Pillars of Eternity: Character creation

chanterPillars of Eternity wasn’t high up on my “must play” list until lately — or even on my radar, to be honest. I saw pictures of it, it looked like an old-school isometric, but didn’t investigate much. But what a difference a week can make, especially when a lot of people are talking about something, and then you see a few positive reviews, and you take the time to really look into it. It was about yesterday that I realized I really had to play this, and so I picked it up today on GOG.com as a lunch break game.

I just finished installing it and rolled up a new character. Already I’m really impressed with the character creator. First of all, it’s easy to understand with a lot of explanations and tooltips so I don’t feel like I’m lost. Second, there are SCADS of options. I was really torn on a few of them, but listened to my gut when it got tough. I very much liked the several screens of options choosing a background — which had nominal stat boosts attached, but I always like picking the backstory to my characters.

So I created Syppi, a Hearth Orlan (the halfling-ish wildling race) Chanter (summoner/buffer) who hails from the White that Wends. I buffed up her primary stats, but invested a few extra in doing damage and making her a little more perceptive. I’m most happy that I have a spell to summon a phantasm to fight for me; one of my favorite things in the Baldur’s Gate games was to use monster summon spells in fights and overrun my enemies with tons of pets.

Back to the game!

The Secret Adventures: Souvenir shopping (Savage Coast #8)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

How to get ahead in Kingsmouth (side mission)

  • So the name of this mission has me wondering: In the Savage Coast, are we still in Kingsmouth (the town)? Is the entire island also considered Kingsmouth’s territory? Because there is a bit of geographical separation as well as the fact that the first zone is called Kingsmouth.
  • Anyway, heads on stakes. Gotta put an end to whoever’s doing that.
  • The tracks I follow to the culprit (a headhunter wendigo) are pretty faint and a good example of how TSW puts quest elements out in the open that nobody notices unless they’re on that particular mission.

Army of the Deep (side mission)

  • An insanely easy mission, this one has you standing in one place while a few waves of draug come by. Intercept, kill, then on to killing the big bossy. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Through the looking-glass (side mission)

  • Well there’s a body on a spit in the middle of the river, and as usual, it’s my job to go check it out. I think I will qualify for the world’s most experienced coroner before I finish this game.
  • The body is booby-trapped, as “The Collector” comes to… er, collect me? He and his minions are those sackcloth guys. Nothing tough, even after stepping on a mine or two.

Red’s Tackle (side mission)

  • Another breadcrumb quest, this one tasks me with returning a tacklebox to Red. This is perfect, as I was heading there anyway!

Ami Legend (action mission)

  • I am a sucker for a good quest name pun.
  • I’ve always liked Red’s Bait & Tackle. It’s a warm, friendly place that’s right in the middle of a whole lot of trouble, yet Red doesn’t look too concerned about that. Maybe it’s the protection of the Council of Venice guys right outside, I dunno. Red and his family are the main introduction to the Wabanaki tribe, who will feature much more prominently in the next zone.
  • No, Red’s Bait & Tackle does not sell dynamite. According to the sign.
  • Anyway, Red talks about how bad things are coming for Ami (the “bait”) — and that I am the finishing line. I love how my character looks behind her when he says this: who me?
  • I head out and start killing Ak’abs. Let me tell you, if you like dealing with Ak’abs — and who doesn’t? They’re so delightful — this is the mission for you. Lots and lots of Ak’abs.
  • Eventually I end up at a dark, dank cave, where Ami joins me on a stroll through its twisted innards. I actually like having her along, since she provides some companionship and exposition (mostly flavor text, but still). Also, she fights a bit!
  • Ami says that the Ak’ab slept “for generations” below the ground, but like cicadas, they’re back.
  • I’m really not a fan of this mission. It goes on way, way too long for one thing — the cave is very long, and you have to fight your way all the way into it, guard Ami while she destroys the nest, then fight your way right back out. Plus, all of this fighting is in cramped quarters against the always-dashing Ak’abs. So glad to have finished it.

Another bug hunt (side mission)

  • In the cave that we went into in Ami Legend, there’s a dead soldier lying there. It’s up to me to collect his and his buddies’ dog tags, for my scrapbook, I assume! I like being able to do a couple of missions at the same time.
  • It’s a little disturbing to me that all of these four soldiers are in their underwear. What… is the story with that?

