Posted in The Secret World

Secret World Legends: Interlude

With Transylvania done and done, I should have been ready to move on to Tokyo… but there were a few distractions along the way. First up? The new Jack ‘O Lantern raids, which I ran a few times on the hour to unlock those pumpkin boxes. Got a few nice cosmetics, but seeing as how I’m really happy with my current outfit, I’m not as motivated to chase clothing right now.

Side note: That “Happy Halloween” sign is the same one used in Funcom’s Hide and Shriek. Just a small observation.

I also ran the Meowling quest for Halloween, more out of principle than any real personal interest. I miss the other seasonal missions, and I guess I felt that I needed to at least do this to keep the holiday alive. At least I was reminded what a gorgeous place Stonehenge is first thing in the morning (or last thing in the evening?).

Was also reminded what a hideous beast the Cat God is. Not that I like cats very much even on their nice days, but still…

Probably the most disquieting part of this storyline is this line by the Madam after she read Andy’s future. Is it referring to his love life… or something far worse? Don’t hurt Andy, Funcom! There will be riots in the street!

I also went over to the Council of Venice for the connective mission. At least now, with the rework, we don’t have to grind scenarios or pay through our nose for a pass. Just one relatively easy fight and then we’re moving on!

Posted in Try It Tuesday

Try-It Tuesday: Divinity Original Sin 2

Every so often, I break out of my gaming routine to try something new and different. These turn into my Try-It Tuesday sessions, and they are a mixed bag indeed!

Shoutout today to @Lord_Dolvic, who graciously gifted me a copy of this game earlier this month. It’s been on my short list of “must play soon,” but vacation and work kept conspiring against me, and I wanted to block off a nice chunk of time for my first session or two. This past weekend I got it, and so here it goes!

I guess this game is the most recent sequel of one of my old cult favorite RPGs, 2002’s Divine Divinity. There was a Divinity Original Sin 1 a year or two back, but that passed me by (as do so many CRPGs these days, alas) and I didn’t hear many people playing it. But this one? It was getting smothered in kudos after its launch, and when I read some of these and listened to word-of-mouth on it, I knew I wanted to give it a try. Basically, it’s a nearly-anything-goes fantasy RPG that truly encourages character roleplay. I’m down for that, so let’s get started!

I heard two pieces of advice for this game: to pick one of the origin characters so as to be treated to a deeper character story, and to pick “pet pal” so that you can talk to animals. Thus, I’m going with Lohse for this playthrough. She’s a former musician and entertainer who’s also plagued with some sort of dark spirit that’s trying to take over. I decided to make her a Conjurer so that I could whip up some pets. I also got the opportunity to pick her musical instrument (I went with the lute-like oud).

The story begins with Lohse waking up on a prison ship, where she’s on her way to an island where they keep spellcasters. She’s got a nice anti-magic collar (which doesn’t seem to stop magic casting in combat, I noticed) and a pocket full of resentment and jocularity.

The moment I knew I was going to like this game was the moment that it let me equip a bucket as a helmet. Yes, this is my sort of setting.

So Lohse explores the ship and meets several other colorful prisoners as well as her captors. There’s a brutally murdered prisoner about, but the “mystery” is solved rather quickly and the whole place becomes a rather impressive staging ground for a sea assault by a giant death squid-thing.

Pet pal perk totally paying off so far! I literally cannot wait until I find more animals to chat up. So far I’ve found one sheep, two dogs, and one somewhat blind cat.

It really is a rather slick game, from what I’ve seen so far. I didn’t have a hard time getting the hang of it, and the turn-based combat was as clear and intuitive as I could have asked for. Lots of options for varied development, so I am concentrating on my summoning abilities and some one-handed weapon fighting.

After the events of the ship, Lohse washes up on shore, because you can’t have an RPG where this doesn’t happen! Happily, the bucket is intact (I did ditch it a little later because it was dragging my initiative down). I wandered about this somewhat nice island where I met back up with my former cellmates, forming a full party in record time. There was also a little kid who totally freaked out when he used a magic mirror on me and said that I was a thing wearing a human shell, which is somewhat disconcerting.

