STO: Applejack to the rescue!

applejackLeveling in Star Trek Online is so absurdly fast these days with the double XP toggled on that I’m almost to the max level while only being about halfway through all of the episodes.  I was grateful for this since it got me out of the Defiant ship relatively quickly, although I was surprised to see that I did get a new free ship at Rear Admiral (level 40).  For some reason I thought they stopped giving you new ships around this point.

Not one to look a free ship in the deflector dish, I grabbed the upgrade to the Sovereign (Enterprise-E).  It’s nothing special, but at least is has a few more module slots.  I’m relying on drops and mission rewards for my gear, so it’s very haphazard, especially in the weapon department.  I’d love a few more phaser turrets, although I did not mind that blue-quality plasma mine that dropped the other day.

So the big internal debate I’m having in STO is whether or not to buy a nicer tier 5 ship now and then upgrade it for the expansion or to hold off and get a tier 6.  It probably makes better financial and statistical sense to go for the tier 6, but that knowledge wages war against a few factors such as (1) the expansion is still several weeks away, (2) I haven’t seen an expansion ship yet that I desperately want, and (3) there are really cool ships and special features that would be pretty great to have now.  I know that I’m not going to buy two separate ships; I just want my “endgame” ship to work on and build up.

bridgeRight now I’m in the thick of the Romulan/Borg episodes.  I can’t believe it took this long into the game before a mission sent me into the interior of my own ship — I would not have thought to do so otherwise.  Oh hey, I have a bridge!  It’s kind of neat to see my crew doing things other than running after me with weapons splayed.

I did the Vault mission the other night with my shuttlecraft.  The mission was all elbowing me and saying, “Y’know, this would be SO much easier with a Delta Flyer, which is purchasable from the C-Store for a low, low price!” and I was rolling my eyes back and saying, “How many times do you need a small craft in this game?  And this mission isn’t that hard with the free craft anyway.  But thanks for trying!”

I’m kind of happy that I have two purple and two blue-quality bridge officers.  With all of the XP rolling in, I’ve been able to max their skills out almost instantly.  We had a conference meeting and decided together that the Wrath of Khan uniforms weren’t really working for our style, so we all went to the tailor and swapped to the experimental Sierra uniforms.  I think they work a lot better for our look.

So that’s been about it in Star Trek Online lately.  I enjoy the time spent playing it but don’t feel pulled or pressured into logging in.  It’ll be nice to know that by the time I finish up with these episodes there will be an expansion’s worth of new ones to explore — although how many those will be is anyone’s guess.

The Secret Adventures: Not quite dead (Kingsmouth #5)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

cellSomething Wicked (investigation mission)

  • This is a pretty neat investigation mission that was incredibly glitchy back when the game first launched.  Anyway, Norma’s second and final quest is to send me investigating a series of murders that happened in 2002 when the weather and atmosphere of the town was much like it is currently.  She said that they caught a vagrant, but she and the Sheriff believed that it wasn’t human hands that cut those girls open.
  • Since you’re just told to investigate the murders and not directed where to go, it really pays to know the town.  Going to Sheriff Bannerman would be an obvious idea, but first what I have to do is head to the town hall and rifle through the old records.  There are a LOT of records, so knowing the time frame (summer 2002) is key to narrowing it down.
  • The records contain a newspaper clipping talking about the arrest of the vagrant and the murder of three girls.  NOW I run over to Bannerman, who says she’s done with the case but invites me (why not) to look it up on her computer.
  • The file on the vagrant Larry tells of inconsistancies with his report and also that “You can ask my ghost for the truth.”  Sounds like he was taking the fall for something, but why?  And why would he kill himself?  And how did he know that he could talk from beyond the grave?
  • So here’s the cool part of the mission: I have to die.  Seriously.  This is one of several TSW missions that utilizes the ghost or anima world to solve missions.  Sometimes you see things as a dead person that aren’t there otherwise.
  • As a dead person, I can go into the now-open cell that is locked in the normal world.  Larry is standing there by an inscription about white ravens and golden girls telling secrets.  I’m also amused by the “Bannerman is hot” graffiti.  How do people get graffiti into the cell anyway?
  • The white raven outside the police station (I’m still in ghost form) leads me on a merry chase into the woods, where several ravens are lined up, each saying a particular phrase.  I have to click on them to match the phrase I just read in the cell.
  • The ravens then fly off nearby to the pumpkin tree, where they tear into a ghost man standing there.  Reality flashes back in as I’m resurrected and Jack O’Lantern — a grotesque monstrosity — emerges from the ground.  Jack runs off for now, although his story will continue over the course of the island.
  • Geary tells me that Kingsmouth is not a good place to die.  I concur.

