Guild Wars 2: Life and death after 80

necroAs I mentioned yesterday, I dug my Necromancer out of long-term storage this weekend and quickly got her to 80 (my third 80, in fact).  It’s been a joyous reunion; I’ve had a great time playing her once again, especially after feeling a little blah with my Engineer and Ranger.

I hadn’t spent any money on her prior to 80, knowing that I’d be doing a huge shopping trip when that happened, so this event heralded a huge jump for her in stats, build, and prestige.  Here’s what I went with:

Build

After a lot of experimentation, I’ve found that I like both the staff and dagger/dagger with my Necro.  I frequently switch between them depending on the situation.  D/D is great at quickly dispatching a single foe, but the staff is far superior for groups and ranged attacks.  So without consulting any online guides, I chose traits that I felt lined up with that playstyle.

For skills, I have two pets — blood fiend and flesh golem — to both satisfy my craving for pets and provide good healing and additional DPS.  The other pets feel very “eh” to me, so the remaining three skills are a signet for movement speed and two AoE wells.  Wells are great in any fight and go oh-so-swimmingly with staff AoE marks.

For traits, I’m 2 curse (for more/better bleeds), 6 death (all minion-related, including summoning little jagged horrors when I kill something), and 6 blood (a mixture of health siphoning and well buffs).  Those traits work just fine no matter which weapon I’m wielding, at least from where I’m sitting.

Gear

I probably spent about 45 gold altogether on new armor, accessories, and upgrades, not to mention about 90 laurels for three ascended pieces.  There have been finer points of gear upgrades that have passed on by me, so this time around I actually read up on the different types of upgrades and figured out a good set for me.

My new exotic armor set is completely Norgu, which features the three stats I wanted the most: power, precision, and condition damage.  In addition, I slapped on a rather cheap set of six Superior Runes of the Dead to throw on some toughness and added condition damage.

I had a nice exotic staff (Imryldyeen) waiting in my bank that I looted a long time ago, and I’m thrilled to actually get to use it.  For my two sigils, I went Malice (longer conditions) and Water (for, why not, a little aoe healing — keep my minions up!).  I purchased a set of power/vitality/condition damage daggers, going for a little bit more health since I’d be up close and personal using them.  The two daggers got a bleed bonus and a quickness buff, both chance on critical, which I find procs quite often.

Probably the most expensive thing I purchased was a rare aquabreather at around 7 gold.  I did save a little bit of money by using a back piece that I’ve had sitting around in my bank since one of the earlier season 1 episodes.

The cool thing is that I not only am really happy with my stats now, but the look of the Norgu set quickly grew on me.  I didn’t swap out any of the visuals, not even those bandaged eyes, but did fiddle around with the dyes some.  It’s a blend of black and midnight purple for the background with white piping.

I still have around 75 gold, so I might go shopping at the human cultural armor to see if there’s anything worth picking up, but for the most part I’m good to go.  I’ve jumped her right into season 2 in an attempt to catch up, but she still has several maps to complete along with a good chunk of her personal story.  Hopefully all of this will be much easier with a fleshed-out build and up-geared character.

The Weekend Gaming Report with “Sippycup” Syp

gondorI didn’t get as much time as anticipated to game this weekend, but I made the best of what I did get — and actually came out feeling pretty great about how things ended up.  So what was Syp playing?

The Wolf Among Us

I wrapped up the final episode of this generally excellent Fables adventure game and have been chewing over my feelings on it.  Like all of Telltale’s efforts lately, there was precious little in the way of puzzles, but I think that the final episode did deliver a lot in the way of choice and consequence, both from the episode itself and from the previous four as well.  I got what I considered to be a pretty compassionate ending with most of the townsfolk happy with me, so that’s a win for poor Bigby.  I felt pretty uncomfortable how the game brought up my past decisions in a (sometimes) negative light, because this game has been about how unfair the situation and position that both Bigby and the residents of Fabletown are in, and hey, I’ve been trying my best.

