The Secret Adventures: The four-and-sixty (Scorched Desert #10)

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(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

The Last Legion (action mission)

In this edition of The Secret Adventures, we’re going to turn our attention to Khalid, a desert nomad who sports five missions (two main, three side). The player consensus is that Khalid is, in fact, the Aaron of the Old Testament, Moses’ brother and the first high priest of the Hebrews. He gives me a rundown on what happened a long time ago, with a Roman cult that worshiped the sun god and was eventually defeated by the Marya and Sentinels. But, of course, they’re back and I must go do something about it.

I like how he gruffly orders me to get going already and kill them to death.

I head into the legion’s ruins, which I assume is the same place that I visited when I traveled back in time to the Roman Empire days. Kind of neat to see it from this perspective, now. Lots of undead Legion killing, including a gladiator-style final battle. This featured one of TSW’s very rare mid-mission cutscenes, although I didn’t feel it added much to the proceedings.

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Scattered to the Wind (side mission)

Khalid has a diary nearby with three side quests in them. Since I’m definitely not above reading a man’s diary without permission while he’s standing three feet away, I snap up all three quests. First up is to find eight missing pages, probably containing Khalid’s My Little Pony fanfic.

Since this mission takes place in the very ruins I just visited, it probably would’ve been a good idea to grab it at the same time as the previous quest. OH WELL. It’s kind of fun to waltz through the ruins and lay waste to the roaming mobs, now that I’m significantly tougher and they were nerfed a while back.

Consecration (side mission)

There’s a ritual in Khalid’s diary that allows people to speak to the dead. That totally sounds like a good idea, so why not do it? After gathering the ingredients for the ritual, I summon a happy spirit that leads me on a merry chase into a small dark cave. There’s a strange mound here, so I dig it and… the mission ends. There’s no explanation as to what I might have found, no mission debriefing text (just the form letter one), nothing. I was all excited to help solve a mystery! Funcom dropped the ball with this one.

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Moving Mountains, Rising Sands (side mission)

The last diary side mission is simple: kill two big patrolling golems nearby. As long as one didn’t accidentally pull a bunch of mobs with them, I can’t see how you could fail this mission. Geary said that the two golems meeting together were supposed to herald the end of the world.

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The Unburnt Bush (investigation mission)

So Khalid/Aaron’s brother Moses apparently haunts a nearby burning bush as an immortal spirit, because why not take the biblical account in Exodus and jumble it around? Anyway, Khalid hints that there’s something I should see but I’m going to have to find my way on it… and at least I have his staff — the Staff of Exodus — to guide me.

Actually, I also have all of Moses’ burning bushes to lead me on a guided tour through the desert to a series of altars which look like those giant wooden spools that poor college kids use as tables.

At each altar is an arabic inscription that points to a similar Hebrew inscription on Khalid’s staff. When solved correctly, it triggers a bit more of a backstory. Also, each altar shows off a flashback of one of the 10 plagues of Exodus, just as a showpiece.

Anyway, the full story is that the Black Pharaoh got jealous of the power of Aaron’s staff and went on a mission to get his own super-duper staff. Stuff was done, people got killed, the staff was sent back to Egypt, the end.

The final stage of this mission is nerve-wracking, as a ring of mummies rise up and start advancing while you frantically keep trying different staff code combinations. Solve it, and the mummies die. Don’t, and you’re insta-gibbed.

Geary chews a bit on Khalid’s multiple mentions of the “four and sixty” — another secret society, perhaps the very first one. There are a lot of theories on this, the most interesting of which is that it’s made up of a group of immortals that are sprinkled through the game world. People like Khalid and Boone who aren’t overtly linked to any organization or society, but still show up to help out as much as they can.

That’s it for Khalid! Give him a hand, ladies and gents, he’s been swell!

Quote of the Day: Dragon hate

My eldest son is absolutely dragon-crazy these days, so when I told him that my World of Warcraft character had a dragon mount, he demanded on the spot that I show him. We log in and I pull out the mount to his “oohs!” Now I can’t fly it, at least in Northrend, because I haven’t paid whatever for the cold flying. Then this happens:

Son: Make him fly!

