Battle Bards Episode 73: Spooky & Magical II

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By popular demand — which you should read as “Syl’s imperial fiat” — the Battle Bards are returning to the fertile musical landscape of spooky and magical tunes. From undead taverns to fairy courts, the bards explore all manner of sparkly, moody themes. So turn the lights down low, brew your favorite beverage, and enjoy!

Episode 73 show notes

  • Intro (feat. “Comfort” from Forsaken World and “Quiet Place” from Ragnarok 2)
  • “Undead Tavern” from World of Warcraft
  • “Magiteknical Difficulties” from Final Fantasy XIV
  • “Old History Area Theme” from Angels Online
  • “The Ghost Ship Navislamia” from Rappelz
  • “All’s Fairy in Love and War” from RuneScape
  • “White Forest” from ArcheAge
  • “The Falls of Nimrodel” from Lord of the Rings Online
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox: “Little Girl, Gen” from Child of Light, “Dodging Bullets” from Quantum Break, and “Harvest Hazards” from Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
  • Outro (feat. “The Magic Forest” from LEGO Universe)

Listen to episode 73 now!

MMORPG feels in the face

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I am both a sentimental old fool and a complete sucker for nostalgia. While I do try to not hang on to everything from the past — or worse, attempt to live in it — I confess to a deep affection for the good things of yesteryear and occasionally let my mind wander back to earlier days. This is particularly true when a thought or smell triggers a memory, and I chase the feeling of that for a while.

Sometimes, you really can’t go back. I can’t, for instance, return to my grandfather’s house on the canals in Florida. He died over 20 years ago and other people are now living there. But in my mind, I can picture every room of that house, the smell of his fishing boat, the “secret” fort that my brothers and I built next door at the marina. Digging through those thoughts, even to details as trivial as what his fridge water dispenser sounded like and how the kitchen chairs felt when you sat in them, are crystal-clear when I dust them off. It’s comforting to me that they’re still lurking there in my mind, somewhere.

So maybe it’s not that surprising that when I go back to an old favorite MMO after a long break, I get a strong dose of the “feels.” I think it’s in part of all of these memories that had been filed in long-term storage once I left the game for a good amount of time being called back. There’s just this powerful, comforting, familiar feeling when I return to a game and am reminded of what I used to really like about it.

Thinking of this made me realize, once again, that an MMO is a whole sensory package. Oh, it doesn’t have smells (yet!) and taste (probably a good thing), but there is the muscle memory of the keyboard and mouse, the sights of the world, and definitely the sounds. Logging into LOTRO last week after almost a year away was like plunging back into a pool of sensory delights. I forgot how much that game excelled at environmental audio and creating a feeling of a real world around you. Likewise, World of Warcraft’s stylized art and audio cues are about as ingrained into my subconscious as my ringtone at this point.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that you sometimes see bloggers gushing when they return to an MMORPG after an extended absence. It’s the joy in being hit by those feels in the face, of rediscovering something that you didn’t really realize you had lost. Of knowing that it’s still there, still waiting. It’s a small opportunity to revisit the past even as we play into the future. Just one of the reasons that I like this genre, I suppose.

King’s Quest IV part 6: Ogre confidential

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(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Now Rosella is on a quest to get the hen that lays golden eggs. Her blind willingness to do this for an admittedly evil fairy makes me really wonder what would happen if the game came up to her and told her that she had to assassinate this fairy for a quest. Heck, the game would probably be over in about four minutes.

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Remember that crown Rosella got from the frog prince? Apparently it has the power to turn the wearer into a froggy, although Rosella gets to take it off without any external kissing needed. It’s a clever way to get through the waterfall, I’ll admit.

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“Oh no! It’s a YouTube comments section!”

Actually, it’s a troll in the dark. Same thing (rimshot).

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Aww… Rosella made friends with an ogre’s bulldog. Kind of want that dog to go with her. Would be awesome for future threats: “Sic ’em, Rex!”

There’s an axe upstairs, which Rosella grabs for her future murderous rampage across Fairyland.

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And add “voyeurism” to the list of Rosella’s many crimes. Also, that ogre looks way too much like me for comfort. What are you trying to say, King’s Quest IV?

