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Sympathy for the Drow - De-Vilifying the Dark Elves
The "Evil" races in DnD have always rubbed me kinda the wrong way. Partly once I learned that a lot of them come from racist stereotypes (Orcs, Drow, and Goblins in particular) and also just because it doesn't make sense to me. Even Nazi Germany had variation and dissenters and it only lasted for 12 years. Why would a clearly evil society never change over hundreds of years? In my opinion, a story is only as good as it's villains. So, I've set out to try and make the traditionally evil races slightly more believable and even sympathetic in places. Now, I've not been a DM very long, only like three years. But the first campaign I ever ran was through Curse of Strahd which paints the Vistani (an itinerant society heavily based on the real world Romani) as a conniving group of thieves, murders, and vampire-worshipers. Thankfully, I found through reddit and other sites how to steer away from the racists depictions of the Vistani and making them seem like, at worst, opportunists. So, I hope to be able to do that with some other of the classic DnD antagonist races. I've read some other phenomenal post on here about evil races that totally inspired me as well. There's a great twopart post about Decolonizing D&D which I adore. The post about alignment is easily my favorite. There's a couple great ones on Orcs and Yuan-Ti too so if some of my ideas are lifted from them, I hope y'all consider it flattery instead of theft. So, here are some primer notes before I get into it. For creating the Dark Elves, I tried to keep as much as I could from the books. Obviously some stuff has to get thrown out the window though. I also tried to standardize calling them Dark Elves instead of Drow partly because I feel like Drow has a much nastier sound to it and calling them Dark Elves follows the naming convention with the High and Wood Elves. I tried to model them after real-life matriarchal societies like the Mosuo people of China and their pantheon after real deities like the Greeks, Romans, and Norse. I also quickly realized that building a society is inseparable from geography. Where a people are from effects their language, values, mythology, history, and family structure. I've tried to outline details I think are necessary to making this society realistic while leaving it open ended enough to be place-able in different worlds with relative ease. All that aside, lets get into the meat of it.
The Dark Elves: Elven Outcasts
The Elves are a varied and magical people that come from many planes and many environments within them. But none are met with more distrust and fear than the Dark Elves. Easily set apart from their cousins by their charcoal or pitch-black skin, pink-red eyes, hair of grays and whites, and shorter stature, these people have earned a reputation as killers, thieves, demon worshipers, and liars. But history is a cruel mistress, something the Dark Elves know better than most.
The Divine Divide
As the legends go, when the world was still young, Corellon Larethian lived on the Plane of Arvandor with his fellow Primal Elves. They were wild and mutable, emotional and free in all things. They changed shapes at will, gave and took freely to and from the world, and never stayed in any location too long. They wandered to and fro, scattering their peoples across almost every plane. However, this unbridled freedom was not without a price. Arguments, feuds, and small scale wars were incredibly common between them. Some elves would find themselves stranded on far off planes after most of their companions impulsively decided to leave. Their self serving impulses drove them to often completely disregard the needs or wants of others if they went against their own desires. And their reckless revelry was wreaking havoc on the natural world with Elven parties decimating whole planes of edible plants, wild game, and drinkable water. One such Primal Elf began to see the destruction of their ways and talked to other elves about their actions. Slowly, this Elf by the name of Lolth amassed a small following of devotees that saw the negative ramifications of their inconsiderate freedom. Lolth and her followers agreed to take on fixed forms to show recognition of the dangers that impulsivity could bring. Lolth led this small group of devotees to Corellon to ask for his support. Now, Corellon did not lead these Primal Elves: he was just as wild as the best of them and did not take kindly to others telling him what to do. But he was the First Elf ever born and was universally respected amongst the Primal Elves and if Lolth could convince him, others would surely follow. Corellon listened to her proposition and agreed that they should change to prevent more destruction and conflict, but refused to order his kinsfolk into any action. He was an Elf, same as all of them, and he wouldn’t dare order around his family. He balked when Lolth asked him to take a concrete form as a show of solidarity and brushed her off as a killjoy. Lolth was unsatisfied with this outcome and her following set out to convince each Elf to change their ways to preserve the beauty of the worlds. However, without the support of Corellon, many elves refused her offer. Her anger grew with each failure and her opinion of Corellon turned sour, something she made no attempt to hide from her Elven siblings. Now, Corellon is a proud god and once he caught wind that Lolth was bad mouthing him in an attempt to win over others, he became enraged. He railed against Lolth calling her a snake-tongued thief and Lolth called him incompetent and cruel. Their tempers flared and all the elves chose sides between Corellon’s freedom and Lolth’s stability. During this great debate, the Primal Elves turned to violence. The Dark Elves maintain that Corellon’s side threw the first blow, while the High Elves claim that it came from Lolth’s side. No matter the source, this violent outburst soured relations between Lolth and Corellon forever after. He cast her and her followers out of Arvandor and barred her from ever returning. He also cast all but his most trusted kin from Arvandor, forcing them all to live lives on other worlds out of fear of another perceived insurrection. Thus, the Seldarine remain in Arvandor to judge the souls of Corellon’s faithful when they die and Lolth takes refuge in Arcadia with her pantheon where she minds the souls of the Drow. Corellon’s faithful call her pantheon the Dark Seldarine, while her faithful call it the Myrkalfar.
Myrkalfar: The Spider Mother’s House
Lolth the Spider Queen is the unquestioned head of the Myrkalfar, with all other deities seen as her divine family. Lolth is considered at times to be fickle or even cruel, but her ire is never gained without good reason. A very involved deity, her followers constantly search for signs of her favor or scorn in everyday life. When a Dark Elf contemplates a risky or controversial decision, they consult priestesses or perform their own rites which often gives them direct and succinct answers. She serves as an example to matriarchs of Drow families as demanding yet understanding, punishing yet guiding. She asks for a lot of her priestesses, demanding they be an unflinching example of everything a strong leader should be. The Myrkalfar is often presented as a divine household, with Lolth as the matron. Keptolo is the consort of Lolth and considered to be the ideal of what a male should be. Beautiful and kind, strong and hard working, he helps Lolth in everything she does. Sometimes he serves as a messenger, other times as an agent of redemption, sometimes as a divine healer. When a Dark Elf is tasked with a divine charge, he is usually the one to deliver the message and guide them through their charge. He serves also as a fertility deity and is often worshiped by women or men seeking a child. Outsiders see him as a weak and subservient husband to Lolth, but his faithfulness to his matron is considered a virtue and his status as a “husband” is relatively alien to the Dark Elves as they have no binding marriage in their society. If Keptolo is the agent of Lolth’s mercy, Kiaransalee is the agent of her vengeance. She is the eldest daughter of Lolth and Keptolo and one that Dark Elves pray to when they feel wronged. Only the most binding and serious contracts are signed under her name. To break an oath made under her name is sure to bring destruction. She is also the governor of the dead, judging the souls of those passed in the afterlife. She opposes the mindless undead created by mortals, but spirits and revenants that return to finish unresolved business amongst the living are considered under her protection. Should a Dark Elf encounter a returned spirit that is seeking vengeance, it’s their duty to leave them on their way and pray that the spirit isn’t there for them. This reverence of certain undead is something many outsiders consider downright evil. Selvetarm is the Dark Elven warrior goddess and youngest daughter of Lolth. Often depicted with eight arms, she represents the pinnacle of hand to hand martial prowess, but often is without restraint. She serves as both an inspiration for warriors, and a warning. Vhaeraun is the eldest son of Lolth and governs ambition and stealth. Both of these traits are not necessarily vilified, but worship of him is highly scrutinized. Haughty and rash, tales of him often include deceiving his fellow gods for good and ill and more often than not are cautionary ones. He’s depicted as wearing a mask, either as some punishment for endangering Lolth and her family or to hide his identity for various schemes, possibly both. Malyk is Lolth’s youngest son and a youthful deity of change and growth. He’s often seen as a bouncing young boy that Lolth and her family have to reign in from wild misadventures. His freedom and curiosity is often seen as a double edged sword, both gaining him great riches but also putting him in tremendous peril. He has strong ties to sorcerers and when a child is born with innate magical talent, he is often the one thanked for it. He serves as an outlet for a Dark Elves youthful chaotic nature, but also warns them of the ramifications of their actions. Ghaunadur is a strange figure in the pantheon. Their place in the family is a bit of a mystery, sometimes called the sibling of Lolth, or her child, or even as Lolth’s parent. What makes them truly unique is that they are a formless deity, something that Lolth once warred with Corellon over. The legends go that when Ghaunadur joined Lolth, they refused to give up their changeable nature. When questioned, Ghaunadur pointed to the slimes, oozes, and formless creatures of the world and said that they wished to protect them from the Elves and the Elves from them. Lolth agreed, cementing their position as the deity of the changing forms of nature. Their favored creature is the ooze, but they govern all natural creatures. Dark Elves often pray to Ghaunadur to protect them from the creatures that lurk in the depths of the forest. Zinzerena is Lolth’s sister and is the goddess of poisons, illusions, and magic. Viewed as an elderly and patient figure, she often serves as council to Lolth in desperate times. She’s said to be the mother of all poisons and venoms and her teachings are all about finding the wisest solution to a problem. Zinzerena teaches that even though the spider is small, it’s bite can still fell a panther. Despite her perceived age, she’s considered the younger sister of Lolth and is thought to be incredibly quick and nimble: a reminder that not everything is as it seems. Eilistraee is Lolth’s niece and daughter of Zinzerena. Considered the black sheep of the pantheon, she serves as a goddess of redemption and moonlight. Dark Elves that turn their back on their family or scorn traditions will sometimes find themselves turned to Driders, half-spider half-Dark Elf creatures shunned by all. Eilistraee is said to watch over these creatures and if they are repentant, offer them challenges that they could complete to redeem themselves. Lolth often views her with contempt or mistrust, but never hates her and maintains her place in the pantheon. Dark Elven faithful rarely worship her as the others. She’s also one of the only deities of the Myrkalfar to claim no animosity toward the Seldarine and their faithful. Spiders are the sacred animal of Lolth and are often used as an example of social order and the importance of family bonds. Each strand of silk serves the web as whole. More literally, the giant spiders of the Underdark are multifaceted and incredibly useful creatures. Serving as beasts of burden, war steeds, meat producers, household guardians, and silk producers, they are present in almost every facet of society. Their silks are used in everything from wound dressings to armor to architecture. To kill or steal another family's spider is considered akin to stealing a member of the family. Smaller and more poisonous spiders are often kept in temples and their webs are used as divining tools for priestesses.
The recorded history of the Dark Elves is full of contradictions from High Elf and Dark Elf sources. What historians can agree on is when the Elves of the Prime Material arrived, the followers of Lolth secluded from their Wood and High cousins and retreated into the Azelarien, also known as the Green Sea in Common. A massive forest, nearly 1 million square miles of dense and vibrant trees, that grows denser and darker the farther in one ventures. For countless eons, the High, Wood, and Dark Elves lived in relative harmony in their own corner of the world. High Elves lived near the forests in towns and villages, the Wood Elves lived in the lightly forested outlands of the Green Sea, and the Dark Elves lived deep in the central forests which was so dense that very little light reached the forest floor. As time passed and their villages turned to cities, the High Elves began expanding into the forest, chopping some down to build homes and heat their furnaces. This began pushing into the territory of the Wood Elves and eventually the Dark Elves as well. These two peoples formed a shaky alliance to push back the expansive tide of the far larger High Elven armies. This alliance proved successful however and the High Elven forces began losing ground. What happened next is a matter of some debate. High Elven historians attest that the Dark Elven armies used Wood Elven soldiers as unwitting bait to lure the High Elven armies into a trap, thus causing a schism between them. Dark Elven historians state that the Wood Elven armies turned on them after the Wood Elves met in secret with High Elven leaders and bargained for their independence. Some Wood Elven historians claim that after a brutal defeat on the field, they were met by High Elven dignitaries that offered them clemency if they turned on their allies. They initially refused, but after the dignitaries threatened to make the same offer to the Dark Elves, they had no choice but to accept. No matter the cause, the histories agree that the Wood Elves turned on their erstwhile allies and helped push the Dark Elves into a rapid loss of ground. Facing the might of the two armies with their own relatively small one, the Dark Elves were beaten into a hasty retreat into their own territory. Losing every open encounter, the Dark Elf matrons developed a new strategy of combat. The armies switched from training as many as quickly as they could, to training only a select few in multiple different forms of combat and magic. As the High and Wood Elves advanced into their territory, they quickly found their supply lines cut out from under them, their soldiers ambushed while sleeping, their scouts captured, and their leaders assassinated. And even if they would make it to a Dark Elf settlement, they would find it abandoned and booby-trapped, warned by their fast and silent scouts. If the Dark Elves couldn’t face their enemies head-on, they would weaken them with quick and decisive strikes. Eventually, the war ground to a stalemate. The High Elves couldn’t push into the Dark Elf territory far enough to capture any cities of note without taking severe casualties and the Dark Elves were only managing to hold the invading armies back and couldn’t muster a force strong enough to push back to the enemy capital. Thus, the war cooled into a tense peace. The leaders came together to draw borders, but neither side fully forgave nor forgot one another’s actions. High and Wood Elves viewed the change in tactics by the Dark Elves as an unethical violation of the standards of war. The Dark Elves felt a particular animosity toward the Wood Elves, considering them backstabbers in their darkest hour.