One major disappointment was the lack of a deductive scene.  In the first (and maybe second) episodes, Telltale tried to stretch itself by including scenes where you had to investigate the environment and people to put together the truth of what had happened.  That was actually pretty cool, since you could mess up and overlook stuff, but the devs obviously gave up on that.  This omission was really felt at the end of the game, when the characters simply told you the answer to the mystery instead of letting you solve it.

But in terms of world-building and characterization, TWAU hit it out of the park.  The Fables universe is great for adventure games and I sincerely hope we see another one, especially following the twist ending.

Lord of the Rings Online

I really need to devote more time to Update 14, but what I did get to play has actually been pretty enjoyable.  Perhaps it’s my previous sabbatical that helped to rekindle my interest, but I’m settling back into my old shoes and taking a walk around Gondor.

I’ve been messing around with builds on my captain, trying to find a nice hybrid that pumps out as much damage as possible while giving me enough survivability with healing.  Sort of a red/blue deal.  I didn’t realize that we had another LI trait reset and was going around like a derp without any points spent, wondering why I was having a bit of a hard time taking down a frenzied deer.  Stupid deer, always in the way between me and world domination!

Gondor as a land is a definite change from Rohan.  It feels more old school Europe than Rohan’s Viking vibe, which isn’t terrible but… I’m probably never going to be a fan of gaudy decor and our second major Man country in a row.

Guild Wars 2

I finished up Entanglement on my Ranger (spoilers: Scarlet was really Trahearne all along!).  Gameplay-wise it was adequate — nothing particularly exciting nor challenging for my character, but functional.  Story-wise, it was definitely more interesting than the first episode, particularly toward the end.

I then switched over to my long-dormant Necromancer and brought her from 77 to 80 in a night.  Spending laurels on ascended gear and equipping her with a full set of exotics and superior sigils was something I’ve been looking forward to doing for quite some time, so it’s cool that I’ve reactivated her.  She has a LOT of the map and her personal story left to do, but I think that I’ll try to get her through the first two S2 episodes before going back to doing anything else.

WildStar

My big goal for the weekend was to hit level 25 and get my hoverboard, which I finally, finally did.  Whitevale is a lovely zone to quest in, and my Medic’s new build is rocking nicely.  I’m trying to do each and every challenge as I find them unless it’s functionally undoable (as in not enough mobs to make it possible).

I got a good laugh at all of the spy shenanigans that occupied one of the early quest lines, especially being knocked out to be taken to a secret base and scouting around for snowmen.

One of the things that WildStar does really well and yet has gotten little praise that I’ve seen is how it’s created all of these alien races and made them quite memorable and distinct.  The Freebots (who just wanna be free, man), the Lopps, and the Protostar clones are my fave, but just about all of them have great personalities and make up for a wacky scifi cast.

Guild Wars 2: Taimi fan club

taimiI’m taking my Ranger through Dry Top before Tuesday’s next drop and confirming what I felt the first time I went through season 2, episode 1 here — this is by far more engaging content than much of what’s come before in Guild Wars 2’s living world.  As some have noted, it’s very reminiscent of Guild Wars 1’s mission structure, a blend of open world adventures and instanced vingettes.

I like how this content is layered depending on one’s level of interest.  For me, it’s nice to just go through the story (~1-2 hours) and be content waiting for the next episode to drop.  But there are options to do more champion fights and rerunning episodes to tackle achievements, which, hey, I guess is better than nothing if you’re only playing Guild Wars 2.

Out of the NPC troupe that you’re tagging along with even though they never once refer to you by name (I feel like such a… seventh wheel?), Taimi is becoming a fast favorite in my book.  It’s not just that she personifies a child with a serious disease — which is pretty unique in the annals of video game lore — but that she’s such a driven, smart character that won’t accept being left behind.  I mean, *I* want a battle golem to ride around in, that’s pretty awesome.  And her little snarky asides (“Braham, did she just call us fat?” had me laughing) have endeared her to me.

Maybe I only know very surface details compared to Guild Wars 2 players who have doctorates in extensive knowledge of the game world the way some are wont to have, but Taimi’s just fascinating to me.  Braham and Rox obviously have taken on the roles of surrogate mom and dad for her, which is all levels of amusing as a parent myself.

