The Idling of March

Time has marched on and I took a break from MMOs this month to focus on single player gaming.

Steve Fogel doing yoga in The Sims 4

Everything feels like it was put on hold during March, compared to how active I was across a spectrum of games back in February. I had speculated that at this point, I’d be deep into playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, but instead I picked up The Sims 4 and became hooked.

I haven’t really been up to much recently other than playing with my sims, but I did manage to pop into The Elder Scrolls Online for their new Jester’s Festival annual event and sat back and watched as forums and social media exploded when news about The Secret World’s impending relaunch were revealed…

Singularity

Why am I not playing Mass Effect: Andromeda right now? I did pre-order the game and am really interested in seeing this new chapter in the Mass Effect universe’s story unfold. So far I’ve managed to avoid spoilers, even when people with Origin Access managed to play the first ten hours in an early preview a week before it officially launched.

My attention was caught by the numerous reports from players saying that there were shockingly poor animations in Andromeda. I took a peek at some videos people had posted on YouTube showing robotic looking facial expressions, bizarre crab-like running animations and other things that surprised me at how bad they were. I was really impressed by the quality BioWare had achieved in its previous title in the series, Mass Effect 3, where I found the cinematics to be incredibly immersive (like Shepard’s dream/nightmare sequences) –  so what happened to the animators in Andromeda?

Reactively, BioWare said that they may address the issue in future patches – which would be extensive work going through and fixing all the animations in the game. But I’m holding out for now to see if they actually do fix it before I start playing. I’d hate for my first experience with the game to be constantly nitpicking at characters with creepy smiling faces with blankly staring eyes.

That has suited me just fine for now, as while I was waiting for Andromeda I purchased The Sims 4 and have been playing it almost exclusively for the entire month. At least The Sims is a game where I can count on the facial animations to be expressive and captivating.

Andre DaSilva flirting with Jade Rosa in The Sims 4

So far, I’ve managed to clock in over 315 hours of gameplay this month, which is insane. I even stayed up until 4am in the morning building a house for a group of townie sims which I’m not planning on playing, but I do plan on visiting with my active sims. The building tools in The Sims 4 are so good, it really is satisfying building a house from scratch and seeing the finished (and furnished) product being used.

Multiplexed

In the world of massively multiplayer online gaming, I only briefly logged into The Elder Scrolls Online to experience the new Jester’s Festival which is Tamriel’s nod to April Fools’ Day. I did enjoy running the new quests on the first day, but afterwards you just repeat them every day for a chance of getting all of the unique event collectibles from random loot reward boxes.

Completing the quest line for the first time gives you a nice crown hat reward and there are additional achievements you can get just by running the event, setting off fireworks and throwing flower petals at other players.

That’s not so different from their previous events at Halloween and Christmas, but with only three quests to do each day and no variation other than which one you pick to start with, I became bored with it on the second day, especially as I kept thinking about all the fun I could be having in The Sims 4.

It would be nice if there were some daily slight variations to the quests to keep my interest. For example, the quest in the Daggerfall Covenant area from Jester King Emeric sends you to gather ingredients from two delves – these seem to always be Ilesan Tower and Siluum in Glenumbra. If the delve locations changed each day, or a completely different task was given to shake things up, it might be more interesting.

Crown of Misrule from the Jester's Festival in The Elder Scrolls Online

The other big news that dropped in the last week of March was the reveal of how Funcom is planning to relaunch The Secret World. It’s pretty drastic – basically, they are launching a completely separate new free-to-play version of the game branded as Secret World Legends and asking everyone to start over again.

You can imagine that this news didn’t go down well with some of the long-time players of The Secret World, who have spent hundreds of hours with their characters over the last four years and may have also spent money in the in-game item store on cosmetics and services. Funcom says that it will keep the original game running on its own server for people who want to stay, but with no further content updates, why would people want to bother?

That’s the way I feel about the situation in The Secret World, but for now I’m waiting to hear more news from the developers about the transition and to see if I can get into the closed beta of Secret World Legends to check out the differences.

Streamscape

The good news is that Funcom is planning a Secret World developer stream in the first week of April, where I hope that they go into more details about what players transitioning from The Secret World to Legends will get (or can take with them).

Fool me twice

Heading into April, I foresee a lot more game time spent in The Sims 4 and possibly a chance to try out Secret World Legends.

I still feel like the timing of TSW’s relaunch news coming out near April Fools’ Day makes it seem like Funcom should jump out and shout “it was all an April Fool!” and that players won’t need to ditch their old characters. They fooled me once with the mankini-gate incident, but this time I doubt that it’s all an elaborate joke.

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