I took my time and leisurely explored the first half of the island before heading into the ghetto. Some interesting encounters, and I’m starting to get a feel for the world and its backstory. Generally I’m trying to be a good person, but I didn’t hesitate in stealing an enforcer’s camp and killing her when she stepped in to say something. On the flip side, I did save an Elf, which I’m sure I’ll come to regret greatly later on.

Great start so far, and I’m feeling quite interesting in the format and story of this game. Feels like there’s a ton to do, so a bit at a time until I get the hang of it!

Posted in General

4 of my favorite MMO crafting experiences

Crafting in MMORPGs simply is not something I do very often, for a variety of reasons. I feel it’s somewhat futile if I try to start long after a game launches, it usually ends up being a huge money sink, and the benefits rarely outweigh the effort and resources that it takes. Still, I like the *idea* of crafting an awful lot and can see why survival sims have been taking off over the past few years.

When I think of it, I’ve had four great crafting experiences across my MMORPG career. They are:

1. Fallen Earth

Since pretty much everything good in the game has to be made by hand, crafting is presented as a core gameplay feature rather than a side activity. I absolutely loved it, and the whole gathering/crafting loop fit in so well with the post-apocalyptic setting. The crafting queue (which ran whether you were online or off) was strangely satisfying, and the day I finally made my own motorcycle was one of the greatest achievements in my gaming history.

2. World of Warcraft

Prior to Burning Crusade, I decided that I would try my hand at crafting as an engineer. The sole reason for this was for engineer-exclusive toys that only such characters could use, like the rocket boots and parachutes. Yeah, it was a complete money sink and took way too long to level, but I had a lot of fun doing it and ended up with a gyro-helicopter when flying was added to the game. Awesome stuff.

3. Lord of the Rings Online

Apart from dabbling in crafting when the game first released, the only real time that I poured effort into it was when I decided that I needed to be a scholar to make potions. I guess it was OK, but all I remember was hunting down scraps of ancient texts in ruins for hours on end while everyone else was off saving Middle-earth.

4. WildStar

While I was not the biggest fan of WildStar’s bizarre crafting system (which did try, to be fair, to add some strategy to a routinely dull activity), I poured a lot of time into leveling up an architect to make housing items. As a housing junkie, this was a perfect fit and I ended up churning out a lot of great items that went right into my abodes.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: Kobold throwdown

Time for another trio of Dungeons and Dragons Online quests in the Harbor. Let me start out by saying that I think DDO kind of shoots itself in the foot with many of the Harbor quest settings. There are just too many generic warehouses and sewers with a uniformly blah color scheme, and this does the game a disservice. You think that DDO would want to front-load beautiful, exotic, and exciting settings, but nah, here’s another river of drab olive sludge to climb through. Good thing it’s still pretty fun.

I’m pretty sure that I do not play DDO in the proper way, because my Gnome keeps running-and-gunning like she’s in Quake or something. It’s remarkably relaxing and fun to do this, just pew pew pew all over the place and watch things die. My robot dog rarely gets to kill things, that’s how fast I’m slaughtering the population. Probably should just run dungeons on elite from now on.

I did like the second quest a lot, which had me barge into a casino and wreck the place up. Seriously, that was pretty much the whole quest: destroy gaming tables and beat up a few guards. It was all over in about a minute and a half, including the secret boss that the mission objectives didn’t tell me about (I love secrets!).

Small video game guilty pleasure: taking my picture in a mirror whenever a video game actually bothers to reflect the room.

The last quest was a doozy — and absolutely a high point of my gaming week. I was tasked with protecting some large crate for the Coin Lords in a warehouse while swarms of kobolds came at it from all sides. And I do mean SWARMS. I must have killed about a hundred or so within the five minutes that the quest timer allocated, and it was a nail-biting experience all of the way.