I’ll admit to being a little worried when we all left Taimi with the Scarlett artifacts, because a little part of me wonders if whatever drove that weird Sylvari insane might come out to infect the Asura.  Of course, that would be a major driving force to going on more adventures to help her out, but I don’t think anyone wants to see Taimi hurt more than she already is.

Guild Wars 2: Dry seasoning

drytopBy the flood of imaginary emails that are flooding my inbox, Bio Break readers are dying to know what I think about the start of Guild Wars 2’s season 2.  Never fear, phantom fans!  This… is that post!

I’ve only gone through the first couple of missions and spent some time exploring the new mini-zone Dry Top, so this is all just very first impressions sort of stuff.  To kick things off, I’m pretty gratified that this update has added a new area to the permanent map.  While desert zones aren’t my favorite biome, new is new and this does have a pleasant southwest feel to it.

While a new zone is all well and good, the emphasis on vertical exploration and (shudder) jumping had me screaming in short, controlled bursts.  I don’t get it; are jumping puzzles an irresistable aphrodesiac to folks at ArenaNet or something?  Does someone there have a troubled past involving walking after which they vowed to never walk again?  In any case, we have the return of the Zephyrite crystals and various navigation obstacles.  Fortunately, the zone is pretty small and it only took a little while to figure out how to get around.

Much better than jumping madness is the refined focus of the new story missions and journal.  The journal is a good answer to some of the more severe flaws of the first season — the fragmented storytelling and the pressure to work through the content in a couple of weeks.  Now we can go through the story at our own leisure and keep track of what’s actually going on.  The missions felt right: a good challenge without being too hard, a few funny exchanges, and a nice parcel of rewards after each.

I ran through the first two a second time last night with a couple of guildies.  We were joking how Kasmeer was really an evil villain in disguise who probably killed the NPC we found (can YOU explain why that character goes from standing up to “ugh dead” within a second otherwise?).  I like the living story cast of characters a lot more than the personal story one, even if I feel like I’m some hanger-on who is never mentioned by any of them by name.

Speaking of Kasmeer, I feel that ArenaNet has backed itself into a corner with her and Marjory.  The writers obviously want to portray a progressive lesbian relationship among this primary cast, which no doubt endears themselves to some fans, but I’m wondering if this has created two members of the NPC cast who are, in effect, invincible.  I mean, they can’t really do anything bad to Kasmeer and Marjory, such as kill one or turn one evil or have them break up, without setting off a potential flood of anger and controversy among the playerbase.  I really can’t see the writers inflicting anything bad on them without stepping into a minefield of people yelling that of COURSE they’d be mean to the lesbians, which ultimately makes me care about the characters less when I see them in god-mode.  Maybe I’m wrong about this, maybe they’ll be subject to the exact same dangers and potential situations as anyone else.  I hope so.

I’ve been experimenting with a dual-pistols build with my Engie, and the verdict isn’t quite out yet.  It feels a little more squishy and less AOE-happy than the flametank, and I’m not really sure if the DPS makes up for that (or is actually better, for that matter).  It looks pretty cool, going guns akimbo and all that, but I might be changing back pretty quickly here.

We had a funny moment last night when we left the instance and bumped into a badly spelled clone of a certain Game of Thrones character.  I had to have a bit of fun, and she was a good sport about it:

drytop2

Advanced pyrotechnics and space-age medicine

sypGuild Wars 2

Even though I’m in the grips of WildStar fever, I still find some time to log into Guild Wars 2 here and there.  I suspect the pull will become stronger when Season 2 begins, but for now I’m simplifying.  No more time for alts; I’m focusing on my Engineer main.  Mostly I log in to do my dailies and build up my bank account, although now that my 5,000-point achievement chest is within striking distance I think I should be focusing more on that.

Speaking of money, I know I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks, but in that time it seems as though the gold-gem market has skyrocketed in price.  100 gems are several gold more now than they used to be, and I’m hearing that’s because of some popular items in the store.  I was formerly excited about having 100 gold in my account, but now that seems rather piddly.

