FF – Crafting and Conjuring

I took a break from level as a pugilist and decided to try out… botany.¬†I chopped at a few trees and before I even hit level 3 as a botanist I decided this wasn’t something I’m interested in.

I’ve read that crafting is fun in this game… I might come back some time in the future and try a production craft (e.g. culinarian or alchemy) but gathering was too dull for me to want to spend any time on.

Since I was in New Gridania, I became a conjurer. One job I’d like to try is scholar, which requires 15 levels in conjurer and 30 in arcanist, so might as well get started.

Leveling as a conjurer was better, but honestly, kinda dull. There are only 2 offensive skills starting out: stone at level 1, and aero at level 4, and… yep that’s it. Hitting 2 skills until level 15 when conjurer’s pick up fluid aura.

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I was happy to finish my class quest and get a 3rd skill to rotate in, fluid aura, except I never even used it because I immediately went to Limsa Lominsa and switched to arcanist. ūüėČ

Leveling as an arcanist was MUCH better. To be fair, the conjurer picked up other skills on the way to 15, but they weren’t ones to use in a fighting rotation.

I typically don’t like pet classes, and the arcanist gets a pet, but in this game it isn’t so bad. The lengthy GCD lets me quickly check the pet is doing something useful so it isn’t too much of a burden to micro-manage. Meanwhile, it does help me fight and draw aggro.

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Eventually I’ll switch back to pugilist, but for now I’m on track for playing as a monk and a scholar: I’ve got lancer and conjurer done, and need to level pugilist and arcanist. Later, I’ll come back and look at what cross-class skills might be useful and think about picking those up.

Speaking of that, I was excited to have access to so many low level conjurer skills while playing as an arcanist – protect, cure,¬†another damage skill… except it seems that I can only use one of those at a time! Maybe this will change later, but for now it is just one. Even though protect is nice, I decided to slot a healing skill from conjurer, cure, and that seems to work decently.

I do really like the arcanist weapon – a book. I love to read so toting around a grimoire as my weapon seems fantastic to me. ūüėČ

GW2 -Exploring

I can’t figure out why GW2 isn’t “sticky” with me. Whenever I resume¬†play, my interest peaks then tails off… but never far enough for me to quit playing altogether.

For lack of a better metaphor to describe what I think the root cause is, I’ll use the Uncanny Valley: GW2 is almost there but slightly different and ends up reminding me of other games where I like some particular mechanic better. Thus, I¬†take breaks all the time.

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What I enjoy doing, at least for 25% to 33% of a zone, is explore. But by the time I get that far, I want to stop, only to return after a few days to do the same thing. Someone properly motivated can probably crank out a zone in a sitting but it winds up taking me a week (I don’t play every day).

I have 2 level 80: a ranger (Glyneth) and an elementalist (Aurora). Glyneth is about 45% in overall map completion, while Aurora is about 65%. That doesn’t mean I’ve explored 110% of Tyria, it means they overlap the starter and mid-level areas. ūüėČ

So I like exploring, or do I? The game has been out for nearly 3 years and I’m still poking along so maybe I don’t, at least not enough to starting cranking out the remaining zones.

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I do enjoy the jump puzzles and getting to vistas! This vista in the SW corner of Dredgehaunt Cliffs takes more time to get to than the average one. At least most of the falls aren’t too bad and don’t set you back too far. I remember doing some in later zones that were really unforgiving – fall to death on a bad jump. Now that’s really irritating.

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Group events and dynamic are fun, but what would be extra nice is something FF14 does – gives you a countdown timer and a current completion percentage, for a FATE. Here in the screenshot above, I can’t tell if the dynamic event has anybody doing it, how close they are to completing, etc. Maybe I’ll be the only one there to an event that has 10 seconds left before it fails.¬†So I’m not motivated to rush over through unexplored territory to show up.

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Here is a group event I accidentally showed up for, I logged into the middle of it – the one where Jotun’s overrun a Priory outpost. I logged in and within seconds, an event started which eventually led to the followup event, kill the Jotun champion

Champions are really hard to solo, I don’t think I’ve ever done it, but this particular one I was able to duo with another ranger. Basically we used the fort geometry (ran outside and shot around a corner; the Jotun champion would exit the fort briefly and then turnaround), traded aggro (when the Jotun was running toward me, I’d kite backward and the other ranger would revive some NPCs. Then we’d switch off). If cornered, we’d dodge out of the way into clear space, run to gain more, and re-engaged at range. Eventually we just wore him down through attrition. It felt pretty good to defeat a champion with just one other player helping!

