LoTRO – Trollshaws

After a bit of questing in Evendim, Spessartina reached level 37 which is the suggested level for starting Vol 1 Book 4: Chasing Shadows. So I bailed out of Ost Forod to Bree and then to Ost Guruth and across the Last Bridge into the Trollshaws! Since I’ve done the SoA content a few time I’ll just quest as needed to keep level with the storyline and at all time prefer advancing in the storyline.

It’ll be a ways until I replace my guardian Naerys with my new minstrel Spessartina but I’ll enjoy the journey.

One thing I like about LoTRO is how many player activities are always going on in Bree. One some random evening there may be a concert outside the Prancing Pony.


I always stop and watch for a few minutes, dancing my favorite dance (Hobbit Dance 1).

Anyway, I stopped at the skirmish camp south of Bree to upgrade my gear to level 37 items, and then on to Thorenhad.


Fall colors view from Thorenhad.


SWL – Scorched Desert

I’ve been lollygagging in SWL but I buckled down and reached the Scorched Desert. Again, if you count my previous char in TSW. πŸ˜‰


After defeating Beaumont I was transported to the ice cave, which I think it cool and atmospheric. There are some memories you can trigger, and the narration for each is all about power – what true power is like and how you can have power if you just accept the gift…


And I said heck yes! If some mysterious group is offering me untold power, I’m going to take it. πŸ˜€

What exactly I’ve done isn’t revealed yet – perhaps it will come clear in the future storyline. For now, I’m back in the furthest zone I’ve been to in TSW/SWL, and I’m determined to keep going.


To get here, I decided midway through Savage Coast to just beeline the story. I did all these quests already and will come back later to finish off the achievements for exploration and questing. I reached level 30 during the Blue Mountain section of the storyline, which is what I needed to advance so I kept on going, and am now level 31 newly arrived in Egypt.

I still plan to advance the storyline as much as possible. It gives good AP/SP rewards, plus I’m sure I’ll hit a level barrier soon. I plan to keep the side questing to a minimum in an effort to see more of the game and story.

GW2 – Forum Anger

Every once in a while the playerbase, at least the vocal group that hangs out on forums, spills their collective guts in a (hopefully cathartic) bile spewing session(s). The most recent culprit was anger over GW2’s mount adoption licenses. The gist is: spend gems, get a random chance of cool looking mount skins that you don’t already have. There are 30 skins and getting them all is 9600 gems. Or in dollars… $120 (8000 gems for $100 and 1600 more for $20). I’m sure there are sales (right??) and you can always farm gold all day long to buy gems but yeah, these skins cost most players actual money. Lots of it if you only want a few specific skins.

This move was seen as a cash grab and loot box apocalypse and at one time on Reddit, there were 12+ angry ranting threads active:

Mind boggling! Well not really, I wonder how long the average MMO playerbase gets annoyed at something. Probably every other patch/update. πŸ˜‰

This is somewhat moot for me as I don’t even have PoF and thus no mount at all. And I’m NOT buying PoF until I actually get there in the storyline. Which might be 4 years from now if I keep my current pace, haha.

My medium term goal is to take a break from the story and finish off exploration in Tyria. I need 165 more hero points to train my druid skills so I’m going to do that, starting with one zone in the Ascalon area I haven’t been to (Fireheart Rise), one zone in the Shiverpeaks I haven’t been to (Frostgorge Sound), most of Kryta, and most zones south of Lion’s Arch that are crawling with undead even though I helped kill Zhaitan. Oh well. πŸ˜‰

I might jump back and forth and advance the Season 2 storyline a bit, for variety. If I had to rank my current goals in order they would be: 1) train druid skills, 2) zone exploration, and 3) advance in storyline. At some point when I finish Season 3’s storyline I’ll buy PoF.

GW2 – Victory or Death

I finally finished the Personal Story of Guild Wars 2… 5+ years after the game shipped. What can I say, I wandered away from the game, switched which profession I played as a main, ran a bunch of alts, got to a certain point twice and stopped.

