Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Mordor? More like More Cowbell! …that didn’t make sense

Flipping characters back and forth between Mordor and Gundabad seems to be working pretty well for me in LOTRO. Every day is different from the last, but there’s a continuation of adventures and I’m making progress on both my Lore-master and Minstrel. I wince to think how complicated things will get when Update 36 drops with a new region AND the difficulty slider (and associated temptation to roll a new character).

Bring it Mordor, there’s nothing that’s going to stop my Holla Hobbit from screaming you all into nothingness. I cannot stress enough how much more enjoyable it is to blast through these areas slightly overleveled. My stress is down and enjoyment way up.

And I took a nice long break the other night to work on an “avenging chicken” outfit. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally used this helm, but now that I am, I may have a new favorite. Hey, it amuses me.

Another advantage of not aggroing everything in a 12-mile radius in Mordor is being able to screenshot to your heart’s content. It’s not a cheery place, but there are a lot of interesting vistas.

Speaking of sights, I bumped into Gandalf… and his identical twin brother. Or his stunt double.

I did finish up the initial area of Mordor in terms of the epic story and enough quests to get the deed, but I might linger for a bit to wrap up some deeds before moving on to zone #2. It’s not super-fast progress, but it’s definitely moving forward — and if I look in my rear view mirror, I can be impressed how far I’ve come since coming back to my Minstrel in Western Gondor back at the start of February. Since then, I’ve done the entirety of Gondor, Minas Tirith (so much Minas Tirith), the Wastes, the first zone of Mordor, and a bunch of festival stuff. That’s not bad for four months, especially since I’ve been trading off time between her and other characters.

Posted in Torchlight

Torchlight II: The Torchening

Level 12 in Torchlight II, and I am plundering every dungeon that I can find. My trust healing bot and bulldog are by my side, and in my hands is a cannon that I apparently liberated from the deck of a ship of war. Evildoers beware, for I am literally gunning for you!

Level 13, and I’m starting to look pretty funky. I know this is as far from a fresh and revolutionary opinion as there can be, but I am so impressed how polished and fun Torchlight II is. Everything simply *works* in this game, and the more I play it, the more I am glowering at Torchlight III for becoming the massive failure that it is today.

Quick: Can you name an ARPG — or MMO or CRPG or JRPG — that doesn’t have giant spiders tucked somewhere inside of it? Gotta have that giant spider level! I anticipate this game will have at least five of them.

That got a snort of genuine laughter from me. My dog willingly hopped into the bucket, but no ride was to be had.

Level 21 and my build is coming along swimmingly. I’ve got a healingbot and gunbot, spider mines, an automatic shield, some additional interior armor, and my trusty lucky magic-finding shotgun. I feel like a steampunk tank rolling through dungeons, which is a blast.

Soon thereafter I beat the final boss of Act I and moved into Act II — officially the furthest I’ve ever been in Torchlight II! This means I’m now 25% the way through the game, so… groovy. I am making progress. It’s been a long, long time since I ever finished an ARPG, so I’m gunning for that moment.

Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic


Revisiting Star Wars: The Old Republic is always a joy that I hope lasts as long as it can. I really wouldn’t mind seeing BioWare put out a progression server at this point, as far too much of the community is at the level cap, but I’m down for another tour around this old favorite — and maybe push into unexplored content.

After buying a new hairstyle because I’m vain like that, I made a Smuggler-Sniper to start the journey all over again. My big MMO theme this year is “completionism” in questing, so I aim to not just do the standard class and planetary quests but the optional exploratory and bonus missions as well.

Man, Ord Mantel brings back the memories, yes it does. Not the prettiest starting planet, but it’s got its rugged, war-torn charm.

Yes, it’s pretty silly to go back to the Smuggler for, what, the fifth or sixth time when there are still six class stories I haven’t fully played through, but there’s something about the snarky, devil-may-care class that I can’t quit. It makes everything else taste like blandness in comparison. So oh well, I’m gonna play what’s fun. And for variety’s sake, I’m going total dark side with her.

Yes. Yes I do, Blue Greedo.

What’s really weird about going back to SWTOR is that I kept getting lost in the experience of playing the game. I’d look up at the clock and realize that it was a lot later than I thought it was. I guess that speaks to that combination of being immersed while also having a generally good time. Win-win.

Leveling is so much faster than I ever remember it being. What with doing all of the side quests and all, I was level 23 before I left the first zone, 30 by the middle of the second. It automatically scales me down so I’m not grossly over-leveled, but still.

On Coruscant, I bumped into another player running into a heroic area and shot them an invite. We grouped up and knocked out four heroic quests in a row, which was satisfying, rewarding, and a lot of fun to do as a group. I hope to make this more of a regular thing!

