valkboring

This is Valkyr. She…

Wait.

No.

This is Valkyr.

BLOOD AND DEATH

BLOOD AND DEATH

She was, as I’ve mentioned, one of the first frames that I built, and for a very long time she sat unloved and underappreciated at the bottom of my inventory.

In terms of playstyle and abilities, she reads like Joss Whedon’s wet dreams. Originally a different design, the original Valkyr was captured by a society of scientists who literally worship profit. She was experimented upon – hence the restraints and semi-exposed internals of her frame – and, when she was freed, came out of it with a bloodthirst second to none and the melee skills to tear apart enemies much larger than her slight, if athletic, build.

Tell me that somewhere Whedon didn’t just feel a tingle in his special place.

There’s been some discussion over whether professional genital-stabbing* was the “original” River Tam Valkyr’s skillset as well, or if the experience twisted her sufficiently to alter her void imprint and thus her powerset. It’s the sort of lively debate that can never really be settled and will flare up forever through the community, so naturally the developers have no pressing desire to answer either way. At least it keeps the little bastards from crying for more buffs, right?

The thing about Valkyr, though, is that she’s fairly mod-heavy if you want to squeeze the best out of her. Here’s my build – it’s not perfect, but it works pretty well.

It's distracting how they watch you operate. Or however the hell it is you install these things.

It’s distracting how they watch you operate. Or however the hell it is you install these things.

I go with Armored Agility rather than fan favourite Steel Fiber, because while the extra armour is nice to have, more speed on a melee fighter is its own reward. She’s also the only character that I build without a shred of power efficiency, despite the abominably high cost of Warcry. Rage feeds back energy whenever anything’s dangerous enough to do significant damage, and that energy fuels Hysteria, which gives healing along with its plethora of other effects. Warcry’s aforementioned cost becomes moot with a little added duration and Eternal War. I do wish that the added duration came in the form of Primed Continuity, but I wasn’t around for that one, so Narrow Minded is the order of the day and my group (if any) can take their chances at being in my initial Warcry radius.

The biggest thing on there, though, is power. Not quite all of the power, because Transient Fortitude has, shamefully, yet to be fully ranked, and that Blind Rage really should be rank 6, but I have to fit these mods on other frames as well and re-formas go slow when you rank up all over the starchart instead of leeching on Draco.

Anyway… power turns Warcry into the difference between a turbocharger and a JATO rocket. With a Berserker build melee weapon, you’ll be slotting Spoiled Strike just to get the speed down to where you’re capable of clicking fast enough. It is glorious. Hysteria can compete with a flying Scindo, of course… but only just. Cleaving Whirlwind is particularly rewarding, because the spin2win combo hits really easily at high speed and the stagger when you screw up and spin too far is hilarious. Oh, also damage or something. Probably important to someone.

I don’t see very many Valkyrs out there. Might have something to do with how they’re supposedly not very good at endgame – defined nebulously as Defense wave 40 or 60 minutes in Survival – but my theory is that, like me, a lot of people built this slightly odd-looking**, mechanically unusual, mod-heavy “edgy” frame, then discarded it as unsupportable. Turns out that going back with a fresh eye, a better idea of the game’s synergies and a whole pile of rares makes her a completely different animal.

 

  • * Link is work-safe, I swear
  • ** This is the only frame on which I use a purely cosmetic helm, because her default helm is an atrocity. And I use Kara rather than Bastet, because ew, you got your catgirls in my techno-organic sci-fi dystopia.
Press X to dedicate your life to farming Neurodes

Press X to dedicate your life to farming Neurodes

Sometime before the most recent Great Disappearance, I tried getting into Warframe for a bit again. That… didn’t really work out, and I quit. Again. But since a couple of months back, I’ve resumed playing.

Again.

Or perhaps Once More, if you’re as bothered by the overuse of the term as I am.

Anyway, yeah. My biggest barrier to jumping back in last time was the fact that a lot of the cool new stuff was locked away in Clan research. That was resolved by the developers spending some time adding gear to the market instead. Sure, there were still some new shinies in the Dojo, and my beloved* sword and shield were locked in the Tenno Research terminal, but at least there was some stuff that I could invest in to get started.

Also helped that, on the second day of logging in, I got my first ever 75% discount offer. Totally not a transparent attempt to encourage investment, but hey, it worked. That plat got sunk straight into a new frame because I didn’t feel like kicking off with a grind, and what a grind I did bypass… by buying Mesa.

To be honest, I bought her because she looked cool and her theme was “gunslinger”, and at first I thought she was a bit mediocre because I didn’t know how Peacemaker worked. Bear in mind that at this point I was still avoiding the forums – step 1 in any plan for maintaining satisfaction with a game.