I got a kick out of the fact that I got to squash kobolds. Poor kobolds, the fantasy equivalent of stormtroopers. Nobody respects them and they’re just there to die in large numbers while being oddly endearing. I love the little quotes that these critters occasionally said as they rushed forward to their doom.

As I said, this quest was a frantic, down-to-the-last-second fight… and I died. I died and I won. I’m not even joking; the counter clicked down to zero as I was fending off about 15 kobolds at once, and a nasty string of stuns and my dog dying (which causes me to lose about 20 or so hit points) finished me off. Yet the mission successfully completed even as I crumpled to the floor, so I didn’t mind so much. I’ll reap the rewards in the next life.

Posted in General

5 of my favorite MMORPG Halloween memories

I find it dismaying how much I forget of years gone by but also thankful to records like blogs and pictures that help to retain and trigger some of those memories. So while I’m sure that I’ve forgotten many a great MMO Halloween event, here are six that stick out in my mind as some of my favorites.

1. Fighting the Headless Horseman in World of Warcraft

This is just such an iconic and fun event that’s been around for so, so long… and yet I love doing it pretty much every year. This spectral loudmouth spouts these ridiculous rhymes, taking us through a fight as familiar as riding a bike at this point. It’s all located right in the middle of Scarlet Monastery, which seems absolutely perfect for a Halloween throwdown, and I think part of the fun is desperately hoping that this time, this time will be the time that his mount drops. Probably won’t, however.

2. Going through WildStar’s Shade’s Eve instance

WildStar really did Halloween right when it finally came out with it. Probably a year or so too late to make an impression on a larger audience, but oh well, they are missing out on something spectacular. Among all of the terrific activities is a special dungeon that involves traipsing over a countryside, trying to connect with your teammates, and fighting off spooks and shadelings until you get to a ridiculously over-the-top fight. Just terrific, screenshot-worthy stuff.

3. Finding out that The Secret World was like Permanent Halloween: The MMO.

Whenever I find myself missing Halloween a little too much in an inappropriate time of year, I just head back to Kingsmouth in Secret World for the perfect atmosphere and, like, every horror trope ever. Old gods, drowned creatures, zombies, ghosts, ravens… the works.

4. Playing through LOTRO’s Haunted Burrow for the first year

Oh, I’ve loved the Haunted Burrow every year since, but its debut year was a truly special occasion. I fell instantly in love with this quirky, Hobbit-themed haunted house. There’s nothing else out there quite like it, and I probably didn’t leave it for a good two or three weeks solid after first walking through its doors.

5. Mad King Thorn’s silly puns in both of the Guild Wars games

Yeah, who doesn’t love this insane king that, year after year, returns to make us all grovel at his every whim, all for the chance of getting some bizarre loot? I feel a particular bond with Mr. Thorn and appreciate every dad joke he’s given to the community.


Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Bloody Gore

You know that things were getting bad when I consider a blood-red swamp of misery to be a marked improvement on the landscape of Mordor so far. But it’s true. Also, hi Puddleglum peeking out of the right side of the frame!

To be honest, I had just about had it with LOTRO’s Talath Úrui. I know I’ve complained about this before, so I’ll keep it short here, but it’s a simply miserable zone in design, looks, and especially quests. The whole place is “take two steps, walk into a giant public dungeon area, spend the next three days slowly finishing quests in it, rinse and repeat.” There’s so little imagination on display and the quest flow is so poorly constructed that it just feels like the devs threw up their hands and surrendered when it came to this place.

And so I was more than ready to move on when I’d finished the epic story in that area. On to the last zone of the expansion, Agarnaith!

Agarnaith, or the “Bloody Gore,” is a huge shift from the ash-strewn volcano zones that mostly came before. Like Lhingris, it offers some visual relief with lighter skies and actual vegetation. Granted, it all looks like the place was just visited by the elevator from The Shining, but I can deal with that. And actually, it’s a really unusual and somewhat unique look for MMOs. Can’t think of too many other zones that feature a red swamp, although LOTRO did have one once before (Agamaur in the Lone-lands).

