Monday, January 22, 2018

Japan 2017 - Sushi Dai

There are good things, there are great things, and then there are things that belong to a class of their own.

Food is no exception. There's just food that transcends the medium from nourishment to that of an art. Hong Kong showed it with Kau Kee's curry beef brisket noodles and Yat Lok's roast goose.

We've been looking forward to similar experiences since.

Tsukiji's Sushi Dai has been a must-visit on our mental list for a very long time. Chalk it up to documentaries like Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which we can probably never justify spending a good chunk of one's monthly salary on).

Anyway, we arrived in Osaka the night before, and took the shinkansen to Tokyo to meet our friends. They were flat out from travelling, but my girlfriend and I decided that we would power through the heavy rain and stick to the plan by heading for Tsukiji Market at three in the morning for sushi.

Was it worth the (three-hour) wait in the cold? Maybe. I can't really tell in hindsight. It is, however, the best sushi I've ever had by light-years.

I guess there's a lot of weird expectations our generation has about Japan. We grew up absorbing its cultural exports, and in a strange way we've probably subconsciously romanticized the idea that it's our foster country of sorts. Sushi, I suppose, was thus a fitting proper start to a nine-day adventure - and we knew we had to have it from the source.

Chutoro (Fatty Tuna)

Tai (Sea Bream)

Hotate (Scallop)

Akami (Lean Tuna)

Maki

Kinmedai (Golden Eye Snapper)

Taichiuo (Cutlass  Fish)

Ikura (Salmon Roe)

Sanma (Saury)

Bonus Piece: Chutoro (again), because this costs a lot in Manila.

Sushi Dai
Address: 5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, 中央区 Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Damage: Omakase Menu | JPY 4,000 (PHP 2,0000 | USD 39 | AUD 51)

Notes
Eat with your hands. Do as the locals do. The chef is a friendly fellow and, to our surprise, it seems that he has met his fair share of Filipinos as well.

Queue up early. If we had to do it again, we'd probably be there by 2:30am. Tsukiji is an interesting place. Bring snacks, if you need that energy boost.

Sushi Daiwa, which is literally next door, is run by the same family. Their queue is much shorter, but I'd still recommend getting there early.



Friday, January 12, 2018

King of Challenge Event: Hell Mode


The first integrated challenge missions in Gumballs & Dungeons have just been released. The aim is to beat three different dungeons without using any soul-links.

Yep, solo runs!

The first two are fairly easy, with the Three-Eyed King and his faithful hound being able to steamroll both the Adventurer's Forest F40 and Hero's Village F70 with impunity.

The last mission - to reach Lost Temple F100 - requires a bit more legwork.

Okay, a lot more legwork.

The Dungeon
Lost Temple is an elemental-filled dungeon, the most dangerous being the Earth elemental with its Reflect ability. These creatures provide crystals when slain, which in turn power the dungeon's main gimmick - the Elemental Altar.

The Team
There is no team. Literally.

To be eligible for the prizes, Soul-Links were restricted. There are probably better choices for a solo run, but I went with Sorcerer (Main) anyway. The ability Quantum Mechanics provides the cat Azrael - a pet that grows stronger every time it is killed and revived for a minimal amount of EP. Sorcerer also transcribes Blind scrolls every other floor, which turned out to be surprisingly valuable in the last twenty floors.

Equipment
Bring the Necklace of Legendary Mage +6. I didn't know what to choose for the potion, so I took Cabala which provides some power and a small chance to double a spell's damage.

Strategy
There are no other title paths apart from the Magic tree, so upgrades are very straightforward:
Magic Apprentice (3*), Black Robe Mage (3*), Conjuror (3*), Earth Master (3*), Legendary Mage (MAX).

Keeping Azrael alive is key, as his main purpose in the lower floors is to take out enemies and help save up as many scrolls as possible. In the later floors, he acts as a damage sponge.

Prioritization is key in completing the challenge. EP expenditure must be prioritized in this order: spell scrolls, 100 EP reserve for reviving Azrael, title upgrades. Always take stat boosts by offering same-color crystals at the Elemental Altar.

