WoW Classic: The 40s leveling blues

When you get into the 40s in WoW Classic, it does all sorts of psychological seesawing in your head. On one hand, hey, I’m actually getting there. I’m level 47 and chugging along with the end goal in sight. I have most of my full range of skills and a pretty good build going on.

But on the other hand… man those levels come so… so slowly. Thanks to the exponential leveling curve design of most MMOs, especially in the older eras, it was like the game makes you crawl and scrabble for every inch of XP bar progress. You work, and sweat, and bleed to make it another level. And when you get that done? An even longer level lies waiting.

At least I can console myself with four facts:

  1. As simple and lengthy as it is, I’m still enjoying it. And I’m further now than I’ve ever been in WoW Classic, by a LONG shot.
  2. I’m using Joana’s leveling guide to be as efficient as possible (I used this back in the day too, and appreciate the streamlining that it offers today).
  3. I’m making a lot of money. Well, making some money. I’m up to 600 gold, so I can feasibly afford an epic mount once TBC’s prepatch drops. No, don’t start talking to me about buying a flying mount just yet. That’s a whole ‘nother story.
  4. I can get a lot of other stuff done — podcasts, audio books, movie watching — while I level.

And as I keep having to remind myself, at least once TBC’s prepatch arrives, leveling will be considerably faster, so my future Shaman won’t be quite so painful.

These days I’m rocking a full Demo build right down to soul link, and it’s working really well for me. The succubus makes the best pet, IMO, for this build in Classic because she has enough health to help with the soul link transfer, does a good amount of damage, and automatically crowd controls humanoid mobs if I aggro more than one.

So I continue to take pictures and make my way through zones like Azshara, Searing Gorge, and the Hinterlands on my quest for the elusive level 60 ding.

Nostalgia Lane: The Legend of Zelda

I’m not much of a Nintendo fanboy, nor am I deeply entrenched into the Zelda series. In fact, to this day, I’ve only really been sucked into just two of the titles, and it’s those two I wanted to reminisce about today.

The first of these was the original 1986 Legend of Zelda on the NES. Now, I didn’t have an NES, but believe you me, this game was so incredibly popular in our grade that I sought out every neighborhood friend who had a Nintendo, this game, and a willingness to let me hang out to play or at least watch. That was the original streaming, kids: Watching over a friend’s shoulder because it was the next best substitute to playing yourself.

Anyway, I was completely fascinated with Zelda because it was this action-packed game with a whole lot of RPG elements. I loved the idea of collecting and using all sorts of different items, not just for combat but also for exploration. It was an action-RPG before I even knew what that sort of thing was.

I did have get the amazing two-screen Zelda game and watch portable in 1989, which became one of my favorite handhelds ever. It was really clever how it offered sprawling dungeon crawling and even a bit of item collection and usage.

But for my money, the high point of my Zelda adventuring came in 1991 with A Link to the Past. By then, we had a SNES, and you best believe that this was one of the first games we bought for it. You got your money’s worth here, both in terms of quality and length, because you could pour dozens and dozens of hours into exploring this sprawling world (and an alternate dimension version). I don’t know how I beat this without walkthroughs — I think I did have some magazines that offered tips and hidden secrets — but I did a couple of times.

And that was it. I didn’t get a N64, so my interest in Zelda plummeted to nothing for the successive Nintendo consoles. I don’t know, nothing seemed to grab me as a “must play” the way those first two games did, and I’m content with that being the case for me.

Maniac Mansion: Ding-dong!

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1987’s Maniac Mansion. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

One of the reasons I love doing the Retro Gaming series here on Bio Break is that I get to correct some great oversights in my own past and visit games that I didn’t get to (or was unaware of) at that time. So one of these big oversights is LucasArts’ 1987 classic Maniac Mansion. All I really know of it is that (a) you can play through it with different characters and skills, (b) it was the sort-of prequel to Day of the Tentacle, and (c) it existed back in the text parser era. Other than that, I’m going in pretty fresh!

I do applaud the idea of creating different parties for the game to alter the playthrough experience. Considering that adventure games had very little in the way of replayability back then, this is a cool design. I went with the nerd Bernard and the punk rocker Razor as my picks (you have to use Dave as well, so he kind of doesn’t count for personal choice).

The intro is very barebones. We’re shown a meteor crashing down near a mansion “20 years ago,” a catchy theme song plays, and then we arrive at a group of young adults who are on a rescue mission. Apparently “Dr. Fred” has kidnapped “Sandy,” but nobody’s really giving me any overt context for this, so I’m assuming that we want Sandy back.

The sign in front of the mansion says, “WARNING: Trespassers will be horrible mutilated.” That’s a good sign, right?

