Preparing for Legion

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It’s quite interesting to watch the World of Warcraft community stir from its content drought-induced coma in preparation for something. In this case, two somethings: the pre-expansion patch and the expansion itself. The question that seems to be on the mind of most is: What do I need to do to get ready?

Technically, as long as you have a level 100 warm digital body, the answer is “nothing.” Just show up and stuff’ll happen. But I understand very well the urge to get one’s ducks in a row and do everything that can be done now to make later a more enjoyable experience. Plus, it’s all about making goals for right now, projects to complete.

If one is lacking in ideas, there are plenty of suggestions out there such as Wowhead’s and Bellular Gaming’s:

I would say that I’m a pretty happy place with my two main characters. Both my Hunter and Death Knight have around i700 gear, and I have no urge to push further into the gear envelope before Legion comes and resets everything anyway. I’ve also gotten both of them close to 700 for both engineering and mining, which I’ve been dutifully leveling at the garrison every day.

Other than that, it’s mostly treading water: Making some more money before that goes away, running Cataclysm raids for money, and doing things like the Kazzak fight on a weekly basis for money. When the pre-expansion patch hits, I’ll probably focus more on transmog collecting, but right now I’m pretty chill about that.

Instead, most of my interest has been in leveling up a new character: a Worgen Druid. The thought behind her is that I wanted to have a healer and I’ve always loved healing on Druids. Plus, I don’t have to be a Night Elf, and that’s always a major bonus (can’t hear you, Demon Hunters, la la la).

I started her a week or so ago with the idea that once I got to level 15, I’d park her in Stormwind and just chain-run dungeons from then on out. So far that’s been working pretty well. Having a few heirlooms equipped has given me a running start, and as a healer I’m getting into dungeons within a minute or two if not immediately.

And it’s been fun, too. Heal-over-times are pretty cool to use, all about revving up a healing engine on a target and keeping that going. I do miss my FFXIV fairy pet, but already I have more healing utility at my disposal than I ever did on my scholar. It’s more satisfying, too.

Sure, I’ve had a few bad runs, mostly with teams splintering or the odd jerk rolling need on gear that I could use but he did not need. But the good has outweighed the bad, with lots of gear (I’m keeping all leather drops for transmog), some good conversations and experiences, quick runs, and reasonable advancement. I hit level 50 the other night, which is great, but now I’m only getting a level every other dungeon run. That’s only going to slow down from here, more so after 60 when my heirlooms stop working.

It’s been a grand tour of World of Warcraft’s early dungeon designs. I got the achievement for having done all of the classic dungeons (I just queue for randoms for the extra gear/XP/money), so I guess I’ve seen everything that the current pre-TBC world has to offer.

I’m not racing to get her to 100 or anything for the expansion. If that happens, great, but if not, it’s not as if I can’t play her afterward too. There are a few skills and talents that I am looking forward to attaining, and it wouldn’t hurt to get a garrison for profession advancement, either.

What I bought in the Steam summer sale

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If Aywren says it’s OK to talk about what games you’ve bought in a summer digital sale, then it’s clearly OK for all of us to do so as well.

I honestly wasn’t planning on picking up anything from the Steam summer sale, for two reasons. One, I prefer GOG.com as my digital platform of choice and get most of my non-MMO games through there if possible. And two, I have more than enough on my gaming plate as it is.

But I did start poking around after spotting one tempting sale and ended up nabbing three games for a little under $25, ones that I knew I would play and wouldn’t mind including for a future Try It Tuesday. So what did I get?

The Long Dark: This has been on my to-buy list for a long time now. I still haven’t really bought into the whole survival sandbox scene, but I dig the visuals and cold north theme of this one. Plus I’ve had friends play it and be quite enthusiastic about their experiences. Should be a trip.

The Stanley Parable: Never played it, it was $2, and everyone who has played it seems to love it for whatever reason.

Armello: Total wild card, impulse purchase buy right here. The graphics caught my eye and I hunkered down to read about this board game/RPG/card game hybrid. Game of Thrones intrigue and anthropomorphic animals? Sure, why not!

The Secret World: In the Dusty Dark

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Creeeeeak went the dusty doors, sliding open to reveal a fresh new hell for me to explore — or a very ancient one, if you’re being literal.

