Garage Sale Tuesday: LOTRO, RIFT, and TSW

necroOoh!  A blog garage sale!  Let’s rummage through these boxes and see what discounted topics lay within!

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.

RIFT

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.

LOTRO, Trove, RIFT, Deus Ex, and the day of little things

trove1Yesterday was a strange day for gaming in that I didn’t do any one big thing but a lot of small things.

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.

The abandoned children of MMOs

dollsLast night was a SWTOR night, but the launcher was taking an eternity to load (and slogging my computer down in the process), so after about 20 minutes I gave up and decided to make up some time in RIFT instead.

Instead of heading back to my Cleric and her (sigh) oh-so-exciting adventures through Seratos, I mixed things up a bit by dusting off my level 51 Rogue and getting her back into action.  She wasn’t on my current server, so I had to go hunting around for her.  I realized then that I had not only planted seeds on several servers, but as I flipped through them, I saw the same thing over and over again: abandoned characters in the level 15-30 range.

They look at me with sad, accusing eyes: “You promised us you’d play!  That we would be the grand new start you wanted!  And look at us now — orphaned, alone, doing nothing but holding on to a name.”

So what happens here, I think, is that this is the sad side-effect of altitis.  I start up a new character for that new character feel and that new character smell, have fun blowing through the early levels, but can’t quite push past the middle area before my interest is yanked elsewhere.

I kind of see it as a reality TV show, where these characters compete to see which one of them will make it to “main” status and stick around for the high levels.  One or two usually bubbles up to the top, but they leave behind all of these abandoned children.

It’s probably way worse if I loaded up the World of Warcraft servers.  I was forever jumping servers and rolling alts there, plus my wife shared my account and she’s got her stable of ridiculously named toons (GrimReapette was my favorite for her DK).

The weird thing is that even though I tend to like things nice and tidy, I also am loathe to delete these characters.  After all, I might need that name again some day or perhaps I’ll want to play them.  And it doesn’t cost me anything to leave them hanging around, right?

Making bank in RIFT

basnkI’m not all about money, but I don’t like to be broke in MMOs either.  I think I’ve stated before that I would rather pursue the acquisition of wealth — usually by gathering mats and selling them — so that I can buy what I want instead of fiddling about with crafting systems.  So when I returned to RIFT a couple of months ago, I was dismayed that I was nearly broke.  Well, if 70 plat is nearly broke.  It felt like it.

Unlike LOTRO, there’s always something to spend money on in RIFT at any level, so getting more moolah was important.  What I settled on has made me around 600 plat in a few weeks, and while I don’t know if that’s great or not, it feels pretty good.

So here’s what I do.  First of all, I got the BananAH addon that helps to automate auction house research and posts.  It basically scans the AH, figures out the best price for everything, and then helps you post your stuff at a price that will sell.  I loved having this sort of mod in World of Warcraft too.

Then I pretty much just sell artifacts.  I have tons of pets already, so I’m not so concerned about filling out artifact sets.  So pick up artifacts through general adventuring, daily login gifts (while my year subscription lasts), fishing (yes I fish, but that’s another post), and dutifully using the RIFT mobile app every six hours for its lootables scratchers.  The end result is a nice stream of artifacts to sell, and sell they do.  Many of them are piddly sales, like around a plat or so, but once in a while I hit a jackpot and sell one for 100 plat or more.

This means I’m no longer in the poorhouse.  It’s a nice feeling.  For any of you that play the RIFT auction house, what do you find that sells good?

RIFT: The slog of Seratos

seratosI remember when Storm Legion was first announced and the RIFT devs were talking about the two new continents and how one was death-themed and the other one was old-decaying-civilization-themed.  I thought, man, who’s going to want to go to the latter?  Death zones sound so cool!

Oh Syp.  How very foolish you were.

The Kingdom of Pelladane is a good start to the continent of Dusken.  It’s wonderfully diverse and detailed, with plenty of buildings, people, and things going on.  You really do get a sense that the folks are pushing back against the almost-inevitable takeover of their lands.  But then you move on to Seratos and… well…

Let me put it this way.  If zones were features on a body, Seratos would be an ugly scab.  It’s one big big BIG area that’s just covered in purple death gunk and rocks and bones, and very little of it so far has captured my imagination.  It’s actually started to wear me down, emotionally, as I’m slogging my way through it.  I mean, the monster design is terrific and I like the concept of the Shapers making all sorts of twisted monuments (there’s even a huge mouth in the middle of nowhere with skewed teeth).  But that lack of civilization and visual diversity is noticeable early and often.