On the other hand, enemies must be beaten according to this priority: Rock Golem (ranged attacks), Water (healing), and then everything else.

The boss is (thankfully) lackluster, as it only attacks every three rounds without doing much else. Switch between Electrostatic Fields, Disrupting Rays and Icicles as needed, while keeping Stoneskin and Ice Armor up to mitigate damage rounds.

Blind and Curse will help defeat enemies in the later stages, so make sure that every spell is bought out when shops are spawned. Spellbooks (especially Air) are very handy - keep these equipped because free spells are always good and every single bit helps. I ran out of mana and scrolls at F100, with the last Lightning Bolt barely managing to kill the boss.

Pros
I don't think there are any pros, apart from the satisfaction of finishing the challenge with a terrible gumball.

Cons
Sorcerer is probably one of the worst gumballs, second only to Prince. Multiply that with a solo run and it's a recipe for disaster.

Final Thoughts
Use High Priest instead.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Au Revoir, Hyper

Death is the greatest looming spectre that haunts every single one of us.

Cold, scared, alone - I lose sleep thinking that death must be the one true personal experience. Maybe that's why we as a race have grown to become social creatures, and we value any form of companionship that we can get.

And with life comes the pain of loss.

We tend to outlive the pets we take in - and it is because of this that we are reminded of the pain of loss again and again and again over the years.

Maybe it's our way of numbing ourselves to the inevitable.

Animal companions give so much and ask for so little in return. Food, water, shelter - and maybe a little time to pull us away from a world that is hell-bent in consuming us. We think we're doing them a favor, when often the truth is that they're trying to help take our eyes away from an uncaring world, if only for the briefest of moments.

All you asked for is a bit of time. And I could not be there to provide company in your last moments.

I'm sorry buddy.

In our hubris, we failed you.

I failed you.

You did not deserve to go like this, and we do not deserve you.

If you can still find it in your pure little heart to forgive, someday I'll wait for you at the rainbow bridge.

Yes. You were a good boy.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Bring Down The Sky: The Busy Person's Guide to Erathia


I have a love-hate relationship with mechanical maps in Gumballs & Dungeons, which happen to be the majority of the latest maps released in the game. On one hand, they're great because they're just steeped with content. On the other, progress takes a ridiculous amount of effort to set up - and runs take a few hours at a minimum to complete.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, to be honest. It just doesn't work for folks who are otherwise preoccupied with stuff from the dreaded real world. 

This guide provides details for the build I used to complete 80dp for Erathia. I intend to raid the map for the Raptor frags, because ain't nobody got time for that.

The Dungeon
Erathia is a mechanical dungeon. Like City of Steam, Spaceship Ruins and Avalon Fortress, your progress is heavily dependent on completing a Manual -  an inventory item that several upgrades that grants bonuses and skills to help beat the map.

This is extremely important as all enemies in Erathia offer some sort of resistance, as well as sport some nasty abilities like the dreaded Reflect Damage. No pet shenanigans here!

Please note that this guide will not provide steps to complete the dp quests. There's already an excellent guide for that, so check it out.

The Team
Future Cat (Main) is arguably one of the most powerful gumballs that exists - and it's free! Its ability is the Dimension Bag, a piece of equipment that generates an assortment of items which are very helpful for deep dungeon runs. From stat boosters, to consumable Timestills, to theft items and free wicks, this homage to Doraemon is always a top pick for lengthy runs. The cherry on the cake? The Manual starts with Dashboard Structure Principle at max level when Future Cat is selected as Main, providing players with 6% HP regen right out of the gate!

Gang Cadre (Soul-Link 1) sports the ability Blackmail. The bane of all shopkeepers in the Gumball universe, he has the ability to rob shops blind for any items in their inventory - and then some! Erathia's Manual requires a ton of components to upgrade, and any wise player will be glad that this gangster is on their side.

Lastly, we have the good ol' Allfather himself, Odin (Soul-Link 2). Eternal is useful as ever, providing a whopping 40% bonus to all spells cast.

