character Roster

roster

The roster consists of 21 “Heroes”, all of which are very varied in terms of aesthetics, skillset and movement.

From the nimble Tracer, who has become the face of the game, to the lithe assassin Widowmaker. From the eco-warrior Mei (Mei is BAE, Mei is life!), to the crazy Aussie Junkrat and his collection of explosives, to the Hardcore German tank that is Reinhardt, to the cybernetic monk of Zenyatta.

The roster is incredibly varied, and players will find themselves gravitating to a handful of favourites, depending on the situation.

Character switching is not only encouraged during a match, it’s both expected and necessary.  Having trouble with a certain opposition character consistently laying waste to your team?

Well you’re in luck, because each character has a hard counter to them, characters that they’re either vulnerable to in terms of mechanics (Junkrat and his bouncing bombs or Tracer and her blink ability vs Bastion’s stationary OP Turret form for example), or they just can’t play well against (Symmetra’s & Mei’s short range weapons or Reinhardt’s slow movement speed vs Widowmaker’s Sniper Rifle).


Sound Design

ScreenShot_16-05-09_20-30-58-000The sound design in OverWatch is more important than you realise. You will hear opposition players footsteps and weapon’s fire more prominently than those of your team mates.

Audio queues are also essential when it comes to avoiding enemy Ultimates. Each character’s Ultimate is accompanied by an audio line:

  • McCree: It’s High Noon… (Headshots for everyone!)
  • Reaper: DIE! DIE! DIE! (Super Saiyan Ultra-Mega Death Blossom!)
  • Junkrat: FIRE IN THE HOLE! (Most terrifying rolling tyre ever!)
  • Widowmaker: No-one hides from my sight (Team-wide wall hacks!)

So you know if you hear McCree telling you the time, and you don’t have a McCree on your team, feel free to lose your head over it, because you probably will.

Probably. That is unless you can counter it – yes, each ultimate can generally be countered fairly easily.

If you’re playing as Mei, you can counter quite a lot of the area effect ultimates very easily.

Oh, it’s High Noon again is it McCree? Here, have an ice-wall in your face thus blocking your line of sight to everyone on your screen!

Junkrat chasing you with his Tire of Death? Ice-block!

Ultimates like Widowmaker’s wall-hack-like Recon Visor can’t really be countered, but it’s not something that can damage anyone, players still need to make the effort to reach the enemy and engage.


Art

ScreenShot_16-05-03_20-17-16-000The character and environmental art in OverWatch is just plainly gorgeous. From the cartoonish design of the characters and their many, many skins, to the varied aesthetic beauty of each of the game’s 12 maps.

The overall design hangs together brilliantly. It’s bright, bold and unlike so many online shooters these days, colourful and cleanly realised.

The design of the characters themselves heralds a cast that is very diverse on grounds of race and gender.

The females in the game aren’t overtly sexualised (aside from Widowmaker, but that’s sort of her visual MO), with none of the female characters wearing anything remotely resembling armour-kinis or indeed slutmogs, which are so popular in WoW.

And the racial diversity in the game is refreshing to see as well, with the cast seemingly picked from each of the major nations & continents around the world.

From the short & stout Swedish Torbjorn, to the lithe French Assassin Widowmaker, to the well built and very beautiful Russian Zarya, to the Brazilian healer Lucio, right through to the Asian quartet of characters in Genji, Hanzo, D.Va and Mei.

All of the characters in the game are thoroughly likeable, well realised and none of them are ridiculous cringe-inducing caricatures of their race or region.


Gameplay

ScreenShot_16-05-10_00-37-24-000The gameplay in OverWatch, as mentioned above, takes place in one of two game modes: Quick Play or Brawl (Or Arcade as it’s known now on Live).

Gameplay consists of several types of maps. Either payload based maps where you need to take control of a point on the map to get a payload moving, or simply straight up area capture objectives.

The variety comes in the strategic interplay of opposing characters and team make-ups. As mentioned earlier, each character has other characters that can counter their abilities, and character swapping is both encouraged and expected in order to achieve the objective.

Games themselves can range from free for all carnage to very tight, chess-like tense affairs, where even the slightest wrong move can mean losing.

