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What we've been playing - giant dragon lads, half-devils, and companion games

A few of the things that have us hooked this week.

Art for Diablo 4's Season 4: Loot Reborn showing three adventurers holding back the swarming hordes of hell.
Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment

5th July 2024

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've been playing over the past few days. This week, we bash our heads against Shadow of the Erdtree, we suffer for our evils in Baldur's Gate 3, and we enjoy the change in Diablo 4.

What have you been playing?

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Diablo 4, PS5

Diablo 4 is a perfect companion game in the sense that it's a welcome relief from whatever else you're playing. I went back to it this week inspired by many of you still playing it, and as ever, was impressed. It's such a smooth and well-made package that it makes me feel like a child with an action toy who wants to just smash it into other action toys; I pick up the game and it compels me to play.

The recent Diablo 4 loot changes.Watch on YouTube

The slight uphill struggle I faced this time was that the loot has changed. I chose an older character to spend some time with - one I'd completely forgotten how to use, so I just had to trust that I'd 'done the thinking' before and built something viable, and mash the buttons until the old strategy resurfaced - and I quickly discovered that all the equipment I had on was now considered "legacy". Moreover, I started looting things I'd never seen before: schematics for weapons that can be applied separately, core augments, and there's new systems like Tempering. It was the same game but it was a different game now too.

This is what happens now: games change. Spend some time away from them and you might come back to find something considerably different. See Cyberpunk 2077, see World of Warcraft, see any live service game really. And yes, it can take a bit of getting used to, but I also quite like it. I don't think I'll ever tire of the loop that Diablo 4 realises so well. What I'll tire of is the wrapping around it and the sense of purpose I have in the game. As long as that's continually refreshed, I'll happily snack on Diablo 4 between other meals for many years to come.


Elden Ring, PC

Perhaps some of these weapons would have helped.Watch on YouTube

I've been up to my eyeballs in Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree expansion these past weeks, attempting to ferret out every last secret and turn it into some sort of guide. This weekend, I spent several hours being absolutely monstered by Bayle the Dread, a giant dragon lad who's one of the optional bosses that lives at the top of the giant volcano on the southeastern corner of the map.

Really, I should have clocked that this was a bad idea when I first started climbing up the mountain. As you emerge onto the foot of Jagged Peak, the skies are blood red already - a marked change from the ghostly greys and blues you left behind on Gravesite Plain. But things just get worse from there. The wind picks up, tearing so hard through the trees and kicking up so much dust and flying rocks into the air that you feel like you, too, could be carried off in an instant were it not for the full set of armour you're wearing. Then the red lightning starts streaking across the sky as you cross a worryingly flimsy-looking wooden bridge, and oh good, now it's ripping up the ground in front of me like some almighty thunderbolt from whatever the heck this game's equivalent of Zeus might be.

The further you climb, the more apocalyptic it becomes. The sky turns redder, the dust becomes all consuming, and did I mention the many dozens of smaller dragon corpses lining the way up as well? It is carnage and chaos incarnate, and yet still I slogged on to the top, before proceeding to spend upwards of three hours running into the same boss arena over and over again only to get munched and pulped every single time. Eventually, I got there, but even now I ask myself, was it really worth it? For the sake of my work, of course. But for my own personal enjoyment? I'm still working that one out, I think.


Baldur's Gate 3, PC

Baldur's Gate 3.Watch on YouTube

Have I evilled myself into a corner? I've been plugging away at my Dark Urge playthrough of BG3 and I've hit a stumbling block: Act 3. Specifically, there are climactic battles there I seem ill equipped to deal with. My problem: lack of spell casters. I have Shadowheart and that's it. I killed Will and Gale - I did say it was an evil playthrough! - and I never even found Halsin, so the only character capable of dropping those high level spell-bombs is Shadowheart.

My party make-up at the moment is two paladins - myself and Minthara - plus Shadowheart and then either Astarion or Lae'zel. That's the totality of my options. In some situations, it works. When I fought Astarion's evil vampire sire, the built-in radiant damage of my paladins was wonderfully useful. But now that I'm in Hell and fighting fiends, it's less so. Worse, I lack the firepower to efficiently deal with the strongest of them.

In some regards, I don't mind this. I know that I can go to Withers in my base camp and request a hireling there who is a Wizard or a Sorcerer or Warlock or whatever else I want them to be. I can build a perfectly balanced party if I want; I can even change my own class. But I also want to face the consequences of my actions and the evil I've done. I will reap what I've sown.


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