Me: I can’t.

Son: Why not?

Me: Because Blizzard hates its fans.

World of Warcraft: Heroic pooping

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My nostalgic tour through my World of Warcraft class roster the other day had one unexpected result: I found myself increasingly drawn to dusting off Ghostfire, my hunter, and riding with her once again.

I actually logged onto her about four times, looked at her, went “what am I *doing*” and logged out. Then logged back on. Then off. Then I shrugged and started the process of reactivating a long-dormant character.

The last time I played Ghostfire was in 2008 — around the same time that I first got into blogging. Of course, it was all Warhammer Online talk back then, WoW was just a brief diversion from those adventures, so Ghostfire, Syp, and company never got talked about on a blog. When I logged onto her this week, Ghostfire was sitting in Dalaran with bags full of now-useless ammunition. Seriously, that’s how long it’s been.

She had no specialization, no talent points, just bags full of random crap and a handful of quests for Wrath of the Lich King content. And apparently hunters can no longer equip both a ranged and melee weapon, because her polearm was now stuffed in her backpack. At least she still had that wicked-looking WotLK armor and gun that I adored. Going to have to save all of that for transmog (and there’s something else I haven’t done yet).

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After rebuilding her and getting an attack rotation set up, I turned to the problem of what to do. That’s where another one of WoW’s new(ish) features came riding to the rescue: the adventure journal. I love this thing, let me tell you. You’re lost for where to go and what to do at your level, you just click on that icon and it points you right toward suitable zones and even gives you the option to start a quest in the region. Perfect. I elected for Grizzly Hills, having fond memories of that place, and away I went!

It’s most decidedly strange that I still look at Northrend as the “new” World of Warcraft content. I never did advance beyond it, so relatively  it still is the frontier of the game for me. I always loved Northrend, with its frontier/Nordic/Viking aesthetics and environments. Grizzly Hills is like going to a summer camp where you can shoot bears and eagles. I did kind of snort when a quest made me shoot bald eagles (I’m sorry, “imperial eagles”) dead for whatever flimsy reason. Not a lot of MMOs have you kill eagles. I’m not saying they’re off-limits, but they are kind of in the same category of kittens and giraffes as animals that we’re not used to farming.

So I’ve been reacclimatizing myself with Ghostfire in Grizzly Hills, doing the quests and being generally entertained. One small and welcome change that I noted was that her gun sounds are a lot less harsh and more audibly intriguing than they used to be. I definitely prefer a hunter with a rifle in this game (crossbow second, bow only as a last resort).

The quest that had me either pooping or puking up seeds that I accidentally ate was among the most notable so far. Can’t say that I’ve visited a lot of MMO outhouses in the course of my adventures, but as you see above, I gave this particular one a workout.

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I also ran a dungeon last night (forget the name, but it was the Troll temple in Northrend) just to see how rusty I was with the hunter. It went well, all things considered. Totally forgot to take growl off of my spirit wolf, Oz, so d’oh on me. I am very much liking the beast mastery skills and some of the new talents, such as summoning extra beasts for a short duration or commanding a murder of crows to swarm a bad guy.

The biggest thing on my to do list is to find a guild. I don’t even remember who I used to be with on Rexxar, but chances are they don’t exist any longer. I’ve been perusing the guild finder and sent out notes to a few prospects, so we’ll see about that. The next step will be doing some web research, and if that doesn’t go well, perhaps consider a transfer to a more populated server. At least I’ve seen players romping around me in my adventures, so I don’t feel completely alone.

The great Gorgon compromise

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After watching a few Project Gorgon videos last week, I couldn’t stand to not be playing this game. I’d been pretty good for a while there, steadfastly ignoring it while alpha development continued and the wait for the Steam release (whenever that’s supposed to be) drew near. I figure that the Steam release should represent the game at an… established point of development and a good place to start playing in earnest.