The characters’ abilities themselves layer on another level of complexity and enjoyment, and again players will find themselves gravitating to a handful of favourites that they find enjoyable and fun to play.

For me? That tends to be:

  • Mei
  • Junkrat
  • Widowmaker
  • Soldier 76
  • Torbjorn
  • Lucio
  • Tracer

Generally in that order. Mei is for me the most fun character. In the right hands she can be completely OP. Her main ability is her cryo-gun, that she can use to slow and temporarily freeze her foes. When they’re frozen solid for a second, she can then use her gun’s secondary fire to shoot an icicle and finish off the opponent.

Headshots in OverWatch always deal critical/double damage. So when Mei finds her enemy frozen, a quick right-click to their head and good night Vienna!

Unless it’s a tank, as another variance on the character roster are their base health and armour levels.

Tracer has the smallest health-pool in the game at a measly 150 HPs, but she can quickly regain any recently lost health by rewinding back to where her health and location were 3 seconds ago.

Reinhardt on the other hand has 500 HPs, but also 500 Armour points, and a shield that has 2000 HPs! Roadhog, another tank, has 600 HPs, more than Reinhardt, but no armour. He does however have a 300hp heal he can use on an 8 second cooldown.

The average health pool is around 200 without armour though.

In general though, before playing it I had an idea in my head about how the game was going to play. I was used to the Kill:Death ratio of other on-line shooters, so when I began playing in Beta, I was initially disappointed by the apparently lacking scoreboard in OverWatch.

However, after this, I began to get a clearer picture of the vision that Blizzard have for the game. Individual players are only important as what they can contribute to the overall team effort.

Sure, there’s the Play of the Game mechanic after each fight, but that’s purely as a reward to highlight good play.

Unless you’re Bastion. Just hold down fire, spray bullets & win.

Pfft.

Overall though, I’m glad Blizzard went this route, because the game-play is just so much better for that decision.


Music

ScreenShot_16-05-10_17-37-54-000The music in the game is as varied as the roster and maps. Each map has its own musical motif, from the light Greek music of Ilios, to the Japanese themed Hanamura motif.

I’d encourage you to either turn the volume down of the music though for game-play reasons, just a tad, so you can hear the enemy’s movements that much better.

And of course there’s the OverWatch title theme that I love to bits.

Sadly the soundtrack is only available with the frankly grossly over-priced £100 Collector’s Edition. Neither the standard edition nor the Origins Edition, regardless of physical or digital, come with the music included seperately.

This is a major let-down, and continues Blizzard’s previous lack of soundtracks in Digital CE’s for World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo. Come on Blizzard, it’s not that hard to supply an included zip file with the soundtracks as MP3s, so why not do it?

In order to get the soundtrack, I’d have to pay an extra £55 over and above the £45 cost of the Origins Edition to pick up the aforementioned overpriced £100 physical CE.

Happily though, this is the only complaint I have about the game, as I’m neither surprised, nor really disappointed by the next feature:


Loot Boxes & Micro-transactions

CjLiz_NWEAAVF8nLoot Boxes are awarded to players each time they level up in the game. Loot boxes contain any and all of the cosmetic items you can use to customise your characters:

  • Skins
  • Emotes
  • Victory Poses
  • Voice Lines
  • Sprays
  • Highlight Intros
  • Player Icons

Each character has a base version of each of the first 6 items above, and further customisation is achieved through unlocking further options by use of currency.

Now currency is another thing that drops from Loot Boxes, and is a method of, over time, guaranteeing that you can unlock that evasive skin or Intro etc that you’ve been dying to get your hands on.

So, Micro-transactions then?

When the game went live, players were given an option in-game to buy varying quantities of Loot Boxes directly, without earning them through levelling up. In the UK, those prices are:

  • 2 Boxes: £1.59 (80p per box)
  • 5: £3.99 (80p)
  • 11: £7.99 (72p)
  • 24: £15.99 (66p)
  • 50: £31.99 (64p)

So as you can see, buying the bigger bundles ultimately is better value per box.

Again, these purchased boxes contain exactly the same sort of items you get from the level-up boxes.

Given that all of the items are cosmetic, and in light of the fact that Blizzard have stated any further map or characters added to the game will be given away free?