The Light that Blinds (side mission)

  • Why Red and company have been able to survive while surrounded by Ak’abs and draug is given some explanation in a series of wards (now in dreamcatcher form!) placed around the store.
  • I assemble my own natural ward with the help of some feathers and sinew from a deep one. The final result not only completes the mission, but gives me a one-shot item that disables Ak’abs. Perfect now that I’m done fighting them!

Crustacean curse (side mission)

  • Hey, you know what would be a great activity to do while wandering around in a draug-infested bay? Check lobster traps! Boy this game is wonky some times.

The player, not the piece (action mission)

  • Red is playing chess with Ami’s daughter Kyra and having a conversation with her about winning. It’s laden with meta references to playing TSW as a whole — with mentions of the endgame, not fighting every battle, being the player instead of the piece. At least, I want to think that it’s meta.
  • With the double AP event going on, I’m gaining enough to buy my way into the second-tier skills. I’m trying to shore up my current build (which is already terrific). I swap out Thor’s Hammer for Electrical Manifestation (due to the latter’s purge ability. Unfortunately, it’s also on a long timer, keeping it from being in every fight). I also add Critical Control to jack up my crit rating even further when I’m attacking hindered targets. Ideally I want to work up to Ice Manifestation, since its hinder works well into several of my synergies.
  • Your enjoyment of this mission will largely be dependent on whether or not you like staking up corpses. If you do, you’re in for a treat and I really do not want you to be my friend. Essentially, I work my way up the draug chain of command by burning and staking the bodies of the underlings, then killing and staking the little boss that comes after me for doing that, then the same with a bigger boss, then a much bigger boss, and then C’thulu himself. It’s messy, weird work.

sq4Breakfast of Champignons (action mission)

  • Ami indicates that the Wabanaki are at a disadvantage in this supernatural takeover because of some division that happened several years back. Still, there might be a chance to harness the island’s strength and have it fight back.
  • To do this, of course, I’m going to have to run around and collect mushrooms from all over the zone. Why? I am not sure why. Sometimes — many times — The Secret World doesn’t really explain what’s going on in a mission. It trusts that you’re smart enough to figure it out from context and clues, or it’s just jerking you around. That’s the first rule of The Secret World: It loves to jerk you around.
  • The second rule is: This game hates you. It’s OK to hate it back sometimes.
  • So I do my dutiful chores and pick mushrooms, which is made joyful by the fact that all of the mushrooms poison me, damage me, or summon every Ak’ab within the tri-state area to pay me a house call. I actually die to a mushroom, believe it or not.
  • I did bump into one sackclocth creature that had a rather chilling name: His Daughter’s Keepers. Brrrrr…
  • Mushrooms acquired, I mix up a recipe, eat it, and get high on shrooms. This somehow warns me that there’s a large pod about to give birth and that I need to destroy it within five minutes. See rule number one of The Secret World (above). I will say that the color palette change is actually kind of cool for this part.

SWTOR: Judge, jury, and executioner

I’m still logging into SWTOR every few days to run a batch of dailies on Yavin-4 for rep and comms. I’ve almost got all of my gear up to item level 186, which is my primary goal before 3.2 comes out. Speaking of which, that looks like it’ll be a great update — a new planet plus the outfit designer! I’m still rocking one of the flight suits, but more looks would always be welcome.

I have to keep an eye on my credits, because every time I near 350K I know I have to go spend them on something or else face the dreaded untouchable escrow. At 348,000, I took a break from Yavin dailies (I’m getting really good at these!) and headed back to fleet for some shopping.

I saw a player in trade chat advertise that he was selling a complete set of adaptive Dark Seeker armor for what appeared to be an affordable price. I don’t know how much it’s really worth, but it looked pretty cool and I thought it would make a nice gift to my lowbie alt. Past that, I went to the GTN and started buying mod upgrades for HK-51. Since as a free-to-play player I can’t get the companion armor set reward from the Yavin weekly, this will have to do as a substitute.

I was kind of laughing about this in guild chat the other day when we were talking about the F2P restrictions in this game. For some, it either pushes them away from the game entirely or forces them to sub up. For me, it’s a powerful incentive to get stubborn and figure out ways around them or how to live with them.

With the armor sent off to my alt, I logged onto her to grab it and test drive her character a bit. Thursday is a thin, white-eyed Sith Warrior who is going so dark side and sarcastic that I’m sure she won’t get invited to any birthday parties from now on. I had already invested some credits in expanding her inventory during my free sub week, and apart from lacking the option to disable helmets and gaining access to artifact equipment, she’s pretty much set to go.

