SWL – Lockboxes

Lockboxes seem to be a current topic. Implementations may differ between games, but I’m coming to view them rather skeptically in Secret World Legends. In that game, the lockboxes are known as Infernal Caches, drop randomly from enemies, and can contain a variety of items: cosmetics, pets, mounts, weapons, potions, and distillates. What are distillates you ask? Ah, think of those as injectable XP for your weapons and/or talismans.

The enemies in SWL don’t drop much loot that I’ve noticed, other than the occasional infernal cache. You get random items, experience, and currency by completing missions (a system I do like) and as I mentioned previously, you feed XP into your weapons and talismans to level them up. This is similar to leveling a legendary item in LoTRO, with the huge difference that deconstructing a legendary in LoTRO gives you some random amount of experience back, but does not in SWL.

So if you level up a green item, fuse it to blue, level that to max, repeat, then find something you’d rather use (say it has different/better stats for your preferred role), your previous item is treated like nothing special when you assemble or fuse. The UI does give a warning at least.

I’ve found infernal caches reliably give some currency (shards), potions, and distillates. I’ve always received shards and distillates, the other stuff appears to be much lower chance. Those distillates are a major portion of the item improvement system, so being able to open these infernal caches is important.

But they require a cache key, and those are on sale for about 150 Aurum. In real money, each key is around $1.50. I say around because when you buy Aurum, you get a slight bonus buying larger amounts.

I’m not 100% sure if cache keys are obtainable in game, from dungeons/lairs/raids or what have you. I think they can be purchased at auction, but what is the source? Are they like EVE Plexes which can also be bought/sold but if you trace back to the genesis of the item, somebody bought it with real money?

Patrons (subscribers) get 1 cache key per day, and since I’m a Patron via previous grandmaster status, I get my cache key per day and use it. It isn’t a problem to find an infernal cache – I don’t even play that much per week and I am sitting on 40 of them, after opening 10 from keys I bought plus 1 every day, just from questing around Kingsmouth, the starter zone!

I think it’s fair to say that on average, I get an infernal cache from a random mob I had to kill while completing a mission. So they aren’t exactly rare since mowing through the enemies for a typical mission will result in at least one cache. As far as improving items, a cache is about as much as a mission reward – roughly, as caches tend to drop distillates while missions reward items.

There were missions (Appetite for Destruction, defending against waves of 20+ mobs) where the monsters dropped 4 caches, as in the pic below:

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It wasn’t uncommon to kill a group of 4 zombies and find 2 caches from them:

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I don’t mind supporting games I like, so I bought 10 keys and worked down my pile of caches. However, I’m not buying $60 more keys to open the other 40 caches.

I get that companies need monetization strategies, but tying RMT to item quality improvement (the only way to an item’s quality, for 2500 Aurum i.e. $25 per item) and throttling the opening of the reasonably common infernal caches to 1 per day for Patrons (without buying more keys) just doesn’t sit well. The distillates that are basically in every cache are a huge boost to item advancement!

I’ve seen complaints about advancement tied to gamble boxes, well I can see and understand the issue now. I’m not sure what other games do but I’m used to the random boxes from LoTRO, they are rare drops indeed. And the LoTRO gold/silver daily rewards are fairly minor as well. I think there would be an uproar if locked boxes started falling 20% of the time and each one included heritage runes. Oh, keys are for sale in the item store and subscribers get one per day. Because that’s kind of the system in SWL.

I mean, you can get by ignoring them but all your gear, both weapons, all talismans, won’t advance and nearly the same rate without distillates.

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SWL – Kingsmouth

I’m moving along slowly through the first zone of Secret World Legends. I reached level 11 and need to get to 12 to advance in the storyline, so I just need a bit of questing to get there.

I like the questing in SWL, the quests seem reasonably integrated into the game world. Sure, SWL has the “kill X enemies” quest (for example, Draugnet – linked to the legacy site since I can’t find it on the new site) but many make good sense: find survivors and help them defend their home, help resupply ammo.

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Heck, regular “deliver the item” quests start at an abandoned post office truck with two packages laying on the ground.

Power

I’m having a much easier time in SWL at this point that I did with TSW at the same point. Part of that is familiarity with the game… many systems have changed, but I have a better idea of how to improve my character.

