An Expansive Month

Summer is on the way. With expansions and relaunches dominating the month, what’s going to be hot in June?

Meeting Kasmeer and Majory to observe Taimi's Pet Project in Guild Wars 2's Flashpoint Living World Season 3 episode

During May, a lot of things seemed to be either coming to the end of their run or launching something new.

On TV, most of the main series I’m currently watching are coming to the end of their seasons. With them ending all at the same time, I’m going to have to find new things to watch over the summer while I wait for all those cliffhangers to be resolved.

Similarly in the world of gaming, the penultimate episode of Living World Season 3 was released in Guild Wars 2. The story plots running throughout the season culminated in some pretty exciting reveals and twists, leaving me eagerly waiting for the season finale.

New releases also dominated the month, with the Morrowind expansion arriving for players with early access in The Elder Scrolls Online. Also, a brand new Parenthood game pack was revealed and then fully launched for The Sims 4.

Multiplexed

The Commander and Taimi descend deep into the volcano at the centre of Draconis Mons in Guild Wars 2

My MMO adventures for the month of May started off with Guild Wars 2 and the release of episode five of Living World Season 3, titled “Flashpoint” on 2 May 2017. With a name like “Flashpoint”, you can expect some game-changing story reveals.

The trailer released for the episode focused on what we learnt at the end of episode four, which was that the resurrected Mursaat, Lazarus the Dire, was not who he claimed to be. Who is Lazarus? You find out during the first chapter of the episode, and it certainly took me by surprise!

Beforehand, I didn’t really speculate too much about who ‘Lazarus’ could be – I was open to anything – but ended up being as shocked as Kasmeer Meade was during the episode when the true figure behind the mask of Lazarus appeared. I was playing my human character at the time, which added to the experience with the cultural connotations and voice actor Nolan North’s outstanding performance.

The next episode will be the season finale, making the full Living World Season 3 arc total six episodes. It seems a bit short compared to previous seasons, but with two to three months between releases, it does mean that Season 3 has been going on for a while now. There’s also speculation that a brand new expansion could be imminent after Season 3 ends, which would be amazing news.

Wearing the white version of the Carapace of the Immaculate Machine outfit during New York Raid

I’m still spending my weekends hanging out with other players of The Secret World, hoping that rare pieces of clothing will drop during the Flappy raid or that the albino draug puppy will drop during the Eidolon raid.

I’m still not sure if these vanity items will be part of the promised transfer of stuff when Secret World Legends launches and players of The Secret World link their accounts. But why take any chances, right? Gotta get ’em all and hope for the best.

It’s nice to see so many people show up for raid time, but it also reveals how empty TSW has become since Secret World Legends was announced. We log in during what was previously quite an active time of day. But now, the hub of Agartha is virtually empty and the majority of us taking part in the raid are the only people in the public chat channels, which formerly had hundreds of players.

There’s also quite a lot of toxicity in the forums for The Secret World, with some players throwing shade and others having already progressed through the stages of grief and are now at a stage of acceptance.

With less than a month to go before the launch of Secret World Legends on 26 June 2017, Funcom will have to step up their communication and get the marketing machine going if they want the game to be a success. They’re going to have to reach new audiences by advertising to them that the game exists. They’re going to have to attract over previous players of The Secret World, who may have left because they didn’t like the combat and convince them that Secret World Legends is different. They’re going to have to win back the loyal players whom they may have alienated by essentially killing The Secret World and replacing it with a younger, more hip, clone.

Azura speaks through the Ashlander, Seryn, in The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind has been on my radar for a while now, and I had plans to jump into it after it launched in June. But then I found out that PC players who had pre-ordered it would get early access from 22 May 2017. I hadn’t expected it to be available so soon, so I moved forward my timetable.

I had planned to take my main character through the rest of the main story first, and then have him take a trip to Vvardenfell and explore the new area. But with several zones still left to complete including Shadowfen, Eastmarch and The Rift, that plan fell apart.

Fortunately, the Morrowind expansion comes with the new paradigm of dropping newly created characters off in Vvardenfell. It also comes with the brand new Warden class, which you have to create a new character to try. So with that option open, I decided to experience all the new content for the first time on a brand new Warden character.

Having a new character and new content to immerse myself in resulted in ESO dominating the latter half of May. Morrowind hasn’t even officially launched yet and I’ve finished the main expansion story. The estimated playtime for the new content was advertised as around 30+ hours, and I’d say that was pretty accurate. I may have taken a bit longer as I’ve taken my time to explore and appreciate the scenery.

