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.

 

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!

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.

SWL

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.

[LoTRO] Mordor on a Budget

Mordor is almost here! I remember starting LoTRO in 2007, 10 years ago, wondering if the game would expand all the way there. Well, it is going to do so apparently at the end of July… but I decided I’m going to be frugal and wait to buy the expansion in the store.

The Mordor FAQ says:

Can I purchase the expansion with Store Points?

Mordor expansion will be available for Store Points after Update 22 this winter. Point prices will be:
Base Edition (includes Mordor Region & Instances only): 2495 Points
High Elf: 1000 Points

As it happens I have 2495 points on both accounts, actually I have more than enough to also buy High Elf as well, on both accounts.

The expansion packages seem quite pricey to me, for what you get. If the Collector’s Edition were $20 less I would purchase it on both accounts to have it available, even though I really only have one character in striking range of Mordor (Naerys my guardian, level 100, currently 2 or 3 books behind in the epic quest line. I could make a push and adventure into Mordor sometime in August).

Instead, I’ll wait, get back into playing, advance Naerys in the storyline right up to the Mordor entry point, and save a chunk of money by purchasing the expansion with store points. The only downside is waiting until Update 22, sometime in the winter, but since I’m not ready to go there right now, I might as well wait.

 

LoTRO – New Minstrel

Well I couldn’t stay away from LoTRO for too long. The game is celebrating its 9th year and I’ve played for 8.75 of those, off and on (mostly on).

Naerys can now level past 100, and I’ll get back to further adventures from Minas Tirith, but as I mentioned before… Naerys isn’t the class I want to play for group content. A guardian is fun for me solo, due to the survivability and reactive skills, but tanking means lots of encounter/dungeon knowledge and gear is pivotal. I’d rather play a healing role which I like better.

So, I started another minstrel, a hobbit names Heliconya – hobbits are named after flowers and jewels, however Heliconia was already taken so I had to misspell it –  and played through the Shire, which I haven’t done in years.

It’s pretty much the same with the exception of Bingo Boffin and quests related to him. Maybe a few other things too. But all my favorite lowbie quests are there, and it was really fun to do them again.

There was Free the Tree

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Spectre of the Black Rider

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Adelard’s Chapter, Bandages for Callum… I forgot to screenshot these ones.

I even explored some of the lesser traveled areas between Bree and the Shire, such as the fields/ruins north of Brandy Hills.

Good times!

Heliconya is now level 19, ready to start Vol.1 Book 2 (The Red Maid) as soon as she levels up a bit.

 

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. 😉

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 – midway 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. 😉 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.