It was a very productive gaming weekend over at the Syp homestead. For starters, I buckled down and finally finished up Helm’s Deep on my Captain in LOTRO, enduring the final four epic battles and enjoying the scenery afterward (the circling carrion birds were a nice touch).
Yeah, I’m not a fan of the epic battles at all. Maybe they’re more fun with a party, but I didn’t feel that they were significantly different than skirmishes, and in many ways were worse than skirmishes (you don’t get XP per kill, for starters, and all of the epic battles are “defend this position” instead of offensive actions). I mean, they did tell the story of Helm’s Deep well and I was constantly ogling all of the scenery, but did they have to be so dang long?
Anyway, Helm’s Deep is done and my cappy is in a good spot to tackle the upcoming update. I then spent some more time on my Lore-master’s journey through her epic story. She’s already past Mirkwood and just finished the “Ranger roundup” portion of the next volume. Time to go south to Enedwaith and Dunland!
I’ve got to admit, the epic story is just so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to stop and do a thousand side quests along the way. I like side quests, especially the first time through, but sometimes you just want to continue a story uninterrupted. I feel strongly about that in relation to SWTOR as well. I know that once I get to Rohan I’ll need to do all of the quests, especially because a few of the quest lines have class trait points tied up with them, but for now I’m pretty happy to ride the epic book expressway. I’m still one level above content, so no worries on that front.
The other portion of my gaming this weekend was given, surprisingly enough, to Guild Wars 2. I’m ignoring the activities over in Lion’s Arch in favor of leveling up a fresh new Asura Necromancer and a Human Mesmer. Yes, I’m waffling between the two, trying to figure out which one will interest me the most for the long haul. It’s weird because there’s aspects of both that I like and neither has a clear advantage. But I do want to settle down with one and see if I can get back into the GW2 groove by the time the next season begins.
It looks as though things are settling down at Turbine following the layoffs and reorganization. Asheron’s Call is being put into maintenance mode (with benefits) and LOTRO and DDO have received new executive producers, replacing the Paizes.
We got a producer’s letter from Aaron Campbell, which might be a sign of increased communication going forward (which would be very, very welcome). It didn’t address the layoffs, but it did talk about what’s coming in the near and far future, offering some reassurance that LOTRO isn’t being put out to pasture as well. He mentioned the North Downs revamp, a Fangorn Forest quest line that will net us “a special friend,” another epic book to finish the Helm’s Deep storyline, mail with multiple attachments, mail that VIPers can open in the wild, and the return of Hobnangians, which is basically soccer with chickens instead of balls.
That letter was just a big pick-me-up yesterday and it definitely made me want to log into the game for a nice-sized play session. I went on my Captain and resolved to make some headway into the big battles portion of the epic storyline. On the plus side, the Hornburg is absolutely incredible — it’s just huge with so much detail and so many things to see, and appropriately fits the status that the books demand of it. On the minus side, I really didn’t enjoy my first big battle. Thematically it was fine, but practically it felt like a skirmish that wasn’t netting me XP per kill and where my actions didn’t really matter that much. Plus it was long, so long that I started to wonder when it would end. Oh well, I guess that after four more of these I won’t be forced to do any more.
The WildStar Wednesday yesterday was devoted to talking about the UI revamp. I didn’t exactly hate the old “pyramid” design, but it was very busy and forced me to pull back the camera to see my entire character.
The revised UI is really attractive, keeping most of the elements to the bottom of the screen and spreading them out. It looks appropriately techy, but perhaps the aspect that got me the most excited was the option to toggle UI elements so that they can automatically disappear when one is not in combat. It’s a simple thing, but I am definitely looking forward to using it. It’ll be really nice for screenshots, that’s for certain.
App store bonanza
It was a huge release night for the Apple app store. I was looking forward to the casual and silly Disco Zoo release, but Out There also launched. I picked up both and have only had time to build up my zoo. I know nobody cares, but I have three unicorns and no way to starve them. When will the world create a realistic zoo simulator that involves unicorn deprivation? I’m looking forward to FTL-ish outer space adventures with Out There tonight, however.
