Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Day of the Skeleton

Let me tell you, I had no idea what I was in for when I randomly picked The Rift as the next zone to explore in Elder Scrolls Online. It looked like a pleasant, alpine-ish zone — nothing too heavy, nothing too complicated. I was deceived, deceived I say! For what waited me was a chain of quests, each more horrific than the last.

I mean, there was the one where I drank a potion to turn my body inside-out so that I’d become a skeleton for a few minutes. That felt refreshing, thanks weirdo NPC! Actually, and I am being completely serious here, I would play the rest of this game as a skeleton if I had that option.

Then there was the quest in which witch-creatures kept sucking out everyone’s eyeballs, including your NPC guide. I couldn’t help but think that if the game was really daring, the last thing you’d see before your screen went dark forever was someone coming after your own character’s eyeballs.

Leave the eyes alone! Not cool, ZeniMax!

And just in case I wasn’t traumatized enough, then there’s a quest where you rip out some cultist’s heart and shove it into a corpse to reanimate her for the purpose of asking a simple question. Nevermind that she’s begging for death as she feels her body decomposing. This is family wholesome time!

Elder Scrolls Online rarely goes full on graphic-horror with its visuals… but with its descriptions and quest text? It can be darker than Stephen King if you’re not ready for it.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth returns! Sort of!

Last week I was stupidly excited to wake up to the news that Fallen Earth — one of my flawed MMO faves — is coming back as a “classic” server while work hopefully continues on a full-fledged restoration.

“I am happy to confirm that Fallen Earth Classic is going to be a real thing,” said Little Orbit’s Matt Scott. “We are now at the very late stages of getting the servers back online, and as some of you on Discord have noticed, parts of the game are responding again.”

Now, as much as I want to jump into my hype rocket and blast off, excitement may be both premature and overblown. So far, this is reactivating some of the old patched-up servers for free to tide players over for the (presumably) long wait to a true revamped version. We don’t quite know how this will function. And it probably will be, as Fallen Earth often was, a very niche-of-the-niche experience.

Still, I can’t wait to see this happen because Fallen Earth is the textbook definition of a flawed gem. So many flaws. So many. Yet it was an incredible game that delivered a singular experience with a melding of an apocalyptic wasteland, black humor, intricate crafting, six bizarre factions, and mutated critters out the wazoo.

So yeah, I totally am there for Day One. Even if a character on this server wouldn’t be able to have its progress ported over to the revamped game (if/when that happens), I’d still love to jump back in, explore, and do a modern blog series on it. I vividly remember how I felt two years ago when I logged in for the last day and felt that wistful twinge that told me how much I’d really want to come back to this. If I get a second chance, I’m not going to waste it.

Posted in General

Battle Bards Episode 203: The music of mobile MMOs

Episode 212: Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood Battle Bards

Battle Bards Episode 212: Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood
  1. Episode 212: Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood
  2. Battle Bards Episode 211: Shops and services
  3. Battle Bards Episode 210: Warframe

For this week’s episode, the Battle Bards turn their attention to an oft-neglected realm of MMO music — that of mobile titles. Will Steff walk into a pole while playing Pokemon Go? Will Syl instantly recognize an old musical favorite? Will Syp use the word “cacophony” at least once this hour? You’ll have to listen to find out!

Episode 203 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Take the Lead from AdventureQuest 3D, “Diagon Alley” from Harry Potter Wizards Unite, and “Track 7” from MapleStory M)
  • “Main Theme” from Order & Chaos Online

  • “Walking” from Pokémon Go

  • “Main Theme” from Another Eden

  • “Glish” from Black Desert Mobile

  • “Royal Fight” from Mobile Royale 

  • “Title Screen” from Epic 7 

  • “Airship Theme” from Stella Arcana

  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Friendly Necromancer
  • Jukebox picks: “Volcano” from The Flintstones SNES, “Dance of Illusions” from Castlevania Symphony of the Night, and “Into the Labyrinth” from Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
  • Outro (feat. “Bad Reputation” from Hearthstone)
Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

Wildermyth: Wandering with reckless abandon

It’s 10 years later for my Wildermyth party (who are now in their early 30s), the Bringers of the Things We Lost, and they are setting out once again. This time it’s to investigate the mother gorgon that they heard about previously, to see if they can track down the threat before it overwhelms the land.

