RIFT: Serving a life sentence on Goboro Reef

reef1Do you ever get bogged down in a zone and feel like you’ve been there forever and will probably never leave?  When every log in feels like a reminder that you’re stuck in a prison of developer design?

That’s pretty much where I’m at in RIFT’s Goboro Reef and why I haven’t talked about this game in a while.  Somewhere along the way, the unrelenting pink-and-purple landscape got to me, the quests took too long to do, and my progression’s slowed to a crawl.  I’ve had many days where I only log in to do dailies and then zip back out of there lest I be reminded of my incarceration.

So why has this happened?  The story is actually not half bad, especially with the amusing and somewhat terrifying story of Finric and his alternate realities.  And then there’s the above winged lady who’s leading a burning invasion into the place, because that’s what you do when you see a waterworld: You try to burn it up.  Makes sense.

If not the story, then what?  First, I am not a fan of this landscape.  Oh, the “former wet reef is now exposed to the dry air” was a neat twist, but now that I’ve had to weave my way through the valleys and crags for days on end, I’ve grown weary of it and missing the early portion when I could swim over and under it all.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish that there was more underwater adventures in this zone, not less.

Second, my build just isn’t working any more.  I thought that once I geared up with new Nightmare Tide quest rewards that my relative DPS output would get back to where it was with Storm Legion, but nope, it’s far weaker than it’s ever been.  Standard mobs have a much higher health pool then before and I’m going through too many rotations trying to burn them down.  I’ve even found myself dying to stupid stuff that shouldn’t have even touched me before.

reef2I know that sounds like whining, and I guess it is, but there’s a combat sweet spot between things being too easy and too hard or aggrivating.  I feel like I’ve wandered into the latter territory and it’s not made for fun fights.

So I might be abandoning my trusty Bladedancer build.  I’m going back to a Saboteur/Ranger setup to have a pet take the damage while I build up charges and get some heavy DoTs ticking down.  It works, although it too is much slower to kill than what I’ve seen in the past.

Really, I just want to be done with this area and experience something new.  I not only have two more Nightmare Tide zones after this, but I think they’re adding a fourth area this week with 3.1.  Gotta get a move on, little doggy!

Digesting the Guild Wars 2 expansion announcement

babeSo no big surprise — Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is an expansion — but good news nonetheless.  As a mostly lapsed GW2 player right now, I’m mostly on the fringes of the excitement hurricane going on.  I mean, I’m terribly happy for those for whom GW2 is their only game and this is major.  But I’m evaluating the news from the perspective of a former regular player who is asking the question, “What is in here that is worth returning for?”

For the record, I think that there is enough here to prompt that renaissance (and perhaps get me to actually finish Season 2), but it isn’t all sunshine and deadly flowers.  Here are a few thoughts sorted from thumbs up, neutral, and thumbs down.

Thumbs Up

  • New Revenant class looks somewhat awesome, although with heavy armor, the only new class in the xpack, and summoning components, it will definitely be in danger of being overplayed and perhaps overpowered.
  • Guild Halls.  That will certainly be a welcome feature to get together with guildies for fun and mutual projects.  It also addresses a huge oversight going from GW1 to GW2.
  • Profession specializations.  I think this alone has me the most excited, especially for people who want to stick with their class but also desire additional progression or variety.  Not entirely sure if each class will have just one specialization or more than one from which to choose.  In any case, it’d be cool to see my Engineer or Necro change it up somewhat.
  • More open world zones to explore.  The world should be constantly expanding, as Tyria is such a huge place and we’ve been confined to a relatively small portion of it in GW2 so far.
  • Hang gliding.  I’m down with this.  The mastery system does sound intriguing as a way to gain new abilities, although it sounds as though these abilities will be used to overcome new obstacles.  So it’s a zero sum system?  Maybe I’m misunderstanding it.