But after pecking away here and there and now… I’m done.


Overall I enjoyed it. Yes, your character is doing everything on behalf of other NPCs (Trahearne) but what else are the writers going to do? GW1’s Nightfall campaign had you doing things on behalf of Kormir who barely helps at “Abaddon’s Gate” and usurps all your hard work to become a goddess. πŸ˜‰

My only complaint is the session play, where you take over another character, a vehicle, or in this case, turrets. Not my favorite mechanism. I can see why devs do that, since it can provide a more consistent initial point. After all, by forcing a new skill bar onto every player, they can tune the fight and the difficulty they want. What if a player has no ranged attacks, or their ranged weapon is weak? They’re gonna fail miserably attacking flying dragons, etc. Easy solution – force the players to take over a launcher and now every profession/class is on equal footing in the mission, or at least for that particular fight.


However, the reason I pick a profession/class and play it is to use whatever skill set they have. I didn’t sign up to be a rocket lobber or whatever. So overusing the session play (or taking over a vehicle, or become a trebuchet etc.) mechanic is annoying to me. And this mission had a lot of rockets to lob.


On the other hand, LoTRO does this to great effect. In that game, session play lets you relive the Chamber of Mazarbul battle, play as an Elf Lord, play as an Angmarim, etc. and otherwise lets the dev team write a better story. I don’t find the usage in GW2 to be at such a level.


Anyway, afterwards I started up the Season 2 content. I missed parts of Season 1 (Scarlet Briar) and there is no way to replay it, so instead there is an NPC that will summarize the events for you. I did that and went off to Brisbane Wildlands to start Season2.

Once there I was confronted with some jump puzzles which kind of turned me off. I get it, players love jump puzzles and/or platformers (hey I’m a huge Ratchet & Clank fan!) but it doesn’t seem to mix well in what is theoretically an RPG. It took me a half dozen tries to land the “target jump” (Lightning Pull) that was the 2nd obstacle. I kept over/under shooting even after targeting the plateau – my char would NOT jump to the spot I targeted. Maybe this is just a UI miscalibration/failure.

While I would like to advance through Season 2, HoT, and perhaps buy PoF, I think I might take a break and work on some other MMOs. We’ll see!


GW2 – Cursed Shore

While I’m waiting for Black Friday draw near, with its PS4 bundles (hopefully), I can also advance in other MMOs I’m playing. Say… GW2!

While I’m not the biggest fan of the combat in GW2, it isn’t horrible. I’ve found a build I like even though I know it isn’t up to the standards of the cutting edge meta-game players. According to the benchmarks of the EU Quantify guild, I’m.. well, not even on the chart since the only ranger build I see if a “condi soulbeast”. I can tell myself that’s fine since 1) I’m not doing group content, and 2) I don’t even have Path of Fire in order to have the Soulbeast elite spec. I use a longbow, take 3 spirits (frost, storm, sun), and hang in the back plinking away at adds and/or weaker monsters (especially the ones almost dead) before concentrating on the tougher ones.

Anyway, why do I play GW2 if I don’t like the combat that much, you ask? It comes down to 2 reasons. First is I decided I need to finish the Season 1 storyline… even if I will be 5 years late. So… I’m chugging along, almost there!

The second reason has to do with GW2’s ease of play overall. I don’t have much time during the week and GW2’s advantage is I can jump in and out easily. I can also do that with LoTRO, ESO, and SWL, but GW’2 extra edge is that I can do the storyline without dealing with leveling or improving my gear. My char is max level, has a mix of rare and exotic armor/weapons (ascended is the best available but exotic isn’t too far behind), and has a set of ascended jewelry/trinkets (thanks for me collecing laurels from daily rewards and trading them in). Thus, I just need to show up at where the storyline quests start and do them. Whereas in LoTRO I need to get ~4 levels before starting the next book, and in ESO my char is a bit of a mess as far as equipment and skills. I remember being a level or 2 up in SWL but I think I’ll hit a level barrier after advancing a quest or 2.


