TSW: there are puzzles and there are *puzzles*

We had a couple of brief sessions of The Secret World recently just to backtrack to early zones and try to find any missed investigation missions. We haven’t done many recently and fancied a change of pace. Minor spoilers are unavoidable in this post, you have been warned.

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According to a not so up-to-date wiki guide the only investigation mission in the Blue Mountain zone was in the mysterious Orochi base in the North of the zone. To get the mission unlocked we found we had to backtrack to an NPC nearby and do here sabotage mission first – which also takes place in the base so what followed was a couple of mini sessions dodging the automated defences of the base.

This game *makes* you to stand in the poison...

This game *makes* you to stand in the poison…

After successfully completing the sabotage mission we then took the investigation mission “Win Win”. It’s a real brain-strain style set of puzzles. Interestingly there are two approaches in most cases to solving them – either a maths one or a hard-core IT geek one.

Hmmm

Hmmm

In the end we managed to solve all the maths puzzles, it helps that I’m married to a maths-whizz! As an IT person myself I was most annoyed at not being able to solve the puzzle the alternative way via command line ‘hacking’.

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Amazed I got this far, it was *not* obvious how to proceed!

 

But then I’ve never been interested in the shadier side of computing. I looked up the solution for this after we’d completed the mission and it was beyond impossible to work out without very specific IT knowledge, a few clues left lying around wouldn’t have been enough! It was great that there were two options, but a shame that their relative difficulty were so out of line…

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 3 Comments

EQ2: signature timelines

Everquest 2 delivers if you happen to want long & complex quest chains that will challenge your character’s abilities, your knowledge of Norrathian lore and geography. As a relative newbie to the game these quest chains, called ‘signature quest timelines‘, are both intriguing and perplexing. The copious NPC dialogue related to individual quest steps may or may not help me to figure out what to do and where to go next, or in some cases not really.

That dragon didn't say anything about this...

That dragon didn’t say anything about this…

It’s probably obvious to a veteran which version of a story instance I should be choosing, clearly not the heroic raid version listed in the screenshot but what about the other three options? I could always jump on the wiki website and find the answer but that seems like cheating. Having to zone in and out of instances to find the right one, by checking the enhanced map for the tell-tale quest objective icons, isn’t much better than following a wiki guide…

So erm, boss tactics anyone?

So erm, boss tactics anyone?

Then there are the boss fights that in the advanced solo instances that litter some of these quest chains. Sure I might often be able to brute-force the fight with my super mystic mercenary but not always. One other boss fight in the same dungeon as pictured above  was impossible to beat without the right tactics – it is effectively immune to damage until your use certain items in a certain way (spoiler-lite version). It can be fun to work out fights, though not always that practical if you have a lack of dungeon experience in the game to base possible tactics on. I certainly don’t mind dying a few times to learn for myself but when I’m playing a shorter session inevitably the wiki has to save the day (and a lot of time).

Climbing the walls

Climbing the walls

The most recent instance of Wurmbane Crag had me climbing the walls of a ravine via this handy vertical maze of wooden ramps and platforms. There were a few precarious jumps involved (I could do with a clicky item to boost jumping distance!) but otherwise it was a blast to play through. I was particularly impressed that my merc’s AI kept him from falling at any point, he dutifully followed me along narrow planks and up and down ramps without the slightest hesitation!

I’m having a blast in Everquest 2 at the moment, I think in part because I’ve relaxed about the leveling speed. Doing these long rambling quest chains may be a very inefficient approach to leveling but I’m getting tons of new gear and it’s sure fun to delve into all the lore along the way!

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 1 Comment

EQ2: live dev chat

The EQ2Wire news website has a summary of a Live Stream, a webcast of the team discussing what’s upcoming for Everquest 2.

The stream dives straight into a list of planned features with some discussion about priorities. Interestingly there was some talk about server capacity – they’re upgrading software on the servers, including changing the underlying database system. Apparently this will open up new in-game possibilities like cross-server dungeon groups. Holly stated that server merges aren’t currently on the table as the team hopes cross-server features will eliminate many server population issues.

Content details are vague – there is talk of new advanced solo and heroic content so I guess more dungeons and raids. Gem colour conversion, which means nothing to me as I’ve not yet done content at that level of progression. There was a mention of eventually reworking the daily system, I’d respond to that with an “if it aint broke don’t fix it” as I actually like the daily system in EQ2 more than in most games (GW2!).

Public quests will at some point be a thing again, which I’d love to see actually as I missed them when they were popular. Progression servers aren’t on the cards as the game’s architecture has changed so much since launch, unlike Everquest 1 which will be getting a new progression server.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 2 Comments

Neverwinter: More module 6 details

The Neverwinter launcher had a new news item Wednesday evening on the upcoming Elemental Evil module for the game. To my surprise the module will feature an iconic pair of NPCs from much earlier games (Baldur’s Gate I and II), the ranger Minsc and his companion Boo. I’ll just leave this here in case you didn’t play either…

It sounds from the news article like our characters will be interacting a fair amount with these and other NPCs as we play the module’s story. Hopefully this module will be more akin to the original leveling zones of the game as opposed to the more daily quest-focused campaigns that have been released since. The fact that with this module we get the first ever increase to the game’s level cap also means, I would hope, that it’ll play somewhat differently from the Dread Ring or Sharandar campaigns.

