TSW – More Savage Coast

Thanks to the recent Golden Weekend, I earned enough ability points to finish the Blade/Fist progression deck. The chief benefit of the weekend was gaining an additional ability point whenever receiving one… to maximize ability points I also bought a potion from the store which did the same thing, since it stacked.

I’d like to fiddle around with builds and skill combos, but having a “known good” deck to fall back on is important to me – if I find out something isn’t working then I can return to my good deck while earning ability points to unlock other skills.

One thing to keep in mind is the important of AoE damage.

AoE Damage

AoE Damage

I find myself fighting 3-4 mobs all the time, except for bigger tougher mobs and even then, moving the wrong way might aggro a second one.

Single Fight

Single Fight

I’ve done most of the quests in Savage Coast, and will now focus on advancing in the storyline. I inched forward slightly to step 11/18 by visiting the Innsmouth Academy during another quest, and speaking to the staff trapped there.

I’ve been able to upgrade my weapons as well, to the QL5 versions sold by the vendors in the NW corner. I’d like to branch out into other weapons as well (I’ve spent a few skill points in Chaos and Blood too) and that will take more skill points.

Every time I look at the skill chart and ability wheel I feel like I have barely unlocked anything… I remind myself I’m only in the 2nd zone so yeah, that’s expected. After all, ability and skill points replace levels in this game. I’d be the equivalent of a low level char in the 1st or 2nd racial areas in GW2, still unlocking all the skills of various weapons.

From reading various forums I see that eventually there are plenty of skill points and ability points to unlock the whole thing. I’m just impatient, haha.

Soon I’ll advance to the next zone, Blue Mountain!

LoTRO – Epic Battle Deeping-Coomb

OK, I’m getting the hang of these Epic Battles. My goal isn’t to fight every single mob that streams in, my goal is to make sure the commanders have current orders (heal if available, sometimes armor if available; otherwise default) and basically ignore all the regular/white mobs.

I’m better served by tabbing through and only helping with the orange/elite mobs. The white die by the time I get one attack in. Where the orange ones can inflict major damage to my troops if left unchecked.

Troll

Troll

So I just parked myself in a convenient spot, and issued various Guardian taunts and challenges to ensure the orange/elite mobs came after me first. I’d get part of my rotation in and with the help of the NPC focus fire, they would die quickly enough.

And that’s how I got through the Deeping-Coomb battle on my first attempt.

It isn’t exactly the heroic feeling, ignoring 80% of the incoming enemies, but the NPCs can handle those while I concentrate on the threats to victory. In some ways, I suppose it does have a movie battle-scene feel, where the heroes wander around mowing down the grunts and have a big fight against the leaders in the opposition – while the rest of the battle rages around them.

All the same I’ll be glad to finish up Vol 3 Book 13 and move onto Gondor (after confronting Saruman).

WS – Misc Quest Notes

WildStar has typical quest hubs, but those don’t generally have too many quests available when you first show up. That’s because the game gives you more as you complete them, even if you are out in the field adventuring.

After all, this is a sci-fi game and the quest giver just calls you up on your communicator (hotkey ‘C’) and lets you complete a quest and get another one. Guild Wars 2 is similar in that you usually don’t have to return to the quest giver after heart completion – it just lets you finish right there in the middle of the landscape.

So in WildStar, a quest will have you investigate a prison camp (for example, I just did this chain in Galeras!) and that leads into a prison break, which leads to sabotage and an option to poison the air supply and assassinate the prison warden. Not too revolutionary that you naturally continue without returning to some fixed location.

What is slightly different is some quests have you tap keys at certain times. Take the prison break example above – when you interact with the prison gate, you get a note about hitting the action key (‘F’) at specific intervals

Precision Tapping

Precision Tapping

and then when you start, the slider moves from left to right and you have to tap within the marked locations:

Halfway Open

Halfway Open

It isn’t too difficult to pull off, but I can also imagine higher level or more difficult scenarios where the active region is tiny and the slider moves very fast!

Another type of quest I’ve seen is hitting a key rapidly for some effect:

Rapid Tapping

Rapid Tapping

I’ve also seen some enemy skills that stun me, and I’ll get a brief message about holding or tapping a key to break it faster. Unfortunately, I haven’t been fast enough to get a screenshot of that.

I’ve run across puzzle quests as well – one had me collect 4 pieces of an ancient artifact and then report to someone. Once there, I turned in the quest and up popped a little game of Mastermind:

Mastermind

Mastermind

In this example, I was lucky with my first two guesses so I solved it in 3 moves.

