Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Skyrim SE: Light Armor vs. Heavy Armor

Welcome back to the blog. In this post I’m going to provide an argument for choosing light armor over heavy armor for all character builds aside from one. Now I realize this concept will go against popular sentiment but once the information is fully broken down I think you’ll agree my argument for light armor is more than valid.

I won’t actually be covering any true mage builds in this post because I haven’t spent enough time working on mage only characters. I’m not a fan of magicka-focused builds. I enjoy magicka but it’s far from a first choice and has thus far only been supplemental.

The most important aspect of armor we need to get out there straight away is the game’s armor cap. This number represents the most damage resistance a player’s character can withstand. And that number is 85% damage resistant. This figures out to 567 armor rating in total. What this means is your super powerful Dark Brotherhood armor set with 1,200 armor rating is only good for 567 armor. With the introduction of dragonplate (heavy) and dragonscale (light) armor with the Dawnguard DLC you can reach the armor cap with both light and heavy armor and light armor is within shouting distance of heavy armor in overall armor rating.

After doing a bit of digging and mathematics I came up with the base armor ratings of both Dragonplate and Dragonscale armor. The final numbers include double improvement and the 50% bonus from the combined Well Fitted and Matching Set perks available in both the heavy armor and light armor skill constellations, which are called Deft Movement and Unhindered. The Dragonplate (heavy) armor went over the armor rating maximum with an overall rating of 612. The Dragonscale (light) was below the armor cap with a 492 rating. Now, looking at these numbers you might say, “See the proof is in the pudding. Heavy armor eclipses the armor cap and guarantees I have the most damage resistance available and the light armor doesn’t.” Of course you are correct by saying this. And if you were not using any enchanting or potions in your gameplay then heavy armor would be more beneficial than light. But, I have one more card to flip over: The Dragonscale Armor misses the rating cap by 75 points. This seems like a lofty number but it actually isn’t all that lofty. With a weak blacksmith potion or a weak smithing piece of apparel (20%) the Dragonscale armor also eclipses armor cap at 590. And a potion of only 15% brings it to 565. So for the armor cap each type of armor, heavy or light, will easily reach 567.

Now that we’ve witnessed light armor being equally protective as heavy armor it’s time to explore the perk constellations for each set. There’s a significant detail that I can’t leave out. If you’re using the Guardian Stones to improve your character be aware heavy armor is under the Warrior Stone while light armor is under the Thief Stone. I always recommend using the Thief Stone as it boosts the only skill you can always improve, in or out of combat, which makes it invaluable for leveling your character and that’s the Sneak skill. As long as you’re in sneak mode and undetected your character continually levels up just by exploring Skyrim. You can also use the Illusion spell Muffle to level your character while outside of combat or the Alteration spell Transmute. But neither are as beneficial as Sneak.

I’ll start with the Heavy Armor constellation. I’m only focusing on non-armor rating improvement perks. It’s fairly obvious to use rating boosts so there’s no need to discuss those. Aside from the Juggernaut, Well Fitted, and Matching Set perks, you’ll find Unarmed, Conditioning, Reflect Blows, Tower of Strength, and Cushioned. You’ll find versions of Conditioning and Reflect Blows in the light armor constellation so I will discuss those with light armor. As for the other perks, two have benefits while one is practically useless. Unarmed and Tower of Strength are the beneficial perks that are specific to heavy armor. Unarmed will do the armor rating in damage, which is awesome, but is only needed for an unarmed build. You should never lose a brawl. Tower of Strength reduces stagger from incoming attacks by 50%. Another great perk but not necessarily all that special. You will better off by blocking the attack, or better yet, using a shield. I can promise you getting hit with Ebony arrows will cause a stagger with this perk. As for the most useless perk in heavy armor we find Cushioned. This perk reduces fall damage by 50%. If you’re jumping from any location far enough to take fall damage you need more than this perk. You can walk straight down a cliff face or use the Become Ethereal shout and leap off anything.

Let’s move on to the Light Armor perks constellation. Like heavy armor, the Reflect Blows and Conditioning perks are available but with different names, Deft Movement replaces Reflect Blows, both giving a 10% of taking no melee damage, and Unhindered replaces Conditioning, which makes armor weigh nothing and not slow you down. Conditioning is more valuable in terms of more encumbrance freed up as heavy armor has significantly more weight. A full set of Dragonbone Armor tipping the scales at 64 encumbrance whereas a full set of Dragonscale weighs in at 20 encumbrance. Now onto the other Light Armor perks and I’ll save the best perk, which also tips the scales to light armor being superior to heavy armor for last, which is the only other perk available for light armor. Light armor has 10 perks in the constellation and heavy has 12. So for the final perk left we will find Wind Walker. The Wind Walker perks grants the character the ability to regenerate stamina 50% faster. At face value this perk doesn’t look so special but hear me out.

Stamina may actually be more important than health. Stamina is used for sprinting, bashing, slowing time in archery, and power attacks. It’s also used for getting out of the way of giants and mammoths bearing down on you at level ten. Or maybe you use it to quickly avoid a fire/frost-breathing dragon. No matter what the reason stamina is critical for survival. So having the ability to regenerate stamina without enchanted armor or jewelry is invaluable. You won’t need to carry stamina potions or waste an enchantment slot of stamina regeneration or even carry supremely heavy food items like vegetable or beef stew (both regenerate stamina). If you recall the heavy armor perk Tower of Strength reduces stagger by 50%. But what if you could just close that gap against the archers and, using that stamina, perform a sprinting attack that staggers them instead. And with your stamina regenerating so quickly, you can follow up the sprint attack with another power attack. So long archers. And this is even better against mages as they typically have no armor.

In my two-handed build I used heavy armor for a long time but ended up switching over to light armor because of the stamina regeneration perk Wind Walker. I still used a stamina enchantment slot for an additional 35% stamina regeneration which basically makes me completely unstoppable in pitched battle. Using the Sweep perk in the two-handed skill, which requires stamina, gives me the ability to attack multiple foes while avoiding damage at the same time. And with my stamina regeneration at 85% these attacks are back to back to back to back.

In summary, we know light armor is equal to heavy in terms of overall protection from damage—with a little help. We know the unique perks in heavy armor are very specialized and often unnecessary or not too useful. We know that light armor requires two fewer perks to fill out and you get to ultra beneficial Wind Walker perk, which regenerates the all-important stamina at a 50% faster clip.

So the next character you build, be it a two-handed, one-handed, dual-wielding, or sword and shield, would you still opt for the ever popular heavy armor or consider the better option light armor?

References: http://en.uesp.net/wiki/Main_Page

Friday, November 24, 2017

Namira’s Ring and Boethiah’s Calling Skyrim

For the veterans of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim it is well known the Daedric quests are both useful and wicked. For any player with a conscience accomplishing Daedric quests can be tumultuous as completing these quests often require some shady practices. Boethiah’s Calling and The Taste of Death are no exceptions. But I’m here to offer you some peace of mind. You’ll be able to get both Daedric artifacts and offer some much needed justice.

To start these quests you’ll need to locate The Hall of the Dead in Markarth (The Taste of Death) and the Sacellum of Boethiah near Windhelm (Boethiah’s Calling). You will need to be level 30 to start Boethiah’s Calling and will likely be attacked by a Boethiah Cultist. Once you’ve slain this assassin just grab the book off the corpse, which will give you the quest update. Although there isn’t a prerequisite for The Taste of Death if you wait until level 30 you can knock out both of these quests in short order.

What you’ll want to do is go to Markarth first. You can gain access to the Hall of the Dead the first time you find Markarth. The priest is arguing just outside Understone Keep. Talk to him right after the argument for access. Once inside the Hall of the Dead a figure will appear. She will babble about you eating flesh. Just agree to help her clear the cave. In order to obtain Namira’s Ring you’ll need to indulge in minor cannibalism but you will earn your justice shortly.

Once you’ve cleared the location of Draugr, Eola asks you to convince a certain priest for a ceremony, which in Eola-speak is fancy jargon for feast. Either way, go get thoe priest and bring him to the dining room in Reachcliff Cave. Be sure to fast travel to the secret entrance to be sure the priest makes it alive. You’ll find the dining table has a few guests and they may recognize you from Markarth. This is when the quest goes sideways. You can either dine on the priest and earn Namira’s Ring, which grants you increased health and stamina (if partaking in more cannibalism) or you can kill Eola and get a reward. For the sake of this post, we will be eating the dead. Now that you have the ring, you’ll be finishing out your plan, and justice begins now. In my play through I attack and kill all the guests while in werewolf form but keep Eola alive. Maybe have her partake in the slaughter. Now the guests are shop owners or dog trainers so be prepared to lose some commerce. But killing them is worth it. If you commence the slaughter as a werewolf you can earn hearts for werewolf perks. Or just accomplish this goal in whatever fashion you choose and for whatever purpose you desire.

Now onto phase 2 of the double, double cross. Recruit Eola as a follower. She’s a capable spellsword so taking her along for some missions might make justice more fulfilling. However you chose take her to the Sacellum of Boethiah. Complete the ritual Boethiah requires and be sure to answer crudely and selfishly. Now the double, double-cross is complete. Only thing left is to get the unique Ebony Armor. Boethiah requires that only one cultist may live. Follow the others but stop at the top of the steps and watch the loons take each other out. Clean up the remaining survivor. Maybe even indulge Namira with some eating of the dead. Or if you’re a werewolf earn some levels for the next perk. Now off with you to Knifepoint Ridge to get special ebony armor which will poison enemies who are too close.

This is how I complete these two Daedric quests. For me, the priest gets some justice as the mastermind behind his killing is herself killed for the betterment of others. Maybe a little twisted but justified.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fallout 4 Firearms Snafus Part 1

In the world of Fallout 4 many of the weapons available to the player have roots in the real world players inhabit. But before I get into these real-world counterparts of those in the fictional world of Fallout 4 let me make something perfectly clear: Fallout 4 is a video game. Period. End of story. In addition, I'm not going to get militant about Bethesda not portraying the firearms in Fallout 4 accurately to the real life versions. I'm merely going to point out a few minor flaws. In doing this there needs to be an understanding: assumptions will be made. If you, reader, can keep that in mind things will go a lot smoother. And lastly, I'm not going to get into the science fiction weapons or experimental weapons in the game. These posts will be solely about standard cap-and-ball firearms. 

In real life I have many of the firearms represented in the Fallout 4 universe. I may not have the exact caliber, or more appropriately, cartridge of those offered in Fallout 4 but I have similar rifle “actions” as portrayed in the Commonwealth. For this post, I'll be focusing of the rifles. I'll save the pistols and handguns for another post. So we will be exploring bolt-action, lever-action, and semi-automatic versions of the game’s rifles and how they relate or compare to the actual versions I own. 

For the purposes of this post, I'm going to use the .308 rifle as the baseline. In relation to Fallout 4, assumptions need to be made immediately as the game doesn't identify the exact .308 cartridge. So, I'll be going with the assumption the game refers to the .308 Winchester (there are several rifle cartridges with .308 as a prefix but none are as popular as the .308 Winchester), which is nearly identical to the 7.62 NATO or 7.62mmX51mm. To be clear the 7.62 NATO is not the same as the Handmade 7.62 you'll find in Nuka World but I'll get more into this a bit later. For now I'll focus on the .308 bolt-action rifle. 

The .308 Winchester was released to the public in 1954, three years earlier than its cousin cartridge the 7.62 NATO would be adopted by the U.S. military. But that doesn't mean the .308 came before the NATO version. In the 1940s experiments had already begun to improve on the venerable.30-06 cartridge. So Frankford Arsenal began experimenting with a smaller .30 caliber cartridge—the .300 Savage and ended up with the 7.62 NATO, which was smaller than the .30-06 and nearly as powerful with light bullets. This adaptation led to a shorter action and lighter weapon. Now I mentioned the .308 Winchester and the 7.62 NATO where cousins but they're more like fraternal twins. I won't go into all details in this post. If you're interested in the differences post the question in the comments.

Now that I've thoroughly confused you, I'll get back to the game. The .308 is the first traditional bolt-action rifle you'll encounter in Fallout 4. I say traditional because pipe rifles are not traditional and won't be covered with any depth in these posts. Pipe rifles are more related to zip guns than true firearms and that's where I'll leave that. You can easily  find a .308 bolt-action rifle, which will be more powerful than any other versions in the early stages of Fallout 4, at Walden Pond. One of the raiders nearest the sewer entrance will have a hunting rifle in .308. Not far from Walden Pond you may come across a broken section of highway with a few Gunners, one of which may have a full .308 sniper rifle. 

So what about these snafus you're asking? Well, the first and most obvious snafu is the bolt handle on bolt-action rifles. For me, this was an obvious mistake or oversight and I'm leaning to oversight. Your character shoots right handed. Pistols, revolvers, rifles, sledgehammers, all weapons are active from a right handed person perspective. The trouble exists with the bolt handle being on the left side. I won't say this doesn't happen, but it's rare and typically seen with customized rifles, or left-handed models. This flaw or oversight also exists with both the lever-action and semi-automatic rifles. With the lever-action, the ammunition is fed in from the wrong side. For the semi-automatics the bolt handle is on the wrong side. I say this is an oversight because in Fallout New Vegas the lever-action loading gate is on the correct side. I suppose this could have been done on purpose to create a more immersive feel by watching the character perform more visualized actions, but I think it's a mistake by Bethesda. 

Next I'll explore damage. In the Fallout 4 world the .308 is the least powerful of the non-semi-automatic rifles. Both the Handmade 7.62 and the .45-70 are more powerful, but this isn't true in the real world. As a reminder, I'm not including pipe guns that would include the .45 pipe revolver rifle. These errors go from bad to downright awful. Let's use the .50 caliber rifle as an example of downright awful. Again, we aren't given the actual nomenclature of the .50 caliber rifle, but assuming it’s related to real-world rifles, we can rightly guess it's the 50 BMG. I can assure you that all three of the smaller caliber rifles combined cannot match the power of the 50 BMG. But within the fantasy of the Fallout world the .50 sniper is only slightly more powerful than the .308. To me this is an egregious error,  not as much as the power of the .44 revolver, though. I just need to remind myself that it is ONLY a game. I don't want to mire you down with all the ballistics within the post. So if you are interested, and prefer to see proof instead of just my world, then leave a question in the comments. 