Sure, there are a couple of NPC outposts, but they’re nothing to speak of.  Just a handful of missions, there, go kill stuff.  And speaking of killing things, Seratos has the largest number of carnage quests I’ve seen to date.  According to the achievement, I think I remember seeing over 50.  And I’m trying to do them as I go along, because I do need that precious XP (I hit level 55 a few days ago).  I’m creating a new build on a nightly basis now to see if I can come up with something that kills these high-health creatures faster.  So far, nothing works quite as well as my Inquisitor-heavy DoT build.

I guess I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with Seratos if (a) it was a lot smaller, offering me a greater hope of moving on before too long, (b) had far more interesting quests, or (c) had some sort of visual diversity going on.  I’m making headway, never you mind, but it’s still going to be a few days before I wrap this up.  I think I’ll have to jump back over to the other continent just to get a relief from this dreary setting.

Achievement spam in a can

spamIf you feel that you must put people into categories, then slot me in with the folks who love achievements in MMOs.  I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea and even irk some severely, but I figure that if they entertain me and I keep my mouth shut when a PvP or raid patch ushers in new content I couldn’t care less about, then I should be able to enjoy achievements without feeling guilty.

Sure, I could make up my own random goals, but that never seems to happen.  It’s kind of like geocaching for me — the activity set up by others prompts me to go to places and explore where I otherwise would never have done.  Achievements allow me to pick and choose which mini-goals I want to attain, and if they have rewards attached?  Especially if they have rewards attached?  So much the better.

I kind of see them as quests without a narrative attached to them.  Actually, they’re quests in which the story comes out of your journey to complete them, which may not be as rich in lore but sometimes is far more personal.

It’s a big week for achievements in MMOs for me.  My return to RIFT is more or less centered around filling up my new rogue’s achievement panel.  There aren’t a ton of rewards for doing these outside of a few titles and the occasional chest, but it’s like a guided tour of Doing Telara The Weird Way.  Plus, I get a small jolt of happiness when the achievement notice pops up and guildies say “grats” when I finish one of the more difficult ones.

Today Guild Wars 2 is dropping a patch that has a major overhaul to its achievement system.  Apart from the dailies and occasional event, I can’t say that I’ve given much attention to achievements in this game — but that’s about to change.  We’re not only getting a UI overhaul for achievements, but now our cumulative achievement points will give us various rewards, including permanent account unlocks.  I’m beyond excited (surpexcited, I guess) for this.  It’s even overshadowing any interest I have in the new living story/area.

GW2 for me has been a very casual game without much focus on dungeon running (and without a dungeon finder, that’s not going to change).  Reward-based achievement systems will provide a new layer to my exploration of the world.  I’m quite looking forward to starting my coast-to-coast quest to gather those points.  It even got me to dust off my Engineer, as I figure that she’ll be in the best position to do this.

It’s nice to finally get a GW2 patch that has something of great personal interest.  More new systems, ArenaNet, and less living story stuff, OK?  Like housing.  Let’s get on that.  You guys would totally rock the house, so to speak, if you did that.  But I feel that it might be better to get such a system out before WildStar releases than after.

RIFT: Nightmares and dreamscapes

eggsGetting back into RIFT introduces the same-old dilemma that I face in return situations: whether to roll a fresh new character or pick up my old main and go from there.  Logically, I should go with the latter, right?  I shouldn’t want to waste the time and effort that I put into the progress of that character, not to mention that MMO characters don’t degrade or get dusty or anything when you leave them.  Sypi the Cleric was just as I left her in February, level 53 and facing a room full of Alienesque eggs.

But the temptation to reroll is strong, because so much has changed.  I have this desire to drink full of the cup of an MMO and not miss a single (soloable) drop from the start to finish, and that’s really only possible if I’ve been playing constantly through the updates or make a new character.  Otherwise it’s some backtracking and the nagging feeling that I missed something.  Plus, jumping into the shoes of an old main is initially overwhelming, since it’s a little difficult to remember the builds, combat rotations, current questlines, and so on.  Starting over seems easy.

While I did putter around on a new mage for a week, eventually I returned to see my Cleric and decided that I was just being silly.  I love this character and would like to see her through the end of the Storm Legion content.  She was, I think, an achievement hunter at one time, and that’s something else I’d like to revive.  And her builds are tremendously fun, all of them.