The ogre roars for his hen, who comes over, poops out a golden egg, and departs, having had its 15 seconds of fame. The ogre then falls asleep (okay…), and Rosella dashes out and commits grand theft fowl.

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Commands that King’s Quest IV did not recognize at this juncture:

  • Wring hen’s neck
  • Put ballgag in hen’s mouth
  • Toss hen to ogre with a “jk!”
  • Squawk back at hen to confuse ogre
  • Murder axe ogre to death

Anyway, Rosella delivers the hen to the evil fairy, who THEN gives ANOTHER quest: to get Pandora’s Box so that she can become unstoppable. It’s at this point that Rosella’s dim mind finally starts working:

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OH YOU THINK?

Axe. AXE HER. Take the throne by force, marry that green weirdo, and be ruler over this demented kingdom!

Sierra really did not make this game according to my specifications.

King’s Quest IV part 5: Dead from exposure

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(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

When last we left Rosella, she had been swallowed by a whale and was hanging out with the skeleton of… let’s call it Pinocchio and try not to think too hard about that. Anyway, to get out, she’s got to try to climb this tongue and tickle the whale’s uvula. And there is just about no way that I could type that previous sentence without it sounding dirty. Sorry.

Anyway, it wouldn’t be a Sierra game if there wasn’t some sort of infuriating and near-impossible pathing puzzle, so congrats to King’s Quest IV, you’ve joined the club with the tongue climb. The trick is that Rosella can’t climb straight up — she’s got to start on the side and do a little bit up, a little bit over, and hope against hope that she doesn’t fall. It’s so very, very stupid.

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I may have more pride in accomplishing the tongue climb than fathering my children. I will now carry this screenshot in my wallet for all to see.

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The whale has taken Rosella to another island — this one looking as though it’s a small ship graveyard of sorts. There’s a golden bridle here, which might come in useful with the whole “unicorn abduction” scheme, provided that I can get back to the mainland.

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It was THREE MINUTES. How does someone die of both exposure and thirst in THREE MINUTES? Is she made of paper tissue or something?

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So how do I get off? Dolphin express, naturally. Happily I had a dead fish to give to a pelican who gave me a whistle which summoned a dolphin that apparently lives for transporting incognito princesses back to the shore.

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Space Quest in-joke! OK, King’s Quest IV, you have briefly amused me. Bravo.

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Unicorn bridled and ridden, Rosella takes up the reins of a heroine and leads the beast right into the lair of the evil fairy queen. Well done, lass.

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Of course, a fresh unicorn isn’t enough to sate the desires of Lolotte, who now says that Rosella has to go get the goose that lays the golden eggs. Bet that makes great scrambled eggs!

The Secret Adventures: Tyler Freeborn (Blue Mountain #10)

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(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

The Search for Tyler Freeborn (action mission)

Heading into the City of the Sun God seems like a good place to take a break from the Egyptian content to clean up on one quest series I left for a better build and gear: the Tyler Freeborn chain. If I recall correctly, this was the first time that Funcom experimented with releasing an issue that mainly featured one overarching storyline — and to great acclaim, too.

To start it off, we head back to Blue Mountain. Oh dreary skies, how I missed you! And zombies! And virtually no mention of “Aten” anywhere! There’s an SD card lying on the side of the road that’s about to lead to bigger things…

The recording on the card shows Tyler, an investigative journalist of sorts, reporting from the early days of the fog. It’s an interesting perspective, although it made me wonder how long ago it was from the player’s entry to the island. There’s no definitive or even well-worked timeline for this game, which surprises me (this was the best I could find). There are a lot of questions still floating about regarding the pacing of the story and how much of an impact that the story in these four zones has had on the world at large. Considering that this is an apocalyptic tale, it makes one really wonder (especially in light of the NYC Times Square raid).