Honestly, these don’t really bother me that much.

Duplicate items reward you with a small chunk of currency to put towards that favourite rainy-day item.

As for me, I bought 5 boxes for £4 during the week, and I was lucky enough to get one of Mei’s Legendary skins, her Fire-fighter skin, which given that it’s a legendary, would normally cost 1000 currency points:


Pricing

There are three different editions of the game on offer.

  • Standard Edition: £29.99
  • Origins Edition: £44.99
  • Physical Collector’s Edition: £99.99

The Origins Edition comes with 5 Skins that can’t be bought in-game, and extras for other Blizzard games, like a baby Winston battle pet for WoW players, banners and icons for StarCraft players and so on.

The Physical CE comes with the above, the soundtrack as mentioned previously, and a statue of Soldier: 76.

Personally I would’ve thought Tracer or Winston would’ve made a more obvious choice for the statue, but they decided to go with 76 instead.


Final Thoughts

ScreenShot_16-05-10_17-54-42-000I think it’s very clear that I absolutely adore this game, for all of the above reasons.

I love the characters, the music, the art style, the abilities, the game-play and the cosmetic variety on offer to players.

If you’ve never picked up an on-line shooter before? If you’ve ever felt too intimidated by the on-line keyboard warriors shouting down their mics calling everyone around them scrubs and noobs? If you’ve ever been turned off by the pure kill:death ratio focus of other on-line shooters, or prefer playing healer and support style roles?

I’d thoroughly recommend you give OverWatch a go. It’s fun, the focus is on team-play and supporting your team-mates and winning the objective based game-play as a team.

Individual skill, or lack thereof, is of less importance, thus allowing less skilled players an easy inroad to enjoy the game.

A week of Blizzard related events…

So this week has been great 😀

First up on Monday (23rd) I attended the live cinema launch event for OverWatch!

It wasn’t bad, a lot of the cinematics, followed by a developer Q&A, but at least the Soldier 76 cinematic was new to me, as I deliberately didn’t watch it ahead of time 🙂

Winding back a bit, the previous Monday (16th) I was contacted by a PR firm working on behalf of Universal Pictures, who wanted to invite me to a couple of events this week, both of which were in Dublin.

Both events were related to the Warcraft: The Beginning movie. First up was an Art event in Temple Lane South on Tuesday (24th), where I was invited to take part in the creation of a mural depicting a scene from the movie:

So I was there most of the day, from about 11:30am until 6pm. And when you factor in the fact I live just outside Belfast, I had over 230 miles of a round trip, and 7 hours travelling both days!

I really enjoyed the art event, watching @solusstreetart creating the above scene and getting to see Dublin as well! That was my first time in the city, despite having lived in Belfast all my life. Derp.

Dublin is gorgeous though, and the weather on Tuesday for the event was absolutely wonderful. Sunny and warm all day, and it showed Dublin off to its best. The city is set along the river Liffey, and it’s just really beautiful.

So that was Tuesday’s event, then on Thursday (26th) I was invited to the Irish Premiere for the Warcraft movie itself!

Yep, I’ve already seen the film, more than a week ahead of it’s UK release on Friday 3rd June! 

There’s a review embargo in place until this coming Monday (30th) at 12pm UK time, so I’ll not be publishing my full thoughts until then.

But expect a long and thorough review at that point, giving my full thoughts on the film, what worked, what didn’t work, what frustrated me and what impressed me.

But, to give a taste, some of my tweets from last night, right after seeing it:

https://twitter.com/Sarcrux/status/735938322665754625

https://twitter.com/Sarcrux/status/735947296643383296

https://twitter.com/Sarcrux/status/735948720563494912

Make sure to come back on Monday at 12:01pm for the full review!

Choosing a class for Legion? Part 2

Following on from an earlier article, I’ve still been thinking hard about which class and spec I want to choose as my main for Legion, and perhaps beyond.


I’m not one for rapidly changing classes or specs, having played my Prot Paladin for over 6 years before changing to my Hunter last year.

However given the all-encompassing changes that Hunters are seeing in Legion, which may or may not result in an enjoyable experience for me, another change may become inevitable.

