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!

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.

 

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.

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. 😉

TSW – Finished Solomon Island

TSW had a double AP week, so that prompted me to put aside other MMOs and focus. I jumped in head first and also bought a 3-day timed AP injector as well as a 3-day timed SP injector. While under the effect of these buffs, I’ll get a bonus skill point for every skill point earned, and a bonus ability point for every ability point earned (thus 2 extra, one from the AP injector and one from the bonus effect). Time to make some progress!

As much as I like this game, I’ve been somewhat sluggish moving through the content. Lolly-gagging, unfocused wandering, whatever you call it. Basically at about 100 hours in the game – according to Steam, and this game (unlike many other MMOs I play) I’ve only ever played via Steam – I was only in Blue Mountains, the 3rd explorable area of the initial zone. Essentially, not even finished with the storyline that shipped with the game ~4 years ago (!!).

So I entered Blue Ridge Mine (tier 13 of the Dawning of an Endless Night storyline mission) determined to finish it off.

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I crept through dark mines, fought shadows, and eventually fought Freddy Beaumont, who I vaguely remember from an earlier cutscene (Tier 6, but it has been a long time since I completed that stage).

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We fought and before I could gloat too much, I was pulled away into another mysterious place.

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A disembodied voice offered me power and wealth, if I would only choose to accept their gift. Which I did. 😉 And in classic TSW fashion, the contents of that mysterious box are as-of-yet unrevealed.

After a short interlude back at Dragon headquarters in Seoul, I unlocked the Scorched Desert. Finally!

But, before I hurl myself into Egypt, I’d kinda like to finish off a few things in Blue Mountain. I’ve probably only done 80% of the quests there and would like to finish up before moving on. While I plan to get further into TSW, at the same time I don’t want to hurdle the content along the way. I figure what I really need to do is just work TSW into my gaming rotation.

My only real criticism of TSW is many quests seem to me to be unnecessarily drawn out… many quests go a little too far overboard in throwing mobs at you or having you do that same thing too many times.. Somewhere between too few and too many is the right balance, and TSW often leans to the “too many” side.

The Dreamcatcher quest has you step into the spirit world and see what’s bothering the ancestors. Turns out it is a Hound of Corruption, and on the way to fighting the monster, you’ll fight shadow creatures, ones the Hound turns on you, and ones just sitting off the path. Again, you don’t just fight one, five, or 10, but somewhere around 20+ along the way, in groups or 1 or 2.

An non-combat example is Treasure Hunt, where you are tasked with completing a search started by a deceased Orochi agent. Using a metal detector, complete with a sonar ping when you get close to a dig spot, the quest has you dig up 5 items twice. The quest is fun and there is combat as the beach is filled with wandering undead, but 10 items? I don’t think anything would be lost if the quest slimmed down and required 2 or 3 each time – you’d have the quest mechanics but not as repetitively.

The biggest example I have for this is The Haunting, where partway through you fight Billy Lee manifestations. Not one, not 5, not even 10, but around 20 or more? I don’t remember, I lost count. Seriously, it is that many, in groups. They come one, two, three at a time until you advance to kill the actual Billy Lee: at least 10 defending Frida Diaz, another 6 or 7 more while escorting Harriet Braun, and around 4 more on the way back to the attic. That should be more like 5-8 for all phases of the quest.

Basically, I think the quest flow would be vastly improved with some streamlining; in particular, thinning out the number of mobs or tasks per tier.

This is one thing FF14 really gets right – every time I’m sent out to kill X number of mobs for a quest, it is usually less than 5 or 6. I can only think of one quest (so far) that requested more than that – 8 or 10 – and that was a Thamaturge class quest. That’s much better balance to me: enough so it isn’t trivial but not so many it become tedious.

TSW – Casino

I cranked up The Secret World and adventured in Blue Mountain more… I am determined to make it out of the initial zones and get deeper into the storyline!

I’m using a sword/fist build that is serving me pretty well, especially now that I’ve put enough skill points into sword and fist to wield QL6 weapons (bought from the vendor) and have been finding QL6 talismans. I’m one level behind in those, but soon I’ll be able to wear QL6 major and minor talismans.

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It helps!

I like how the quest layout in TSW generally leads you around the zone. Since you can only have a limited number of quests (if you pick up an extra, a previous quest will be placed on hold – depending on the specific quest type), many quests finish near a spot you can pick up another one. There is no need to run back to the quest giver to turn a finished quest in – that’s what your in-game cellphone is for! When you finish a quest in this game, a “send report” button pops up and you settle up wherever you are.

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While I was working on a quest near the casino that is under construction, by the undead/zombie workforce, I climbed on scaffolding to collect supplies. While up there I saw another group in the middle of a lair adventure – so I stopped to just watch them battle a few mobs.

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It was fun to watch – the various TSW skills have cool animations and effects, some of them looking spectacular. Unlike GW2 or FF14 for that matter, most are subdued so a really flashy skill stands out without overwhelming the overall battle.

I watched for a few minutes, initially concerned I was in range of an AoE from the battle – spillover damage would likely kill me! – but I stayed and was unharmed. Whew.

I returned to complete this particular quest (since it was a “gather supplies” quest the final step was to drop them off somewhere) and picked up another one that I’ll work on next time.

One of these weekends I’ll have an uninterrupted block of time I’ll devote to moving along in the storyline and wrapping up additional zone quests.