Quest for Glory: Dryad scavenger hunt

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

aa1After my midnight adventures for Baba Yaga and a subsequent fight with five — count ‘em, five — goblins, I am tuckered.  I make a dash for Erana’s Peace to get my free food and safe sleep.  Ahh.

aa2One of the biggest drawbacks to Quest for Glory is how confusing it is to navigate.  A good chunk of the world is forest, and with no map to guide you and a ton of repeated scenes (save on artwork storage space, I guess), it’s hard to know where you are and where you’re going.  I eventually resorted to printing out a map from a website, but even still, I’m a little tired of these lengthy strolls through the glades.

Fortunately for my boredom, I stumble upon a white stag, which bounds away.  I follow, dreaming of white stag steaks for dinner.

aa3The stag stops two screens over, where I have an encounter with a tree dryad.  Don’t see a lot of dryads even in fantasy RPGs, so one point goes to Quest for Glory here.  The dryad asks me if I’m “a friend of the forest.”  Well, I’m more a friend of my own pocketbook, but I know what I’m supposed to say, so “yes.”  She then tasks me to get a seed because that’s all tree-huggers can think about.  Seeds and sprouts and sticks.

aa4Another (sigh) long walk through the forest.  Eventually I find these four plants spitting the seed that I need back and forth.  For a long while, I try to knock the seed down using stones that I picked up from the ground, but the seeds go too fast and it never happens.  So instead, I climb up to these rocks, stick out my hand, and pocket the seed as it flies by.  Go me!

I bring the seed all the way back to the dryad, who receives it with a Star Trek reference.

aa5Okay then.  Live long and prosper and all that.

The dryad tells me of some other prophecy (this game has about twelve hundred prophecies, I’ve noticed) that boils down to me gathering ingredients for a potion.  I have some of the items but not others.  Time to scavenger hunt, I guess.

aa6Nearby, goofy ground-living fluffballs named Meeps give me one of the ingredients, some of their green fur.  Can I play the rest of the game as a Meep?

aa7And some water from the Flying Falls…

Since I’m nearby Spielberg, I stop in and spend 400 silvers to upgrade my armor.  Ooh yeah, I’m rough and tough!

aa8The last ingredient that I need is some fairy dust, which only comes from fairies who pop out around dusk in the mushroom circle.  I’ll admit it, this whole encounter had me laughing pretty hard.  The fairies — which are only portrayed as little flickering lights — bicker and banter back and forth.  Their greatest desire is to see me dance, and so for a long minute, that’s what my character does.  Then one fairy (Dewdrop, I believe) admits to having a crush on me while another (Mary) gives me my fairy dust.


aa9Of course, then I make the mistake of entering the circle and being forced todance to death.  The boogie music here is worth it, however.

With all of the ingredients collected, I return to the healer’s hut where she (rather anticlimacticly) makes a dispel potion for me.  Hope this pays off later!

20 little things I’ve grown to love about WildStar

loppAs I adventure along, I find really cool little features or what have you about WildStar that make me go, that’s pretty awesome.  So why not list them?

1. How the game automatically puts any medishots in your inventory into the healing slot on the hotbar.  That’s saved my bacon more than once.

2. The emotes on the characters are really terrific — some of the best I’ve seen in any MMO, probably because they’re cartoony exaggerated.

3. Tending my little garden and then selling the crops for profit.

4. How loot explodes out of mobs and nodes — and how you suck them all up afterward.  It’s very visceral and feels exciting every time.

5. Speaking of goodies, every so often you see a glowing cracked patch on the ground.  Clicking on it results in either a buff station or a chest of loot.  Score!

6. I love how my bots have different animations for swimming — their legs spin together like a focused propeller.

7. The idle animations for many of the mobs are hilarious and well worth checking out if you can avoid aggro.  One of my current favorites are the walatusks (walruses) that go on an eating binge and then puke/burp all over the place.

8. Movement is great.  I get so spoiled by WildStar’s sprint and double-jump that I get a little angry with other MMOs for not having them (especially the latter).  Doing a little double-jump kick with a hoverboard makes me so dang happy.

9. Housing zone chat.  People are so inviting and talkative here, and it makes being in your house more social by default.