On the way, however, Geeve decides this is a good time to bury the ashes of a storytelling friend. It’s a sweet little tale as the crew finds the spot where the storyteller wanted to buried, fight off a few bad guys, and in the end decide to enjoy nature rather than recall old stories.

Gorgons are finally spotted in some ruins, where a farmer is wandering around monster country. I’m getting better with the combat scenes, grouping up my party for added protection, forming a shield wall with my paladins, and using my mystic’s infusion ability to turn the environment against the bad guys. I love infusion, it’s really so much fun. After the fight, the farmer said that he’d heard of some sort of shrine that lends people extra power, so he’s been coming up here to try to access it and use it to protect his family (and goats).

The farmer chickens out of using the Stormwell, so Walshae does it instead. She gulps this magic water down and gets a big glowing star on her forehead. This makes the third party member I have with some sort of facial deformity. Just hope it was worth it.

With less than 300 days to get to the root of the Gorgon problem, the party heads to unknown territories. Along the way they stop in Pebbleham, where they pick up a fifth party member — Galadiel, a hunter who’s got a boasty mouth on her. I like her already. And then I promptly forget her in the town, which I don’t realize until I’m three tiles away, she’s not equipped, and I don’t have the time to go back and get her. What is my life?

Welshae encounters an ox with a strange growth on it. It talks to her mind, sketching out a map to the enemy before asking the party to put it out of its misery.

Let’s see… lot happens in this next tile. The company gets trapped in a cave, finds a mysterious underground temple, swipes a book, causes a second cave-in, then emerges to attack a group of baddies. Oh, and Walshae catches a cute little water spirit and forces it to transform into a stronger magic staff, because that’s what you do with cute things — make better loot.

With a single day left — yes, I was cutting it close to the wire — the company finds the big sentinel boss, claws, paws and all. Defeating it nets the team a tier 3 spear — and an endless wave of gorgons. All seems lost:

The company starts to make a run for it through a gauntlet of monsters in order to reach the exit on the far side of the map. I am on the edge of my seat right now, I kid you not. After a nailbiting set of rounds where everyone takes damage and dashes wildly for the exit, the company emerges from the cave system victorious — and with a weapon that buys them some time. Ten more years follow.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: A very Hobbity Halloween

While the Haunted Burrow is all the LOTRO Halloween I *need*, I can be greedy and want more. And that brings me to the fall festival’s OTHER great Halloween addition, Wistmead. It’s been a couple (few?) years since I stepped into this decidedly creepy realm, but I figured that a new character was a perfect chance to re-run the Bingo Boffin story series.

Oh man, I wish SSG would do more of these. The first is great, the second is fantastic.

Uncovering the mystery of “Eerie Acres” goes from taking this from a long-lost legend to a bittersweet tragedy to a present ghost story is so involving. What really tickles me here is that LOTRO does a few things with this quest series that it hasn’t anywhere else.

Such as, for example, taking us inside the postal office in Michel Delving. So well done, and I like how the letters are read with a ghostly blue hobbit standing in for the writer.

But the real pièce de résistance was the haunted barn that all of this leads up to. It would be a good showpiece by itself, but the quests before it really helped to set the scene for what’s to happen here. You know all of the creepy stories, you know some of the tragic tale of Cleary, and you’ve met the spectral presence.

I love the way that the house silently dissolves certain walls to show little dioramas from the creepy tales. Some are creepier than others, but the scarecrow man takes the cake for me. And how about those stairs that keep going and going and going up? By the time you get to the top, you almost don’t want to go into the attic.

Anyway, I know I wrote about this back in the day, but I quite enjoyed going through it again and thought I’d pile on a few more kudos for whoever made this quest.

Posted in Book of Travels

Book of Travels may be TOO relaxed for my tastes

With new games popping out of the woodwork and old MMOs capturing my imagination, I’ve had some difficulties scheduling time to play certain games. One title that I was not there for on Day One was Book of Travels. But hey, I figured it was only early access — two years until launch, apparently — and I could delay my initial foray a little.