Dark Elf Families: Matrons of Order
The Dark Elf society, to an outsider, looks like an oppressive and cruel society of slave traders and backstabbers. But the truth is more subtle. The Dark Elves value tradition and filial piety above almost all else. To a Dark Elven citizen, their family name is their most valuable possession and they are taught from a very young age that to look after their parents and their younger siblings is the highest virtue. Ancestors that have achieved great things often have shrines in a household alongside the gods themselves. A Dark Elf going against the will of their family is considered one of the highest taboos and often causes them to be outcast from Dark Elven society as a whole. Dark Elf society is matrilineal meaning that the eldest woman in each family is revered as the household leader and receives great respect from her family and society. This also means that the males of the society don’t inherit wealth as frequently as the females. Dark Elven families are quite large, often with multiple generations along with aunts, uncles, and cousins living in the same household. New children almost always reside with their mother. Males of the society are expected to care not for their own biological children, but for the children born to their sisters, aunts, or nieces. This results in a striking amount of sexual freedom for both men and women, but is often viewed from the outside as promiscuity. The Dark Elves do not marry in the traditional sense, instead favoring long term partners with one another that can end at any time with no concerns to material wealth or ownership. However, to become a member of a Dark Elf family is not entirely a matter of heritage. When a family that cannot support another child has one, they are often adopted by more well to do families and raised as one of their own. These adopted children are considered just as legitimate as if they were born into the family. Also, should a family lose all their heirs or become destitute, they often ask to become assimilated into other families for their own safety. The latter is considered a morose ceremony as the members of the smaller family forsake their surnames. To take in such a family is both an extreme honor and grim burden, as it means ending another family's line. The borders of Dark Elven civilization only goes so far as there are trees so many newer up and coming families have expanded underground, a difficult and slow endeavor. This has put multiple houses at odds with one another for territory. However, Dark Elves do not tolerate open hostility between families as they have a very strong sense of collective identity. Dark Elves do not war against fellow Dark Elves, same as a spider does not fight its own web. This leads to many tensions and conflicts needing to be resolved in other ways. Most families will attempt a diplomatic solution, but when that isn’t an option, sabotage and coercion is the favored outlet. Murder is considered a bridge too far by most houses, but subterfuge in almost every other facet is, while not accepted, tolerated. Legends of Lolth’s rebellion and the tension of their enclosed territory have imbued the Dark Elves with a strong sense of symbiosis with nature and conservancy. Sustainable living is the cornerstone of Dark Elf society. In the wild, no creature is killed or plant destroyed unless it’s a matter of self defense or necessary to survival.
Dark Elven Sex and Gender
As with many Elven peoples, sexuality is seen as a fluid and non-binary matter. Same sex relationships are usually seen as just as acceptable as male-female relationships. Since Dark Elves have no marriage structure, same sex life partners are common and widely accepted. Inheritance is passed along by the family as a whole, not linearly, meaning some houses may have matrons with no direct biological descendants while still serving at the elder matron. Power dynamics in relationships are still a factor, with the elder female in a gay relationship considered slightly above their partner socially and is seen as the inheritor in cases of property or genealogy. Male same sex relationships are accepted with little controversy. Since children are passed down their mothers line, the males have no social obligation to sire an heir as with other societies. Transgender and transexual Dark Elves are met with slightly more controversy. Lolth’s rejection of the Primal Elves mutable forms is sometimes cited against transgender and transexual Dark Elves. Ghaunadur, however, is considered the patron god of these people and teaches that just as they are part of nature, they can change their forms. Many of these people join the religious order of Ghaunadur, serving in various roles both in religious ceremonies and as forest guides. Some even consider them to be blessed by Ghaunadur and are highly sought after in forays into the forests for protection. Children born to transgender Dark Elves are still expected to be a part of their eldest mother’s family or eldest father if no woman is part of the union.
Slavery Amongst the Dark Elves
While the Dark Elves do take slaves, their slavery doesn’t look the same as many other societies. When a family becomes indebted to another and they cannot pay off the debt, a member of their family, usually male, will be sent to work for the owed family. They give him room and board and are expected to care for him as if he were one of their own. He’ll work for them for an agreed upon amount of time before returning to his native family. Injury or misuse of this person is often grounds for them to leave and the debt to be nullified. Children born to servant fathers needn’t worry about inheriting their father’s status since they’re considered to be their mother’s child. On the rare occasion that a female servant has a child while in servitude, the child is returned to the mother’s family to be raised by her family while she works off the remaining debt. Some trade of servants does occur between houses, with indentured servants being traded for goods or services or even other servants of special skills, but the family of the servant reserves the right to veto such a trade for any reason. During their frequent clashes with external armies, the Dark Elves do sometimes take prisoners of war, though very rarely are they used for slave labor. They never bring them back to major settlements, often keeping them on the outskirts of their territory to prevent them from learning critical knowledge of their territory. Most prisoners are held as bargaining chips to be traded for passage, supplies, or captured Dark Elves. Captured military leaders are sometimes brought to Dark Elven cities to be tried for their crimes against their people.
Dark Elven Government: Independent Houses
Unlike many other cultures, the Dark Elves lack a centralized government. Societal etiquette govern the standard for how certain crimes and disagreements should be handled, but each family unit acts as its own governing body. Disagreements within families are thus resolved internally. Inter-family disputes are resolved in multiple different ways. Most often, the two matrons of the family will meet and agree on terms to fairly compensate both sides. In cases when these talks deteriorate, the High Priestess of Lolth is often called to serve as the mediator and serves as the ruling body between disputes. Her rulings are final and indisputable, as she is considered the mouthpiece of Lolth’s will. In times of crisis, historically the many houses of the Dark Elves have convened to discuss threats to all of Dark Elven society. This is uncommon as it’s difficult logistically to gather all the matrons in the same place at the same time, so often houses are represented by either the second eldest woman of the family or the eldest daughter of the matron. The High Priestess of Lolth often resides over these meetings as an arbiter in the event of split decisions or in delivering guidance from Lolth herself. There's my take on the Dark Elves. Any comments, suggestions, questions, outrages, and critiques are welcomed. This is my first comprehensive look at a whole race so if I've missed things, I'll try and patch them up. I'd like to do similar things for Orcs, Goblinoids, Kobolds, and others so those might be seen soon. Thanks!
Hi all, It's no secret that the meta is rather stale with most people going for Vayne, Jinx, and Riven comps. In almost every game I play, I don't have a lot of success playing meta and usually prefer to find weird anti-meta/off-meta picks. I got really tired of playing one of the big three so started playing Mech to limited success. Then I started 6 Battlecast and climbed from ~70 LP Masters to now 320 LP (though I played other comps too in this climb). Here are my Battlecast stats below from about 11 games played. https://imgur.com/a/nMYgpBt https://lolchess.gg/profile/na/sakuchan39 Match History This is my first guide written so let me know if there is anything I can improve on. Why play 6 Battlecast I think its a decently strong comp for climbing purposes only. As you can see, I have a really high top rate but really low win rate with this comp. To be honest, it is a bit player diff since this set I have had a low win rate in general. I think the comp is rather fun to play to see all of the battlecast procs, and is also easy due to how straightforward 6 trait comps are in general. Pros
Strong for climbing. This is because of people usually contesting one of the Big 3. Battlecast spikes early at level 6 and you will winstreak hard and do big damage to low rollers. In non high elo (GM+) lobbies, there is usually a skill gap in lobbies and people will not know how to play from behind, allowing you to at least top 6 almost any lobby through developing a large health and gold lead.
Generally uncontested. It is very easy to upgrade the units you need. Kogmaw can be contested early from Jinx players, but otherwise, Illaoi, Nocturne, Cass, are all uncontested and can be upgraded easily.
Strong matchups into Big 3 before their endgame. Nocturne jumping and getting fear on Vayne/Jinx is really good. Urgot eating Riven can quickly turn fights in late game against sorcs.
Really bad scaling. Once you do go to end game, you will probably go on a large lose streak. The purpose of this game is to win through attrition; from the large health lead you've gained through winstreaking in the mid-game, hopefully you will top 4 from everyone's end game comp beating up on each other.
Reliance on a legendary unit/spat. 6 battlecast is absolutely necessary to survive the terrible endgame. If you can't hit, you will suffer large losses and lose your win condition of barely scraping into the top 4.
Weak in stronger lobbies. I end up occasionally in GM/Chally lobbies but I cannot conclude the strength of this comp in these lobbies. I believe that it is weaker in general due to the lobby being closer in strength making it difficult to generate a high health lead (even if you win they will probably get good losses) and people knowing how to play better from behind.
Early Game The general indicators to play 6 battlecast are early upgrades to Illaoi, Nocturne, and components for Kogmaw. Kogmaw absolute core item is Red Buff and needs one of Shiv or Runaan's Hurricane. I prio Bow on first carousel because it can be either RH or Shiv, but I've seen ideas of Vest prio for Red Buff. If you get good items, but no upgrades, it may be worth it to lose streak early for carousel priority, and to stay lower level to complete Illaoi and Nocturne upgrades. Here are some early game boards. Early Kog Infil Open In Early Kog opener, Lucian is replaceable to hold Kog items, or if early Ezreal then Graves can hold Kog items. Blitz can replace Malphite. Play what makes sense in the context of your game. Mid Game The biggest spike is at level 6 and getting 4 battlecast, 2 chrono, 2 blaster with one core item on Kogmaw. Until you get there, just play whatever you have that is strongest. Again, the purpose of this comp is to win streak. As soon as I can put in 4 battlecast, I level to 6. I avoid aggressively leveling to 7 as I like to stay at 6 for increased chances of upgrading Kogmaw. Stage 4-1 is always a level 7 and then roll an appropriate amount of gold to maintain econ while upgrading your board. Since this board is pretty self-explanatory, look to snipe carries with Blitz/Noc to cheese out wins. If you can't hit these units, or have bad items at this stage, look to pivot out. I pivot to Bang Bros (shares Runaans as core item), Jinx (if high roll early Jinx), or even once Mech (had really bad items). In the mid-game, you should also look to start building Urgot items (GA and mana items) as well has hopefully completing an Ionic Spark for Illaoi. GA is really good on Urgot to trade 1 for 1 in the endgame (saving health) as well as stalling for tie breakers. Mid-game Board End-game Ideally, by the time it is time to level to 8 (between stage 4-3 to 5-1), you'll have generated a 50 health lead over the 7th and 8th place people. Now, the goal is to complete the trait with Viktor and Urgot to try and survive to 9. Until you hit these units, splashing traits like Mystic (Karma/Soraka/Lulu) or Infil (Fizz/Ekko) or front line (Gnar) are great to help you survive and can hold Urgot items. Similar to mid-game, you are looking to cheese out wins with Blitz/Infil/Urgot. Urgot targets the furthest unit in his range which is 3 hexes. Once you have hit 6 Battlecast, look to go 9 to add in Mystic/Asol/Ekko/any other broken unit. Battlecast matches up really bad against Sorcs so Mystic is usually my go to since it helps against Mech and Jinx. End-game Board Other Notes
Urgot targeting is getting changed to the farthest unit but can be blocked. This makes it difficult to snipe back row carries. He also doesn't eat through GA anymore making it difficult to fight Riven Sorcs.
Requires flexible gaming. If you don't hit early and spike too late, you will die very quickly. Think about how the items you make can be flexed into other comps. I flex RH into Bang Bros for Yi and Spark flexes into every comp. When you play 6 Battlecast, try to have an out in mind if you can't make Red Buff, can't hit Kog, or are contested by someone high-rolling Battlecast units.
Extra AP items go on Cass/Viktor. I put them on I feel is stronger at the time. Viktor 1 is also stronger than Noc 1, but I prefer Noc 2 over Viktor 1 as my 4th battlecast in the mid-game. Use whatever is appropriate (Viktor can be strong against Sorc backlines and Jinx clumps, Noc strong against solo back line Vayne).
Who does Spat go on. I haven't really had a large enough sample to tell. I really like Asol not because it is strong but because Asol is just broken. He helps you beat Sorc comps. I've seen people say Gnar which is good as added front line in a very weak front line comp, but you end up stuck with 3/4 brawler since you may need Mystic/Asol in at 9. If you hit Gnar 2 though then obviously it is better. Spat Item generally is an Urgot replacement, then Urgot replaces Nocturne.
Galaxies. Battlecast is super strong in Littler and Binary Star. It is good in Treasure Trove (access to Spat, easy to high roll items), Reroll (can high roll upgrades early, potential 3 star though I don't usually go for Kog 3), and Star Cluster (same as reroll).
I haven't played that many games with Battlecast, but the results have been very positive so far. Hopefully, this will increase the flavor of your games in the last few days of this flavorless meta. Let me know if there's anything I can improve in my guide; I realize I don't go over general Econ strategies or flex options. I think there's lots of good information in high-elo streamers on economy vs aggressive leveling. I find my playstyle to try and balance both but leaning more towards econ is king. I'll answer as many questions as I can below.