The Dark Seeker armor looks amazing, by the way. I’m not a fan of Jedi/Sith robes, so fortunately this is more of a comfy-looking tunic with a cool design and the most awesome face mask ever. It looks a little like General Grevious’ from Revenge of the Sith and adds a hint of voice modulation. It definitely helps to get into the mood of the character.

I only did a few quests at the start of Korriban, the most notable of which was to judge three prisoners who were being held for various crimes. Not only did I get to judge but also got to carry out the sentence. The light side options were to let them go, but dark side offered both a straight-forward execution and a trial by combat. I let the spy fight me, I killed the former Imperial officer outright, and I sent the last guy (who was definitely innocent) back to prison. Hey, I needed a dark side option and that was more merciful than torturing him until he confessed!

Don’t judge me.

Dealing with a wasted session

aragornMy baleful eye of Sypon has turned to Lord of the Rings Online in an effort to get caught up through Update 15’s content. Last night’s play session wasn’t anything awesome for the most part; I’m struggling through a cold and mostly was playing on autopilot. I barely remember the stories, other than saving a girl who ran away to hang out with a river goddess, but at least I chewed through a good portion of quests in central Gondor.

By the time 10:00 p.m. hit, the epic storyline landed me in the court of Aragorn (above), his Grey Company, and his ghostly backup dancers. I wasn’t fully expecting to find that, and I’ll admit that the discovery was pretty neat. It’s cool to see how far he’s come in the game from that guy crouching in the dirt in Archet asking you to find some Kingsfoil for his friend.

Anyway, Aragorn asked me to go ahead and run the Pelargir epic battle. Sigh. Fine. I’ve been trying so hard to forget that LOTRO even has epic battles, which tells you a little about how highly I regard that system. But I figured that if I could knock it out before bed, that would be a good way to cap the night.

As with the Helm’s Deep battles, Pelargir was mindless drudgery. Run and fight, feel like you’re not making much of a difference at all, and wait around for far too long while mobs come at you in waves. Thank goodness for Netflix and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Binge watching is fun.

Long story short, I spend about 35 to 40 minutes going through the motions and then suddenly die due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having 15 mobs dance on my skull. Quickly I respawn — all of the way at the beginning — and try to run back, but the “they can’t die” NPCs get killed within seconds and I fail the instance. It boots me back out to the landscape and Aragorn shakes his head slowly while giving me a disapproving look.

He needn’t have bothered; I felt plenty disappointed in myself. Is there any worse feeling in MMO gaming than to blow a good chunk of time on what turns out to be a wasted effort? I’ve gone through this before in hard quests where I spend so much time pushing forward but can’t complete it or with those endless dungeon runs in which your party keeps wiping and can’t progress.

Sure, it can’t always be victory after victory in MMOs. Failure can and should exist. But when you’re investing tons of time into these games, you want to see progress for that investment. I logged out thinking that I could have gone to bed an hour earlier and it wouldn’t have made any difference in my LOTRO progress if I had.

I think it’s important in those disappointing moments to take a big step back, refresh, and regroup in the future with a more positive attitude. Next time I will beat this. And if I don’t, I will chuck my hard drive into the cracks of Mt. Doom as petty revenge.

Guild Wars 2: We now pause for this brief intermission

end2Let me tell you, I could get used to this “wrapping up games” approach to playing MMOs. Two days of buckling down in Guild Wars 2 rewarded me with getting my Ranger through the last four chapters of season 2. With its conclusion, I feel quite content parking my character until Heart of Thorns comes out. Sure, I’ve got world completion to do, but I’d rather save that for when it might be earning me mastery points as well.

So. Season 2. I think most players would agree with me when I say that it was a step in the right direction after the weirdly fragmented season 1. There was a story that progressed, two new zones added, and a few interesting (but not genuinely compelling) mechanics added. The rewards were good, including the carapace armor and a free Black Lion chest key (which got me one of the new rare dyes). There was good use of secondary character development and a few good twists that I didn’t see coming.

end1Yet for all of that, season 2 wasn’t fun. It’s probably why I’ve been dragging my feet so long on completing it, because I felt as though I had to instead of wanted to. If I had to sum up my biggest complaints into a short list, it would be this:

  1. It was a small story that was spread over too much territory. Even worse, it only served to gap the end of season 1 with the start of the expansion, so there wasn’t any strong resolution.
  2. Fighting plant-based creatures sucks. Oh yes, please knock me down again. Please vomit an endless stream of red circles. Let me whack away at a vine and not get the eerie feeling as though I’m playing some sort of aggressive gardening simulator.
  3. While new zones are appreciated, neither of them were visually appealing and exciting to explore. Plus, the less said about GW2’s fixation with platforming, the better.