Anyway, Tyler is freaked out about the fog and determined to figure out what it is, especially since no one can seem to leave through it to safety — although plenty of people have been coming in, mostly military and Orochi. Following Tyler’s footprints, so to speak, leads me to the military camp where I find that he was arrested for trespassing. Also, Tyler has a blog. No, seriously. And at least this blog does help with the timeframe in question, as the last entry is February 22, 2010. We know that the Filth bomb in Tokyo happens sometime in late February, and that the whole of Solomon Island is still kitted out for Halloween. So has the fog been there since October? That’s a lot longer than I would’ve guessed… and the survivors don’t appear to have been hanging out for months. Weeks, perhaps, but I got the feeling more of “days.” So I guess I’m still confused. Maybe Tyler’s journal was from February earlier in the year that the whole mess went down?

Tyler was apparently apprehended by the military and taken to their safe house, which is now in the middle of Ghost Central. Probably not a great place for him. He did manage to escape, somehow, and left behind a trailer key for the nearby Wabinaki park.

When I get there and try the door, an Orochi agent — a live one! — bowls me over and starts running for it. I give chase, but he soon gets away in his sleek van while I’m still stick with my hoverboard (I wouldn’t trade it, though).

Then begins one of the coolest sequences in the game, where you have to pursue the van while an Orochi attack helicopter starts firing rockets all over the road. Just when things couldn’t get any more interesting, a massive draug shows up, knocks the van over, then flings the van into the helicopter, causing both to explode. Oh well, guess it was too much to hope that the Orochi red shirts would make it through a mission.

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The Research of Tyler Freeborn (action mission)

Another camcorder interlude, this one showing Tyler filming one of the black spirit-dogs of the island and being way, way too impressed by them. More rabbit trails lead me to a cage in the middle of a construction site containing “subject three,” some poor infected Orochi sap. When I touch the cage, lights come on everywhere, Orochi (not dead!) pop out of the woodwork (literally), and guardian dogs emerge for one giant fight.

I’ll admit, this fight cleaned my clock a few times. I had to re-apply Turn the Tables to my hotbar for some extra mid-fight health, because it was going on a little too long and I couldn’t make the difference. Afterward, the remaining guardians fled and I chased them down to a cave. Big doggie inside, and after I put him down I read one of the most revealing notes in the game. It was an Orochi email stating that the mutations caused by the Mist and those caused by the Filth might be two very distinct forces instead of some sort of supernatural tag-team. Kind of makes sense when you look at the whole thing.

Need more answers! Now we have to go back to that accursed Orochi camp for them…

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The Tenacity of Tyler Freeborn (sabotage mission)

…and because it’s in this camp, it’s a sabotage mission. Apart from triggering a Beastie Boys song in my head, that’s not a good association.

At the camp, an old-fashioned camcorder shows another Tyler interlude, with him showing off a Pale Man (draug) and talking about what happened when the mist came. He said that there was music luring people to the sea, that he put in his earphones and blasted music for a half-hour until most of the population was gone. Tyler also mentioned that it was quiet for a couple of days before the people returned from the mist, changed. That couldn’t have been fun.

The Orochi compound is just as annoying as it ever was, full of patrolling bots and soon-to-be-slaughtered troops. The goal here is to get and analyze some blood samples, a task that involves gassing tents and ducking inside while everyone else is gasping and fleeing.

The analysis is somewhat surprising: It says that the draug are part of an airborn strain of the Filth, one that’s not native to the island. It’s highly infectious, which is why the people can’t just up and leave — at least, not without serious protection.

I dash to the CDC camp, grab a respirator, then snag a map off a boat that shows a very shallow channel leading out to sea. Guess it’s time to infiltrate this mist and see what’s what!

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The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn (action mission)

Now that we’ve seen Tyler’s progress through studying the fog and its effect on people, there’s nothing left but to follow him inside. I have to give the man credit: He was smarter and perhaps braver than most people on this island. I mean, what would you do if you had the choice? Stay on an infected island with no hope of rescue? Or suit up and see if you could find a way out?

The mission requires that you wear a respirator — either the CDC one, or the Illuminati one (I assume), or the full hazmat suit. It’s a neat touch.

For many of us, this mission was a significant one in our Secret World journey. We had lived with the presence of that fog since the moment we stepped onto Solomon Island and always wondered what was in it. Why people couldn’t leave. And now we got to go inside and finally get those answers.

Initially the fog is… foggy. I jog along, follow these little lights that float here and there, and wonder about the myterious figures who dash in and out of the mist. But eventually my run becomes a slow walk, the screen starts going wavy, I hear my character breathing hard, and then she passes out.