Selling your Covered Call - Thoughts on How to Select Your Strike and Expiration
Congratulations! You are a bag holder of company XYZ which was thought to be the best penny stock ever. Instead of feeling sorry, you consider selling covered calls to help reduce your cost basis - and eventually get out of your bags with minimal loss or even a profit! First - let's review the call option contract. The holder of the call option contract has the right but not the obligation to purchase 100 shares of XYZ at the strike price per share. This contract has an expiration date. We assume American style option contracts which means that the option can be exercised at any point prior to expiration. Thus, there are three parameters to the option contract - the strike price, the expiration date and the premium - which represents the price per share of the contract. The holder of the call option contract is the person that buys the option. The writer of the contract is the seller. The buyer (or holder) pays the premium. The seller (or writer) collects the premium. As an XYZ bag holder, the covered call may help. By writing a call contract against your XYZ shares, you can collect premium to reduce your investment cost in XYZ - reducing your average cost per share. For every 100 shares of XYZ, you can write 1 call contract. Notice that that by selling the contract, you do not control if the call is exercised - only the holder of the contract can exercise it. There are several online descriptions about the covered call strategy. Here is an example that might be useful to review Covered Call Description The general guidance is to select the call strike at the price in which you would be happy selling your shares. However, the context of most online resources on the covered call strategy assume that you either just purchased the shares at market value or your average cost is below the market price. In the case as a bag holder, your average cost is most likely over - if not significantly over - the current market price. This situation simply means that you have a little work to reduce your average before you are ready to have your bags called away. For example, you would not want to have your strike set at $2.50 when your average is above that value as this would guarantee a net loss. (However, if you are simply trying to rid your bags and your average is slightly above the strike, then you might consider it as the strike price). One more abstract concept before getting to what you want to know. The following link shows the Profit/Loss Diagram for Covered Call Conceptually, the blue line shows the profit/loss value of your long stock position. The line crosses the x-axis at your average cost, i.e the break-even point for the long stock position. The green/red hockey stick is the profit (green) or loss (red) of the covered call position (100 long stock + 1 short call option). The profit has a maximum value at the strike price. This plateau is due to the fact that you only receive the agreed upon strike price per share when the call option is exercised. Below the strike, the profit decreases along the unit slope line until the value becomes negative. It is a misnomer to say that the covered call is at 'loss' since it is really the long stock that has decreased in value - but it is not loss (yet). Note that the break-even point marked in the plot is simply the reduced averaged cost from the collected premium selling the covered call. As a bag holder, it will be a two-stage process: (1) reduce the average cost (2) get rid of bags. Okay let's talk selecting strike and expiration. You must jointly select these two parameters. Far OTM strikes will collect less premium where the premium will increase as you move the strike closer to the share price. Shorter DTE will also collect less premium where the premium will increase as you increase the DTE. It is easier to describe stage 2 "get rid of bags" first. Let us pretend that our hypothetical bag of 100 XYZ shares cost us $5.15/share. The current XYZ market price is $3/share - our hole is $2.15/share that we need to dig out. Finally, assume the following option chain (all hypothetical):
Purely made up the numbers, but the table illustrates the notional behavior of an option chain. The option value (premium) is the intrinsic value plus the time value. Only the $2.5 strike has intrinsic value since the share price is $3 (which is greater than $2.5). Notice that intrinsic value cannot be negative. The rest of the premium is the time value of the option which is essentially the monetary bet associated with the probability that the share price will exceed the strike at expiration. According to the table, we could collect the most premium by selling the 110 DTE $2.5 call for $0.95. However, there is a couple problems with that option contract. We are sitting with bags at $5.15/share and receiving $0.95 will only reduce our average to $4.20/share. On expiration, if still above $2.5, then we are assigned, shares called away and we receive $2.50/share or a loss of $170 - not good. Well, then how about the $5 strike at 110 DTE for $0.50? This reduces us to $4.65/share which is under the $5 strike so we would make a profit of $35! This is true - however 110 days is a long time to make $35. You might say that is fine you just want to get the bags gone don't care. Well maybe consider a shorter DTE - even the 20 DTE or 50 DTE would collect premium that reduces your average below $5. This would allow you to react to any stock movement that occurs in the near-term. Consider person A sells the 110 DTE $5 call and person B sells the 50 DTE $5 call. Suppose that the XYZ stock increases to $4.95/share in 50 days then goes to $8 in the next 30 days then drops to $3 after another 30 days. This timeline goes 110 days and person A had to watch the price go up and fall back to the same spot with XYZ stock at $3/share. Granted the premium collected reduced the average but stilling hold the bags. Person B on the other hand has the call expire worthless when XYZ is at $4.95/share. A decision can be made - sell immediately, sell another $5 call or sell a $7.5 call. Suppose the $7.5 call is sold with 30 DTE collecting some premium, then - jackpot - the shares are called away when XYZ is trading at $8/share! Of course, no one can predict the future, but the shorter DTE enables more decision points. The takeaway for the second step in the 2-stage approach is that you need to select your profit target to help guide your strike selection. In this example, are you happy with the XYZ shares called away at $5/share or do you want $7.5/share? What is your opinion on the stock price trajectory? When do you foresee decision points? This will help determine the strike/expiration that matches your thoughts. Note: studies have shown that actively managing your position results in better performance than simply waiting for expiration, so you can adjust the position if your assessment on the movement is incorrect. Let's circle back to the first step "reduce the average cost". What if your average cost of your 100 shares of XYZ is $8/share? Clearly, all of the strikes in our example option chain above is "bad" to a certain extent since we would stand to lose a lot of money if the option contract is exercised. However, by describing the second step, we know the objective for this first step is to reduce our average such that we can profit from the strikes. How do we achieve this objective? It is somewhat the same process as previously described, but you need to do your homework a little more diligently. What is your forecast on the stock movement? Since $7.5 is the closest strike to your average, when do you expect XYZ to rise from $3/share to $7.5/share? Without PR, you might say never. With some PR then maybe 50/50 chance - if so, then what is the outlook for PR? What do you think the chances of going to $5/share where you could collect more premium? Suppose that a few XYZ bag holders (all with a $8/share cost) discuss there outlook of the XYZ stock price in the next 120 days:
Person A does not seem to think much price movement will occur. This person might sell the $5 call with either 20 DTE or 50 DTE. Then upon expiration, sell another $5 call for another 20-50 DTE. Person A could keep repeating this until the average is reduced enough to move onto step-2. Of course, this approach is risky if the Person A price forecast is incorrect and the stock price goes up - which might result in assignment too soon. Person B appears to be the most bullish of the group. This person might sell the $5 call with 20 DTE then upon expiration sell the $7.5 call. After expiration, Person B might decide to leave the shares uncovered because her homework says XYZ is going to explode and she wants to capture those gains! Person C believes that there will be a step increase in 10 days maybe due to major PR event. This person will not have the chance to reduce the average in time to sell quickly, so first he sells a $7.5 call with 20 DTE to chip at the average. At expiration, Person C would continue to sell $7.5 calls until the average at the point where he can move onto the "get rid of bags" step. In all causes, each person must form an opinion on the XYZ price movement. Of course, the prediction will be wrong at some level (otherwise they wouldn't be bag holders!). The takeaway for the first step in the 2-stage approach is that you need to do your homework to better forecast the price movement to identify the correct strikes to bring down your average. The quality of the homework and the risk that you are willing to take will dedicate the speed at which you can reduce your average. Note that if you are unfortunate to have an extremely high average per share, then you might need to consider doing the good old buy-more-shares-to-average-down. This will be the fastest way to reduce your average. If you cannot invest more money, then the approach above will still work, but it will require much more patience. Remember there is no free lunch! Advanced note: there is another method to reduce your (high) average per share - selling cash secured puts. It is the "put version" of a cover call. Suppose that you sell a XYZ $2.5 put contract for $0.50 with 60 DTE. You collect $50 from the premium of the contract. This money is immediately in your bank and reduces your investment cost. But what did you sell? If XYZ is trading below $2.50, then you will be assigned 100 shares of XYZ at $2.50/share or $250. You own more shares, but at a price which will reduce your average further. Being cash secured, your brokerage will reserve $250 from your account when you sell the contract. In essence, you reduce your buying power by $250 and conditionally purchase the shares - you do not have them until assignment. If XYZ is greater than the strike at expiration, then your broker gives back $250 cash / buying power and you keep the premium. Early assignment - one concern is the chance of early assignment. The American style option contract allows the holder the opportunity to exercise the contract at any time prior to expiration. Early assignment almost never occurs. There are special cases that typically deal with dividends but most penny stocks are not in the position to hand out dividends. Aside from that, the holder would be throwing away option time value by early exercise. It possibly can handle - probably won't - it actually would be a benefit when selling covered calls as you would receive your profit more quickly! This post has probably gone too long! I will stop and let's discuss this matter. I will add follow-on material with some of the following topics which factors into this discussion:
Effect of earnings / PR / binary events on the option contract - this reaction may be different than the underlying stock reaction to the event
The Black-Scholes option pricing model allows one to understand how the premium will change - note that "all models are incorrect, but some are useful"
The "Greeks" give you a sense about how prices change when the stock price change - Meet the Greeks video
Position Management - when to adjust, close, or roll
Legging position into strangles/straddles - more advanced position with higher risk / higher reward
Open to other suggestions. I'm sure there are some typos and unclear statements - I will edit as needed! \I'm not a financial advisor. Simply helping to 'coach' people through the process. You are responsible for your decisions. Do not execute a trade that you do not understand. Ask questions if needed!**
This is a guide to a battlecast brawler hyper roll build I've been working on in patch 10.13. (Or HyperBeam HyperRoll as i like to call it)
Down below I've shown what the comp should look like at various stages of the game, as well as the general strategy and itemization. Hyper roll builds have disappeared from the meta with the introduction of set 3.5, mostly to to the nerfing of key 1 cost units like Poppy and Xylah, the removal of the Void alliance, and level 4 rolling odds changing from 60% to 55% for 1 cost units. However, I think with the massive buffs to Illaoi and the battlecast synergy and it's units, as well as the massive increase in odds for 3 cost units from 10% to 15% at level 4 make this build viable if you abuse those odds to find an early Cassiopeia, and get 4 battlecast online early after hyper rolling at stage 3-1. You're almost guaranteed to have her on round 3-2, often you will even find 2 copies or a 2 star Cassiopeia on your first hyper roll. I think by shifting the focus of hyper roll builds away from 3 starring a board of 1 and 2 cost units, and focusing more on abusing the 15% odds for 3 cost units, and focusing on 3 starring a few one cost units, and getting super early 2 star 3 costs who unlock important synergies, hyper rolling can be quite good again. Anyways, here's the rundown of the comp: The build focuses on building Illaoi and Cassiopeia as your carries. The compound effect of all the buffs to Illaoi and battlecast have made her tankiness and power increase exponentially, especially at 3 star. Combining the buffed heal from battlecast with the bonus HP she got this patch, 10% more armor and magic resist steal and the massive 50% increase from 4 second to 6 second steal duration, allowing her to stack up much more at a single time makes her a way stronger unit at 3 star than she was in 10.12. Combining this with the right set of items easily rivals Poppy in the golden days of the Candyland build. As for Cassiopeia, despite getting a nerf to DPS, the amount of damage instances she does is very powerful with the battlecast synergy. With Blue Buff and Morellonomicon, you'll be dealing 2 instances of tick damage on your opponents entire team very early into the fight, triggering tons of blasts/heals. When played in this comp, she is a way stronger carry than she is in the Vanguard Mystic build, despite being nerfed. The 4 battlecast synergy has been buffed enough that it can crush early game and carry you through mid, until you find Urgot later, and the 6 battlecast alliance has been buffed enough to make this build viable in the late/top 4 portion of the game. Buffs to Nocturne and Kog'Maw aren't huge, but still relevant. This comp also makes great use of spatula. If you can get battlecast spat, you can run 6 battlecasts at level 6, without needing to to wait all the way to level 8 to find Urgot. The 480 damage blasts/heals at earlier stages of the game will pretty much ensure you steamroll. In summary, the comp wants to have long fights with an unkillable Illaoi and Malphite 3 star in the front, buying time for Cassiopeia's damage over time, and your battlecast procs to do work, while the combination of Ionic Spark and Illaoi's resistance reductions massively increase your damage output as your tanks run endlessly into the opponents units and debuff them to oblivion. Super Early Game (Stage 1-2) In the super early game, you should econ as much as possible. Focus on making interest at all times, and only deviate from this if it means picking up an Illaoi, Cassiopeia, Malphite, or Nocturne. You want to hang onto as few units as possible that don't go into the level 5 comp shown below. Holding onto one Kog'maw is a good idea, but 2 starring him before you roll down your gold at 3-1 isn't worth it. It costs way too much in interest gold and you will always be able to 2 star him very early with your hyper rolls, and having him 2 star isn't the most important thing. What really matters is having him for an early 4 battlecast synergy. If you can sell Cog'Maw to make interest it's generally worth it, as you can always find another copy during your hyper roll. You want to streak for maximum econ without ever breaking your streak, which usually means loss streaking until the crug round. This also ensures you get first/early pick at the carousel. Getting the right items, specifically an early bramble for your Illaoi, is important for this comp, so it's normally the best approach. I wouldn't recommend committing to win streaking unless you're entering the first PVP rounds with 2 star units and some solid completed items, or if you lucked out and got Cassiopeia on stage 1. Ideally you want between 40-50 gold for stage 3-1, at which point you hyper roll to 0 and try to 3 star Illaoi Malphite and Nocturne, while 2 starring Kog'Maw, and finding Cassiopeia 1 or 2 star. Consider holding onto Blitz crank and Vi during your roll, until you find the 4 battlecasts so you can play a 4 brawler start as a backup plan if need be. Sidenote: picking up as many 1 cost and 3 cost units as possible while you're rolling down your gold will slightly increase your chances of 3 starring units and hitting Cassiopeias by removing some units from the pool. This isn't huge but it can be the difference between hitting a 3 star unit a round or two earlier, which does matter. Early Game (Level 4-5) Level 5 You want to