The interface here took me a second to get it, but it’s actually pretty slick for 1987. Instead of typing everything out, you use the cursor to select verbs and then click on things in the environment to make full commands. I like that there’s a limit to how many verbs we’re talking about here. Plus, there’s the ability to swap between kids, which has a Lost Vikings puzzle-solving feel to it.

As Bernard starts poking around the mysterious mansion, a brief cutscene shows tube top Sandy in the clutches of blue-faced Dr. Fred. He’s doing the mad scientist thing of gloating about his evil plan — something involving sucking brains out — and he leaves Sandy to her doom.  This cannot stand!

One part of this game’s design I’m not too keen about is the fact that it uses a (semi?) real-time system, so that events start happening around the house in particular order. This puts pressure on to do things quickly or wait for certain other events to happen — such as Weird Ed here going for a snack — and that kind of raises the stress level for me.

Meanwhile, Razor gets captured in the kitchen by Nurse Edma and thrown into the dungeon. I think the characters here are like additional lives, in that you can lose one or two and possibly win, although you might be backing yourself up into an unwinnable scenario if you can’t have access to a character with a particular ability.

Yes, this looks like a totally normal door that anyone might have in their house, eh? At this point, I don’t know if this Sandy is worth all the trouble!

LOTRO: Evaluating missions part 1

As I said last week, my LOTRO project this month is to go through all of the missions and give my thoughts and experiences along with a rating of how much I enjoyed it. We’ll kick off with the War of the Three Peaks missions:

Abandoned Supplies

I thought this one would be a breeze — just run through a small abandoned fort (with nice scenery!) and click on 12 supply crates. But the weak-looking rats and bats ended up being incredibly tough and hard to handle as packs. I actually went down twice in this mission before playing it more cautiously. I wasn’t that thrilled with it. (Rating 2/5)

Jaws of the Dead

Now this is the kind of mission I like: quick, uncomplicated, and straight-forward. I just had to run through a rather small cave and dismantle 10 grisly trophies. The only even slightly challenging aspect is that some of the wargs were stealthed, but honestly, there were very few wargs altogether, so I’m not complaining. (Rating 5/5)

A New Clutch

No sweat: Just stroll into a dragon nursery and kill all their young. Why not? Doesn’t sound suicidal to me. This mission had a lot going for it: A very small playscape, mobs that weren’t too difficult, and sunny atmosphere. (Rating 5/5)

A Taste for Battle

I don’t know how heroic I’m supposed to feel when my whole job here is to ruin Orc’s lunches and then beat up on the lunch lady (pictured above), but that’s pretty much what this mission is. It’s a little on the longer side — not totally a slog, but heading in that direction. It’s fine, just not that fun or interesting. (Rating 3/5)

Kickin’ it in LOTRO’s mission system

Now that I can finally buy the War of the Three Peaks DLC with LOTRO points (side eyes to SSG), I not only have a full collection of content in the game once more, but I can participate in the newish mission system.

The studio was really talking up missions at one point, mostly because it’s “mini-expansion” had so few “features” that it was “embarrassing.” But now that I’ve gone through a dozen or so, I can confidently say that these are pretty much mini-skirmishes. Just little, on-demand quest instances where you can pop in, get stuff done in about 10-15 minutes, and be done with it while getting some currency, XP, and regular loot drops.

It’s nothing mindbendingly amazing — but it’s also kind of nice. Like, it’s a good quality-of-life feature that offers an option for play if you don’t have a lot of time, or don’t want to be reading through blocks of narrative text, or need a catch-up XP mechanism. I do like that these missions scale to your level, so you can’t out-level it. That’s a good touch.

There are better missions and worse ones, and I think I’m going to spend April making a list of which is which. Some of them are a little too time-intensive, and some are lightning quick. They also keep things interesting by slapping a random special condition on each run. So a mission on the first run might have monsters that ambush you, while the same mission done a second time might throw traps everywhere.

I think I might just park my Minstrel in the missions room and run them for a long while in an effort to level up so that I can just do the epic books without all of the side stuff. As I said, options.

I did go on an excursion to Wildwood, which was… fine? It’s fine. I don’t see anything that thrilling in it, nor that useful to a character that has vastly over-leveled that content, but it’s a decent alternative in the level 45-50 bracket. Bree-land is seriously huge now, and it wasn’t small before.