I promised yins (that’s Pennsylvania slang for “you guys”) that I’d spend some time going back to Guild Wars 2 this past weekend to see how the new living world event was playing out. I did and here I go!
So poor Lion’s Arch, which between Scarlet and Mad King Thorn has become the bullied kid in the class. Eat another dodgeball, LA! The opening cinematic, while very well done, didn’t really stir any emotion in me. I mean, I admired fireballs because I’m a red-blooded male, but it wasn’t as if I was clutching my monitor screaming “NO LA NOOOO CURSE YOU SCARLET WHATSYERNAME! IT WAS JUST ONE DAY FROM RETIREMENT!”
I loaded up my Ranger and joined the throng going into the ravaged city five minutes after every hour. Wow, destruction and chaos in Tyria is so dang organized!
It was… another zerg. I remember when I used to like the zergs in GW2 — there’s a lot of energy to them and loot to spare — but now I’m just weary of them. For starters, there’s eye fatigue on my part, as there are just too many moving bodies on the screen and too many spell effects. It didn’t help that I often couldn’t see which mob my character was targeting. That’s why I prefer my Engineer for these zergs, because I can just spam the flamethrower attack and tag everything in front of me.
I really did like the look of the ravaged city and wondered what Anet was going to do with it afterward. It seems a shame to just throw away a lot of good city building design for an event like this that won’t have the impact a few months later that it has now, but it’s their game and I’m sure they are fine with the change. As for me, one run through LA was more than enough. I guess I’m still not feeling it with GW2, which is a shame.
While I was helping hundreds of citizens (that I generally didn’t see) evacuate in Guild Wars 2, I spent the remainder of my game time this weekend helping to get one Dwarf out of Mirkwood in LOTRO. My plan to just focus on the epic storyline right now is working out splendidly. The storyline felt more cohesive since I wasn’t breaking it up with numerous side quests and I hit level 65 pretty handidly by the time I was done with the zone.
Plus, I got the joy of disappointing Elves all over again. I forgot there’s a choice to give an antidote to an enemy goblin or a friendly Elf, which to me is no choice at all. Even though the Elf in question didn’t perish, I did get to revel in the outrage of her friend up there.
The first conclusion was that my love for my Captain has grown faint. I’ve been logging onto her out of duty, but it’s just not as much fun of a class to play as it once was. Perhaps this is the Helm’s Deep class changes, but I think it’s more because I’ve just been playing it for so very long.
The second conclusion is that trying to balance my attention between two characters in this game is a little futile. Even though I’m a fan of alts, splitting my time here seems a little counterproductive. I really should be focused on just one character (another 2014 resolution: one character for each game), but the question is, which one?
The Captain makes the most logical sense: She’s my sole level 95, she’s got her virtues maxed out, she can plow through any solo content, and she’s in the best position to check out new content/zones when they’re added this year.
But my final conclusion is that I just sincerely like playing my Lore-master more. My pets as a LM feel that they matter a lot more than my Captain’s heralds, and being able to do ranged damage means that I’m not spending the first chunk of any fight running up to someone.
I realized that I had an option here. With the XP shield that came with the Helm’s Deep pre-order and plenty of rest XP, I think I can probably abandon all of the side quests and simply focus on the main storyline — at least for the time being. If I can get my LM to 95 and get through the epic books, then I’ll be more or less where I need to be for future zones. Plus, I won’t feel as though I missed out on the quests, since I’ve already done them elsewhere.
The matter settled, I started transferring everything over to my LM. I scrapped my Captain’s house and bought a new Dwarf deluxe home with my LM, making it as cozy as the hook system would allow.
We will see how it goes, but I’m very optimistic. I enjoy the epic storyline the best in this game anyway, and if I can just do that? Perfect. I’ll have to do some skirmishes, virtue grinding, or side questing if the epic quests start outleveling me, but with any luck that won’t be an issue.