Posted in Torchlight

Torchlight II is the Diablo IV antidote

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s feeling the ARPG itch right now with Diablo IV on the horizon. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I’ll get it — $70 is a big asking price for my entertainment wallet right now — so I went looking for cheaper alternatives to scratch what will probably be more of a temporary itch.

Diablo III was a possibility, although my current account doesn’t have it. I’m genuinely surprised Blizzard hasn’t discounted it in the lead-up to the sequel, but I guess I could get it or Diablo II for $20 each. Cheaper than that, however, was looking at free options that I have access to. Grim Dawn is always there, as is Path of Exile, but I thought I’d give Torchlight II another try. The last time I jacked up the difficulty too high, so this time I’m going on normal, please-don’t-hurt-me-too-much mode.

And it’s been pretty great! As an older title, it runs silky smooth and has pretty much all I want out of an ARPG: loot, WoW-style graphics, helpful pets, simple quests, good feedback. The lighter tone is more up my alley, too. I’m rocking an Engineer with a cannon and bot pets (of course).

It’s become a perfect lunchtime diversion. Nothing too taxing on my mind, nor on my hand — I pretty much just play with a mouse, which feels so weird after always having a hand on the keyboard for MMOs. I can jump in, clear out an area or dungeon, get some loot, and exit out. I’m not putting any pressure on myself to complete it, but I do think that’d be pretty cool. Eventually.

It really does feel like the counter-agent to Diablo IV’s grimdark universe. Torchlight’s always had a bit of whimsy and cheek about it, and here I fight One-Eyed Willy (a pirate, of course) or a big frankenstein mob who “loves his stuffy.” Man, it’s too bad we never got a proper Torchlight MMO or a good Torchlight III. The franchise really came off the wheels there, didn’t it.

How cool would it be to go on an ARPG kick this summer? I could make it a thing, even, if this proves to be a groove. There’s D3, D4, Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, that Last Epoch game everyone won’t stop pushing on me, Wolcen, that Warhammer 40K one, maybe I could finally beat Dungeon Siege, Titan Quest, Lost Ark, Undecember… there are certainly a lot out there. But maybe that’s putting the cart before the horse, as it were. Let’s see how T2: Looting Day turns out.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Bringing light into the gloom

The next LOTRO update went up on the test server a couple of weeks back, which means that there’s now a countdown of sorts until the next high-level region(s) releases. I’m guessing late June, with SSG’s typical testing schedule. But that means I need to get my Captain fully up to speed, and she’s still got several core virtues sitting at 80/85.

For my peace of mind more than anything else, I pushed everything off the table until I got this done. I even popped a slayer booster and rushed around several low-level zones, clearing out deeds in record time. The ticking clock of the booster adds some pressure and challenge to it.

One of the items of the next update that caught my attention was the addition of the difficulty slider for landscape — as they have on Treebeard. It does seem like they’ve updated it a bit, perhaps a couple more ranks and some new rewards. I only did that lightly on Treebeard, but any excuse to roll up a new toon is hard to resist if there’s a fun challenge AND reward in the making. Theoretically, I would want to roll up a hardy class, probably a Beorning or Champ, to handle the tougher difficulty. But we’ll see, as I have my hands more than full at the moment.

Is it just me, or does anyone else completely forget that we have a legendary item reward track until it’s the end of the season and there’s a reminder on social media? Clearly, I haven’t claimed anything until now. Not that I’m complaining.

All in all, it was a nice haul. New auroch pet, a nifty reading emote, a few good traceries, and lots of other LI stuff. It was a good opportunity to take 10 minutes and update my LI, a chore that I usually put off more than I should. Then it was back to the dreary initial zone of Mordor. Nothing super tough to do, thankfully, but the quest objectives are really spread out, taking a long time to finish.

I got back into the habit of alternating nights with my Lore-master in Gundabad. Either way, I was in for a dark environment, but at least it was a little bit of a change of pace. And the second time going through this realm is easier than the first now that I generally know what to be doing.

Being somewhat overleveled for both places has lowered my stress level and increased my enjoyment. I can play a tourist, even. Hey, is that a pile of slightly comical bones? Don’t mind if I snap a quick pic for the hobbits at home!

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Mordor, Gundabad, and regions beyond

As I’ve been dusting off my old Lore-master and scooting her in the direction of Gundabad, I made a shocking discovery — I was still rocking legacy legendary items on her character. Like, the old ones. The much less effective ones. Could explain why I don’t feel that powerful in combat. Well, time to tuck my tail between my legs and head off to Rivendell to correct this oversight!

In a way, my Captain has both the best and worst of it right now. The best is that she’s 140 and done with Gundabad, so all I’m doing is virtue mop up. Yet it’s kind of the worst, because I can’t follow a storyline or grind an area — I have to keep finding new deeds that I haven’t done before and figuring those out, one at a time.