Syp’s gaming goals for April 2021

March 2021 in review

  • There’s no hiding it, this past month was all about getting really, really sucked into World of Warcraft Classic. The Burning Crusade Classic announcement and beta lit some sort of scary fire under me, and I worked on leveling both a Druid (20) and a Warlock (44) during this period. I also found a very nice guild and started working hard to make enough gold for epic and flying mounts.
  • In Lord of the Rings Online, I got my Minstrel to level 118 (through Iron Hills), checked out Wildwood, and spent a fair bit of time just running missions.
  • It was a really good month in Elder Scrolls Online, as my Warden hit level 50 and started in on Champion Points. I also did a full zone clear of Glenumbra and did a number of dungeons.
  • I also tried out Magic Legends. Whee.
  • Over in retro gaming, I worked on a series for Curse of Monkey Island.
  • I’ve also been evaluating and deleting a bunch of mobile games that I downloaded over the months and left sitting on my phone. It’s got to hit that polished, pick-up-and-put-down sweet spot to earn tenure.

April 2021’s gaming goals

  • With the Burning Crusade beta happening right now, I feel the pressure more than ever to get a level 60 on my account. So I’m going to buckle down, focus on my Warlock, and see if I can hit that target by the end of the month. I don’t think we’re getting the pre-patch until May anyway, and so I won’t have to face whether I want to start up a Shaman until that happens.
  • In LOTRO, eh, hitting 125 by doing missions would be ducky. I’m not really that motivated to play right now, so I’m throttling back.
  • I will be moving on to a new zone in Elder Scrolls Online, just haven’t decided which one yet. I have a whole bunch of quest strings to pull, so I guess I’ll pick one and hope for the best. Sooner or later, they all need to get done.
  • I am going to set a personal goal to evaluate and blog about two non-MMOs that are sitting in my ever-increasing game libraries, just for variety’s sake and to ease my psychic guilt over ignoring them.

Eye of the Beholder 2: Vast, dark, and still

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1991’s Eye of the Beholder 2: The Legend of Darkmoon. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The party decides to take a little break from crawling through the first dungeon level to poke around upstairs in the temple. There’s an angry priest who’s not too happy to see them, and so I guess he must die. I’m not quite sure why everyone’s all evil in this place, but hopefully the game will answer that at some point.

Many dead priests later, the party comes upon a room where there’s a pile of bones and a note. The cool thing is that by returning to the rez shrine, those pile of bones can be turned into the party’s fifth member, a mage named Amber. Welcome to the party, pal!

The crew also overhears some voices talking about people roping in victims for the temple, whatever that’s about. I’m starting to suspect this place isn’t on the up-and-up.

Doors with talking lips on them are always a little unsettling to me. Where are the eyes?

So it’s here that I got stuck for a good hour, because I couldn’t progress any further in the first dungeon without a grey key. The problem was that I had already used the one grey key I had and was worried that I used it on the wrong thing — dead ends are possible in games like this! I spent a lot of time roaming around both levels that I had unlocked, poking through everything, until I finally found another grey key in an alcove. Whew!

As an aside, it was at this point that I also figured out that I could use the number pad to move, which is WAY faster than mouse-clicking on the move icons. I know, I’m a bright one.

Combat is still a little too cumbersome for my tastes in this game. It’s a frantic click-fest between different icons and trying to open up mage and cleric books to click on specific spells and then direct those spells to their targets. I really wish this game had hotbars or, lacking that, a more traditional turn-based menu system.

The party descends to the second level of the underground dungeon, and everything gets a lot more ominous. “Vast, dark, and still” it is called.

In another prison block, the group discovers a Dwarf Cleric named Shorn. He’s from another temple, having traveled here to address whatever great evil lies within. The team welcomes him aboard as their six and final member!

The enemy clerics down here are supremely annoying. They start fights back casting hold on two random party members, taking them out of action. I’m sure there’s probably a spell to reverse that, I should look it up.

Continuing through the second level of the dungeon, we learn a very helpful fact that head crushers are  not meant to be comfy. Good to know, Eye of the Beholder. Good to know.

The party stumbles upon yet another prisoner, Calandra, who is definitely there as some early 1990s eye candy. She offers to join up and help, but alas, there’s a six-member limit on the group size and I have all the help I need. We also find a whole lot of useful gear for Wolfy, including +1 scale armor, so that puts me in a good mood.

Kind of wish I had more than six guys, because let me tell you, these skeleton warriors kicked my BUTT the first time I encountered them. I’m still in that awkward phase of trying to flip through menus while they are bashing me in real time, and I didn’t even manage to kill one before Wolfy died and required a reload. This totally violates the RPG rule that the first skeletons you encounter should be little anemic things that, I dunno, slap you ineffectually.

