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By Throne

ATLAS: Present and Future

We have been at it since day one, that ugly and...well, let's just stick with ugly...launch. Even through the lag muck and server instability, you could read the stars and see the potential.  Right off the bat it was only for the tough, and we barreled through the glitchy log-ins, the shaky starter zones and the wretched "lawless" starting areas and found our way to the rafts.  Some were able to get to our island after 3-4 hours of learning how to tack, zig zag and fight through server borders and with a full stack of human hides, and then some were finally rescued after what seemed like days of being eaten alive by scorpions and crocodiles, only to quickly get used to dying to the cold, the wolves, the alpha horses, the water, the sharks and each other's general noob mistakes.
Yes, with the known developer, we did try to ARK it, or Dark and Light it...hell, we've even tried to Life is Feudal this one....and Atlas is just NOT those games.  Some visuals and sounds are there, but the depth and options and functionality is just SO much more.  What really took the game from just another ARK expansion to, the potential mmo of the decade, was getting out on our first schooner, the SS Skjoldr (video below).  The experience was entirely PvE, but when you have 13 people packed on to a single vessel and the guys repairing the ship are as vital as the helmsman steering and the deckhands manning the sails, it became something I haven't seen in a game since our friday night flights on the Decimator back in SWG.
We have had just a blast learning the game and surviving our island and our neighbors over the past couple weeks.  Though it may appear as if we are well off enough, growing from 30 actives day one, to more than double that now, we absolutely could use more folks interested in living the Atlas life.  Whether you are interested in navigating the high seas, captaining a brigand, farming the tundra, mucking through politics, taming elephants or exploring the massive (30-40 hours of sailing from one end to the other) world, it is all here and we have many members willing to help you get started.
Here is a few screencaps and videos to give you an idea of what we have been up to:
 
 




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By Throne

ATLAS

From the sister studio of Wildcard, makers of ARK: Survival Evolved...
ATLAS: The ultimate survival MMO of unprecedented scale with 40,000+ simultaneous players in the same world. Join an endless adventure of piracy & sailing, exploration & combat, roleplaying & progression, settlement & civilization-building, in one of the largest game worlds ever! Explore, Build, Conquer!
https://store.steampowered.com/app/834910/ATLAS/
Early access, Thursday, December 13th  (Update:  delayed release to December 19th) [Update 2: delayed release delayed to December 21st]
Chapter group: 
Discord:  https://discord.gg/v74dSHQ
 
 

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By Throne

Xalt defeats Elric for 2018 Fantasy Football Crown

Xalt's Zappers smirk at expectations, knock off Elric's Arksters in 171.07-127.47 rout

Both teams exceeded their projected point totals, but it was Xalt's Zappers who got the victory, cruising to a 171.07-127.47 win over Elric's Arksters. Elric's Arksters earned a 3.86-point lead on Saturday behind Joey Bosa (2.18 points) and Mike Williams (1.68), but Xalt's Zappers held the lead the rest of the way. They were led by Matt Ryan (25.46 points) and Damien Williams (22.53). Ben Roethlisberger (42.22 points) and T.Y. Hilton (19.4) led the charge for Elric's Arksters in the loss. This marks the second time this season Xalt's Zappers have beaten Elric's Arksters, after winning 118.28-117.7 in their last matchup. Xalt's Zappers end the season at 12-4, while Elric's Arksters finish the campaign at 9-7.
 
Matchup Highlights

Sunday Early    There were players with standout moments on both teams early Sunday, after which Xalt's Zappers owned a 125.41-53.13 lead. Matt Ryan had a 75-yard touchdown pass and a 44-yard touchdown pass for Xalt's Zappers, while David Njoku had a 66-yard catch. T.Y. Hilton made the highlight reel for Elric's Arksters with a 55-yard catch.

Sunday Late    Both teams had players with big-time moments on Sunday afternoon, but it was Xalt's Zappers who took the lead, 148.54-96.80. For Xalt's Zappers, Robert Woods had a 39-yard touchdown catch. Ben Roethlisberger made the highlight reel for Elric's Arksters with a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 49-yard pass.