Speaking of changed systems… where to start?!

Crafting has been replaced from a fairly novel system where you had to arrange components in various shapes in order to craft the desired item. Now it looks like components are gone (thank goodness, they were taking up a third of my inventory in TSW) and replaced by quest rewards and an item xp system where you move up in tiers by maxing and them combining items. I think this is an improvement: streamlined and a lot less junk taking up space.

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The skill wheel has also been replaced with a more linear system of unlocking active and passive skills. I’m using pistols/fist and am working on unlocking the capstone pistol ability as well as pistol passives. A build used to have 7 passive skills but now it is 5 passive skills.

Gear used to be rated from quality level 1 to 10, i.e. QL1 to QL10 (and then 10.1, 10.2 etc) but now items are rated on rarity and quality. Rarity is a color system: green, blue, purple, etc. Getting a blue item required fusing 2 max item level green items, and so on up the scale. Quality is from 1 to 3, represented as dots as well as name, so a 1-dot weapon will be “XYZ Mk I” and a 3-dot weapon will be “XYZ Mk III”. The upgrade here results in more powerful effects. It is possible to upgrade quality levels for gear, but it takes Aurum, which I believe is a real-money purchase from Funcom. For more in-depth information check out the guide to upgrading gear from the SWL subreddit.

Another big change is having character levels at all. In TSW it was all how many skills/abilities unlocked and what Quality Level your weapons and jewelry was.

I’m sure other stuff has changed but these are the systems I noticed immediately.

Anyway, the reason I’m having an easier time right now is I’ve been using item xp upgrades from Infernal Caches (I get a key a day due to my Patron status, which in turn derives from being a Grandmaster from TSW) to power up my items. And right now my main weapon is a 2-dot blue level 24 pistol; I’m basically mowing down everything in Kingsmouth without much trouble at all.

I’m tempted to buy another blue pistol, level it to max (in the case of blue weapons, level 25), so I can fuse a purple one. Also, I can do something similar to upgrade my offhand weapon, currently fist. I’ll check out the auctions and what it’ll cost me!

Ingress – Resistance Awakens DC Mosaic

An XM Anomaly is coming the Washington DC area next month, and I’m planning to go along with my friend plus a bunch of other local players we know. In the meantime, a Resistance player put up an anomaly-themed mosaic, and we decided to get it.

A mosaic (also called a banner) is a series of missions that form a picture via the badges each individual mission grants – both sides can do any mosaic, but perhaps Enlightened players might not want a Resistance mosaic on their character sheet. 😉

The original mosaic site I used for reference disappeared, but another one popped up with the same great info. The mosaic we did was the Resistance Reawakens mosaic, involving a nice walk around central DC.

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I wore my GPS watch but forgot to start recording until about a quarter mile into it. And at the end, I let it record a bit long while we were looking for a crosswalk. The mission starts/ends across the street from the WW2 monument, just pretend my map closes up.

I like to measure how much walking is involved in a mosaic since other local players are always asking. I think this one was about 6 mi (again, I didn’t get the start/stop exactly correct) so not too bad.

It was a sunny humid day over the weekend but it was also nice to get outside and get some exercise while playing. We took it easy, upgrade/hacked friendly portals and also attacked all the enemy portals along the way. Plus we switched over to Pokemon Go now and then to dabble there.

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I hit platinum trekker during this mission – ended up with 1014 km walked while playing over all time. Ingress appears to calculate in-game distance by calculating distance between server interactions – hacking, attacking, deploying, viewing portals stats, etc – so merely leaving the game open while moving and not doing anything else won’t credit the full distance. Plus there is a speed lock so moving too fast (e.g. app open while driving) won’t count fully either. Which is fine, Ingress isn’t an exercise app.

Anyway, I’m getting near level 14 and hope to reach that by the time the Anomaly and Mission Day arrive.

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I have 195 missions completed, so 5 more and I get platinum for the “spec ops” badge. I’ve found nearly a dozen mosaics I want to do, some will require a bit of travel, but if the mosaic is cool enough looking my friend and I want to do it!

The Resistance Awakens mosaic is the top 3×6 badges. We thought it was very good planning that the mission granting the badge with the top part of the Washington Monument (mission 15/18) actually took place right around the Washington Monument.