Equipment
Erathia literally provides all the equipment a player will need to kick ass. The Dimension Bag takes the Treasure slot while sharing it with the Harp of the Adventurer +6 for those sweet EP discounts.

Cactus Juice will help manage reflect damage until the appropriate Manual upgrade is found.

Strategy
Titles needs to be built up in this order: Treasure Seeker (1*), Explorer (1*),  Night Walker (1*), Magic Bandit (3*) and Farplane Ranger (0*). This provides maximum EP cost reduction as early as possible.

The next focus is survivability. Take Novice Warrior (3*), Knight (3*) which provides a hefty HP bonus for that sweet regeneration ability from the Steam Power Belt.

Next, take Magic Apprentice (3*), Black Mage (3*), Conjurer (1*), Earth Master (3*), Planar Prophet (MAX). Afterwards, work on the Heavy Armor Knight upgrade path for even more survivability, while saving the Light Paladin heal for dire circumstances.

You can choose where you spend EP afterwards. Just remember that there seems to be a conflict between the final Melee levels of the Dragon and Mech titles, so try to pick one over the other in the rare chance that you get them both.

For Manual upgrades, you can improve the four paths simultaneously, with the only common resource between them being Ancient Elements.

For Metallurgy, build the belt first for the regeneration ability. Build the helmet and maximize Burnishing and Polishing of Lens for bonus upgrade fragments throughout the run. Build the rest of the equipment set, and try to upgrade the tree as follows:

Precise Clockwork Spring Manufacturing (blocks counterattacks)
Aufbau Principle of Screw Conveyor (decrease ranged damage)
High Alloy Smelting (provides defense)
HP Upgrades
Attack Upgrades
Center Upgrades

For Electrical Science, it is important to build the equipment set as early as possible to take advantage of the free spell scroll every floor. For upgrades, try the following order to maximize those Portals of Earth:

Electromagnetic Deflection Technology (+dodge)
Magnetic Field Generator (boosts aid spells)
High-Voltage Shock Device (boosts damage spells)
Transistor Manufacturing and Maintenance (boosts healing spells)
Center Upgrades
Everything Else

I don't bother much with the Aeronautics tree - my airship is good enough to not need any upgrades and I just upgrade the tree when I have a ton of components available. If ship upgrades are needed, try to focus on the stats portion of the tree. If you're trying to complete the hidden airship sidequest, try to upgrade the lower right portion of the tree, which increases the drop chance of satellite fragments when they're shot down by your airship.

The Ancient Technology tree is perhaps the most interesting section of the Manual - and it's what sets Erathia apart from the other dungeons. It is very important to note that there are more options for upgrades than there are slots, so choose carefully. Some upgrades focus on combat while others focus on support (like increasing engineering component drops), so it's a matter of preference for the player.

Erathia's boss isn't too difficult, even while doing the 'no Manual upgrades until F50' and 'no destroyed satellite' subquests. I find that an effective strategy is to buff with Electrostatic Field, throw in a Disrupting Ray at higher levels and hit it with an Icicle. If the boss lives, a couple Fireballs or Lightning Bolts will usually finish it off. Just make sure that you start the fight with an airship attack (if you're not doing the aforementioned quests above) and you're golden. As a side note, I find that the higher level bosses at F70 - F100 melt easily using Electrostatic Field, Disrupting Ray and Blade of Ruin, while under the protection of Timestill. The Mech title speeds this up even faster, especially with a maxed out Manual providing silly bonuses to the two equipment sets.

As a final note, the key to completing Erathia is to run through as many floors as possible. Between two Portal of Earth scrolls, a portal Opticus, and Future Cat's Time Machine, a decently prepared player will be able to traverse a whopping 280 floors - or get bored trying!

Pros
This team is a toy factory. Erathia's Manual is also a toy factory. Toys for days!

Cons
Gang Cadre is not a free gumball, but is otherwise easy to unlock.

Erathia is a late game map and may require a bunch of passive abilities from a sizeable gumball collection.