So, GW2 wins right now since it’s the least friction.

I’ve been pecking away and am currently at “Against the Corruption“, having just finished up “Ships of the Line”. For extra credit (saves me a bit of time in the future, I ran to the nearest outpost to the start of that next step, so when I get a spare hour or so I can proceed.

One thing I do like about GW2 are the dynamic events. While running across the landscape to the next outpost, I’ve come across several events, typically escort or defend events. I’ll pause and help out, for a bit of variety.Β  I’ve had a few people join me (or vice versa, some events had a few players already present) and I love that the events require zero organization in order to participate. We may be doing our own thing, but playing alongside others and working to a common goal is still fun!

Console Temptation

I’m being drawn into the world of console gaming, which will impact the MMOs I play going forward.

I’ve played a few MMOs over the years, most of them weren’t available on consoles at all (Asherons Call, Guild Wars, LoTRO, WoW, EVE, Guild Wars 2, Secret World/Secret World Legends, dabbling in DDO and AoC). But things are different now, two current MMOs I’ve recently played (FF14, ESO) are available on console and I’m tempted to try them out on the PS4.

There are several factors contributing to this.

First is the social aspect: Recently, I’ve been co-op gaming with friends, and that has been a ton of fun. I go over to visit, we grab lunch/dinner, and play Lego Marvel Avengers or something else (at my friend who owns a PS3 and PS4). Yes, you can play a MMO with friends, set up voice chat and wear a headset, but being in the same room playing co-op mode is more fun, more social, and more enjoyable for me.

After playing Snipper Clips and a bit of Splatoon2 with another friend (who owns a Nintendo Switch), I decided to a buy one and a few games including Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2. Since the Switch is portable we can easily bring the system around to each other’s homes and have a fun time. I’m looking forward to Lego Marvel Superheroes 2, Fire Emblem Warriors, etc.

What solidified my desire to get a Switch was the live tech demo my friend did while I was playing hers – I was in handheld mode and mumbled something about the larger TV, and she grabbed it out of my hands, dropped it in the dock… and boom seconds later I was playing on the TV. It was seamless and amazing switching from handheld screen to TV without disrupting gameplay! All I had to do is sync the Pro Controller (from the Joy Cons I was using in handheld mode) and I continued on with no issues. It was nearly magical.

Second is comfort: maybe I’m getting old and crufty, but holding a controller is more comfortable than grasping a mouse, especially for an extended period of time. I do have a controller for my PC and use it when the game supports it (Shadow of Mordor, Arkham Asylum).

It’s also more comfy to sit on my couch and game on a console/TV, rather than lean over a keyboard with my face in the monitor. I do that all day at work. Meanwhile I have a 4K TV and can put my feet up when I relax on my couch.

Third is cost: OK this is somewhat optional but I’ve been eyeing a new computer. My gaming PC is ~4.5 years old, still doing well, especially after some upgrades (added a 1 TB SSD, replaced GeForce 650 with a GeForce 970) over the time I’ve owned it. I ran the numbers for a new PC and decided not to spend that much. My other computer is a Mac and that’s the computer I use for non-gaming stuff, so a PC upgrade would literally just be for gaming. And for the games I want to play, the $400 PS4 Pro looks very tempting. I could spend that $400 on a newer graphics card, but thinking over the social aspect and the comfort/aesthetics are powerful enticements.

There are other conveniences, such as easily loaning/borrowing games to/from friends, and selling used ones. My local grocery store has a RedBox that rents games, which would let me try out a game for cheap before purchasing it.

Consoles integrate into a living room entertainment space better, being smaller and QUIETER than a typical PC. Mine is OK, I don’t really notice it on but all the same, the room is quieter when it is off. I’ve got a friend with a PC so loud we need subtitles on TV shows or movies if we’re watching at her place.