flare A Light in the Sky (side mission)

  • Out on Pyramid Point are a couple of dead Morninglight folks, a box of flares, and instructions to shoot them off.  I love how many missions in this game are, “Why not do this/go here to see what happens?” which this is.
  • So after running all around this zone to light off six flares, do you want to know what happens?  NOTHING.  Really.  Even the mission report text is the generic response, so there’s no closure to this… nor context, really.  I think it’s just an excuse to push you to the Morninglight camp.
  • However, on my way to the church, I do run across a rare mob that I’ve been looking for for some time now: Mr. Freezie!  Was he the one tied to the wedding ring quest?  I’d like to think so.  I’m just so thrilled to have actually seen him.

freezieA Sacred Place (action mission)

  • Time for a new questgiver, this time the Rev. Henry Hawthorne at First Congregational Church.  A fun fact: I just got ordained at my Congregational church this past weekend, so now I guess I’m Rev. Syp.
  • This action mission is a good one to answer the question, “Why is the church safe from the zombie siege?”  Henry, an Illuminati wannabe, suggests that it’s from a combination of the Lord and the secret society’s doings.  Let’s check it out.
  • Pulling the zombies into the church one-shots them, which is always fun to do.  Turns out that there are wards drawn all over the side of the church, so the quest tasks me with replicating them across the graveyard.
  • When I get all of the new wards in place, something cool happens: a white light kills everything in the graveyard.  Well, kills all of the zombies.  It also summons a vengeful hulk who’s getting revenge on me waking him from his nap.

horrorVeteran’s Day (side mission)

  • The angel statue in the church graveyard is a WWII memorial, and somehow my character knows that these fallen soldiers are now zombies and deserve a special re-burial.  How my character is supposed to know this or where the zombies are located, I have no idea.  What I do know is that I have five targets to behead.
  • I will say that TSW does a fantastic job with zombie variants.  Yes, there are plenty of repeat models, but at least we have old ones, fresh ones, ones with damage, foreign ones, fire ones, etc.  Plus Mr. Freezie the Zombie!
  • This side mission has a good selection of weapons for rewards, so if you haven’t upgraded from your starter weapons, this could be taken a couple of times to gear up a bit.

Dust to Dust (action mission)

  • As someone said in Sanctuary chat, the Illuminati are probably the most “evil” faction of the bunch.  Cutthroat and ruthless would be my terminology, but in any case, this mission shows a really bad side to them.  They were responsible for… something… on Solomon Island that resulted in mass graves.  Even the pastor of the church has to bend himself in knots to try to rationalize it.
  • So yes, there are a LOT of mass graves around Kingsmouth.  I mean, one mass grave is more than enough to be disturbing, but it’s like the aftermath of a war zone here.  There are mass graves for witch hunt victims, for suffocated miners, and for cultists.  Geary says it comes with the type of place that this is and that I should be a good soldier and help keep it all buried.  I’m perturbed.

sewerThe Kingsmouth Code (investigation mission)

  • Heh, this is where the fun really begins, boys and girls!  I think that this mission was the one that really made a strong early impression on a lot of TSW players as to the potential and style of investigation missions.
  • Hawthorne reveals his fanboyish connection to the Illuminati, telling me that this town is really theirs (the whole island, really) and that there are secret paths everywhere.
  • The secret path I’m meant to follow are the points of the pyramids on the sewer manhole covers.  I doubt that before doing this quest, anyone even looked down at those covers they ran over.  The covers point to a spot on the wharf where a plaque mentions that the truth is at the seat of power (i.e. the town hall).
  • A painting of the navigator there references time (the nearby clock, stuck on 10:10) and kings.  I Kings 10:10 mentions King Solomon as well as the number 120, which points me to the Solomon Priest house (next to the church) and the code for the keypad.
  • Down in the Illuminati cellar is a vault with a few artifacts (the eye, the pyramid, and the phoenix).  Geary tells me that it was “super cute” watching me solve one of the faction’s own puzzles, which makes me wonder why all of this is set up anyway.  Is it a test for Illuminati potentials?  Does someone go around making sure that the covers are pointing the right way every day and that nobody’s tinkered with the town hall clock?