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Gliding is fun but gimmicky, although I suppose it helps against falling to a death. At least in HoT you need to do it to get to the various levels in the zone. Here it is a way to skip over a bunch of mobs on the way somewhere… if there is a higher point nearby to glide from.

The skill system is decent, but after a bit I miss the way it was in Guild Wars, where you had control over all 8 of the skills on the skill bar. Here, 5 are locked by an equipped weapon, skill 6 is healing (useful no doubt), so that leaves skills 7-10 as ones you get to choose.

I could swap weapons mid-fight, as a way to access another 5 skills, and that should be no big deal since it’s just another keypress, but somehow that seems ridiculous.

ArenaNet took steps to distance the game from the trinity, but as it turns out I do like more defined roles as opposed to loosely defined roles. Fortunately as a ranger my profession has the “healing” one as the elite spec: Druid. And the elementalist has healing skills when attuned to water (well, health regen fields, which is as close as you get to direct healing).

In this regard perhaps the ideal for me is a skill system like TSW – full freedom to select from skills you’ve unlocked, with trinity-oriented archetypes available to aim towards.

Maybe what it is really going on is I don’t like locking skills to weapons. But that’s a design issue and I can’t fairly criticize ArenaNet for it¬†– for every person like me that doesn’t like it there may be some one who does.

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To mix things up I put away my longbow and am trying the sword/axe combo, which is apparently the highest DPS for rangers. I found two cool looking weapons, each of which is the split design most obviously seen in my right hand. The playstyle is different, which again reminds me of GW, where I had the most fun lingering in the back as ranged DPS, directing my heroes and henchmen, controlling the flow of battle, interrupting the enemy here and there… don’t have that here.

I know some bloggers are really into GW2, like Jeromai and Bhagpuss¬†for instance, but I can’t get that committed. Maybe that’s good because various issues with the current state of GW2 don’t really affect me. ūüėČ

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I like storylines in general, but I haven’t finished any of the ones in GW2. Meanwhile I did SoA and MoM on 6 characters in LoTRO, so apparently this one isn’t grabbing me all that much.

I like the Asuras as a race more than the Norn, for their in-game culture, lore, and history. Basically I think being a mad scientist tinkerer is better than being a Norn. The actual in-game differences are few: in jumping puzzles, the Asura character model blocks less of my view; Asuras get a racial golem summoning skill I’d rather have than the Norn shape-shifting skills. Unfortunately, while you can change your character’s appearance, name, and gender, you can’t switch races. I’d definitely pay to do it though.

So, what to do. I’m inventorying the games I’m playing and trying to cull a little bit (nothing drastic like uninstalling; more the realization that I don’t have time to play 6 MMOs and actually make any progress); shift priorities here and there. I’m leaning towards putting GW2 onto the less frequently played rotation track.

Basically, there is a lot I like but I grow tired quickly.¬†For a bit, I’ll work on a¬†storyline – I haven’t even finished the ¬†personal¬†storyline¬†much less Living World Season One or Two!

 

FF – Copperbell Mines

Following along in the storyline I quickly arrive at Copperbell Mines. Once again, I watched the excellent summary video that MTQCapture made:

I queued up and found a group in a few minutes.

This wasn’t quite as smooth as my previous 2 dungeons. For one thing, the healer ran ahead and did all the pulling. This prompted our tank to say “hey, what’s going on” (paraphrasing) and eventually “that could be dangerous for you” (paraphrasing) but after that… silence.

Yet, we didn’t have any mishaps and downed the boss and every fight along the way no problem.

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What I think was going on was the healer, being level 20, felt OK to pull, fight, and keep themselves alive through it all, especially if we joined in. We were all a few levels above the minimum – I don’t know how level scaling works here but I imagine since we were all about the same level, the enemies weren’t that much stronger.

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For all I know, the healer whispered the tank and said look, I’ve been through here dozens of times, I’m leveling my umpteenth alt class, let’s just crank through it. Because after that warning, nobody said anything until the boss fight – I left to fight the adds and after the 2nd one, the tank said “ignore the adds”. So I did. And we finished up everything with no problems.

By the end, I leveled up to 20. Now I need to figure out how to get a Chocobo mount, because something obvious like visiting a Chocobo porter didn’t point me in that direction. Instead I did my level 20 pugilist class quest, finished it, and upgraded to a slightly better weapon.