I’ve been tweaking my build somewhat.  I can’t pull myself away from the fun and sheer power/durability of the flamethrower, but I also am entranced by the new experimental turrets for the class.  So I sacrificed my dependancy on elixirs for a renewed focus on turrets and the wonderful, wonderful buffs that they bring to me and the group.  I’m pretty pleased with it so far, as I am my look.

WildStar

Following up yesterday’s internal debate about the appeal of two classes and two factions, I kicked myself in the pantaloons and said, “Syp, you gotta choose one.  You know it’s the right thing to do.”  And with that inner ultimatum set, I went with my Medic.

My daughter helped me decorate my house last night — she wanted a kitchen with place settings and food, so we shopped the store and made that happen.  She got a kick out of how big and small I could make the items, although we ended up with “normal-sized” stuff.  I also purchased an Ellevar biome plug, which not only looks kind of cool but contains a handy portal to that zone.

I just wish that we could buy and expand lot sizes in this game — six plugs is not nearly enough for all of the fabkits you find/buy, and right now you can’t replace a plug without destroying the previous one.  I wish it would just put the previous one into storage, but oh well.

I finally ran and completed a couple of adventures last night, one as a healer and one as DPS.  I gotta say, they do hit the spot in regard to five-person team content.  The early Dominion one is all about a jailbreak on the nearby moon/asteroid, and it not only looks fantastic but it’s a fun map to play.  The much-vaunted branching paths were interesting.  At three points, the adventure stopped to let the team vote on which path to take, and then triggered the next event on the majority’s opinion.  Unlike SWTOR and GW2 (which both have a lesser version of this), you can’t see who is voting for what, and the choices do make more of an impact in how the adventure plays out.  Both runs were very different from each other.

I was a little nervous healing for the first time, but I had a build prepared for it and, well, trial by fire and all that.  It turns out that the Medic is pretty potent with heals, and I quickly learned which ones were my “oh crap” buttons and which ones I had going regularly.  The only problem I had was when we hit the end boss too fast and I ran out of focus — a bar that I hadn’t even noticed until that very moment.  I guess I had been regenerating focus fast enough before then so that it wasn’t a problem, but then it was.  I had to heal the final fight with my basic heal, and we squeaked through with only the tank dying.

I did get some good drops, including a nice pair of pants and a couple of decor items (including a sewer manhole cover!) for my house.  Nothing says “homey” like raw sewage, I’ve always said.

Today we’re starting to learn about WildStar’s first big update, Strain.  Looks like they’re giving us some more endgame zones, which won’t impact me much for a while but I’m not against it coming.  What I’m more interested in are the upcoming revelations about new housing and cosmetic options.  We shall see!

 

A girl and her quaggan pirate pal

gw985After my whinging yesterday about hitting the 80s wall in Guild Wars 2, I broke down and… played my guardian.  For like ten minutes.  Maybe this class is a fount of excitement later on, but dang is it boring from the get-go.  It’s like watching an aged baseball player take very slow swings at underhand pitches.  The coolest thing was seeing, for the first time, what my heritage armor skins looked like with heavy armor.  Man, the minimal effort it took to get that heritage armor really paid off; having a “free” set of skins is a blessing for the early game.

So feeling all quirky, I dumped my guardian and rolled up a brand-new engineer.  I never do this, folks.  I never roll the same class twice unless, for some reason, I’ve deleted that character to restart.  But no, here in GW2 I have two engies looking at me on the character screen as if to say, “Are you mental?”

Maybe.  Maybe I am.

I know I can respec my 80 engineer pretty easy, but she’s always felt like a flametank to me and the game doesn’t support saving multiple builds, so flametank she’ll stay.  And a perverse part of me wants to see if I can level this class better this time around.  With all of the trait and skill changes as of late, it’ll undoubtedly be a slightly different experience.  Plus, the game for me is mapping — and I would just rather do that with this class, at least for the moment.

Man, I explain myself a lot on this blog.  A Syp apologist, I am.

