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So. The Vaykor Hek.

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Vay Hek has been a thing for… a bit more than a week now, I think? I’m a huge fan of original-flavour Hek, so this one has been on my list for, oh, a little over a week. Now.

This is a syndicate version of a weapon that already had a syndicate mod. A really good syndicate mod. A syndicate mod that made Hek the only practical shottie before the recent shotgun rework, and which elevated it to the king and eternal overlord spot on a lot of people’s rosters once the buff had been accomplished. And a mod that’s getting a lot of flak for apparently instigating a crisis of faith in the multishot system.

Pictured: subjugation

Pictured: subjugation

See, multishot basically doubles your damage. Your total damage. Most mods only operate on the base damage*, or the damage modified by said base damage mods**. Multishot magics new bullets into existence, and each new round has the full plethora of mods applied. The mods are expensive points-wise, but once you have one or two pure damage mods applied, multishot is easily the biggest point-for-point damage increase in the game.

Vaykor Hek, naturally, can’t use its non-syndicate sibling’s syndicate mod. This lead to calls of uselessness, which has coincided with the dev team taking a good hard look at multishot’s mechanics. Which is generally accepted as “we’re gonna nerf this so hard you’ll never see 60 minutes in T4S again“.

Despite the reaction, the Vaykor isn’t without its selling points. For one thing, it’s the first shotgun in a very long time with a semi-decent crit chance, which means it gives one the opportunity to haul out the previously useless Primed Ravage, if you’re into ranking expensive mods that are only useful on a single weapon. This doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but critical hits actually have a similar total-damage-increase effect to multishot, making them less reliable but equally – or even more – devastating on a weapon that can effectively build for crit. This means that while the Vaykor may not hit as hard on every shot, on average it’ll match its little cousin, and its crits will hit much, much harder.

Vaykor also gets the syndicate radial blast effect without giving up a mod slot. Okay, so calling a straight 200% damage increase for a mere 7 points giving up a slot is a little of a stretch, but that also means you have space to slot more goodies, and you’ll have the syndicate proc from the start while levelling. For someone like me who likes making bars go up, that’s a fair deal. Not that you’ll need to spend as much time on Forma as with the standard Hek, since Vaykor comes with a bushel of free polarities. That’s three forma you won’t have to spend. Okay, two if you’re not as big a fan of the D as DE obviously are. Hur hur.

The Vaykor also has a faster fire rate and twice the ammo capacity. You want the old, pre-broken-reload Strun Wraith back? Yeah, V.Hek has basically the same feel, but with crit instead of status and damage instead of lightning reload. It even seems to have more of a chokk feel to its sound than the almighty thoom of the original.

Now, that’s a pretty big list. You might expect people to look at it and be somewhat impressed. If so, then you’d never have encountered the Warframe fanbase.

Immediate reaction to New Hek’s release was… yeah. Effectively a riot. Insistence that it did less damage, that it was a missed opportunity, that it required the expensive Primed Ravage. Even when theorycrafters proved that its sustained damage beat the Hek, the burst offered by Scattered Justice offered a fallback position for those determined to hold on to their outrage.

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This has had one pleasant side-effect: Vaykor Hek is dirt cheap compared to the other syndicate primaries. Whether because of the forum explosion or the fact that a lot of folks side with Steel Meridian as the obvious Good Guys™, you can pick up a V.Hek in trade for a third of the price of the Sancti Tigris at the moment. And that’s a great thing, because this gun kicks ass.

An 8-round magazine gives you the ability to take on great heaping crowds of enemies, and Warframe is all about the seething mobs. The handling difference is evolutionary. This is a Hek that you can be a little reckless with, because the follow-up is that little bit faster and you’ve got the ammo to spare. Yet it’s still capable of one-shotting anything on the map and most things in the Void.

Some folks are worried that spending time and forma on anything right now is going to be a waste, that the impending Doom of Multishot means they’re going to be left with a useless lump of pig iron. I say: Forma this. Rank it. Enjoy it, and savour the delicious fluids spilled forth by your enemies.

This gun is worth it, even here at the end of the world.

 

  • * Serration, Point Blank, Hornet Strike, Pressure Point – those mods that the wiki insists you put on before anything else. This is for a reason.
  • ** Elemental mods, I/P/S mods – basically anything that says +damage but isn’t in the above list.
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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.

 

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.

A previous edition of Attention Deficit Gaming established that the new interface for Warframe was pretty awesome, everything looked good, and running and gunning against comically outmatched opponents was still hilarious. And thus it was that I resolved to play for a while longer. How’d that work out? Not really as well as expected.

See, one of Warframe’s selling points for one such as myself is the crafting and levelling of a myriad of strange and fantastical weapons. And also a bunch of very generic ones, which tend to be fairly reliable and effective. New toys are released on a very nearly weekly basis, so there’s always bars that need to go up. But here’s the thing; while I’ve been away, a bushel of shiny new items have been released. That’s good. Predictably enough, I’ve also been booted from my clan due to inactivity. That’s bad. Very bad.

See, with the exception of a couple of sidearms and a poisoned dagger, all of the new releases are locked up in the clan tech tree. Not a bad thing, if you’re playing regularly; not a bad thing if you’re working toward them as a newbie. On the other hand, this arrangement is an atrocity to a returning player. What this means is finding a group of players that will let the returning player copy their hard-earned blueprints while occupying one of their limited clan slots.

Excalibur can't believe this shit either.

Just offscreen: a flipped table, spinning end-over-end into the infinite void of space

If leeching off the work of the players who’ve spent the time and mats on unlocking sounds like scumbag behaviour, congratulations on possession of an only mildly tarnished soul. Sure, it’d be possible to set up a personal clan, farm up the mats and unlock the weapons that way – if one felt like spending months doing so. This is not the sort of goal in which one heartily engages when casually playing while evaluating a possible return, and it seems a poor design to encourage the thought.

The choice then is rather bald-faced: take advantage of others, grind for months or spend real cash. Unfortunately, weapons are a poor value prospect; the same enormous variety means that the inordinately high price of items in the cash shop looks like a bit of a joke. Naturally, this is intentional; it encourages running content to acquire shiny rewards rather than buying one’s way to boredom. So, then, there’s the implicit fourth option: quit once again. Find something else and play that instead. There’s no lack of ‘else’ on my desktop, and so for now Warframe takes its place back in Limbo once more. Which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to trying out that flame-blade and shield combo they’d just introduced.

Lights out.

Lights out.