But you know how it is when you start hearing about something and then get to thinking about it a lot and then start obsessing about it. You find yourself devoid of all willpower and logging in anyway.

So that’s what happened this past weekend: I logged in and created a new Project Gorgon character. The compromise that I established with myself (ahaha) was that I would only explore the newbie island for now, which would accomplish two things:

  1. Giving me a taste of the game to satisfy without diving in fully
  2. Artificially pacing myself so that I genuinely explore the island without trying to rush through it

I feel like this is a good approach, at least for now. The starter island is brand-new to me, as the last time I was playing the beginner experience was confined to a notoriously ugly and somewhat confusing cave. This is… so much better, friends. So much better.

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It’s not all completely new, as the cave’s various mechanics have been spread out over the island. There’s still an Elf in need of cheering up, there’s still a boss that makes your head super-sized, and there is still the option to collect 10 or so starter skills. However, having it spread out over a fully-explorable (and strangely square) island offers players a lot more freedom and is much more in line with Project Gorgon’s vision of being an exploration-centered game. Besides, it doesn’t really matter where you start exploring, because sooner or later you’re going to need to comb the entire island to figure out how to get off.

I’m loving my little bite-sized Gorgon sessions. I log in, putter around in a particular area, take notes (particularly if there does end up being a wipe — I know he said not, but devs do change their minds in the pre-launch environment), fight, loot, and see what there is to see. My quest log is made up of my own objectives: I need ingredients to make a pick-me-up potion for the Elf, I need to raise favor with a beach girl, I want to level up my unarmed skill, I want to collect all of the crafting recipes that I can, and I need to kill that boss to get a small head again. Stuff like that.

The loot is surprisingly fun, too. I’ve gotten a few really great drops for armor, and my favorite trinket is this orb that floats around my head to provide extra light for dark environments. I can see that being helpful.

This past weekend the dev triggered one of the new “events” — in this case, a bonus health/first aid effectiveness buff for everyone. That was certainly helpful, as some of the mobs can take a player down quickly. I got tag-teamed by a wizard skeleton and a raptor at one point, panicked and died without putting up much of a fight at all. Good times. So happy to be back.

A trip down my World of Warcraft roster

One thing about World of Warcraft’s longevity is that many accounts have undoubtedly picked up scads of alts and abandoned characters across several servers. These toons wait in vain for the day that their master or mistress will return for another romp through Azeroth.

While I’ve done my fair share of alt purges through the years, deleting with impunity, there remains some two dozen or so characters on my account spread across about eight servers. I was flipping through them this morning, taking screenshots of each notable character for posterity… and to share with you.

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Syppi the Shaman is my newest character, the one I’ve been puttering around with, off and on, since coming back in December. The Shaman is one of my go-to classes, offering the hybrid fun, melee smashing, and even a bit of pet class craziness.

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Syp is my oldest character still in existence, although certainly not the oldest I ever made. I think I made her October 2006 as the very first “Syp” in preparation for The Burning Crusade. Had a great time with her, but alas, the changes to the Warlock class have rendered her all but unrecognizable to me. She’s also the only character I seriously crafted on, leveling up engineering to the point where I made my own helicopter.

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Ghostfire was a Burning Crusade invention, giving me a good excuse to romp around as a Hunter with the new race. She’s also my second-highest-level character (75), having gotten through a chunk of Northrend before I shelved her when Warhammer Online came out. Her pet, a ghost wolf named Oz, represented a terrifically difficult capture back in the day, utilizing some clever techniques to get an otherwise-unobtainable creature.

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Somehow, Echoes the Tauren Druid became my highest level character (80), probably during the Wrath of the Lich King era. She was all Moonkin, baby, and proud of it. I did return to her briefly when Cataclysm came out, but my stay in that expansion was short-lived.

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Yes, here is documented proof that I (sigh) used to play an Elf. But I posit to you that I had no choice — no choice! — because if you were in an Alliance guild (which I was) and wanted to play a Druid, you had no other choice.

Curse you, Blizzard!