Also to avoid things like this when... questioning the wisdom of the game's creators

Also to avoid things like this when… questioning the wisdom of the game’s creators

So yeah, it turned out that I’d bought the current faceroll frame of killing everything, bypassing a grind that’s kept people farming her parts for some months now, depending on their fortune**. And of course I was Doing It Wrong. She’s actually some sort of super-godmode priestess of death, praying for war and decimating the enemy before her party members can have any fun with righteous fury.

What I’m saying is, she’s pretty fun to play – less so in her aspect as a turret of instant aimbot death, but equally capable as a self-buffing nigh-invincible mobile destroyer.

That got me involved, and sort-of solved the other issue I had – how to get at those shiny weapons without being a free-riding leech. The clan that I’m with at the moment has most of it’s research done, but I’ve been quietly contributing to clan decorations and new research so as not to feel like a leech.

It’s the new research that has me worried, though. We’ve just come off one item for a niche playstyle that required pretty heavy resource investment, and now the clan is faced with another utterly ludicrous resource grind for the same niche. Usually donations don’t take all that long, but for this one, well…

Clan chat has gone quiet. I’m not sure if people are waiting for a nerf on the resource price, or just waiting it out, and maybe I’m projecting, but that big Tellurium sink in the Dojo just feels like it’s making people guilty. That’s killing the social aspect of the clan, and it is piss-poor design – especially as it seems to be a punitive measure to counter some exploit that a few people used to get large amounts of resources. Most players didn’t know about the exploit until it was patched, and fewer still used it, yet DE is comfortable punishing the entire playerbase with this bullshit? Yeah, seems fucking sensible to me.

Apart from DE’s slow drift out of touch with their playerbase, though, it’s still pretty fun. And there are compensations to be found when running out of bars to fill as well. I’ve rediscovered Valkyr, and my beloved Excalibur has been turned from a fairly solid frame into a water-walking, feed-the-masses, table-flipping avatar of the divine.

Here's to magic ninjas in space

Life’s pretty good out among the stars

I’d say I’ll talk more about those later, but let’s be honest – Odin alone knows when the next update will be.

 

  • * Beloved until I discovered that the stats are absolute ass, at least…
  • ** The RNG on Mesa’s parts is three layers deep – and that’s after completing the quest that even gets you the blueprint to make the boss key. Good luck, have fun.

 

Turns out that making up lost ground on an exercise program is a pretty terrible situation. On the plus side, you’ve already built the mental toughness for the weight you’re aiming at. On the downside, when you fail – and it takes surprisingly little time for your lifts to backslide, so don’t dismiss the possibility – the internal recriminations and disappointment can be catastrophic. Fail a lower weight on the first day back? That doubt carries through for every workout until you’re back at your PR.

This time, I actually started C25K when I got back – first, because I figured it’d be some nice mild exercise to lead in with, and second, because my aerobic capacity is genuinely atrocious and I’d kind of like for that not to be the case. But there’s still that doubt that perhaps I would have been ready to take on a lifting program that first week, maybe it was just cowardice keeping me on the treadmill.

In any case, soon I will be invincible capable of actually running a handful of kilos without gasping like a landed fish. Broscience insists that as long as I’m spending time on the ‘mill, my mass gain is going to be troublesome. Coming up short in the oxygen department has cost me more gains than failing muscles, though, so I see it as a necessary foundation for further work regardless. I can afford to invest 2 months in my lungs.

Just wish it didn’t feel like I was running away.

The Borg were a perfect foe for Captain Picard; defeating them was never a matter of brute force, but always relied on imagination and intellect. The reason behind this, and indeed their most famous attribute, was of course their ability to adapt to any new attack. An initial foray might be devastating, but subsequent attempts would be brushed aside.

It’s a funny thing, the metaphors that’ll pop into your mind while you’re limping to the car the day after trying some new exercise technique.

When I started going to gym last year, I was pretty much tabula rasa. I hadn’t engaged in anything more than some treadmilling and elliptical wanderings before. Given that initial success is generally a function of preparation, I engaged the services of a trainer so that I might learn how to… everything.

The results were catastrophic. Every new routine ruined my flesh in new and alarming ways. I’d spend a few days hobbling about unable to swing my legs over the seat of my motorcycle, only for the next session to destroy my ability to turn the steering wheel of my car. And so on.