When she wakes up, she’s in a nightmare landscape of floating islands. I fall down and come in front of a black-and-white house with a dash of red light around its door. Stepping inside is a red corridor (with walls that are… sort of bleeding) that goes into a long, long stairway down. Let me tell you, this is when I started freaking out the first time I had to play through this. It’s really unsettling, like a bad dream.

A voice tells me that this is the red sargasso dream. It is not, I’m gathering, a good dream.

The staircase quickly coughs me out into a Silent Hill-like version of Kingsmouth. Everything is dark, uniform, and larger-than-life. As I plod down the streets, Filth versions of the island’s survivors pop up, including Deputy Andy and his Evil Kitty Force. From there it’s a trip through a creepy version of Edgar’s junkyard, then to another Kingsmouth, then out into the sea on a sinking ship. Very disjointed and weird and unsettling, probably as it should be for a dream.

And the capper? When I come to in the “real” world, I find Tyler’s body on the beach. Guess he didn’t make it after all. Not surprising, but I feel bad for him even so. The guy tried when everyone else just holed up and waited for the end.

LOTRO: For Gondor, for groups!

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One of my ongoing blogging goals this year is to try to write a post every week for each game I’m playing. Maybe I can’t do a day-by-day report like some — sometimes my gaming is too boring — but at least this way I’m touching base on all of my titles while keeping the blog format varied for my readers.

So LOTRO is up in the queue today, which is fortuitous considering that I got to spend a nice chunk of time playing the other night. My desktop computer is “in the shop” (read: sitting at some IT guy’s home) with the hopes that it can be fixed, so I’m lugging around my work laptop to do double duty at home and in the office. And I have to say that after four years, this was some of the best $600 I ever spent on a machine. It still keeps up with most of my games if need be, and even out-performs my cruddy desktop in games like LOTRO.

I’m not fully back, per see, in Lord of the Rings Online. A little more than visiting, a little less than a full return. I’m starting to see my gaming habits form around a pattern of establishing a main character in an MMO which remains ready when I make my next port of call in that world. It’s a character to continue my journey with, one that doesn’t have to start from square one and is close if not all of the way through the solo game content.

My Captain is definitely this in LOTRO. I really do not have the time nor interest in bringing up my Lore-master to the cap these days, although I do love that class. Heck, I barely have interest in doing inventory management, as my Captain’s overflowing bags with who-knows-what attests. She’s there to faithfully take me through the final months — or hey, years — of the game if need be.

I do have a ways to go in the epic story. I just crossed over into South Ithilien last night, forging through the woods for bad guys and keeping one eye on the sky for portends. Little things started flooding over me to remind me of the game that I used to call my main MMO home — the sounds, the combat sequence, and most of all the feeling of a real, earthy world that was there for adventure, not to be my personal playground.

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I have to give FFXIV credit for a big change in my playstyle this year: That game got me hooked again on doing group dungeon runs. It’s something I used to do a lot more of, then fell out of favor along the way — actually during my LOTRO years. But last night my kin put out a call to do a quick run through Sammath Gul, and I said why not?

It was a short (~20 minutes) run through a new dungeon to me, and we had a great time doing it. LOTRO is a blast with a group, especially since so many classes have group-friendly skills. I enjoyed buffing, healing, and DPSing as a Cappy, and I even got to see a high-level Beorning at work. That class/race is still quite new to me.

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I like that Turbine’s started to do weekly featured instances for bonus goodies, even though the ones that I earned were a mystery to me. I have no idea what half the loot in this game does any more, other than fill up my bags to a vexing degree.

I’m looking forward to making my way into Minas Tirith at some point, and I may start putting myself into the group finder more often as I’m doing in other games. We will see!

The Secret Adventures: Into the den of asps (Scorched Desert #13)

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(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

Ghoul Pool (side mission)

With all of the quest giver missions accomplished, all that remains for me to do in Scorched Desert are about a few side missions and the main storyline. Let’s knock out those side missions, shall we?

