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.

MMO Updates

This was an eventful week for the MMOs I am interested in. Secret World Legends released on Steam, GW2 has an expansion coming in September, and LoTRO expanded to Mordor. Whew!

Even better, my schedule is settling down and I should be able to carve out some consistent time in order to play. It’s been a lot of mobile games lately since they are convenient and doable in small chunks.

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I’m determined to play this game more. I only ever reached the Scorched Desert in TSW, but some of the most memorable quests I’ve played in MMOs were from this game which is amazing considering that I am barely out of the starter zones.

Combat has been streamlined, build/skills simplified, etc so I’m going to give it another shot and get further.

In TSW I played a Dragon character, so this time I rolled up an Illuminati and a Templar to see if I like those factions better – granted there are minimal differences.

LoTRO

Well I broke down and bought the Mordor expansion despite telling myself to wait until December to buy it with store points. I did just buy one copy so I’ll pick it up for my other account with store points. I am at least partially frugal. 😉

My reasoning was that this is my favorite MMO. I haven’t played much lately, and I’ve taken breaks, but I’ve always come back and really enjoyed the pacing, setting, and storyline. When my kin was active I also grouped and really enjoyed it. How can I not get the expansion?!

Since my guardian Naerys is only level 100 and a few books behind in the storyline, my goal is to beeline the epic quests and enter Mordor. At least just a little bit.

I haven’t decided what to do about the character boost. I’d prefer a character that can heal should I join the occasional group, rather than tank (requires too much knowledge of the encounter) with Naerys, so that means Runekeeper, Minstrel, or Beorning. Of those, I have a low 60’s minstrel parked at Caras Galadhon. I could boost her up, but I’m thinking of rolling a new minstrel and boosting that character instead.

Why? Well, my existing minstrel is an elf and that’s fine, but I like hobbits and would rather have a hobbit minstrel. All else being equal, hobbits have 2 useful race abilities: stealth and silence, whereas elves have their own stealth and grace. I don’t remember Eldar’s Grace ever saving my bacon but Hobbit Silence has plenty of times. Minstrels get their own feign death skill, so a hobbit minstrel has two emergency skills which is very compelling to me.

Over on my other account my hobbit minstrel is level 20 and in the North Downs. What I plan to do there is roll a hobbit warden.The warden is so unique as far as how they play I gotta give it another whirl, and pecking away at leveling through the content would be a great way to relearn the warden gambit system.

My existing elf warden is also in the low 60’s parked at Caras Galadhon, but is on my first account. I’ll make better use of my store points if I play a character on each account rather, so the plan is a few months down the road, I’ll have a boosted hobbit minstrel on my first account, and a hobbit warden on my second account that I intend to play through the storyline normally.

On the other hand I also really enjoyed playing my burglar (who is level 82 in Harwick, only my 2nd character to move past Mirkwood) but is on my first account as well. Perhaps when I do buy Mordor for my second account I’ll boost a burglar there if my warden bogs down!

GW2

So this is where it gets tricky. I have super nostalgia for GW1, but that’s a different game. GW2 never fully clicked with me. The evidence is that 5 years after GW2 released, I have yet to complete a storyline or season on any character! I’ve gone into Heart of Thorns just enough to get minimal gliding on a few chars, and that’s it.

So, a purely logical analysis says that I should NOT get Path of Fire, or at the very least, not until I finish a storyline (or more) on at least one character, which will be my ranger or mesmer. Both elite specs look fun to play and are useful support roles. Both are level 80 and both have an ascended trinket collection thanks to me logging in most every day, even if I didn’t play beyond that, and collecting laurels.

Should GW2 not take again, I need to put it aside and try 2 games I have that deserve attention as well: DDO and ESO.

To this end I’ve decked out my mesmer and am venturing south of Lion’s Arch to advance the storyline.

GW2 – Overland to Fort Trinity

Bee-lining the Living Story chapter one has been pretty fun. Since Eve is already level 80 with a complete set of gear, the only thing I really need to do is run to the next spot. Rewards along the way are deposited (crafting materials) or sold (other gear, since it is worse than what I already have).

I make an occasional detour to grab a waypoint, but have been skipping everything else like vistas, points of interest, hearts/quests, and hero challenges. I do plan to go back to get the waypoints (because being to travel rapidly is very convenient) and hero challenges (to help with masteries) but the rest will be delayed for another time. I’m more interested in jump puzzles and vistas but I suppose one longer term goal is completing the exploration which means picking up the points of interest and doing the quests.

Doing the storyline chapters back to back, I noticed a significant change starting with the Battle of Claw Island. Before this, the story was quick and simple, generally taking less than 10 minutes and involving few fights. But with the Battle of Claw Island, and the same with A Light in the Darkness, the storyline quests balloon up to 30+ minutes, with multiple stages, lots of fighting, etc.