Anyway, I am still enjoying WildStar very much!

TSW – Savage Coast Exploring

Well it has been a long long time since I played TSW, so I decided to remedy that issue. Plus, it is “golden week” so I am more efficient in earning ability points! According to the webpage, that ability stacks with boosts from the store so I bought one of those too.

It’s a great game featuring questing and exploration, with the ability to train everything and switch classes on the fly.

I resumed in Savage Coast, where I left off. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not very far along at all, something like 10/18 in the Savage Coast storyline mission, which is one zone out of newbie land. Now that the revamped new player experience patch is up, combat promises to be a bit faster. But the really nice feature was a map that displays mission locations.

My currently active mission was for Daniel Bach in the Overlook Motel. It turns out demons and hell beasts and portals opened up on the beach, so I went to help fix that by slaying monsters and closing rifts.

Beach Battle

Beach Battle

Once that was done, I followed the road and discovered groups of zombies feasting on corpses. The mission I took and completed involved burning 5 bodies, which of course were all surrounded by zombies.

About this time, I decided to research some and change up my build. I had been using various starter decks, which were all pretty decent, but after a bit of searching I settled on a suggested build from the forums, the “Blade Fist Progression Deck” which has some nice features. It is flexible, with a bit of tanking and healing, an AoE impair (putting conditions on mobs is key and part of making skills decks is picking skills that synergize well: place a condition with one skill, exploit it with another). It builds up to more powerful decks which is nice – I know that with enough play, I’ll get enough ability points to learn all the skills… but in the meantime I’d like a little guidance so I can spend my ability points well. While building towards the final deck I can experiment a bit as well.

TSW rewards the player that completes the suggested skills decks with a cosmetic outfit. For example, by learning the skills that make up the beginner “Trickster” deck, you unlock the corresponding uniform. So part of my motivation for learning the skills for the starter decks was to get a variety of outfits (all cosmetic) to wear, and also learn skills that were part of suggested decks. I do want to research and build my own skill combos, but starting out I also didn’t want to spend all my points towards a (temporary) dead-end.

For now, I had enough skills unlocks to use most of the Blue Mountain Deck active skills – I believe I need to purchase Brandish and Surgical Steel, so those are what I will be saving ability points for.

With my new skill deck, I went off to a creepy wooded area to destroy large insects (mission: The Exterminator).

Creepy Woods

Creepy Woods

In the middle of this area was a treehouse – aha but I knew that because of the awesome new map which shows mission locations! – so I climbed up and grabbed another side mission, to kill some wandering named zombies in the amusement park to the south.

On the way to the location for that mission, I ran across another one (Stranger than Fiction), which eventually led me to kill a monster roaming the park that was attacking people. Tier 2 of the quest is to investigate the lighthouse to the south-east.

That’s where I left off… to return soon.

Anyway, I do enjoy the interweaving of exploration and questing in TSW and ESO – both are similar in that you might run across another quest or two while out trying to finish another one, and both have quests that are multi-stage and update as you accomplish intermediate milestone.

LoTRO – Stone of Erech

It has been a while since I played my Champion, Autumn, so I decided to move along in the epic storyline. I left off running errands for the crazy dwarf Nár, and wrapped up that book.

After a bit of questing, I found myself at the Stone of Erech session play.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of session play. It’s nice for a bit of variety away from your character, but too much is annoying. For example, the Goblin starter area in WoW, it seemed like I was jumping in a vehicle or taking control of something else every 3rd quest.

LoTRO handles it pretty well, since it often uses it to fill in some background information or expand on the story.

Stone of Erech

Stone of Erech

In this instance, I’m alongside Isildur as he makes a treaty with the King of the Mountains, who swears an oath but breaks it. In between there is a fight where we clear out some orcs from a fortress – part of the oathbreaking as they did not aid against Sauron. In the third part of the instance, Isildur curses the men to remain undead until they fulfill their oath, so they go on to haunt the Paths of the Dead for 3000 years. Later in the books and movie, Aragorn calls on them to help in a battle against Sauron’s forces, and then releases them afterward (about 2:20 into this video) because they finally fulfilled their oath.

I remember the scene in the books and movie, but forgot how the curse came about until “being there” (so to speak) in LoTRO.

I think this storytelling and detail is fantastic. It may only appeal to fans of Middle Earth and associated IP/lore, but it is great none the less. LoTRO is the only MMO I’ve played where I’ve actually felt like I’m in the world itself, helping with tasks big and small. Most of the others make me feel like I’m using a graphical frontend to an optimized mob killing machine. That’s fun too, but I couldn’t even tell you what the story is in GW2 or WoW; it’s arbitrary and bosses are their to massacre for their loot.

