Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Haunted inns and level caps

Minstrel report

Syppy the Minstrel finally wandered into the Mirkwood’s famous Haunted Inn, playing a tune or two while drying off in front of the fireplace. From there, it was off to tackle the dozen or so quests from this hub amid the shadows and shapes of the bare trees. I think that one of the coolest facets of this zone is how much of it is pretty monochrome, leaving you to suck in breath in wonder when you do pop back to a zone full of color.

I guess it’s not completely devoid of color; really, it matters where you are and the weather/time of day. But everything is definitely muted here. In any case, turning in the first batch of Haunted Inn quests brought me up to 62, so I’m making SOME progress!

In between doing inn quests, I popped over to Rivendell to do the new Update 33.1 mission series. Like Bilbo, it was really underwhelming, both in size and narrative. I had all five quests done in 20 minutes or so. Best I can say about them was, “At least I got a chunk of level XP.” They’d probably be a good set to repeat, if you’re looking for that.

Captain report

So the big news this week for my Landroval Captain was that I dinged 140 — a first for any character on any server in LOTRO. But even though I have no more experience to gain (for now), I still have a pile of quests and zones to complete. Onward!

The goal this week was to finish up Stonejaws, and that I did in great style and panache. By that I mean, I stumbled my way toward victory with the pointy end of my sword thrust toward the bad guys most of the time. Hey, if you’re a danger to everyone around you, you might as well use that to strike terror in the hearts of villains.

The final quest was quite a blast as a trio of novice scouts and I stormed a hobgoblin fortress. There were scads of mobs all over the place, but having three combat assistants along made every fight a piece of cake. And I totally loved the quote from the boss fight:

“I still have one advantage, warlord!” “Oh? What’s that?” “Disobedient apprentices!”

Next week: We’re heading outside for the first time in a long time to work through the Câr Bronach zone!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Against my better judgment

What a weird feeling it is to consider an old favorite MMORPG that still exists but could be shut down at any moment. There’s that internal tug-o-war between not wanting to risk any more time and interest in a game that could go belly-up soon and wanting to take advantage of the time that’s still left, knowing that you might regret not later on. So it is with RIFT. Ever since Gamigo bought it and pretty much abandoned it, I’ve tried my hardest to ignore that it exists. Call it a survival mechanism. Close off that path to caring, and it won’t hurt as much when this downhill slide goes off a cliff and crashes onto the rocks of cancellation.

But against my better judgment, I’m back — at least for a short spell. The advantage of being a blogger is that even hopeless game journeys are still worth it for the post material alone. It’s not in vain! And, honestly, I was curious what kind of community still existed here.

It was very eerie to see my previous characters on the select list — most without names, since they’ve been reclaimed — but I went ahead and made a new Cleric for the classic leveling experience. Along for the ride is her faerie, Widdershins.

What was absolutely wild was the familiarity of RIFT that came crashing down on my head when I logged in. This game, perhaps more than other MMOs, is such a gourmet feast of sight and sound triggers. It’s so slick and easy-to-use that I wish it would be the standard for most MMOs. I spent the first half-hour sorting out the deluge of initial mail and finding a friendly guild (through the ever-so-helpful guild finder). Hey, there are still people playing! That’s something, at least.

As I went through the tutorial, two thoughts competed for my attention. The first was the reminder that despite its fall from grace, RIFT remains a very well-made and fun-to-play MMO. It’s really got the full package, and the ability to create your own build from three talent trees is a ton of fun right from the start.

The second thought was that RIFT truly deserves a second chance under better management. I’m at a loss as to how this might happen, as Gamigo is likely to bleed it dry and then discard it without any further development. But if a different studio could get ahold of it, if some sort of active support could happen, and if a fresh start server could be rolled out (preferably without IAs and some of the more questionable F2P practices), it could see a renaissance. It’s not out of the realm of possibility; plenty of MMOs have had second starts under new management.

Or perhaps Gamigo simply gives up and hands the source code over to the community. A volunteer dev team can’t possibly do less than what Gamigo is doing for RIFT right now.

In any case, by the end of the Guardian tutorial, I was fully tooted and revved up for a full questing journey through this old favorite. I started working on a build that will utilize a faerie pet and lots of instant spells and DOTs for agile casting.

Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW Classic: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view

After skipping around in newbie areas last week in WoW Classic, I made a return to my Shaman, abandoned these past few months in Blade’s Edge Mountains. She’s my only 70 at the moment, with two-and-a-half zones left to quest through and more than 2500 gold to raise to get her epic flying mount. With the rumor going around that Wrath is opening up in early September, it’s time to get that done.

But a problem existed: In my absence, my guild had up and left the server. Mankrik is almost 95% (give or take) Horde-dominated, and it’s simply not fun to be Alliance there. But that meant I either had to struggle on alone (I wasn’t finding any guilds), reroll where my guild went, or bite the bullet for a transfer. I went with the last one, because I didn’t want to lose all of the effort I put into this character.