But no matter, because it offers me a great time to reacquaint myself with this character and class. There’s a reason I took her all the way to the end of the game — and look forward to bringing her even further.

Meanwhile, my poor Minstrel had to take her first real steps into Mordor. All I could think was, “once more unto the breach, dear friends.” There’s a psychological hump to overcome when you’re at the start of such types of content. Best to push through and get a move on.

Nothing like a buggy bear to brighten one’s day!

Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW Classic: Narrowly avoiding death

Part of the fun and strategy of Hardcore Classic is experimenting with different classes for this particular challenge. By level 10, I can tell that the Paladin will be (a) practically indestructible and (b) boring as all get out. I’m not going to do “boring” for the next 50 levels, so I suicided her to a couple of snow leopards and moved on.

Walking on the other side of the factional line, I rolled up a Tauren Druid to see how the community is over there. Also, hey, I never mind visiting Mulgore — one of my favorite Classic zones.

The first six levels were pretty uneventful — just a lot of grinding and light questing. I didn’t feel quite as insane with the competition, but there were still plenty of other players hopping around. Unfortunately, the bag overlord did not bless me, so by the time I got to Bloodhoof Village, I spent most of my hard-earned cash on a single six-slotter and a skinning knife. Time to go recoup those losses!

Aaaand then I saw a named mob 2 levels above me and thought, “Hey, I can take him!” No… no I could not. I died so dang fast. It feels like you’re really failed if you die before level 10. Don’t look at my shame! My only consolation is that another player saw me die and knelt down beside my corpse for a bit to mourn.

Brushing off my embarrassment, I rolled up a Troll Shammy and went again. I figured that I might as well stay on horde side for now, as I like the guild I found.

Shammy got of to a decent start — all quests in newbie area done, one bag found, made a small pile of cash. Next stop, Orgrimmar for skinning!

Considering the player density and the inherent danger with some of these quests, my playstyle for HC has been shaped into “mostly farm mobs in the general vicinity of a quest.” If I can easily finish a quest, fine, but I’m not going out of my way to do it. Mobs offer XP, loot, and cash, and that’s pretty much what I need. The best mobs, of course, are humanoid ones, as they seem to drop better usable loot.

So I set up shop outside Tiragarde Keep and fought a bunch of Kul Tiras soldiers for a good long while until I was level 10. It’s kind of funny seeing them now, long after Battle for Azeroth came out. But hey, I got a new bag, upgraded my mace and shield, and made a chunk of change. The only time I was ever in any serious trouble was when three mobs simultaneously respawned on top of me and interrupted a heal cast. I dropped earthbind totem and booked it out of there while my health got down to 68. Whew!

Posted in Fallout, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online

Snapshots from MMOs: Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, Fallout 76

Bouncing around to various titles leaves a debris field of posts in WordPress, and sometimes I like to compile those and clean up some space. So here are a few snapshots of games that I’ve dipped lightly into over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been watching and greatly enjoying Star Trek: Strange New Worlds lately, which feels like a return to form for the wayward franchise. And so that’s certainly sparked more interest in playing Star Trek Online — this time with a new character named Doxology. I had to go through the entire tutorial, however, because the Delta event was running and didn’t allow me the option to skip past it. Ah well.

I did set her up with the Pathfinder science ship as a good middle ground with firepower and a launchable fighter pet. I think the odds are good for her getting a full run this year, although it may well be an off-and-on experience.

Speaking of Cryptic, I poked into Neverwinter after seeing the D&D movie. It’s been long, too long, on my to do list to roll up a Neverwinter Bard and take another run through this MMO. I last visited Cryptic’s D&D realm back in spring of 2020, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t remember much from that year.

In any case, it’s been more than long enough to justify a reroll, so I conjured up a tiefling Bard from the ether, slapped a lute and rapier on her, and got to work seeing what’s changed. Happily, all my account unlocks were still intact, including my armored spider mount that gives me the warm fuzzies late at night.

I’ve done zero research into the Bard, mind you, and that’s probably not going to change soon. I like to see what I can learn from tooltips and hands-on experience. From the get-go, it seems like she’s mostly a magic user with some close-range sword attacks if desired.

And then there was some time on my Fallout 76 character. She’s doing fine for a newbie, a lot better now that she’s got a shotgun, but the glee of coming back to the game wore off pretty quickly. Still, I had some fun taking screenshots along the way.

Upon the recommendation of several F76 guides, I went over to a fancy resort where apparently there’s this huge mall in the basement with every type of vendor available. And, as a bonus, it’s one of the few locales that offers free fast travel. I liked checking out the shops, such as the above cabin-themed outdoorsy locale.