Final Thoughts
This build was designed to squeeze as much gameplay in a single Erathia in as few runs as possible to complete 80dp.

However, do note that as of writing it's been less than a week since the map's release and there will likely be more efficient ways of completing the map as more people play through it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Project Poseidon: Arena Not-So-Speedfarming in Gumballs & Dungeons


This post is slightly inspired by Arananthi's post, which shows how effective Dark spells can be when it's set up correctly.

This build also showcases the result of stacking obscene amounts of spell effect bonuses.

The Dungeon
This build will use the Arena as it remains the best gold farming location after the latest update. Furthermore, the F95 goal is always a great litmus test for any competent gumball team.

The Team
Fallen Angel (Main) is an oft overlooked gumball, if only because Canas presents a ton of amazing Magic-type gumballs in its roster. The Light and Darkness ability enhances any Light and Dark spells by a whopping 60% - a fantastic buff to some of the most useful crowd-clearing spells in the game such as Death Ripple as well as clutch heals like Divine Favor. When used as a main, Fallen Angel provides a Death Ripple scroll every other floor to ensure a steady supply of nasty firepower until the end. Using this gumball as a main also gives access to the first three tiers of the Demon title, thus granting significant Power bonuses (via Little Demon) at the tail end of the run.

Justice Herald's (Soul-Link 1) Steel-Like Body provides a passive +5 Defense and 15% HP recovery per floor. This greatly increases survivability in the dungeon's higher levels. This is a personal choice due to the ease-of-life benefits that the gumball provides - feel free to substitute any Melee gumball as preferred.

Hamster's (Soul-Link 2) Hoard provides the same main ability as Spy which lets players ignore slate guarding by enemy monsters. This is especially useful in higher floors where one might need to conserve spell scrolls by opening all slates before unleashing a singular devastating Death Ripple to clear everything in one shot. Hamster also has a 30% chance to create food each floor, which mostly provides permanent stat bonuses throughout the run. Over 90+ floors, these bonuses can add up pretty quickly.

Equipment
Take the Gloves of Dark Arbiter +6, as well as the Mixture of Light and Dark.

Strategy
Upon entering the dungeon, max the Treasure Seeker title.

Before F5, try to fill in the Magic Title as follows: Magic Apprentice (1*), Black Mage (1*), Conjuror (1*). This should help you have more than enough Death Ripples to easily clear the first Arena Fight.

Throughout the dungeon, work on the titles in this order: Dark Master (3*), Black Mage (3*), Dark Priest (0*), Conjurer (3*), Magic Apprentice (3*), Dark Priest (3* Power), Novice Warrior (1*), Warrior (1*), Magic Warrior (1*), Shadow Warrior (1*), Dark Arbiter (3* Attack, 3* Artifact Bonus, 3* HP, 3* Power - in this order), Dark Priest (3* MP, 3* HP), Fallen (1*), Inferior Demon (1*), Middle Demon (3*).

All other titles are optional after these - I prefer maximizing Power for my spells.

The titles provide incredible synergy for Dark Spells on top of having a very high Power stat. Two key spells will be buffed to incredible levels, summarized below:

Death Ripple
+60% damage (Fallen Angel ability)
+30% damage (Mixture of Dight and Dark with Fallen Angel bonus)
+40% damage (Dark Master)
+75% damage (Dark Priest)
+75% damage (Dark Arbiter)
+75% double damage chance (Dark Arbiter)
+50% double damage chance (Dark Priest)
+90% ignore resist (Dark Arbiter)
Total: +280% damage, +90% resist ignore, guaranteed double damage chance

Implosion
+60% damage (Fallen Angel ability)
+30% damage (Mixture of Dight and Dark with Fallen Angel bonus)
+40% damage (Dark Master)
+75% damage (Dark Priest)
+50% double damage chance (Dark Priest)
Total: +205% damage, +50% double damage chance

This does not take into account equipment bonuses, such as Nether Boots (+25% Death Ripple damage), Hades' Bottle of Soul (+30% Dark spell effects) or the Great Druid's Cloak (which provides a ridiculous +200% damage bonus for Death Ripple).

