ESO: Summerset Storyline

My goal was to finish the storyline on Summerset, and make my way to Elsweyr. I figure I’m already “out of order” from the main storyline and Morrowind, might as well not worry about it and see new areas, and then go back to the mainland and Morrowind later.

But, I wasn’t able to do it. I wrapped up A Necessary Alliance and am now at The Crystal Tower, which is 8 of 9. The end is in sight!

Wrapping up the previous step involved a tough fight: defend two portals (one at a time) and basically kill the final mini-boss that attacks. Like most quests in ESO, there are a series of regular enemies to fight as you navigate towards various goals, then the quest wraps up much tougher fight. It generally takes me a few attempts at these “quest completion” fights, buffing up a little by eating some food beforehand, popping a healing potion as needed, etc.

This particular fight was annoying due to the ~minute long run I had to do after dying to get back into the fight. But, after a few attempts I prevailed. It kinda felt like Dark Souls, scaled down of course: get to the problematic mini-boss fight, hang at a distance to learn their moves and what patterns to dodge (various red circles). I’m glad I trained bow as a secondary weapon because it lets me do some damage while kiting for my life.

You have two allies in the fight, one at each portal: Razum-dar and Darien Gautier, both characters in the storyline. Both are decent fighters, but won’t finish the mini-boss off for you. What Darien does do is occasionally is yell “get behind my shield” before popping some bright light damage absorption bubble. I also learned to stand right behind him when he does that and keep attacking.

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Anyway, later I talked to a Daedric Prince, Clavicus Vile. He at least recognizes how awesome I am at previously thwarting his plans. ūüėČ

 

 

LoTRO

Lord of the Rings Online, the game I easily have the most hours in. I’ve been playing on and off, more off than on of late, since July 2009 which makes 10+ years. Mind boggling.

When SSG announced Legendary Servers, I hopped on Anor and created a bunch of characters. You know, to reserve names if nothing else. I’m a lifetime subscriber (on two accounts!) from way back and still getting use from it. I do buy around $50 of coins during a sale once or perhaps twice a year since otherwise SSG doesn’t make any money off me, and I have easily gotten my value out of my lifetime accounts.

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The furthest along is my guardian at level ~35, in Evendim. I’m hitting a slow down mostly caused by the fact I’ve played the Shadows of Angmar content at least 6 times. Maybe more like 8. And even considering Mines of Moria… on Landroval, I played those 6 characters all the way through and onto Caras Galadhon, and took my guardian and burglar further.

One probable mistake is playing the same class as my main on Landroval, a guardian. Great class (they all are) but I have a level 100+guardian already, I should mix it up and play a class I only dabbled with to level 20 or so. Maybe the Boerning… I think I’ll refocus and try some new class mechanics. The other catch with playing a guardian is groups expect you to tank, obviously, but tanking requires knowledge of the encounter for maximum success, plus skill at running the character (ideally needed for everyone but there is far more pressure on a tank to be above average) and I don’t play enough for either. Besides, a lot of the time when I can carve out a few hours to play, I just want to kick back and do my own thing.

I like the concept of the Legendary Server, to let players experience the content “on level” and have better chances to group as the content unlocks. But I’m not sure I can play enough to fully take advantage of that.

The other thing is, I’m considering returning to Landroval. That’s where my fleet of characters is, my crafters, alts, heaps of gold, etc. Very few people I know still play, but it isn’t like I know anybody on Anor.¬† The kinship I’m in on Landroval keeps going to “usurp” status, so I might cast about for another kinship. Other than new cooler names for my characters on Anor (that’s what I tell myself haha), Landroval has a number of advantages. All the content, no xp penalty, all my alts for crafting and emergency funds…

I logged into Landroval for the first time in 8 months and saw I had already rolled an alt minstrel #2, a hobbit, that is poised in Rivendell ready to start Volume 1 Book 5 in the Misty Mountains with just a few more levels.

Yes, I think returning to Landroval would be the smart thing to do.

Elder Scrolls Online

One MMO I’m playing these days is Elder Scrolls Online. I started on PC but abandoned that account and restarted on PS4. ESO is great on console, the game and UI is designed with console users in mind.

ESO has a lot that I like. Beautiful graphics and well developed lore/world for starters. Character mechanics I really like – a class in this game gives you 3 skill lines but gives you freedom over armor and weapons, which also have their own skill lines. Many skills can be “morphed” to enhance or change its effects. Equipping a weapon lets you slot 6 skills, eventually you can swap weapons to bring in another 6 skills, so choosing which ones to equip is important. There are also skill lines for crafting, alliance war, guilds, and your race. I like that picking something doesn’t lock you out of other options (besides the fixed one of your race/class).

