World of Warcraft: Stabbing myself in the back

Let’s mark the time and call it: I think that, as of the end of May, I am officially done with World of Warcraft: Legion. The other night I wrapped up the final of the four pre-expansion allied race unlocks, babysitting Ms. Insecure Elf up here and ensuring the loyalty of her kin forever and ever.

With the four races, the class mounts for my two main characters, all major quest lines completed, and nothing much else to do, I’ve been finding myself logging in just to do routine money-making activities. Right now, I’ve ensured my subscription through the start of 2019, so even there I’m not feeling much motivation.

So what now?

Obviously, it would make a lot of sense to spin down my time in WoW and focus on other games, and I have been doing just that. But I also figured that with nothing else to do, I might as well roll up an alt and have some harmless fun.

Love this screenshot, by the way. I can almost never get good action shots.

Anyway, meet Sypstep the Rogue. This is virgin territory for me, the first Rogue I’ve ever rolled up in my memory. Certainly the first in a half-decade or so. As I outlined in a previous post, I’ve held a grudge against the class due to memories of being ganked by many a Rogue back on PvP servers and in battleground, and also the perception that it was an overplayed class with not a lot of complexity to it.

I didn’t have much to lose with this, other than a bit of time (and if I exchanged that for enjoyment and fun, so much the better. If I hated it, no worries, I could discard it whenever. And if it turned out to be something? I’ve found a way to pass the next two-and-a-half months in the game.

Princess! I had totally forgotten about you! When’d you get that prize ribbon, you beautiful beast you?

So far, I’ve clocked a few nights in with Sypstep, and it’s gone a lot better than I had anticipated. It’s a fast, fluid class, and I really like the whole concept of the Outlaw Rogue. It partially fills my own desire for a fencing or duelist class, and I splurged on a rapier with a blue weapon effect that I can transmog when I’m level 57 or so. The occasional use of a pistol is neat as well, and I’m very intrigued by a mid-level skill that will apparently let me charm humanoids and make me use them as five-minute pets. Temporary pets? Sure, I’ll take that!

While I’ve rolled the most vanilla of vanilla races, a Human, it was partially out of my desire to re-experience some of my favorite old zones in the game. Westfall brought the feels — ALL the feels, even though the whole quest structure is different post-Cataclysm.

I figure that if we’re sticking around at the tail end of an expansion, we have to make our own fun. And right now, this Rogue is it for me. Might not be tomorrow, but at least I’m getting outside my comfort zone in this game.

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LOTRO: Spider-hunting in Mirkwood

Free of the Elven-king’s halls — at least for the time being — I made it the goal of my weekly LOTRO session to get a big multi-stage quest finished. Spoiler: I did not. In my defense, it was one of those “spread out from here to Timbuktu” quests and I had no knowledge of the area at all.

Navigating was the major issue with this play session, and it did not get easier as time went by. Not only was it nighttime, which in LOTRO can be awful dark sometimes, but both the minimap and the main map were of little help. Sometimes in dense canopies, LOTRO likes to throw up walls in the forms of small cliffs and trees that makes it difficult to figure out how to get from A to B. I spent 10 minutes following a line of rock until I found a break that let me through to a different area.

While navigating was an absolute pain, at least I was rewarded with an atmospheric tour of a spooky forest in the dead of the night. With the ambient noises, mist, and sharp shadow effects, I got drawn into this place and kept stopping to try to take screenshots. It being very dark, most didn’t turn out that well.

I found some of my quest objectives but not all. This isn’t Mordor, of course, but the high mob health still makes fighting a slightly-too-long affair. Long gone are the days when I could tag several mobs at once and enjoy watching my lynx take them out. Now I throw all of my spells on a mob and go hunt around the kitchen for a snack. Gonna be a while.

Just wanted to say that I was really proud of getting this particular screenshot in the middle of a battle with less than 8K health left. Dumb pet went on vacation or something.

