Battle Bards Episode 88: Revelation Online

revelation

The new hotness on the MMO scene is Revelation Online, the Chinese import that has gamers abuzz with its flashy graphics and rounded theme park offerings. But how does its soundtrack hold up? The Battle Bards investigate an eastern game with a western composer — World of Warcraft’s Neal Acree. How does it come off?

Episode 88 show notes (show page, direct download)

  • Intro (feat. “Bamboo Thicket” and “Imperial Camp”)
  • “Swamp Town”
  • “Altar of Purification”
  • “Calm Blue”
  • “Underwater Adventures”
  • “Mystic Forest”
  • “The Chosen (Main Theme)”
  • “TianYu Island”
  • Which one did we like the most?
  • Jukebox Picks: “Prologue” from Rime Burta, “The Light in Us All” from Planet Coaster, and “Main Theme” from Oblivion
  • Outro (“The Chosen”)

World of Warcraft: Love and hate in Suramar City

w1

AN ILLUSION? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?

One of my goals this past weekend was to stop dragging my feet on Suramar and dive into the city quests with all of the gusto and bravado that I had to offer. I’ve been avoiding it for months now, using daily world quests as an excuse: “Oh, I already played WoW today. Got a chest. That’s an accomplishment. Suramar City can wait for another day.”

Part of my reluctance was hearing my guildies swear and groan at having to quest in this area. Another part came straight from my general dislike of big cities. I don’t like them in real life, I don’t like them in games. They’re crowded, claustrophobic, difficult to navigate, confining, and often frustrating. I can never really empathize with those that

AN ILLUSION? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?

praise huge and sprawling in-game cities. For some, I guess the urban sprawl is an exciting place to explore, but not me. I feel bogged down and miserable in such places, preferring my settlements to be smaller and easier to navigate.

I have to remind myself that the more time I spent in a place, the more I’ll get to know it inside and out. It’s just the matter of spending that time and getting over that feeling of “I don’t wanna be here!” at the beginning.

w2

So far, Suramar City has brought out the love and hate in me in equal, burning measure. Let’s start with the good parts! It’s a gorgeous, intricately designed city that has multiple districts, with a real sense of

AN ILLUSION? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?

history. Even better, it’s flat-out beautiful, with lush colors, canals (and functional tour boats!), house interiors, and whatnot. It’s the first Elf city I can think of that isn’t super-duper naturetastic (perhaps I’m thinking of more organic building designs that incorporate nature rather than subjugate it). I’ve taken a lot of screenshots, let’s just say that. Plus there are grappling hooks.

However, the hate comes in strong and doesn’t leave. In addition to be frustrating to navigate, especially when my disguise

AN ILLUSION? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?

drops and I’m staring down a near-inescapable mob of enemies, it’s a place full of Elves. ELVES, people. An Elf city. Did I mention the Elves, God’s most special and perfect and beautiful creation? There’s even Elf kids. Aw. Scram ya runt.

As bad as it is to be thrust into an Elven city, the game adds insult to injury by forcing me to disguise myself as one of these accursed eyebrow-affluent jerks. For hours. Way to get on my good side there, Blizzard.

w3

Then again, there’s a crab holding a knife. I think this may be one of my most favorite things in the entire game. It pleases me greatly.

I just want to be done with Suramar. I need it for the eventual flight clearance, so I’m slowly going through all of the quest lines, opening up portals, jumping on grapes to appease my Elven slavedrivers, and generally wishing every NPC around me dead. Once in a while I drop my disguise on purpose and just go on a killing spree to blow off steam.

w4

Since many of you have done Suramar, I’m curious about your take on this place. Do you love it? Hate it? Feel conflicted like me?

And are you an illusion… that’s hiding something?

The Secret World: Nursery tales (Besieged Farmlands #3)

n1

(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 Sound of Children (action mission)

Welcome to the Nursery. This mission does NOT. Mess. Around. There are a handful of missions in this game that put you through the ringer, and this is definitely one of them. We ready? No? Well, it’s too late now.

“This place has bad memories,” the Council woman says as we step inside the secret Orochi faculty. Let me just say that if you ever had any sympathy for all of the dead Orochi all over the place, the Nursery will harden your heart against them for good.