This past week I finally did slot a few hours to explore what this micro-MMO had to offer. The character creation, while somewhat confusing (this whole game is “somewhat confusing”), is very involved — on par with Villagers and Heroes or Guild Wars 2, which I hold up as the gold standard in this space. I enjoyed picking out my background, rolling for my meager equipment, and generally getting into the headspace of my character.

The game itself? Well, it’s very pretty. I don’t really need to tell you that. It’s like you’re moving through a stylized watercolor or those old Japanese landscape paintings. Because my character was so small and so far away from the camera, I kept wanting to zoom in — but nothing doing. You get what you get, here.

As far as I can figure, you just wander around, heading for various landmarks that are on your map. There are plants that can be harvested for various items, some of which I could use for magic spells (which are called “knots” here), others that I could eat or barter. There are people and objects that can be clicked on to trigger conversations, events, or quests. But by and large, you simply walk. Walk walk walk walk. If you’re not in the headspace to casually stroll through an MMO, you very much should not play this.

I didn’t hate it, nor did I find enough initially to captivate me. It’s something to tinker with rather than dive into. I did appreciate that there were no limitations on where I could go, as the game gave me the freedom to pursue my own course and agenda, but it was almost too much freedom and lack of explanation that did me in. Random Wandering Online is not exactly the title I want to play for any length of time.

Still, it’s got a ways to go before it launches, so I’ll keep an eye on it and see how it shapes up over time.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Into the Rift charged the beetle-riding bear warrior

Between my Warden in Elder Scrolls Online and my Beorning in Lord of the Rings Online, “bears” seem to be a big theme with me these days. And I’m not even that crazy about bears in general! It’s just one of those things that worked out that way, because the Warden’s Bear is one of the more powerful MMO pets I’ve ever wielded, and the Beorning is a crazy ride in itself.

Anyway, heading into ESO for a topic today, after finishing up Vvardenfell I kind of threw a mental dart at my spreadsheet of unfinished zones and ended up picking The Rift out of it. There’s no rhyme or reason here, other than to change up the locale and setting. I knew nothing about this area other than the fact that my house is in it and I liked the alpine look of it all.

So far, it’s been agreeably middle-of-the-road fare. No real standout quests yet, but nothing too frustrating either, so I’ll chalk that up as a win. And it wasn’t before Minute Five that the main storyline of the zone sent me into a mine to fix some sort of issue. As I said a while back on Twitter, nothing EVER good happens in an Elder Scrolls Online mine. This game has more mines with more problems than I can count. I’m starting to develop the opinion that our characters should be equipped with explosives that would let us bring down the entrance to mine shafts whenever we find them and consider that we’ve done the world a favor and move on.

Hats off, by the way, to this Argonian player who had one of the most delightful Argonian-style names that I’ve seen. I had to send a congratulatory tell after spying her, because that deserves praise.

I’ve been trying to get in some more archaeology into my play sessions, but that always seems to be the first thing that slips my mind. And I like archaeology! I just wish I could finish up this first zone and move on, but this is insanely grindy right now. At least I’ve leveled up this skill enough to unlock some nice abilities for the two mini-games in the archaeology system.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

The cozy familiarity of LOTRO’s Haunted Burrow

On top of the craziness that was LOTRO’s Update 30.3 last week and the ensuing flood of Brawlers on every server, the patch also triggered the start of the Fall event. With a new character in dire need of some great cosmetics, I flocked to this really hard.

But there’s another reason I was glad to see the fall festival return, because it once again opened the doors of my favorite Halloween instance in an MMO, the Haunted Burrow. There’s something so special about this place that it feels comfortable and homey, even if it is kind of trying to be a spooky ooky place (from a Hobbit’s perspective).

Because it really does feel cozy, almost more than any MMO house I’ve made. I love the details, the decorations, the secret bookshelf doors, the now-familiar jump scares, the mystery wing, the attic… all of it. The sound design is second-to-none, also, and goes a long way to creating an atmospheric Halloween vibe.

And I can’t complain about the fact that if I’m not in the mood to run a bajillion fall festival quests, I still can come over to the burrow once an hour and grab a handful of free tokens and even some housing decorations. I’m not ashamed to admit that I log my character out in this room, set a timer while I’m doing daily tasks, and get into the habit of logging back in every 60 minutes for more freebies.

So here’s to the Haunted Burrow: One of the best additions to Lord of the Rings Online that the dev team ever fashioned.