Guild Wars 2: Intermission (let’s all go to the lobby)

Yesterday Guild Wars 2 came out with its fourth episode of season two of the living story (ugh, there has to be a quicker way of typing that), but also made a couple of announcements.  The first is that after two months and four episodes, the living world was being put on hold as we count down to a September feature pack.  I guess the “every two week release cadence” has a big asterisk with fine print below saying, “only when we want it to and it sounds good on press releases.”

Ooh, feature pack?  Yeah, but for those of us that are strictly into the PvE side of the game, it doesn’t look like there’s much to get excited about.  The feature pack and the other announcement about some esports tournament all are about WvW and competitive PvP.  That’s fine — not every update has to be for me.  Doesn’t mean that I’m too thrilled.  You mention “esports” and my eyes develop a very thick glaze normally reserved for Krispy Kreme donuts.

So that means that the fourth episode will be the current episode for the next month or two.  For me, I’m cool with it.  I haven’t done most of the achievements with the previous three episodes anyway and have a lot of the game world map yet to do on my Necro.

I logged in last night fully intending to do the first mission in season four, which had something to do with court intrigue because Guild Wars 2 really knows how to push my buttons.  What is this, Sophia the First?  But then my guild mentioned that they were doing some dungeon runs, so I figured why not.  I haven’t done any dungeons with my Necro and was interested in seeing how she fared.

They went pretty well, actually.  The staff is great for doing DPS and conditions at range, and having death shroud available was a decent “oh crap” button in case I started going down too fast.  Kind of like having a second health bar in reserve.  Kind of?  Exactly like that.

I can’t believe that Guild Wars 2 is going to be two years old this month.  It really wasn’t that long ago that I was getting my first glimpse and hands-on with it at PAX.

Guild Wars 2: 5,000 points of awesome

battleThis past weekend I was in Las Vegas with my wife, who was there to attend a business conference.  I?  I was there to be a slacker.  I’m very good at slacking.  Actually, I mostly sat around in a (very nice) hotel room and enjoyed a couple of days of as near peace and quiet as I’ve gotten in my little kid-filled world.  I know that sounds pathetic, but just a couple days to write and game and read was the vacation I wanted.

My adventures in Guild Wars 2 were both lucrative and exciting.  What happened?

5,000 points of awesome

Whilst poking around Dry Top in search of lost coins and buried chests, I hit my 5,000th achievement point.  That’s probably a good 10K less than most dedicated GW2 players have, but for me it was something I’ve been anticipating for a while.  The reward chests for achievement milestones are a great alternative reward system and make collecting achievements more meaningful, as a side meta game.  Anyway, 5K points, and the screen exploded in rewardy goodness.

I was so happy that I didn’t even think to grab a screenshot; it was a little like opening up Christmas presents.  Among the goodies, I got a new staff skin, boosters, a level 20 experience scroll, and a makeover kit.  All of these will be useful for a future character, I’m sure.  I also got 400 gems, woohoo, so I’ll be hanging onto those for a rainy day.

Dragon’s Reach, part 1 thoughts

I did have time to wrap up the third episode of season two, which continues the growing threat of JungleDragon (of which we’re just seeing lots and lots of vines and other plant-related critters).  Unlike the first two episodes, this one has a lot more open-world activities, including many group and solo events.  That was a pleasant change, as I like doing activities alongside others, although depending on who was around the events could be confusing, drawn out, or insanely easy.

Story-wise, I’m not being as drawn into the proceedings as I suspect many lore-addled fans will be.  Another dragon?  OK, fine, but stop putting words in my character’s mouth that makes her sound all awed and worried about things.  Another day, another dragon.  It’s like how Buffy and the Scoobies started seeing any apocalyptic threat as fairly routine.

The third episode is all about hopping around the world trying to assemble faction leaders for a Pale Tree summit.  Because I guess I can’t send those magic carrier pigeons to them, the group splits up to approach leaders and I end up doing a lot of tasks to convince them that, oh hey, they should get off their butts and attend a business meeting to save the world.

Probably the most interesting thing that happened was seeing Destiny’s Edge interact with Destiny’s Edge 2: Rox Out.  Braham and mommy go have breakfast, d’aww.  I have to say that I’m not really comfortable with the group seeing me as their leader, because why am I the leader again?  I strongly suspect it’s because ArenaNet has to have the NPCs call me SOMEthing, and “boss” is better than “hey you.”  I noticed that in the personal storyline too, as you’d get title upgrades while the entire world tried to dance around actually saying your given name.

The Quest for the Backpack

Now that episode 3 is done, I can turn my attention to figuring out what to do with these four items that the quests gave me.  Apparently they turn into a nifty backpack that can be grown over time, but only after (of course) going through a trademark ArenaNet crafting grind.

All I can say is, thank goodness we have Dulfy, because the game sure isn’t trying to tell you what steps you need for complex things like this.  How did people even figure this out to begin with?  Maybe there were instructions that I overlooked, or else people just crowdsourced the solution.

Anyway, since I have a week or so until the next update, I’ll be puttering around Dry Top doing events for geodes and working on assembling this.  Since I’m not a crafter, I thought I should go ahead and use my gold hoard to shortcut some of these steps, because why have gold if you’re not willing to spend it on things you want?

Well that was a spectacularly bad idea, because the mats for some of these steps on the trading post are insanely expensive — I got about halfway through the chain and realized that finishing it would cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 gold.  The only alternative would be to become a level 400 crafter in several different professions, and that is not a viable option for my playstyle.  So I guess I’ll be stuck with this halfmade backpack until the prices lower on the TP.

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!