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 – 聽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. 馃檪 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聽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. 馃槈

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聽coming to the city – midway through the book the city switches into siege聽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. 馃槈 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,聽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.

 

LoTRO – Bear Fatigue

Lone Lands

I got my Beorning, Yrmera, to level 20 and on to Vol 1 Book 2. Except, I decided the Beorning wasn’t really for me.

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It is cool to be a shape-changer and switch to a bear, but ultimately the playstyle isn’t varied. Instead of the 3 or 4 weapon attacks, in bear form you get a swipe and roar and have to revert back to human form when the rage meter depletes, in order to do it again.

What I like in a class are skills that are reactive, things like the guardian’s parry and/or block response chains, or to a lesser degree the variety of skills the burglar has: buffs, debuffs, tricks and trick removal, plus timing of skill application for maximum effect.

I have a minstrel and warden somewhere in the low 60’s, both sitting at Caras Galadhon, both elves… I’m tempted to start up a new hobbit minstrel and/or warden to fiddle around with. I’m leaning towards minstrel because I’m enjoying healers, and I haven’t really played a minstrel since before the double revamping (one revamp of minstrel聽skills to the new stances and the coda/ballad system; another revamp from the original聽trait system to the new tree system). As unique as the warden is, the problem is any extended break from playing that class makes it really tough to return. I think the warden skill design is very unique and genius, even if I don’t play enough to retain minimal competence.

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It’s fun playing the early content again, getting to the Lone Lands and viewing Weathertop.

Gondor

In other Middle Earth slacker news, Naerys finally reached level 100, outside Pelargir.

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The Grey Company witnessed it.

Rather than continue on from Vol 4 Book 3 Chapter 3, I took a break and spent one to two hours setting up my new Legendary items (club and belt). I bought a bunch of level 100 items off the auction hall, added item experience, deconstructed, fused and melded, and then read up on imbuement, the new (well, since 1.5 years ago) mechanism for legendary items. I think I set Naerys up well (at the least, upgrading from the level 93 club and level 97 belt was a bump in effectiveness).

I also had to figure out what to do with the 3 pieces of armor I had with slots, and the various essences I’ve been collecting from quest rewards. That was easy – right click the essence, click armor to apply to. This system lets players customize the stat bonuses on armor pieces. Yet another thing I had been putting off for dealing with “when I hit max level”.

Finally, I redid my War-steed traits. I had been using an old 2nd age bridle given as a storyline reward, so that was replaced with a new level 100 3rd age bridle. Previously I used a medium bridle but I decided to go with a heavy bridle this time. After fulling specing out the blue tree (“Rohirrim” traits) I had leftover points to pick up several traits in red and yellow (“Red Dawn” and “Riddermark”, respectively).

Quite a few improvements for Naerys!

What’s left is something I’ve gotten more and more lazy about as time goes by, in every MMO I play. Crafting. Part of that is the trend where plain old quest rewards are fine for most use. Another part is the sheer time/money sink crafting tends to be. It is vicious circle where crafting anything less than max level stuff is a waste while leveling – it’ll be replaced soon enough so why bother. On top of that, I’m not to the farthest part of the game yet (i.e. caught up with the storyline at the “last” big city) so surely that’s where the best items, reputation vendors, recipes, etc. are available.

Naerys is my metalsmith but hasn’t crafted her own full set of armor since… well geez I don’t remember. Last full set crafted upon hitting some milestone level? It might be back in the Mines of Moria era, when critted tier 5 Supreme was the best crafted armor. I’ll dig around and see what recipes are available now. I have a feeling crafting has migrated towards LoTRO store purchases (for recipes) or reputation based vendors. I can at least process the tons of ore I’ve been mining along the way and skill up… whether or not I can make anything useful is another question.

My burglar Dhrun, level 82 and back at Harwick (the city characters pick up their War-steed), is my jeweler. I’ve been feeding him various gems that Naerys collects while mining but that isn’t enough to level crafting with. He’ll have to do some work too. 馃槈 Anyway, he probably is far away from making top tier jewelry so Naerys will have to get by with quest reward jewelry (which are generally just fine).

LoTRO – Road to Gondor

I finished up Vol 4 Book 1, The Road to Gondor, on Naerys.

The earlier chapters in the book were typical old-school MMO quests: talk to this person, find out they have some problem that involves killing nearby enemies, report back, etc. I like LoTRO enough to play through it

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I do however take a few diversions as I ride across the land. I’m collecting ore for prospecting and metalworking, so if I see a resource node that isn’t too far out of my way, I grab it. It is nice that I can mine without having to dismount. If at all possible, I don’t even fight any roaming mobs.

My own attitude towards crafting has changed drastically in MMOs. I used to love it, but over time the repetitiveness and frankly, time/money sink-iness, especially compared to gear you can get via quest reward or even login reward, has worn me down.聽I’m barely motivated to collect metal, but it doesn’t take too much time so I grab it when convenient. Eventually I’ll level Prospecting and Metalsmithing… or not.