The Secret Adventures: Investigation station (Kingsmouth #4)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

exodusThe Vision (investigation mission)

  • Our first investigation mission begins with Madame Roget admitting that she used to be a fraud, but somewhere along the path of being a fortune teller she actually developed visions of the future and the ability to see auras.
  • Roget goes into a trance and spills details of my future: of two paths leading to defeat and victory, of something rising up to devour us all, and of an event called “Exodus.”  I’ve heard of Exodus here and there from the TSW team, it’s supposed to be a major event that is coming at some point in the game.
  • Anyway, investigation missions!  These are really one of the big selling points of TSW — quests that require a lot of out-of-the-box lateral thinking and out-of-the-game researching.  You can’t just fight or stealth your way through these; you have to use your brain.  So they’re love-or-hate type of things, but I deeply appreciate the variety that they add to the game.  They’re something you don’t see often.  The web series Extra Credits specifically praised these types of missions as wonderful examples of advanced quest design.
  • The hook to this mission is to find places on the map that match up with clues.  The first references the tip of the pyramid.  On the map is “Pyramid Point” in the bay, so off we go!
  • From there it’s to a place with flickering lights (Wispwood), bees and flowers (Argartha portal entrance), an angel with a sword (graveyard), and finally a gallows (which is the hanging bridge, for reasons that are apparent when you go through it in anima form).  It’s a really quick quest when you know where everything is, just a lot of running and one final fight.
  • Geary says that I’m now qualifed to give tours of Kingsmouth.  I probably am, honestly.

ringTomb Raider (side mission)

  • Near a Mr. Freezie is a severed hand with a wedding ring from 1874 on it.  Naturally, I pocket it to sell it to the nearest… what?  That’s not how it works here?  Fah.  Fine.  I’ll go reverse-grave robbing then.
  • Back at the graveyard, I find where the body came from and put the ring back into the ground.  Interestingly enough, there’s a Mr. Freezie cap nearby (the last step of the mission is to examine it, although there’s no further explanation).  Is this implying the the Mr. Freezie guy is a graverobber?

hungerThe Hunger (side mission)

  • Hey, what’s that stench?  Why, it’s a naked mutilated corpse, of course!  Might as well follow the blood trail and see what’s at the end of it!
  • This mission is a little difficult if you’re even slightly colorblind, since you’re looking for faint red smears on green/brown grass.  I lost the trail a couple of times, but finally found a Wednigo (a large crawling humanoid) that’s been leaving body parts everywhere.  Time to meet your destructor, creep!

Book of the Bokor (side mission)

  • There’s an honest-to-goodness yard sale in Kingsmouth with the usual objects that you’d find at one in the real world… in addition to a voodoo book with a zombie-repelling powder recipe.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but voodoo zombies are not the same type of zombies as the George Romero versions, which all of these locals seem to be.  Why would the powder work on them?
  • I run around the block collecting ingredients and then go toss them in Norma’s bonfire.
  • The quest does give me 10 doses of zombie powder, good for stunning them.  Can’t see why I’d need it, really.  Zombies are the easiest mobs in this game.  Maybe I’ll save it for Blue Mountain.

Message in a Bottle (side mission)

  • During the “Vision” quest I came upon a note in a bottle near the bay, addressed to Norma.  Time to play mail lady and return it!

talkerDawning of an Endless Night (story mission, tier 2)

  • The side quests and story mission all push me to meet Norma, one of the few survivors of Kingsmith that’s still out on her own (armed with a shotgun and her wits, or so she says).  Her house is actually apocalyptically decked out, with added fortifications and a large bonfire for zombie burnin’.
  • Norma’s husband was one of the fishermen on the Lady Margaret that came back and brought the fog and red seaweed with it.  After her sad speech (and my speechlessness, which is made fun of here), I’m directed to go check the boat out.  I’m going to leave that until later — I’d rather do a whole bunch of the story missions in a row, but you can’t get near Norma’s place without at least doing tier 2 here.