Actually GW did a good job, but due to heroes/henchman, it was somewhere in between a single-player RPG and an MMO for me. I spent half my time grouped with NPCs for the storyline, which I also really enjoyed.

Wildstar… I’m not that far along to be too invested in the story. I’m in one of two factions fighting to control a new planet for its resources, and there is also digging into the mystery of a vanished technologically superior race, the Eldan.

TSW has a good storyline too; I need to work that game back into my rotation.

Anyway, after speaking to Nona, I had the funny situation of needing to speak to Halbarad in Lhanuch… both copies of him. This happens if you have both Vol 3 Book 3 Chapter 3 (Nona’s Request) and Vol 3 Book 4 Chapter 1 (Departure of Lhanuch) active.

Seeing Double

Seeing Double

ESO – Newbie Questing

I got impatient waiting for a sale and bought ESO. If it goes on sale in the near future… that’s OK, I’ll gift a copy to a friend who I know is interested. ;)

TL;DR – I haven’t had so much fun questing and adventuring in an MMO in quite a while!

I created a Breton Sorceror and started playing through the tutorial. After exiting I went back from the mainland (Daggerall) to Stos M’Kai and had a ton of fun there.

I enjoy the quests – they aren’t the usual “kill 10 rats” type of quests. Much like the single-player Elder Scrolls games, the quests are longer, usually have a few updates along the way, and focus on adventuring (explore the ruin and find the item; versus kill stuff and come back for another variant of collecting monster drops).

For example, on Stos M’Kai you get a quest to rescue sailors that were shipwrecked and captured. There are three that need to be rescued, and you can don a disguise to reduce the number of fights along the way. After freeing them all, the quest giver wants to extract revenge on the kidnapper, and she winds up poisoning the leader and leaves. You have the option of administering the antidote (which I did) or not. Later at the quest end, the quest giver shrugs and says she doesn’t care because her crew was rescued, but adds that showing mercy means the possibility of more ships getting wrecked and captured. Interesting spin.

I also created an Argonian Templar and played a bit on Bleakrock Isle. There was a quest to investigate a bandit camp, with a disguise available to reduce the amount of fighting. As it happened, there were 2 or 3 other players attacking the bandits so I didn’t aggro any of them, even though I put on the disguise in an attempt to avoid some combat.

I like quests that have checkpoints along the way and update goals as you go. When well written, it is as if new information alters the objective or adds a new one. Plus, the quests make sense in the context of the game. I’ve seen a few quests that allow for a bit of stealth, which helps move the focus ever-so-slightly away from being a mass murderer all the time. (Investigate 3 areas in the camp, potential to avoid combat vs. investigate 3 areas in the camp and by investigate I mean slaughter everyone).

The worst kind of quests are ones that feel incomplete because the quest giver just wants part of the job done. To pick on WoW, although plenty of other MMOs have this exact same thing, take the Draenei starter area. Early on, maybe the 2nd or 3rd quest you get, you are asked to use your racial heal to save injured survivors. This quest probably exists just to teach players that Draenei have a racial heal skill. But the quest giver just needs you to save one survivor, out of the half dozen or more strewn about.

An imagined conversion:

Quest giver: Hey, we just had a shipwreck and we need to save any survivors! You there, can you help?
Player: Sure!
Quest giver: Excellent, go out and save one victim.
Player: Wait, what? How about the other 5 I also see dying of their wounds?
Quest giver: Don’t worry about those others, I just want you to save any one of them and then you can do something else.

Really?

I’d rather see a single victim to save… and ESO designs the quests this way. Rather than kill wolves until X number of doodads drop, it sends you to retrieve 2 items and if there are animals to fight along the way, so be it. But if there aren’t, just get the 2 items and the quest advances. And if 2 players are trying to pick the same thing up at the same time, let them both get a copy.

Now the reality is WoW’s game engine is 10+ years old so if there is only one NPC to interact with, it needs to work when multiple players try to finish/advance the same quest. So if the engine can’t handle it (or wasn’t written to handle it and changing it is problematic), it is easier to add 10x NPCs to handle an influx of players. Because what is even faker is a line forming waiting for something to reset so the next player can step up.

I mentioned earlier I enjoy following storyline, and a refinement on that would be that I enjoy doing quests that make sense. The quest type of “we’re surrounded by enemies! Go kill any 8 of them and you can move along to the next hub while we stay here perpetually surrounded, thanks” always struck me as artificial.