The final chapter was a battle was against a聽Nazg没l,聽The Bane of Rh没n.

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Midway through, his dragon steed descended and I worried that I had to fight that as well… but fortunately I did not. The battle was timed as a small 5 min countdown timer appeared, and since I defeated the enemy before the timer ran out, I passed the mission.

Later in Book 2, I was sent as an emissary to speak to a problematic Corsair captain,聽Balakh么r the Scourge.

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I insisted he withdraw, but he was not in the mood to listen. He ordered me off the ship but I refused and a fight broke out.

Now, far be it for me to comment on balance issues, but this guy was a tougher fight than the聽Nazg没l. He consistently hit for about 8% of my max morale. I can weave and dodge and boost morale and heal, but when each whack takes a chunk that large… defeat follows eventually. Oh, and he had something ridiculous like 200K morale, also more than the聽Nazg没l.

So, the 2nd time through, I jumped off the boat as ordered and passed the mission.

This fact that聽Balakh么r was a tougher fight than the聽Nazg没l does not seem right, but it’s fine.

LoTRO – Beorning Book 1

After adventuring in the Bree area, including the Barrow-downs, I reached level 18 on Yrmera. I had also been working through the epic storyline prologue and book 1.

It was a lot of fun, especially since it has been years since I put a character through that content. I criss-crossed the Midgewater Marsh trying to warn rangers of the danger of Amdir, only to arrive too late.

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I chased him into the Marshwater Fort but he escaped leaving me to battle Morin, a giant spider.

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After consulting with Strider, we raided a nearby Blackwold camp but were too late; Amdir had turned. We had no choice but to kill him in battle.

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Later聽I tracked the聽Nazg没l to Othrongroth and knew I had to enter.

Now, Yrmera was level 18 while the recommended level for the Orthongroth instance was 21. I figure… what the heck, I might as well give it a shot. I moved through carefully, resting up between fights and using my Beorning healing skill a few times.

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It went pretty well. Eventually I found myself face-to-face with Sambrog, whose quest ring conveniently let me eat some regen food before starting the fight.

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Just as I nearly defeated him, Tom Bombadil showed up to zap him. What the heck, I’ll take help wherever it comes from. 馃槈

Yrmera completed book 1 and is now starting book 2, the Red Maid. It’s recommended level is 22 so I’ll make my way through the Lone Lands and do some questing to try to catch up. I’ll work on the epic storyline whenever I’m level appropriate (minus a level or two) rather than be completionist.

I had a lot of fun playing this quest line, I think the feel of fighting and the epic storyline is really good. Sure, many of the regular quests have you collecting stuff or killing 10 wandering mobs, but the epic quests are longer with more heroic feeling goals. The combat feels good too, as I square off against 2 or 3 enemies and defeat them.

LoTRO – Gondor

I finally made it to Gondor with Naerys. Not too far into Gondor, just to Morlad which is right on the other side of the Paths of the Dead. But Morlad has a view of the Stone of Erech so I’m in West Gondor!

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I do want to make it to Minas Tirith soon so I may focus Naerys on the storyline rather than quests.

The trip through the Paths of the Dead didn’t take long, and聽it looked cool.

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There was even a session play of an Oathbreaker…

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I sided with the group that wanted to honor the oath rather than trust Sauron.

I did a few quests before moving along in the storyline. One involved fighting some bears, which I find hilarious because that was a big threat when Naerys was a lowbie, and as a hobbit the bears are so large they hide her… she still defeats them though.

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Anyway, part of me wants to dabble in another character. My burglar Dhrun is level 82 and back at Harwick with his War Steed.聽But I want to adventure through earlier areas, for nostalgic reasons.

What class to make? I have one of every class at least in the high 20s (Captain) to low 30s (Runekeeper). Start another warden or minstrel? The warden has the most unique playstyle of any class I’ve ever tried, but the downside is taking a break of any sort means forgetting how to play. I have a minstrel in the low 60s standing in Caras Galadhon, so I could dust off that char rather than begin another, but I also wanted to adventure through the Shadows of Angmar content again.

Then it hit me, because I had just been fighting bears with Naerys. Turbine added a new class recently – the Beorning. Perfect – they can shape-shift into bears, how awesome is that?!

I forgot about the Beorning but once I remembered I started one up. After trying about 15 names I gave up and just went with an auto-suggested one, Yrmera.

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Right now Yrmera is on the trail of Amdir, and I’m having a good time. I probably won’t play this char too much, but I think with some focusing on the storyline I could have her to Moria before too long.

I haven’t used the shape-shifting too much just yet, because all the mobs outside Combe die in 2-3 hits from my 2-handed axe. I picked the Claw trait tree, because I expect to mostly solo as I level. The fact Beornings have tank (the Hide) and healing (the Roar) traits trees available is extra cool.

Now what would be super cool is if Beornings are neutral to all bears in Middle Earth: they don’t attack you if you don’t attack them. For some reason I don’t think that will happen.