It was pretty fun to play her.  I pulled out one of my old Guild Wars 1 names and gave it to her: Syp Tsunami.  Then I splurged to give her a new hairdo (her previous ponytail was clipping badly through her shield when it was slung over her back) and picked up the new quaggan mini 3-pack.  Because HOW COULD I NOT.  There’s a pirate quaggan, a girl quaggan with a bow, and a quaggan that looks like he’s trying to be a daredevil for the circus.  I don’t regret getting them, although I soon thought, “Man, I should’ve spent those gems on another bag slot!”

The plan with her while mapping is two-fold: To play her as a pistol/pistol or pistol/shield fighter with a strong emphasis on turrets (which got serious love with the feature pack), and to level up cooking and leatherworking.  My bank is brimming with mats, so why not?  In fact, I got three levels in two minutes from crafting (with a booster), hitting level 11 before I logged out for the night.

Hitting the 80 wall in Guild Wars 2

Today or tomorrow I’ll most likely ding 80 on my third character in Guild Wars 2, my Necromancer.  I’m actually kind of dreading it and have had my mind turn to flights of fancy involving either other alts or sticking only to my Engineer main.

Even in a game that does a lot to lessen the impact, there’s still a wall that one hits when you reach the level cap.  Sure, there’s plenty left to do: mapping, crafting, earning endless new skill points, making money, living story progress, achievement hunting, dungeon running, and so forth.  But 80 signifies the end of part of your character’s growth, mostly in power and trait points.  OK, I guess it’s primarily a psychological block in this game, but I still can’t help but feel that a level 80 is less “fun” to play than one that still has the level mountain to climb.

It could also be that the 80 wall offers a convenient excuse to sit back and take a long look at what I’ve been doing.  Do I like the Necro?  I do… but I see its flaws, too.  I always yearn for something new and different, after having spent so much time with just this one character.  Will it really be worth it to fully map the world on this character past 80?  Do I want to spend my laurels and crafting mats getting this character geared up to ascended?

I’m not sure.  In a perverse way, I kind of want to roll a new Engineer even though I’d be trotting over the same ground that I’ve already done with my main.  That’s part of the effects that the 80 wall has on me.

GW2 vs. The Zerg

Yesterday I had the fun pleasure of going in for surgery to remove my gallbladder, which came out just hunky-dory.  While the whole thing was an out-patient procedure that went according to plan, I like to imagine that something like this happened while I was under anesthesia:

knifeDon’t thank him; thank the knife!

With that out of the way, I’m spending the next couple of days playing the “stay as still as possible on the couch so as not to aggrivate the tummy monsters” game.  Also, Guild Wars 2.  Thank goodness for laptops.

This immobility paired up nicely with the recent Guild Wars 2 living story update titled “Reheated Leftovers for Chinese Appeasement.”  Well, that’s what it SHOULD have been called, because let’s be frank: that’s what it is.  Two past updates, slightly changed and smooshed together with the aim of giving the new Chinese audience the one vaguely Asian-themed zone in the game.  Welcome to Tryia.  Go climb a cliff wearing a panda hat.

Lest you mistake my tone, I’m not disagreeable to this patch, because at least it’s something new(ish) since mid-April’s feature pack.  Working through the achievements to get the nice fat meta reward is perfect to take my mind off of the pain.  And the meta isn’t all that hard to get, either.  I got 13/14 by night two.  I figure that when I get done, I’ll try my hand again at the Queen’s Gauntlet to see if I can make good progress, and barring that, thank the update for its time and return to Mapping with Necromancers.  C’mon, you can’t tell me that that wouldn’t be an AMC smash hit.

Because other than the achievements, there’s not a lot in this update for me.  I’ve either done it before or don’t care to do what’s being offered.  And while I’m always up for a good rewarding zerg, it’s not here this time around.  ArenaNet has made a couple of pointed decisions aimed at curbing zerg farming that I would otherwise be doing.

The first decision was the big ol’ nerf to the Queensdale champ train.  Most champs have been downgraded to vets for the interest of shooing map chat-yelling old timers out of the place.  I can understand the choice to change this, although I won’t lie by saying that I’m indifferent to it.  This particular champ train was relaxing, had good rewards, and was great for finishing up certain dailies.  Plus, for all of the chat vitriol that it sometimes spewed, it also brought out teamwork and comradeship.  I’ll really miss heading up to the boar hill to see generous guild buff banners flying and people dancing the wait away.