After completing Willing Captives, I turned to run over to Fort Trinity, where the next stage begins. Along the way I saw notice of a Ley Line event, so I detoured over to it, and found a typical GW2 massive fight going on. I find these fun, even if they are a bit zergy.

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The fight lasted a few minutes and I simply targeted the toughest mob around and joined in. As a revenant, my hammer rotation (using demon stance) involves Unyielding Anguish to lay out a dark field, followed up by Drop the Hammer or Phase Smash, which are both blast finishers. Plus, in a group if I notice another field out I’ll try to blast finish that too.

After finishing the event, I continued my journey to Fort Trinity and decided to stop there, to continue later. Soon Eve will pass up my other two characters that are also around Fort Trinity in the storyline! I stalled out before shortly after this point but I’m determined to keep going this time.

GW2 – Revenant Boost

I’ve been fiddling around in GW2 and decided there are 2 related issues with my game enjoyment: the ranger was my favorite profession in GW1; I don’t like the GW2 ranger as much for various reasons mostly due to build and pets.

Build and pets further breaks down: the first 5 skills are locked to weapon choice (I miss the near-total freedom of making a build in GW1); GW2 rangers sort of need to have a pet to be most effective (in GW1 I didn’t use mine much – but then, GW1 had henchmen and heroes so I basically did have ~7 other “pets” for a lot of my adventuring. However, heroes/henchmen were a lot better than a pet).

Thus I did a level 80 preview on an engineer and revenant but not a ranger. I decided using a level 80 boost for another ranger was insane – all that would really get me is a different racial elite skill.

After some experimentation in the Silver Wastes, I opted for the revenant.

The way ArenaNet did the level 80 boost is really nice – the character gets a full suite of equipment, weapons (including underwater weapons), and trinkets. All skills are trained, except for the elite specialization. Even better, you don’t have to click through getting all this stuff, or even for each level (like you would for the level 20 and level 30 boosts). Use the boost and you are ready to roll as a level 80 char! The only thing you might do is tweak the build.

I like the revenant because it feels sturdy, using heavy armor, and the weapons have a good mix of combo fields and finishers. Especially the hammer which has a field (dark) and finishers (blast, projectile), and is a ranged weapon too! (What?! But it is). That’s my weapon of choice with sword/sword as my weapon swap (those were the weapons from the level 80 boost).

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This char is already leveled, has unlocked traits and skills, so I’m going to ignore vistas, hearts/quests, and points of interest. Instead I will open waypoints and detour for an occasional hero challenge, while bee-lining the storyline. I believe emphasizing 100% map completion before moving on was a factor in my various burnouts and stalling midway through.

Mini break

I had some out of town visitors last week, so I didn’t do much gaming. It is interesting to me what games I thought about and was eager to get back to, and which ones were bucketed into “eh, I can wait”.

BDO – I just can’t get into. It offers a lot to do, but it turns out I’m not all that interested in lifestyle skills, simulating a trade empire, fishing or raising horses. What it does have going for it is exploration…

…which brings me to EVE. One goal there is to wander the universe in a cloaked ship, exploring relic/data sites as I come across them. This playstyle doesn’t have a direct analogy to other games with exploration (GW2 for instance) so EVE bumped up on my interest list. Of course, while away with my visitors I kept my skill queue full and working on my behalf. 🙂 I probably still can’t reliable make corp/fleet activity, but I think I can get my monthly sub fee’s worth of a few hours on the weekends.

GW2 moved back into interest. I saw a giant patch containing tons of fixes, most of which probably don’t effect me. However, one thing did – a level 80 boost. Earlier I mentioned the one thing I’d change about my char is switching races Norn to Asura. Well, this is my chance! I have a level 80 elementalist, guardian, ranger, level 60 mesmer, and I’ve tried thief and necromancer and didn’t really like them. That’s fine, there isn’t a game out where EVERY class appeals to me. Closest would be GW1 where I did actually play all classes through all storylines except one… the elementalist. That’s because my GW1 elementalist was my mesmer, who freely swapped skills between professions, and had fast casting instead of energy storage.

I used some level 30 boosts on an engineer and revenant, and a level 20 boost on a warrior. So basically, I have a level 80 boost to use on either a ranger, which I know I like but would like to switch races on, or on an engineer, revenant, or warrior, which are fun but unknown. I’ll think about this and maybe play through the first chapter of the storyline on the engineer and revenant and see before going with another ranger.

LoTRO also moved back into interest. I’ve taken breaks from the game, none lasting too long. My guardian Naerys can level from 100 to 105 now, but I had another project in mind: starting a new minstrel. Which I did and puttered around a bit. I’ll post on that later.