For scroll shops, stockpile the following spells as they're provide great utility throughout the run: Meteor Shower, Icicle, Earthquake, Electrostatic Field, Disrupting Ray, Divine Favor, Curse and (more) Death Ripples.

For the Depot, prioritize Burned Parchments and Eyeball Tinctures, in that order.

All the Arena fights can be dealt with via casting Curse or Icicle (as needed) followed by spamming Death Ripples to clear everything in the floor.

F30-40 bosses can be wrecked by Fireballs, Lightning Bolts and Meteor Showers, while the F50-60 bosses won't take more than a few Death Ripples to beat. F70-90 bosses can be slain using a combination of Disrupting Rays, Hexes, Implosions, and Burned Parchments.

Pros
All gumballs are available for free.

Perfect build for those who love arbitrarily large numbers.

Cons
Some skill (and focus) is required to ensure spell scrolls would last until the end of the run - not really a con for those who love the strategic aspect of the game.

Takes a bit longer than using the classic Howling team.

Final Thoughts
This build proves how versatile a properly built gumball team can be by providing a great alternative to free players for Arena farming.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Chapter 29

Life is a vast infinity of unknowns. (Taken at Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia)

Another year, another notch in my calendar.

Over the years, I've come to realize that very few things have grown as much in value as time. Severely limited and utterly irreplaceable, it's an oft overlooked moral imperative that we have to do as much good as we can in the world with what we have.

I suppose that's one of reasons why moving out has been one of the bigger decisions I've made in the past year. Time has grown increasingly important for me - which is inversely proportional to the omnipresent Filipino misfortune of Manila's slowly regressing traffic situation.

Eliminating the four-hour commute each day has done wonders for my well-being. That's easily twenty hours a week, eighty hours a month and eventually, 40 days a year. It's terrifying that people lose a month of their lives every year to meaningless travel. There's just so much value one gains back when time is saved. Less stress, more sleep and better opportunities to pursue one's fleeting interests - maybe that's one of the better gifts I've received in a very long time.

Oh, and the sometimes overwhelming sense of freedom of being (mostly) on one's own is just icing on the cake.

Despite everything, I'm glad to say I'm in a much better place. Heck, maybe things are even starting to look up.

Later!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Project Poseidon: Arena Speedfarming in Gumballs & Dungeons


Gumballs and Dungeons is a deceptively complex mobile game, with even more deceptively hidden features.

One of these is the Poseidon gumball, the second highest unlockable character next to Hades. As a Canas' Enlightenment player, Poseidon is a must have, but getting to the 38,000 point threshold for this Spending Returns reward will take some effort for non-whales like me.

The Dungeon
At an average of 120,000 gold per F95 run, the Arena is the best option for farming by a massive margin - up to six times more gold earned compared to other currently released dungeons. The most commonly used teams take an hour on average to complete this dungeon, which isn't ideal for players who are otherwise pre-occupied with real life.

The Team
Odin (Main) is arguably the best magic-class gumball. The Eternal ability enhances any spell being cast by 40% and extends effects by an additional round. When chosen for use as a main or link gumball, it provides a Electrostatic Field scroll every two floors. If used as a main, it also gives a free Timestill at the start of the run.

Three-Eye King (Soul-Link 1) provides the Sky Eye active skill, which damages all on-screen enemies based on the attack stat and reduces the defense by a considerable amount, allowing for devastating follow-up attacks. Even more important is that it carries the Oriental Paper Cutting when entering the dungeon. This single use item summons Howling, a pet often exploited for its scaling health and attack stats coupled with life leech and decent dodge rating.

Merchant's (Soul-Link 2) skill is Trading Master, which passively adds three more items to all Treasure and Scroll shops within the dungeon on top of a 25% discount. This allows for an easier time finding useful equipment and spells throughout the dungeon run.

Equipment
Bring the Necklace of Legendary Mage +6, as well as the Werewolf Potion.