So it was back to questing in Blade’s Edge. The flying mount certainly helps a whole lot with this, even though I move sooo slowly. Getting back into the rhythm of Enhance Shammy combat was pretty quick and simple, seeing as how I usually only use a few buttons per fight anyway. It’s still satisfying to see a bunch of procs go off and my character start swinging away like a madwoman.

It’s not my favorite zone, both aesthetically and narratively, but then again, I can’t remember doing these quests much at all. And hey, lookit me, I’m super tiny now! That can’t be good.

I hooked up with a group that went through an elite chain, scoring a very nice blue upgrade to my head slot afterwards. That felt like a good night.

I’m pretty much going day-to-day with this right now, but being back in Classic is certainly hitting the spot. If I’m still around for Wrath Classic — gritting my teeth about the dungeon finder all the while — I’ll probably level through Northrend with my Shaman first, leave a Death Knight to a later date. Figure it’ll all be packed with DKs early on anyway, so no need to jostle with the pack.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: The confluence of comedy and tragedy

On a wet, moldy day, my wastelander leaves her little shelter and heads back into the ruins of Charleston for some more questing and looting. Shotgun ammo is low — even with crafting — and so she switches over to a revolver for a while.

At level 25, my perk build is coming along. I’ve invested the most into Perception and Luck for various reasons, although my favorite perk remains the Lone Wanderer in Charisma.

I wrapped up the questline to become a full-fledged “Firebreather,” which included a trip down into the Belching Betty mine. This place is just as terrifying as the last time I came down here. Mines naturally make me feel claustrophobic, but add fire, rumbling, and smoke, and it feels like descending into hell. The good news is that, thanks to my lucky perk, pretty much every mob kept dropping shotgun ammo. I went from zero to 200 in no time.

Will I ever have a house as cool as the ones I keep bumping into? Probably not, but one can dream.

I love a good dose of black humor, and it doesn’t get blacker than Mr. Fluffy — a protectron who is tethered to the corpse of a responder. He’s none too pleased about it, either, and spends his time spitting out sarcastic quote after sarcastic quote.

Posted in General

Are smaller MMOs the future of online gaming?

There’s been some discussion as of late about the degradation of the MMO label and the virtues of smaller, persistent online RPGs that are on the rise in the gaming space. The thrust of the discussion is that while full-fledge MMORPGs are long in coming and new ones haven’t been that successful lately in establishing a foothold, more agile “micro-MMOs” are able to get an audience and provide players with that MMO feel even if there are fewer people on a map or in a particular instance.

I can see the logic behind this. It’s certainly more difficult to build a massively multiplayer space than it is a game that supports 20 people on a single shard. And titles like Valheim, Path of Exile, Guild Wars 1, ARK, and Fallout 76 have shown that there can be community, persistence, and progression with a more limited population.

I’m not against those games, just as how I’m not against single-player games. If they’re high quality and provide that social interaction, then I can see the appeal. But I still advocate for MMORPGs over them for a few reasons.

First, those limitations are, well, limiting. I’m not a big fan of playing on private servers, which is what a lot of these survival titles tend to use. I don’t like only encountering the presence or voice of one or two people during a journey. If you have a group of friends dedicated to gaming together, then these smaller servers can be perfect. But if you like to venture into online worlds to make friends there, then you’ve suddenly got a much smaller pool of available points of social interaction.

Second, while smaller online RPGs can specialize and be really great at a few things, they’re giving up a broader appeal and feature set — and that’s still really important to me. My engagement with MMOs tends to be far longer than other titles because there’s more variety of activities and a world that’s (usually) still being added onto. I make homes in MMOs — I can’t really say that about most multiplayer or single-player titles I’ve played. Not saying it’s exclusive or impossible, just that it doesn’t tend to happen that way.

I also worry that these smaller multiplayer games aren’t really there for the long haul the way that MMO studios aim to approach their games. Sure, the latter can dry up and studios shut them down, but if they go the distance, they really go the distance. Whereas, Ubisoft ditches The Division for The Division 2, The Crew for The Crew 2, and so on. Again, there are exceptions. No Man’s Sky certainly has been doing great keeping the updates going and going.

The field of gaming is certainly wide enough to allow for all kinds of games, and there is no need to champion one as THE type to rule them all. I simply want good games, period, and I’ll try to keep an open mind as online gaming shifts and morphs into the future.

Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW Classic: Bearly hanging on to my sanity

Even though I’m going with Balance for my new WoW Classic Druid, it’s a build that takes a good long while to come together. In the meantime, lots of “out of mana” and slow kill situations persist. So having the bear form actually helps as a stopgap to get me to 20. Once I’m low on mana, I fight in bear mode for a while while my mana regens.

I was never a fan of the horns on the Horde Druid models, but I’m going to have to make peace with it, aren’t I?