Sunday Night    Harrison Butker had a 54-yard field goal for Elric's Arksters, who trailed 171.07-118.27 after Sunday Night Football.
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By Throne

Kenshi 1.0 Released

It is generally a rarity that finds a single player game a feature of CotP articles, however, over recent months this game has entered my personal top five games of all-time and has passed my hourly steam totals for Mount & Blade, Fallout 4 and Skyrim in the process.  What the....yeah, I know.
So many titles over the years have claimed that it allows its players to "win" the game "their way" in an "open sandbox" environment.  Well, we cannot get the time back that we spent realizing that those developers were still significantly limited in the scope of what any individual's personal definition of in-game "freedom" actually means.  For me, M&B and SWG came close.  Unfortunately, both those games (or their EMU reboot) are either approaching or have surpassed the ten year mark of their seemingly eternal impending latest release. Enter Kenshi.
Freedom is a fun word in Kenshi...yes, you have the freedom to stay solo, group up with a squad, make a vegetable farm, join a faction, enslave a faction, slay the champion, be the richest hermit, recruit an army of robots or build the great city....blah blah, boring.  Now, the freedom to fail in the most unique form possible...that is the true gem in this game.  I will give you just the one example:
My squad is epic, I will tame the badlands and establish a civilized trading outpost...plan = awesome.  Headed for the abandoned fishing outpost.  Acid rain, not fun...put up tent, survived.  Reached fishing village, it is not a fishing village.  Really freaky "skin" people pour out of all the village buildings.  We put up a good fight but were overwhelmed.  One by one, my squad members were....stolen.  Knocked out, picked up and taken to some of the village huts.  What is going on here?  Then the screams.  Agonizing screams from my captured squad members.  No idea.  I am the last one to go down.  KO'd, picked up, taken to a nearby hut....
I died from blood loss.....after I was put into a grinder that peeled my skin off.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/233860/Kenshi/
 
WHAT IS KENSHI?
Kenshi is a single player sandbox PC game set in a vast and atmospheric ‘Sword-Punk’ style open world. With a mix of RPG elements, squad-based control and city-building features, gameplay is completely free-roaming and open: enjoy the freedom and potential to do whatever you want.
Set in an unrelenting world of bloodthirsty cannibals, starving bandits, brutal slavers and wild beasts, survival alone is a grueling struggle… You are not the chosen one. You’re not great and powerful. You don’t have more ‘hitpoints’ than everyone else. You are not the center of the universe, and you are not special. Unless you work for it.
Character Customization 
Edit your characters, build up their strengths and watch them endure and grow. Train Your Skills in Robotics, Thievery, Engineering, Medicine, Weapon Smithing and more!
Squad-Based Control
Play with one character or control a whole team; an army, even. Combat is Real-Time Strategy style with a choice of ranged and melee fighting styles
Build Your Base
Create and run your own city, manage an empire or simply wander the lands as a lone drifter. Research upgrades such as industry tech, weaponry crafting and trade goods
Wounds Affect Gameplay
Complex medical system where injured characters limp, crawl, bleed to death or pass out from starvation. Stem blood loss to avoid predators and replace lost limbs with robotic prosthetics
Open-ended Gameplay
An original sandbox world. Lay siege as a warlord or make your riches as a trader… There are endless game style possibilities and the world will never stop moving
Train hard
There is no level-scaling, the world does not level up along with you. At the start of the game almost everyone will be stronger than you and you’ll have to use your cunning to survive
Survive
Escape capture from deadly slavers & cannibal prisons, rescue your squad mates from grisly death and get them all home alive
Start A Faction
Keep to yourself, form an alliance or oppose other factions and territories of the world… good or bad
 
https://lofigames.com/road-map/
 


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By Throne

Anthem Arrives

When Bioware first announced its newest franchise, Anthem, during 2017’s E3 conference the one thing they said to describe the game was that it was unlike anything they had ever done before. And if nothing else, Anthem is certainly living up to that particular description.
Anthem is just not a game that hardcore Bioware fans would ever say is typical of the studio. Known for its stellar storytelling and its single-player franchises like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, players of Bioware games anticipate story-driven adventures along with companion characters who provide friendly banter and light-hearted romances. And hey, Anthem does provide a decent-enough story plot, with interesting and amusing characters and some good conversation opportunities, too. But the story is only a single part of the over-arching adventure that is Anthem (and hey, there’s no romances, either).