Like many MMORPGs, LOTRO does love its giant spiders. I would almost say that it loves them more than normal, as we see these big critters across the world. I guess we should blame The Hobbit for this. Actually, this area was where Bilbo fought the giant spiders, and in one spot, blue flavor text popped up with quotes from the book.

I don’t care one way or the other about giant spiders other than a slight exasperation at their overuse. I had a hard time finding enough of them to fight, as it seemed like every other one was glitched into a tree or something. Kind of felt bad for them. Come here, little fella. Syp’ll take you home.

After 45 minutes of stumbling around in the dark, I called it for the night. Just wasn’t that fun with the lights off and slow progress. Better luck next time!

Battle Bards Episode 121: Myst Online

The world’s first, best, and only MMORPG music podcast is back to venture into a rather obscure title, Myst Online! The Battle Bards delve into this odd, atmospheric soundtrack that isn’t quite like what we’re used to hearing in online games. There’s some love, some hate, some snark, and some indigestion. Also, we discover several of Syl’s greatest fears and force her to live through them.

Episode 121 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Spore Me,” “Convergence,” and “Kadish Tolesa Future Vault”)
  • “Badlands”
  • “Trailer Music”
  • “Yeesha’s Theme”
  • “Out of the Hive”
  • “Burn You Up, Burn You Down”
  • “K’veer”
  • “Air Stream”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener Notes: MP and Scott
  • Jukebox Picks: “Menu” from Pocket Mine, “Theme 3” from Doom 2016, and “City Chicks” from Pit People
  • Outro (“Gallery Theme”)

Try It Tuesday: Dauntless

Since approximately a quarter of the world’s population — according to the sky-high queue numbers — was attempting to log in to Dauntless’ open beta this past weekend, I thought I would do the same. Seemed like an attractive title done by some ex-Blizzard folks, so why not? And never underestimate the draw of free-to-play, even in the grand year of 2018.

I have not understood the whole “monster hunter” genre nor partaken up to this point. If I am correct, it’s essentially “Raid Boss: The Game” where all you do is fight a mega-boss… and then another… and then another. With a whole lot of action combat and some expected crafting along the way. It’s like an MMO if you stripped it down to some of its lesser interesting parts.

After giving Dauntless a few hours, I am sure that I still don’t quite get the appeal of these games. I was bored, antsy, and ready to be done with it.

Character creation was fine. Adequate. In a really weird move, you initially have to pick out two pre-created “ancestors” and then mold the resulting blend of the two. No matter who I picked I ended up with a severe-looking and somewhat off-putting character. At least I could amuse myself by putting facial hair on women. Yes, I am 10 years old.

The visuals and especially the characters reminded me of a slightly less good-looking Landmark. If nothing else, I miss that game for its style. Really grooved on all of that.

There weren’t any classes from which to choose, so I got the default sword and eventually changed over to chain blades. Right now there are five weapon types, so I guess five “classes.” Seems kind of thin to me. Would have loved a machine gun or bombs or something. Going toe-to-toe with giant monsters seems kind of suicidal to me.

As far as I could ascertain, the basic gameplay loop is this: You accept a mission to kill a giant behemoth and then are ported to a floating island containing just one of these. You and your few silent player friends run around picking flowers and trying to find the boss, sending up a flare when one of you does. Then you engage in a boss fight that lasts shy of forever. It’s not helped by the fact that there is no on-screen indicator (that I could tell) informing you of how much life the boss has left. You just slash and cut and watch damage numbers go by, occasionally taking a breather to quaff a potion.

The combat, which is definitely the meat and the potatoes, is mostly fluid and involves some combos on your part and a variety of moves on the boss’. Everything’s controlled by mouse, so you only have a light and heavy attack and have to do them in a certain pattern to trigger a combo. I was horrible at this, but what did it matter? Slash slash, guy’s going to die one day anyway.

The combination of action combat, a boss with no health meter, and very simple moves (with no special abilities like what I would get in an MMO) quickly turned me off to the whole process. If I’m going to be clicking this much, I might as well be playing Diablo or something else that pays off with a lot more loot.