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Platypus the Shaman, somewhere in her 60s. No great tales here, other than more proof that I like the class.

The Secret Adventures: Don’t step in lava (Scorched Desert #9)

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(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

The Madness of Men (action mission)

Amparo — the Council of Venice operative — is waxing philisophical on all of the “plagues of Egypt” that are happening in the area. There certainly is a theme going on, I must admit. Darkness, locusts, fire from heaven, the works. But she attributes these events as man-made rather than supernatural.

Anyway, the order of the day is to look into the fire fissures that have erupted in the desert, and since you can’t really kill fire, there are conveniently located fire-related mobs wandering nearby. Fire-guys, fire sprites, lava golems, and one big dude that pops out of a portal. Oh? And in case you were wondering if the lava — as in many MMOs — is there just for show, no, it will really hurt you. Don’t step in the lava, folks.

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Signal Effect (side mission)

This is one truly annoying little squib of a mission. You might think not, at first, since it’s all in al-Meryah and contains no fighting, but no, it’s a time-sucker. Basically, you have to locate four satellite dishes on the rooftops around the town and realign them to pick up a signal that the Council of Venice reported. Lots of platforming here, with me getting frustrated trying to figure out (a) where exactly each dish was and (b) how to get up on any given roof. Not every building has a front door and stairs, because why make it easy?

And because this mission doesn’t know when to quit, after all of this you still have to head out into the desert to hunt down the signal box. Don’t really know what it is, in the end, but the Templar leader Richard sends me a recruitment notice in the mission debriefing.

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A Lion in the Streets (action mission)

Amparo as a character wasn’t done any favors by Funcom in the hair department. I don’t know what they were going for, but “spiky afro” probably wasn’t exactly it. It’s so very bad that makes me a little ashamed for whoever designed her. Plus, as a person, she’s rather tepid.

She talks about how the town is dying — people are being abducted at night and turned into cultists, and at this point you’d think everyone would get together and post guards or something. Guess not. This intro somehow leads me to the Hotel Wahid, although nobody said anything about the place before. I’m operating on the theory that my character has a full script of the game and can read ahead to know where to go.

This is Said’s HQ, but for the most part it’s the stomping ground for a whole lot of ghouls. Not sure how ghouls — and jinn — entered into the picture, but straight-up monsters is a refreshing change of pace from cultists. From here on out, it’s a two-pronged endeavor: free the captives and kill with extreme prejudice.

I don’t mind the action, as the ghouls are pretty easy to take out. The mission even leads me into the hotel basement, a rather nondescript place that does have one semi-creepy moment when the lights flicker from on to emergency red.

Scorched Earth (side mission)

Very easy quest to take out some cultists and their scattered camps. Nothing to write home about, truly.

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The High Cost of Dying (action mission)

With all of the al-Merayah quests out of the way, it’s time to give some more attention to our favorite mummy, Said. I head back to the hotel, where Said mentions that there’s a small-g god nearby, a locust god named Arbeh. Want to take him out? Sure, my expression says. I don’t say a lot with my mouth. I still think the bees have my tongue.

Instead of going toe-to-toe with Arbeh, instead I have to go tomb robbing to assemble an artifact that will somehow banish him. This means a trip into a nearby Egyptian ruin, which is all sorts of neat. Lots of golems and locusts to fight, but nothing too tough. I found myself taking a lot of the pictures of the place like the super-powered tourist I am.

The Eighth Plague (side mission)

Near the locust temple is a shell of a dead bug which grants this mission. If you’re the type that likes to make a list of the easiest-to-complete missions in the game for later farming, then add this one — all you have to do is kill 15 nearby locusts and the quest automatically completes. Easy peasy.

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A Shadow over Egypt (action mission)

The second (and last, I assume) part of the Arbeh mission chain, Said sends me scuttling off to the Temple of Aten, which he calls a “gauche tourist trap.” I do so love this guy. Could listen to him talking for hours. We really need to get him and Montag in the same room at some point.