It all feels so much better to be questing here. The mob density, at least in the first half of the zone, is more typical LOTRO and not the crazy-packed insanity of some other parts of Mordor. And even better is the travel: The valley here is mostly wide-open, so there’s little in the way to keep you from picking a path and going. I don’t usually like it when MMOs hem me in overmuch in zone design.

I do have concerns about the big fortress that I see on the horizon and its difficulty, but then, it’s only one after I’ve already braved a half-dozen or so Mordor strongholds to date.

Posted in Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 108: Vampires and werewolves

Here’s a musical episode that you can really sink your teeth into! Your… ear teeth? In any case, the Battle Bards are evaluating our Dark Masters this Halloween season to see which has the best music: vampires or werewolves. It’s a sinister, gothic show with several first-time MMO appearances for the podcast, so check it out!

Episode 108 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Gilneas” from World of Warcraft, “Werewolf Camp” from Forsaken World, and “Transylvanian Rain” from The Secret World)
  • “Clan (Pride Theme)” from Wolfteam
  • “Werewolf” from Neverwinter
  • “Main Theme” from Requiem
  • “Kindred Village” from Forsaken World
  • “Palace of the Dead Floors” from Final Fantasy XIV
  • “Concordia” from Dark Eden
  • “Hunter’s Creed” from Darkfall
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox picks: “No Heaven” from Borderlands, Music Respawn show, “Sanctuary” from Destiny 2
  • Outro (“Cathedral of Eternal Night” from World of Warcraft)
Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: Livin’ the drood life

Following my post last week about pining for an MMO home and reading the great responses that several readers gave to it, I decided that time for pining was over. Action was needed! Big, feathery, fluffy action!

And so I started to map out a strategy for playing multiple MMORPGs that I’m calling the “mall plan.” The idea here is to structure one’s focus around a single large anchor game (much like how a shopping mall has large anchor stores) to be a consistent, main focus, and then free up space for as many satellite games to revolve around it. I’m not lacking in satellite games, just the main one. And so for now, I’m going to play it safe by heading back to World of Warcraft.

It’s not just for the purpose of this plan. I’ve been thinking of it more and more lately, now that I’ve had a few months off, and fall always seems the time each year that I feel most strongly compelled to play this game. Maybe it’s because WoW came out in fall 2004, maybe it’s just the feeling of hunkering down in the house as the weather turns colder, I don’t know. There’s some connection there, however.

I do know that I’m not rushing back to play my Death Knight, at least not right away. I love her, but I need a project to work on, and other than going to Argus for whatever reason, she’s in a good place. So I hemmed and hawed and ultimately decided that I wanted to have a healer as a second main. And for me, this meant going back to my Druid.

It wasn’t a difficult choice; I love this character and the sheer utility that it provides. She’s a great healer who can also shapeshift into Moonkin for some decent damage. She’s got an instant flight form, and now I can fly all over the Broken Isles in a way that I couldn’t when I was originally leveling up my DK. And I have that awesome Emerald Dreamway port that can take me pretty much anywhere across the world. It feels like a great character to work on, so why not?

The first night, after transferring some gold over and cleaning up her bags, I took my Druid for a spin through a few quests to get a feel for movement and combat. She’s really right at the beginning of the Legion expansion, having just gotten her artifact weapon, so I’m way far behind the endgame crowd. But I don’t feel any pressure to speed up or despair at all of the zones to finish, just a general contentment that she’s got plenty to do.

Combat was surprisingly great. I don’t know if they’ve beefed up the sounds and visuals for the Druid’s spell attacks, but they seemed to have more “punch” than I remembered. I got a good rotation going and figured out which protective and healing spells I could use in Moonkin form, then started to go to town on quests.

Next up was taking her for a test drive through a timewalking dungeon as a healer. And that was, more or less, OK. We made it, no wipes, but I did lose a couple of players on two of the boss fights. There are a lot of healing and protective spells that I need to refamiliarize myself with, and really the best way to do that is just to run dungeons enough so that it becomes second nature. I think I’m going to try to run at least one a night when I’m playing WoW to polish those skills.