Console games are pricier since more companies (hardware vendor, retailer, dev studio) want a slice of the revenue. But prices drop there too, and the bargains are in the GoTY editions if I can exercise a bit of restraint and wait before buying. Admittedly, it is tough to beat the sales on Steam.

Anyway, as far as MMOs go, if when I get a PS4, I’ll set up ESO and FF14and see what the play experience is like on console vs pc. I could tell both those games designed UI interactions with consoles in mind, so it should be fun to sit back on my couch and see these games on the big screen.

The bottom line is getting a console would broaden my gaming options, simply due to exclusives. The fact that ESO and FF14 are available on a console platform is gravy. I’ve already got my eye on the Uncharted, Ratchet & Clank, Horizon Zero Dawn for the PS4 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Switch. And there is the curiosity factor – I wonder what the gaming experience is like for an MMO on a console. If it is terrible… well I can still play a zillion games on the console anyway. The comfort of a wireless controller and my couch mean a lot too.

I’m not chunking my PC or anything, how else will I continue in LoTRO?? πŸ˜‰ But I can see a future where I divide time between a PC and console/PS4 evenly.

If I hold out until Black Friday I might get a good bundle… and said bundle might even include a game I want. But I might be too eager to wait 4 more weeks!




MMO Home

Syp asked a question in a recent post:

I’d love to hear from you who have what you consider to be an MMO home. What game is it and why do you consider this your main game?

Several people answered including me, and my answer included games I like but not much of answer about what I consider a home.

Syp listed a few characteristics: popular, active, plenty of goals/activities, connected to a guild, willing to play for a long time.

I was thinking about this over the weekend and my answer for an MMO home would be a game I enjoy all facets of. The storyline is enjoyable, crafting is engaging/useful, combat is fun, group dungeons are fun with decent rewards, PvP if present offers a battleground-style mode (balanced numbers/levels/gear power, opt-in for open-world PvP).

Basically, if I’m only going to follow a storyline, I might as well play a single player RPG. If I’m only going to craft, I might as well play Factorio or some puzzle game. If I’m only going to PvP I might as well play a MOBA or some shooter. PvP isn’t a big draw for me in MMOs anyway but I do like it a bit.

Of all the games I’ve played, my home MMO was Guild Wars. Yes, the developers didn’t call it an MMO but it was close enough to one for me. I enjoyed the storylines, every class, the great guild I was in, grouping for the missions, the very simplified crafting, even PvP (alliance battle) – all of it.

LoTRO would be a close 2nd. I’ve tried PvMP a bit and it’s not my thing, but most everything else is great except crafting. That has the feeling of churning out junk just to advance to the next tier in order to churn out more junk and eventually at the top tier, make some useful items. Also, I haven’t done any group content in LoTRO since the SoA/MoM era, but I really enjoyed the dungeons and raids I took part in back then.

I haven’t grouped in ESO so that’s a big mystery. Are the dungeons fun, does the group finder work well, etc? Otherwise, the storyline is great, crafting is complex and worthwhile. I have not attempted PvP.

FF14 I have grouped in, since the storyline requires it. The duty finder worked well, there is a roulette system to reward/encourage players to queue up for content they’ve finished. Crafting was a bit more involved that merely collect and churn out. FF14’s biggest advantage (to me) is letting one char play every class, which allows for variety and flexibilty. I might not actually want to play every class, and instead play melee DPS, ranged spellcaster DPS, tank, healer, etc. without leveling multiple chars.

SWL is almost there, but I’m not sure I want to do end-game content. I do like the game but I kind of see it as a single player RPG to play through. The devs promise some upcoming QoL fixes so maybe swapping gear will become less grindy.

Anyway, that’s my attempt to describe a “MMO Home”. Good thing ESO and FF14 are top contenders because there is another reason I’m rethinking the games I play – that’s for the next post. πŸ™‚