Neutral

  • Guild Wars 2 has failed to blow up my skirt with its story, either from the base game or the first two seasons.  No reason to expect that the expansion will actually get interesting, but I’m always willing to be proven wrong!
  • It’s not free.  That’s fair, but I know some people were hoping that Anet would be pumping out a free expansion for whatever reason.
  • No mounts.  I do NOT get why this is one of those weird design decisions that Anet has decided to die on a hill for.  Not having them in this world is bizarre, and including them would make a lot of people happy.  It should’ve happened.  So, you have high-tech airships and add hang gliders… but no horses?
  • More ways to get precursor weapons via questing.  I’ve long since given up on chasing the legendary weapon pony, so this is a non-feature for me, but it’s not a bad thing for those who care about it.
  • More PvP and WvW stuff.  Totally outside of my sphere of interest, and therefore completely neutral additions.
  • ArenaNet was hyping this announcement as something more than an expansion, as something that would go beyond the living story and be… I dunno, revolutionary?  I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but that was the general angle.  And the reveal, while nice, is merely an expansion — nothing more and nothing less.
  • My biggest wish list item — being able to get to 100% world exploration by not having to go into WvW — wasn’t addressed anywhere that I saw.  Shame, especially with new zones.

Thumbs Down

  • No new races.  This was a surprising disappointment, especially considering just how many potential races there are in the game and how much time has been spent between the community and the devs on it.
  • Guilds get housing, but players are still saddled with these pathetic home instances that have zero customization?  I’m happy for guilds and all, but if I had my druthers, I would have prioritized player housing (plus, what if a player doesn’t want to be in a guild?).
  • More jungle zones.  Not… my favorite biome, as they’re usually confusing to navigate and busy on the eyes.  Only slightly above lava and desert zones in my opinion.  Also, at least one of these zones is “more vertical” than normal, which means lots more annoying GW2 platforming.

Of course, there’s a lot we don’t know and I’m sure Anet is holding back so it has something to talk about in the coming months.  But as it stands, I’m interested if not overwhelmed.

LOTRO: Reading the books through the lens of the game

lo1This is your weekly public service announcement to remind you that even for a game that was made in 2007, LOTRO still has the ability to be quite beautiful.  Been screenshotting the heck out of it lately, including the above early-morning pic of the silhouette of a statue against the sky.

Anyway, lately I’ve been indulging this return-to-LOTRO streak that I’ve had going on by re-reading the Lord of the Rings.  It’s been a while; I think the last time I went through it was back in my fantasy lit class in college, and that was… 1998?  Since then I’ve seen the movies, played LOTRO extensively, and listened to the illuminating Tolkien Professor podcast.  I like to think that my understanding of this world and the books has grown.

But as I’ve been reading the story, I’ve realized that I can’t help but to do so from the vantage point of a LOTRO gamer.  I know that probably many fans of the game had extensive knowledge of the books first and went into LOTRO that way, but I’m coming at it almost the other way around.  Everything I read in the book, I’m thinking of where I might have seen it or heard about it in the game.

lo2While that might be a horrific thought to novel lore purists, it’s actually really neat.  When I was younger, I always felt a little lost in Lord of the Rings, especially with the weird names, barrage of locations, and extensive fictional world history.  But now I realize that the game has provided me with a solid education on all of these things and more besides, so not only am I constantly making connections between the two, but it’s deepened my enjoyment of the book.

Turbine’s always said that LOTRO was the “game of the books” (as opposed to the “game of the Peter Jackson/Ralph Bakshi films,” I suppose), and while some have taken the studio to task for liberties with the lore, I think that the attention to detail and the relative accuracy bears out.  I didn’t realize before how the LOTRO Hobbit racial skill “stoop for a stone” actually comes from a phrase from the “Concerning Hobbits” prologue, and that was a neat moment when I read that and went, “aha!”

lo3One other thing that I’ve come to realize — although it’s not so much of a shocker — is how much the LOTRO game world presents a condensed, not-to-scale version of what’s in the book.  I’m only in the first part of the Fellowship of the Rings, but I keep noting how very big the Shire is and how long it takes the Hobbits to traverse it in their journey to Buckland.  For a player, it’s a mere handful of minutes to run border-to-border in the Shire, although there seems to be most (but not all) of the main settlements and attractions from the book.

I think I’m really going to enjoy reading the book from the vantage point of a LOTRO veteran, and I definitely want to see what the Tolkien Professor does with his LOTRO world tour, whenever he gets that done.

Month of Trove: Syp vs. the Mushroom King

c1For my latest Trove excursion, I decided to test drive the relatively new Candy Barbarian class.  At first, the CB seems like your typical two-weapon warrior.  Nice slow and powerful swings plus an optional whirlwind attack.