So, given that it’s a bit further on in the previously Alpha and now Beta process of changes, let’s see where my thoughts lie now.

As per the previous article, Rogue, Shaman, Mage, Warrior and DK are all fairly much out of the running due to intrinsic feeling of “meh” I have towards them.

That leaves:

  • Demon Hunter
  • Priest
  • Monk
  • Paladin
  • Warlock (completely forgot about this in the last article!)
  • Druid
  • Hunter

So, let’s go through them all…


Demon Hunter

As per usual, Blizzard look to be nerfing abilities and utility of older classes in order to bolster take up of their newest class. It happened when DKs came along in Wrath, Monks in Mists, and now DHs in Legion.

They’re looking completely OP, certainly in terms of mobility with passive double jump, slowfall, gap closers etc, but they are as yet very untested in a live environment, and without beta access and final tuning still to come, it’s next to impossible to make a definitive call on this class.

Priest

I’m still really enjoying Holy and to a lesser degree Shadow on my Priest. It’s the spec I’m playing in mainly atm in Thunder’s recent raid resurrection (yes, we’re back and Heroic raiding again!), but sometimes still have to jump on the hunter if we’re loaded with healers, to help out with DPS.

A solid choice, but not a lot of utility and having more removed in Legion, particularly in terms of mobility.

Monk

I’ve gone off Mistweaving slightly since the last article. No real reason why, I’m just finding other classes and specs more intriguing.

Paladin

Holy & Ret are right out the door straight off. No interest really in either spec, so that leaves my old comfort spec of Protection.

Whilst nerfed slightly in terms of self-healing from where it was when I wrote the last article, this is still looking like a strong spec overall in Legion.

However Legion changes to active mitigation (the best thing to ever happen to tanking IMO), and the fact that my reasons for quitting tanking on her haven’t changed since, I doubt this will be an avenue I’ll be pursuing in Legion.

Warlock

Again, a lack of general utility, being a pure dps class in a similar manner to Mages, means that this is not a class I’ll likely choose for Legion.

In contrast to…

Druid

I’ve recently begun levelling a Tauren Druid named Lifebinder, and was enjoying it, so I decided to dust off my old Nelf Druid and faction changed her, again to a male Tauren, this one named Sarcrux.

I was very undecided on this one in the last article in March, but having played it a bit more, I’m really liking the utility Druids offer. Not least the fact that I can semi-tank in bear form, and semi-dps in cat form, both while in Resto Spec.

If I were to choose a druid, Resto would likely be my Main Spec, with an open choice of off-spec.

But given we’ll be getting tri/quad spec in Legion, Off-specs will be an open choice anyway.

This one is a very strong candidate now.

Hunter

I’m a lot happier about where Hunters are now, in comparison to a few months ago.

MM have their pets back for example, with Lone Wolf being a talent choice again, albeit a level 15 choice rather than 100, so Lone Wolf lovers can essentially level all the way without a pet.

Hati and BM in general have also seen improvements, both in terms of Hati’s basic model (looks gorgeous now), and the ability to have her look like one of your other pets, so you can truly dual wield pets of your choice as BM now. Dire Beast has also been given the option of using stabled pets, rather than randoms from your current zone.

I know what you’re thinking. I dislike Mages, Warlocks and Rogues   because they’re pure DPS classes and offer little in terms of role variety, so why do Hunters, another pure DPS class get a bye?

Hunters have the pet collection aspect that ameliorates this complaint to a significant degree. For me at least, because I love pet collecting. So ner.


So that’s where I’m at atm, and presently it’s looking like a straight choice between Hunter/Holy Priest/Resto Druid.

Certainly there’s a decidedly healing based skew on those choices, but I’ll only truly be able to make a decision if or when I finally get access to the Legion Beta…

No, still no access.

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There are changes to talent swapping that have been made in a very recent build that I’ll be expounding on more, but that’s another article for another time…

Overwatch: End of Beta thoughts

Or, why a stationary mini-gun can be absolutely OP…


rosterSo Open Beta for Overwatch ended a few days ago. I came to the party late, because as usual I didn’t get a closed beta invite (more on beta invites in the next article), so I had to make do with the week long open beta.

