Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
So it’s been a while since the last “What’s Metzge Playing” segment. Since June’s already half over, I figured now’s as good a time as any to let you all know what games have been gripping my attention like a pitbull with a new chew toy. Now that I have a little bit more time on my hands, naturally that’s going to go right into gaming.
Some are classics, some are brand new, but I’ll let the list speak for itself. That’s why you’re here after all.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Having played Elder Scrolls Online since the beta, I wasn’t necessarily impressed; I felt like it was too much like every other MMO with an Elder Scrolls shellac to it. What I liked about the series (the open worlds; the classlessness of Skyrim; the combat and leveling; the sense of dynamic economy and quest-giving) was either removed or watered down for the sake of MMO optimization.
I get that translating and scaling everything that made Skyrim awesome into an MMO would be a tall order, but I was kinda disappointed by how… arcadey Elder Scrolls Online felt out of the gate. With the Morrowind expansion out, I decided to give it another shot.
I’ve been working on a Wood Elf Nightblade (the game’s assassin class), focusing on ranged combat and the Siphoning skill tree. I figured it’d make for an interesting DPS/life draining build that plays well to the cannibalistic/carnivorous nature of the Bosmer.
While I’ve been taking it slow, actually listening to the voice-acted quest givers and trying to complete all the side quests in one area before moving onto the next, Elder Scrolls Online has grown a bit on me since I last played all those months (years?) ago. I probably won’t be buying the expansion any time soon, but ESO is a good diversion I can play on my own or with friends.
I will say, though I enjoy how skills can morph into different variants as you level them up depending on your playstyle, I wished the game showed that kinda sophistication in all areas, not just skill-building.
As someone who’s as equally interested in the economy of MMOs as I am the combat and questing, it’s a little disheartening to see this game’s economy and crafting neglected so much. For instance, most of the equipment you use between levels 1-14 are the same, just with different models, a base material, and maybe an enchantment or special item trait if you’re lucky. The only real visual difference is based on the race of the original crafter (player made) or the quest giver (if it’s given as a reward).
If you think fewer ingredients equates to less clutter, I was surprised to find my inventory constantly maxed out with so much crap I find laying around. For some reason, any common gear, crafting ingredients, or plain junk you find can’t be sold to an NPC for extra gold. You can’t even break it down most equipment you find to repurpose into your own crafting recipes.
Though you can try to sell these things to other players, there’s not even an auction house you can use. Economic transactions often just seem like shouting “WTS/WTB” messages in zone chat and hoping for the best — which in 2017, you’d think we’d have better ways of handling such things.
If not for the quests, lore, and the Elder Scrolls itch I’ve been having (I’ve also been playing a bit of Skyrim‘s total conversion mod Enderal when I’m feeling antisocial), I’d honestly still be content with leaving ESO to gather dust. But eh, it’s a time waster that hasn’t become a bunch of pay-to-win nonsense like ArcheAge (arguably my favorite MMO of late until they started focusing too much on microtransactions). So I guess there’s that.
Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
On a much more engaging note, Tripwire released Rising Storm 2: Vietnam late last month. Meanwhile, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying running through rice fields and jungles, mowing down all that don’t agree with my socioeconomic philosophies.
Since I can’t get Red Orchestra 2 or Rising Storm to run on my Windows 10 computer now (my game’ll load but then it’s forced to minimize despite multiple attempts to full-screen it), Vietnam was a nice way to get back into Tripwire-style tactical shooters.
The game continues the tradition of asymmetrical combat between North Vietnamese and U.S. forces. Though the latter is labeled as “South Vietnam,” I’ve been curious as to where the South Vietnamese fighters are as only the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are featured. Either way, the North is outgunned by a technologically advanced South; the U.S. brought planes and helicopters to help transport squads and call in air-to-ground strikes, including but not limited to napalm and player-commandeered Cobras.
While the North is stuck on the ground with weapons dating back to World War II, they benefit from being able to use tunnel networks and, if they remain still for a while, can evade enemy UAV which might flag them on the map. They’re also able to set booby traps for unsuspecting imperialist dogs, repainting the battlefield red with the blood of capitalists.
I will say that Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is also a bit faster paced compared to the original Rising Storm and Red Orchestra 2. It’s not necessarily like Call of Duty or a typical “arcade” shooter (I feel like I’m using that term too much but alas, the industry seems to be swinging towards casual gamers lately), but it definitely feels different from other Tripwire games. Fortunately, it still maintains its hardcore feel, meaning bullets act realistically; nailing an enemy in the head or heart is an instant kill and you still have to aim down the sight if you hope to hit anything at all.
My only gripe is that I wish they had more than just five maps. If the previous games and Tripwire’s community map-building contests are any indicator though, I’m sure there’ll be more fields to traipse across, hoping not to be picked off by an enemy sniper or burnt to a crisp by a flamethrower or errant napalm strike.
That’s war for ya. What is it good for, amirite?
Space Station 13
Third on the list is a free-to-play game called Space Station 13, “a community developed, multiplayer round-based roleplaying game where players assume the role of a crew member on a space station.” Not unlike Town of Salem, SS13 has its crew trying to keep the station operational against a tirade of enemies both within and without your ranks.