Adding this NPC is certainly a clever way of tapping some nostalgia for fans of the Forgotten Realms setting and, in particular, fans of the Baldur’s Gate CRPG series. I wonder if this character will feature in Sword Coast Legends as well..?

Posted in Gaming | 1 Comment

Sword Coast Legends

I’ve just found out about the Sword Coast Legends game, planned for release later this year according to the official website. Reading the website it sounds like a remake of Bioware’s classic Baldur’s Gate game (indeed that game had an expansion called Sword Coast Adventures).

From what I’ve read so far it seems the game will emphasis the cooperative team atmosphere of tabletop RPGs with an optional Dungeonmaster to run the game interactively via a special ‘DM client’. The website claims this is a first, despite the fact that that Neverwinter Nights (2002, Bioware) had both cooperative multiplayer and a DM client over ten years ago.

The new Sword Coast game will use the newish 5th edition Dungeon & Dragons ruleset, I presume the first computer game to do so, since Cryptic’s Neverwinter is 4th edition and the elder Dungeons & Dragons Online uses highly-modified 3rd edition rules.

The emphasis on cooperative gameplay is a real positive, I’ve seen MMORPGs over the last 4-5 years trending away from any decent support for small group play. If you’re happy to play with random strangers, in largish groups (10-25) and to zerg-rush everything as quickly as possible then the genre still has plenty to offer but small group play has been increasingly neglected (WOW), made difficult by long-term bugs (SWTOR) or simply ignored at the design stage (ESO).

I’m less enthused by the wording of the rewards for the obligatory pre-order packs. The mention of ‘DM tilesets’ hints that the quest creation tool will have limited content, presumably so the developers can monetize this. That doesn’t work so well in my experience. Neverwinter (Cryptic’s MMO) gives you unfettered access to everything from the start, which is a great approach and has resulted in some sterling player creativity. Everquest 2’s Dungeon Maker in comparison is rather frustrating to use since it was lumbered with has an obnoxious collector mini-game, bypassable at least in part by store-purchases. Player content creation should be a community-driven attraction for others to play and keep playing your game, not a chance to squeeze extra cash out of the whales!

Ultimately the game may be a marketing tool for Wizards of the Coast, to get computer game players to experience an analogous setup to the tabletop experience (1-4 players plus DM) in the hope they perhaps buy some RPG manuals. I’m not convinced that will work for the masses but maybe there’ll be some crossovers.

I’ll be interested in looking at the game but will wait for the reviews. Pre-orders are a spreading evil in this gaming genre that I will happily continue to resist. The idea of the more expensive tiers including a digital key for you and some friends is quite a nice marketing ploy but the fact that the digital downloads require Steam is less positive. I have Steam (which I never use) but I wouldn’t want to tell others to create an account just to receive a gift code.

Posted in DDO, EQ2, Gaming, SWTOR, WoW | 1 Comment

TSW: Saint Valentine

The current event in the Secret World is the Saint Valentine event, the resurrected Massively OP website has a post with some of the details. Just like the real world Valentine’s Day there’s a heavy dose of emphasis on buying romantic stuff.

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The event vendor is in the park in London (and elsewhere in the other hubs). I can buy a ‘satchel of amorous delights’ that reward one or more pieces of costume gear at random. It costs 300,000 PAX, or one of two types of endgame token that we’ve not yet encountered.

I was hesitant to spend almost half my current funds on a lootbox style item, but while I was deliberating and taking screenshots, suddenly some giant heart-shaped fireworks went off nearby and I received new items. The other event item, the ‘bag of Saint Valentinus’, costs Funcom points in the store (1200) and gives random items to up to 20 nearby player characters. It’s rather nice that the game has these kinds of giving/sharing items and that players are generous enough to use such items in public to the benefit of others.

Valentine threads...

Valentine threads…

Unlike other events in the game there’s no new content or missions for this event so it’ll largely be a background thing as we continue to level through Egypt but some new costume items are always welcome!

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 2 Comments

TSW: evocative gear

The Secret World’s modern world setting certainly offers players a change from the usual fantasy tropes of most of the MMORPG genre.

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This extends to the weapons as well as the clothing of course.

Hi-tech assault rifle

Hi-tech assault rifle

Not all the gear is modern though, there’s some rather interesting quest-specific disguises.

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So far my favourite item in the game has been this macuahuitl Aztec-style sword.

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I’d be very happy for more Aztec flavoured gear in future. More importantly it’d be great if Funcom could add content set in Central or South America in the future also since there’s such a rich cultural mythology there to tap into (Aztec/Mayan/Incan etc).

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 4 Comments