I had already pre-purchased the Origins Edition of the game several weeks prior to the Open Beta starting, and as a result I got into it a couple of days early, ahead of the general Open Public Beta.

So, was it worth the money…?

Well, let’s see what I thought of the various elements of the game.

Roster

There are 21 “heroes” in the Overwatch roster as you can see above, all of which are hugely varied, both in terms of their abilities and their aesthetic. Each character has 3-5 different abilities, plus an Ultimate ability, and in this manner it’s more akin to a MOBA than an FPS, but it works, and it works well.

Some of the characters, such as Tracer, are very fragile, but she makes up for this by being a very fast mover, as well as having the ability to rewind 3 seconds to her location and health level at that time.

Others have more HPs, but are slower with shields and/or armour to protect them, such as Reinhardt with his armour and shield, or Roadhog with his tonne of HPs and a self heal.

Roles

There are 4 different roles in the game:

  • Offense – The ones who can potentially score most kills.
  • Defense – The characters that can lock down an area.
  • Tank – The high HP characters, who can generally take more of a beating.
  • Support – Mostly healer characters, and vitally important for a strong team.

I didn’t have 1 single favourite character, but I’ll give my favourites in each role.

Offense

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Definitely Tracer. She’s not an out and out lethal character, but she’s meant to be played in a more disruptive manner to the others. She’s best played tying up enemy players, and distracting them from their attack on the objective, or pulling them away from defending and taking them out whilst they’re isolated.

Defense

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Normally this will be Widowmaker, the sniper class. I love nothing more in an FPS than taking on the sniper’s role, head-shotting enemies from halfway across the map.

I would say though, that I would personally switch Tracer with Widowmaker in the class system, as Widowmaker is more offensive and capable of easier kills than Tracer, whereas Tracer is best used more in a controlling and containing role.

Secondarily to Widowmaker I’d have to choose Junkrat.

ScreenShot_16-05-05_18-53-06-000He’s just so much damn fun to play, and is effective in both defense and offense. He’s the grenade spamming class and can throw out mines and bear-traps and is just absolutely insane. Imagine DC’s Joker if he was Australian…

Tank

Definitely Reinhardt…

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A big beefy german dude in chunky metal armour. Carries a massive fucking hammer and generates a very meaty electronic shield that takes a hell of a beating (it has 2000 HPs!). Excellent for breaking stubborn defences down and decimating the opposition. Which is exactly what I did for the PotG above when I broke a stern shield/turret chokepoint defence then went in and solo-killed THEIR ENTIRE TEAM

Luckiest moment with him?

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Check out my HPs….

Support

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I hated Lucio at first, but playing him several times led to him becoming my favourite. He doesn’t have a direct heal, per se, but he does heal allies passively if they’re nearby him. He can switch between passive healing and movement speed boost auras by hitting the Shift key. He can also boost either aura with his E ability, and throw out shields to nearby friendlies with his Ultimate.

Secondarily to Lucio, Mercy is Overwatch’s equivalent to WoW’s Priest class. The ubiquitous straight up healer, she can alternatively boost an allies damage with a right click of the mouse.

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Game Mechanics

There are no ammo pickups to worry about (unless you count the scraps Torbjorn uses to build and repair his turret), and each character has infinite ammo for their weapons and other equipment. This is only limited by the clip size per weapon.

The game is 6v6, and the game is an objective-based game, be it capturing or defending a specific area or defending a payload, Overwatch is more about what you can do together as a team, rather than concentrating in any way on any individual’s Kill/Death ratio.

Which works well. I was miffed at first that there was no “proper” scoreboard, but having played it for the week, I came to appreciate more what Blizzard are going for here, and I’m glad, because it differentiates it slightly from its most obvious inspiration: Team Fortress 2.

The game does desperately need more than effectively 1 game mode, but I’m not sure that a Team Deathmatch mode would work terribly well here – anyone favouring a support character would get short shrift in that particular mode.

Something like CTF would work wonderfully IMO, and it’s set up perfectly for it. There would of course be balance issues around the likes of Tracer, but nothing insurmountable, and ensures all classes would get decent use.