Lord of the Rings Online
Even though I’ve been through the “emerging from Moria blinnking into the warm sunlight” experience before, it still is profoundly affecting. There’s just this emotional relief of being back under the open sky, kind of like being resurrected from a long stay in the grave. It doesn’t hurt that Lothlorien is easy on the eyes, either.
My Lore-master has been gamely chewing through the regular quests and the epic book series, and I couldn’t be happier with her. The combination of a hard-hitting pet and automatic looting makes plowing through mobs just fun with little downtime. Round ‘em up, throw out some AOEs, and let Mr. Bog-guardian take care of the rest. I’m so in love with automatic looting that it kind of hurts to play games that don’t have it now. Ugh, that F key is so far away to loot! What, I have to click on the sparklies? What are we, in some fourth world country?
I’ve pretty much maxed out everything on my LM’s pet line that I want, so I’m going to start saving up points to invest into the red line, if nothing else than to hopefully get the super-powered staff strike that does lightning damage. That sounds pretty awesome.
So yeah, I’ve been dabbling with a new Mage in RIFT. Still a pretty game, still very full-featured, and still enjoyable. Being able to build the Necromancer build of my dreams with strong pets and an array of DoTs is a big attraction, although I don’t know if I’m being silly starting all over from the beginning again. I’ve never been able to get a Mage very far up into the game, but I don’t feel a call to go back to my Cleric or Rogue.
I still had a lot of gems or credits or whatever stored up, so I bought myself a nice outfit, transferred all of the plat I’d saved up to my new character, and purchased a nice set of large bags from the auction house. I’ll continue to dabble and see if it takes hold or if this will just serve as a nice placeholder until WildStar.
Of course, that’s the rub, because I can’t stand to invest my time into a game when I think I might not be playing it long-term. Maybe that’s something I need to get over, to be okay with brief affairs and get better about picking them back up sporadically.
The Secret World
My main project right now in TSW is to go back and make sure I’ve completed all of the side missions in the game while tackling as many rares as I can find. I crossed Kingsmouth off of the list (I had only missed two on my first playthrough) and am on to Savage Coast. While the rewards aren’t huge, it’s a nice tour back through the game, especially now that I’ve got better gear and builds.
I’ve been experimenting with a new blast build using a shotgun/hammer combo. There aren’t a lot of blast skills in the game so synergies are low, but I’ve got a few going and I’m working on buying my way to a few passive skills that should beef up my build. It’s never going to be super-strong against one target, but having a very fast cone attack is attractive, especially as I mow down waves of mobs at a time.
This build got put to the test as our group conviened and decided to forgo Nightmare runs this week in favor of a trio of scenarios. We warmed up with a novice group run through Hotel, which was a breeze, and then dialed the difficulty up for Mansion and Castle. I think we were all a little hesitent to go harder based on past troubles, but training, better gear, and more experience proved to be a boon. We got platinum on Mansion and only lost four survivors on Castle, so I think we acquitted ourselves very nicely.
I should run more scenarios, I know. I’m up to 83 oreos and at 200 I could upgrade my blue shotgun for a nice purple one. But egads these scenarios feel more like work than fun for the most part.
I added to my GOG.com library as I picked up a few titles on sale: Wizardry 6&7 and Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition. Seriously, Deus Ex for $2 — and it came with the full soundtrack, which I’m discovering is a pretty awesome OST.
I’m making great headway on finishing up my virtue deeds for Moria on my Lore-master in LOTRO. A few more and I’ll be done with there for good. I must admit that my kin is a strong motivation for logging in every day, as they’re very friendly and chatty. It makes riding through the Foundations of Stone a light-hearted experience.
I had intentions of giving RIFT a serious try last night. I created a new mage and ran her through the streamlined tutorial, but then when I tried to log on to my other characters to transfer funds and the like, the game kept hanging on the loading screen. I don’t know what that was about, but I got frustrated and logged out since it was getting late.
So instead I moved on to another Trion Worlds title: Trove. The extreme alpha-ness of this game keeps me from logging in, but I can already see the potential for some serious fun here. Already my character has pets and some outfit options, and I just ran around checking out what others have done with their cornerstones. The Knight is a pretty boring class, so I can’t wait until they bring in the next one (Gunslinger), but he was pretty happy to find a player-designed sword during his adventures. I never did find a place to plant a cornerstone of my own, but I also haven’t accumulated a lot of building materials yet either.