Again, I feel that Guild Wars 2’s narrative strength is in telling smaller, personal stories, such as with the earlier quests of the personal storyline or the occasional well-done event. I saw flashes of this in season 2 — the noble party, a character’s death, the reprise of Guild Wars 1’s ascension quest — but most of the run assumed that we’d be in awe of the return of the plant dragon and content to see things play out on a huge scale. At least for me, the larger it got, the more disconnected I felt. A big attack on the Pact’s base wasn’t a goosebump-raising moment but a tiresome slog through a slowly scripted encounter.

At least my distaste for the plant elves is warranted. I’ve seen some people a little irked that the Sylvari keep coming up as primary characters and villains, but really as long as ArenaNet’s going to continue on with the plant motif, that’s going to happen. Maybe the expansion will wrap up this focus and finally move us on to something else.

I ended up abandoning my longbow in favor of a shortbow for most encounters. Actually, I would have preferred to stick with my greatsword, but many fights seemed to favor a ranged approach due to nasty red circles and the necessity to strafe. Still, I’m looking forward to having a staff with the expansion, and I hope that it doesn’t take too much work to get to that point.

At least season 2 is done and that’s one more thing off my plate. Onward and upward!

The Secret Adventures: She was a teenage A-bomb (Savage Coast #7)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

carterExtracurricular Activities (side mission)

  • A dropped notebook from Montag talks about a powerful lady named Ami who might be the target of a wendigo. Time to go save her, maybe? If she’s not already dog food.
  • Time to go wendigo hunting! Nothing too tricky, and this breadcrumb quest eventually leads me to Ami’s current residence at Red’s Bait and Tackle. As I’m not quite ready to go there yet, I finish up the mission, wave hello, and port back to the academy.

Blue Fires Burning (side mission)

  • All it took was a little fog to call out all of the freaks on this island, because now we have death cultists doing campfire singalongs within a stone’s throw from the main road. Well, that ain’t going to happen on my watch, no sirree!
  • Kill six death cultists, done with quest. Wow, that was simple.

gym The Rec Center Cannot Hold (action mission)

  • So this isn’t part of the mission, but doing the dialogue options with Carter reveals some important clues about the rest of the game. In particular, she mentions having visions of other super-powered kids in a colorful place, wearing sailor outfits — including a small kid who is terribly smart. She’s talking about all of the kids in Tokyo, something I didn’t catch the first time through.
  • Anyway, the situation at Innsmouth is bad with all of the familiars and spirits going bonkers, so time to make things a little saner. Montag recommends I not use a fire axe, as it can bounce off the vertebre. He’s awesome.
  • One thing I haven’t talked a lot about with The Secret World is its subtle weather and daylight effects. There is a day/night cycle as well as the occasional weather pattern, and in this mission I am dealing with a dusky atmosphere with some fog. It’s incredibly moody and I love it.
  • This mission has killing and a LOT of it. It takes me the better part of 20 minutes to wade through waves of mobs, dying a few times when I get overrun.
  • Eventually I head to the gym, where a giant flesh blob is hunkered down on the middle of the court. A little gasoline and a match wakes it up, and from then on it’s a bullet hell frenzy to put it down.
  • So what was that thing? According to Kirsten Geary, it’s the love child of too many constructs that decided to “bump uglies.” Wow. Good to know. Actually, I could have gone without knowing that.

tearCarter Unleashed (action mission)

