LOTRO: Racing against time

The good news is that the decision to move to my Captain as my main over the past month has gone great so far. I feel tanky, healy, and able to slice my way through most situations, and I’m making progress in getting her leveled up via missions and the epic quest. The bad news is that Gundabad feels like it might be a month or two away, and there’s just no way she’ll be ready for day one.

Which is fine — there are tons of players who haven’t even seen the latest content since they’re still leveling, and the expansion will be there when we get there. However, I do want to get there this fall so that I can write up coverage on it for MOP.

Even though I’m relatively sprinting through the content and zones, I do try to sight-see as much as possible. There’s a lot of detail that the modern team put into these regions that deserve some appreciation, like this dwarf library. And as I said on Twitter recently, I feel that Dale might be one of the most under-appreciated cities created for the game (Lake-Town, too). It’s brimming with style and history, yet so little in the way of questing content keeps you here, which is a shame.

So, a little LOTRO community story to share. The other day I’m playing and half-reading world chat. I see this guy grousing about the state of the game and how he assumes that all high-level players level-boosted, so I push back against this a little, saying that he’s making some big assumptions without evidence, etc. Anyway, we butt heads for a bit and I’m reminded why I generally don’t talk in world chat, so I just shut up after a while and do some stuff.

But here’s the cool thing: The guy sent me an IM apologizing for butting heads, and I apologized for assuming that he was a troll, and the two of us actually had a really positive private conversation back and forth for the next 15 minutes. I know we always point to how toxic communities and the power of the anonymous megaphone can be, and here’s an example of how people can actually bring peace into a conflict and be mature about it. It was encouraging to me.

Fallout 76: Country roads come calling

It’s long been on my docket to head back into Fallout 76 this year, and now with FFXIV winding down for me and New World still weeks away, I felt like it was a good time to return to Appalachia. I elected to start up a brand-new character to experience the level-adjustment system (and, to be honest, get that thrill out of “discovering” these areas all over again).

As we all know far too well, Bethesda has pretty much the worst character creation tools in the industry. I mean, if you’re trying to make a mutated freak that’ll have you waking up at night in cold sweats, no problem. Bethsoft’s got you covered. But making a human that rises above the uncanny valley to something approaching attractive or likable? That’s a tall order.

That said, I think I did very well for myself with Ghostfire here.

And apart from the continued lack of social connection and chat tools in this game, it was a joy to be back and do some sight-seeing. I spent the first night exploring the surrounding areas, stocking up on a few weapons, and kicking off quest chains. I also created a bare-bones CAMP — weapon workshop, stash, and garish HAVE A NICE DAY sign — for the time being.

Originally I was thinking about playing this character as solely melee, to change things up, but melee-only doesn’t always pan out in certain areas and missions. Sometimes you need to attack from a distance or use cover, and a rifle in that case is better than a baseball bat. So I think I’ll make a all-around generalist with a small assortment of weapons.

I like how you can be playing this game for a long time and still find stuff you’ve never seen before. This alien statue (shrine?) made me laugh.

Two things really press those anxiety buttons — when the game makes that “nuclear strike incoming” alert and when a radiation storm hits. They’re downright eerie, both times, and I always duck ‘n’ cover.

So. Yeah. Really enjoying the simple gameplay loop of explore-salvage-craft, and I’m going to work off of fan maps to try to see every place that’s actually in the game. Explorable locations, that is.

65 tips and tricks to help you get a great start in New World

Now that we’re finally counting down to New World’s launch, I’ve realized just how little I know about the ins and outs of the game. So I figured I’d do a lot of research covering things players should know starting out in the game. And since I’m watching through a lot of videos on this, I also figured I’d compile a quick list of 65 tips and tricks to pass on. If you’re like me, you’d rather have a written list than having to slog through hours of videos, right? Right.