With perseverance, though, I discovered something intriguing; one’s body, it seems, is an outpost of the Borg. Every exercise that had wrecked me before was easier the next time that I did it, and the dreaded muscle pains and stiffness were diminished such that they were barely even the same manner of beast. They were still there – it’d hardly be exercise if they weren’t – but it was no longer a debilitating assault on my confidence and mobility.

As I pass through another patch of personal torture training, it’s comforting to know that the aphorism is correct: “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. The biological and technological distinctiveness of these techniques will inevitably become my own, and their assimilation will aid my journey toward perfection.

So there’s another Steam sale on, apparently to push the Exploration system, which I associate with the Discovery queue. Now, I’ve spent a good while playing queue roulette to see what it’ll recommend me – apparently an interest in RPGs gives one a tendency towards hentai dating sims, or so Steam would have you believe. Yeah, it’s good fun. There’s just one issue that keeps rearing its ugly damn head…

Well, fuck

Well, fuck

Turns out that when Steam generates these queues, it doesn’t bother to check whether a game is actually available to the prospective customer. And when the queue hits this error, it just… stops. No “oh welp we fucked up, here go to the next one” button – no, it boots you to that error screen, which has no links whatsoever to whatever you were doing before. Sure, just hitting the Store > Explore menu item resumes your queue from the next item… but as far as I can tell, these unavailable items count as “games viewed” when they really shouldn’t, and there’s no bloody way to mark them “Not Interested” so that they stop fucking up the queue by recurring like cheap beer.

Speaking of Not Interested, though…

Preeesss meeeee

Preeesss meeeee

It’s ever so easy to get into a rythm of slamming the NI checkbox over and over again. Sure, this is mostly because whatever matchmaking algo Steam uses is not exactly Google quality, but that also works against the few games that would otherwise be relevant to the user’s interests. There’s a sort of momentum there, an expectation that the default is to mark it as schlock and move on. I’m not sure that’s fair to games that are less eyecatching, but more interesting.

In the meantime, it’s really the aberrants – like, well, hentai dating sims (why does Steam even have these?) – that are getting the attention. I don’t know, that’s something they should probably look at for the next update.

Soldier (formerly Vanguard) Shepard has, once again, saved the galaxy. All in all a very satisfying game, with an exciting and engaging conclusion. I enjoyed Mass Effect 2 more than its predecessor; the first had the unenviable task of providing the setting’s ludicrous amount of background, which it pulled off with aplomb. But the pacing, the character focus, the humour of ME2… all in all, they make it a much more accessible and enjoyable game. It deserves more than one run-through. So, for the sake of symmetry, I promptly imported my ME1 Soldier to become a Vanguard.

Vanguard is not terribly high on anyone’s recommendations for ME2, it seems. Still, I was drawn to it for the same reason I loved warriors in WoW, and why Excalibur was always my favourite in Warframe: the ability to charge across the battlefield and test one’s brute strength against the enemy’s miserable tracheas. Or, you know, trachea-like protrusions. We’re being inclusive here.

So, how’s it going, one might wonder? Well… let’s give an explanation in the form of a delightful and whimsical pictoral journey through the average fight, guest starring Renegade Commander Bloodlust the Totally A Vanguard All Along, You Guys.

If you can't see Shepard, you may be only moments from gruesome dismemberment.

If you can’t see Shepard, you may be only moments from gruesome dismemberment.

First, the setup. Pick a target, preferably behind some handy cover. Try to flank the enemy, wherever you end up; the Vanguard offers unparalelled ability to use the enemy’s cover against them, and to pick off the isolated and weak.

Or you could scream a mighty oath to the Blood God, and charge at the toughest thing on the field. Like a real N7 operative.

I am a pretty, pretty peacock.

I am a pretty, pretty peacock.

Next, hit The Button. At this point, Shepard’s trademark hallucinogens kick in. You will feel a great pressure building behind you; power, in a wave to sweep all before it. You may hear voices. This is normal. Everything is okay. Everything is all right. It is all proceeding as the World Tree had foreseen, and whispered to the Elders that they might preserve its wisdom. This is the day. It’s all coming together now.

Lo, there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning.

Lo, there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning.

This is the important part. Shredding through the feeble gauze that we cast over ourselves and call “reality”, you are cast adrift in time and space. You will feel a rushing sensation, and be permeated with the deep knowledge of the ancestors. Do not join them; not yet, it is not the hour.

"Reality" is what we make of it. I choose horrible burning.

Life is what we make of it. Shepard chooses horrible burning.

Emerge changed, bursting with the insight of your ancient protectors and enough entheogenics to kick-start the Rapture. The realisation dawns, then; your ancestors were the murderous, brutal beings who clawed their way over everything in their path to ensure that one day you would stand here, having been tried and found worthy in the callous void of space. Their wisdom is flame and blood, and you will share it with your enemies. It could never have been any other way.