I’m glad I’m going back with the old, because after a day or two getting reacquainted with her, everything’s rushed back and I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with my guild.  Plus, I can’t believe I left when I did, because I was on the cusp of one of the coolest quests in the game.

RIFT gets knocked around a lot for weak quests (sometimes deservedly so), but there are several pretty interesting missions.  This one, in which you jump into a dreamworld to investigate the past events of a local estate, was right up there with anything I’ve experienced in The Secret World (which is the highest honor I can think of, story-wise).  The tale that you discover is quite sordid and downright macabre, involving the son of a lord who went from torturing animals as a kid to becoming a full-blown psychopathic killer.  He gets away with it because his father is more worried about protecting the family name, and dozens of people suffer because of it.

The voice acting is sometimes chilling, and I was quite surprised how dark RIFT was willing to go with this quest chain.  I mean, implied rape, animal mutilation, corruption, and the cultivation of evil was something more sinister than anything I’ve seen from the big baddie in the expansion so far.

It wasn’t a good storyline because it was dark, but because it was quite well-told.  The dreamworld is suitably “other,” sort of real and sort of off-kilter in a way that you only get in your dreams.  I was giddy to discover that your character can jump super-high in it, which made me pine for the days of super-jumping in City of Heroes.

It was also pretty challenging.  One of the final quests involves sneaking past guards who are constantly patrolling and shifting stances, and if you get seen just once you are returned to the start.  Ugh I hate missions like that — I just was banging my head over a similar one in Dracula’s castle in TSW.  I’ll give it to the devs, though, the mechanics were really well-done and quite reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid and the like.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty good about how everything is going.  Last night I participated in a zone-wide event that was just loads of fun, and at least with RIFT you can directly attack these big zone bosses instead of GW2’s dragons, which often just involve using some local clickie to attack from afar.  We’ll see how it goes.  There are scads of achievements that I’d like to get that I passed over, so I might be doing some backtracking in the near future to get them.

Hitchhiking back into RIFT

hitchWell here’s something I wasn’t expecting: I downloaded RIFT and rolled a new character this past weekend.  By my blog records, I exited the game back in late February and hadn’t felt the pull to return.  It wasn’t a bad break-up, just time apart to recharge batteries and see if there would be any future interest.  If not, that would be ok.  If so, that’s fine as well.

Even with all of the F2P hullabaloo, I wasn’t going to head back there, but once it happened I started to feel like I was missing out on a party in a place I used to frequent all of the time.  Then a friend invited me to her guild, and that was that.  Re-download.

Even if it’s been just a little over three months since I’ve last been in RIFT, so much has changed.  F2P has created a strange, day-one environment where there are scads of people running around, full servers, and chat logs busy with all sorts of basic questions (and, y’know, comparisons to World of Warcraft.  I actually made a game: I wouldn’t take a breath until someone mentioned WoW in general chat.  I didn’t die for the half-hour I played.).

Another big change is the store.  From what I can tell, RIFT’s model is pretty generous to completely free folks.  It doesn’t penalize players for not subbing or paying (upon a cursory glance, the only restrictions I saw were three bag slots instead of five and two character slots).  The store is absolutely massive to compensate, and I can see Trion going for the carrot instead of the stick with it.  There are lockboxes, mounts, pets, outfits (oh boy are there outfits), bags, boosts, the whole nine yards.  I need to do more checking into it, because I’m not quite sure how much advantage paying players get here.  I suspect that it might be a little more than other F2P offerings, although my worry is that it crosses the “pay to win” barrier.

What I was pleased to discover is that, due to my past subscriptions, I had accrued 20,000 store credits and dozens of additional item rewards due to loyalty tiers.  Seriously, I had to buy a few additional bags from the store just to hold all of this stuff upon logging in.  Not that I’m complaining.  I even got a cool beachside dimension from the get-go.

So I rolled a mage and started on a new journey with no great ambition.  I’m just there to see the world and have fun, as long as that lasts.  Another big change I saw off the bat was the streamlining of the tutorial (which takes less than half the time it used to) and quest flow in the starting zone.  It also seems like I’m leveling a LOT faster than I used to, although with the mentoring system, I can stay at-level for a zone as long as I’m there if I wish.  I forgot how much I liked that.

Who knows where this will lead, if anywhere, but right now I’m glad my curiosity prompted the return.  RIFT’s always been a good game and I hope that F2P grows the population and extends the title’s lifespan so that it gets the attention it deserves.