Initially, the Nursery is a quiet but undeniably creepy place. Little playrooms full of Matron Bots, an unnerving lullaby, and plenty of scribbled “Hello I walk into empty” graffiti. Then we come to this:

n2

Which has to be one of the most-photographed rooms in all of The Secret World. I’ve seen it plenty of other places to know that it had an impact on players. It’s hokey, sure, but also quite unsettling. A dismembered Orochi employee is surrounded by dolls and scribbles. It’s all clearly staged — but by who? I was never clear on this. The popular theory is that one of the experiments resulted in an incorporeal entity (angry spirit?) who went nuts both here and in Hatchet Falls. Could be the same spirit we actually saw in the Orochi cave prior to Hatchet Falls.

n3

The lead doctor’s computer delivers some of the backstory of this place. As we’ve seen before, bright guy sells his soul to do unspeakable experiments on children, then starts messing with the Filth, then gets infected and it all goes downhill. What else did you think would happen?

n4

And just when you thought it was bad enough, these doors open and you step into Hell(o). It’s an Orochi slaughterhouse… and not everything back here is dead. There’s a side mission, Where the Little Ones Go, to go into each of these side rooms that feature a different experiment type. It’s pretty easy and you’re probably going to do it anyway, so easy AP.

n5

On the plus side of this place, I use an anima infuser to turn my flamethrower into a new auxiliary weapon. Flame on, baby!

n6

Lots of use of shadow and light here. Also some things moving behind the lights. It’s only marginally less scary because Council girl is there with you.

n7

I never, ever want to know what is in this room.

n8

I kill the director and read the suicide note that his assistant left behind. Yes, plenty of kids have been abducted and experimented upon, but the big prize is Emma… and she’s here somewhere. We find a secret room holding her, and Council woman betrays me (curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!). Turns out that she’s a Big Bad, Lilith, and she’s absolutely batpoop crazy.

n9

This little girl-thing shuffles down into the room, and Lilith snaps its neck. Looks like a Japanese girl.

n10

For a lovely denouement, Lilith straps me to a table and then uses a laser to cut off my legs (!). Seriously. It’s really surreal how my character doesn’t scream, but TSW is nothing if not committed to keeping my character completely mute. Lilith picks up Emma and leaves with her, humming the lullaby.

e1

I Walk Into Empty (investigation mission)

Tell me if you’ve ever been here: Legs lasered off by a primeval madwoman and thrust into the dreamscape of a very troubled little girl while gods older then the universe plot your downfall. That’s like, every Tuesday in The Secret World.

As my legs regenerate (I assume), I take a holiday in Emma’s mind. Don’t know how I’m doing that, since Lilith took her away, but here we are. There are lots of flashes of Emma’s past, including scientists (?) in a cabin abusing her, Orochi conducting some sort of large-scale experiment with her blasting holes in reality, and a glimpse of the Virgula Divina project. That means “divining rod,” by the way.

e2

It’s not a terribly difficult investigation mission, all things considered. There’s some trial-and-error maneuvering through rooms in an Orochi facility and a hippity-hoppity jumping part, but the real tough angle of this quest is if you’re going for the teddy bear, which requires getting extra magnetic letters scattered all over the place.

e3

A burning house: What I can only assume is Emma’s home, or the birthplace of the creature we know as Emma. There are no survivors except for her. A fireman asks her name:

e4

He mis-hears, thinks she said “Emma.” But no, this child is actually the living and breathing embodiment of anima itself — the power that flows through all us bee people. Not much else is explained about her backstory here, if she was a real kid at some point, what created the anima form of Emma, what burned down the house (her?), and why half the game’s factions are out to get her and use her.

e5

The super-long stretchy hallway. An old classic but still effective for dream weirdness. The music gets downright gorgeous here.

e6

When I jump out of the dream, I’m able (somehow?) to port into Agartha right behind Lilith and Emma. The girl shakes off her captor, who has a mild matronly freakout. Emma knocks her (and me) away, at which point the Filth starts crawling toward her, chanting her name.

e7

She’s small. She’s powerful. And she knows so very little about what’s going on. Emma blasts the Filth back, but not entirely — the Filth has invaded Agartha for the first time. I can see this from the main hub as I look across the way. Emma appears and talks about needing the lullaby to play all the time, to keep the Dreaming Ones asleep. Otherwise it’s bye-bye for reality as we know it.

