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?

The Secret Adventures: Drive them back into the sea! (Kingsmouth #2)

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

beforeElm Street Blues (action mission)

  • Andy!  Who doesn’t love Deputy Andy?  He’s just so loveable, kind of a puppy dog character who’s seen and known about some pretty terrible stuff.
  • “Every town has a dark side.”  Yeah, but I think Kingsmouth takes the cake here, bud.
  • Other than Andy’s ominous intro, the quest is exceedingly straight-forward: Kill a lot of zombies around the station, then run down the street and kill a big ol’ Draug.  Simple.
  • I get enough AP from this mission to buff up my Martial Discipline skill with a passive that gives me another HoT.  I’ll take all the heals I can get in this game, thanks.

draugDraugnet (action mission)

  • Andy’s follow-up quest is a little tougher, sending me out to the shore to meet the Draug (think “mutated sea zombies”) and cut down some of their eggs.  Andy also gives his famous speech about his dad drowning Andy’s kittens, a story that will come back a couple of times in this game.
  • I’m pleased to see that I can hold my own against three Draug at a time, although it does come down to the wire.
  • I’ve been using my ferocious wolf pet, which I just now noticed gives me a 5% damage buff and a chance to throw a DoT on enemies.  Have pets always had bonuses, or just this one?
  • I’m glad I had that bonus, because this is the hardest mission yet for my lowbie.  I take it slow and careful, and die only once because I pulled too many.  Good thing this harbor is at low tide so that we can conveniently wade out a half-mile from the shore!
  • Geary asks a good question, which is what, exactly, drew all of the townsfolk out to sea to be drowned?

missingMissing Persons (side mission)

  • On a bulletin board in the sheriff’s station is a list of several missing folks in the town, so I take it and go people hunting.  Of course, this is all pretty futile as 98% of the town is “missing” right now.  But XP is XP!
  • I’m constantly amazed at the level of detail in The Secret World for its locales.  The team obviously went to great lengths to get everything just right, down to the parking signs and style of New England architecture.
  • This is another “let us show you around the town” mission.  It’s nothing hard — you don’t even have to kill the zombies, just ID them.  Out of the entire list, only one guy is alive; Christopher is holed up in the church.  It’s funny that another missing person is the fire chief… who is in the fire station.  How is it that he’s missing?

saboHorror Show (sabotage mission)

  • Sheriff Bannerman gives my character her very first sabotage mission.  Oh, you poor, poor lowbie.  You don’t even know yet how awful these are.  If you’re new to Bio Break and my history with TSW, let’s just say that I hate sabotage missions with the fiery passion of a sun going supernova and leave it at that.  It’s good to have mission variety, but some of these are bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating.
  • Bannerman wants me to go find some surveilance equipment so she can keep an eye on the zombies.  Fair enough.
  • Sabotage missions usually aren’t about fighting, but navigating the environment and being stealthy as to not get one-shotted.  The first part of this quest is easy, since you just have to climb up on roofs to get cameras.
  • But then it sends you down into the basement of the mining museum, where an “Insane Survivalist” infected by the Filth has set up a truly impressive array of booby-traps.  Where did he get all of the laser tripwires and explosives?  No idea.
  • At the end, after I kill him, I find a box with a Filth pod in it and a nearby lore entry that suggests a trucker might have brought the Filth into town.  In Kingsmouth, it’s really hard to figure out how everything went so bad, since there are numerous sources of evil and numerous problems.  The sea had the fog, the Draug, and the Lady Margaret.  This box had the Filth.  How did the zombies arise?  Not exactly sure.

blowingDeath, and the Instruments Thereof (action mission)

  • The sheriff’s station is a great little quest “hub” in early TSW, and I recommend that new players do all the quests they can here before moving on.  The game doesn’t really cluster its questgiver NPCs like this together very often, and it’s certainly nice to run down them while getting one’s bearings and solidifying a build.
  • This is the first of Moose’s missions.  Moose is a biker who came to help out during lobster season but found himself on the front lines of battling the dead.  Naturally, he’s an expert with explosives and a semi-philosopher, and I find myself respecting his laconic nature as he preps devices four feet away from the undead.
  • Moose has a giant shopping list but claims that going out into the town is kicking his butt.  So… me then?  OK.  Cool.  I can come back from the dead, I can see why I’m more expendible for this type of thing.
  • As I’m running around grabbing random items for Moose, I’m more than a little disturbed at how this quest is kinda saying, “Hey kids!  Here are common, everyday components that could be turned into bombs!”  At least it doesn’t give you step-by-step directions as to how to do it, but in any other context grabbing ball bearings from a kid’s tricycle to make explosives would be unsettling to the max.

endSuicide Note (side mission)