10. Quests that let you super-jump.  I missed doing this in City of Heroes, so it’s great to have a taste of this in WildStar every so often.  Whee!

11. Repeating fun challenges for even more loot.

12. Every last little thing that the Lopp say.  I love Lopp.  So much.  “Buy from Lopp, deals never flop!”

13. The whole Squirg zombie aspect — it’s a fun take on B-movie zombies and alien brainsuckers (reminds me of the ones from Futurama, actually).  And getting a “hat” that covers your entire head and talks to you still cracks me up.

14. Special quest weapons that are a blast to use, like cryo-grenades and stink bombs.  My only complaint is that you can’t keep them afterward (too powerful, I reckon).

15. The little lore logs you find all over the place.  Some are tragic, some are illuminating, and some are screamingly funny.  The TV guide ones are usually a hoot.

16. The music.  I’m not *quite* prepared to say that this is the greatest MMO soundtrack ever until I finish listening through it, but it’s certainly a strong contender for the title.

17. The sentient veggies… dunno what it is about them, but they’re so odd that they’re compelling.  I want to know what makes them tick and if they have a Christian-themed animated show (props to VeggieTales).

18. Shiphand missions are really engaging, even if the first three that I’ve encountered more or less rip off Aliens.  Their design is cool and the scripting and mission variety keep them interesting throughout.

19. Seeing a gathering node try to run away or turn into a giant boss monster to fight so that you can kill it and invade its tunnel for even more mats.

20. The NPC dialogue and characterization feels refreshingly different than the fantasy fare.  More down-to-earth (down-to-Nexus?), more contemporary, and more relatable.

Are special editions and expansions getting too pricey?

ceIt’s amazing to me not only how we get used to pretty significant changes in culture but how quickly we do so.  For example, a mere five years ago free-to-play MMOs represented a fringe business model, and we were shocked when DDO made the switch.  Now it’s pretty much the opposite, with subscription-only games being on the outskirts (and new sub games struggling to maintain those models).

This is why I’m not terribly surprised that the sticker shock we experienced just a few years ago regarding the high cost of collector’s editions has receeded to dull acceptance.  Remember when $150 for Star Wars: The Old Republic’s special edition was practically scandal?  (And it still is, considering how little you actually got for it.)  But SWTOR wasn’t alone in pushing the standard CE price, which formally was around $80, up into three digits.

But are all prices shooting up into the $150 range?  Or is this merely the case of selective observation?

Cost comparison

Guild Wars 2 sold its much more impressive CE for $150 as well. The best version of RIFT: Nightmare Tide will set you back $150.  There was a $150 EVE Online collector’s edition that came out in 2013.  The Imperial Edition of ESO was $100 (and slightly controversial as it included an otherwise-locked race).  STO is selling an “operations pack” of the upcoming Delta Rising expansion for $125.  Destiny had a big-box Ghost Edition for $150.  The Secret World had a Grand Master Pack for $200 that included a lifetime sub.  Then we get into pre-orders that allowed you to buy into the alpha testing program, such as Landmark’s $100 trailblazer pack and ArcheAge’s $150 founders pack.

That isn’t to say that $150 is all anyone does any more.  In comparison, the most expensive version of original RIFT’s special editions was just $80.  WildStar’s digital deluxe edition (there was no CE) was $85.  The Warlords of Draenor expansion CE, which is quite loaded, is still a reasonable $90.  The Diablo III CE is merely $50.  The FFXIV CE ranged between $50 and $80 depending on what version and platform you chose.  The DDO: Shadowfell Conspiracy CE was $50.  EQ: Call of the Forsaken CE is $90. as is the new EQII expansion CE.  The most expensive version of LOTRO: Riders of Rohan was $70.  Defiance had a $70 CE.

Of course, all of this is hard to compare because you’ve got so many factors — the base game vs. expansions, physical CEs vs. digital CEs, pre-order bonuses vs. launch editions.  But at a glance, $150 isn’t as “standard” as I thought when I began writing this post.  It’s probably more standard for a big physical box CE (i.e. “the cube”).

Is $150 too much for a collector’s edition?

This is a tricky question to answer, mostly because it boils down to your financial status, how much you have been looking forward to this game, whether it’s on top of a subscription, and what’s being offered for that price.  We also must consider inflation, which has been steadily rising whereas the average MMO sub fee has not.