I will say that I am dying to know what Blizzard is going to reveal about the next expansion come BlizzCon next month. I’m sure it will take some of the wind out of the sails of people working through content right now, but it should also have a revitalizing effect. Legion did keep up with Blizzard’s promise of more regular and beefy updates, but the future past this point is largely a big question mark. I hope we’ll hear a few great surprises, and I do want to know what’s going to happen to these artifact weapons everyone’s poured so much time in preparing.

Maybe we’ll get to hang them up in our garrisons?

Posted in The Secret World

Secret World Legends: Transylvania turn-in

Forget the dead man in the middle of the room; I get more creeped out when I think of these poor brainwashed, superpowered children carefully arranging all of these dolls and scratching the lyrics to their mind-controlling lullaby all over the place. I can’t even get my kids to pick up their own room half the time, and yet these kids took all this time to set up the creepiest tableau possible in the midst of a prison break? I find it a little far fetched.

Also, I am of the opinion that this above room is far more terrifying. Don’t know why, exactly, but it does freak me out. Perhaps it’s the security camera in the corner up there…

Anyway, this past week I finally wrapped up Transylvania. It wasn’t too tough, just took me a while to get through the last dozen quests that used to make up the “endgame” of pre-Tokyo The Secret World back in the day. And yes, we’re using the phrase “back in the day” now with TSW.

As with before, I enjoyed the conclusion, and I do agree that the rearrangement of the Hatchet Falls/Nursery questline was best put after the whole vampire showdown. It’s a good segue into Venice and Tokyo beyond, and every time I hear that firefighter ask Emma her name and she says “Anima,” I get chills.

I’m taking a half-hearted stab at doing The Meowling mission for the Halloween event, but it really is half-hearted because (a) it was always the least-most interesting Halloween mission TSW ever made, and (b) for whatever reason, the developers didn’t include all of the more recent Halloween missions this year. And that bites. I was really looking forward to Spooky Stories, the Broadcast, etc. But no, we just get the Cat God and one semi-reworked Jack fight. That feels kind of lame to me. Thus, I’m trying to blow through this quickly to move on to Tokyo and try to stay on pace for catching up before the end of the year.

Posted in Retro Gaming

KOTOR 2: Goto’s Yacht

(This is part of my journey going playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The trap has been set — and perhaps too well, because I’ve been captured and taken to Goto’s yacht. The holographic mob boss has an odd conversation with me in which he attempts to give me some sort of verbal support and encouragement, saying that the Republic is going to collapse and that I need to forestall this from happening. But then he keeps me prisoner anyway, so what the heck, Goto?

I do wish that we could meet the programmer behind the HK droids and ask what kind of messed-up logic chains he or she used when making these murderbots.

I’m given the strange task of rescuing myself, and so I pick Kreia and Visas, mostly for healing and raw destructive power. Actually, Kreia is overpowered in this setting, because she’s got a deep pool of Force points and has the “destroy droid” skill. This is a nasty chain attack that absolutely devastates pretty much all droids in a room and trivializes any battles. And considering that Goto’s yacht is nothing but droids, I’m on easy street.

It doesn’t take too long before I find myself (whoa, deep) and strike out looking for vengeance. Oh, it’s on, now.

As we clear out the yacht, I came upon this window and thought it was a particularly striking view. Thought I should share it. You’re welcome.

Anyway, bounty hunters pour in, we slay all, we escape, Goto’s yacht is blown up by some self-destruct because why not.

But Goto isn’t dead, of course. He tosses me a droid to join my crew, and I don’t think it’s worth pretending to be ignorant any longer about the big ‘twist’ here — that the droid IS Goto… or G0-T0. Anyway, wicked awesome to have one of those interrogation bots on staff, but I think I’m going to stick with Visa Card and Murder Wookiee for my team going forward.