Anthem is described by its creators and by its growing fanbase as a co-op action and role-playing game, rather. In fact, its very best features can not be truly enjoyed without gathering a group of friends to embark into the gorgeous backdrop of the world of Anthem. 

There is nothing of Earth, here. This is a strange, new planet to explore, where every creature and bit of life comes from the Anthem of Creation – a powerful and mystical force that literally and even disastrously produces creatures, technology, and natural phenomena throughout the world. Everyone fights to survive and some to control the Anthem, and right there in the middle are the Freelancers, the heroes who embark past the walls of human cities to gather whatever resources they can find and to tame the myriad threats that the Anthem provides.

Freelancers survive outside the walls wearing armored suits, called Javelins. So far, the game’s four classes are encapsulated in whatever Javelin the player opts to suit up in, and each one of the four Javelins offers uniquely independent playstyles for the player’s gaming experience. There is no standard trinity that players of more traditional multiplayer games may try looking for, but this just keeps matched teams from insisting on any kind of perfect build, too. Any Javelin the player chooses will provide chances to cause damage to enemies or to save team-mates who have come under fire, in fact.

Still, exploring the different Javelins will give players an opportunity to decide which style of gameplay is their own personal cup of tea, so to speak. The Colossus, for instance, provides a heavy armored approach to the game, actually soaking up damage even as it unleashes massive firepower on the Freelancer’s enemies. The Storm, on the other hand, maximizes its time in the skies overhead to shield team members and rain down powerful lightning attacks on groups of enemies down below, too. The Interceptor is a more ground-based Javelin, zooming down onto enemies to zip and zap them swiftly with flashing blades and poison grenades. The final Javelin is the Ranger, which is also the first Javelin every beginning player will experience. The Ranger relies upon a steadied mix of abilities from all the classes, providing a well-rounded chance to inflict fast, intense damage to large numbers of enemies and combo attacks that obliterate threats in even wide areas. 

But it is the wide world of Anthem that truly sets the adventure apart from other games involving massive armored suits. Well, that and the whole flying around the world, too. In fact, the flying and swimming controls on the final released version of the game on February 22, 2019 were tuned in advance of the release through several test and demo sessions, where players pointed to issues on the varied platforms the game would be available. While there are still some players complaining the Javelins ability to maintain flight over an extended period of time simply is not great enough, the chance to navigate Anthem through the skies and even deep underwater offers opportunities for some purely amazing scenery and just plain, massive fun all at the same time. 

There were some buggy moments during the final days leading up to the release of the game, as well. Some players experienced issues with the game’s audio, actually losing sound in the middle of combat motions while moving around the world and battling enemies. A larger issue, however, was in the load times that quite a few players endured, where team-mates zoomed ahead and through the mission while they were still agonizingly lagging on the loading page. The game’s developers were quick to respond to the various issues and gameplay bugs that players reported, though. They welcomed comments on Anthem’s Twitter and Reddit pages, providing fast, public responses that the issues were noted and being addressed. The day one launch of the game then included a patch to try squashing the bugs, too.

But still, the game’s official launch was not completely void of problem or issue. Some players experienced terrible crashes of their consoles while playing Anthem, even. But overall, gameplay is remarkably smooth, even when the game is set to its highest graphic and audio settings. Each player’s game includes a chance to experience the story and get to know the various characters in Anthem, making dialogue choices that can help form their personal Freelancer. But the story is told through a first-person perspective of the walled city called Fort Tarsis, which creates a sense of disconnection with the individual player-character. Individuality comes from the amazingly complex personalization of the player’s Javelins, rather, and the Anthem fanbase has thrown itself into incredible renditions of paint and vinyls applied onto their suits.

Anthem is definitely a new experience, and those players who’ve adventured in other multiplayers are already asking for features common to such online multiplayer games. For instance, there’s currently no player-versus-player in the world of Anthem, and no real “raids” in the classical sense of multiplayer gameplay. There’s also a serious lack of clan or guild structures for players to rely upon. These are potential additions set aside for later patches to the game, is what the game’s developers are quick to assure.

