Will I roll a new Beorning for LOTRO?

Lord of the Rings Online’s Update 15 is scheduled for next Wednesday, and while it’ll have plenty of stuff for my Captain to do at the level cap, there’s also the siren’s song of the first new class for the game in a very, very long while: the Beorning.

But will I play one?  I’m wrestling with that very question, my mind making up two lists:

Pros

  • It’s a new class with new mechanics — and that’s always a powerful attractor to rolling an alt.
  • I have scads of Turbine Points in the bank, so payment is not an obstacle.
  • I love the new character models (both male and female) and the whole class/race attitude.
  • The shape-shifting aspect is neat and there are many ways to play the class, as it has a nice hybrid feel to it.
  • You can shoot bees.
  • Thwacking with axes is appealing, like playing a barbarian class.
  • There will be TONS of players in low-level zones following the Beorning’s release, probably the biggest influx of such lowbie players since the free-to-play transition.  That would be cool to see.

Cons

  • The Beorning is primarily melee with very little in the way of ranged options.  Do I want to face bash stuff again after playing a Captain for so long?
  • If I’m only going to play this class lightly, paying 1000 TP for it seems like an extravagance, if not a waste.
  • My biggest wish would be to have a Beorning race matched up with a different class, which isn’t going to happen right now.
  • I played a Druid in WoW.  I do not necessarily want to be looking at Bear Butt(tm) for hours on end again.
  • Bear is the ONLY skin-change option, which might be lore-appropriate but it’s still a bummer.  If I was going to be an animal, bear would be way down on the list.
  • I really don’t know if I have it in me to level a character from 1 to 100 all over again, especially since I have a level 60 Lore-master that is really fun to play and needs my attention.
  • There’s a lot of worry on the forums that the class hasn’t gotten enough testing, especially at higher levels, and might be very rough indeed.

So the answer is… I don’t know.  I probably will buy the class and roll up a character, but it’ll have to convince me via play that it’s worth sticking.  One option that I’m mulling is to make the Beorning my 2015 LOTRO New Year’s resolution — to start one on January 1st and play through to the level cap.  We’ll see.

Winter is coming

fallfallA lot of people express (loudly) their love for the fall season, and while I used to be a huge “spring” guy, in recent years I’ve come around to join the autumnal camp.  I feel very alive and full of energy during this time, as it’s not just a great season to enjoy, but one that puts me in the mindset that — yes — winter is coming.

The fall has so much going for it.  The school year is still new, October is jam-packed full of events (cider mill trips, haunted houses, drives through parks, bonfires), the smell of the leaves decaying is oddly nostalgic, and summer is still coughing up a couple of unseasonably warm days here and there.  This past week we had a couple of 60-plus days and even one 70-degree day.

But for me, it’s the knowledge that all of this is transitory and will be going away quick that makes it that much more special.  I know that in a couple of short months, I’ll be driving on ice-covered roads, shoveling snow, looking out the window to see darkness at 5:00 p.m., and forgetting what the color green looks like in nature.  So I want to enjoy as much of fall as I can, which is why I’ve been getting outside and rejoicing over every sunny day.  I’m also hustling around doing a lot of winter prep, such as cleaning out the garage, packing all of the stuff from the back yard, and trimming bushes.

I don’t mind winter, actually.  I like being cozy and warm in a house, and being a gamer means that my favorite activity is right there at home.  While there isn’t any huge holiday game release that I’m anticipating, I have a really great crop of MMOs right now that should take me right through the cold months and into 2015.  Plus, starting today we’re in the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years holiday corridor, which at least gets us sprinting through the start of winter.  Although, if I had planned it, Christmas would be at the end of January to spread things out a bit.  January and February are way too dark and lacking in excitement.  The best part about them is that at least we’re past the shortest day of the year and can enjoy progressively longer ones.