Questing and adventuring:

  1. Your primary source of XP will be questing.
  2. There are four types of quests: Main questline, side quests, faction quests, and town projects.
  3. Ignore sheep town quests. They’re too hard to find.
  4. Make sure to pick up faction quests (very important) and town projects (not as important, but nice for bonus XP) while in towns.
  5. Make sure you have a food buff active at all times. Eating rations will provide health regen and other nice effects. These have a 10-minute duration.
  6. Rested XP does accumulate in towns when you log out.
  7. The first three quests that you do every day for your faction handler will grant you bonus XP.
  8. Campsites can be placed with the “Y” key to rest, cook, craft, and resurrect.
  9. You can only pick guilds and companies based on the faction you’ve chosen. You also can’t place these in landmarks.
  10. You will choose a faction as part of the main story quest around level 8-10. It is mandatory.
  11. Enable PvP mode to get extra 5% XP while leveling. You can only activate this in towns.
  12. Higher territory standing levels get you really good XP, so focus on a single town to increase this.
  13. Pick up the little glowing blue lore documents for extra XP. XP on successive documents ramps up.
  14. There are four starter zones which should get you up to 20-25.
  15. At level 25, you’ll head from your starter zone to Brightwood. After Brightwood is Weaver’s Fen and Cutlass Keys.
  16. Corrupted portals are best done in groups.
  17. Elite zones are areas on the map with unique monsters. Faction representatives will give quests for these, and the named mobs have better-than-average gear.
  18. Trading posts (auction houses) are not linked, so use ones in higher traffic areas.
  19. Keep an eye out for supply crates and chests with extra goodies out in the game world.

Character progression:

  1. New World is a classless, skill-based game, so experiment with different weapons, builds, and armor weight tiers.
  2. Every 50 points spent in a specific attribute, you’ll unlock a perk for that track.
  3. You can respec for free before level 20.
  4. You get 3 attribute points per level (108 from leveling by level 60), and the rest of the attribute points come from gear bonuses.
  5. Each weapon mastery tree has two main options per weapon type. You’ll get 20 points to spend in these max, so you can pick one tree over the other or go hybrid. Mastery points are only gained by using the weapon in question.
  6. You’ll pick a faction at level 10. You then have to wait 120 days to change factions, so pick wisely.

Combat:

  1. There are 11 weapon types in the game right now: sword, spear, bow, fire staff, rapier, great axe, musket, life staff, hatchet, war hammer, and ice gauntlet.
  2. There is no dual wielding, daggers, pistols, halberds, or wands.
  3. Sword is the only weapon that can be paired with a shield.
  4. Dodging makes you invincible for a very short period.
  5. Combat is more about avoiding damage (blocking, dodging, etc.) and then striking back.
  6. Damage numbers are colored according to different attacks: White is normal, blue means the enemy is resisting that damage type, yellow means the enemy is weak to that damage type, and orange is a crit. This is why you should have more than one weapon to swap between.
  7. If you hit an enemy in the back, it’s an automatic crit.
  8. One option to consider is “show extra ability cooldown” in the gameplay settings tab. This will add countdown timers on the HUD next to your character so you can know when certain abilities are ready without having to look down and over at your ability bar.

Gearing and inventory:

  1. Faction gear is the best leveling gear, by and large. Buy your first set at level 15. Do trials (which are part of the main story quest) to increase faction tiers to gain access to better gear.
  2. Salvage all your stuff for repair parts. Not really worth it to sell to other players.
  3. Light armor gives you 20% bonus damage and a big dodge, medium is 10% bonus damage and a medium dodge, and heavy is no bonus damage and a small dodge. However, heavy armor does give you 15% bonus blocking. Additionally, medium and heavy armor tiers offer longer debuffs.
  4. It’s totally OK to mix-and-match armor types, although you’re probably going to want all heavy if you’re creating a tank.
  5. You get three bag slots, which allow you to increase the amount of weight you carry before becoming over-encumbered.
  6. Town storage is your bank, which allows you to offload mats and items. However, town storage sheds are NOT connected, so your stuff won’t be shared between settlements.
  7. To hide certain gear visuals, right-click on the item equipped, select “change skin,” and then change it to none or another cosmetic option.
  8. Take off your shield when you’re not tanking, as it seriously adds to your armor weight value.