After you install BYOND (the free community game hub that SS13 launches from) you’re free to choose from a variety of different servers, whether modded or vanilla. What makes SS13 pretty neat is that each server — like a favorite pub — has its own feel and culture depending on the community that frequents it. Though gameplay mechanics remain mostly the same, some servers add a lot more complexity (such as extra classes, items, and new, larger maps) where others might favor the basics.
For example, some servers are combat only whereas others are complete overhauls like Fallout 13 which — as you guessed it — takes place in the Fallout universe. It’s still a little rough around the edges but it’s definitely helped me cope with my need for a Fallout RTS game, hoping Bethesda or Todd Howard comes across my desperate pleas.
Either way, most servers expect some level of in-character roleplaying so if you’re into that, this game is for you. If not, there are still casual servers available or you can always host a SS13 server yourself. It’s a community-driven game after all.
If you’ve never played before, just know the learning curve’s a little steep and getting used to the controls takes a while. For noobs, I’d suggest sticking to one of the easier jobs such as a medical doctor (you keep people healthy) or, my favorite, a cargo technician (you manage and order supplies and send them off to where they’re needed).
Each job belongs to a specialized category such as Security, Engineering, Science, and Medical among others. Each of these, in turn, has its own hierarchies with officers and regular members. Communicating with people both in your group and around the ship is essential to keeping the station up and running. Even if you mean to sabotage the station from within, you’ll have to play along to keep the guards from being suspicious.
If you want to test it out, I highly recommend Aurorastation. While it’s a heavy roleplaying server, the community is pretty tight-knit and helpful with new players so long as you’re willing to abide their rules — a lot of which are common sense “don’t be a dirtbag” stuff.
Speaking of being a dirtbag, that brings us to the next game…
Crusader Kings II
I’ve finally managed to break 400 hours playing one of my favorite grand strategy games with many more to come. Indeed, this time around I’ve been trying my hand at an “ultimate campaign” starting at 769 in Crusader Kings II and ending more than a thousand years later in Europa Universalis IV. Because… you know… who wouldn’t want a millennium-old dynasty? Also, I’m playing in Ironman mode because manual saves are for chumps.
Naturally, the von Metz dynasty started as counts in Metz under the Karlings (or Middle Francia if you’re more of a visual person). Roughly 150 years have passed since I began, the second generation of my dynasty having been rewarded with the Duchy of Lower Lorraine, at least in title; the de jure counties of Pfalz, Trier, and Verdun were slowly assimilated, waging war against the neighboring dukes who claimed their for themselves. I also took Baden to the east because why not?
For reference, my lands are outlined in gold in the middle of that gray European blob.
By now, the stability of Charlemagne’s kinsmen is no longer present as central Europe has begun to fragment. While France (blue) and Austrasia (gray) maintain control of most of the region, internal revolts and independent counties are sprinkled throughout. Normally, I’d try to take advantage of the chaos and attempt to declare my own independence and claim one of the four kingdoms my own monarch holds concurrently (because who doesn’t like titles?) but there’s bigger problems looming on the horizon. The Mongol horde is sweeping in from the east (that light gray nonsense over Russia you see in the map above) with the Moorish armies pressing up from the southwest.
While my 63-year-old great-great-grandson with one arm and rapidly progressing lunacy currently holds the title of duke, he’s been doing well keeping the domain together. Moving away from gavelkind succession to keep lands from being split among multiple heirs, I’ve opted for an elective system. Luckily, my family is well-liked so even though the child of my ruler might not inherit, a better-suited cousin, nephew/niece, or long-lost kinsman can take the throne.
I might chronicle the legacy of the von Metz dynasty if I keep this up but I’m curious if I can finish a single Crusader Kings II game (a feat I’ve yet to accomplish) let alone import it into Europa Universalis IV. But just like the house motto: we shall see.
Heroes of Might & Magic III (and V)
With GOG’s summer sale, I noticed one of my favorite strategy games of all time was on sale for a few paltry dollars: Heroes of Might & Magic III. Since I lost my physical disc years ago (not that I’d work in my disc-driveless computer anyway), I figured I’d pick it up and try ‘er out again. Now that I’m old enough to actually understand what’s going on compared to the derpy seven-year-old I was when I first played, it’ll be neat to see what 3DO and New World Computing‘s masterpiece was really like. Boy, am I having a blast.
Though if I’m honest, the only other HoMM game I have for reference is Heroes of Might & Magic V, the first in the series since Ubisoft bought the franchise after the original developers both shuttered. While I don’t have much interest in VI and VII, V is probably my favorite in the series where I was old enough to actually care about the story. Still, the universes of III and V are different with the former taking place on Antagarich and the latter on Ashan, a brand new world courtesy of Ubisoft’s reboot.
Either way, Heroes of Might & Magic will always have a place in my heart throughout my childhood, having also been a fan of Dark Messiah of Might & Magic and Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. Now as an adult, the games bring me back to my first taste of turn-based strategy, giving rise to my love for XCOM, Eisenwald, and the King’s Bounty series (1C Company‘s own twist on the genre).
Now if only Ubisoft got its shit together and knew how to make a game without crippling bugs or half-hearted writing and I’d be willing to pick up their newer iterations of the Might & Magic franchise. But with all the campaigns and scenarios left with III and V alone — not to mention all the other games I try to give attention to — I’ll be occupied for quite some time.
What have you been playing? Share your recent favorites in the comments below!