I also like the minimalist UI. It took some getting used to – as a Morrowind/ Oblivion/ Skyrim player I’ve seen their UIs fade more and more into the background – but I really like it now. Less clutter, more game world.

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There is a main storyline, a zone storyline, and lots of great quests. Quests follow a template: initial stage collecting information, middle stage battling various monsters, final stage concluding with a mini-boss or harder than average fight. Many of them have¬† ethical dilemmas where you can be truthful or lie at the quest conclusion. I’m not sure either choice affects the game world too much, but I enjoy thinking a little and not just clicking the button to move to the next quest ASAP.

One example is a quest where you are investigating a runaway bride. It turns out she was turned by a werewolf and ran off to avoid bringing shame to the families. She asks you return with some jewelry and tell people you found it on a corpse… you can lie or not at the final stage. Another is investigating a murder, where it turns out a mage was experimenting with vampirism to cure a disease, but lost control. The accused didn’t murder anyone but says they did to hide the truth of what their friend did. You can give a false version of what happened, save a shaky alliance and ensure the accused gets to live out their life teaching under house arrest, or tell the truth and create a very awkward political situation involving foreigners experimenting with forbidden magic/potions.

It’s great, much better than a typical collect-hides-style errands.

Downsides are the action combat. I prefer tab-target even though it seems ridiculous to plant your feet and crank through your rotation as the enemy pounds on you. This game requires a bit of movement to avoid skill effects or re-acquire the target (sometimes even backing up as some of my weapons have a minimum range!) and fortunately it isn’t too bad. Still, many times I’ll start with a disciplined use of skills and wind up mashing buttons. ūüėČ The combat isn’t a show stopper by any means.

The content appears infinite at my pace. I decided to hang around Summerset Isle and finish up there before going to the mainland/mainquest or Morrowind or Elsweyr now that released…

I’m only able to play about 2-3 hours a week, so my restarted character, a Wood Elf Nightblade, is only level 16. I chose Wood Elf since they have stamina bonuses and I’m playing a stamina nightblade as my class. One thing I’m sure to do is pick up the daily login reward because ESO is fairly generous and the daily rewards give healing potions, food, xp boosts, poisons, skill rewards (crafting, horse), and gold. I need that gold because I’m dirt poor in game!

 

Pokémon Go

May as well fess up. The game I’ve been playing the most over the last year is easily Pok√©mon Go. Yes, that’s right, I can hear you guffawing in the back, but let me explain.

PoGo is a game that several of my friends and I enjoy. The gameplay loop is basic: catch pok√©mon, upgrade them with stardust and candy, repeat. Everything after that is up to the player. Maybe you’ll optimize a team for PvP (largely game theorizing weaknesses/resistances along 18 dimensions plus adding an unexpected secondary charged move), work on completing your pok√©dex (involves trading with others as several pok√©mon are region locked), collect shinies or level 1 pok√©mon, raid for legendaries, or decide to own every local gym, etc.

For the first year it was out, there wasn’t much to do. In fact, I got bored and put the game aside. However, I was drawn back in by Community Days, a ~3 hour time period, generally once a month on the weekend, where a featured pok√©mon spawns abundantly. There are usually several other boosts as well: accelerated egg hatching, bonus stardust, extra candy, higher chance of shinies, longer duration lures, etc.

On Community Day, I can count on gaming with one other friend and usually two or three more. We’ll meet up at various local spots (indoor or outdoor malls work well, as do universities) and spend the time walking around, chatting, and playing alongside dozens of other groups doing the same thing. Sometimes we’ll play a boardgame after (we are in the middle of a¬†Betrayal Legacy¬†campaign).

Heck, I went with a friend to Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago earlier this year. We had a great time! They had a special research quest setup that led to Jirachi and it was enjoyable to do.

Over this past weekend, me and 3 friends met up and did our thing. Besides catching dozens of Ralts (the featured pokémon) and hoping for shinies (everyone got at least 3 or 4), we found 3 Rayquaza raids (current legendary raid boss), battled Team Rocket a half dozen or more times, and ate dinner afterwards. Ralts has two different evolutions depending on whether it is male of female (male Kirlia evolves to Gallade and female Kirlia evolves to Gardevoir) so we make sure we had at least one of each for the Community Day special move (Synchronoise).