 

 

LoTRO – Summer Festival

Two things I absolutely MUST have on my hobbits are: Pie-Eating Champion title and the first Hobbit-Dance. They just make me happy. 🙂

I was lucky that that summer festival had an encore, or I’d have to wait until the next festival to get these two enhancements.

Pie-Eating Champion is the title I wear the most on Naerys, who is adventuring outside Minas Tirith, so I want to get it for Spessartina and Scarlatina. The title comes from doing a quest from Humbert Sandweaver in the Bree Festival Grounds. Unfortunately he only runs the contest 1 of every 3 days.

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I checked in and was bummed the contest wasn’t running. Oh well, there is other festival stuff to do. Something I hadn’t tried before was kite-flying, so I accepted that quest and quickly ran around the Party Tree to finish it off.

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While doing this I came across the scariest site in all of the Shire, to me:

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In real life, I hate mushrooms. So this field that I never noticed before is horrifying.

Warden

So I have two hobbits in the Shire, my new minstrel and warden. I decided to quest leisurely with my minstrel Spessartina, and beeline the epic storyline (do storyline quest on-level, local questing otherwise) on my warden Scarlatina.

I do want to get the Innocence virtue that comes from doing 75 quests in the Shire, but also only take one char through the Shire at a time. I decided the warden makes a better candidate for pushing a bit since they are fairly sturdy (medium armor, shields, lots of self-buffs) and I mostly expect to solo on her.

The warden has some of the most unique mechanics I’ve seen in an MMO. They have three “gambit-builder” skills: Spear, Shield, First, a.k.a. Red, Green, Blue (for the color associated with the skill), a.k.a 1-2-3 (for the hotkeys that 99% of everything about wardens assume you have bound to each skills). Using these skills as building blocks, wardens build more advanced skills, gambits, based on various patterns of the gambit-builders. Here’s a list from Lotro wik. Another visualization of warden skills is the complicated looking gambit chart from Martin Krzywinski (just follow the colors/numbers from the center).

This skill system takes a little getting used to, but is the kind of challenge I’m looking for: deciding what skill to use to get the effect I want, build it up and then execute it. It takes a bit of planning ahead since forming a gambit takes multiple gambit-builder skills. You can’t just hammer each skill on cooldown and expect to survive.

Meanwhile my minstrel actually finished the prologue up first. However, Spessartina is headed back to the Shire to quest a bit more.

I also thought about what to do about the Aria of the Valar I have on my first account. Naerys is level 100 and outside Minas Tirith, so the buff is mostly wasted on her. I intend to play Spessartina through the storyline – I’ve done Shadows of Angmar and Mines of Moria multiple times (!) but it’s also been a while since the last time. My warden Scarlatina is on the other account.

So I think the beneficiary of the buff will be my burglar Dhrun. Burglars are fun to play, mine is level 82-ish and somewhere in Rohan, so not too close and not too far from level 105. I’ll think about it more. The only other choices on that account are hunter and lore-master.

 

GW – Path of Fire preview

I entered the weekend special event, hoping it would help me decide one way or the other whether I’ll buy the GW2 expansion next month. It did help me decide… not to.

First, I was having a frustrating time with the intro. Part of that was my fault – since I don’t have a max level engineer, necromancer, thief, etc. I decided this would be a good time to check those professions out. It did not go well; I kept dying and quitting to Amnoon city, but as I later found out, you have to complete the intro storyline to get the raptor mount to enable taking part in other events like the races. If you quit to Amnoon, the storyline quest takes you right back to the intro to do over again.

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I came across another blogger, Endgame Viable, that pretty much summed it up for me too. Like them, I re-entered and eventually made it through. It helped I went back to playing a ranger, the class I have the most time on (I’ve played mesmer and elementalist a reasonable amount as well).

Once I got back into the groove of playing at range, kiting, strategically letting my pet soak up the enemy’s attention, I advanced to the checkpoint where you had to douse fires and then do some raptor jumping to reach higher area.

This too was frustrating as I couldn’t make the jumps that looked doable… I ran around and found another spot with a higher vantage point and finally was able to complete that section and advance to the cave run and spider fight.