Strategy
Upon entering the dungeon, focus on maxing out Treasure Seeker and Magic Apprentice. At this point, EP can be saved up for future use.

Buy all Disrupting Rays and Earthquakes from the scroll shops you come across. Similarly, purchase all Burned Parchment scrolls and Orc Livers from the Depot, prioritising them in that order.

For Treasure shops, try to buy pieces of the Noble Suit and the Hunter's Suit which will help in filling out the titles needed for the run. It's not really required, but try to buy Destroyer's Slate, Belt of Electric Arc and White Pearl if they come up. This helps in boosting some of the buff spells later on.

Do not disenchant treasure until the Blacksmith title has been maxed out.

For the Arena matches until F55, use Bless followed by Sky Eye to defeat the opponent and clear the audience easily. For bosses until F50, use Electrostatic Field, followed by Sky Eye and Lightning Bolt to beat them.

On F25, fill in the titles in this order: White Mage (1*), Priest (1*), Air Master (3*), Legendary Mage (0*). This should help in clearing bosses and Arena matches until the the rest of the build is complete.

The next goal is to forge (or find) an Earth Spell Book using Holy Blacksmith. Fill in the Venture title as follows: Explorationist (1*), Blacksmith (3*). As soon as the Blacksmith title has been maxed, start disenchanting unused treasure for extra EP and Quenching Essence. Continue titles towards Royal Blacksmith (1*) and Holy Blacksmith (3* HP). Before F60, there should be enough Quenching Essence for the Earth Spell book. Equip it at this point to amass Earthquake scrolls.

If all goes well, there should be enough EP to fill in the Melee titles: Novice Warrior (1*), Knight (3*). Legendary Mage (3* HP, 3* Power) should be maxed as well before F60.

The titles above should provide Howling with a decent HP pool to last until F95. He should be summoned using the Werewolf potion trick to maximise stats. Typically, Howling should have 1200 HP and 1400 Attack (for Bless) or 2400 Attack (for Blade of Ruin).

At this point, EP can be freely spent. I always fill in the rest of Legendary Mage for free Timestills and extended spell duration, then focus on boosting HP from then on.

Howling should be able to clear everything easily with minimal help. The next checkpoint is the F80 boss. To defeat it, cast Timestill - which should last for ten turns - followed by Electrostatic Field, Disrupting Ray and spells of choice for an easy win. If there are more than five Burned parchments in inventory, these can be used in place of spells to one-shot the boss.

Watch Howling's HP on the next floors as the enemies will start hitting considerably harder. If he enters a floor with low HP, cast Earthquake to speed-clear the floor without enemy counterattacks. This trick should allow for fast-clearing floors all the way to F95 (or beyond).

At the F85 Arena match, Timestill should last for a whopping 23 turns.

At the F90 boss, cast Timestill, Electrostatic Field, Disrupting Ray and Burned Parchments for another easy win.

At the final Arena match in F95, cast Timestill and throw everything at the Spartan gumball. Clearing this will provide fragments, as well as upgrade the Champion's Certificate to give 100,000 gold upon exiting the dungeon. Hoorah!

Pros
This setup revolves around reliability, ease of living and speed.

The Titles provide a lot of safety nets, and allows for runs to be completed even in the (likely) scenario that Blade of Ruin does not drop before needing to summon Howling.

The setup also eliminates a lot of RNG-related factors that other builds may have.

Cons
The largest setback is the fact that Three-Eye King is not only an event gumball, but he has only been available once so far during the week of the Chinese Lunar New Year. So far there are no indications of the event returning until next year, but my theory is that the event would return on October in time for the Golden Week.

Odin is a gem-only gumball, but should be one of the first purchases with the many free gems that the game provides. It might be expensive to max his stats as well, but it's well worth it.

Final Thoughts
This is the quickest way I've found so far to farming the Arena for easy gold. With practice, it is possible to beat the dungeon in around 20 minutes without relying on luck. The biggest challenge is the availability of the Three-Eye King, but it should come back around in a few months time (as per the developer's hint).

Enjoy!