I should have grabbed this at the hotel, but anyway it’s a nice excuse to go back for a quick firefight with the ghouls. And I do mean quick — my gear/QL/skills are apparently getting up there, at least on the upper end of the Scorched Desert range, so the fights are over in a flash. Nothing like swinging a chainsaw around in a pool of ghouls and seeing five drop at a time!

Aww… aren’t those ghouls practically adorable, in an ugly sort of way?

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King of the Hill (side mission)

Now this… is one truly fun side quest. Tucked all the way at the top of the map, there’s a little pyramid structure that has this magical orb floating on top. The quest text cheekily describes it as a beautiful planet that you can hold in the palm of your hand, nodding to its status as a completely useless MacGuffin.

Anyway, the quest is to defend the orb from — of course — mummies. Many waves of mummies, some models more durable than others. Instead of using your standard weapons, you’re given various explosives for this task. Really, all you need are the frag grenades, but the rest of the arsenal is cool too.

It’s just wave after wave of blasting mummies with grenades, but if that’s not enough reason to get up in the morning and play a video game, I don’t know what is!

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Touched by Fire (side mission)

I don’t think I’ve ever done this, because if I had I would definitely remember it. It’s a bit of an out-of-the-way area that’s populated by a congregation of fire cultists — you know, the guys and gals who are currently on fire yet somehow not (a) stop drop and rolling, (b) screaming, or (c) burning up. Must be a fun cult, all things considered.

By whacking five of them at once, I was able to summon their middle manager, Ted. Oh, he has some sort of demon name, but I like to emasculate supernatural foes by giving them nicknames. I can deal with a demon named Ted. And so I have.

Black Sun, Red Sand (main story, tiers 2 through 5)

That’s it! All Scorched Desert quests are done, so time to get a move on with the main story. I “procure” an Atenist outfit from an unwilling volunteer and then head into their secret headquarters underneath al-Merayah. As a bonus, you get to keep the outfit as one of your cosmetics, although it’s not really anything I’d ever wear.

Inside the secret temple, I eavesdrop on a conversation between Mr. Hatty and Mr. Beardy (which is becoming a regular thing by now). As usual, Hatty isn’t happy with Beardy’s progress, Beardy keeps yammering on about being an awesome prophet of Aten, and I wonder why I don’t just toss a grenade in the room with them two. Being immortal means that I don’t have to worry about dying myself, right? I’m the perfect assassin.

Following Hatty, I see him try to shake down Said in an alley for not signing up to transport a second Filth bomb. Lots of grandiose, “I’m such a bad guy” speeches, but Said — bless him — isn’t having any of it. Hard to scare a mummy, I guess. Said knows that I’ve been listening in and hints that I should get a move on to stop this madman and his machinations.

After a follow-up scuffle at the Marya camp, Khalid shows up to basically charge me with fixing all that’s gone wrong with the region. He says that the Atenists are “in the grips of the dreamers” and work for forces that want to extinguish all life everywhere. He also mentions the sixty-four again (I am intrigued!) and encourages me to find those to help me. This is why I like doing the story mission after wrapping up a zone instead of during it, because you’re in a much better position to understand what’s going on and the players involved, even if it messes with the chronology a little.

Our best friends tour continues with a trip to the Oxford archaeologists, who grouse about how the Orochi’s jackboots messed up everything and unearthed stuff that should’ve stayed buried. Story of my life, pal. They also say that all of the ruins in the Scorched Desert are just the forerunners of the real thing, a city hidden away inside the mountains and concealed from Google Earth. The conversation is halted when all of us hear eerie singing — singing that’s fading. That means something, they say. But what?

I go tomb raiding again and find a tablet with some answers. According to the Oxford duo, it mentions the seven sentinels watching over the valley with their song. But now that the song is fading, the evil guy and his boss, evil guy senior, will rise to power. And that, Monty says, is a very bad thing.

That’s it, I guess. Time to stop mucking about in this relatively nice area and head into the City of the Sun God. It’s a rather dour place, with dark skies, a giant black pyramid, and singing statues that are keeping the evil at bay. A white-haired man with suitcases — Ptahmose — shows up and waxes on about his children and their 3,000-year vigil over this valley. He says that, one way or the other, their watch will be over soon… and that it is time to fight. Me? I got pistols and a chainsaw. Bring on that creaky Egyptian god already!