Eventually all I had left to complete the quest was reach the city. Except in the way was something that gave me concern for the expansion, a simple missing bridge:

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The first time I missed it and fell down. I tried to skip the jump by taking a straighter path to the city but got a “return to the zone or you will be kicked from the instance” message, so I ran back around to try the jump again. I made it on my second attempt.

But the thing is, I bet these kinds of stupid jumps are going to be littered all over the expansion. Why else would they have the intro quest tell you that you can jump with your mount, force you to jump with your mount to advance, and then insert another unavoidable jump  on the final approach to Amnoon?

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I was so annoyed when I reached Amnoon, I logged out.

Action Combat

Basically, I could make it through by staying in motion all the time, running, dodging, attacking when I can and running in circles as much as possible. I don’t find that gameplay fun. It’s why I stopped playing Wildstar, the active combat mechanism is interesting but not when it is dialed to 11 all the time.

And that’s what the GW2 design feels like to me. Secret World Legends and LoTRO have telegraphs, times you need to move out of the upcoming fire, but I’m OK with it in those games because it is a mechanic for tougher fights, not a mechanic employed all the time for every group of enemies.

I think this is why I never could get into GW2 as much as GW1. The original game was more strategic, enemies didn’t respawn unless you zoned, there were henchmen and eventually heroes to direct, you could pause and plot the next fight… and a lot less rolling  left/right and running in circles. And GW1 didn’t have jumping… I fear it will crop up in PoF often enough to irritate me (jump to get to the next area of a quest, make a critical jump or fail a storyline quest, etc) so I’ll sit out Path of Fire. I would like to finish a storyline in GW2 so that’ll be a side project, one I don’t need the upcoming expansion for.

I know some players like the action combat of GW2, Jeromai and Bhagpuss for example, so I might be an outlier. Certainly most of the current playerbase has to be OK with it, or at least tolerate it better than me. One thing nice about having so many MMOs these days 😉 is these kinds of design issues can vary to offer a different experience to the wider audience. People that like this style combat have a place to go.

SWL – Flappy the Chaotic Raid

SWL is running a special event: The Whispering Tide. It’s a one-room boss fight, with a few adds here and there, that goes off every hour. I didn’t think I could participate, as a level 2 or 3, but I saw that as long as you reach Jack Boone (and presumably take his quest), you can enter and get boosted if you are low level.

Jack Boone… oh yeah, he’s the “last cowboy” outside Kingsmouth, who gives you the Fistful of Zombies quest. He’s essentially the very first quest giver past the tutorial. I was that far along so I could participate!

It’s nicknamed Flappy by the playerbase since the boss is a giant raven that swoops in and does some area attacks before landing. The he continues area attacks, summons some adds, and flies off only to repeat.

The entry is reachable from jump portal outside the central Agartha tree, so a few minutes before the hour I jumped over and found a large crowd waiting for the doors to open.

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The fight itself is basically use every skill on cooldown, avoid standing in telegraphs/filth, and well to be honest, you’ll just get one-shot sometimes so run back and rejoin.

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It’s crazy and not all that strategic, but you know what? It was fun and I do appreciate that the devs let everybody participate in this quickie raid. It’s also fun to see a crazy number of players and their skill animations all trying to take down the various monsters.

The reward is some XP, and the ability to open one of the crates from the event login reward.

Builds

I made two characters, but SWL is fairly unfriendly to alts. One character, Holgren “Komorebi” Angrado – Holgren Angrado is from Michael McClung’s Amra Thetys series which I enjoyed very much – is the one I linked from TSW mostly to reserve the name, so he started with all weapons unlocked. That’s also the character I redeemed the shadow-bound weapons on, from the ARG before launch, so he also has decent starter weapons of every type! Meanwhile my other character, Amra “Tsundoku” Thetys has none of that.

Holgren joined the Templars while Amra joined the Illuminati. I’ve barely seen anything of either faction (I was Dragon in TSW) and I’m kinda leaning towards Illuminati based on how cool I think their NYC base looks, but I hear the Templars have good faction quests and ultimately it doesn’t really matter that much.

But since Holgren has such a huge advantage over Amra as far as weapons and weapon unlocks, I’m going to play Holgren. He’s using a magic build right now, elemental and chaos, since SWL makes you pick a class during char creation, but I want to switch to a build with mitigation/healing.