Yeah, good thing the screen obscures when you're already in trouble, huh?

Yeah, good thing the screen obscures when you’re already in trouble, huh?

As the kick fades and you look around at what you have wrought – as the still-burning bodies fade slowly to ash – realise that, after charging into a tactically infeasible position and being brutalised by unexpected reinforcements, you still somehow have most of your shields. Even as your health is low enough that the screen looks like an insomniac’s eyeballs and the sounds all around you are dulled to a vague thumping, the world just a backbeat to the thrumming of your heart.

You are alive. You will do this again. And oh yes, you will love it.

They will be sure that you do.

 

It must have been a month back or so, I reckon. Stranger said he was ready, that he’d carry on the line. That he was going to play it… that it was time for Mass Effect 2.

Sometimes us folk wonder whatever happened to that poor deluded soul.

Okay, elaborate dramatics aside, I actually did run into a little trouble starting up with ME 2. From the start, it’s pretty clear that the game is very different from the first, at least in terms of its combat systems. As an example: I actually played a Vanguard up for the sole purpose of importing the save into ME2, and then promptly turned her into a Soldier, simply because Soldier was a literally nigh-invincible battering ram in the first game.

Didn’t take too long to realise that Bioware, in what was probably an eminently foreseeable move, had excised the skill that had resulted in said capability. Oops. Shepard is also a lot more fragile – shields fold in around a second of sustained fire, and the character has become some sort of concrete-based vampire or perhaps an exotic slime mold, attaching to cover in order to rapidly regenerate a health pool that otherwise lasts approximately as long as a puddle of piss in the Sahara.

A cross-section of your average fight.

A cross-section of your average fight.

So, being the intrepid and self-reliant challenge gamer that I am, I gave up.

No really, I went and played some Disciples III instead, since I still haven’t finished the blasted game, what with having no motivation to get past the self-righteous elves and their campaign. The mission that’s been holding me up was literally going to a human fortress and kicking them out of the homes they’d built over generations. This because some pointy-eared bint insisted that it would help mitigate the approach of some nebulous evil.

Anyway, after finishing that scenario and experiencing the joys of playing an elf slumlord, not to mention being teased a fight against a dragon but having no such fight materialise*, I went back to the stars. Via the Mass Effect wikia.

It feels a bit like cheating. See, I’m not terribly comfortable with walking in incompetent. I’m especially unhappy with the idea of missing out on upgrades, or rather of achieving a less-than-ideal result at all, both of which are a serious possibility in this game. Gone is the random loot – instead, the upgrade or resources that you miss in a mission may be lost forever. So yeah, I went and looked at some build strategies, and I look for upgrades in the missions before the shuttle even leaves the docking bay.

Thing is, I’m enjoying the game. There’s something that sits on the back of my neck and whispers “efficiency, you missed it, you’re doing it wrong” otherwise – but with the aid of these outside resources, much progress has been made. And hell, it isn’t like the game’s design is actually such that it’s really necessary to look this stuff up – being much more action-based and linear than its exploration-minded elder sibling, simply being thorough would net everything in the game so far. So it’s just a peculiar mental crutch.

Which doesn’t make it feel any less like cheating.

On the plus side, the combat in ME2 is much more entertaining… which it would really have to be, given how much more of it there is. Where ME felt like a story-based game that let the player largely take their own direction, the sequel is very character-focussed, and has dropped planetary exploration entirely in favour of mission-based gameplay – the dreaded corridor shooter disease. Ah, but these corridors are so very pretty, and can be even prettier. See, Soldier Shepard has access to an ability called Adrenaline Rush. Personally, I’m not convinced that’s adrenaline…

PCHOOO

PCHOOO

See, to me that just looks like Commander Shepard has access to the very best drugs. And it just keeps getting better as the game goes on…

Bow before me, puny miscreants!

Bow before me, puny miscreants!

…until it’s getting so stylised that you’re not even sure that anyone’s occupying a reality congruent to that of the good Commander.

VTec just kicked in, yo.

VTec just kicked in, yo.

Fortunately, I adore bright colours and delightfully warped environments. Very fortunately, as it turns out, since the active nature of combat means that you’re hitting this Dreamtime-device promptly every ten seconds or so. This is the Soldier’s new gamebreaker, the ability to slow time and do extra damage. So yeah, I probably would have been just fine that first time around, before I pussied out. I just didn’t know it yet.

 

* Dragon blue-balls are the worst blue-balls. Ask any DnD player.

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