  • I’ve only done this quest once before, and that was back when the issue released with it. I’ve always been fascinated by Carter, the lone surviving student of Innsmouth Academy, and not just because she’s splattered with blood. Apparently she also has nuclear-type powers that makes her the most dangerous person on the campus, and she wants me to chaperone her to the basement to clear out the rest of the familiars.
  • Montag’s notebook actually lists her powers as “intense thaumonuclear devastation.” This is going to be awesome.
  • After assembling a protective shield kit thingie, I head down into the basement. It’s suitably creepy, with familiars hanging off of hooks and all manner of creaking and ominous tones. What it isn’t, however, is difficult — this is a basic escort mission in which Carter helps out with the fights.
  • The fun part comes when a ton of familiars gang up and then Carter goes into explodey mode. It’s fun to watch her wipe out an entire room (I want that power!) but the first time I played this I did not understand that I needed to activate my shield; I kept trying to run out of the room to dodge the blast and died every time.
  • Once we beat down a giant flesh abomination, it’s over and Carter is pleased to have tested her powers beyond what she’s done in the past. You go girl.

dockThe Strange Boat House in the Mist (action mission)

  • We’re about done with Innsmouth, just one more main mission to go. Annabel says that a bunch of the faculty tried to make a break for the river when the fog rolled in but something got them. This “something” is perhaps related to the live and work of a farmer-slash-magus named Henderson.
  • Part of Henderson’s legacy are all of the animated sackcloth golems around the island (I’m assuming here based on context). They come in three varieties: shotgun, chainsaw, and baby doll (the last one is a magic focus). Terrifically designed mobs, I must say.
  • The quest itself is gruesome, as I stumbled over mangled corpse after mangled corpse, collecting IDs and learning just a bit (from names, faces, and occupation) about who used to work at the academy.
  • However, it turns out that the main culprit of the killings was a gigantic draug, so Henderson might be off the hook for this one.
  • As a bonus to the mission rewards, I got enough AP to earn my beloved “turn the tides” skill. This is a flat-out great ability that delivers a chunky heal — kind of like a rechargable timer. I love having it on hand in case of emergencies.

Survival of the Dead (side mission)

  • A note in a bottle teases the possibility of survivors in the nearby cottages, but I will never be that lucky. No, it’s a lot of undead and a lot of draug and a lot of bullets. Let’s do this.
  • And it’s quickly done. Want to buy more story with this one, please.

Organizing my MMO gaming projects

I got to say that there’s a satisfying feeling in having a max-level character who is ready to participate in any upcoming content, whether it be patches, expansions, group events, or what have you. Considering how much my altoholism has hampered me in achieving this in the past, I think it’s been a very good decision indeed to — as a rule of thumb, but not an inflexible one — stick to a single character per MMO right now.

I have a lot on my plate in terms of gaming, but a few recent goal achievements has fueled this desire to get more games and characters up to the cap so that I can flit around between MMOs easier without feeling that I’m trying to “catch up.” So here’s my current roster of MMOs and the status of my progress in each:

The Secret World

  • Yeti: DONE. She’s finished with all current Tokyo content, has a good build, decent gear, gradually leveling up AEGIS and filling out AP wheel. Ready for Issue #11.
  • Syppi: Lowbie character for the blogging project, but not my main.

Lord of the Rings Onilne

  • Syppi: IN PROGRESS. Level 100 with a second-age halberd, but still puttering through Central Gondor. Need to buckle down and power her through.

Marvel Heroes

  • Squirrel Girl: IN PROGRESS. Level 40, very sporadic play, would like to get her through the rest of the heroic storyline and level her to 60, no big goals past that.
  • Saving up 400 eternity splinters for Gambit (250 at the moment).

Star Wars: The Old Republic

  • Syp: DONE. Level 60, through Shadow of Revan’s story. She’s halfway done with gearing up with comms, could work on daily reputation and do dungeons.

RIFT

  • Syp: IN PROGRESS. Stalled out in the first zone of the latest expansion. Only level 61. Would really like to rev this back up and get ‘er done.

Guild Wars 2

  • Dawnbreak Wild: IN PROGRESS. At least she’s level 80, but my current and most pressing goal is to get her through season 2. After that, the expansion, masteries, and world exploration.

The Elder Scrolls Online

  • Might be rerolling as a mage. What can I say, I need my pets! Also, swinging swords and axes in this game isn’t doing it for me.

Other potential future MMOs:

  • Skyforge: Hearing good-to-mixed things, would like to get in the beta.
  • Shroud of the Avatar: Definitely on my to-do list for this year.
  • World of Warcraft: I keep toying with the idea of starting over with a brand-new Shaman.
  • Asheron’s Call: I’ve never even tried it, and now it’s buy-to-play for $10. Dunno how long it’s going to be around for, however.