The end of 2014 is nigh.  I haven’t lived up to all of my resolutions, but I’ve done quite a few and have time to at least start on the rest.  For tonight, it’s trick or treating with my kids and hoping that it doesn’t snow.  Which it might.

Screenshot Thursday!

One screenshot for each MMO that I’m currently playing:

r2RIFT can be ridiculously pretty sometimes.  I love this shot so much that I made it into one of the rotating banners for Bio Break.

l1Riding my war-steed past a city in western Gondor.  I love how she holds the sword when she’s in combat.  Update 15 is next week!  I’m actually getting pretty excited.

jumpJumping in low-gravity in Farside is just about one of the most fun things in WildStar.  Especially while riding a hoverboard.  I actually get really disappointed when I return to normal-gravity environs.

secretA Halloween-appropriate screengrab from the Savage Coast in TSW.  The ferris wheel over the moon and the way the light is coming in made this a great moment.

RIFT: Ghosts and goblins

r1Things are moving fast now in the land of RIFT now that I’ve passed 50.  Jumping into Storm Legion content has been a significant boon to my character, not only in the quality of story, but in terms of gear upgrades.  I guess I forgot how much of a large increase it was from the vanilla game, but egads, practically everything I have has doubled from mere quest rewards.

On top of that, I finally have access to planar attunement (and had a few hundred PA points waiting for me when that happened), took a detour to grab Bernie from the Ember Isles, and can start running Storm Legion dungeons and assorted experts.

However, what’s making me the happiest is that Storm Legion has gotten a lot more leveling friendly since last I tread these grounds.  Story quest XP has been significantly increased, which lessens the need to grind out every last little carnage mission.  In fact, with that XP increase, XP vials that I’ve saved up, and various dungeon runs, I don’t think I’ll be doing anything BUT the main story to get through this expansion.  So far, I’ve gotten up to level 52 without breaking a sweat, and I’m actually tracking the story a lot better now that it’s not being broken up by tons of distracting tasks.

I decided to go the Brevane path for this character, as I recall enjoying these lands and quests a lot more than Dusken.  Navigating is a little annoying at times — jungle zones are typically some of the most obstacle-happy places in MMOs, and here is no different — but I’ll put up with it to explore a land of ancient technology that’s been abandoned.  Well, mostly abandoned if you factor in the ghosts hanging out.

For the most part I’m sticking with Bladedancer for most of my adventures, although I’ve been warming up to a full Ranger build as a long-distance alternative.  Sometimes I just don’t want to be running up to everything to attack, but would like the luxury of pointing at something 50 meters away and making it die.  My blood raptor, Jimmy, is invaluable in this regard.

I did feel vaguely guilty last night when a quest had me putting on a big boot to stealth-kick a fisherman into the mouth of a giant crocodile.  I guess he was an evil fisherman?  I didn’t really catch that, but his anguished screams and the subsequent way that the quest played it for laughs made me feel a little like a monster.  Ha ha, he died horribly from a sucker punch.  Aren’t I the hero.

Starflight: FTL

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

planet2Back to the inner planet to make my fortune!  Or at least to get my ship up to par.

Money drives EVERYTHING in Starflight.  It not only lets you buy fuel and starship upgrades, but allows you to train (level) your crew as well.  Ergo, you need a LOT of cash.  Yes, it’s pretty annoying to spend the first few hours in this game doing little else but mining, traveling, and selling, but that’s part of the space sim genre tradition!

clearWhile I do yet more mining, I want to point out that this game has a surprising amount of detail for such primitive graphics, up to and including a real-time weather system.  Yes, there are storms and yes, they are bad.

So as I continue the dull cycle of mining, returning to the ship, returning to the station, selling, returning to the ship, returning to the planet, and mining some more, let’s talk about Starflight’s little UI quirks.  It’s all controlled with the cursor keys and enter key, which is simple enough, but often when you want to go DOWN in a menu you have to press UP.  But not ALWAYS.