get Illaoi to 3 star as your top priority, while looking for Malphite and Nocturne 3 star along the way. Kog'Maw 3 star is nice but it isn't worth the bench space and gold and will ultimately slow you down too much. Getting him to 2 star early is all you need. The other goal is to find Cassiopeia 2 star early during the hyper rolls, but never roll specifically for her, as a 1 star Cassiopeia is all you need early on, and you should get her to 2 star extremely early naturally with your hyper rolls now giving you 15% chance for 3 cost units in the early game anyways. The only 3 star unit that is absolutely crucial to the comp is Illaoi. Malphite makes the comp much stronger if you can 3 star him, but the comp can function without him. 3 star Nocturne is much like Zoe in Candyland; a nice bonus if you find him, and quite useful with his 4 second stun, but you don't need him 3 star. It's always worth the econ and bench to hang onto him though. Since this is a hyper roll build, you never spend money on exp until you are fully ready to go to level 6, where your odds for finding 1 cost units decrease drastically. Once you find Illaoi 3 star, you should go to level 6 if you aren't anywhere near finding Malphite and nocturne 3, but if you have 5 or more copies of either of them, and if the units aren't being heavily contested, it's worth staying at level 5 longer and rolling down again for 3 star on all your 1 costs first. Be patient with your gold, and try to econ up to 30-50 gold before rolling down each time, instead of rolling all your gold as you get it, unless you are dying and have no other option. You usually want to run the 5 units shown above, however if you failed to find 4 battlecast, you can run 4 Brawler instead, although this isn't as good. The other main thing to consider is running Zed instead of Malphite. Zed can be worth it if you ended up with a 3 star Nocturne, or if you somehow didn't find 2 star Malphite on your first hyper roll, which is incredibly unlikely. Otherwise the 2 Brawler front line with 4 battlecast is your best option. Mid Game (Level 6-7) Level 6 level 7 At this point, hopefully Illaoi and as many other 1 costs as possible are 3 starred, or 1-2 copies away from being 3 starred, and you have 2 star Cassiopeia. The best option at level 6 is to add a Mystic to further increase your units durability. Soraka is great, and her healing has great synergy with the innate tankiness of your units. Karma is also great to link to your Cassiopeia. If you can't find a mystic the option of throwing in a 2 star Zed or a Fizz is also okay. Running Infiltrator in the place of Mystic can actually be better up until late game if Nocturne is 3 starred. At this point in the game, you don't want to be rolling any more. Just econ up and pick up more brawlers, and finish 2 starring everything you can, and finishing 3 star units unless it becomes unrealistic to keep looking for them. At level 7, you want to add in two brawlers and take out the mystic, for 4 brawler 4 battlecast. Adding Vi and Gnar provides much more valuable front line to buy time and drag out the fight for your Cassiopeia and battlecast procs to do work, as well as providing you with lots of CC. If the game is going well, i prefer to econ up to 50 on level 6 and slowly pump gold into exp, while remaining at 50 gold, then pump all my gold into levels to jump strait to level 8 right after, but if you are being pressured it's fine to go to 7 sooner if you're taking too much damage. Late Game (Level 8-9) Level 8 Level 8 alt Level 9 At level 8, add your Mystic back in (Soraka being the best). You don't have much to do here as far as your build, aside from trying to find Urgot and Viktor, if you don't already have him, to go to 6 battlecast. Once you find Urgot, either replace Cog'Maw with him (or Nocturne if you never 3 starred him) or take out 2 of your brawlers and go for 6 battlecast, 2 brawler, 2 mystic. If the game goes to Level 9, you can simply play 4 brawler 6 battlecast. If you're facing heavy magic damage lineups that don't require you to strengthen your front line as much (such as Gangplank/Riven and 6 sorcerers) you can consider 4 mystics instead of 4 brawlers. This is especially effective if you have dragon scale on Illaoi, and practically allows her to 1v9 against those kind of comps. Spatula Variation Level 6 Level 9 If you get a spatula, you can make battlecast spat and put it onto your Malphite. Malphite carries Ionic spark in this comp, so giving him the ability to output some magic damage is nice while hes tanking for you, but more importantly he has tons of hp to work with so he will survive on the front line for much longer with battlecast heals and keep that ionic spark aura up for longer. With battlecast spat, you can add Viktor in at level 6 for the 6 battlecast synergy. The DPS increase to 480 for each battlecast proc at this early in the game is brutal, and also makes Illaoi unkillable with the increase heal. You can play 4 brawler 6 battlecast at level 8 now as well, and at level 9 you can play a mystic on top of the normal comp, while dropping one of your less useful battlecasts. Items Carousel Priority is Spatula > Chain Vest > Cloak > TeaRod > Belt/Gloves It's essential that you prioritize getting Bramble first, Blue Buff second, then two additional tank items for Illaoi and Morellonomicon as a third priority, and lastly Ionic Spark or Rapid Firecannon are luxury items (they help you win more if you're ahead, but don't stabilize you if you're behind). Basically, Bramble vest is the most important item in the comp, with Blue Buff being a close second. They are the only irreplaceable items. Bramble plays a crucial role in carrying you through all stages of the game. It's value on tanky units, especially at 3 star, is too great to ever pass up. It will do a ton of AOE damage, and it creates quite a lot of damage instances throughout the fight to fuel battlecast. Ideally, Illaoi wants Bramble, Dragon Scale and Quicksilver. I believe these items best leverage her stolen resistances from her spell and increase her survivability. The armor from vest, plus the negating of crits, coupled with 20% evasion from quicksilver, makes her very durable against physical damage. The magic resist provided by Dragon scale and Quicksilver bring her magic resistance extremely high, and she ends up taking almost no damage when incoming magic damage is reduced by 50% by scale before even considering her resistances. The immunity to crowd control from Quicksilver is very important on her as well, as it allows her to cast without interruption, and she can't be stunned before she has a chance to steal resistances. Stacking up a few casts in the first 10 seconds of the fight is enough to make sure she is always working with added armor and magic resist. Getting these 3 items isn't imperative though, as long as you have bramble you can replace one of the other slots. Warmog's works fine in giving her more raw HP to leverage her mass stolen armor and magic res, and gives her more HP to stay alive and heal back up with battlecast procs. Titan's resolve is also an acceptable replacement as she is one of the units who can actually get it to 50 stacks and then stay alive and heal back up for a long time thereafter to make good use of the item to its full potential. Cassiopeia wants Blue Buff and Morellonomicon. With this combination of items, she can dish out tons of damage over time as long as she has a tanky front line to buy time for the damage to do its work, as we've seen in builds like Vanguard Mystic and Mystic Protectors. Given two sources of tick damage on every unit that she casts on, not only does she melt entire teams, she goes rapid-fire with the battlecast procs, even managing to stay alive through rapid healing if she gets jumped on the back line. The last item is Ionic Spark. This is best on Malphite 3 star, but can be on any Brawler. I don't recommend putting it on Illaoi because it offers less defensively and we just want to make her as tanky as possible with her 3 slots. Combining the magic resistance debuff aura and Illaoi stealing 60% resistances every cast from whoever she hits, your team will be able to easily melt enemies. Almost all item components have good use in this comp, but BF Sword is quite a dead item. The best you can do is make a Zeke's Herald or GA with it. Other notable items if you happen to get them: Rapid Firecannon - Great on Cassiopeia, and allows you to position her as safe and far away as possible. Any Bows you pick up should go towards building this item. It didn't make the cut for the item build, but it would be the next best thing that isn't on the core 6 item list. Don't prioritize bows on the carousel over anything else for this item, but it's nice if you end up with one. Protector Spat - Spatula should be built into battlecast spat, but if that ends up being impossible, or you pick up the full item on a later carousel, it can be great for Cassiopeia to perma-shield once you activate protector synergy with Urgot. Jarvin and Karma can be played until you find Urgot, to get protector and dark star. Thief's Gloves - If you end up with extra Sparring Gloves you can just combine them onto Nocturne or victor to get some value out of them. Frozen Heart - If you have spare chain vest and tear drops, this is a nice item to have on either a brawler, or on Nocturne. ZZ'Rot Portal/Redemption - If you end up with these, they're nice on Nocturne, as he will jump to the back line, cause havoc, then give you benefits for dying. Positioning Depending on what brawlers you're using, there are two general approaches to positioning Cassiopeia. If you have all your brawlers up front, it's best to have her to the second row against one of the edges, with a brawler directly in front of her. If you're running Blitzcrank, you can put him in the corner with Cassiopeia next to him. This will give her a target to attack in between casting her spell. Since she only needs to hit once to gain full mana with blue buff, she should be able to distribute her poison to most of the enemy team from the safety of the back row before the pulled unit dies, forcing her to move up closer. Malphite (or whoever ends up with Ionic Spark) should be towards the center to maximize the aura's effect. Illaoi should also be centered. Her and Malphite are the tankiest units assuming they're three starred, and it's also best to have her near the Ionic spark to ensure she stacks magic resistance reduction from Tentacle Smash and ionic spark onto the same units, helping your team burst down targets better. Nocturne can typically kill off a target during his 4 second stun duration, so having him jump onto a key spell caster such as Lulu/Xeraph or a carry is important. In the top 4 and above, his positioning becomes increasingly more important as you can target specific players more easily. Cow'Maw isn't the most impactful unit, so he should be positioned in such a way that he will tankenemy Blitzcranks. In general, I prefer to play towards one side in the early game, to better help your units focus fire, and cause battlecast to target the same unit. later on, I typically prefer to spread out more. Pros and Cons Pros: - Counters Vanguards and Mystics. Cassiopeia with Morellonomicon melts them, and Illaoi's spell turns their own strength against them, making her ridiculously tanky and stripping them of their alliance bonuses. - Counters Protectors due to Cassiopeia 50% shield reduction. - Not Super contested in general. Not many players are 3 starring these units, and with hyper rolls you can get your hands on the highly contested Cassiopeia before anyone has a chance to empty them out of the pool. - Good in Trade Sector, Neekoverse, Star Cluster, Superdense Galaxies. - Easy Top 4 if you get some 3 stars at a reasonable time, or hit your items on Cassiopeia and Illaoi Cons: - Easy Bottom 4 if you get unlucky with your hyper rolls - Can struggle against Blasters with the 80% true damage from Giant Slayers against your High HP units, and heal reduction from Red Buff. If more than two players are going blaster brawler, you shouldn't go for this comp, as your units will be contested as well and 3 starring the important ones could become impossible. - Can be weak against sorcerers. Burst damage comes in less, more intense damage instances, and doesn't let you proc enough battlecast heals. Their units often don't have much resistance to steal making Illaoi less effective and more vulnerable, as well as losing value on HP% burn from Cassiopeia since their units are fairly low hp. - Bad in Binary Star and Galactic Armory. Risky in Littler Little Legends Galaxy. If you snowball early you can crush the game easily, but if you take a bit too long hitting your power spikes, you'll be in a rough spot. That's it for the guide, thanks for reading! I hope you give this comp a try and have fun! If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to DM me!
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Escape from Tarkov New Player Guide 2.0: 75 Pages and packed with all the information you could ever need for success!
Greetings, this is dumnem, also known as Theorchero, but you can call me Theo. I'm an experienced Tarkov player and I'm writing this guide to try and assist new Tarkov players learn the game, because it has one hell of a learning curve. We'll be going over a lot of different aspects of this guide, and it is going to be huge. Feel free to digest this in parts. Additionally, this is a work in progress. I will write as much as I can in one Reddit post, but subsequent parts will be in additional comments. Google Docs Version (Note: Link is placeholder atm, but here is a sneak preview!) Disclaimer: Tarkov recently updated to .12! That's a HUGE amount of information that I need to update. Please be patient! If there is anything I have gotten wrong or may have omitted, please let me know. This is Primarily directed towards Tarkov Novices, but should be useful for even Tarkov Veterans. It hopefully includes everything you need to know to be able to go into a Raid equipped for success and to successfully extract with gear. Want to play with friends? Want to have fun and learn Tarkov? Check out my discord here.
[Updated for .12]
Money making strategies completed.
Minor grammar adjustments, adding additional medical items.
Added additional resources, updated old ones.
Hideout section complete
Table of Contents
Tarkov Overview - What is Escape from Tarkov?
Tarkov Resources - Useful links
Tarkov's Health System
Tarkov's Hideout System
Tarkov's Quest System and Progression
Tarkov's Hotkeys to Know
New Player's loadouts - LL1 Traders
What to Loot - How to get the most money per slot
Stash Management - How to combat Gear Fear
Tarkov Economy - How do I make money?
Tarkov Overview - What is Escape from Tarkov?
Escape from Tarkov is a tactical, realistic, FPS with MMO elements developed by Battlestate Games. It is currently in closed Beta. The game features several maps in which your primary character, your PMC, goes into Raids in order to find and salvage loot and useful equipment to survive and thrive in Tarkov. Death is very punishing in Tarkov. If you die you lose everything you had on you when you die (with the exception of what's inside your Container and your melee weapon) including any equipment you brought with you or what you found inside the Raid. Enemies can be players (PMCs) or Scavengers ('Scavs') that are either controlled by AI or by players. Unlike many shooters, AI enemies in Tarkov are deadly - they can and will kill you on sight. They have recently been upgraded to act more intelligently, shoot more accurately, and react to situations on the map, such as investigating noise of gunfire or searching. It features beautiful and immersive environments, intricate and in-depth weapon modification system, a complex health system, dynamic and specific loot placement, and multiple options for engagement. Do you want to play slow and stealthy, to avoid fights, or set up a deadly ambush on an unwary foe? Or do you prefer raw combat, where only your quick wit, placements of shots, and tenaciousness determines who gets out alive? It's your Tarkov. You make the rules.
Tarkov Resources - Useful links
I take no credit or responsibility for any of the content in these links. To the best of my knowledge, these are updated consistently and are accurate, but user beware.
Huge collection of all the keys in the game. These are also on the wiki, but this page has them all on one page, and tries to inform the user if the key is worth keeping or using. Check it out here. This section is open to revision. Mention me in a thread (or in the comments below) about a resource and I'll see about adding it here.
Courtesy of Veritas (Send me his reddit username?), It's located here. (Open in new tab.) Contains: Detailed information about: Ammunition, Health, Firearms, Body Armor, Helmets, Rigs & Backpacks, Labs & Quest keys. Outdated! Needs to be updated for .12
Offline Raids - Player Practice
Offline raids is a feature added for testing and learning purposes for both new and veteran players alike. It is an incredibly useful tool. In an offline raid, your progress is not saved. This means you don't keep anything you find, keep any experience 'earned' if you successfully extract, or lose any gear when/if you die. To access OFFLINE Raids, head into a Raid normally until you see this screen. Then Check the box indicating that you want to do an OFFLINE raid and you're good to go! You even have a choice on whether or not to add AI. You can also control how many AI enemies spawn, fewer than normal or a great deal more! You can even make Scavs fight each other. (Framerates beware.) You can control how many scavs spawn (if any) as well as a number of other paramaters. New players should use offline raids as a tool to practice shooting, controls, movement, etc.