But apart from the candy color theme, the CB differs from the norm by actually knocking candy outta bad guys (along with decorative candy icons on every hit).  This candy can be consumed to make the CB attack faster or heal him up, so there’s a neat self-buffing mechanic at play here.  I didn’t become a fan of its melee-only style, but I was definitely warming up to it.  Insert candy pun here.

c2I jumped back on my Christmas raptor and ran into the lowbie world once more.  I liked this particular shot of a graveyard statue, although I’m curious what it’s supposed to represent.  Pig?  The founder of the graveyard?

c3Lots of attacking wraiths and skeletons.  Leveled up.  Felt manly and candly.  Should I worry that my character got a diabetes debuff at level 3?

c4Loot was quite plentiful this run as well.  I got two separate player-designed face masks.  The left one, I’m assuming, is based on the Saw movies’ Jigsaw, while the right is just perfect for the upcoming Valentine’s Day festivities.

c5So this was curious.  I was walking along when a stream of water rushed down the hill.  That trickle become a rush of water that kept on flowing.  What in the…?  I had to investigate.

c6Pretty view!

So at the top of the hill is a stream coming out of a small fjord, which is I guess where the downhill flood originated.  However, it didn’t look as though there was a burst dam or a diverted river or anything, so I’m not sure why it started.  For the record, I did try to dam up the stream to see if it would create a lake or overflow, but nothing happened.  Shame.

c7Not too far away from the stream I got a notification that there was a certain Mushroom King in dire need of a good candy wuppin’.  He was at the top of a fairly tall treehouse, so I climbed up and dealt with minions and fireballs along the way.

c8The boss fight itself looked very epic but was in reality a cinch — at least for the vaunted Candy Barbarian.  Several swings of my Thor hammers later, and he evaporated into a nice loot chest (from which I scored a pair of swords).  I AM ALL THAT IS MAN.

c9I ended my session looking down at the world from the Mushroom King’s tree fort.  Can blocks be considered beautiful?

B2P is the best move for Elder Scrolls Online

esoSo by now I’m sure that most of you have heard the big news of the day, which is that Elder Scrolls Online will be dropping its sub-only model for a buy-to-play one with optional premium subs.

Good.  Awesome.  Applause-worthy.  And I’m not being even a hint sarcastic here.

I think we all knew something was coming, and it makes perfect sense that ESO would want to get rid of mandatory subs before pushing out a console version (as the console crowd isn’t quite sold on subs as a general rule).  It could even trigger a renaissance for the game that could overshadow its 2014 launch, as it’s going to get a lot of attention for the next few months, have the March business model shift, and then have the June console launch.  Take all of that and factor in a game that’s shored up its weak spots with six substantial updates, and it could be a whole new ball game.  Will it get old players back?  New players in?  Expand ZeniMax’s potential for revenue?  Yes to all of the above.

For me, I’m actually excited.  There wasn’t going to be any way that I was going to sub up last year, especially on top of WildStar (and in what world does ESO drop its sub model before WildStar?  C’mon!).  Now, I can easily justify the cost of a box if I know that it’s free sailing after that.  I love the B2P model with TSW and GW2, and am far less resentful of an up-front cost than in-game restrictions.

So I’m penciling in April to be the Month of ESO for me.  Even if it’s not a good match and might just be a one-month experiment, at least it will expand my horizons and satisfy some curiosity I’ve had about the title.

I gotta say, we’re not even through the first month of the year, and already we’ve had this huge announcement, H1Z1’s early access launch, almost-confirmation of a Guild Wars 2 expansion, and tons of previews from other MMOs.  Even with an anemic launch lineup, 2015 is looking to be one incredibly interesting year.

“Of course I hit like a girl! Duh!”

costumeI spoiled myself by buying a new costume for Squirrel Girl today (she only has three purchasable, and I’m not doing the cutsie Santa outfit).  She continues to rock through the higher difficulty level in Marvel Heroes and is even surprising me with new quips that I haven’t heard before.

This picture is just a small part of our traveling army, which has now expanded to include the occasional summoned war drone.  Tippy-Toe is still my favorite, however.