And then there’s the DOS save feature, which makes this version of Starflight far more Rogue-like than the later Amiga and Genesis versions.  Basically, you can’t save and restore multiple files; instead, you save when you exit and restore when you boot back up the game.  That’s it.  If you — if I — die, that will be it for the game.  So I am trying to be as careful as kittens here.  Have I mentioned how many ways that this game wants to kill me?  Oh so many.

So as I type this, I notice a funny little detail: My spacesuited man at the space station starts tapping his foot all annoyed if I leave him standing in one spot too long.  Hee.

iceTaking a break from mining on the first planet to check out the third, which is an ice giant.  The second I get out of the ship, I’m informed that I’m in the middle of a raging thunderstorm and that both Rubi and MJ are injured.  I rush back inside the ship, even though it says I’m “lost”.  Not going to take chances.  Not going to take chances.  This will be the dullest playthrough ever.

After picking another site only to lose the ship again thank to hail and “steaming heavily,” I decide that it’s probably safer to return to the first planet.  So much for being a dashing space explorer.

I’ll spare you a LOT of exceedingly tedious mining tales — suffice to say, I make around 111,000 MUs, which gives me enough to buy a chunk of fuel, class 3 shields, class 3 engines, and class 2 armor.  I’m not interested in fighting, so no worries about weapons.  It’s time to jump to lightspeed and ditch this solar system!

…oh man, I am so going to die, aren’t I?

galaxyHere’s the galaxy map, such as it is.  You can see that there’s not a lot in the immediate vincinity of Arth, my home world.  So I guess my choices are limited unless I want to get stranded, quick.  The only thing I recall from my youth is that there’s a nearby system with a planet that has minable fuel.  Maybe that’s just in my head, because I thought it was north-east.

Actually, there’s a system just a smidge to the north-west.  Maybe that’s it.  Lots of planets, so let’s get surveying!

The inner-most planet is a rock with very little to mine.  Boring.  One survey and I’m done.

syptopiaThe second planet is far more interesting.  For starters, it sorta looks like it could be a colony planet, so I log my recommendation and then land on the little bit of land that there is.

ruinsNearby the ship I see my first icons that aren’t merely mining nodes.   Actually, there’s a mining node there that spits out fuel (score!), but the triangle thing is an ancient ruin.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do with it, but it’s cool to see anyway.

I find several more empty ruins, which is disappointing, but at least this planet is lousy with minerals.  I go on several trips to stock up my holds.  Are the ruins a sign that I’m going to meet aliens soon?  I really hope so!

My top 10 favorite PlayStation games

To go along with my previous listings of top favorite games from various consoles (Atari 2600, SNES, 90s PC games), I wanted to add a similar list of my top 10 favorite titles from the PlayStation.

When I went to college in 1994, I got out of console gaming.  We all had laptops at our college and thus mostly focused on PC gaming, and (hard as it is to believe today) only a small handful of us actually owned TVs in the dorm.  So during a good chunk of the 90s I was mostly ignorant of what was going on in consoleland — and generally OK with that.

My return to consoles came in the summer of 1998.  I was living in an apartment away from home for the first time in my life and feeling lonely now that my friends had left until the fall.  A certain “must have” killer app for the PlayStation caught my eye and convinced me to cough up cash for it.  And that’s where our list begins…

ff71. Final Fantasy VII

I sort of believe that Final Fantasy VII was the key factor in the PlayStation crushing the competition and becoming the “must have” console of that era.  For me, it was absolutely amazing: a multi-CD adventure featuring 3D graphics, the biggest Final Fantasy story yet, a huge world, tons of cinematics, and logically impossible giant swords.  I was so instantly addicted to this game that I called off work for three days straight to play it non-stop, something I’ve never done since.  Now, it’s fashionable to bash FF7 these days and say that it really wasn’t as good as nostalgia has us believe, but whatever — it was and still is a great game that was a blast to play.