The Temple is, indeed, more tourist trap than serious den of evil, but that hasn’t stopped locust cultists from sealing it up with barriers and empowering Arbeh within. This is an action mission that requires a little thought, since you have to figure out how to get past the barriers. That takes killing four specific mobs to get their buffs — nothing too difficult.

The interior of the temple is nice, but I kind of expected a little more detail from the devs here. Then again, this whole set piece is for a single mission, so I can understand not wanting to blow a month’s budget on the place. Arbeh ended up being a tricky fight, especially when I went in with guns blazing before reading his buffs. After getting smacked to the ground, I decided to fight smart and use that temple artifact to strip him of his magical protection. Took a bit of frantic running around, debuffing, and lots of attacks (the dude packs one heck of a shield), but he went down on the second try without much trouble.

Geary gave me one of her sardonic pats on the back, saying that all I really did was swat an Old Testament bug. Thanks, boss. Remind me why I work for you again? Oh yeah, the amusement factor.

FFXIV: Scenes from the Lalafell underground

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Random screenshots from my adventures through FFXIV along with some commentary!

We’ll start with what I thought was a neat shot of the entire Scions team standing around in the same outfits they always wear. Must be a stinky place, if they never change their clothes.

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A fairy-fly warding off the night. Also, who builds these impossible architecture? That’s the real magic power in this world!

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This would be such a great character shot… if I only had pants. Maybe I could button that coat down a bit?

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So… how long do you hold this pose before it starts getting incredibly awkward? And what do you do afterward? And did that pirate lady accidentally shoot the knuckle off the guy on the way down?

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What I thought was a really pretty picture of a Venice-like arch and seascape beyond. Love the color palette here.

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The new Han Solo, age 80, frozen in carbonite.

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I *like* Jessie. At least she wasn’t kissing my butt the way that every NPC in this game seems to. It’s too bad we can’t choose our own companions and associations.

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OK, if the game is meta-mocking the constant nodding, maybe it’s time to, I don’t know, put an end to it? Wish my character would talk or use some expression other than (a) resolved, (b) super-resolved, and (c) unconscious.

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Featured: A super-awesome slow-mo attack that no player character will ever be able to perform.

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I wonder how many modern players get the True Lies reference? Oh well, I got a laugh.

The Secret Adventures: Bad dreams (Scorched Desert #8)

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(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

Tainted Dreams (side mission)

There’s a weird dream eye plaque on a pillar near where the previous mission ended, so I clicked on it and — naturally — got sucked into the dream world. Before you go getting all excited, no, the dream world in TSW isn’t rainbows and candy-spewing kittens and Swedish bikini teams. Rather, it’s the regular map run through a greyscale filter, much like the dying world is, just a little brighter.

So I have the singularly strange experience of following but not fighting one of the Reaper characters to close off nightmare rifts. Does Trion Worlds know about this? Or care? Anyway, I know that there’s a lot of mob model reusage in this game (practically, there has to be), so it’s kind of hard taking THIS reaper more seriously than THAT one, even if the soundtrack tries to convince me otherwise.

The only hard part to this mission is avoiding the floating mummy ghost mobs — they move slowly, but if they touch you, you get booted back into the real world and have to deal with YouTube comment sections and the like.

The Fedora Express (side mission)

Back to the Cafe Giza! There is a fedora and pair of sunglasses on a table, and since my time is obviously valuable, I pick them up and run them all the way back to… Said. Mummy doesn’t even say thanks. Typical.

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Black Sun, Red Sand (main story mission, tier 2)

As usual, I’m trying to save the main story mission until I’m fully done with all of a zone’s other quests, but it’s hard to be mucking around in al-Meryah and not trigger this cutscene. Anyway, I wanted to mention it before I forgot it.

I come upon a Council of Venice operative (above) under attack by Atenists. My character uses one of her “I wish I actually had that skill” to launch a lightning orb at the bad guys and flatten them. The operative explains that her small crew was sent here to retrieve (what else?) a powerful artifact. She mentions that the Orochi and Phoenecians are in play — no surprise here — but that there’s also a much greater force pulling the strings. She also suspects that the Council is compromised and doesn’t know if she’s been hung out to dry or what.