Travel:

  1. There are no mounts in the game.
  2. Fast travel options: Recall to inn (free, one-hour cooldown), using Azoth to fast travel to town locations or recall shrines, or hitting “respawn” in the game menu to go to your camp or nearest settlement. This last option causes your gear to take durability damage.
  3. Fast travel Azoth costs are calculated by distance, faction ownership, and encumberance.
  4. Place camps often to make sure you don’t have a long run back after deaths.

Crafting:

  1. New World has five gathering skills, five refining skills, and seven crafting skills. A player can level all of these if he or she chooses.
  2. Specific attributes are attached to specific harvesting skills (strength and mining, for example). Higher attribute scores will speed up harvesting and even increase its yield.
  3. Crafting is not that important at the start but increases in relevance as you level to 35 and beyond.
  4. New World Map is a helpful site that lists the locations of all resources.
  5. If you want to know what a harvestable resource looks like, open up the tradeskill menu to Harvesting, and you’ll get pictures for each one.
  6. Saltpeter is in caves/underground.
  7. Hemp (for linen fibers) is found in grasslands outside of towns.
  8. Azoth is an important resource for crafting. You’ll get Azoth from the main questline, certain mobs, certain drops, or a perk on tools that give you Azoth from harvesting.
  9. Azoth can be used while crafting for a chance at rarity increase or to add a gem slot.
  10. Get fish fillets and fish oil by salvaging the fish after you catch them.
  11. While campsites do offer some crafting options, you get a wider variety of services and bonuses by going to town and using those crafting facilities.
  12. Make sure you grab all of the herbs you see (purple flowers). They’re not always that common to find.
  13. To learn recipes that you find, you have to salvage them.
  14. Secondary crafting ingredients are found in chests or on mobs. You can also use a “common material converter” to transform one mat into a different one.

Social:

  1. Guilds are called “companies,” can have up to 100 players, and are led by a “Governor.”
  2. A company only has players from a single faction.
  3. Companies can fight for and claim land.

Housing:

  1. You can have a house in any settlement. There are no conquest requirements for this.
  2. You do need to meet a minimum faction standing requirement and enough gold to buy and upkeep your abode.
  3. Housing isn’t just decorative; it provides benefits as well. Trophies provide buffs, and players can set down additional storage.

Nostalgia Lane: Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch

I’m sure that there are plenty of you who were like me, a kid who wasn’t part of those affluent families that could afford every device and game system while growing up. Which is fine — I see the value of not being spoiled — but that didn’t stop me from being very envious of other kids who did get certain toys and games that I could only dream about.

One of the most vivid memories I have was in fifth or sixth grade, when a kid in our study period pulled out the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch. Now, in the mid-1980s, Super Mario Bros. was THE killer app that everyone either played or dearly wanted to play. Everyone was nuts about it, and here it was in a mobile format.

I only ever had the Zelda two-screen Game & Watch years later (which was really awesome, so I’m not complaining), but boy did I want this one after getting some time with it. Looking back at it today, the Mario Game & Watch was fiendishly clever with its limitations. Instead of going the Tiger Electronics route of trying to replicate gameplay in a sad fashion, this mobile edition did away with things it couldn’t really do — like have you stomp on enemies, grow big, or shoot fireballs.

Instead, the Mario Game & Watch focused on platforming, using a grid of lines that could be shaped into either a top-down or side-scrolling landscape. Everything from mazes to pipes to moving platforms to fireball lines could be represented with this, and the goal was simply to get Mario through it and to the princess at the end of the level.

I watched a video in preparation for this post and was still impressed how crisp and good this looks. I’d have my doubt about playing with four little directional touch buttons instead of the classic D-pad, but it still looks very functional.

In any case, that one game session I had with it thanks to a generous friend left me with a strong memory of how good this was. I don’t know why I didn’t save up to buy one or ask for it for Christmas, because I know it would’ve been something I would have played for years afterward.