Island

Island

Anyway, I am enjoying myself immensely. This game also looks gorgeous.

Landscape

Landscape

My only (slight) negative is that I don’t enjoy the combat. But that’s true even in the single player Elder Scrolls games. I am terrible at bow and melee combat in these games, and can do OK as a ranged spell caster. The limited action set (1-5 plus R for an “ultimate” skill) makes for choices about which skills to advance and upgrade, and it appears that every class can increase every skill – although the ones for your class will obviously be easier to work up.

Argonian

Argonian

The other odd thing is the game doesn’t seem to provide you with items for your class, even when starting out. For instance, at the end of the tutorial, I got a… sword (??) instead of a staff which would be more appropriate. And half of the quests reward things like shields or heavy armor – and I haven’t seen any quests with a choice of equipment as a reward.

So I started as a sword-fighting sorcerer, but eventually received a staff and then bought another with earned gold.

On the plus side, the combat system allows for every class (I’m assuming) to interrupt or block an enemy. If I left-click, I jab with my weapon, and a right-click raises to block. Clicking both button performs an interrupt (punching the weapon across the chest). Sometimes the enemy will use a crowd-control spell, and the game suggests hitting WASD to break it. The game actually displays hints for all of this during combat, so it is a matter of doing them quickly enough for the effect to occur.

Kind of like WildStar, occasionally an NPC will charge up a skill and show a red AoE that fills up – when I see this happen, I try to move/dodge/roll out of the way. Or interrupt it.

As far as melee or bow combat, maybe I just need to get more used to closing in on an enemy and mixing in mouse clicks with skill shortcuts 1-5.

I rebound R to “autorun”, because due to 15 years of muscle memory, that’s the key I hit when I want to run. Not NumLock like the default seems to be everywhere. In turn, R was originally bound to the “Ultimate” skill, but I decided that “6” worked just as well instead, since the other skills you can equip are 1-5. And dodge wasn’t bound to a key by default, so I made it “B”, which was the default secondary bind for “inventory” – probably B for bags. I don’t need two hotkeys to open my inventory.

Combat as a sorcerer is approximately similar to other games. When I’m in range of an enemy, I can tab-target them and then start raining down my Dark Magic and Storm Calling skills. I also skilled into Daedric Summoning and have a familiar around with me to help attack – currently my familiar is an Unstable Clannfear. He’s pretty good about staying behind me, attacking my target, and in general being a low maintenance “pet” that doesn’t create more problems by aggroing a bunch of other mobs.

This complaint about non-magic combat doesn’t detract from my overall enjoyment though, it is fairly minor and I may get used to it if I play a melee class more.

Storyline

A few weeks Jeromai asked about interacting with people and the extent of it, while gaming. I’m one of “those” mostly-solo MMOers, because I prefer and get player interaction with RL friends face-to-face via board gaming. Thus I never really sought out much interaction in MMOs, because random groups and disembodied voices are a pale imitation of actual interaction.

Plus, after burning out playing Asheron’s Call, I came back to the genre with Guild Wars which had henchmen/heroes to help round out needing a full group of people. Not to say I haven’t been in great groups or guilds or even had long-term online friends via gaming.

Of the games I play, the key draws for me are: storyline in two of them (LoTRO and TSW), plain fun and enjoyment in another (WildStar), and grouping in one more (WoW). I’m too inconsistent as a GW2 player to count it in my game rotation, but I’m mostly there to quest/explore and work along in the storyline as well. I do enjoy all the games and attempt to follow the story (as it is) in each, but let me say that as far as WoW goes, I’m there because I’m in a casual guild whose raid schedule works for me – and I have 2 coworkers that play… I wouldn’t be there for the storyline or questing otherwise.

To get me in the mood to try ESO:TU, I restarted Skyrim. I got partway through on a swordsman and an archer, but both fizzled out because I didn’t enjoy (read: wasn’t good at) combat. So this next start I will go with a good old destruction mage, similar to what I played in Morrowind.

The other thing I’m going to do is let my EVE sub run out. It’s a great game with many design features I like, but overall I’m not looking for what it does the best. I still have 6 weeks left since I pay in 3 month increments so we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m pecking away at Skyrim and recently defeated Mirmulnir. I absorbed the Dragon’s power when it was slain and am led to believe I’m “Dragonborn”.

Dragon Attack

Dragon Attack

What I’m really hoping for is ESO:TU to go on a nice big sale tomorrow!