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The Living Oil (sabotage mission)

One of the most affecting aspects of The Secret World is when it finally sinks into your — the player’s — mind that we’re not merely going to hot spots around the world like the A-Team, stamping out fires before they blaze up. We are trying to navigate the very real beginning of the end of the world, and no matter how many missions you do, how many people you help, the game gradually hammers into your head that it might very well be too late. The Filth, the Dreamers, the sinister societies — they are too big and you are too small. It’s only a matter of time.

I thought of this as I reintroduced myself to Zhara, the owner of the Café Giza. She’s a nice lady who asks you to send a letter to her sister (a reminder that, like many NPCs in these zones, they’re effectively trapped whereas the player characters may use Agartha to come and go). She’s keeping her chin up, serving what food and drink she has for as long as she can, but you can sense that she isn’t hopeful that it will end well. She’s staring down the apocalypse and being defiant in the only way she can.

Anyway, bleh, sabotage mission. Which means a trip back to the super-annoying date factory/plant region, which makes for at least the 12th time so far in this zone. I do so because Zhara is peeved that the Atenists are using Filth-injected dates to transform people into monsters, so I guess she gives me full license to wage war on the factory. I still have to be careful — lots of powerful roaming mobs and the like — but it is satisfying to blow up trucks and shipments.

At the end is the source of the Filth in this area, a locust nest bubbling with the stuff. The final objective is to take out the nest, a task which is near-suicidal considering the mob density. That’s where — and I’m giving sabotage missions some faint praise once again here — this game excels in getting you to think beyond brute force to alternate paths to victory. In this case, I dump over an oil drum nearby and set it on fire, causing the nest to light up. Huzzah!

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Plague of Locusts (side mission)

Little side mission near the end of the last one, might as well pick it up! It’s pretty straight-forward: wipe out three locust nests and the final boss. At least they aren’t Ak’abs! Now, the trick with nests in The Secret World is to back off from attacking them when they start spawning defensive mobs. Deal with the mobs, then return to the nest; don’t try to keep attacking the nest or you might end up triggering too many mobs that they’ll overrun you.

Not that this has… ever happened to me. No. Never.

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Angels & Demons (investigation mission)

Zhara mentions that before all of the truly bad stuff starting going down in the area, there was a group of foreign investors who came in and quietly set up shop. Sounds like a good enough reason to look into who they were and what they were doing, no?

The group was Plethron, one of Orochi’s many subdivisions. I don’t really know much about this company, to be honest, even after my adventures in Tokyo. Let me look it up… agriculture. Even has its own website because of course it does.

Breaking into the Plethron office in al-Meryah I find — to my complete lack of shock — a dead Orochi director there. Orochi must clone corpses or something to keep up with this high demand. Anyway, the guy’s computer mentions a third party sniffing around Orochi’s shipments, and after investigating the warehouse, I see security footage that shows Mr. Hatty messing with the crates. He actually has the nerve to leave me a passive-aggressive note in one of the crates telling me to back off. Tough chance.

As an investigation mission, this one is not too tough. There’s a little code-breaking involved as well as a spot where you have to figure out a keypad combination by listening to the tones of the keys pressed. All things considered, it’s child’s play compared to what some of these missions have you doing.

8 factors that make or break MMO combat systems

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Combat is on my mind, lately. It can be one of those weird things, where you like an MMO very much but, if you’re honest with yourself, that game’s combat isn’t anything to write home about. With few exceptions, combat is at the core of most MMOs these days, and not all of them get it right. I’m not just talking about tab-targeting versus action combat, but the other factors that can make the difference between a system that’s fun and engaging and a system that’s rather lacking. Off the top of my head, here are eight factors that make or break MMO combat systems.