I played through short videos for each weapon and four have extra effect mini-game mechanics that don’t appeal to me right now: Assault Rifle, Elemental, Blood, Blade. Elemental and Blood remind me of the LoTRO Runekeeper mechanic of attunement, which might be fine but I’d like to keep things simple for now. Blade looks like a “beserker/rampage/adrenalin” weapon where you want to keep fighting to keep the buff going… not really my playstyle. Assault Rifle looks like I’d spend a lot of time eyeing grenade status in a fight.

On the other side of the spectrum, Hammer and Chaos look simpler since the special bonus appears to auto-apply. The other weapons, Fist, Shotgun, Pistol, are in between as far as complexity of the mini-game.

Thus, my preferred main weapon will be Hammer, Chaos, Fist, Shotgun, Pistol as primary and then something healing as secondary. Of the weapons on my preferred list, Fist is the healing weapon. So I plan to switch to Pistol/Fist to have a range attack and some healing as well, and see how that goes.

I’m not opposed to eventually using the four “complicated” weapons, just not right now. The game is familiar (quests and zones I’ve seen) and yet new (changed combat mechanics) so I’ll keep it simplified until I get to Blue Mountains or Scorched Desert and see how my build is doing.

 

LoTRO – New Chars

With some new-founded motivation I started LoTRO, my goal was to create 2 characters and play them a bit. In reality, the evening bogged down with the minor housekeeping that MMOs impose.

First up, creating characters. That doesn’t take much time in general, except for the dreaded naming issue – I want a decent name, something that fits, but the problem is so do all the other players. As a result, I spent 30 – 45 minutes trying to come up with names that weren’t already taken. Sigh.

It’s easier in other games that let you have a first and last name (i.e. a space is allowed to separate names) but LoTRO isn’t one of them. I decided to make my new minstrel and warden both female hobbits, so something lore-appropriate are flower and/or gemstone names. I tried a bunch but most were already taken.

Eventually I found spessartine, a gemstone, a name that was already taken. However, modifying the name slightly to Spessartina worked, thus a new minstrel was born!

On my other account I tried numerous flower variants, and eventually wound up back at heliconia (I tried that name for my other newbie minstrel but ended up spelling it Heliconya to avoid conflict, so I already knew Heliconia was taken). However, digging deeper I found a Heliconia species name I liked: Scarlatina. It helped that the -tina suffix matches with Spessartina. Thus, another name and a new warden was born!

After logging them in, working through the initial mini-tutorial, I decided it would be a good time to catch up with the latest fancy configuration options and install plugins. I used plugins when I played WoW and know that can be very useful, so I dug around for recommendations on good one for LoTRO. I started with the LoTRO Plugin Compendium, which helps install the other plugins, then Buff Bars, Combat Analysis, Minstrel Buff, Palantir 2, Sequence Bars, and Warden Ease.

I installed Huge Bags as well, but it seems that functionality is already in the game, I just haven’t been taking advantage of it. Bag 1 has a button that toggles edit/combo mode – rows from other bags can be dragged/combined together. So I logged in Spessartina, Scarlatina, and Naerys, and configured their bags into one giant bag. It didn’t take too long and will improve how I manage inventory.

Next up, I had to reposition UI elements. Various game elements were overlapping each other so I straightened that out too… on each character because these settings aren’t shared.

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Eventually I finished this too. A representative screenshot appears above: I’ve moved various windows around so they don’t overlap as much.

What I didn’t have energy for was sorting inventory items, I just dragged them all to the end of the bag (also seen in the screenshot above).

How does a brand new character have 35+ items already, you ask? Well all that stuff in my bags are goodies from various preorders (cosmetic armor sets, mounts), anniversary gift boxes, and so forth. I’d move it into an available vault space but I can’t! I’m still in the tutorial, secondary phase, so I don’t have vault access yet. I also don’t have the riding skill so I can’t add the mounts to my skills yet.

To sum up: I played for ~2 hours and didn’t get that much gameplay. I started 2 characters, spent a long time coming with names, got them out of the initial tutorial, installed plugins, rearranged my UI, amd consolidated bag space.

I wanted to have some action so I started Vol 4 Book 5 on Naerys by speaking with Mithrandir in Minas Tirith, and quested along to the Vol 4 Book 5 Chapter 4 in the village of Drû Bhûta.

Off like a herd of turtles!