Tarkov features several maps - ranging from wide, beautiful vistas to ruined factory districts, to an abandoned laboratory where illegal experiments were being conducted. It is important to learn the maps you intend to play. In order to keep your gear, you must 'extract' at one of your designated exfiltration points. Not all extracts will be active every game, and some are conditional.
To see what extracts are available to you, double tap 'O' to show raid time and your exfils. If it has a ???? it might not be open.
Gate 3 Extract A small, fast-paced map that was primarily created for PvP. Scavs spawn in all the time. Very close quarters, shotguns and SMGs tend to dominate here. PMCs can only access one Exit (Gate 3) without the Factory Exit Key. Good place to go if you need PMC kills as action is pretty much guaranteed. It is recommended NOT to bring in a lot of gear to Factory until you are experienced. Factory Map in PvP is best played in Duos - due to the layout of the map, a Maximum of 6 PMCs may be present in the game. Due to the split spawn points, you effectively have 'sides' that have up to 3 spawn locations that are close together. This is why it is recommended to secure/scout enemy spawn locations. If you go in with a Duo, you at max have 2 players on your side for an even 2v2, and if played smartly you can eliminate them and know your 'side' is secure from aggression for the time being. Upon loading in, scavs usually take a couple minutes to spawn, though this depends on the server in question and isn't super reliable. For new players, the best loadout in Factory is going to be a MP-153 Loadout - using just an MBSS (or similar bag) and ammo in your pocket to fight other players and Scavs. Scavs will often spawn with AKs and other 'vendorable' weapons, so is a good source of income. Factory is also one of the best maps to Scav into, as Scavs can typically avoid the Exit camping strategy employed by a lot of weaker or newer players in order to secure gear, because they typically have extra exfiltrations whereas PMCs without the Factory Exit Key are stuck using Gate 3. If you go in with a modicum of gear, it is recommended to keep at least a flashbang (Zarya) in your container. This will allow you to quickly slot it into an empty chest rig or pocket so you can throw it into the exit door, this will flash enemies and is cheap to do - the one time you survive because you flashed the 3 exit campers using shotguns will make this strategy extremely valuable.
Extract map A fairly large map that was recently expanded and is expected to receive an overhaul within a patch or two, due to the choke point design of the map. Essentially, players spawn either on 'warehouse' or 'boiler (stacks)' side. If you see a large red warehouse ('big red') near you (Customs Warehouse), then you spawned on the warehouse side. If you don't, you likely spawned near Boiler side. Players can also spawn in several places in the woods North of boilers. This map has the most quests in the game. Geared players often come to customs to challenge other squads over Dorm loot and to fight a Scav boss. New players are usually trying to do one of several early quests, such as ‘Debut’ which tasks them with killing 5 scavs on Customs and acquiring 2 MR-133 shotguns (pump shotties) from their corpses. Construction is also a popular hotspot as it has a lot of scav spawns as well as the location for the Bronze Pocketwatch, which is Prapor’s second quest. Customs itself does not offer very much loot on average. There are several spots which can contain decent, but the vast majority is located in a couple different locations. Dorms is the best loot location for Customs. It has two sets, 2 story and 3 story dorms. They each have their own sections of good loot, but the best is considered to be 3 story dorms, due to the presence of the Marked Room. The marked room requires a marked key to open, and has a good chance to spawn rare loot, such as keytools, documents cases, weapons cases, and high-end weapons. Due to the nature of the high value of this room, it’s almost always contested and it’s one of the best rooms in the game to farm, albeit with difficulty to successfully extract with the loot found. Note, though the key required has a maximum amount of uses, it is a fairly cheap key, and worth buying if you like to run customs and go to Dorms. Dorms also has a ton of early quests (Operation Aquarius, for one) with some keys being valuable to use, but most dorms keys aren’t worth that much on the market. There’s too many to list here, but make sure to check the Map Keys and You at the top of the guide to determine what the value of a particular key is. Checkpoint (Military Checkpoint) is also a decent loot spot, though not nearly as good as Dorms. If you have the key, it has a grenade box and 2 ammo boxes which can spawn good ammo. The jacket in the blue car also can spawn good medical keys as well as medical items. It is very close to the gas station, so I’ll include that here as well. The Gas Station is one of the possible spawn locations for the scav boss. It has loose food items, a weapon box in the side room, with two keyed rooms leading to a safe and a med bag and box. Also contains a couple registers and food spawns on the floor. The emercom key can spawn on the seat in the ambulance out front. North of the gas station is the Antenna, which contains 3 weapon boxes, a tool box, and a med bag. Possible location for scav boss spawn, albeit rarely, and also spawns regular scavs, like checkpoint and gas station. Beyond that, there’s scattered loot around the map in different places, but usually not enough to warrant going out of your way for. There’s also scav caches, mostly around the middle road outside construction and around the boiler area. The scav boss for customs is 'Reshala.’ He has 5 guards that have above-average gear and can be tough to deal with solo. The guards tend to be more aggressive than normal scavs, so they can be a lot to handle but are vulnerable to fragmentation grenades or flashbangs due to their close proximity to one another. Reshala himself has a good chance to have one or more bitcoin in his pockets, as well as his unique Golden TT, which is required for a Jaegar quest and used in conjunction with other Golden TT's to purchase a Tactec, good plate carrier. Reshala may spawn either Dorms (either bldg), New Gas Station, or rarely the tower north of the gas station. Scav bosses are dangerous enemies with escorts that have above-average loot (sometimes great loot) and are hostile to everyone, Including player scavs. Scav guards will approach a player scav and basically tell them to leave the area, and if they walk closer towards the scav boss they turn hostile. The ‘official’ spawn rate for Reshala is 35%.
Woods Map with Exfil A very large map that is mostly just a large forest, with the occasional bunker, and the Lumber Mill in the center. The Lumber Mill is the primary point of interest, as it contains a couple quest locations and is the primary location to farm Scavs, as Scavs killed on woods are a good source of end-game keys that are hard to find. Since the map is so large and open, sniper rifles with scopes usually reign king here. You will see a lot of players with Mosin rifles as they are a cheap way to train the Sniper skill (for a quest later on) and are capable of killing geared players and scavs alike. Overall, not usually very populated. An early quest from Prapor sends you here to kill a number of Scavs. A good map to learn the game, as although the loot is not fantastic, you can get experience with how the game runs and operates while fighting AI and possibly getting lucky with a key find off a scav. As of .12, Woods now houses a Scav boss that acts as a Sniper scav. He is incredibly dangerous and usually carries a tricked-out SVDS. The 7.62x54 caliber is not to be underestimated. That caliber can and will wreck your shit through what most players are capable of wearing, especially early on in a wipe. He may also carry an AK-105, so he's going to be dangerous at both short and long ranges. He has two guards, and he typically patrols the area around the Sawmill, and carries a key to a cache nearby full of goodies. His key is part of a quest for Jaegar. Woods also has two bunkers, one of them being an extract and requiring a key. Both bunkers have some moderate loot in them, thus worth visiting, though not necessarily worth going out of your way for them. Several quests occur around the sawmill area, which contains a good couple keys that can spawn.
Shoreline Map, with Loot, Exfil, etc A very large map, notorious for its FPS hit. Generally speaking, one of the better maps for loot. The primary point of interest is the Resort, but scavs spawn there, and is primarily occupied by hatchlings (players only with hatchet, ie melee weapon) and geared players. Resort has great loot, but requires keys to access most of it. A great map to learn though from new players as the outskirts still contains plenty of loot and combat opportunities with AI scavs. You can hit Villa, Scav Island, Weather station, Docks, etc and come out with a backpack full of valuable gear fairly easily. The Village (Not to be confused with villa) contains a lot of toolboxes which can contain lots of parts used to upgrade your Hideout. Location of many quests, including a large quest chain where players are required to kill many, many, scavs on Shoreline. For this and other reasons, probably the best map for new players to learn the game with. A good loot route is to hit the village (caches in it), scav island (2 med bags, 2 toolboxes, 2 weapon boxes, 1 cache), burning gas station (weapon boxes and a safe), pier (potential extract, 2 pcs 2 safes and lots of filing cabinets), and weather station. Scavs may spawn around these areas, but most players just head straight for resort anyway, so you are much less likely to encounter them, especially if you avoid Mylta power (most players hit it on the way to or leaving from the resort). Excellent route as a player scav as well.
Detailed map Great, great loot area, but very complex map. Old computers might face unique struggles with this map. Features a mostly-binary exfil system like Shoreline, but.. kinda worse. Exfil camping is fairly common on this map, but usually avoidable. Huge map with multiple floors and many many different stores. Communication with teammates is a challenge on this map, but the map is also fantastically detailed. This map features a lot of loot that depends on the kind of store you're in. It's a great place to farm rare barter materials which are valuable to sell on the Flea market or to use for quests or for hideout upgrades. An early quest (from Ragman) sends you here to kill a large amount of Scavs. I'd recommend getting Ragman to level 2 and accepting his quest asap when going to Interchange, as getting this quest done can take a while as it is and you want all scav kills to count towards progress. Both the tech stores (Techlight, Techxo, Rasmussen) and department stores (Groshan, Idea, OLI) are the primary places to hit. There’s also Kiba (weapons store) as well as Emercom and Mantis. Players have different strategies, but this map is unique in the sense that it really rewards exploring. Most stores will have things you can grab that are worth quite a bit but are often overlooked. Very popular place to go in as a Player Scav.
Brand new map, chock full of loot. Has more complex extracts than other maps, save for Labs. Excellent place to farm rare barter items, computer parts, and especially military hardware. PMCs have limited extracts, most being conditional, and the ones that aren’t require activation of ‘power’ to turn on the extract, which alerts the map the extract has been opened and can spawn Raiders (more on them below.) Additionally, has a scav boss by the name of Glukhar, who has multiple heavily armed guards. He has multiple spawn locations and can arrive with the train.
DISCLAIMER: Labs, like much of Tarkov, is under constant development, so issues may be fixed or created without warning. Always check patch notes!
Labs is a very complex map compared to the rest of Tarkov. There is a great deal more exfiltrations but many of them have requirements or a sequence of events needed to be able to extract from them. It is recommended to read the Tarkov Wiki on Labs before raiding there.
LABS IS NOT LIKE OTHER MAPS. READ THIS SECTION CAREFULLY.
Labs is a lucrative end-game raid location, comparable to 'dungeons' in other games. They are populated by tougher enemies that give greater rewards. In order to go to labs, you need to acquire a keycard, this functions like mechanical keys but instead of opening a door, they unlock your ability to select Labs for a raid. They may be found in-raid in various locations, most notably in scavs backpacks, pockets, and in filing cabinets. They may be purchased from Therapist at LL4 for 189K Roubles. Labs are populated by a unique kind of AI enemy, Raiders.
Raiders are the Labs form of Scavs, or AI enemies. However, unlike other maps, they cannot contain player Scavs. Raiders have a much tougher than your average scav, they are capable of advanced tactics (such as flanking) and throw grenades and use other consumables as a player would. Once 'locked' onto you, they are typically capable of killing you very quickly, even if you are wearing high-end armor. In Tarkov, Raiders act like the avatars of Death. They are clad in USEC and BEAR equipment, as they are effectively AI PMCs. Many changes have been made to labs and specifically how Raider AI works and to prevent exploits to easily farm them as well as bugs where they could be deadlier than intended. A general rule of thumb is not to fight Raiders directly. They can and WILL kill you. Raiders can spawn with 7N9, or 'big boy' ammo. This ammunition type is incredibly lethal to players, even those wearing the toughest armor. If you get shot in the head, doesn't matter what kind of helmet, face shield, killa helmet, etc you are wearing, you will almost certainly die. Because Raiders are controlled by AI, they have zero ping. They may also end to immediately respond as if you were aggressive even if they did not originally know you were there - ESP Raiders effectively will prone and return fire even as you ADS and put them in your sights. This is why engaging a Raider must be done very, very carefully. There are a few strategies that you may employ, most commonly some form of baiting them towards an area and then killing them when they arrive. Players may accomplish this by generating noise - gunfire, melee weapon hitting walls, crates, etc, player deaths, players Mumbling (F1 by default) can all attract Raiders to investigate your area. Due to the high power of Raiders, players often go in with minimal loadouts and seek to avoid conflict with other players, especially geared ones. Most players avoid PvP in Labs, though a good portion of the playerbase thoroughly enjoys hunting down poorly-geared players after they kill a few Raiders for them. As such, players will lay prone in a hallway, or crouch in a room, and attract Raiders to enter their domicile by opening the door, and immediately headshotting them. Few Raiders actually wear helmets (though some do) so most players specialize in 'flesh ammo' or, ammunition that foregoes armor penetration in favor of raw damage in order to kill Raiders more reliably, because Raiders have slightly higher head health than PMCs do. Raiders spawn with a great variety of equipment, weapons, armor, and materials such as medication or hideout parts. They tend to have chest armor and may have different helmets. Their pockets can contain Labs keycards, morphine, Ifaks, cash, and other items. They're always worth checking. Raiders are a good source of grenades, they will often have F-1's and Zarya's in their rig or pockets that you can use to fight off players and Raiders alike. Recently, changes have been made to Labs to make them less profitable so that other maps are more appealing. The cost and rarity of keycards increased, as well as reducing the frequency that raiders spawn, so that they come in more infrequent groups but also tighter in formation, while also lowering the overall output of individual Raiders, so that they are less likely to have a bunch of extra materials, such as grenades and other items.