While I am a complete sucker for CEs, I’ll say that the $150 trend is pushing it for me.  I’ve splurged in the past, to be sure, but thank goodness these don’t come out every other month.  $150 is a grocery store trip for our family.  It’s a really good Kindle plus a couple of ebooks.  And it’s a heap of digital goodies if I take that money directly to games’ cash shops and buy select items that I know I’ll use.

What we get with CEs is exclusivity — physical and digital items that you can’t get anywhere else.  I’m generally pleased with CEs that deliver account-wide beneficial items (such as mounts or increased inventory space) that will benefit my characters for years to come.  If I signed back up for World of Warcraft today, any new character I made would get the same mini panda or diablo pet that the original CE entailed.

I’m losing respect for the feelies of a CE, however.  Soundtracks are a huge draw, but only if you can’t get them elsewhere.  Statues?  Cloth maps?  Keyboard overlays?  Authenticator fobs?  Let’s be honest, most of these will be trash or dusty shelf items before too long.

I guess I can’t blame games like STO and ArcheAge trying to tap whales with their huge up-front pre-orders, since people can more easily justify spending that kind of cash if they’re getting the game or expansion for free anyway.  It doesn’t stop my eyes from bulging and/or rolling, but they gotta pay the bills somehow.

For me, I’d love to see more CEs in the reasonable zone of $60-$80, since it vastly increases the likelihood that I’ll drop cash for them.  $150 still triggers a strong debate in my household.

Quest for Glory: The Baba Yaga’s task

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

Well well well… we’re finally crossing the threshold of the dreaded Baba Yaga, the dreaded villain of the game.  Let’s stare evil straight in the face and give it a raspberry, shall we?

b1EGADS.  That thing fell off the ugly tree, hit every branch coming down, and then got plastic surgery to look even worse.  Well done, game.  That’s substantially more terrifying-looking than I anticipated.

Baba Yaga isn’t too pleased that I showed up, and since she knows I’m trying to be some sort of hero, she turns me into a frog and prepares to toss me into a pot for dinner.

b2All I’m thinking is that a frog is a mighty poor supper.  Not much meat there.  Why not turn me into a chicken or a pig?

At least Baba Yaga gives me a chance to live — she sends me out on a task to collect a mandrake root from the graveyard at precisely midnight and to bring it back by dawn, or else I’ll die.  Awesome.  Time to fuss with Quest for Glory’s annoying time system yet again.  The problem is that it’s dawn and I have to make 18 hours pass.  As far as I can tell, I can only get it to skip ahead if I’m tired (as in my SP is down) by an hour.  So I look for ways to fart around.

b3Killing weak goblins for money and skill points is as good a time waster as any other.  There’s a nice clearing where several goblins congregate, so I hang out here and grind for a while, then rest, then grind some more.

b4So nice of the goblins to line up and wait patiently for their turn.  At least as a thief, combat in this game is beyond dull.  Click click click click click click click.  There are a couple of different types of swings, a defensive move, and the option to throw out spells, but mostly it’s just clicking when the enemy isn’t defending.  Then it’s just a matter of if their red bar runs out before yours.

Was all CRPG combat this dull back in the day?  Honestly, I would love for there to be an old-school turn-based menu combat system here instead of whatever this is.

b5Finally — finally — midnight rolls around and I stroll into the graveyard, only to find ghosts partying it up.  I love how being a ghost in this game means that you don’t whine and moan about your undead state, but instead you get to dance the night away.  That’s awesome.  Less awesome is the fact that they suck my lifeforce away.  Time for a restore and to quaff an undead ungent!

The ungent makes me temporarily immune to ghostie graps, so I stroll in, yank the screaming mandrake root out, and dash (ever so slowly) back to Baba Yaga’s hut.

b6After all that fuss, the Baba Yaga uses the mandrake… to make mandrake mousse.  Is her tummy all she thinks about?

b7I concur with with statement.  While I got out of there with my skin intact, the whole quest seemed pretty pointless.  I didn’t get any XP or skill points that I saw, nor a reward.  And that ungent cost me 100 silvers!  Baba, there will be a reckoning for this, mark my words!