re22. Resident Evil 2

Along with FF7, Resident Evil 2 was one of my initial PlayStation purchases based on the power of strong reviews at the time.  I certainly got my money’s worth, as I played the heck out of this survival horror zombie title.  There were a few parts that had me jumping every time, and I loved the bonus stages they threw in.

silent3. Silent Hill

Silent Hill had so much good buzz that I knew I had to buy it, even though I was starting to wise up to the fact that my temperment was too weak for survival horror games.  This game equally fascinated and terrified me, as I stumbled around the fog-shrouded town of Silent Hill trying to find my daughter while avoiding getting killed by everything that moved.  The devs were brilliant in how they used limited visuals and sounds (such as radio static) to enhance the experience.

ff94. Final Fantasy IX

After the super-serious and somewhat ambitious Final Fantasy VIII (which I really did not like), it was terrific to see the series lighten up and get a bit more cartoony with IX.  It was like a love letter to the entirety of the Final Fantasy franchise and honestly an enjoyable ride from start to finish.

cross5. Chrono Cross

Nobody, the least of all me, is going to argue that Chrono Cross was better or even as good as Chrono Trigger.  But you know what?  It was a really terrific game in its own right, with parallel world-hopping, a fun combat system, and the ability to collect many, many party members.  One of the very last PlayStation games that I bought.

parasite6. Parasite Eve

To this day, I don’t even know what Parasite Eve was about or what kind of game it was.  It was like part contemporary RPG, part survival horror, and part bizarre science fiction.  It did have a kick-butt theme song and was interesting enough to play through at least once, and any game that lets me take shotguns to dirty mutants is a good time.

wipeout7. Wipeout

I’m not normally one for racing games, but in Wipeout’s case, I’ll gladly make an exception.  It was a fast-paced racer with a toe-tapping techno soundtrack that just got me pumped every time I played.

metal8. Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid was something special and different from the rest of the pack, and it made that apparent right away.  It was an endlessly clever and inventive “tactical espionage action” title that had me surviving torture, breaking necks, sneaking through halls in boxes, sniping targets, crawling through ducts, and hoping desperately that I wouldn’t be spotted.  Seriously one of the best console games that I ever played.

castle9. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

The PlayStation was, in some ways, the successor to the SNES.  It’s where the Final Fantasy series went (not to mention a lot of the fans), and it’s also where the “good” Castlevania sequel landed.  Symphony of the Night was absolutely tremendous, from its soundtrack to its RPG-like inventory and stat system.  There were just so many types of weapons to try and a huge sprawling castle that, once beaten, could be replayed upside-down.

medi10. MediEvil

This strange Halloween-flavored platformer became an instant favorite due to its Tim Burtonesque landscapes and its bizarre skull-headed protagonist.  They did a lot with the basic PlayStation graphics, making them cartoony and spooky-ooky in the vein of atmospheric haunted houses.  Loved it.

GOG gets Indy, Star Wars, Monkey Island, Sam & Max

indyI woke up to the best gaming news ever today, as GOG.com finally announced that it had landed long-time holdout Lucasfilms/Disney for its gaming catalog.  GOG fans, myself included, had been hoping for a while now that the site could get permission to sell DRM-free versions of many classic games — and now that’s a reality.

The good news is that the site immediately released six games:

The bad news is that they’re holding on to other titles for future releases (GOG said it got the rights to “20+ classic games).  So no Day of the Tentacle, Star Wars Rebellion, or the like yet.

But still!  This is an incredible bounty and I am going to need an advance on my allowance.  Monkey Island and KOTOR are fine to have, but they’ve already be re-released as special editions on many platforms over the past few years, so that’s old news.  But the other four are huge “must haves” for me — the Star Wars flight sims (although no X-Wing Alliance yet) are old favorites, as is Fate of Atlantis (which will HAVE to be my next classic playthrough).  And I never got to play Sam & Max back in the day, so that will be tremendous.

Woo!  I am elated!