Mobile gaming comfort food

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got folders of untested mobile games on my phone that I steadfastly ignore while returning to sometimes five- or even ten-year-old games that are tried and true. I am remarkably picky in what I want in a quick phone bite-sized play session, and so the ones that have met these inner qualifications end up sticking around.

So lately I’ve been playing a few old classics. My go-to for any three minutes of spare time is Clash Royale. I think I’m pretty good at it — at least I win far more than I lose — and I’ve been trying out some different deck builds that have been more effective than what I’ve used in the past. But the real key to winning is all in timing. It’s all in knowing when to hold back, when to push, when to save a nasty counter for later, and when to really frustrate your opponent by attacking both sides of the board at once.

Another one that I’ve dusted off as of late is Knights of Pen and Paper. I’d play the sequel, which had more content and better strategy, except that a few years ago the developer completely retooled it as a pay-to-win grindfest while stripping away paid purchases. And hey, I’ve never fully beaten the original, so why not? I really like that it loads quickly on my iPhone 7 (yeah, I’m the cutting edge of 2016 here), can be played in portrait mode, and lends itself to quick or lengthy sessions. It’s been ideal for my kids’ soccer practices, I can tell you.

And I just found out that Knights of Pen and Paper 3 is on the way, which totally made my month! There’s even gameplay video out there, and my body is so ready for this.

Could Into the Echo be the time travel MMO I’ve desired?

I’ve always harbored a real soft spot for time travel tales and games — there’s a reason why Chrono Trigger is my all-time favorite video game — and I’ve always kind of wanted a time travel MMO as a result. Oh, plenty of MMOs have utilized time travel in parts, such as Star Trek Online and Secret World, but I wanted something more. Something that makes time travel a centerpiece rather than a periphery.

I may have just found it. A new MMO that we recently learned about, Into the Echo, bills itself as a “massively multiplayer time travel odyssey” on a fictional world. From the brief description, it sounds like your character will be able to jump into the past of the game world for reasons (and, probably, quests), but we’re not given a whole lot more than that.

The devs did speak to the progression system of the game, which it wants to be a whole lot more flexible than most MMOs: “We are doing away with this numerical and linear XP model and replacing it with what we call a hub-and-spoke style progression system. Our innovation lies in taking the concept further and elevating its application towards achieving character individuality.” That’s kind of neat and a nice way to create an ever-expanding system.

Going back to time travel, the devs said that they’ve mapped out a millions years of the game world’s history, since it was built from the ground-up rather than start in the present and extrapolate backward.

In any case, so far there have only been four essays about various aspects about the game, but I like the thought that’s being put into it and the ambitious goal of making an actual game world that invites players to live in it. And if there’s some good time travelin’ to go with it? So much the better.

In which I gripe about FFXIV’s MSQ delivery system for a bit

Have you ever experienced that feeling when you’re not THAT into the whole experience of something — a book, game, movie, etc. — but you press on because you want to see how it all turns out? That’s kind of me and FFXIV these days. That’s me and FFXIV most days, to be honest.

I know everyone and their game-playing grandma praises the Shadowbringers expansion as, like, the Best Final Fantasy Story Ever, but boy am I getting so tired of how honestly lame the MSQ is. I’m not feeling that charitable toward it, right now. Oh, the story is fine. Sometimes the story is very, very good. But how it’s told has me waving my arms and shouting, “This? This is what you all have been praising as the best narrative delivery system ever? I don’t get it. I don’t think I ever will!”

I guess I’m tired of the slow-as-molasses pacing, the Scions who are by and large nice, bland people without much in the way of depth, the fact that my character always comes off as a clueless Straight-A student being dragged around by this cast’s C-students, absolutely no real agency in dialogue choices, vile heroes that reveal tragic backstories and now we’re supposed to root for them, and the lack of explanation about how Lord Hien has TWO sets of X scars.

