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.

TSW – Sasquatch

It bums me out that I don’t devote enough time to this excellent title. I may have to re-prioritize what I play to change that.

Anyway, the other day I was listening to the Lore Podcast, catching up on some back episodes. I am up to #18 Hunger Pains, about myths surrounding monster cannibals, when the host Aaron Mahnke mentioned the name of one such native American creature – the wendigo.

What?? That’s a monster from Secret World; I just assumed Funcom made up the name of the mob. I didn’t realize the name came from an existing myth!

The inspired me to adventure more with Wayness in Blue Mountain, and look for some Wendigo. It didn’t take long, as it happens the road running by the side of the camp I am staging out of is “Wendigo Way”.

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The next mob I found just down the road was a Wendigo! Killing it bumped me to 25 overall Wendigo kills in the overall “wendigo slayer” achievement.

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Actually the mob didn’t have Wendigo in its name, it was called something else like Brood Worker. But it counted so it must be in the Wendigo species. 😉

My current mission was Enemy of my Enemy which involved speaking to some a friendly Sasquatch chief and see what he wanted… and it boiled down to investigating a cave and freeing some capture Sasquatch tribe members. That sounds fun so I jumped in to be a hero to the tribe.

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After talking to the chief and finding the cave, I entered and battled numerous Brood Feeder (more Wendigo??) to free each prisoner.

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The next stage of the quest involved destroying a hive, which freed a boss Brood Queen (you could see that coming!)

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It was a fun fight – many TSW mobs have telegraphs a la Wildstar, but not all, so I have be a bit mobile and move out of the way. So the combat is active but not way over towards the twitch side, at least IMHO.

Anyway, I didn’t have much time so I did one more quest and called it a night. For my efforts I earned enough ability points to unlock two more Starter Deck outfits and also gained a few more skill points which let me bump my sword survivability skill up one. Wayness is now QL5 in Fists and Blades so my next few skill points will go towards bumping up talismans.

 

 

TSW – Talismans and Suits

I bought The Park a few weeks ago, since I wanted to support Funcom’s psychological adventure/story game. It is set in the Atlantic Island amusement park which is also in TSW.

Even more interesting is the item tie-in – a set of QL10 gear.

I wasn’t sure how to get that gear, but I finally finished The Park and from the Extras screen, there is a way to log into a TSW account and link the items to the account.

The Park
The Park

So I did that and logged into TSW to greedily pick up my new stuff. Even though I can’t use it because I’m only at QL5 or 6.

Inside TSW I didn’t see anything delivered, but after opening the Store windows, Claim Items tab, I saw my items. Woohoo! (Again, partly muted because I can’t use QL10 heroic items yet. But this is more motivation to quit diddling around and make some real progress in the game).

Squirrel Suit
Squirrel Suit

I also picked up the Squirrel Suit (also a tie-in with The Park) and a Green Zoot Suit. I like my previous ensemble better so after a bit I’ll switch back.

TSW – Blue Mountain (at last?)

Steam tells me I’ve played 89 hours of The Secret World, and I’m finally ready for the Blue Mountain zone. I’ve done every mission I can find in Solomon Island (not so sure about Kingsmouth but I’m also too lazy to backtrack just for completion) and I only skipped one that I know of (Hell and Bach). Nearly all my gear is QL5; I think only a minor pendant isn’t.

I’m at tier 12 of Dawning of an Endless Night, and also have the Stranger in a Strange Land mission. Both of these take place in Blue Mountain. I already did the one mission where you drop some dogtags off at an outpost in Blue Mountain, after exploring a cave, but that just finished there. It’s a quest that leads you to the next zone, not one that takes place in that zone.

Now, it really is time to move forward!

Blue Mountain Bridge
Blue Mountain Bridge

TSW Fighting

So two comments about how fighting proceeds, for me at least, in the Secret World.

I’ve read the criticism that combat is a bit dull, and I can see where that comes from. The way builders and consumers work, many fights come down to 5 X builder, 2 X consumer, toss in a few utility skills when needed. So in the respect, it is a bit repetitive.

However, after adding in dodging and mobility, it is better than planting yourself and hitting 1,1,1,1,1,2,3. It becomes more active: far more than WoW, a bit less than WildStar, around the same as a slowed down fight in GW2.

After considering the skill system – I can train all weapons and skills, change my role by swapping weapons – I’m really enjoying it overall.

Since consumer skills are more effective with more resources, I find myself staring at the small weapon resource area during fights. Or glancing frequently, and often catching the rest of the action in my peripheral vision. It is handy that a boss AoE charging circle is easily noticeable in the background.

I’ve been playing so much (relatively speaking) TSW lately because it fits my schedule very well. Many days I just have an hour or a bit more to play, and that’s enough time to finish a mission or 3 in TSW. Also, I’m a Grandmaster which gives me an xp-boost potion every day, and it lasts for an hour. The timing is good.

Runestone
Runestone

TSW – Gravity

The Secret World has memorable investigative missions, ones that involve tricky puzzle solving.

In Kingsmouth, one that stood out to me was Dead Air, which involved listening to a morse code tranmission and decoding it for the coords to the next stage. In the Savage Coast, the investigative mission that stands out for me is Gravity, which has you use a lens to read a map.

I didn’t solve Dead Air on my own, I got stuck on the decode and looked up the correct answer. Similarly, I was stuck on Gravity so I peeked… and when I saw how to continue, I was able to get the rest. All the same, both puzzles were awesome.

In Gravity, you start with a will and a lens. It is straightforward to use the lens and get a special buff that lets you read hidden text in the will. Follow the directions and soon enough you are at the next step… but stuck. There is some broken glass at the end of the trail but what to do?

I fiddled around but didn’t get it, and eventually looked it up.

The answer (spoilers ahead) is to craft the tool for the next step. Yes, crafting as a way to solve a mission, not just make gear, or as it is in so many games, craft items straight into the trash just to bump your crafting skill higher.

To continue I had to open the regular crafting menu, and add the lens and the broken glass together to get a red lens. At the end of the next stage, there was blue broken glass laying nearby… but I knew what to do from the previous step.

The next step didn’t have any broken glass, but I took a guess and use both red and blue to craft a purple lens, which let me continue. I just loved it. Crafting actually used for good purpose for a puzzle oriented quest! The closest quest similar to this, in recent memory, is from Skyrim where you had to examine the Golden Claw closely to dial the correct combination for a door – but that didn’t involve any crafting.

Without the hint – the TSWDB site if fantastic, all of their mission walkthroughs are excellent – I don’t think I would have come up with crafting as the way forward.

Here is what the map looked like without the correct color lens:

Regular Lens
Regular Lens

and what it looked like with the correct lens:

Color Lens
Color Lens

I think this game sets the bar for great quests, and I’m only two zones into the game. Yes, I’ve been dallying and there was a solid year I didn’t play it, but now I’ve gotten back into the game and am really enjoying myself. The combo of the new player revamps, a better build I found on the forums, and better quality gear (mostly QL4 and 5 at this point) has made it far more enjoyable than before.