Should MMOs allow us to wander into danger?

Playing Neverwinter with several friends who have leveled characters faster than us has presented us with the issue of hard barriers to higher level content – we cannot enter a zone that we’re too low level to unlock. Unlocking each zone comes from a specific quest from Sergeant Knox in Protector’s Enclave. This means we cannot enter a zone that is a bit too high level for us to join friends for dungeon runs even if the majority of the party is well over level for the dungeon – you can’t even click on the zone on the map to go there.

Other MMOs do not try and protect your character from over-reaching in this way, FFXIV is my most recent example of this. It is perfectly possible by simply wandering down a path or across a bridge to find yourself in an area full of much higher level monsters. I’ve been chased out of areas a couple of times so far because I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings.

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

I can remember this happening a number of times in World of Warcraft, it was very easy to go wandering the wrong way across a zone border and find monsters that you have no chance of defeating all around you.

The question then is to what extent should games protect our characters from wandering into such danger? As a proper neophyte to MMOs or a specific game it may be all too easy to get your character killed accidentally. But for more experienced players are hard barriers to such dangers too restrictive?

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Summer gaming-mix 2014

Last year I did a MMO update post for the summer around this time of year. Things are seeming very different from the perspective of the selection of games that I’m playing, though the comment about lack of free time applies equally this year too!

Neverwinter

This is my main MMO for now, the one I play duo with my partner and also for group instances with guild mates. It’s fun and there’s some good updates coming soon – Module 4 comes in August with the new warlock class. There was to be an alchemy themed event with a cool-sounding healer (i.e. ‘leader’) companion but that was delayed due to technical issues.

FFXIV

This game is my current self-selected solo game although I’ve not had much free time to play it for a week. I still want to get my first job unlocked and maybe give crafting in the relaunched version of the game more of a look.

The rest

That’s all I’m playing at the moment, a rather short list. Our SWTOR leveling trio has ground to a halt due to real life being too busy for all concerned. I’ve not felt the urge to log into EQ2 or LOTRO for many weeks now, I’d rather be playing Neverwinter than either of them. At some point we may get around to trying the Secret World but not before we tire of Neverwinter at any rate.

F2P limits

In the same way that I avoid having multiple MMO subscriptions at the same time, I also feel a similar about free to play games as well. Generally if I am really enjoying a game I’m happy to occasionally spend some real cash to buy some permanent items in-game (companions, character slots etc). Usually I wait for a discount deal or bonus currency event but I’m happy to invest some money in the game nonetheless. But if I have two or more F2P games to play at once that starts to feel like an unnecessary extravagance. So I’m not rushing to play other F2P titles in parallel as having multiple games pushing you to open your wallet frequently can get tiresome…

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Neverwinter: Scourge Warlock dev blog

The first official details have been released on the new class coming to the Neverwinter MMO, the Scourge Warlock. The class is actually sounding more flexible than I would have expected with the following specialisations:

  • Fury – fire-focused damage dealer
  • Damnation – a pet-class variant with a self-buffing ‘soul puppet’ temporary companion, one that eventually can be permanently summoned
  • Temptation – a life stealing support class

I consider the Temptation variant to be an unexpected bonus, although the description does avoid explicitly calling this a healer spec. Still even if  it’s an ‘off-healer’ type role where you can do some healing based on your damage it’s a welcome addition to the current game since clerics are the only healers (called ‘leaders’ in 4e D&D – give me a druid, bard or warlord next please!).

I guess I was spoilt by Guild Wars 2’s options for rangers since in that game they have some good healing/support builds, so I half expected the Hunter Ranger’s Pathfinder paragon path to be a healing role. It does offer support but not actual substantive healing per se, so if the Warlock steps into this void of healing alternatives I’ll be very happy!

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FFXIV: Conjurer advances

Yesterday I managed my first session of Final Fantasy for just over a week so came back not entirely sure what I should be doing. Checking previous posts (blogs can be a great aide mémoire actually!),  I am concentrating on leveling conjurer to 30 so I can unlock my first job – white mage.

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I have several story threads to follow at once; my class quests every five levels, the zone quests for several different zones that I’ve passed through recently and the main storyline (which includes the odd dungeon quest). Lumped on that are the fate public events that I tend to find irresistible as it’s a chance to interact with other players casually. I’m also doing at least one ‘duty roulette’ for a guildhest – these are training fights that show off particular trinity group tactics. I get bonus XP and money for doing a random one (hence roulette) and the first time you do a given guildhest on your current class also gives an extra bonus! That will make guildhests a useful activity as I swap to leveling other classes at least.