Aesthetics & Sound

I absolutely adore the game’s art. It’s gorgeous:

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Both the environments and the characters look stunning, and the animations and sound design are both well up to par with the art.

The maps are for the most part well laid out, and enough of them that playing a series of 10 minute matches (the average) never seems to get boring.

The music is also fitting. It’s environmental for the most part, and fits well in the background. And of course there’s the excellent theme tune we’ve all heard in the trailers.

Balance

Balance is mainly fine. There are some small niggles, such as Bastion being completely OP in his turret form if he’s defending from a corner and has a competent team with him – I’ve seen him cut through so many enemy players in his alt-form it’s unbelievable. Sure he has a weak point on his back, but if the player using him covers it well enough?

But mainly it’s balanced well. As I said earlier, one example is Tracer fragility, but she’s fast, blinks about all over the map and can rewind 3 seconds if she’s taken heavy damage.

Some characters do have Ultimate abilities that will make you shit your pants if it’s on the opposition team though.

If you don’t have a McCree on your team and you hear the words “It’s High Noon”?

HIDE. FAST.

But in comparison to the likes of McCree, Widowmaker, Zenyatta, Mercy, Reaper etc, some of the other characters’ Ultimate abilities seem very lacking. Tracer for example only has a sticky grenade that can actually kill her if she’s too close to it, and is pretty hard to stick to enemy players. Compare that to Junkrat’s mine he has on a short cooldown and can detonate it in player’s faces if you’re quick enough.

Soldier 76’s Ultimate is similar to McCree’s, in that it will auto-target enemies, but where McCree’s is an auto-headshot and therefore a kill on any enemies on screen, 76’s is an aim helper, but you still need to empty a full clip into an enemy to kill them. Especially tanks.

Rewards & Progression

Progression is made by earning XP, and you get this for completing matches (especially consecutive ones), winning, defending and capturing objectives etc etc. Earn enough XP and you gain a “level”, just like an RPG, and each time you level up, you get a loot box.

Loot box rewards in Overwatch are ALL cosmetic items bar currency. There are no weapon upgrades, no new characters or additional abilities to be unlocked via the reward system.

Skins, sprays, voice lines, emotes, poses, intros for your PotGs, all of these are the rewards that you can earn from the loot boxes that you get every time you level up.

And the only thing you can spend the currency from loot boxes on? The same rewards you’d get randomly from the loot boxes, so if there’s a particular skin, or an emote you’re really hankering for? Save up that currency until you have enough and you can unlock it manually.

It’s a nice system, and isn’t Pay 2 Win in any way shape or form.

I can easily see expansions adding more of the cosmetic items, along with new maps, game modes and new characters too.

So, thoughts?

Beta is now closed, and the game launches properly on May 24th. Any rewards earned or progress made during beta will be wiped, and everyone will start with a blank slate come launch.

That’s 2 whole weeks without the ability to play, and it’s agonising now that I’ve had my hands on it.

I’ve loved every minute of the beta, and even the games where I was on the losing side were enjoyable in a way many team based FPS games aren’t.

I’m definitely glad I made the purchase now, and will be playing this probably every day after release. It’s a lot easier to do, given that quick-play matches will generally only last 10 minutes or so. But the game can also be played with friends in a group, and it’s absolutely riotous fun when played like this, especially if you’re all on voice comms 

If you like FPS games at all, especially if you’ve enjoyed TF2 at any time, especially when it was first released, I thoroughly recommend you buy this.

Thank god Titan got cancelled, eh?

Last night I joined an Elite Club…

Always believe in your soul
You’ve got the power to know
You’re indestructible
Always believe in, because you are
Gold


This has been something on my WoW wish-list for nigh on 10 years since I began playing in vanilla, quit, then finally picked up again in Wrath. I’ve played continuously since March 2009, without a break, even all through the long tiers of ICC, DS, Siege and HFC thus far, and until Warlords, it never looked as though it would ever be an attainable goal.

I hit the gold cap 

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I came into Warlords with a then-massive (to me at least) 50,000 gold. Little did I, or anyone else playing at the time, realise just how integral our garrisons would become in increasing that total over time…

The elephant in the room.

Did I buy tokens?

Sure, I bought 4 when they first came out, and that got me 240,000g, but I spent that and more before I bought any further tokens. In fact I bought another 2, one of which bought my Hunter her stage 6 crafted gun with her perfect stats (plus a little extra was needed – 60k token vs 84k gun cost), and the final one was mainly swallowed by buying crafted gear for my Priest. Both characters still use all that crafted gear to this day, and in the case of the Hunter’s Rifle, bought nearly a year ago, I’d say I got value for money 😀

So, whilst I did buy 6 tokens over the past year, in actual fact they had very little to do with me hitting the gold cap.

In fact all they actually did was allow me to splurge on gear & pets somewhat without hurting my ongoing total gold level. I have an Ethereal Soul Trader, a Crawling Claw and a Spectral Tiger Cub I wouldn’t otherwise have had 😀

So what did get me gold capped?

Well, in December, I bought 3 cheap Minions of Grumpus, for less than 60k each, and that brought me down to about 500,000g. I’ve held onto them for the past 5 months, and over the past 10 days I’ve sold them all for a healthy 20-25k profit per mount.

I’ve also flipped some other mounts, such as the Reins of the Crimson Deathcharger, for another 20k or so profit, spare Coalfist Gronnlings for 1k a piece etc. But the majority of what’s got me to the gold cap came from my Garrisons.

This came mainly through passive income, boosted by having 25 followers, most of which have the Treasure Hunter trait. This means my 3 garrisons at this stage are generating somewhere around 20k per week passively for me overall.

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Throw in on top of that the ability to sell the things you get from Garrison missions, such as:

  • Champion’s Honor (1,000 Honor & Conquest Points when you use it) for 12k gold a throw
  • 1k rep-boosting Medallions of the Legion for 4k gold a pop
  • Huge Ogre Caches of garrison resources for 1.5k gold

Not to forget of course having 3 level 3 salvage yards, generating BoEs and resources like herbs & ore, most of which just gets straight vendored.

I’d much rather sell them on the AH, but Kilrogg isn’t much of a server for sales of green items for transmog unfortunately.


Tips to get gold-capped

So what tips would I give to anyone getting close to the gold cap, or those starting out to try to maximise their gold income before Legion raises the gold cap to 10 million gold?

  • Level 3 Garrisons – The most important part of all!
  • Level 3 Salvage Yard for the Large Salvage Crates*
  • Level 3 Shipyard for gold missions
  • Level 3 Inn for more Treasure Missions
  • Level 3 Barracks for 25 followers
  • Make most of them if not all, Treasure Hunters
  • Run Kazzak every lockout on any char you can for the Felblight. Then AH it.
  • Run 25m Heroic Cataclysm raids for a 2,000-2,500 gold bump per raid per char. Got 3 chars like me? 22.5k easy gold per week right there.
  • Keep an eagle eye out for cheaply sold mounts & pets, then flip them for free gold.
  • Crafted gear, but only stages 5 or 6 sell for decent gold atm
  • Sell all the Medallions of the Legion and Champion’s Honor you can get through the garrison missions. Or pick em up cheap and flip em – I made a 5k profit in 1 hour doing exactly this when someone AH’d one for 5k under the average price.

*By all means test out your server AH for reception to auctioning the BoEs, but be prepared to be disappointed to find a lot of expired sales. And depending on how much the AH cost is, it may not be economical to put it up there more than once.

And the last sale I made that put me over the gold cap? My final Minion of Grumpus, which put me 58k over the gold cap account wide. I couldn’t accept the gold on my priest until I mailed some to my Hunter, because the game wouldn’t let me pick it up from my mailbox 

So I celebrated by making myself the Depleted Kyparium Rocket in the article header, a mount I’ve wanted for ages. Even had to switch from Gnome to Goblin Engineering in order to do so. It cost me 66k to make, which brought me 8k gold back down below the gold cap account wide, but I’ll make that back before tomorrow’s out

Bring on that new 10m gold cap Legion!

Watch the price of a heroic raid clear in Legion suddenly sky-rocket above 1 million gold…


I’m really happy to count myself among the small percentage in WoW who are able to call themselves a WoW Millionaire. I never thought I’d get here, but if Warlords has been good for only one thing?

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Gold.