LoTRO – To Entwash Vale!

While I wait for my new computer to arrive, I’ve also been playing on my Mac Mini, making steady progress through zones released months ago.

Naerys hit level 83, and the significance of that was visiting the Quartermasters and trading some tokens in for Sutcroft Heavy Armor. I enjoy crafting, but the dynamic is odd in that generally by the time you get the reputation or level to buy the crafting recipes, you’ve outleveled what they are for. For example, Naerys can craft a handful of level 80 heavy armor pieces, but is better off trading tokens for armor. For me, catching up in crafting is something that happens later after hitting the current max level.

Had I been more alert I would have saved myself about 6 gold. One errand I ran was to visit Galtrev and check out what the Dunland or Rohirrim Quartermasters had, and I was excited to purchase 3 nice items of jewelry and armor for Dhrun (poking along at level 68). Of course, I thought I was buying crafting recipes for him, not items. Doh! Oh well, its just gold. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Back in the Norcrofts, Naerys wrapped up the area by helping out the farmers of Faldham, earning the Reeve’s approval and being asked to help with a final defense. After a lengthy (and fun) solo instance defending Faldham and killing two Orc lieutenants, the followup quest will take me to Entwash Vale.

Faldham Defense
Faldham Defense

Mounted combat is still hectic for me. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m doing other than hitting skills on refresh and steering in tight circles.

New Title
New Title

Part of that is the mounted combat system is large. There are light, medium, heavy mounts; light, medium, heavy bridles; light, medium, heavy traits; and within each of those traits, there are 3 trait lines: Red Dawn, Rohirrim, Riddermark. There are also legacies for the legendary bridles, and points to spend on trait lines and War-steed stats.

Now before anybody points out that the Legendary Weapon system is this large and complicated… the difference is that system modified skills and stats that we had dozens of levels to get familiar with, just by playing our characters. Mounted combat introduce the whole shebang all at once.

I do enjoy mounted combat and am hugely impressed with how much work went into it by the dev team. I’m not at all down on the system. It’s just a lot to come up to speed on. What I need to do is sit down with Lotro-Wiki and study up on the available War-steed Traits. Right now I’m using a medium War-steed, medium bridle, and legacies that seem decent (I’ll worry about picking better ones later). I’ve spent points in Riddermark tree (yellow) and on War-steed stats as well.

I guess this is one of those times where being “optimal” probably isn’t required. Somehow with my vague understanding of the system, I’ve muddled through and am having fun, so that’s all that matters!

Still, I should probably at least know what the capstones for each trait line do, and maybe think about my playstyle and if maybe there is a different combo that might work better. I don’t want to obsess over it though, at least not until I hit a wall and am stuck unable to complete what I need to do on a War-steed.

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Technical Difficulties

So a few days ago, I rebooted my Windows notebook because of a Windows 8 update, and it crashed like it did back in March. I became enraged, and after a few choice words I can summarize as “#$%&! Windows 8 !#@%^&$%!!” I started to recover my system.

The system would boot into a never-ending loop between recovery attempt (which failed) and crash (which prompted another recovery attempt), but nothing seemed to fix it. I eventually gave up with the usual repair options, which themselves seemed useless.

I dug out the DVD and started a clean install. Except gui-mode install wouldn’t recognize the disk as a valid target. It claimed the bios settings were wrong and that disk wasn’t marked bootable.

What?

I looked through the bios menu, fiddled with this and that, and still nothing.

Eventually I punted and pulled out a Fedora 18 x64 DVD, and installed that. Fedora happily installed onto the “non bootable disk” and off I went. Except on the reboot from live CD into the newly installed OS, I received “Operating System Not Found”. Doh!

After more fiddling around *sigh* I believe that the SSD I installed a mere 8 months or so ago, has crapped out. Or at least what passes as the boot sector of an SSD, where the bios looks for the info needed to boot the rest of the system, has failed. I can boot off DVD into the system, but booting from the SSD itself bombs out.

This investigation took up and hour or two over the past oh… 5 days or so.

I have a coworker tell me he is disappointed in SSDs, due to their failure rate. The rest of us would jokingly tell him that was in the past! Modern SSDs are much better, with huge MTBFs that can support years of writes! On the other hand, my gaming system chewed one up in 8 months. Or I was just unlucky and got a bum SSD.

In any case, while I do have my trusty Mac Mini, I would like to get a Windows system back up and running. For one thing, I’ll miss playing The Secret World. At least LoTRO and GW2 are still available to me.

The other thing I did was configure a new gaming system. Never let a crisis go to waste. ๐Ÿ˜‰ In years past I would build my own PCs, usually SFF (small form factor) systems, and assemble everything after the parts arrived. It was kind of fun. However now I’m lazy and instead I went with a vendor that lists barebones to complete systems and lets you configure them within a menu for various items.

I wound up specing out:

  • core i5 4570 3.6 GHz
  • MSI B85M P33 mainboard
  • 16 GB mem
  • 1 TB SATA 3 harddrive – yeah, no SSD this time around
  • GeForce GTX 650

I’ve got an old monitor (20 inch, in another few months I might splurge and get another 24 inch like the one for my Mac Mini), mice, and keyboards so I can reuse those and save a little. The system comes in at just over $1K. I think it compares well against the Ars Technica budget gaming box from April 2013, however it is difficult to directly compare due to the number of differences.