So here I am going to put a bookmark in my adventures through this game, because as I write this, it’s been over two weeks since I last played. I think it’s the combat system that killed my desire to wrestle with this, because it’s too prominently featured and too poorly designed to be enjoyable for a long haul. That’s a shame, because otherwise this is a genuinely interesting world to explore!

Battle Bards Episode 190: Genshin Impact

It was the FOMO title of last fall, and now Genshin Impact is in your ears! On this episode of the Battle Bards, Syp, Steff, and the Other One explore the varied and delightfully cheerful soundtrack to this online RPG. Unless you have headphones made of live kittens, it’ll be the most adorable thing you’ll listen to all day!

Episode 190 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Make Haste, Partner,” “Liyue Defense,” and “Dusk in Mondstadt”)
  • “Beats of Water Drops”
  • “Spring in Clouds”
  • “Bustling Afternoon of Mondstadt”
  • “Welp, Didn’t Expect That”
  • “Chasing the Torrents”
  • “Symphony of Boreal Wind” 
  • “Against All Odds”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Katriana
  • Jukebox picks: “Space Trip” from The Light Corridor, “Main Theme” from Desperados III, and “Expedition” from Epic Seven
  • Outro (feat. “Happy Journey”)

Magic Legends has a long way to go to convince me

Hey, look at that. Cryptic released a new game. Whee.

Oh, I’m sorry, am I not being enthusiastic enough? WHEE. There. That took a year off of my life, but the lengths I will go for my readers.

I should be a whole lot more excited, I know. This is Cryptic, after all, and I’ve never met a Cryptic game that hasn’t become a guilty pleasure of some sort. And I have a lot of warm feelings toward the whole Magic the Gathering IP.

But I’m still sucking on that sour candy of Cryptic’s decision to downgrade Magic Legends from an MMO to… whatever this is. Multiplayer with a whole lot of crazy people shouting at me in zone chat. It’s so hard to get worked up over this game, also considering how little promotion Cryptic has done for it.

In any case, the open beta is here, and I dragged my reluctant attention into it. Sure, it had some hurtles to overcome to get me interested, but stranger things have happened. Right?

Made a Necromancer because I’ve always gone Black in MTG (and summons are my thing). I’ll give the game this: The spells are pretty punchy, varied, and interesting to use. I’m running around whipping things (?) while throwing down death fields, summoning zombies, and bringing caskets up to zap people. It’s weird, but I can dig that.

I haven’t really wrapped my head around how this game is structured, though. Just did a few tutorial zones, seeing as how the Lag Monster was oh so real in that first week. Is there gear? What do you do with the, like, 20 currencies this game offers? How do I get more cards?

Just in case I was in danger of forgetting that this was a Cryptic title, the trademark Cryptic jankiness was there. You know, where it’s functional but not polished. The cutscenes and voice acting in particular had me looking in vain for a “SKIP” button. Why doesn’t that exist? Why must I be subject to this?

I guess I’m still in a “dabble and see” mode right now. It hasn’t grabbed me yet — again, ARPGs always are at a disadvantage with me in the long run because I lose interest fast — but I’m curious enough to keep poking around. For now. For a while.

Random gushing about World of Warcraft’s Druids

Over the years of playing World of Warcraft, I’ve settled into a set stable of classes that I like the best and roll the most often. Death Knight and Warlock would be the two most played, I think, while Shaman and Hunters got some good amount of time in the past.

But the class that’s grown closest to my heart has to be the Druid, especially over the past half-decade or so. I’ve kind of developed a love affair with this class for many reasons, and I’ve played one in both Classic and Retail. It just *fits* me in a way that is perfect for my playstyle and personality.

For starters, there’s the fact that Druids are the most flexible hybrids in the game, able to essentially swap out four roles or mini-classes. That’s perfect for when you want a different playstyle or have a situation that class for one class over another.

And their toolkits are amazing, with heals, buffs, snares, a combat rez, and all sorts of other goodies. Lots of movement assists. I even really like the spellcasting animations and the heal-over-time nature of Restoration.

However, what really makes the Druid stand out to me is that above being a hybrid class, it’s also, in effect, its own faction. Way before Blizzard was yammering on about “class fantasy,” the Druid really had it going on. It was the game’s semi-hidden third faction, bridging the gap between Horde and Alliance. It had its own home base (and teleport) and strong identity.

When Blizzard tried to spread this to other classes in Legion with class order halls (which was a pretty good idea in retrospect), Druids still came out ahead with a fantastic hidden warp room that contained ports to all over the game world.

So yeah, nothing profound other than a geeky guy saying that he really, really likes the Druid. There are a few drawbacks to the class — the limited race choices, the clunky bear models in Classic — but I’m thinking that one is probably going to be my main going into TBC.