Again, it’s not all bad. But it’s not, say, SWTOR or Secret World by any stretch of the imagination. What probably bugs me the most is how little you actually *do* in any of the MSQ. I’m too lazy to make a pie chart to represent this, but about 40% of your average MSQ is “go to this place,” 35% is “watch this cutscene where your character does nothing other than nod,” 15% is “find the one glowy thing on the landscape to click on,” and 10% is battling a couple of landscape mobs, doing a duty, or running a dungeon.

That’s it. Rinse and repeat for hundreds of hours.

Yet I do want to see Shadowbringers. There are characters, just a few of them, I honestly like a whole lot. But I don’t have a lot of hope that the MSQ is going to become any more interesting in how it functions.

LOTRO: Festivals and fire

Wish me well, for I write this from the bowels of Mordor. After a week-and-a-half of doing the Farmer’s Faire for experience, cosmetics, and housing decorations, I’m finally back to adventuring as a full-time profession. Well, in her world, at least.

I don’t know how wise it is to ignore all of the side quests and focus only on the main one. I suspect it’s foolish, as I definitely don’t have enough of this Radiance 2.0 gear to overcome the shadow of Mordor. But I think I might just be keeping up with the XP curve… at least for the time being.

One nice thing about only doing the epic is having that narrative and questing continuity. You’re not being pulled in sixteen directions by a massive To Do list; you have a single objective that needs to be accomplished — and one after that, and one after that.

One of the quests took me back to Minas Tirith, which I haven’t visited for a while. It made me think, yet again, that I really need to do a Tourist’s Guide to Minas Tirith article at some point. There are so many interesting buildings and sights in this packed city that deserve exploring.

But for the most part, I’ve been criss-crossing my way through Mordor, hoping that the epic will get me out of here as fast as possible. At least I’m not struggling to survive or kill. I’m not a hard-hitting damage dealer, that’s for sure, but the fact that I have like five different heals firing off during my rotation more than makes up for the slower pace. I guess if I want that zippy kill experience, I’ll jump on my Hunter some day.

Honestly, it’s still way better than getting batted around on my Lore-master. I have come to suspect that part of the issue involves how legendary items can make or break a character build depending on how they’re built up. In this, I hold fast to the hope that we’ll get the LI revamp this fall, as SSG has been talking. I’m just tired of dying all of the time.

Try It Tuesday: A Mortician’s Tale

It has been a couple of years since my last Try It Tuesday entry, but I feel it’s high time to dust off this concept and get it going again. If you don’t recall, Try It Tuesday was a semi-regular series where I’d grab one title from my enormous gaming backlog (mostly GOG, Steam, Epic, or Itch.io) and give it a whirl. Just try it out, see how it goes, and at the very least feel like I was doing something about this backlog.

So for today’s entry, I’ll be looking at 2017’s A Mortician’s Tale by Laundry Bear Games.

A Mortician’s Tale is an adventure game/walking simulator that covers roughly a year of Charlie’s life. Charlie is a new mortician brought on to work at a mom & pop funeral home that’s eventually taken over by a bigger corporation. That plays out over the background of her regular tasks which are (in room A) to embalm or cremate bodies and (in room B) to attend funerals.

It’s about an hour-long experience that has very little gameplay in it. In fact, the game kind of hammers it into you early on how dull and repetitive this work is — much like many jobs in the world — and takes you through a streamlined process of embalming and cremating bodies. Other than this unusual work angle, the game itself is actually pretty dull.

Yeah, I read a few reviews praising how “death positive” this game is and all that, but it’s also a game that barrels at you with an agenda rather than let you explore the ins and outs of funeral home life. That agenda, like the gameplay, is simple: Traditional funeral homes are bad, and more green and modern burial techniques are good. Honestly, it was so simplistic and one-sided that by the closing credits I was downright irked with this title. I had no agency or choice, but instead I was the recipient of a TED talk. Great. That was an amazing use of my time.

Well, at least I can bury this game in my recycling bin, so I guess I’m learning something about the business!