ESO also remained of interest. Zenimax is adding some really interesting DLC (the recent Thieves Guild and upcoming Dark Brotherhood); the game is fun and has beautiful graphics; I like the skill system which lets every class train every weapon, armor, and crafting skills, while retaining 3 skill lines unique to the class.

TSW as well, I want to press along in the desert and not spend ~2 years wandering very slowly around before the next new zones, like I did with Kingsmouth – Blue Mountain.

What fell out of interest was FF14. It isn’t a bad game game at all; I’ve enjoyed all 5 mandatory dungeons I’ve done; the class system is the best. The playerbase seems friendly, the storyline is bizarre but fun to follow. It comes down to the sub fee – given my rather haphazard play schedule, it doesn’t make sense to sub to multiple subscription games. So in the contest between EVE and FF14, right now EVE wins since the play style EVE offers, that of the stealth explorer in dangerous territory, well that doesn’t exist elsewhere. The others are B2P or F2P, and I do support them by making store purchases from time to time. I like this model since whatever I buy doesn’t come with a time limit like game-time with a sub fee does, and I don’t feel as much pressure to play to a quota each month.

There is probably a “fantasy game overload” thing going on as well – EVE is a sci-fi universe while LoTRO/GW2/ESO are fantasy. So FF14 as a 4th direct fantasy game, let’s just put TSW into a different category, is maybe too much for me.

I’m subbed for another cycle under FF14 so I’m not vanishing instantly, but I’ll be thinking about whether or not I want to keep working on my summoner/monk versus exploring null sec in EVE.

Anyway, I’ll see how ESO, TSW, ramping back up in GW2 and LoTRO, and EVE go. 5 games is still 3 too many. 😉

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. 😉

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. 😉

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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!

 

GW2 – Laurels

I’ve been slacking in GW2 -logging in daily just to claim the reward. That’s because I found out what laurels are useful for – buying ascended gear from laurel merchants!

While the entire playerbase knows about this, I only found out recently. What can I say, I don’t follow updates in games as closely as I used to. Back when I only played one MMO at a time (i.e. 2000-2002 and Asheron’s Call; 2005-2007 and Guild Wars) I was a student of the game, reading every patch note and being fairly knowledgeable about everything in the game. Now, these things slip by and I mostly just pay attention to anything that immediately affects my character (build/trait/skill changes) and shift into accumulation mode for everything else, reasoning that I can hang onto stuff and figure out what to do with it later.

I didn’t play GW2 enough to really be interested in all the collecting and farming required for ascended armor and gear – I didn’t think I’d put enough time into the game to get any of it. I just enjoyed exploring, doing hearts (quests), leveling up, etc. I used to enjoy crafting in MMOs, but lately it has turned towards a major time/money sink in every game, with quest rewards outpacing crafted items and so on. I vaguely had the idea that the best gear involved an extensive crafting sequence and didn’t bother looking into it.

When Heart of Thorns released, I didn’t read too much on what it brought – basically I knew it was set in the jungle and involve gliding.

Anyway, I saw a thread on reddit about how to go about increasing your character’s power. There was decent advice on what to farm and craft, but a surprising recommendation was simply “be sure to buy the ascended trinkets with laurels; they are more of a stat boost than ascended armor plus ascended weapons”. Oh really?!

I had collected laurels without spending them, so I had 80 or so at first. I went to find the laurel merchants in Rata Sum and Hoelbrak after checking the wiki for what was available and was thrilled to upgrade my crappy trinkets for some ascended ones.

Since I bought this stuff on Glyneth, my ranger/druid, I wanted to get a balance between offensive oriented gear for PvE, and defensive/healing oriented gear for group events and support. I decided I liked the “across the board” stats for Syzygy, Lunaria, Solaria, Celestial Sigil, Ancient Mursaat Token, and the Karka Shell.

So far I’ve bought Syzygy, Lunaria, Solaria, the Celestial Sigil, and have also upgraded each one with an infusion. Now I only have 6 laurels so it’ll take a few weeks to get the Ancient Mursaat Token and Karka Shell. But I can see steady progress towards obtaining them! After finishing up buying and infusing these 2 items, I’ll look into what it takes to get ascended armor and weapons; perhaps the grind is something I can slowly work on.

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I logged in and explored Timberline Falls more, participating in 2 events and having a fun time. In the first event, we had to defend 2 areas from undead, and we’re getting overrun. I switched weapons to the staff and started using druid skills to attack/heal. I’m not sure if this made the difference but it seemed easier after this. At least I stopped getting pummeled to 20% health and was instead bouncing around above 80% health while doing OK damage, and ideally healing others. I need to practice more and a druid and get to know the skills better.

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The 2nd event was a straight up fight against a single enemy, the Enhanced Ettin. This event spawns really close to a waypoint so lots of players joined in as the fight wore on. As a result we defeated the ettin really fast.