Niantic has been active adding content and features over the last 2 years. This is what I remember being added since that rather slow/dull first year, and I probably left something out:

  • Revamped Gym battle (motivation, max 6 different pok√©mon)
  • Revamped coin collection (1 coin every 10 min holding a gym, max 50 a day)
  • Revamped appraisal system (QoL improvement)
  • Raids, 1 star to 5 start (Legendary), EX raids
  • Legendary lunch hour, Legendary dinner hour
  • Near continuous special events
  • Trading pok√©mon
  • Buddy pok√©mon
  • Shiny pok√©mon, Shadow pok√©mon, Purified pok√©mon
  • Berry types: nanab, pinab, silver
  • Charged and Fast TMs
  • Rare Candy
  • Evolution items (sun stone, king’s rock, metal coat, dragon scale, up-grade, sinnoh stone)
  • Sending postcards from locations, open for gifts containing random items
  • Eggs and incubators, Alolan eggs to hatch Alonan forms
  • Adventure Sync (step counter from phone that counts distance towards hatching eggs)
  • Adventure Sync rewards (eggs for hitting 25K and 50K walking milestones each week)
  • Field Research (daily tasks to complete for a weekly encounter)
  • Special Research (multi-stage quest for pok√©mon, mythical or unique, or tons of xp)
  • PvP (fight other players or the AI)
  • Team Rocket (fight AI, series of 3 progressively harder fights), catch shadow pok√©mon¬†with the option to purify for boosts
  • Community Day, special move for evolving during the time window
  • Mystery Box (meltan spawns, trade Gen 1 Pok√©mon to Pok√©mon Let’s Go games in exchange)
  • And of course, more generations of pok√©mon

Many of the special events boil down to having a set of pokémon spawn in higher numbers, or legendary raid bosses available, etc.

Monetization is what you would expect from a free-to-play game: microtranactions for stuff like cosmetic outfits. The store also sells various doodads to boost gameplay: lures to attract pokémon, incubators for hatching eggs, star pieces to boost stardust, raid passes for entering raids, lucky eggs to boost xp, and pokéballs. You get one infinite incubator, a free raid pass every day, and by minimally playing and spinning pokéstops, you should be overflowing in pokéballs if you are in any kind of populated area. Lures are moochable Рsomeone else using a lure will let you benefit, which is key for the 3 latest ones introduced (magnetic, grass, and ice lures).

By holding gyms you can earn up to 50 coins a day.

I spend about $10 a month on stuff, usually by purchasing a special box of items that shows up around Community Day. All I can say is this is fine for me, it doesn’t feel exploitative and if you were really on a budget you can get by as a free-only player.

Obviously, PoGo doesn’t exactly fill the MMO niche. But it is a game I enjoy playing with friends, a large component of which is the social aspect of hanging out in person. PoGo plays anywhere and in short ~5 minute increments if need be. The best multiplayer game is the one your real life friends also enjoy playing. And that game happens to be Pok√©mon Go for my group!

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 ūüėČ 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.

[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.

 

[AoC] Dabbling in Hyboria

Age of Conan celebrated its 9th birthday in May, and had a special: log in and get a free level 80 char. I’m a sucker for these kinds of things – even if I didn’t play an MMO all that much, it’s always handy to have a max level char. I did the same thing in WildStar – grabbed a level 50 char just in case I wind up back in the game for an extended period.

Anyway, I logged in a claimed my free level 80 and extra char slot. I went with a bear shaman and realized that I didn’t know what I was doing so I might as well start a level 1 char and play through Tortage, the starter area. My previous character was a guardian but over the years my play style has shifted towards healers, or at least characters that have the option of healing, so that’s why I picked bear shaman.

However, to dabble around for a bit I tried something else altogether: assassin. Pure melee DPS, why not.

Female characters begin in a bikini but I managed to grab more clothes along the way to Tortage.

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I followed the main quest and soon found myself sneaking around to overhear a conversations, acting on that info to get rid of another enemy, etc. I’m pursuing my destiny in the main quest, which takes place in a solo night instance, while the typical leveling quests take place in public daytime. This probably is more important for PvP servers but I’m on the PvE server.

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The graphics are decent and I’m having fun so far, but have yet to finish up Tortage.

Part of it is realizing this is a diversion and I don’t really intend to play much. Part of it is the assassin isn’t the class for me and I might like another one better. The combat isn’t bad – AoC has a directional attack/block system that opens up a more powerful attack – but long term motivation isn’t there due to my available time.

I guess sometimes I like to log in to another game for an hour or two, just to fiddle around as a lowbie.

I’m trying to narrow down to 3 games, which is still 1 too many, but the problem is I have 4 I want to play: LoTRO, SWL, ESO, GW2. #FirstWorldMMOProblems, I know.