  • I always thought that this was one of the sadder missions on Solomon Island.  At the front door of Jack & Wendy’s Bed and Breakfast — a Kingsmouth staple — there’s a suicide note.  It basically says that Jack got called into the sea but Wendy was left behind.  She can’t live without him, so she’s going to the end of the pier to find him or kill herself.  It’s kind of a setup where you instantly don’t WANT to do the next part, because you know nothing good is going to come of this.
  • Also, suicide in MMOs?  Not a topic often covered in quests.  It’s even a little cringe-inducing.  I guess it goes to show you that TSW is willing to get dark, really dark, when it wants to.
  • The mission itself is really quick — I run down to the end of the pier and find a hanging corpse (Wendy).  Clicking on her summons one of TSW’s creepy spectres.  After defeating the ghost, I pick up an amulet and realize that it was this trinket that protected Wendy from the call of the fog.  And yet she still died.

RIFT: Glad to be back, baby

flamethrowerIs there a term for the opposite of buyer’s remorse?  Where you get or do or buy something and are increasingly satisfied with that decision?  That’s kind of how I feel about RIFT as of late.

I’m tremendously glad I’ve gotten back into the game, although those feelings may well be from that returning glow that one gets (and causes us bloggers to gush about titles we haven’t played in a while) and the excitement over the upcoming Nightmare Tide expansion.  It’s certainly not all I play, but the fast load times and the bite-size nature of questing and rifting lends itself well to short play sessions.

What’s making me happiest is seeing/realizing/re-realizing how friendly RIFT is to players.  There are several legitimate paths to leveling.  There are free server transfers.  Everyone gets housing almost right out of the tutorial and it’s a pretty good system.  There is a good amount of account security (coin lock, two-factor authentication).  There’s a great mentoring system that will soon allow you to scale up in levels as well as down.  The LFG finder works wonderfully for dungeons.  Artifacts are still addicting to collect.  There’s a decent mobile app.  The soul system allows for a lot of playstyle customization.  And I’m hearing word that there will soon be a unified currency to allow endgamers to save up and buy gear whether they raid, run dungeons, or PvP.

Sure, there are drawbacks.  RIFT wasn’t very sticky to me the last couple times I came back, although right now I’m level 32 and still trucking.  Storm Legion is excessively long and leveling through it is slow.  There are a lot of mindless quests, although a few are genuinely engaging and full of great story.  I’m feeling as though the newer souls are so much more powerful than the old ones, which makes me hesitant to use the older ones (and that’s a shame).  And man am I glad for the wardrobe system, because so much of the armor is (and this is a professional writer’s term) icky.

I’m ridiculously excited about the minion system that’s coming with the expansion too.  I know it’s silly and not a huge game-changer, but I like collecting NPCs to order around on tasks (such as Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and SWTOR).  I really want to hear more specifics on where we can get these minions so that I can start planning to do so even at my level when Nightmare Tide hits next month.

The Secret Adventures: The long zombie road (Kingsmouth #1)

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

boone1Dawning of an Endless Night (story mission, tier 1)

  • Right out of the Argartha portal, I meet Boone, the so-called last of the cowboys.  He’s the first quest giver in the area, and I always thought it was disappointing that you don’t really interact with him more than these first two quests.  Seems like a cool guy.  Never learn much about him.
  • The first stage of this story mission is easy: To reach the sheriff’s office.
  • “Find out why those people died.  And you bring a reckoning.”  Will do, Boone.
  • Arriving at the station, I meet Sheriff Helen Bannerman.  She’s an interesting character (as are they all) — clueless about the large problem, but calm and competant.  She’s kept as much of the town as safe as she can, admitting that Kingsmouth might have had this coming.  Then she mentions a few of the survivors not at the station, including Norma and her shotgun.  Off to Norma for the next step!

boone2For a Fistful of Zombies (action mission)

  • Since I’m heading down the road to the sheriff’s station anyway, Boone tasks me to kill a whole bunch of zombies along the way.  And that’s pretty much what the quest is — a lot of zombie killing.  It’s actually really easy to die here since you’ve got all beginner gear and virtually no skills.
  • I’m trying out blades for the first time.  I know it’s super-popular, and while I’ve never been a huge fan, if it can dish out AOE damage and get some healing going on, I’m all for it.
  • This short quest ends with a fight against a giant zombie gorger.  I love how the camera shakes when huge things hit in this game — it really lends a feeling of seriousness and intensity.
  • Best part of this quest?  It rewards a green quality weapon, which makes it perfect for a starter replacement.

outfitBullets for Andy (side mission)

  • One of the easiest quests of the game — I just have to pick up some ammo and drop it off to Andy.  It’s a good quest to repeat along with Fistful of Zombies early on.
  • While the rewards are paltry, I am treated to full access to the item store when I arrive.  This allows me to both retrieve some odds and ends from my account unlocks, as well as buy a new outfit (a military ballistic getup, above).

suziesSupply Run (action mission)