RIFT: I am here to restore the light

nightriftI’ve been inching my way back into RIFT lately, but last night I decided to stop taking half-measures and just dive in.  As with pretty much all my returns to this game, I feel compelled to handicap myself by rolling a new character (to relearn everything, I tell myself) instead of continuing one of my small army of mid- and high-level toons.

Today, starting up a new character in this game is surprisingly involved, especially if I’m trying to give it the best possible beginning by transferring all of my goods from elder characters.  So over the course of two hours, here were the steps I took just to get to a place where I could normally quest:

  1. Roll up a new character, the rogue Deltavee.  Like many of my other characters, she’s a short Dwarf because Dwarves are awesome.
  2. Import my settings from my old characters.  I love this feature in RIFT.
  3. Claim a couple dozen waiting items from the RIFT store interface.  These include mounts, pets, various consumables, veteran rewards, and cosmetics.  They also nearly overflow my poor single starter bag.
  4. Blitz through the tutorial and be happy that it’s considerably shorter than it used to be.
  5. Log into my old characters (about five of them) and mail myself money, cosmetic wardrobe sets, and other various bound-to-account items.  I was really happy to have so many cosmetic sets transferrable — I’m able to deck out my looks from the get-go.
  6. Get Deltavee invited into my old guild (which is still hopping).
  7. Set up my hotbar with skills, items, and pets.  At least initially with my first role I’m going tactician/riftstalker/bladedancer.  Tactician almost seems overpowered, but I love shooting things with some magical flamethrower dealie.
  8. Run around collecting porticulum ports in Silverwood, at least the first three of them.
  9. Ride all of the way to Sanctum, collecting the port there.
  10. Jump off the bridge of Sanctum to get my “So fun, I had to do it once” achievement.
  11. Go to the auction house and purchase four 24-slot bags (~10 plat each) to flesh out my inventory.
  12. Buy four wardrobe slots in total and choose four outfits to put in them.  Place the rest in the bank along with unwanted consumables.
  13. Spent the remaining gems in my account to buy the four new souls in the game (even though I only wanted the new Physician soul, they all come packaged together as far as I can tell).  Yay for heals!
  14. Head into my housing plot to deposit (i.e. quickly set up) the scads of housing items I had.  It’s no WildStar functionality, but it’s certainly nice.  I actually like the placement tools better than WildStar’s.

After those 14 steps, I felt good about heading back to my point of origin in Silverwood to start questing like normal.  It’s a bit of an adjustment getting back to traditional hotbar combat with a global cooldown after having been in so many action-style MMOs, but it’s not bad.  I’m already thinking of different builds, especially involving the Physician.

I did one rift along the way — hey, I used to like these!  Still kinda do.  And even though there’s little chance I’ll even be to the first expansion (or level 40) by the time Nightmare Tide rolls in (see what I did there?), I’m definitely going to be jumping on the new minion system the second it comes out.  Collect ‘em all, I say!

Tiny Tower Vegas review

tinyDuring my recent trip to PAX Prime in Seattle, I really only played two games on my own: a few short sessions of Star Trek Online and the brand-new Nimblebit title, Tiny Tower Vegas.

I’m a hopeless sucker for Nimblebit games, even though I know that I like them in bursts and then abandon them after a while.  For the period of time in which I am into them, they’re really relaxing, cute, somewhat mindless experiences that fill five minutes here and there.

Tiny Tower Vegas came out this past month and at first glance is pretty much just a Vegas-themed reskin of the classic Tiny Tower formula (which has already been redone as Tiny Death Star).  However, once I dug into it, I found that the devs did a great job both refining what came before and adding some improvements that make it more interactive and immersive.

TTV looks awesome, especially if you (like me) love pixel art.  The little floors are far more detailed and animated than before (I like watching the boxing match on the King Klub floor) and there are options to customize the lobby, elevator, and roof look.  Do you like my new Police Box elevator?  TARDIS away!

With the Vegas theme comes a new type of floor: casino games.  These function as businesses, but also contain one of three minigames (slots, poker, blackjack).  You use your occasionally-earned chips to play these in the hopes of getting a bux payout, which comes more often than not.  Bux pour in far faster and in greater numbers before, so I feel okay using them to speed up stocking and to save them up for cosmetic customization.