Happy ending: I get a 10.1 necklace as a reward for this whole chain, and I’m able to head back to Besieged Farmlands for normal questing!

RIFT: I won’t lie. You’ve seen some messed-up stuff.

m1

A surprising number of RIFT missions involve the phrase “let’s step into the hallucinogenic water and see what we see.” Thanks for the nightmares, Trion World!

(But seriously, this is my favorite unicorn picture of all time. Just don’t drink the toxic desert water.)

The journey continues for my Rogue through Starfall Prophecy’s Geldo Badlands. I’m not warming up on the landscape, but the story is surprisingly interesting. I guess that the writers were given the challenge to make stock fantasy cannon fodder like goblins and kobolds actually interesting and in-depth. There’s a lot about culture-comparison between this primitive land and Telara, as well as a group of goblins called the “Gaping Chest Wound Clan.” I would be proud to be part of that clan.

Here’s one of their members:

m3

Doesn’t he remind you of Young Frankenstein’s Igor? With more tusks/antlers?

apo

The writing and dialogue is sharp, surreal, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe you don’t think of MMOs as actually being funny, but RIFT never quite takes itself as seriously as its contemporaries. I respect that.

Part of the reason why things are looking up is that I did a build adjustment and switched from Ranger/Assassin over to Ranger/Marksman. Much better synergy, plus I’m rocking a pair of legendaries that really help out now. The 61-point legendary in Ranger took me a little bit to realize how good it was — essentially it keeps giving you a full combo bar for 10 seconds, meaning that you can keep spamming finishers for 10 seconds. With that, I can burn down most anything insanely quickly.

I also appreciated this response from Linda Carlson on my last post about the TTK and mob issue: “Just to prove we do pay attention to feedback and make changes where appropriate and possible: Dev put up a change to PTS on Tuesday of last week that would reduce the damage done by NPC’s since they found a bug in the MPC that was giving them too much power. Warning, devspeak: ‘As such, the TTK did not match up to what the sheet dictates.’ This should address one of the major concerns in this article.”

m2

No story here other than I was very proud of this screenshot. Love the sunlight coming through the wings.

m4

Our guild held its weekly trivia night on Wednesday about a rather bizarre topic (and no, I’m not going to share). I ended up placing second, winning a maid’s ensemble. Attacking things in pumps and with dual feather dusters is the only way to rock this expansion!

Legend–wait for it–ary number two

opusWhen I opened up my emissary chest on Wednesday and another legendary popped out, I think I was more than a little dumbfounded. One legendary was more than I ever thought I’d get out of the expansion. Two? Two wasn’t going to happen. I’m not an odds-on kind of player.

But there it sat: Prydaz, Xavaric’s Magnum Opus. Huh.

I’ve heard the sound effect for the shield is kind of annoying, but hey, I’m not going to complain about getting a second legendary. The stat/item level boost is nice, as was the gem slot, and anything that ups my survivability is always welcome.

The only downside is that I’m still researching my second legendary slot, which won’t be ready until Friday evening. At least I had the foresight to start it weeks ago!

6 tips for blasting through World of Warcraft’s emissary quests

wq

I’m sure I’m far from the only MMO player who has adjusted a daily play schedule to make sure that I finish the World of Warcraft emissary quest (which is made up of four world quest completions for a specific faction or zone). Sure, they’ll backlog up to three emissary quests so you don’t HAVE to do one a day, but I find it better to stay on top of them. The rewards are worth it: reputation, gold, order resources (for more gold-generating missions), and the shot at a legendary item in the final chest are what keeps me doing them. After all, I got my one and only legendary to date through these.

But I also have no desire to spend longer than I absolutely have to running world quests every day. I make it a game to see how quickly I can blast through four quests, get my chest, and move on. After a couple of months of this, I have a few tips and strategies that I use that I thought I’d share to get your daily emissary quest done in record time.

Tip #1: Analyze the map

The very first thing I do is highlight all of the quests for a zone (or in the case of Wardens/Kirin Tor, where those quests are located), then quickly formulate my plan of attack. Quests that are close — or on — flight points get priority, as do any quests that are bunched together. Being able to hit two or three quests in a row without a lot of travel is key. I also try to factor in the five-minute cooldown on the flight whistle so that I’m not getting myself stranded or end up finishing a quest and then waiting two minutes for the cooldown.