All in all, not a bad day.
With fewer MMOs on my plate and a desire to get in some serious LOTRO time, I devoted the past weekend to powering my Lore-master through Moria. She had been waiting patiently in there since I abandoned her for the expansion, and you know how it is with Moria — if you don’t get good momentum going to cruise through there, then it’s really tough to start back up again.
It wasn’t horrible, however, for several reasons. As I’ve said previously, I am really digging the improved pet trait line and it makes playing the LM a more breezy experience. At least with this build, I’m not doing so much crowd control as I am tagging mobs for my pet to take and doing some side damage with occasional AoE. The bog-guardian’s become my go-to pet for this due to the fact that it can instantly start attacking at range and doesn’t have any problem switching targets as I round up four or five mobs at once. Even with the nerf of 12.2, he’s still trucking along great.
Also? Sic ‘em is an awesome I-win button. Being able to summon all of my pets at once to attack bad guys makes me think fondly of my days with City of Heroes (Illusion control and Mastermind). Strangely enough, they don’t attack my target, but they will attack any mobs that attack me, so I have to trigger the skill and then body pull mobs (because if I skill pull them, my regular pet will quickly steal aggro).
The revamp of Moria feels better although it ended up losing me about 3/4ths of the way through. I kind of lost the main thread, picked up another one, and that one ended up saying, “Just wander this area and find more quest givers.” By then I was level 58 and perfectly fine dumping normal quests in favor of going through the epic storyline, which is exactly what I did.
Moria still has that combination of impressive sights, eerie atmosphere, and really frustrating navigation, all of which makes you like it for a while and then hate it greatly while you become desperate to escape it. Fortunately, I got through the epic and out into Lothlorien, so I’m technically done with Moria.
However, I’m still hung up on virtues so I need to go back and cross off a list of about 15 of them that need doing. I hope I’ve at least partially completed most of them. Last night I was working on killing worms and dragonets while listening to stand-up comedy, which was a relaxing change of pace. I also got kindred with both Iron Garrison Guards and Miners, which got me another trait point and the better goat.
The best part was when I had a fight that completed two class deeds and my wurm slayer deed in one go. Then those class deeds finished up to more meta class deeds, meaning that a single fight completed five deeds in total! That was a rare but welcome feeling.
Since I’m not prepared to abandon my Captain and I really need to stay on top of new content for the next release, I’m going to be alternating characters going forward. At least that way I won’t feel immensely pressured to get my LM through the 15 or so zones, numerous epic story books, and 36 levels left before the next big update comes out.
Apart from the occasional TSW night, my gaming focus has really narrowed down as of late to Lord of the Rings Online. I have my lulls and peaks in that game, and right now I’m riding the wave of the latter. Perhaps it’s the “newness” of my Lore-master after so long with my Captain. Perhaps it’s returning to earlier zones in the game. Perhaps it’s even working on building up a character who’s not quite taken form yet in terms of traits, virtues, and the rest.
While the Captain is technically a pet class, even with her archer she never feels like what I think of as a pet class. Definitely not compared to the LM, where the pet is up front and center and a core part of combat. I just feel like a strange amalgamation of whirling dervish, pet commander, and mage as I wade into every fight.
Right now I’m using my bog-guardian the most, as its ranged combat options hit early and quickly. At least right now in the pre-nerf days, boggy can take on a good half-dozen mobs at once and come out smiling. But I do rotate through some of the other pets as well, especially the cats. The lynx has that awesome burst damage at the start of a fight and even the sabertooth has its uses in fights with more than one mob. It also looks far cooler than the other ones. The birds have great uses, but I’m not as keen to have something flapping around the screen.
By the way, big thumbs up to Turbine’s past efforts to revamp the flow of Moria. I remember being in some of these zones forever and not knowing where to go in others, but I certainly haven’t hit that here. The flow gets me in a zone and has me there just long enough to get acquainted with it but not so long as to wear out its welcome. It’s also great to see automatic quests pop up when I get into a region with multiple objectives.