What Anthem provides, rather, is a four-man team structure to explore the world through missions, expeditions, strongholds, and freeplay. The match-making tool in Anthem will quickly place players into random teams. Or players can create their own teams by inviting potential team-mates off their Origin friends list. 

Covenant of the Phoenix has set aside Chapter space for the community’s Anthem explorers, providing forums where guides and advice can be bantered over and shared. Also share some pictures and funny stories, too. But the Discord channels that COTP has established for the Anthem chapter of the community are even more useful, with potential team-mates gather together to help each other through the adventure. 

What is definitely true, though, is that embarking into the wider world of Anthem is most fun when you have a team to help back you up. The threats can be intensely challenging sometimes. The Freelancer can happily slaughter thousands of scorpions and Grabbits alike, only to turn a corner and run into a Titan. Hulk smash takes on a whole new meaning, then. So Anthem practically demands a team approach in order to succeed. As players and developers alike say, anyone can solo the game, sure. But it is far better to play with friends.  Only, do not hesitate to explore the Anthem with Covenant of the Phoenix! This is only the start! 
 
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Back to Dragon Age: Origins

Phyreblade

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You know those places no one wants to visit? Let alone live there, mind you. Your friends and family, when they hear you say, "Come down for the weekend," they all start making excuses why they simply can't make it. That's what I mean, a place like that.

The military introduced me to many of those places, actually. Gaming became the best escape - the chance to gather with others stuck in the same dire mess of a situation and usually wearing the same uniform, too. Something to do together while the kids ran around in the yard outside or haggled over which toys to play with, and we adults all rolled dice in mad rushes across the table-top and cheered on every troll and goblin and giant spider that we made dead.

And hey! Someone tell me why there is always a giant spider! Ick!

But suddenly and eventually we would get orders again and stand to lose the precious people who made our days and weeks seem so much more fantastical and adventurous than we would have thought going along. Society seems to appreciate how tough it is on the Army brats. I can definitely swear it's pretty rough on the Army grown-ups, too.

So when one of my bestest buddies ever came up to me and handed me this boxy, little hard-drive one day, I was hard-pressed not to burst into tears. He one said, "Here, take this. When you get there, you call me up and tell me how much you loved this game. That way, we're still playing together." I think of him every time I fire up Origins all these years later, too.

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So confession time, here.

When I first ventured into the world of Dragon Age: Origins, I didn't like it. No, no ... I know it sounds purely strange to hear me say that, considering the number of times someone's called me a "Bioware fanboy" these past few years. Like I take them seriously, even. Sheesh!

But truly. My initial steps into Thedas left me feeling just ... lost. I couldn't understand half what was going on, and I felt so much confused. I spent most of the time bugging my nearby husband with questions: "What's the Fade? Why does this guy glow? How did I even get into this blasted dream sequence, by touching some water? And what's with the fellow pretending to be a rat?" My husband became frustrated with me along the same time I became frustrated with the game and set my rig off to the side.

So he gruffly told me, "Why not try playing a different character? You might like playing a warrior better than a mage." Mind you, there are some words a wife never says aloud. "He was right" in that order are three of them. I figure I can type them into this little blurb here and you will all keep my secret safe, though. Thank you.

That's how I ended up first creating my first-ever Cousland.
That's when Thedas came alive, for me.

Seriously, though. I'll never be a "fanboy"! Stop calling me that! I'm a geeky nerd of a woman who spends her time exploring fantasy worlds where the difference between a mage, a warrior, and a rogue are my paramount concerns, dangit.

In Origins, the player character is "The Warden" - a raw, new Grey Warden recruit who's suddenly tasked with ... well, with saving the world, basically. There is a Blight impending, anyway. The Blight is a veritable horde of evil, vicious, and flesh-consuming monsters that burst out from underground like the fastest-moving Zombies you've ever seen. Hey, the Walking Dead has nothing like these dudes! And all of them are determined to sweep across the countryside killing every man, woman, and child they come across.