The loss of the Queensdale train was definitely overshadowed by my excitement to return to the bigger champ farm of the Crown Pavilion, which was by far one of my favorite living world experiences in the past.  Like it or not, Guild Wars 2 is a zergy game, and the pavilion champs were perfect for the swarm to hop back and forth farming merry loot and keeping the action going.

But… yeah, this happened to be the one thing that ArenaNet decided needed to be changed/fixed/nerfed.  Instead, we now have the boss blitz, which eliminates those pesky rewards like loot drops and XP, and instead implements a brazen gold sink to activate an event where six bosses must be downed before anyone gets a goodie bag.  There’s a lot of strategy to this, and if the mob can split up to do all of the bosses quickly, rewards will be showered upon them greatly.

I have yet to see that, however.  Every time I’ve been in there, it’s been a long, long slog through six bosses for two goodie bags after maybe 30-45 minutes.  It actually penalizes zergs by making the bosses too hard if you have too many people there (kind of like the robot fights in Lion’s Arch a couple of months ago).  It’s so bad, in fact, that I was rushing to get it done this week out of a fear that players will simply give up on it soon and make the deed-getting impossible.

Maybe these are two disconnected things in the same update, but it really feels as if the devs are seeing that players enjoy champ farming and are taking pleasure at putting a hard stop to that.  No fun for you; here, have headache!

Under the Pale Tree makes a good point that employing the intended strategy for the gold reward in the boss blitz is very much hampered by a lack of support and UI to organize and coordinate groups.  And Kill Ten Rats concurs that it languishes instead of being a nice farm.

Pity.  I just hope this doesn’t indicate that there’s a stubborn movement at ArenaNet to quash the zerg farms in a game that’s encouraged them greatly to date.

Guild Wars 2 Dialogue Thursday

d7I know it’s just bugs, but he’s really making them sound appetizing.

d6

Sniff… no, I’m not tearing up at seeing a guy reuinite with his dead wife.  Shh.d5

I am always prepared.  Bring it.d4

The Asura are my second-favorite race, if only for the vocabulary and vicious enthusiasm.d3

As a parent, all I can think of is, “I am NOT cleaning whatever that is up.”d2

Hee.d1I think the Grawl are my favorite race in the game, if just for how cheerfully dumb they are.

Old Patterns

gw971As both gamers and people, we are creatures of habit.  We know what we like and more often than not return to what is comfortable and familiar instead of forging new and scary territory.  There’s a lot that can be discussed from that, such as why players clamor for wholly innovative products yet reject them when they’re *too* different (TSW!), but I mention that simply because I am quite aware where my comfort levels lie in picking MMO classes:

  • Comfortable: Pet classes.  Hybrid classes.  Medium-armor jack-of-all-trades classes.
  • Fringe Comfortable: Healers.  Rogues.
  • Uncomfortable: Tanks.  Extreme glass canons (mages).  Anything Elf.

During my adventures with Guild Wars 2’s Necromancer, who is now level 62 and practically unstoppable, I realized that I’m essentially playing my World of Warcraft Warlock (the original Syp) all over again.  OK, Warlocks are into demonic binding and Necromancers call that yucky while animating corpse guts to do their bidding, but there are a lot of similarities in how they both play and the decisions I’ve made in building my GW2 toon:

  • Light armor
  • Swap between dagger/offhand and staff
  • One big power pet (Felguard/Flesh Golem)
  • Craptons of DoTs
  • Tougher than they look

Running around dotting mobs up while watching my pet smack the crud out of bad guys is and was a relaxing joy.  I love planting down a spell that ends up causing a lot of numbers to be streaming over heads for a while to come, as if I’ve infected a mob, they’re already dead, and they just don’t know it yet.

And I wondered if subconsciously I started playing the Necro like this primarily because it’s what made me happiest in World of Warcraft.  Maybe.  It’s been a long, long time since I played my Warlock with any regularity (I think we were in Northrend at the time), but old patterns and fond desires die hard.