Between missions you head back to Ramsgate, the main town hub. It’s quite attractive (I can’t really fault the game’s style and design) but there was no life to it. People just ran in, got missions and did crafting, and ported back out for the next mission.

Maybe there’s something more to these types of games that I’m not getting. Maybe it’s just not the kind of game for me. I can accept that. But no matter what, Dauntless was not successful in piquing my interest or retaining me as a future player.

DDO: Sealed in Amber

Our adventures in Fantasy Transylvania continue with Sealed in Amber, a quest that seems to exist to confuse me as to the overarching storyline. I sort of get that everyone is against Strahd, but at this point I’ve rescued several people and ancient artifacts that were supposed to strike a blow against him, and all I’ve gotten for my troubles is more quests to rescue people and find ancient artifacts. Maybe I’m in the gameplay loop from hell.

Anyway, here’s another quest to find some doohickey. And it’s being given to me by a Dusk Elf, which you know is a good sign. Let’s count down the minutes until he messes things up well and good.

Oh hey, it’s Creepy Tarot Lady! She’s here to give me the randomized location of the sacred doohickey. I like how the statue in the background seems to be mimicking her (or vice-versa).

So today’s adventure takes place in the Amber Temple, which is a pretty big diversion from the whole Transylvania/old world feel of the expansion so far. It’s almost Persian in its looks and vastly irritating in execution. Probably one of my bigger video game pet peeves is when you have to go key hunting to open certain doors to find more keys to open more doors to find keys… etc. And that’s really what this quest is all about. There are four passwords hidden around, each opening certain doors. Add to that a few teleporters, several secret doors, and one room that’s filled with nothing but levers, and you get a one hour and fifteen minutes of my life trying to unlock this place fully.

There are also these amber sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?) lying around, and most will talk to you. Reading the flavor text and interacting with them was the only real joy I got from the quest, as there is some neat bits of writing. They all offer an hour-long buff, but that also comes with an enemy spawn, so I gave up doing that after a while.

LEVERS! YOU MUST PULL ALL THE LEEEEVERRRRRSSS

Bored NPCs have put together a to-scale model of Castle Ravenholt. Maybe they’re running their own D&D campaign in it. Ooh! Meta!

The Dusk Elf from the beginning ends up gaining the power to resurrect the dead, which he uses to bring back his long-lost sister. It’s all very sudden and done without thinking things through, which should probably have happened because…

The sister is (le gasp) evil — and the proposed bride that the expansion has been hinting at for a while now. This is my not-shocked-at-all-face at seeing an elf betray us all to the vampire tyrant. Also, I was scratching my head when she said this was all part of her plan — what, to get killed, rot away to bones, and hope your brother would resurrect you so you could make another pass at Strahd?

Strahd seems momentarily intrigued by her offer of ending the curse in exchange for an Elf + Vampire theme wedding, but then he gets paranoid and kills her (again). On a separate note, I do not want to work for Strahd. Dude is high maintenance.

Some developer obviously had a good laugh at putting a chest on the ceiling. I think it’s supposed to be a mimic that drops down on you, but I was fleeing from an immortal, unkillable ditzy lich at the time and couldn’t stick around to see that happen.

6 dark horse MMOs that could surprise me

Following yesterday’s list, today I wanted to continue to look ahead at upcoming MMOs that have piqued my interest. The six that I’m going to list here are anything but sure bets (even in this industry). They have weird concepts, unproven dev teams, or might not end up being my type of game when I actually do play them. But here we go with 6 dark horse MMO candidates!

1. Identity

I’m probably one of the few people in the world that follow this project regularly, but that’s because I really do appreciate the ambition of bringing an MMO “life simulator” to bear. Might just be bland PvP in a modern setting, but I think there’s a lot of potential for a contemporary MMO that allows you to live out different virtual lives.

2. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

This may well be the closest we’ll ever come to an actual Harry Potter MMORPG, and the whole mobile ARG angle seems like it could work. But I wasn’t that bowled over by Pokemon Go, and I don’t know if I’ll have the time or interest to putter around the town waving my phone at other people. Plus, we haven’t heard a peep out of this project since last November.