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Oh, and there's magic, elves and dwarves, and even a couple dragons to make the story even more fantastical, too. Yes, it's definitely my kind of story. With a few truly impressive differences to make it all the more interesting.

My very first playthrough of Origins became my personal "canon" take on the story, interestingly enough. That particular Warden of mine was everything I might have wanted a hero to be, anyway. Heck, not only did she steal my own heart, she stormed right across the camp to steal the heart of the king-to-be, too. He gave her a rose and they stormed the castle together.

Yea, that's me ... sappily pleased.
And oh, by the way.
My husband still hates Alistair with a passion.

I did manage to complete several more playthroughs of the game, though. All right, all right! More than several, even! But I was determined to explore the story from different perspectives and varied angles.

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The most difficult playthrough for me to complete involved my Dalish elf. My own Mahariel was the most arrogant piece-of-work of a character I ever created for any playthrough of the game. She was caustic, rude, and outright bigoted against anyone who wasn't Dalish.

I didn't like her, so it's not a surprise she never successfully romanced one of the companion characters. She was too busy mourning for her lost friend and lover, and Tamlen's tragic fate consumed her in bitterness. In the end, I decided to sacrifice her atop Fort Drakon. Rest in peace, Mahariel.

I completed a couple of mage playthroughs, as well. Playing as a mage in Dragon Age: Origins is actually a bit of a task, mind you. I generally advise my friends exploring Origins for the first time to avoid the mage class when they initially play the game. The Fade can be daunting, first off. And then the combat in Origins tends to be clunky and rough. For a mage, it's a lot of standing off to the side and singing, "Magic missile, magic missile" over and over again.

Yea, yea, yea. I know ... Wrong game.
So yea, back to Origins.

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My mage is invariably and always a Surana. That is, they're elves. I've tried making human mages, but they never seemed to feel correct to me and I always failed to progress past the prologue with them. So I stuck to the notion my mage in Origins is a pretty and quietly skilled elf girl and I adore her. I try not to think of her true fate, given that my "canon" take on the story has a Cousland warden rather than a Surana. Rest in peace, Surana.

Gradually, though, my own Warden took shape. The more I played, the more clear my picture of the character turned. Like I knew her ... like we were the best of friends, even.

I knew the Warden was utterly capable. She was sharply smart, like a whip. Educated and knowledgeable. She was diplomatic, too. But that doesn't mean she was any sort of goody two-shoes, either.

Diplomacy, as I see it, is a game of caution, rather. It's seeing the lies and manipulations clearly enough to navigate one's way through the messy mire that politics can be, really. And even using those same tactics to play right along. So my Warden was a pragmatist. She refused to be misused and remained determined to control her own fate. 
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And as a member of a noble, aristocratic family - a family second only to the King's, even - my Warden was keenly aware of her own place in the world and the obligations it demanded. Like any other Cousland, she was defined more than anything by the most incredible loyalty. To her family, to those she cared for, and to the people who counted on her. For her, nobility was no sort of entitlement. It was a responsibility, in fact. People depended on her and she refused to fail them.

Eventually, I knew so much who the Warden was, that I simply couldn't fathom seeing her any other way. Every playthrough started feeling so much the same. I was glad the second and third installments of Dragon Age introduced new heroes, even. The story needed to be fleshed out from all those other varied angles, too.

And then my husband tossed a challenge at me.
He said, "What if your Warden wasn't a woman? What then?"

Okay, so yea. It wasn't until he pointed it out, that I realized I had never played Origins as a male character. Which isn't to say I only ever play as a female in any game I play, either. I once had a DM try to poke at my sensibilities during a particular run of Dungeons and Dragons, by tossing a cursed ring at me that changed my gender. He stuttered when I shrugged and took to happily playing a character-suddenly-turned-guy, then.

But my Origins characters have always been female. No real reason for it. It only felt correct, to me. Which might be why my husband was adamant, that challenging my "canon" so much as that was beyond me. I think he was really bashing on my ever-lasting adoration of the Theirin bastard-king, actually. It didn't keep me from thinking on the story and what shape it would take if I only made such a simple and complete twist. As turning my gal Warden into a guy Warden.

... And hey! None of you pay attention to those plot wheels slowly gaining speed inside my head, either!

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