Also, it’s important to realize which quests are too far out of the way — perhaps underground or requiring too much travel — and avoid those. That kind of comes with experience and knowing the map, but there are just some areas I won’t touch because the time wasted in getting there isn’t worth it.

Tip #2: Get and use the Rocfeather Skyhorn Kite

This free one-minute glider (on a 15-minute cooldown) is absolutely invaluable. It takes a little bit of work to collect the four pieces in Highmountain, but man is it worth it, especially in this pre-flight Broken Isles. I use it all of the time to quickly traverse terrain to get to a world quest quickly, especially when going from a very high to a low spot. The flight whistle is usually my return trip.

Tip #3: Prioritize single kills

Any quests that only require the death of a single mob are absolutely the first ones on my list. Players swarm to these and they can be done in well under a minute without any headache or stress. Even better, some of the elite one-kill mobs have terrific payouts. Sometimes you can finish these quests by getting in a single blow before the mob whittles them down, so don’t be afraid to rush in even if the mob is in combat.

Warden factions almost exclusively focus on one-kill mobs, I love those days. One day I had a string of three one-kill quests, all bunched together. Did all three in two minutes flat. It was amazing.

Tip #4: Group up

World quests, particularly the ones that require a lot of kills, are done much faster in a group, since the group can share kills. Download and use the world quest group finder to have the game automatically throw you into a group of nearby players, and you’ll find that these annoying quests get done in mere seconds.

Tip #5: Remember the easy quests

Some quests are much more simple to complete than others, and since they’ll be reused, you’ll have the opportunity to run them in the future. The mana racing cat quests, the enigma patterns, and the one where you’re a wisp in Val’Sharah are among my easy-peasy quest turnins.

Tip #6: Research and use the class order hall WQ skill daily

In what I believe was the fourth tier of class order hall abilities, I had the choice of an automatic world quest turn-in every 18 hours. This was an absolute no-brainer choice for me. Sure, it requires a 100 order hall resource cost to by the reagent, but considering I get a thousand or two resources a day from WQs, it’s no big deal. And it is a tremendous time-saver!

Basically, it brings the number of world quests you have to physically do every day down to three. And it’s a lot better to pick the three easiest and then use this skill to grab some hard-to-reach (non-elite) world quest for the fourth turn-in.

Depending on the faction and quests available, I can now get the emissary quest done in about 10-20 minutes. Some days take longer, some are shorter, but it’s a lot better than it was first starting out. Hope this helps!

My two MMO gaming strategies as of late

blog

At the beginning of 2016, I think I was focused on my new year’s resolution of trying to hunker down and commit to a single MMO for the bulk of my playtime. Now that the year is counting down its final days, I’m once again scattered to a good half-dozen or so titles. Instead of knowing exactly what I’ll be playing on a particular night, my evenings have become more fluid and shifting.

Since I certainly don’t have enough time to devote to all of the games equally and in great quantity, I have been resorting to two different strategies that have served me well. Nothing super-new, even for me, but I thought I’d talk about them once more.

Strategy #1: The blog post night

Sometimes I work pretty far ahead here on Bio Break; for instance, this post for Wednesday afternoon is being written on Sunday afternoon. I like having a buffer, particularly during busy weeks. But sooner or later, I come right up against needing a post for the next day, and I no longer have the luxury of writing stuff the morning of unless it’s an emergency.

So when I see that, say, it’s Tuesday and I have no Wednesday post, I’ll announce to myself that it’s a blog post night. That means that I will pick a game that hasn’t gotten coverage in a little bit and devote enough time to playing it to where I can get a story or post out of it. I focus more on documenting my journey, taking screenshots, and tabbing out of the game to work up the post. Generally this can take up a chunk of my evening’s game time, but I’m happy to do it. It’s a play-until-the-post-is-done kind of approach.

Strategy #2: The 30-minute session

If it’s not a blog post night, I’ve been utilizing my old “30-minute session” strategy instead. With this, I start a timer for 30 minutes when I log into a game, play it for a half-hour, then log out and into a different one with the timer goes off. I can generally cover at least three if not four titles during an evening this way, taking screenshots and maybe jotting down notes for future posts.