They Never Stop Coming (action mission)

  • Norma’s been waging a one-woman war against the zombies and Draug for a while and needs a bit of a hand.  No problem, says I.  Point me at them.
  • You think that this would be a straight-forward “kill ten undead rats” quest but it’s not.  For one thing, it’s a lot longer.  The first stage has you fending off an assault, then you have to find and kill several different types of zombies across Kingsmouth.  Oh yes, there are types.  I’m sure you learned all about them in science class.
  • Tossing the body parts onto Norma’s bonfire, the flames turn blue and the mission suggests that I go see what’s up with the cultists’ fires.
  • So it turns out (as Geary explains) that there are the regular zombies caused by the Draug and then these cultist zombies that can use magic.  Since these zombies are around “reanimated warriors” that are ancient Mayans (I believe), they’re tied up with another subplot on the island about the Mayans visiting for some reason.  The Argartha portal even features the bow of one of the ships.  I’ve never been hugely clear on why the Mayans or Vikings or whatever visited Solomon Island unless the place is one gigantic crazy magnet.  I need to brush up on my lore.
  • My build is coming along nicely, thank you for asking.  I’ve upgraded weapons so that now I have a fencing sword and a sweet-looking assault rifle.  I’m almost done fleshing out the bottom tiers for both assault rifle and sword, after which I’ll start aiming for the important skills for this build.  Even so, I’m doing enough DPS and getting enough passive heals that combat is pretty easy.  Thus far.

WildStar: Tales from the Farside

loppThat’s right: My housing plot now has a giant Lopp party.  It’s very likely the apex of MMO acquisitions for me, as I love it so very, very much.  I mean, how can you not?  I have over a dozen Lopp getting funky at my pad, 24/7 — and this party even has a challenge that’s pretty easy to do for good rewards.  I love Lopp.

I actually took the opportunity after finishing up Whitevale to spruce up my housing plot.  I added in one of my pocket dungeons (which is more platformy than fighty, so I haven’t finished it yet), the aforementioned Lopp party, a few new decor, and a Whitevale biome.  I need to get some more renown so that I can change the sky to snow so that it’ll match the biome, but I’m just happy to have some snow around the place.

farsideFarside is completely new territory to me, and as one of the orbiting moons of Nexus, I’m not quite sure what to expect.  So far I don’t think I’ve even arrived at the proper map — I started out in some underground complex, then was sent to Bio-Dome 3, where Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin have been tormenting me.  Just kidding, it’s mostly been a thick jungle environment with heavy mob density.

I did make a new cat friend after feeding him 10 giant birds (and he’s still that skinny?).  Having him trail after me once again makes me think how WildStar really should have non-combat pets.  At least as a scientist I can pretend that my scanbot is there for companionship.

Even with the annoying slog through an overpopulated region, I’m pretty pleased that my build is holding up.  I actually feel that I’m killing a little faster as of late, and I’m getting used to my rotation so that I can stagger stuns and blinds while building up volitility for my shotgun attacks.

So yesterday Carbine came out with a new state of the game that, among other things, said that the studio is committing to a quarterly release schedule now — unless, of course, it can’t.  My response is that maybe they should only be charging a subscription on a quarterly basis then.  I don’t fault their decision to place a premium on testing and quality before pushing out content releases, but the monthly update pace was one of the major support beams for the monthly subscription.  Increasingly, WildStar’s business model is becoming an albatross dragging it down.  Hopefully Carbine is having serious talks about cutting that bird loose and either going F2P or B2P, especially with Warlords of Draenor bearing down.  In the context of this year’s releases, WildStar is the underdog, and yet it can’t even take advantage of that status if it’s clinging to the same subscription model as its competition.

The next update is early November, and I’m looking forward to that for the housing changes if nothing else.  Lots of bug fixes will also be appreciated.

The Secret Adventures: Ka-BOOM (Kingsmouth #3)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

kaboomAppetite for Destruction (action mission)

  • “This is a test of character forged in fire,” Moose tells me before handing me an array of explosives and pointing me in the general direction of zombies.
  • I just want to point out that the crate from which I get Moose’s explosives is literally right next to a burning trash can.  Moose is a great guy, no doubt, but I think I see a slight flaw in his foresight.
  • I love quests where the devs give you ridiculously overpowered (temporary) weapons and tell you to go nuts.  Do we have a name for these kinds of quests?  WildStar has a lot of them and most are awesome.  This one is no exception, as I get to toss out mines, napalm, and IEDs to make kibbles ‘n bits out of zombies.
  • The big finale has me diving into a sewer (why not) and setting up an explosive ambush for a huge wave of undead.  It’s dang fun.
  • It does make me wish that I could keep one or two big bombs for later.  Or wish that the game had a grenade-flinging class.

morningThe Coming Dawn (side mission)