This I pushed onward in my exploration of Issue 14’s story arc as I went down in the dusty dark. The doors here lead underneath the Black Pyramid, where the prison of the mighty Jinn — the Unbound — awaits. I didn’t know if I should have been pleased or disturbed to see torches flickering even without a caretaker going around to maintain them. Maybe it’s the mummy’s job?

In the Dusty Dark is an investigation mission, when meant that I had to strap in for a full afternoon of puzzle-solving — and this time in the eerie corridors and rooms below the surface of the desert. And let me tell you, this mission is no pushover. It’s room after room of increasingly difficult challenges, including walking across a pit on twisty — and invisible! — path and spending way too much time zipping across a room trying to activate jump platforms. Some of the rooms felt far more fair than others, and any one of them could have been a mission in their own right.

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And then there was the time when a giant boulder came smashing out of the ceiling to flatten me as I whipped the camera around to take this screenshot. I guess Funcom loved this Indiana Jones move so much the first time around that it wanted to bring it back for an encore.

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I know I’m glossing over a lot of the progression through this mission, so trust me when I say that it’s quite long and that by the time you get to this room and see a labyrinth awaiting your footsteps, you simply wish that there was a Funcom employee in your eyesight so that you could stare daggers at them.

Shifting walls? Unstoppable mummies? Poison daggers of death? All this an more awaits you, my friends!

Actually, the labyrinth wasn’t nearly as bad as the jumping platforms, in my opinion. And at least there was this at the end:

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The walls cracking open to reveal a brightly lit room — the prison of the Unbound. Good thing I’m charging in there!

I had a heart-stopping moment of terror at the end of this mission, because the game totally bugged on me. The screen went black and I couldn’t access my UI other than to log out. Eventually I had to do just that, imagining that I would need to do this entire cursed mission all over again. Fortunately, it just sent me ahead to the next mission, although I fear I missed a cutscene.

Try-It Tuesdays: Ninelives

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To help keep burnout at bay and also to expand my horizons, every once in a while I want to make a point of trying a new game — MMO or otherwise — and jot down a few thoughts on it.

Today’s game is one that I’ve had on my to-play pile for a while now: Ninelives. From what I’ve heard, it’s basically an MMORPG in the making minus the “massively” part. And “multiplayer” (for now). Probably “online” too, although I did have to log into it and it has a cash shop. It’s an MMO in feel but completely devoid of a mark of any other player. And it kind of looks really intriguing, with a different take on fantasy that’s being created by two guys over in Japan. So why not give it a shot?

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There aren’t exactly a ton of character creation options (this is still alpha, after all, although it’s a free download). There’s human, goblin, orc, and the vampiric nightbreed (apparently they killed a holy deer, according to the description). I elected for a one-eyed orc, because look how awesome he is!

Note the very familiar hotbar/healthbar setup. Control scheme is similar to most MMOs as well.

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What isn’t as similar is the fact that the game kind of just starts with the bare minimum of a prologue and absolutely no introductory quests. I just see a sinking boat (mine?) and a lot of dead soldiers. So with nothing else to do, I start following a path until I get to this alien-looking sign.

True story: While I was writing this, a creature started attacking my orc. Before I could alt-tab back, my orc had already engaged and auto-attacked it to death. Guess the game doesn’t need me.

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My first quest-giver is a mostly-dead guy. The graphics here are a little chunky but I think the art design helps to compensate for that. And I am really loving the minimalistic UI, apart from the lack of a mini-map. The soldier wants me to deliver a letter from a nearby crate to a fellow knight. No problem, ’tis why I trained for ten years at martial combat, to be a letter-carrier.

Fought some gnolls, got a sword. Ohhh yeah. Now I’m packing pain. Anyone want a piece of me and my duck tattoo?

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A little further on is a gnoll cave — sounds like a good place to find a certain stolen letter. Sure enough, there’s a huge chest in here with it tucked neatly inside. Ninelives managed to surprise me, because while I was looting and squinting at the insanely tiny icons, a nearby wall fell down and a carrion eater lunged out at me. Slightly tough fight; I had to use a potion because I forgot to heal up beforehand.

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The fairly linear path led me to the “city” of Crimson Crest. By this point, the game started to feel isolating. Maybe it was the low draw distance that made the world look like it was shrouded in PlayStation 1 fog, or perhaps the complete lack of a chat window, combat text, voice-overs, or anything to make me feel like I wasn’t running through a graveyard.