Experience Farming on Labs
Labs is one of the best places to farm experience in the entire game. Killing a Raider with a headshot awards 1100 Experience. This does not include any looting, inspection (searching bodies), examine, streak, or other experience. Killing a large sequence of Raiders gives additional bonus experience in the form of Streak rewards, usually 100 bonus exp per additional kill. Surviving the raid multiplies all of these sources of experience by 1.5x
Changes coming to Labs
Disclaimer: I am not a BSG developer or employee. This is what I have seen on this subreddit and heard elsewhere. Some might be purely rumor, but other points are confirmed by Nikita Labs is undergoing constant changes. Nikita and BSG take feedback seriously, and always consider what the players are telling them. It known that Labs will eventually be accessed via the Streets of Tarkov map, and will require you to enter that map, make it to the labs entrance, and then extract from Labs to return to Streets of Tarkov and exfil from there as well. This will likely add an additional layer of risk to being ambushed for your goodies along your way out, as well as punishing damage taken in labs more severely. Additionally, keycards will have a limited number of uses, and may open more than one room. The full extent of the changes coming is not known. Remember, you can load a map in OFFLINE mode to practice against bots or to learn the map without fear of losing gear.
Tarkov's Health System
Tarkov Wiki Article Tarkov has a very advanced health system, and while it might seem overwhelming at first, you'll get the hang of it rather quickly. It features a very wide variety of effects and injury, including hydration, energy, blood pressure, blood loss, fractures, contusion, intoxication, exhaustion, tremors and more. Not all of the Health System is implemented yet. Expect changes! Your character (PMC, or otherwise) has a combined Health of 435. Each of his limbs have separate health. Taking damage to a limb that reduces it to 0 'blacks' that limb. Blacked limbs are a problem. They greatly impair the activities your PMC performs, and taking damage in a blacked limb amplifies the damage by a multiplier and spreads that damage among your other non-black limbs equally. You cannot heal a blacked limb without the use of a Surgical Kit. Notes:Bloodloss applies damage to the affected limb and can be spread like other damage to a blacked limb. Treat immediately. Also causes significant dehydration! Bloodloss also helps level your Vitality skill, which in turn gives you experience towards your Health skill, which is necessary to reach level 2 of in order to improve your hideout. Losing a limb applies additional effects. Fractures also apply these effects but not the damage amplification (Except for damage if running on fractured leg.) Fractures require specialized medical kits to heal. Dehydration is what happens when your Hydration level reaches 0. You can view your Hydration level in your gear page, at the bottom left. Becoming dehydrated is extremely bad. You take constant damage. Taking dehydration damage can kill you if you have a black chest or head. Restoring hydration helps train Metabolism, which improves positive effects from food and drink. Head/Chest: Bullet damage resulting in losing your head or chest is instant death. Note: Bloodloss resulting in your Head/Chest being black does not result in death, but any damage to them beyond that point will! A back chest will causes you to cough (much like your stomach!) Painkillers: Prevents coughing that comes from your chest. Doesn't help otherwise. Stomach: Massively increased rate of dehydration and energy loss. You must find liquids or exit the Raid soon. Additionally, your PMC will cough sputter loudly, attracting attention. A black stomach multiplies damage taken by 1.5 and redistributes that damage across your entire health pool. Painkillers: Significantly reduces the frequency and volume of the coughs. Arms: Makes activities like searching, reloading, etc, take additional time, as well as adding a sway, reducing accuracy. Arms have a .7x damage multiplier. Painkillers: Reduces sway, removes debuff Pain. Legs: Blacked legs cause your PMC to stumble and be unable to run. Blacked legs have a 1x damage multiplier. Painkillers: Allows you to walk at full speed and to run. WARNING: Running while your legs are blacked or fractured WILL DAMAGE YOU.
Tarkov features many health items - 'Aid' items, which can be used to restore your characters health and to fix ailments or injuries he receives as the result of combat or mishaps. The two most important health conditions to consider are bloodloss and fractures, which have both been covered above. Some food items may have ancillary effects, such as losing hydration. Since in the current patch the only ailments to worry about are bleeding and fractures, it changes which health items are most necessary. We'll go over them below.
Medical Items on Wiki AI-2 medkit The newb's medical kit. You receive several of these when you start Tarkov - they'll already be in your stash. Available from Level I Therapist, they are cheap and effective way of healing early in the game. They will not stop bloodloss. Because of this, you also need to bring bandages or a higher-grade medical kit. Affectionately called 'little cheeses' by the Tarkov community. Using it takes 2 seconds, and because of how cheap it is, it's often brought in by higher level players to supplement their healing without draining their main kit (which is capable of healing bloodloss or sometimes fractures). Due to its short use time, it's often very useful during combat as you can take cover and quickly recover damage taken to a vital limb. They're also useful as you can buy them from Therapist to heal yourself if you died in a raid. Bandages The newb's bloodloss solution. Available from Therapist at Level I. A better version, the Army Bandage is available at Level II, after a quest. Mostly obsolete after unlocking the Car Medical kit, but some players value them due to the Car's overall low health pool. Activating takes 4 seconds, and removes bloodloss to one limb. Splint The newb's solution to fractures. Cheap, takes five seconds to use, and takes up 1 slot. Fractures are much more common this patch, due to them being added back in the game from standard bullet wounds, not just drops. Available from Therapist at Level I, no quest needed. Can be used to craft a Salewa. Alu Splint More advanced form of the normal split. Works the same, but has up to 5 uses. Recommended to carry in your container if possible, due to frequency of fractures from gunfire. CMS (Compact Medical Surgery) Kit New medical item added in .12, fantastic item. Allows you to perform field surgery, removing the black limb state and allowing you to heal it beyond 0 hp. Takes 16 seconds to use, and cannot be cancelled so make sure you are safe if you are using it! Will reduce the maximum health of the limb it's used on by 40-55%, but will effectively remove all negative effects incurred by having a black limb. Highly recommended to carry in your container for emergencies. Can be bartered from Jaeger LL1, and purchased for roubles LL2. Surv12 field surgical kit Same as the compact surgical kit, but takes 4 seconds longer, and the health penalty is reduces to 10-20% max health of the limb. Considering this kit is 1x3, taking up a huge amount of space, it's probably not worth using. It's just too large. Better this than nothing, though. Car Medical Kit The newb's first real medical solution. Available LL1 as a barter (2 Duct Tape) and available for Roubles after completing Therapist's second quest. Has a larger health pool than AI-2's (220, vs AI-2's 100), and removes bloodloss. Takes up a 1x2 slot, so requires to be placed in a tactical rig in order to be used effectively. Cheap and fairly efficient, takes a standard 4 seconds to use. Rendered effectively obsolete when the Salewa is unlocked. Often kept in a player's secure container as a backup health pool, before IFAKs are unlocked. Salewa Good medkit for use in mid and end-game. Contains 400 total health and can remove bloodloss. More rouble efficient form of a healing due to its high health pool, costs 13k roubles. Same size as the Car medical kit, so requires a tactical rig to use effectively. Because Tarkov does not currently have effects like Toxication in the game at the moment, this kit is favored by most players who go into a raid with at least a moderate level of gear. With a high health pool and relatively low cost, it's also a more efficient way of healing damage sustained while in raids. Unlocked at Therapist Level II after completing a level 10 Prapor quest, Postman Pat Part II. Required as part of Therapist's first quest, Shortage. This makes Salewas very valuable early on in a wipe as it gatekeeps the rest of Therapist's quests, most of which occur on Customs early on. Can be crafted in your meds station with a painkiller, splint, and bandage. IFAK Fantastic medical kit, and is the one preferred by most players. Features 300 health and the ability to remove bloodloss and a host of other negative effects that are not yet implemented into the game. It does not, however, remove fractures. Taking up only a single slot, it is favored by players in all stages of gear, and it is recommend to carry one in your Secure Container in case of emergencies. Is available at Therapist Level II for a barter (Sugar + Sodium), and may be purchased for Roubles at Level III after completing Healthcare Privacy, Part I. It is a fairly expensive kit, but due to its durability, its small size, and ability to remove bloodloss, it is a very common medical item used by players of all levels. Can be crafted in Lvl 2 medstation. Grizzly The 'big daddy' medical kit, boasting an impressive total health resource of 1800. It is also a very large kit, taking up 4 slots (2x2) - in order to be able to use this quickly, it would require specialized tactical rigs that feature a 2x2 slot. It removes all negative effects (some costing HP resource), including fractures. Used by highly-geared players who intend on staying in raids for an extended period of time, or by players with additional Secure Container space available in case of emergencies. It is available for barter at Therapist Level II, and purchase at Therapist Level 4. Due to its price point from Therapist at just under 23k Roubles and its healthpool of 1800, it is by far the most efficient method of healing from raid damage, at a 1.3 roubles per health, dramatically lower than other options available. Can be crafted in Lvl 3 medstation.
Using any of these items results in your character being 'On Painkillers' which allows you to sprint on fractured and blacked legs, as well as reducing effects of fractures and blacked limbs, and removing the debuff Pain. Essentially, the only difference between most of these items are the speed of use, price, availability, and duration of the effect. Note that the Hideout has changed how some of these items are used, and because Tarkov is under constant development, it is very likely that these materials may be used to create higher-grade medkits or to upgrade your medstation. That being the case, it's best to hoard the unknown items for now as efficiently as possible until you know you don't need them. Analgin Painkillers The holy grail of pain medication. "Painkillers" have 4 total uses. The total duration is greater than Morphine and less risk of waste. Takes a short time to use, and is available from Therapist Level 1 for both barter and Roubles. Makes a loud, distinctive gulping noise. Can be used to craft Salewa kits. Morphine Quick application of painkillers. Favored by some highly geared players as it has greater usability in combat then it's typical counterpart, Painkillers. Has a longer duration, but only one use. It is required for a fairly early Therapist (and a late Peacekeeper) Quest, so it is recommend to hoard 10 of them, then sell the rest unless you intend on using them. They are worth a good amount to Therapist and take up little space so they are a valuable loot item. Available from Therapist for Roubles at Level 4, after completing Healthcare Privacy, Part 3. Augmentin Basically a cheaper Morphine. One use, 205s. Not recommended over Painkillers due to its cost. No current barter for this item, so usually it's just a fairly expensive, small loot item. Most likely a component of a medstation manufacturing process or upgrade. Keep it. Ibuprofen Powerful painkiller. Lasts 500 seconds and has 12 uses. This item is recommended as your long-term solution for painkillers. While it is valuable because it's used to trade for THICC items case, it's the cheapest component and is very useful as a painkiller. It has a long duration and a large amount of uses, so keep it in your container for use as a painkiller if your primary painkillers wear off. Don't use it completely up, though. Keep the 1/12 bottles for the trade. Vaseline Powerful medical item. Cannot be purchased from dealers. Has a maximum of 10 uses. Removes Pain, applies Painkillers for 500 seconds (8.3 minutes). Useful to keep in your container as an alternative to Painkillers, though it takes 6 seconds to use, which is longer than other painkillers. Used as part of a barter trade for the Medcase. Golden Star Balm Fairly useful medical item. It can remove Pain and Contusion (not a big deal of a debuff, goes away on its own shortly) and provides a small bonus to hydration and energy. It also removes toxication and Radiation exposure, both of which are not yet implemented into the game. Like Vaseline, has a maximum of 10 uses. Painkiller effect lasts for 10 minutes, and takes 7 seconds to apply. Recommended to take only if you are going on large maps and you have extra room in your container. Can be used with Ibuprofen and 5x Med parts to craft 7 Propital.
This took me longer than I intended, but I wanted to do my own write-up of all the games I beat in 2019, and I had a lot of fun remembering all of them - in fact, I was actually kind of surprised at how many of the games were really great experiences (though there were a few underwhelming ones, too). Since there are a lot, I categorized them by genre to try to make it a little easier to read. Some titles are hopefully familiar so you can also reminisce, but hopefully some new to you, too, that you'll be encouraged to play. So here goes nothing...
Fable - I'd been going through a period where I didn't want to invest in a lot of super time-consuming games, so that's probably the reason RPGs are largely absent from my list this year, and why Fable ended up being a really good fit. I think I clocked in around 15 hours or so, but even in that amount of time, I felt very satisfied with it. It's open world in a sense, but it's divided into smaller, self-contained areas, and it allows for some exploration and side content (including buying property and getting married) without completely burying you. I liked that the gameplay allowed for a battlemage build as I tend to gravitate towards a good balance of using magic and melee weapons. I didn't learn all the powers, but the ones I did were useful and not just something that felt like a useless attempt at adding variety. The ability to choose between the hero or villain paths is a bit more primitive (read: black and white) than some of the more advanced mechanics in today's games, but given it's one of the more amusing RPGs I've played that doesn't take itself very seriously, I actually appreciated its playful simplicity. If you're looking for a lighthearted romp in a fantasy RPG that doesn't get bogged down in superfluous content and complexity, Fable's a great experience.
Armed and Dangerous - This title sat for a long, long time in my library as something I'd gotten as part of a bundle and totally never meant to play, but I'm really glad I did. The gameplay and graphics do feel very dated, but this game is hilarious if you're into dumb, ridiculous humor. It also strays a bit from your typical shooter in that it gives you some really fun, outlandish weapons to play with, like a gun that shoots out land sharks that gobble up unsuspecting targets. I do remember there being a couple trouble spots that I had to play through multiple times to beat, but overall, it's just a plain ol' good time.
No One Lives Forever 2 - Speaking of hilarious shooters, I don't think it really gets any better than the NOLF series. I played the first game way back on the PS2 and had an absolute blast with it, so I was only too happy to finally get my hands on the second game. If you're not familiar with NOLF, think Xbox/PS2-era 1st person James Bond games, replace the protagonist with a witty female character, throw in a few unusual gadgets, and add a whole lot of charm, humor, and absurdity. It's going to feel outdated, yes, and there is the whole perpetually in legal rights limbo thing, but unless you're against experiencing pure joy, seriously, just play it.