  • In the sewers from the previous mission is a brouchure for the Morninglight, The Secret World’s answer to the desire for an ultra-creepy cult to be mucking things up even further for the good folks of the world.  It’s basically a pointer to the Morninglight camp so that you’ll go there and pick up those quests, but hey, easy XP!
  • As we’ll find out, the Morninglight, the Aten sun cult, and the Tokyo Fear Nothing foundation have very similar roots and goals…
  • For all of the grief that we give TSW and TSW gives us over its difficulty, I’ll say that I deeply appreciate the on-screen HUD pointing the way to the next mission step.  I am glad I don’t have to keep consulting the map every two seconds.
  • At the Morninglight camp, I find an application form by gas station attendant Walter Barry.  Huh… wonder what happened to him?

tomTrespassers (side mission)

  • Speaking of the Morninglight, there’s a complaint form at the sheriff’s station about them, as a farmer is upset that these “hippies” are camping out on his land.
  • Finding Tom isn’t hard — he apparently got killed (zombies or cultists, take your pick) near the Morninglight camp.  There’s no fight here, it’s just another pointer to the camp.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

  • This here is a sneaky little tutorial for the crafting/assembly interface.  Even if one does not craft (as I do not), one will end up using this interface quite a few times in this game for various missions, so it’s good to understand how to break and build items.

limpyThat’ll Leave a Mark (side mission)

  • By the big scary pumpkin tree is a “trapped survivor” who looks relatively calm for a guy with a foot stuck in a bear trap.  Ho-hum, these metal teeth have cut my calf to the bone.  Help a chap out?  That’s a lass.
  • I am not a fan of this quest.  For starters, it’s an escort mission (of which TSW has relatively few, thank goodness).  It’s an escort mission that’s timed with an NPC who complains the whole way (“Are we there yet?” is an actual quote) and keeps drawing zombies to him.  They can kill him (and fail the quest) pretty quickly, so I end up walking backward the entire way to watch him.
  • It also doesn’t help that the zombies put bleeds on me.  With some other builds, I couldn’t get my health back up in time for the next assault.
  • I did this in one try, although I only had 18 seconds left on the clock as the dude limped into the sheriff’s station.

The Occultist’s Cookbook (side mission)

  • It’s time to fly from the Sheriff’s station to new mission NPCs.  The nearest one is Madame Roget, that nutty fortune teller she.  Before tackling her real quests, I take up this one that’s on a bookshelf.  It’s just another tutorial, this one on how to make and equip glyphs using the assembly interface.  Easy enough.

ravenThe Raven (action mission)

  • Roget escaped the lure of the fog by being handcuffed to a bed (don’t ask).  She’s actually less worried about what’s going on outside and far more concerned with her dreams — her nightmares.  She says they’re always about ravens, “a black, timeless malice descending on Kingsmouth like a funeral shroud.”  Well, call me RAVEN-BUSTER!  I ain’t scared of no bird.
  • …but I can be creeped out by them, that’s for sure.  So the quest asks me to run around following ravens, which start with just one and then slowly grow in number every time I reach a new milestone.  Every once in a while I have an aborted fight with a Revenant, TSW’s answer to Silent Hill’s Pyramidhead.  They’re actually wonderfully done, these creatures that are drawn to death and can explode into a flock of birds.
  • Ultimately I track the revenant down to a playground fountain, where I use feathers to bind it in a pentagram and then destroy it (with my sword, not with feathers).

When life conspires against gaming

It’s not been the best week for gaming here at Casa de Syp.  One night I had to go to bed far earlier than normal to catch up on some much-needed sleep.  And last night as it looked as though I’d get even more time than normal to play, my computer started locking up hard every time I’d load a game.

I was getting these checkerboard-like graphic glitches that would freeze the game and — if I didn’t alt-tab out and shut the game down quick — force a reboot.  It was happening across several games (I tested WildStar, RIFT, and TSW).  After about a half-minute in the game, freeze.

That was incredibly disturbing.  I updated my graphics drivers and ran some diagnostics, but while everything looked OK, the game crashes kept happening.  Since it only happened in-game, I deduced it probably had something to do with the graphics card, although I’m not a tech expert by any means.  That was worrying.  I’ve been aware that my computer and card have been aging (I think the computer is four years old and the graphics card three at this point?), but I was hoping to get a couple more years of use out of them.

This morning I did a little poking around, and on a GeForce forum someone mentioned that by switching Windows’ power settings from balanced to high performance would help.  I made the switch, and lo and behold, no more graphic crashes.

Dunno why this happened or why giving it more power is going to help.  I’ve been playing these games just fine for a long time before this happened, so I’m going to be a little more wary than usual.  Anyone else encounter this type of problem?