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Something else cool was I got a commendation! My 2nd one in 3 dungeons (previously I received one in Tam-Tara I believe). Well that’s a nice start to me FF career. ūüėČ

Ah, I found out about Chocobo mounts by reading through some pages on my favorite FF14 reference site. Looks like I just need to get a little further in the main scenario questline.

WS – WhiteVale and Thermock Hold

I made it to the next zone in Wildstar, midway through level 23.

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I enjoy following the zone story and picking up a few side quests here and there; however I’m going to backburner this MMO.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is good game. The training dungeon I did months ago was a lot of fun. I like the graphics and art style, the music (especially the tracks Cold Supremacy of Science and¬†Systematic Domination). It’s a theme park MMO with a bunch of stuff to do like expeditions, path quests, etc. I like the skill system – points to spend in traits (AMPs) and the LAS (limited action set; 8 skills you choose from your complete menu, also possible to put points into higher tiers of skills).

But, combat is exhausting. So many mob skills are telegraphed; my OCD demands I try to avoid them all. Thus, I hop around, kite, and am very active evading all harmful AoEs. Oddly, I haven’t had many problems aggroing extra mobs while doing this, which you would expect.

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Anyway, after 30 mins to 1 hour of playing, I need to take a break. I could spin this as a positive – here’s a game I like that I only want to play for a max of an hour at a time! This would be great if it were the only game I were playing and I could somehow figure out how to play every day. Then I’d get ~7 hours a week in, maybe more depending on what I was doing, and be satisfied.

But that isn’t my situation. I’d like to group more, as a healer or DPS, and try¬†for more of a 80/20 or 70/30 balance between soloing (convenience, scheduled when I can) and grouping (using the dungeon/group/duty finder or a guild if I happen to find one) and now that I think about it, the very active combat here¬†might stress me out more than I find enjoyable, in end game content. In this respect, the 2.5s GCD in FF14 makes soloing just a tad sluggish, but for group content with more to watch for, it feels better – lots to do and enough time to consider options. Rather than dodging telegraphs constantly.

This looks like a situation where I enjoy the leveling, in one hour doses, and would probably not find the end-game enjoyable when I reach it. So, I’ll take a break and concentrate on other games for a while – rather than play Wildstar consistently I’ll just pop in for an hour or so once in a while.

FF – Sastasha and Tam-Tara

After taking a break to level up a pugilist to 15, and finish the pugilist level 15 class quest, I resumed the storyline. Soon I was tasked with checking out pirates in Sastasha, a nearby dungeon.

Since this was the first FF14 grouping I’ve done, I decided to study up a bit. I found this short video summarizing Sastasha:

 

 

Sounds like a training dungeon, which is great!

I queued up in the duty finder and after about 7-8 minutes, it popped.

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The fights started out as promised, trash mobs in beginning part with cool looking mushrooms.

OK, I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow report. I’ll just say it went smoothly and was fun. I even got a helm upgrade so that was a nice bonus.

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We fought the final boss and adds and then left. Back to Gridania to check out Tam-Tara Deepcroft.

The same person who did the excellent video summary of Sastasha also have a Tam-Tara Deepcroft video, so I watched that too:

A brief wait later, we were in.

Group battles in FF14 are, for the lack of better description, pyrotechnic insanity. Huge spectacular effects, colorful explosions, etc. It is almost overwhelming and since I only recognize the “sparkle” effects of my own skills, I assume all those other crazy ones are due to my group and their skills. Basically, if the mobs are doing some I’m in trouble since I’m only looking to move out of an orange arc on the floor.

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After a while, we defeat Cthulhu, er I mean Galvanth the Dominator, and earned our reward.

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The XP in dungeons (duties) is really good. I entered Tam-Tara about level 17 1/3, and by the time we finished and I turned in the followup quest, I was level 19.2!

Sub Thoughts

My included 30 days in FF14 is ticking down, and I’m leaning towards subbing. I am enjoying myself enough to sub, and even though I don’t have tons of time to play, what I’ve seen so far is enjoyable. I’ll be relying on the Duty Finder to find groups for storyline dungeons/duties, and so far it doesn’t seem that bad.