This should be a nice bump up – the previous system was a 2nd gen core i7 (2.6 GHz), 6 GB mem, and a GeForce 285M. It served me well but it is time to replace it.

LoTRO – Poisoner Mystery

I got all busy over the previous weekend and didn’t get to play. Then I spent the first part of the week catching up on errands I missed due to the busy weekend, and didn’t get to play. Argh!

Anyway, I was able to sneak in a few minutes and work on a mystery in Cliving. It seems someone tried to poison the Reeve, and the guards needed an outside opinion.

So I interviewed the three suspects and listened to their stories. Ultimately, I decided that Eldora was the best suspect. It was not clear cut – all suspects has reasonable alibis or lacked motive. What tipped it to Eldora, unfortunately for her, was the simple fact that she had the best access to the kitchen in order to administer the poison.

Also going against Eldora, was a real-life notion that women choose poison as their murder weapon. That isn’t to say more men poison, or even that a higher proportion of poisoners are men, but that when women set out to commit murder, they preferentially choose it, fueling the myth of the female poisoner.

Even worse for poor Eldora was another real-life occurrence – I had just finished watching Dexter Season 7 via Netflix. Naturally, Hannah McKay’s antics were fresh in my mind!

Nevertheless, Eldora had the best access to the kitchen so that’s what I went with. It looks like she’ll be treated fairly; I went to visit after reporting my conclusion and learning she was arrested.

Eldora in Jail
Eldora in Jail

TERA – Lancer Adventures

Another MMO on my list to check out was TERA, or is it now TERA Rising?

The graphics are better than Ragnarok Online, but it does have that Asian character feel. The races are humans, elves, humans with horns (aman), elves with horns (castanic), hedgehog animal dudes (popori), young girls (elin), and badass serious looking giants (baraka).

This game features some seriously skimpy armor. Chainmail bikinis are almost the modest choice. For example, here is one of the quest givers:

Chainmail Bikini
NPC Chainmail Bikini

To be fair, the player character armor, at least what I’ve had access to, is far more reasonable:

Sensible armor (relatively speaking)
Sensible armor (relatively speaking)

I believe this ensemble can be described:

  • knee high boots, high heel
  • pencil skirt, arm length
  • hm… actually some kind of one-piece skirt/blouse deal
  • deep V-neck blouse
  • shoulder padding and fashionable gauntlets

All things considered, especially compared to the NPC quest givers, this armor actually provides some coverage.

The graphics are attractive enough. I had to climb a vine to a scenic cliff for one quest:

Central Tower
Central Tower

So far the game is fairly themepark. Each quest giver has 2 or 3 quests which break down into storyline quest which leads you to the next outpost, or kill a few mobs that are reskinned versions of the ones you just killed at a previous step.

The strength of this game is definitely combat, especially melee combat.

The weapons are over-sized, ridiculously so, and it is fun to use them in crazy implausible combat moves. The game features 4 melee classes: beserker (giant axe), lancer (shield/giant lance), slayer (giant two-handed sword), and warrior (double swords). The tank class is the lancer, so I played that.

Starting out, I had 2 skills: Combo Attack, and Stand Fast.

For CA, my character would thrust her gigantic lance, and hit multiple times against a foe. Each hit generates a satisfying metallic clang, letting me know I’m inflicting some pain!

Combo Attack
Combo Attack

I zoomed out – see how big the weapon is compared to my character?

SF is a defensive move, for damage absorption and partially immunity to knockdowns. The appearance there is holding the lance straight up and shield forward, like this:

Stand Fast
Stand Fast

These two actions are bound to the left mouse button and right mouse button, so combat isn’t the typical “target enemy, hit num key”. It is more action RPG-esque (like what I remember of Diablo), perhaps a bit like DDO. Combat is untargeted, so you need to move in range of your weapon, face the mob, and then click to attack. Otherwise, you can use a skill but you’ll just swipe at the air. The faster the clicking, the faster the attacks (up to a limit of course).

The lancer’s defense move is SF, but the other melee classes evade instead of defend. The warrior does a front flip, while the beserker and slayer roll to the side (I think, I didn’t play them much). These skills require position awareness for maximum benefit – by noting what the mob is doing, you can dodge the attack, or in the lancer’s case, absorb damage.

Mobs often telegraph their big attack a few seconds in advance, so the alert player can Stand Fast or just dodge out of the way. When a lancer uses SF and absorbs damage, the game shows a brief shield icon:

Defense Success
Defense Success

As you level you unlock extra skills, so it isn’t just left and right clicking. So far I have a charge and attack skill, an AoE shield swipe, etc. that let me mix up my offense a bit.

I’m still on the starter island, and thus haven’t seen much of the game. TERA isn’t breaking new ground in MMOs – the questing seems straightforward and almost bland. The strong point of the game is definitely the combat – it’s almost a console combat feel swinging giant oversized weapons and jump dodging or absorbing attacks.

For now, I’ll keep TERA installed but I can’t see it replacing my favorite MMOs. I think it will be fun to crank up and go fight a bunch of mobs once in a while. Also, I’m curious if at some point non high-heel boots become available… those things are ankle injuries waiting to happen! ๐Ÿ˜‰