3. Pantheon

In my opinion, too many of these upcoming MMOs are leaning hard on the crutch of PvP to fill content gaps, so any title that makes PvE a priority has my attention. I haven’t held the greatest respect for this project over the last few years, but the team has stuck with it and is starting to produce an actual playable MMO. Maybe it’ll be worth checking out? It’s gone from a no-prospect to a possibility in my view.

4. Legends of Aria

Aria gets points in my book for making the move MORE toward an MMO over the course of its development and for a charming stylized look. Plus I’m kind of cheering on this small and scrappy team. On the minus side, lots of PvP and no huge word-of-mouth recommendations as of yet.

5. Amazon’s New World

Is New World still a thing? Will this be so PvP that I might as well bury my carebear nose back in World of Warcraft? We’re hearing rumblings that Amazon might be talking about this game soon, and the combination of an alternative history setting and Amazon’s deep pockets and desire to prove itself could result in something worth playing. I’m very uncertain on it right now, however.

6. Chronicles of Elyria

I cannot tell you how torn I am on this project. Almost daily I go from being absolutely convinced that we’re seeing a trainwreck in the making to nursing a grudging respect for the sheer vision that’s at work here. In short, I like a lot of the ideas that this studio has put forth, and I also hate a lot of its ideas and think that they’ll really work against the game’s favor (especially selling nobility packages and putting a huge emphasis on PvP). But we haven’t ever seen a development process quite like this, including creating a visual MUD to test out the core gameplay systems before the graphics are created and instituted. I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I’m following it.

6 upcoming MMOs that have my full attention

I tend to group online games that have my interest into three categories: MMOs I’m currently playing, MMOs I kind of want to play but have no time at the moment, and MMOs I want to play but aren’t out or finished yet. Today I want to talk about that last category as I’ve been revising my list of my top most wanted games right now in May 2018. Which have my full interest?

1. Ashes of Creation

I still hold some reservations about this title and how it’ll be able to strike a balance between the PvE and PvP halves of the game, but man, does it ever hit on so many must-have features for me including housing, a changing world, and flexible class systems. The team’s been really quiet over the past half-year or so, which I attribute to running the Alpha Zero and actually making the game. I kind of wish they’d be more regular with developer diaries and videos, however.

2. Project Gorgon

You may have noticed that after a couple of sessions following the early access release, I haven’t been talking about Gorgon much. That’s because the framerate performance was abysmal in Serbule and I realized that as much as I like this game, it’s still not quite fully baked yet. Might just be worth waiting for the full launch later this year. Plus, where are my knife-wielding faeries?

3. Peria Chronicles

Here’s a title we haven’t heard much about AT ALL, but what we do know is downright intriguing. It’s a beautiful-looking sandbox in the vein of what EverQuest Next was supposed to be, and I really want to hear more about it and get it over to the west already.

4. Cryptic’s Magic: The Gathering MMO

Speaking of titles that we know little about, apart from the initial announcement last year, we haven’t heard a peep out of Cryptic’s next MMO. But I know I’ll be playing it, because I have a soft spot for Cryptic’s games and the Magic setting seems like an untapped (har har) field for MMOs.

5. Dual Universe/Worlds Adrift

I can’t really separate these two games in my head, as they’re both competing for the same area of my attention. Make your own ships, explore worlds/islands, have a blast. Worlds Adrift just came out on early access and Dual Universe is coming along nicely. Both might be a nice change of pace from my normal MMO, and I’m rooting for both to succeed.

6. City of Titans/Valiance Online/Ship of Heroes

We need a hero. A superhero. Scratch that, a superhero MMORPG — and thank goodness that there are three of them in the making. I’m always concerned about smaller indie projects, because without deep pockets and resources, they seem at a disadvantage to really making it. But three of them? Chances are that one will be decent (fingers crossed), and I’m really jonesing for City of Heroes-style gameplay as of late.

Tune in tomorrow, when I continue this list with six dark horse MMOs that could surprise us all!