1. Responsiveness

No matter what type of combat system a game uses, it’s 2016 and there’s no excuse for it to not be sharp and responsive. I’m talking about little to no lag between activating an attack or skill and having it happen. These systems have to have a crisp and polished feel so that you’re melding fully with them instead of struggling against their apparent attempt to get you killed in the line of duty.

2. Casting bars

Introducing cast time as a component of skills is one that adds some more options for skill design, but I’ve never thought it was an enjoyable one. Mayhap it’s time to get rid of casting bars altogether? Even worse is being forced to stand still while you’re queuing up a big attack, something that every magic-using cloth class knows all too well from the olden days. This is an archaic and unfun design, and it’s time to bury it for good. I’m glad that we’ve seen games make this a priority in their combat systems.

3. Sound design

You might not notice this consciously, but when an MMO has poor sound design for its combat, it takes an awful lot out of the experience. A sword that sounds like a whiffle bat when swung is going to feel a lot less powerful and fun than one that sounds like it’s slicing through sheet metal. Sound needs to be equally responsive, with hits being backed up by solid audio cues the moment they happen. Great sound design can even help overcome some of the visual shortcuts that MMOs take (for instance, not actually making contact with your foe — but if you hear it, you’re willing to buy into the suspension of disbelief that it’s happened).

4. Strategy

As much as I do love simple, straight-forward rotations, I also want combat to occasionally challenge me and force me to use skills that don’t always come into play. Is combat routine or strategic? Am I countering with skills — like hard stops to spellcasters — and reacting to events as they happen? Is the battlefield easily understood or too chaotic? When we get into boss battles, is there enough information to make informed choices during the fight?

5. Enemy AI

Enemy AI can be tweaked in such a way to make them supremely annoying; everyone hates mobs that run away at 20% health or crowd control you, for example. But mobs don’t need to be mindless cannon fodder, either. It’s interesting to figure out mobs and face a variety of attack patterns and techniques, especially if it gets you to engage in more #4 up there.

6. Group combos

One of the weird holy grails of MMOs is being able to chain player skills together to perform united combos, something that games like LOTRO and Guild Wars 2 have attempted to varying levels of success. It’s hard to do on a large multiplayer scale, especially when the battlefield gets nuts, but there’s merit in games trying, too. A combat system that gets more engaging when it partners up with another player’s system is the first step to emergent gameplay in this area.

7. Time-to-kill

I won’t deny that balancing MMOs and their incredibly varied character power levels has to be one of the most headache-inducing and thankless tasks, but it must be done and done right. There’s a sweet spot in every game in which an average world mob should be able to be killed — not too quickly, but certainly not too long. Personally, I think that games that err on the side of faster combat kills are more enjoyable, even if that means that the game has to throw more mobs at me in response.

8. Visual flash

Yeah, we’re suckers for eye candy — don’t deny it. If we’re going to be watching our characters engage in a quarter-million battles during an MMO’s lifespan, then it really helps if those battles look cool. Spell and weapon effects, combat moves, particle effects, the whole works. Make it look awesome and we’ll be coming back for more every time.

Battle Bards Episode 71: Ragnarok Online 2

Let’s get this out of the way up front: No, Ragnarok Online 2 isn’t the type of game that you’d think would have a terrific soundtrack, and yes, it totally has a terrific soundtrack. On this episode, the Battle Bards skip through renowned Japanese composer Yoko Kanno’s score, picking out their favorite tracks from this fantasy MMO. Will they convince you that this is a hidden gem? Listen and see!

Episode 71 show notes

  • Intro (feat. “Beginners” and “Misha”)
  • “EverLand (Instrumental)”
  • “Yoru (Violin)”
  • “Small Dungeon”
  • “Clap and Walk”
  • “Din Don Dan Dan”
  • “Afternoon”
  • “Stone Music”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox picks (feat. “Sinister Euphoria” from Aura Kingdom, “A Writer’s Dream” from Alan Wake, and “The Battle of Lil’ Slugger” from Super Meat Boy)
  • Outro (feat. “Boss Battle [Karaoke]”)

Listen to episode 71 now!