In Ninelives’ favor, the fantasy Victorian look grows on me. Reminds me a lot of Arcanum.

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Take a break at the local vampire watering hole!

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I really hope that this is a pet shop and not some sort of weird grocery store.

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It’s just so strange to me how Ninelives has the obvious structure for an MMO — albeit one with a different fantasy flavor — and yet it’s empty save for just you. Kind of like some apocalypse happened.

It’s intriguing, but after an hour or so, I can’t see myself investing a lot of time as it is. If there were more people or better stories, sure. Then again, it’s in alpha. Anything can happen between now and a full release.

Battle Bards Episode 77: Spirit of Adventure 2

Steff has decreed the return of spirit of adventure — and so it shall be! In the second part of this theme, the Battle Bards explore adventurous and inspirational MMO tunes. Are we out of ideas or overflowing with incredible tracks? It’s definitely the latter, so grab your hiking stick and join us as we venture out into the great yonder!

Episode 77 show notes

  • Intro (feat. “Gahren Plains” from Vanguard and “Tullan” from ArchLord)
  • “Ship of Destiny” from TERA
  • “Make Zone BGM” from Lime Odyssey
  • “A Grand Adventure” from WildStar
  • “Freedom Wind” from Aura Kingdom
  • “Albrassia Field” from Ragnarok 2
  • “Halas” from EverQuest Online Adventures
  • “Sailing Icy Seas” from World of Warcraft
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox picks: “Main Menu” from Overwatch, “Wings” from Xenogears, and “Animated” from Zombies Corporate Life
  • Outro

Listen to episode 77 now!

Music Mondays: Vanguard

Welcome to Music Mondays here at Bio Break! The idea is to pick a game or franchise every week — MMO, retro, or otherwise — and post a quick and dirty mix of my favorite tracks.

Going to start with Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. My fellow Battle Bards didn’t really take a shine to this OST the way I did, but hey, their loss 🙂 I always thought it was a charming fantasy soundtrack that exuded the beauty of this now-dead land.

Brightwood Dells is a neat forest piece — a little haunting, a little magical, and (in my opinion) memorable. Very synthy, which is something you get with this soundtrack, but I don’t mind.

Music for sneaking around a school of magic? Great atmosphere with this one.

With a title like “bamboo forest” I would have expected a lot more eastern-style sound, but instead it’s a rather pretty, pensive track that mixes the two hemispheres together. The deep “THRUM” sounds are quite interesting.

We simply don’t have enough grotto music in our lives.

Lots of parts and transitions here, but by far my favorite is the flute/percussion duo that emerges after a minute or so. I’m still whistling it.

World of Warcraft: Monkey business

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There’s a story behind this monkey, of course.

So I’m doing a dungeon run in World of Warcraft and this hunter is talking about how he’s new to the game and doesn’t know where to find pets to tame. The expected answer of flinging one’s arms wide and shouting “EVERYWHEEEERE” in your best Gary Oldman voice wasn’t given, but instead the group leader mentioned a few interesting rares around the world, including a monkey with a fez hat.

My ears perked up. Monkeys + clothing accessories always = good times. My hunter had been running with the same ghost wolf pet for the better part of a decade, mostly due to how difficult it was to obtain (which has since been completely trivialized, of course). So I figured her pet stable could use some expanding, and why not track down this odd monkey?

A Wowhead search showed that this was a rare spawn in the Swamp of Sorrows that appeared every three to five hours. I flew my hunter there and set up camp on the spot, leaving the game open while I did other things. I kept checking in and either saw a lot of empty nothingness or other hunters flitting down to see if they could ninja it first. One guy had out like a bazillion (five) pets, maybe to try to confuse me. I responded by bursting into dance, because that’s my response to most types of confrontation.

Anyway, on Friday night I was putting the kids to bed and I came downstairs to see that, wonder of wonder, the monkey was there — as was a Horde hunter running up to him as fast as he could. I jammed on the tame key and beat the literal Troll to the punch. Huzzah! The monkey was mine and I did a victory dance (because that’s my response to victorious moments) while the Troll said some probably disparaging comments about my mother.

So now I have this monkey and I couldn’t be more pleased. We will have grand adventures together in Legion, I am sure.