  • Sheriff Bannerman says that the station’s survivors might outlast what supplies there are, and so asks me to head out to see what I can scrounge up.  Essentially, this mission is to get a quick lay of the land.
  • The phonebook has several not-so-subtle references to other horror classics and authors, including Stephen King, Flagg from the Stand, HP Lovecraft, and Dunwich.  I just think it’s a shame that we can’t visit Pam the Clam, ’cause that place sounds like the bee’s knees.
  • Probably the toughest part of the mission is when it sends you into the fire department.  For a fresh new character, this place can be a wee bit of a deathtrap if you’re not careful, as the mobs are pretty tough and have some telegraphs going on.
  • Geary tells me that the town’s population was 1,547 and they expect that 98% of them were converted into zombies or whatever.  That number seems awfully high for the few houses actually seen.

cleaningDirty Laundry (side mission)

  • A dead “cleaning lady” on the side of the road has a cell phone that tells of a secret cache, the code to which is the first song that the church was going to sing on Sunday.
  • This is pretty easy, as the church has a list of songs up front in the sanctuary.  I actually work at a Congregational church, much like the one here in Kingsmouth, although the whole song sign thing is a relic of an older era.
  • Since nobody is playing the organ in the church, it’s a little creepy that there’s music playing.  Maybe the pastor has a boombox somewhere?  Anyway, the mission complete notice informs me that the cleaning lady was a member of the Illuminati sent to keep an eye on the pastor there.

notesThe Curious Case of Joe Slater (side mission)

  • Near the station is a psyche report on Joe Slater, one of the sailors to come back on the Lady Margaret (a ship that features heavily in the Kingsmouth storyline).  There are several pages missing from the report, which means that I gotta trot all over the place to find them.
  • I am NOT a fan of this mission.  Those pages are teeny-tiny and so easy to overlook, even after I’ve done this mission several times.
  • Reading the final report about Slater is a little unnerving.  He’s mentioned of having spoken in “Old Icelandic,” a detail I don’t remember from past experiences with this mission.
  • I’m really liking blades/assault rifle so far!  I have a bit of healing going on almost constantly, and against groups I mow them down.

STO: In which I hate the Defiant

p1It’s time to bring you up to speed on what’s been happening with me in Star Trek Online.  I barely had time to get to know the Black River, my Ambassador-class ship, before I crossed the threshold of captain rank and got a new starship.  This is thanks to the double XP that Cryptic is running from now until Delta Rising’s launch.  Between that and duty officer missions, I’m absolutely rocketing up in levels.  That’s neither great nor horrible, as I’ve dedicated myself to going through all of the episodes in order anyway.  I guess it’ll be nice to get my tier 5 ship sooner rather than later.

Actually, it’ll be a huge relief to get my tier 5 ship, because I seriously have the buyer’s remorse with my captain pick.  At the captain level, you get your choice of three of Star Trek’s most iconic ships: the Galaxy (TNG), the Defiant (DS9), and the Intrepid (VOY).  Last time around, I went with the Intrepid, which I liked, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about regarding escort ships.  Really, I shouldn’t have bothered.

While cruisers are all about hit points and durability and science vessels about cool tricks, escorts are the glass cannons of the game.  They’re small, not great-looking (in my opinion), and more than a little flimsy.  On the plus side, they’re zippy and can slot cannons to pump out a very impressive array of firepower.

p2I’ve gotten my butt kicked a few times in embarassing ways, ways that would not have happened with a cruiser.  Sure, I’m trying to adapt by going all-out on offense and enjoying the fireworks show, but I think I like living too much to be an escort captain.  Fortuantely, I’m already captain 36, so four more levels and I can graduate to something that doesn’t fall apart when an enemy shouts “boo!” at it.

I was really pleased at the reward at the end of the Nimbus mission chain, as I got a device that allows me to summon three pirate ships to fight with me every 15 minutes.  Those ships actually do decent damage AND heal you, so they’re great in sticky spots.  I try to save them for big fights.

Right now I’m in the middle of the Romulan series of missions.  It’s like fighting dark Elves, so I’m down with that.  I took some time to level up my bridge officers and train them, and then went to Earth Spacedock to make all of our uniforms the Wrath of Khan variety (only navy blue instead of blood red.

p3We have a lot of fun on ground missions.  I enjoy pulling out seeker probes and going nuts with my minigun while my bridge crew pulls out an array of impressive skills to turn the tide of battle.  My favorite part of ground combat is my ex-Borg officer, whom I gave a sword to that I got at the completion of a mission.  It’s a hoot to see her charge into combat waving that thing above her head every time.  If seeing a Borg with a claymore running full-tilt at you doesn’t give you immediate pants-pee, then I don’t know what would.

There’s still a long way to go before getting up to Delta Rising content level, but that’s fine.  It’s a lot less boring now that I’ve got access to better ships, weapons, and skills.