Last night I got to a good stopping point — for now — in the normal quest flow and decided to pick back up the epic story and work on that for a while. I try not to think about just how much content is still in front of me, even with just the epic story, because it kind of takes my breath away. Turbine’s added a LOT to this game over the years, and if one’s desire is just to get to the top as quickly as possible, it could be somewhat disheartening. But if one’s desire is to enjoy the journey as I am, then it’s terrific.
Of course, it stands to reason that the very week that I pick back up my Lore-master we should receive news that Turbine’s planning a pretty severe nerf of LM pets come Update 12.2. Turbine’s not calling it “severe” but players on the test server kind of are. That makes me a sad panda, because I was enjoying my super-beefed pets. Hopefully they’ll still be pretty decent but, y’know, I’m worried.
Since I’m continuing my 2014 theme of trying new things and pushing myself to get outside of my comfort zone, I decided to make my LM a crafter as well. I haven’t really done crafting in LOTRO outside of a few half-hearted attempts at farming and a run with scholar for my previous LM. So I trained up woodworking and forestry with the possible goal of being able to make legendary staves some day.
I spent a couple of play sessions doing nothing but crafting to catch up to Moria levels. Because I had more money than interest in roaming around early level zones picking up wood, I bought stacks of mats from the auction hall and sat back as my LM crafted for hours and hours. Really, after seeing how Guild Wars 2 does this super-fast crafting thing when you have multiple items queued up, LOTRO’s slow-and-steady production was almost painful. At least I could tab out and do other things while that was going on. With the help of a generous kin member who donated two tiers’ worth of mats for my cause, I’m now up to Ilex wood that I can gather and craft from Moria.
The Secret World
The Knights of Mercy reconvened last night to get me through my final elite needed: the Facility. It was also the first time I had run that particular instance and we had a great time — few wipes, memorable boss fights, a quick resolution. Plus, at the end you can run full-tilt into this doorway and be flung back. We tried hard to get screenshots of all five of us flying through the air but we weren’t quite that coordinated.
I took a few preliminary runs at the Gatekeeper just to see what that fight was like. I had heard horror stories, especially from guildmate and leader Maric, who I think spent three curse-laden weeks trying to beat this guy. He is not easy, that’s for sure. I need to do some reading up and perhaps make a new build.
Oh! Speaking on new builds, I whipped up a really fun all-turret/manifestation build that synergizes with the passive skill Big Bang (each attack by a turret/manifestation does an additional hit). It’s so dang cool to lay three to five of these down at once and seeing how quick the mobs go down.
Now that I’ve been using the Kindle Paperwhite for a few days I have some follow-up thoughts. For starters, it’s just been a great reading device. The size and weight makes it ideal for me, as the iPhone screen is a little too small and the iPad has that weight. I keep it next to my computer for reading during loading screens, reboots, couch time, and quality time in “the office.” Yes, technology has advanced to the point where I can comfortably read and poop in the dark! We truly live in a wonderous age.
So far the battery is holding up just fine, as I haven’t charged it since I first got it. Probably my biggest complaint is the wake up switch — it’s small and not very easy to press with just one hand, so I have to hold the device with one hand and press it with the other. It’s not a big issue, but it’s annoying even still.
I don’t know if I like how the device gives me a countdown of how long it’ll probably take me to finish the book. It’s there at the bottom of the screen, sort of daring me. Sometimes I find it a little distracting.
Old-school RPGs come to tablets
Two big RPG releases to tablets this week. Baldur’s Gate II enhanced edition is out with just every expansion and addition that came out for that game. Since I have it on GOG.com, I probably won’t be splurging $15 to get it.
Besides, I’m waiting for Final Fantasy VI to get into the app store. It’s already out for Android and presumably is weaving its way through Apple’s approval process. I wasn’t that aware of FF6 when I was a teen and considering that it’s many people’s favorite of the series, I do want to give it a good play.