One of the reasons I’m really taking my time in Mulgore is to work on getting my herbalism and alchemy up as much as possible. Off to a good start, and all that. Having those little extra defense and offensive buffs help, too.

OK, I know it’s silly and stupid, but I still have this Pavlovian reaction to seeing these old chests out in the open. I know it’s not going to really contain anything huge, but dang it, in that moment I want that chest as bad as I want anything else in the game. Seeing a rare mob elicits that same response, too.

Soon enough — level 12 enough — my time in Mulgore was over and I slowly trotted over to Barrens. Gosh, hope they don’t have annoying chat here or anything!

The Barrens is a pretty daunting stretch, all things considered. Not just for its sheer size and amount of quests that require a ridiculous amount of killing, but the long stretch of leveling ahead as mobs toughen up somewhat. You really have to be playing the long game with the Druid class, because before 20 and cat form, it’s a choice between killing fast (and running out of mana) or killing slow (and usually surviving). One zebra at a time, I suppose.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: In the dark of caves and woods, a light appears

Minstrel report

As the Treebeard server firmly settles into the Mirkwood era, opinions are widely shared about whether Mirkwood is good or not. I’ve noticed people are pretty far apart on this, with some loving and some hating but few in-between. In the hater’s camp, it’s the fact that the zone represents a half-sized expansion, is pretty dark in theme and visuals, and perhaps too dependent on the new skirmish system.

But for those who love the place, as I do, there’s a wonderful moodiness to Mirkwood that makes it a great place for adventure. It strikes just the right amount of darkness, with light being a rarity that’s pushing back against the night:

I mean, that’s lighting perfection right there. And it certainly helps that most of the zone is pretty easy in terms of navigation, which would be a lot more frustrating if it was complex AND covered in inky shadows. Northern Mirkwood can attest to this.

Anyway, my Minstrel didn’t make huge progress, merely pushing into the Dourstocks while setting up camp at the Haunted Inn for next week’s excursions. Still level 61.

Captain report

Meanwhile over on Landroval, my Captain continued her quest through the innards of Gundabad. This week kicked off with a wholesale cleaning of the Dwarves’ Houses of Rest — AKA “tombs” — where everyone and everything was being desecrated like there was a going-out-of-unholiness sale.

The tombs were neat, although there was some sort of mob-swapping mechanic going on that I never quite understood. One quest asked me to kill 10 cultists in an area, but said area had none, just monsters. Then I came back later, and all the monsters were gone and cultists were everywhere. No idea what that was about.

Speaking of darkness, this gloomy cave makes me think of being in the middle of a monster’s mouth as its razor-sharp teeth slowly chomp down. It’s certainly not a homey place!

This is what happens when I take the main road through a huge enemy camp instead of the slightly longer but more deserted side road. Heal on the go!

I’m just about level 140 — the max — and pushing to get this zone finished up. It’s not that difficult, it’s just that I haven’t had as much time to play LOTRO this week as I do normally.

Posted in Fallout

Fallout 76: Breathing green air is good for your lungs

Listen, if I’m to spend the rest of what will probably be a short and painful life traipsing across the wasteland, I’m not going to do it with a cheap backpack that looks like something you’d get in a Back-to-School discount aisle. Cornswallop, I’m going to die with dignity! Or at least something cool hanging off my back.

And so I made it a priority to craft a much better survival backpack. Same extra space, at least for now, but at least it looks the part. I like all the extra pockets and canteens and whatnot. Definitely puts me in mind of a crafting scavenger scouring the remnants of civilization for whatever may be useful. On top of the new backback, I finally looted a combat shotgun. Trust me, I modded that out right away to make a powerhouse of a weapon. The only problem is that my shotgun ammo was very low at that point thanks to the Mothman event sucking it down without giving much back.

One of my new favorite activities in Fallout 76 is to make a point of checking out player camps if I happen to be passing by. There’s a tremendous amount of creativity going on, such as the above skull base. I still have a hard time placing walls, I have no idea how anyone did this, but it’s cool.

But as I said, I spent much of my time this past week logging in to run the Mothman Equinox event. The rewards were decent and my XP plowed into the mid-20s, but at this point I think I might be done. I need to get some forward momentum on questing so I’m not eternally treading water in the Forest.

I was going through the innoculation storyline when I stepped outside to see the above terrifying green cloud formation. Fallout 76’s weather is pretty neat at times, and this definitely made me want to duck back inside somewhere. Probably not good for your lungs, to breathe that in.

I did take up the ally questline to liberate Beckett from the Ash Heap. That was my first foray with this character into the zone, and it was pretty rough. I made sure I had a gas mask going on and grabbed a souped-up laser pistol to help with the fierce battles with the Blood Eagles.

One of the reasons I did the ally quest is because I thought that this was like Elder Scrolls Online, where I’d be getting a combat companion. I knew this wasn’t the case but had forgotten that point. In any case, it was disappointing to see the freeloader show up in my camp and ask me to go out and do more work for him. Go on your own quests, you slacker.