I know it sounds short and fragmented, but for me, this works. Thirty minutes is about my average play session in an MMO anyway, and the time limit keeps me focused (and not tabbing out to get distracted by reading various TV Tropes articles). I log in by asking myself the question, “What do I want to accomplish? What am I working toward?” and then do that thing. Maybe it’s one full mission in The Secret World. Maybe it’s covering more of a map in RIFT. Maybe it’s getting emissary quests and a little bit more done in World of Warcraft.

My only stumbling block here is the mental shift it takes to change up games every half-hour. Some nights I go with the flow and have no problems with the transitions, while others I’m scrambling to change finger memory and remember what I was doing last time and touch base with whatever guild I’m in in that game.

I used to play a solid 9:00 p.m. to midnight, even a few years ago. Now I’m around 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 or 11:00 instead. I don’t like stumbling from my computer into bed, bleary-eyed, but would rather have an hour to read or watch TV while I drift off.

Retro Reprise Episode 8: Sega Master System

sms

It was the 8-bit console pretty much nobody owned — and yet has endured longer than any console to date. The Sega Master System has a fascinating history and some (if not a ton of) great chiptunes. Give it a listen and you might learn a thing or two about the video game industry while rocking out to some great VGM!

Episode 8: Sega Master System (show page, direct download)

  • Intro
  • “Side-Crawler’s Dance” from Wonder Boy III
  • “Bridge Zone” from Sonic the Hedgehog
  • “First Stage” from Double Dragon (PSG vs. FM)
  • “Main Title” from Alien 3
  • “Push” from Zillion
  • “Medusa’s Lullaby” from Ecco II: The Tides of Time
  • Outro

6 reasons why LOTRO is still kind of rocking in its 10th year

lo1

Among the many MMOs I’ve been visiting this month, it was my return to Lord of the Rings Online that perhaps made me the most glad in my heart. I don’t think I realized how much I missed this game world until I came back after many months away only to find the heartbeat of Middle-earth still thrumming away.

When last I left — back on my old, faltering computer — I had just finished Update 18 and the Battle of Pelennor Fields. It felt as good a place as any to make a departure, having emerged victorious from a very long and trying battle (although far more interesting than epic battles of the past). But with Update 19 beckoning me to see what happens next, I return… and found myself mentally cataloging a whole bunch of reasons why this game isn’t quite as dead or antiquated as some might think.

lo2

So here are six quick reasons why LOTRO is still kind of rocking:

1. Beauty

Sure, it’s an aging game engine and some of the character models/poses/animations drive me nuts, but there is still a vast array of beauty on display in this game. I’m still deeply impressed that Turbine pulled off a huge and explorable Minas Tirith — three versions, depending on where you are in the storyline. Now that I’ve emerged post-battle, I’m treated to a Gondor where the sun is shining and a winsome countryside welcomes me. Even some of the interiors are quite detailed and lovely.

2. The music

We might be in the post-Chance Thomas era, but that doesn’t mean that good music isn’t being made for this game. There’s been a lot of terrific stuff put out for Gondor, the new housing area, and the Battle of Pelennor Fields that is worth listening.

3. The journey

Our trip through this game’s epic story might have taken a very roundabout way of getting to Mordor, but it’s been a progressive journey that connects all the way back to our start in Eriador to the gates of the Black Land itself. And what makes it worthwhile is that the journey has seen so many ups and downs, a quiet moment for every epic one, and a deep appreciation for the tale being told.

lo3

4. The world

I’m not as head-over-heels for Tolkien as some, but I have never encountered an MMO game world that feels so very world-like. This is a place that feels like it has history, culture, and cohesiveness. I find myself slipping into immersion so much easier because of that.

5. The community

I’ve come back to many MMORPGs after a long absence only to find my guild dissolved and the community on life support. Yet I can’t say this about LOTRO at all. My kin is always active and chatty, and I’m still seeing stories of how this tremendous community puts on regular events and encourages each other. Easily one of the best MMO communities out there and I love being a part of it.

lo4

6. The shouts

LOTRO is a shouty game. I used to find it slightly embarrassing and annoying for my — and everyone else’s — character to be shouting at various skill activations, but now it’s part of the charm. Come at me, bro, and I’m going to scream in your face when you do.

I’m kind of excited to see what next year’s expansion will be like, so for now I’ll be visiting LOTRO off and on to get reacquainted with my Captain and see her through the rest of Gondor.