I am intrigued by the class system – being able to switch classes by switching main weapon, and of course how jobs build on classes. I’d definitely like to level pugilist to 30 and try out the¬†monk job. (I already leveled lancer to 15).¬†I’d also like to try out healing, starting with conjurer and eventually attaining scholar. So I think I’ll sub for a few months and get further into the game.

LoTRO – Minas Tirith

Naerys arrived at Minas Tirith and it is impressive looking. I think Turbine did a fantastic job with it, much like they did with Rivendell and Caras Galadhon.

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Anyway, I quested along and stopped at 4.4.10, an Epic Battle. Many of the quests in the epic storyline involved a lot of back and forth between the various rings of the city.

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Those weren’t mechanically interesting, so I took it easy and spent some extra reading the quest text. Yes… I sometimes skim over that but I figured rather than race through everything I’d pay closer attention to the game.

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There is a bit of Helms Deep vibe with a siege coming to the city Рmidway through the book the city switches into siege mode, with fires and destruction everywhere.

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One factor of why I didn’t feel the urge to race through is the fact the Naerys is in striking distance of catching up to the storyline. As in, Naerys is almost through 4.4!

I haven’t had a character up to date with the epic storyline since the SoA/MoM era. It’s been at least 4 years and for much of that I was lagging far behind.

So, that got me thinking, what to do at the “end” game?

Typically that would mean group instances and grinding reputation or gathering tokens for gear upgrades.

However, I don’t feel like doing that stuff on Naerys.

Why?

Well… essentially I leveled the wrong character. ūüėČ Over that past year or two, I’ve come to enjoy the healing role for group content. It’s fun and doesn’t seem to require as much knowledge about the dungeon and each fight as the tank role does.

I saw this raiding in WoW – in our raid group, DPS and healers had to follow the fight mechanics, but the tanks were the ones who explained each fight and also had to get the timing down to make it happen (aggro trading, positioning the boss correctly, etc.) Healing can get hectic but I don’t want to study up on every fight in the time I have available.

Don’t get me wrong, I love playing the guardian… solo. Sturdy, survivable, fun mechanics (block and/or parry response skills, regular skills, emergency skills). But for group content,¬†I’d rather heal and unfortunately while the guardian can do a lot, they can’t heal.

So when Naerys finishes off the storyline and we await Book 5, I’ll probably shift gaming priorities elsewhere for a while. Ultimately I’ll probably start another minstrel, as I mentioned before, but not for a bit, I need a break from the starter areas and Bree. Or I might level up my burglar Dhrun, who is level 82 in Rohan.

One thing that I’ll do when I get back to playing LoTRO regularly, is look for another kinship. The one I’m in is pretty dead. I’m one of 4 level 100s, and based on the “last online” information, I’m one of 4 or 5 that logs in more often than every 2 weeks! We had some fun times but I might be more motivated to re-level a minstrel in a more active kinship.

 

FF – Pugilist

I traveled over to Ul’dah and started in on Pugilist levels. Looking back, I should have began a character with this class since I need Pugilist levels for both Monk and Ninja. I’m not sure my Archer levels will be of use since I’m not interested in trying Bard. But, it was just 15 low levels and a decent intro to the game I guess.

After running out of things to do in Gridania while leveling my 2nd class there (Lancer), I skipped Arcanist. Now, instead of doing every quest outside Ul’dah, I’m skipping a few and instead relying on Levemetes and Fates more. That way should I decide to level up something else from Ul’dah I won’t be entirely screwed.

One very annoying this about Fates in this games is there is no partial credit. Over in GW2, if a dynamic event fails, you at least get something. Here? Nope, just the xp you got from grinding the mobs trying to accomplish whatever the Fate was.

For example, there is a Fate outside Silver Bazaar involving collecting earth sprite cores. GW2 has very similar events as well – collect X thingys and turn them in. I had fought earth sprites, picked cores up, and turned in 33 of them. While on my way to hand over the last bunch and finish the Fate, some mob aggroed me, and of course, you can’t speak to the NPC when aggroed. Because I then had to defeat whatever was fighting me, I ran out of the time and the entire Fate failed. Instead of getting something, partial credit for some part of the reward, you get zip.

So in the future, I’m going to be leery of starting a Fate if I’m the only one doing it. It’s pretty disappointing to get no reward at all; I’m way better off doing Levemetes or just grinding random mobs in general – at least I’m not racing some countdown timer and charging into battle without recovering.

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One thing I’m happy with is the armor I’m getting over in Ul’dah looks decent. No annoying subligar bikini armor thank goodness.