A small bit on the Handmade 7.62 and how it relates to the .308. Given what we know of the Handmade 7.62, it is safe to assume it’s based on the Alexander Kalashnikov rifle of 1947, aka AK-47. Another popular rifle using the same ammunition is the SKS. The 7.62mmX39mm doesn't share the same diameter projectile as the 7.62 NATO, although it still falls into the .30 caliber family. This is also a rather complicated section on real-world rifles and nomenclature so I'll save it for the comments. Inside a rifled barrel are lands and grooves. These lands and grooves are what provides the sealing surfaces and the twists as the projectile leaves the chamber, travels down the barrel, and exits the muzzle. The 7.62mm or .300 inches is the diameter of the lands in the barrel, whereas the groove diameter is 7.82mm or .308 inches. From this I can show you the difference with the 7.62X39. The projectile of the 7.62X39 is .312 inches. The lands of the barrel is still .300 but the grooves will be different at .312. 

Now that this post has come to an end, I'm asking myself what it was actually about. So I feel your pain if you are asking the same question. That being said, I'll be doing a post of the handguns of Fallout 4 and where I feel things are off kilter. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fallout 4: Why Aren't You Playing It?

    Fallout 4: Why aren't you playing it?

    This is the question I was asked some time back. And my response probably appeared rather weak to the person who asked me. I think I replied with something along the lines of it's an open-world game and I'm not sure that's for me. Boy was I wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I wasn't wrong about it being open-world, though. But I was wrong about it not being a game for me.

    At the time I began considering Fallout 4 as an option, I had been enjoying more and more games with deep, well articulated stories. And a couple of those games were stories without words, without dialog, and without NPCs. Games like Journey and ABZÛ and Neverending Nightmares. Still others were full of dialog and NPCs and conversations. Dying Light, The Last of Us, and Life is Strange for example. And although Dying Light was open-world it had a narrow, and linear, focus. Not that those things took anything away from the game; it was a fantastic game. The Last of Us and Life is Strange are both great stories with excellent dialog, but they are quite focused in their purpose, providing limited interaction with the environments. Sure there were many opportunities to explore but in a tertiary role.

    But Fallout 4 isn't like that. Fallout 4 is all about exploring. Truth be told, exploration is of utmost importance. But it's not just about finding new locations to scavenge or participate in battle or scrounge for ammunition, health items, and bottlecaps (the currency of the Wasteland). Oh no, the exploration is vital to the most important aspect of Fallout 4: the stories.

    When I mention the stories, I'm not referring to the main story. It's rather predictable and not overly interesting. And I feel like this flaw in the game gives it a black eye. But thankfully the secondary and tertiary stories make up for the re-washed main story. These sad, gripping, and often gut-wrenching stories are what makes me ask the question, "Why aren't you playing Fallout 4?"

    More than just the scripted encounters are the random encounters. And true enough many of these random encounters are battle focused or essential equipment such as ammo or health, but there will also be random opportunities to engage in a story. You may come across a settler in dire need of medications. Or you may find a funeral that you can only be a witness to as there isn't an option to engage with the mourners. Or you may find a man circling a refrigerator and thinking aloud on how to open it.

    Even some of your available companions have deeply painful stories to tell such as MacCready or Old Longfellow. Maybe you've decided to solve the Eddie Winter quest with Nick Valentine, which you must to reach max affinity, and you learn about who Valentine used to be and why solving the Winter case is so important.

    More importantly though—if you take the time that is—you'll complete the saddest, most heart breaking story in the quest of Arlen Glass, a man who cared so much about making children happy he forgot to take time for his own daughter. When I finished Arlen's quest I had to take a minute away from the game to clear my throat. Or, perhaps, you'll come across Phyllis Daily, and if you have high charisma, she'll tell you about her grandson. Or maybe the Suttons and the terrible fate of a mother and two children thanks to an abusive, lazy father.

    Fallout 4 is filled with tough battles, complex battles, and fun, environmentally rich battles. But the greatest aspect of the game are the battles of the Commonwealth people. The war against total atomic annihilation, and the steps taken to keep families safe from a world no longer safe. What about the efforts of the Tournquist family to reunite, and of Jim to save his family within the confines of Big Jim's Salvage. And when you find Jim and his family take a moment to review what your eyes see, and then ask yourself: would you do the same?

    Fallout 4: Why aren't you playing it?