Binary Domain - I bought this game hoping it'd hit some campy, over-the-top notes, and while there is some of that, it still left me feeling like this game had a lot of unused potential, particularly with the characters. The characters are super trope-y (in an entertaining way), and the game does poke fun at that, but the relationships felt pretty shallow - which is a darn shame because I would've liked to have seen the dynamics and interactions among this otherwise interesting, motley crew of characters fleshed out. The plot itself wasn't anything to write home about, either, but I think it could've been brought to a new level of enjoyment had it done more with the characters. Gameplay-wise, it's pretty solid - on paper, it seems like it'd be repetitive as it's a lot of shooting, but it's actually pretty satisfying because doing damage to enemy robots gradually wears away the armor of the targeted area so it almost feels like you're melting it down. I didn't do the voice commands as those seemed more like a gimmick, and the game is perfectly playable without them. There's an added dimension where certain actions you take will affect the trust level of your companions, which can affect the story, but I honestly couldn't say if it really makes any meaningful difference aside from the ending. If you're into the idea of a cybernetic third person shooter, I think it's worth trying, but it's not a top favorite of mine.
Spec Ops: The Line - This title has been thrown around a few times on this subreddit, and while it has been pretty hyped up and I wouldn't say it's a life-changing experience, I still echo any sentiments about this game being a must-play. Don't read anything about it; just play it. Even if you don't like military shooters.
Large open world games
Watch Dogs - I mostly enjoyed this game for being able to explore an impressively faithful rendition of downtown Chicago - the scenery is just fantastic and pretty on par with the environments in games like GTAV. The soundtrack was forgettable and the story was passable, but I didn't get terribly into it. It was fun to sneak around and hack into things (and also having the option to barrel in with guns), but the bloated mountain of side content eventually made it really hard to slog through until I decided I'd had enough and just went on to finish the main story missions. Feels good to have it completed, though.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - Another game where I had to figure out what/where I should cut myself off with the side content, heh. I'm not particularly one for historical fiction, but again, I think I mostly enjoyed this game for the exploration aspect. I liked Ezio's story in II (maybe because it was such a stark improvement over the first game), but while I can appreciate that Brotherhood is a great game, not so sure the AC series is my cup of tea as much anymore. I do enjoy the complex platforming portions to figure out how to get from point A to point B, but all the assassinating gets kinda repetitive. I have Revelations, Black Flag, and Unity in my backlog, though, so we'll see if/when I get around to those (will probably at least play Revelations because dat cliffhanger, ugh).
LIMBO - The black and white visual aesthetic of this game is beautiful, and the puzzles are interesting enough, but I can't say it left too much of an impression on me. I think I can see why it's a highly-regarded game, but perhaps between the vagueness of the story and the fact that 2D puzzle platformers aren't my favorite, it just wasn't entirely for me. Plus, I'm a bit of an arachnophobe, so those spider silhouettes were unsettling, lol.
The Fall - This was a neat little indie game. It's a side-scrolling, dark sci-fi adventure with some minor platforming elements and gunplay (which, honestly, not sure it was needed), but this game oozes a lot of atmosphere as a story about artificial consciousness curiously unfolds. If I remember correctly, it ended on a significant cliffhanger, but I enjoyed it enough to play the sequel someday.
Pony Island - I still don't really understand this game, but that's part of its delight. It's an odd mixture of side-scrolling action and puzzles about cute ponies that turns into something more amusingly sinister. Fun to play just for the H-E-double-hockey-sticks of it.
Downward - I loved Mirror's Edge, so when I saw that Downward was a first-person parkour game, I signed the heck up. At first, it does feel like the game has a lot of promise and seems like one big beautiful playground - it's definitely heavy on the eye candy. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for the game's flaws to surface. Mechanics can be annoying either due to glitches or requiring precise aiming/timing; story is basically non-existent; no real obstacles are present aside from the final boss, which was a headache in itself as it basically just amounts to a bunch of dodging by platforming that you'll probably end up having to retry multiple times. And ultimately, the game just felt empty, like a mere shell of the game it was meant to be.
Epistory: Typing Chronicles - I wasn't sure if this game would provide a real challenge for someone who's a pretty decent typist, but pleased to say it does indeed. Fighting back (or typing back) waves of enemies was probably my favorite part, and I liked how you could switch between powers (like lightning, fire, wind), as certain enemies and mechanisms can only be defeated or triggered by a specific power. The storybook art is unique, and the narrative has a very flowy, poetic feel, though I can't say it particularly moved me. There's an endless mode, too, so I can see myself coming back to that for a quick play.
Beyond Good and Evil - This was the first game in a while that really helped me enjoy gaming again. It's got a lovable, memorable cast of characters, simplistic but fun gameplay, and it's got a smaller open world - meaning that there's enough side stuff to do, but the game doesn't overwhelm you with it or try to detract you from the main story too much. I really, really hope BG&E 2 is released because I would love to return to that world again. It's got that "pure" feeling of not needing to take things too seriously or getting bogged down in a multitude of quests - it's just plain and simple fun.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy - This game kind of feels like an Egyptian rendition of a 3D Zelda game, but I mean that in a good way. Throughout this game, you switch back and forth between two characters: 1) the young Prince Tutenkhamen who is turned into a mummy, but is luckily able to use his undeadness to aid the hero through a series of critical thinking tests, and 2) Sphinx, who fights baddies and navigates a bunch of platforming puzzles to find vases to help bring Tutenkhamen back to life and ancient crowns to summon the power to beat the almighty villain. One major downside is that there's no voice acting, so you have to read all the dialogue, but I'd still give it a solid recommendation to anyone who likes action/adventure puzzle games.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within - I really liked the first PoP in this series, so I also really wanted to like WW, but ultimately I found it to be pretty "meh." To start with the good, the gameplay is very similar to its predecessor - the combat is generally pretty fluid, and the environmental platforming puzzles provide some interesting, fun challenges without being too frustrating - and of course you still have the same ability to bend time. Unfortunately, there was also a lot about the game that I didn't enjoy. I would've liked to have seen some improvements or variance from the first as the gameplay felt kind of old hat after a while. I have mixed feelings about the chase scenes - they got the adrenaline going, but still not a huge fan of them especially when you die multiple times in a row. Also, you could see the "twist" in whatever story there was coming from miles away, and the heavy metal music (or whatever that was) was simply atrocious and made the game feel like a complete tonal detour from the previous. As for the repeated masochistic, sexual comments from the female enemies - yeah, no thank you. It was like someone asked how they could make PoP as needlessly "edgy" as possible, though that seems like a common complaint. So overall I felt a bit unsatisfied with my experience, but I have The Two Thrones in my backlog, so I'm hoping that will be better.
Second Sight - I wasn't really sure what to expect from this older title, but I was actually surprised to find myself enjoying it. The plot is your typical "clandestine operation conducting scientific research for its own nefarious needs" kind of thing, as some random, seemingly unimportant white guy (who talks to himself too much) mysteriously gains psychic powers and then proceeds to get tangled up in a huge conspiracy trying to get to the bottom of it. But that said, the gameplay turned out to be rather fun, for the most part. You have the ability to use guns, too, but the core part of the gameplay involves using various psychic powers to manipulate your surroundings to sneak around, go on the offensive, and solve puzzles. Probably the most frustrating aspect, however, was the targeting system and its failure to quickly switch between targets when needed. All around, though, while I don't know that it's a great game, it's a pretty good one, and if you happen to have it in your backlog, it's worth digging up.
Star Wars: Jedi Academy - This was the first game I played in the Jedi Knight series (save for a couple hours of Dark Forces). It was fun to be back in the Star Wars universe again (I think the last SW game I truly played was KotOR or maybe Republic Commando forever ago), but overall it still felt like a pretty average game, though maybe the dated-ness largely affected my impressions. The lightsaber action was neat, but not perfect as the camera kept annoyingly switching around on me (not sure if that could've been fixed by a setting). Also, once you kinda learned the tricks with the force powers, particularly the shielding ones, it made the game a little too easy and more just a matter of waiting it out till you hacked down the enemies' health enough. Story didn't really mean a whole lot to me either, so my general opinion of the game doesn't amount to much more than a shrug.
No More Heroes - Honestly, it sounds weird to say it, but this game did lightsaber combat way better than Jedi Academy, haha, though there were times my wrist got pretty tired playing on the Wii! I'm somewhat familiar with Suda51's style as I've also played a good chunk of Killer7, and I knew this was a pretty highly-regarded hack 'n' slash title, but I had no idea it had a quirky, charming (small) open world aspect to it (sort of reminds me of Deadly Premonition in that respect). While the game is largely about taking on multiple bosses to become #1, each of those bosses requires a hefty entrance fee to fight, which means you'll have to take on some interesting side jobs (like mowing the lawn, neutralizing scorpions, rescuing cats...you know, the usual) to make money. There are a few other goodies you can get exploring the town of Santa Destroy as well. The downfall of the entrance fee aspect is that I just found myself doing the same highest-paying job over and over again, so there were points it got a bit monotonous near the end. But I will say there were a few bosses that provided a heck of a challenge - one in particular I probably had 30+ attempts under my belt before I finally beat her, and that was just on normal difficulty. It was fun to play something where I felt like I had to have some actual skill to overcome and not just win by button-mashing, but it did require a lot of patience at times. If you want an over-the-top, gratuitously zany action experience, No More Heroes is definitely one of a kind.
Point and click adventures
Sentience: The Android's Tale - This was a charming little sci-fi point and click game (made with RPG Maker, I think?). As the title suggests, you play as an android who's been given free will, and much of the game involves exploring a colony and talking to/doing quests for various people in a time where androids aren't terribly accepted or even despised. One neat feature of this game is that you have the ability to make choices can affect the game and its multiple endings. I wouldn't say it was the most memorable game, but I still enjoyed my time with it and the philosophical concepts it had to offer.
Deponia - A modern take on the classic point and click adventure genre. If you like Monkey Island, Broken Sword, and the like, I'd definitely recommend Deponia. The protagonist can be a bit of a jerk, but it's got a lighthearted story, a colorful cast of characters, and the type of puzzles you'd expect from the genre (most aren't too difficult to solve). It's not a priority, but eventually I'd like to play the other games in the series.
Secret of Monkey Island (Special Edition) - I can see why this classic point and click is so beloved, and the humor certainly helps it to stand out from some of the others. At the same time, I'd played enough adventure games by then that it didn't really do anything unexpected, so while I had fun with it, I wasn't enamored with it. Good for a few casual nights of gaming, but I'm not chomping at the bit to play the others in the series - Deponia's universe was a little more quirky and interesting imo. However, it was pretty neat how you could switch between the original pixel graphics and the cartoon art.
Syberia - "Charming, nostalgic, and whimsical" are probably the three words I'd use to describe this game. Syberia has a pretty long, slow beginning, but if you're patient, what starts as a banal assignment for a lawyer named Kate soon turns into a peculiar mystery as you're drawn into a strange, fascinating world of automatons wherein you attempt to track down their creator. I played this on the Xbox, so point and click controls don't translate so well to the console, but I will definitely get the PC version of the sequel at some point; the promising ending of the first game left me wanting more of the story.
Tex Murphy series (Mean Streets, Martian Memorandum, Under a Killing Moon, The Pandora Directive, and Overseer) - I did a more thorough write-up of these games (including Tesla Effect which I played a few years back) here, but to summarize, while the first two games could be a pass (unless you're really into the pixelated old school adventure games), the others are worth looking into if you're a fan of point and clicks and/or campy humor, goofy sci-fi plots, and that sweet, sweet live FMV action.
Blade Runner - Blade Runner (both the original and 2049) are my favorite films, so I was super thrilled when GOG finally included this game in their library. I did enjoy the blast from the (future) past, but unfortunately I think it's another game that, while I'm sure it was impressive for its time, it doesn't leave quite the same impression today when playing it for the first time. It gets the atmosphere and the feel of the films right, the story is interesting enough to keep you going, and it does provide some twists on your standard point and click gameplay, but I suppose where I found it lacking was with the character development, which I found to be kinda shallow particularly with the character interactions (and in the realm of romance, some of which didn't even make much sense). Probably my fault for secretly wanting a '90s game to be on par with the films, but there it is. Still worth experiencing if you're a fan; just don't set expectations too high.
3D puzzle games
Kairo - A Myst-like game that's super heavy on the abstract. I picked it up because I like games that are an enigmatic experience of awe and loneliness all in one, and it definitely achieves that. But I don't have a whole lot of patience for puzzles that don't give you easily observable hints of how things work, so full confession - I totally used a walkthrough pretty much the entire way through.
Adam's Venture: Chronicles - I like game about archaeological adventures, especially those that take place in the first half of the 1900s, so that's really the only reason I picked this game up. And while there's some exotic historical locales to keep it visually interesting, the puzzles are pretty simplistic and characters largely one-dimensional. There's just so many better adventure/puzzle games out there, so I wouldn't recommend it unless you're scraping the bottom of the bucket for an Indiana Jones fix.
The Talos Principle - It took me a couple of tries to really figure this game out, but once I did, I loved how the puzzles felt a lot like Portal - challenging enough to make you have to think it through from different angles till you get that "aha" moment, but not too challenging to need a guide if you're persistent. The game turned out to be be much bigger and deeper than I expected, too, as the philosophical and existential themes were totally up my alley. My only real beef with this game is that some of the response choices you're given seemed pretty boxed in - I often found myself thinking, "Maybe, but that's not entirely accurate/how I feel" (a lot of it had to do with my theological beliefs not lining up with the game). While I suppose that's a natural limitation of games with multiple dialogue paths, I don't particularly enjoy that feeling of being cornered into responding a certain way just because it has to fit within the developer's worldview (a worldview I don't completely agree with). I think SOMA handled it better as it simply made you think about what you believe without assigning some sort of judgment or narrative consequence. But regardless, The Talos Principle was a really fun, super thought-provoking experience that would definitely be on my must-play list. I haven't played the DLC yet, but I did pick it up in the winter sale, so...TBC.