But that doesn’t mean I’m done with the new expansion yet – I’ve still got a few areas of Vvardenfell left to explore for achievements, there are a rotating set of four new daily quests to participate in and other content including new PvP battlegrounds and a new raid. My new Warden is also only level 26 after going through just the Vvardenfell content, so there are still new skills and abilities I haven’t unlocked and tried out.

I think that Morrowind has been a fantastic new addition to the world of The Elder Scrolls Online and it bodes well for future DLC and expansion content taking us to even more exotic locations around Nirn and beyond.

Singularity

Detective Karim Al Habib takes a mugshot of a suspected criminal in The Sims 4.

Even though MMOs have dominated the month, I’ve still managed to fit in some play sessions of The Sims 4, which continues to provide new gameplay experiences.

I managed to get my sims further through the three active careers that came with the Get to Work expansion pack, and out of those I’d say that the Police Detective career seems to be the most well-rounded. It’s certainly a weird experience to have your playable detective catch one of your other sims committing a crime – while I wasn’t looking apparently my joke star aspiring comedian decided to go on a vandalism spree.

Coming in second place, I like the Scientist career, where your mad genius sims get to run fun experiments all day for work. The inventions also have various benefits, such as the slimify serum my sim created to help me banish obese townies to a thing of the past.

The Doctor career, while of interest to me, seems the most underdeveloped. There’s an investigation aspect of it where you have to diagnose patients correctly, so that flexes the brain muscles. But while the Police Station and Science Lab seem to have helpful and busy work colleagues around, the Hospital is almost void of helpful staff. As a doctor, you’re all on your own doing everything while the waiting room fills up with unhappy sick sims who get fed up and leave. It’s also currently bugged – when you reach the Medical Specialist level, you need to deliver a baby to progress in the career, and that isn’t possible.

There was a teaser that a new game pack for The Sims 4 was imminent, and on 16 May 2017, The Sims released a new trailer on YouTube for Parenthood, a new pack focusing on parenting and expanding family gameplay. This theme for a game pack seems to be a hit with fans who play sim families spanning multi-generations. It adds many more interactions between family members of different ages, more group activities for families to participate in and also a new parenting skill line and character values system for influencing the behaviour of toddlers, children and teenagers that has lifelong effects.

After getting hyped by the trailer, we didn’t have to wait long for the game pack to be released – it was on sale and ready for download on 30 May, just two weeks later. I haven’t purchased it yet – so far, I’ve only picked up packs when they went on sale. But Parenthood seems to have such great features, I’m really tempted to pick it up now.

The launch of the new game pack was preceded by a base game patch on 25 May, which included some new tweaks to the UI for all players of The Sims 4, and also a selection of bug fixes. However, it also introduced a few completely new bugs, including stereos blasting music animations non-stop and issues for sims who play aliens and vampires. Reporting gameplay issues has certainly got me to become a regular visitor of the EA Answers HQ bug forums for The Sims 4 recently.

Flixation

On TV, May has been the month of season finales for Lucifer, Blindspot and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. I think all three of these shows have had phenomenal episodes this season and all three season finales had mind-boggling twist cliffhangers at the end of them. I need a time machine so that I can fast forward to when they all return in the autumn so that I can get my questions answered!

Speaking of which, Doctor Who has had a pretty good run of episodes so far in its tenth series. The writing has definitely improved compared to series nine, and the utter abomination that was the episode set on the Moon. In contrast, the stories in the current series have been more compelling and have had better thought-provoking twists. The “Extremis” episode for example was great, with the characters discovering that they were living in a simulation of the world. It really made me facepalm when I saw comments on social media that some viewers were confused and found it “convoluted”. Seriously, it was too cerebral for them to process?! I have to shake my head – it was a simple to understand plot and executed really well.

During the month, I also ventured out on one of my rare cinema visits and watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There were some great character moments, a lot of humour and well placed cameos. I’m looking forward to seeing them again in upcoming Marvel movies, like Avengers: Infinity War.

Legendary wonders

Moving on to June and the coming summer months, I think that another cinema visit is likely, with Wonder Woman releasing at the beginning of June and looking amazing. I don’t usually take much notice of reviews, but it isn’t even out yet and has a 97 per cent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It definitely seems to be a “must-see” event.

Online, it will be interesting to see if there’s a massive influx of new people to Vvardenfell when The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind officially launches for everybody on 6 June. It makes me appreciate having had my fun already during the early access. While there were crowds of players to contend with on the first day, eventually I found that I could enjoy most quests without interruptions from other players running by.

At the end of the month, Secret World Legends is due to release, so I’d guess that the open beta must be imminent. It will be interesting to see what people think of it after they have the chance to play it for themselves.

I’d also like to bring a few more games into my rotation, but I haven’t decided which yet. Maybe revisiting some old classics or perhaps trying something new? I wonder when the Steam sale begins…?

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