While floors are earned more slowly than before (I’ve been playing almost two weeks and only have 12 floors), there’s one terrific change with them: no more apartment levels.  Now you can staff your businesses with applicants in the lobby, each of which whom will tell you if you’ve got a dream job for them.  Apartments have been replaced by suites that are money makers in a different way.  If you ferry bitzens up to them, they’ll stay a certain length of time and then pay you on the way out.

The whole package feels more polished and generous than before, although it does still hang on the stock-wait to sell-restock grind.  I just like that it has more personality and actually showed thoughtfulness in how features were added, changed, and removed.  A good example of iteration.

In defense of Star Trek Online’s ground game

groundAlong with the now-broken “odd Star Trek movies suck, even ones are classic” trope, there’s the well-worn “space combat in Star Trek Online is pretty groovy, but the ground combat is the pits.”

It’s an accusation that had more credibility in the earlier days of STO, to be sure.  It wasn’t that engaging and — I recall with vivid clarity — the fights would go on and on and on as if both sides were attempting to subdue each other with vigorous slaps of wet noodles.  But somewhere along the way, the ground game improved.  Fights got shorter and more dynamic, a pseudo-FPS option was presented, and the NPCs got… well, less buggy and glitchy than before.  On top of that, I can think of six important testimonies that can be said in favor of STO’s ground game, so here we go!

1. Solo squad combat is a rarity in MMOs

Getting to command an entire NPC team into battle isn’t something that you see a lot of in MMOs.  Atlantica Online, Guild Wars 1 (with heroes), and… I’m sure there must be one or two more examples, but my point is that they aren’t terribly frequent.  And yet it’s not only fun to have a whole team at your back, but it shares a strong common link to single-player RPGs, where leading a party by yourself was usually the norm.

I like it.  It’s cool knowing that I’m packing a lot of firepower and that if I go down, there’s a good chance one of my virtual teammates could revive me.  Plus, it looks so much more exciting to be in the middle of a 5v5 battle than a 1v3 one.

2. Miniguns are teh bomb

There are a lot of cool ground weapons in STO, but for my money nothing beats the output and look of a good minigun.  It almost feels like cheating to spray the field of battle with one of these.  If only there was an episode where Captain Picard gave up his preference for those wimpy wrist phasers and brought one of these bad boys to a fight.

3. It’s great to see your avatar and your bridge crew in action

Spaceships are all well and good, but they come with some drawbacks, especially when it comes to connecting with the player.  We simply identify better with humanoid avatars than machines and vehicles.  Plus, in STO we are swapping out starships pretty regularly before the endgame.

I like seeing the guy I spent a half-hour fine-tuning during character creation and his bridge crew.  One of the little things I’ve been appreciating during the missions is how little helpful snippets of bridge crew dialogue will pop in from the left side of the screen — not obstructing anything, but a good reminder that these are supposedly real characters instead of silent meat shields.

4. It helps to give a balance to mission pacing

If Star Trek Online was 100% set in space, let’s face it, it would get boring pretty quickly.  Listen, I love the space battles, but if it was just that and little else, I would feel claustrophobic.  I really appreciate how the game breaks up missions into a somewhat predictable pattern — space section, ground section, space section.  The variety helps keep both parts feeling fresh.

5. It’s not just about combat

Plus, the ground game isn’t solely about fighting.  Star Trek Online may not be up to The Secret World investigation mission standards, but there are several surprisingly trickly and thoughtful missions that require thinking, deduction, and puzzle solving.  The other day I was doing that mission where you’re on a space station in the past, trying to get a part for Scotty.  That required me to order a specific nerve tonic for one of the NPCs, and to do that I had to grill Scotty about drinks she had ordered in the past and figure out what combination might work today.  It was a little silly but also something that woke up my brain instead of spamming “1” over and over.

6. The locales are more varied than most of the space zones

STO does all it can to keep its space zones looking interesting, but let’s face it: They are a lot of empty space with pretty backdrops and objects floating around.  The ground zones have a visual advantage, offering a lot more variety and visual density.  We get to visit space stations and planets and labs and abandoned tunnels and the like.  It helps to reinforce the notion that you’re actually going to very different places and exploring the wide galaxy.