Thief: Deadly Shadows - I haven't yet played the first two Thief games, but I definitely will because of how much of a blast I had sneaking around in Deadly Shadows. Despite being dated, it's a surprisingly immersive stealth game; it gives you a fair amount of freedom in how to traverse the map, whether to be more non-confrontational or more of an assassin. In general, the levels were pretty well-designed, and the game gives you a decent variety of weapons and tools to use as well (and I actually enjoyed the lock picking mini-puzzle). What I liked the most about the game, though, was sneaking around and stealing special items/treasure. There's enough stealth games out there, but not too many actually focus on thievery. The one glaring point I'll warn you about is that with the PC version, near the end of the game, I experienced a glitch where the game would always crash and I couldn't get it to work no matter what fix I tried, so I had to resort to finding another save file online to finish the game. But still well worth playing in spite of that if you're a fan of the genre - and make sure to get the Sneaky Upgrade patch.
Dishonored - Dishonored is obviously a very polished game, and like Thief, I appreciate the array of options for approaching missions, particularly those that allowed for more creative choices than simple assassination (I took the low chaos route). The rune powers also added a dimension that does seem really interesting on paper, but using some of the powers, particularly Dark Vision and Blink, resulted in an unfortunate conundrum where those powers almost made the game too easy (and even ruined the atmosphere by changing the color palette and replacing the mood music with weird whispering), but also...they're really nice powers. I did end up using them for most of the game because I have no self-control and I wanted to be able to breeze through the game without too much trouble, but I think it might've been a good idea to make those powers a little less useful or provide some kind of disincentivization. As for the story, idk, I didn't really care for it, and the ending felt pretty anticlimactic, though I think that's a common risk with stealth-based games since there isn't necessarily going to be an all-out brawl with a final boss. Bottom line, I enjoyed Dishonored's gameplay, but honestly, I think I liked Thief: DS slightly more because of Thief's bigger focus on stealing pieces of treasure.
Dementium: The Ward - I regret not playing this game when I first bought it. Not because it's a great game, but because I think I would've enjoyed it more back when I was a bigger fan of horror. Now, it seems pretty blasé - you're stuck in a hospital fighting off zombies and other weird monsters all the while never really making sense of what's actually going on. What really got me was the absolutely terrible save system - it autosaves between every chapter and at certain points within the chapter - which might not sound too awful until you realize resources are limited and you have to be careful how you use them as enemies will respawn when you reenter an area. Not worth the trouble imo.
Observer - Being a fan of both Layers of Fear (a previous game done by same developer) and Blade Runner, getting this game seemed like a no-brainer. However, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. Like Layers of Fear, Observer is a psychedelic horrothriller, and it does that aspect well, but I found it hard to follow. It's a heck of a mind trip as you jump into various memories of the deceased, and it's visually stunning, but it's very convoluted and definitely seems to make being artsy and experimental more of a priority than being coherent. Not saying that's a bad thing, but it didn't personally give me enough to grasp onto in order to have a desire to dissect the narrative and characters for the underlying themes and meaning. For that reason, I prefer Layers of Fear, but I did love the cyberpunk feel of Observer.
Fatal Frame - I'd never played any FF games before, but it hit a nostalgic button for me as it brought me back to the time I was really into late '90s/early '00s horror games like Silent Hill. For better or worse, it's definitely got the hallmarks of that gaming period - the grainy filter, the clunky controls/cameras, the morbid puzzles, the blurbs of informational text as you check out the objects around you - even the menu sounds brought me back. But though it wooed me in, FF at times can be a pretty unforgivingly difficult game. Restorative items and camera film (which you use to fight off hostile ghosts) are somewhat sparse, so I found myself needing to save often and restore older saves if I felt like I lost too much health (I ended up overcompensating, but still a good idea to be conservative). Despite the challenge, however, I still enjoyed uncovering the mystery of this disturbing ghost tale, which actually turned out to be rather sad - wasn't really expecting that from the story, so that was a nice element.
Murdered: Soul Suspect - So, yeah, this game didn't get the greatest reviews, but I'm actually kind of surprised at that. It does sort of play like a ghost version of L.A. Noire (without the interrogation stuff), and there's some weird stealth sequences where you have to sneak around demons, but even though it is a pretty mediocre game to some extent, I think the premise and the characters are interesting enough (albeit kinda hokey) to make you want to keep playing. I wouldn't necessarily run out to get it, but if you have it in your backlog, it's worth trying out.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs - Surprisingly, I liked this game more than A Dark Descent. It does take away a lot of what people liked about ADD and turns the franchise into little more than a horror walking simulator, so I definitely get the complaints (no more sanity loss, no real puzzles, not a lot of monsters to worry about and no real need to hide). But the reason I like it more is because the story was more accessible and better written. Despite the protagonist's madness, I could understand where he was coming from and what brought him to that point - I didn't really get that same feeling with ADD (not to mention the ending was completely ridiculous). And I think it's AMFP's narrative that helped make it even more bone-chilling and disturbing than ADD, at least in my opinion. Is it a great horror game? Hmm, probably not, but is it a great horror story? I'd say it's a pretty good one.
Dead Nation - I played this game at a point where I needed something I could play in small bursts between rounds of studying, and I'd say Dead Nation is good for that. It's a short game overall, and the basic premise is that you're just mowing down waves of zombies as you're trying to find a way to escape the city - pretty much your standard zombie apocalypse story. I haven't played a whole lot of isometric games, so that angled, top-down view took a little getting used to, but it actually did get rather fun to take down wave after wave of enemies and watching the bodies pile up as you rack up a bunch of points. But beyond that, there wasn't a whole lot to it - no real reason to use any gun other than the rifle you're first equipped with, and I didn't find myself needing to use a whole lot of strategy other than having lots of explode-y things on hand for crowd control. So not a game I'd necessarily recommend, but it kept me occupied while it lasted.
Detroit: Become Human - I've had a love/hate relationship with David Cage's prior games. I like games that are more like an interactive movie with a "choices matter" aspect, but a lot of the characters in Quantic Dream titles have been pretty wooden, with the focus being more on the over-the-top drama and forcing you to feel something rather than allowing you to feel some genuine sense of connection with the characters on your own terms. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Detroit was a vast improvement over previous games. There's still parts of the narrative that are pretty ridiculous, of course, but I feel that Detroit does a much better job of developing likeable characters that you want to empathize with. And you can probably guess from my username which character is my favorite, haha. I really liked his dynamic and friendship with Hank in particular. Definitely want to play this again someday because I got a really bad ending with the Kara, Alice and Luther thread. :(
Her Story - I'd been curious about this "game" for a while, and it definitely lives up to the uniqueness I'd heard about. By searching for videos using key words from the spoken text, you try to uncover more and more of a woman's story about whether or not she actually killed her husband. It took some twists and turns that I didn't expect, but I was also expecting the game to have me piece together the evidence myself and provide a case for why she did or didn't do it. Instead, it really is just about listening to her story. It's interesting, but I wouldn't spend more than a couple bucks on it.
Shelter - Another short experiential, artsy game that got surprisingly emotional. You play as a mamma badger looking after her babies, and that means protecting them from the elements and predators. It's not as easy as you'd think. ;__;
Eastshade - To be fair, this game is more than just a walking simulator, but there is a lot of walking. Depending on your gaming interests, though, that could be a perfectly good thing. Eastshade is a real beauty - you play as an aspiring artist who travels far and wide through several lush environments to capture that one of a kind, picturesque moment in a painting. It's a super relaxing experience as there's absolutely no combat; you just amble your way through series of quests, some that are fetch quests, some that involve a little bit of puzzling or investigation, some that allow you to make choices in how to deal with certain character situations (but ultimately don't have a huge effect on the story), and of course, there's the painting quests in which characters commission to have you paint specific things (and there's also an overarching quest to paint certain places in memory of your mother). The painting itself just involves taking a screenshot of your choice, but the game does require a bit of light crafting as you'll have to gather materials to make canvases and a few other helpful items. I think some of the environments could've been a little bit bigger, but ultimately, I was pretty satisfied to clock in around 15 hours or so. There are few games I've played that are as wonderfully calming as Eastshade.
CLANNAD - I did not know what I was signing up for when I bought this as my first visual novel because it is HUGE. Looking back, I don't know that I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get into the VN genre - it feels like a lot of pieces are still missing when you only complete one or a few of the paths. But I did eventually get through all of the paths available, and the writing and character development was well worth the time; there are romances, but it's more about the trials and triumphs of each character, and even though it didn't make me cry, some threads did unexpectedly tug at my heart. It's a big time investment, but CLANNAD will warm you up from the inside out.
2064: Read-Only Memories - It's cute, it's pixelated, it's cyberpunk, but aside from the visual aesthetic, it was a bit underwhelming. It's a not-so-vaguely political narrative about whether robots should be given autonomy and the tensions between human purists and those who have had cybernetic implants. I never felt like there was some huge agenda being forced down my throat - I like exploring ideas of what makes someone human, but it isn't really my cup of tea when it becomes largely framed by the extreme opposite ends of social justice.
Doki Doki Literature Club - Despite seeing all the recs for this VN, I held off on playing this for quite a while because I wasn't sure how dark and twisted it would actually get - I like horror to an extent but not if it involves weird and disturbing fetishes - and with VNs you can never be too sure sometimes. Thankfully, that isn't what this VN is about, and it's another one of those that you just have to experience for yourself without reading anything about it (and it's free), but I will say it was delightfully unsettling once things got real. Just Monika.
I Love You, Colonel Sanders! - I don't even know. But I actually kind of enjoyed it? Whoever designed this VN definitely knew all the tropes, which made it more fun than I would've ever expected. It's still a joke VN, and I wouldn't have paid money for it if it wasn't free, but I got a good hour or so of entertainment out of it.
Reigns - I don't know why, but something compelled me to keep playing through this medieval strategy/choices matter game until I got the real ending (had to use a guide, of course). Probably had something to do with the addictive swipe left or right gameplay, lol. It was entertaining to see all the different possible threads, but bottom line, it was basically just a sufficient time-waster.
Organ Trail - You've probably heard of it before, but's pretty much what you'd think - just a mash-up of the old school Oregon Trail and a zombie apocalypse. Doesn't take terribly long to get through one run of it, but can be a bit challenging at times. I'd rate this as another good mobile time-waster.
A Dark Room - I started by playing the free browser version, and I loved it so much I bought the mobile app version and ended up being glued to my phone for a couple days straight. It's a minimalist, text-based incremental game, and I've never played anything like it before. The story is told through a series of short sentences that intermittently appear depending on your progress, and despite the few words, there's actually lot of mystery to them that makes you want to find out more. The gameplay part of it involves gathering and producing materials in order to build your settlement and help it grow, which the game gathers or produces automatically depending on how you have your resources allocated. Once you get far enough in, you can actually start exploring outside your settlement for other materials and maybe uncover more of the mystery. You can take a backpack of supplies with you, but you'll have to be careful - your food/water amounts and # of torches dictates how far and where you can travel, and you'll run into hostiles so you'll want to make sure you're appropriately geared up. Sadly, it didn't take too long to reach the end of the game; I would've loved to have played so much more of it. But I definitely recommend it to anyone especially since the browser version is completely free.
All Our Asias - This was a short title on Steam that piqued my curiosity because of its experimental, PSX-ish aesthetic. It's more or less a walking sim that's more of an experience than a game, but honestly, it kinda left me wanting more of it? Not necessarily because of the story - which I didn't follow completely - but just because of the exploration aspect. Like sort of a "small open world before there were open worlds" feeling with a very ethereal, otherworldly spin to it. However, it could be boring for people expecting more actual content.
Blameless - I downloaded this because I was looking for a short horror game, and while the atmosphere was nice and creepy, the puzzles weren't all that challenging and the story left something to be desired. But hey, it's free.
What Never Was - This was more or less a half-hour demo for a first-person puzzle game I'm hoping will be released someday because it was rather impressive. I'm a sucker for games with some kind of archaeological adventure/mystery. Apparently part two is currently in development; I just hope that its title isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A Date in the Park - I can't really say anything about this game without spoiling it. It's a free point and click that takes maybe an hour or so, but if you like the kind of creepy where things feel just a little bit "off," it might be worth it just for the sheer experience.
Antenna Dilemma - This was basically chapter one of a pixelated point and click game (and not sure if more chapters are coming). It's charming and fun to click through, but underneath that cute exterior, there's a social commentary on our media consumption habits. The characters in the game are mesmerized by their TV sets, but the protagonist (who's an adorable grey cube) sets outside to find a life beyond. I could see this being a full-fledged story, so it was disappointing when there wasn't more.
Session Seven - This is another point and click pixel adventure game, but the narrative (potentially) takes a darker turn. You play as a guy trying to escape his basement with no idea of how he got there, but the more objects you find and puzzles you complete, the more you remember what happened, and much of it you process during scenes with a psychiatrist that come up periodically in the game. I say "potentially" as there are a few different outcomes depending on how you respond to the psychiatrist's questions. Unlike some of the other freeware, this is a complete story, and while it didn't blow my mind, it's a pretty interesting one.
So that's it for 2019! I think my main takeaway is that I need to play more RPGs for 2020, and I am kind of missing a good JRPG in particular, though sometimes those are hard to commit to because of the time involved. But I suppose it's not about the number of games we beat; it's about the amount of fun we have playing them, right? :)
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