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I’m not rushing though and Eorzea is a world worth exploring. I came across this monstrous fossil in the Upper La Noscea area. At the moment I was taking this I was really wanting to jump off the road and go climbing over it, low and behold not long after I had a quest to do just that!

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Not only did the quest have me jumping onto a precarious giant skeleton looking for fossil fragments but I had to do a fair amount of jumping to get to some of them. I’ve played enough Guild Wars 2 to have very mixed feelings about jumping puzzles but they’re few and far between in FFXIV (so far at least) so when the opportunity for some exploration like this comes along I’ll jump at the chance (‘ahem’)…

My character is now level 27, so three more levels shy of unlocking that job. I’ve also read I can start training my chocobo to fight alongside me at level 30 so that’s something else to look forward to! I also happened across this chocobo barding article, looks like I have some hard choices ahead but the idea of a paladin chocobo companion is pretty tempting!

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Neverwinter: Vellosk

Our current leveling characters are approaching level 40 so we just started the Vellosk zone.

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It’s one of those zones that really rewards you for taking the time to look around at the environment as you quest. It also has some rather nice stories with a ‘personal’ touch.

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There’s one humorous quest in particular that involves what I can only describe as “revenge cooking” (hint: look for the halfling NPC).

My fighter’s companion, a dread warrior, has grown astonishingly tall as he ranks up. At rank 22 (out of the blue quality cap of 25) he’s nearly twice my character’s height! I think this could be the first companion I pay astral diamonds to upgrade to the full purple quality – I really like him!

screenshot_2014-07-07-19-55-15

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Neverwinter: Gate Crashers

I’m away at a conference with no gaming computer so this week has been a mostly gaming-free zone. The Neverwinter gateway does offer a means to keep on top of crafting tasks and even the chance to play the odd game of Sword Coast Adventures.

Coming soon we have the next Call to Arms (CtA) event, Gate Crashers.  This is a skirmish I’ve never done before, one of the few remaining I suspect. It takes place in the wonderfully weird spell-plagued zone of the Chasm. The creatures are pretty nasty to fight as a solo leveling wizard, I suspect this could be a tough CtA event if that is indicative.

The linked, albeit incomplete wiki article mentions an intellect devourer that surely must be a green-quality companion rare drop. I’ve not had much luck with companion drops in CtA events, especially more recently – certainly I’ll give this one a go as well but I’m not going to be grinding it all weekend just for a companion. I can’t find any details online about this companion, hopefully it’s a new one rather than recycled content. Intellect devourers are psionic monsters, so I’d expect this to be a controller pet probably or a striker with suitably thematic attacks.

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Neverwinter: the fighter class done right

In seven years of MMO gaming and many different MMOs I’ve not found much love for fighter or warrior classes. In World of Warcraft I detested the rage mechanic with a passion. I hate rushing my gaming and this core class resource encourages the GOGOGO mentality like no other.

I have played a lot of the champion (melee dps) class in LOTRO and its a good class but limited still. I guess I dislike having to chase after monsters as the attacks of other ranged characters drag them around in combat. Movement abilities can define or at least greatly enhance a melee character and the great weapon fighter has them at an early stage and gets many more later.

The basic ‘dodge’ equivalent is a charge ability using normal moves. That takes some getting used to after the GW2 style ‘tap and forget’ dodge of the wizard or cleric classes. But it can be used to position in combat as well as to avoid the bad stuff on the floor.

Almost immediately you get a targetted leap encounter power that also does damage in the area where you land. That’s a great combat starter if tanking and a great repositioning tool, I have even sometimes used it as a backup dodge ability.

I’ve just unlocked (35 power point row) a new at-will power that charges and debuffs my target and nearby foes. That’s a whole new playstyle as it could make tanking a whole lot easier.

So the great weapon fighter provides a gameplay experience that avoids the “chasing the mobs while the hunter kites them” issue common in other games, my character has some good stuns as well so I can catch any chasing monsters and make sure they stay caught!

The other problem I have had with melee warrior types is the rage style mechanic mentioned before. Neverwinter addresses this by giving the class an interesting variant on the normal trope. The determination resource that builds up only fuels your ‘tab’ ability of the same name. It’s a time limited damage buff and (importantly) partial immunity effect. Since this resource only powers the one ability I do not feel pressured to chain combats to avoid ‘wasting’ built up resource. Also its use can be highly tactical, I tend to pull or start combat with a few encounter powers; determination is usually more useful as a gamechanger or finisher ability midway through combat.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter