Neverwinter: AD and the ZAX

According to the Neverwinter forums there’s a blockage once again in the game’s external economy, that is the exchange between in-game Astral Diamonds and the ZEN currency that you buy with real money. The discussion thread points at the impending Module 6 as the likely cause as those players with ZEN are hoarding them ahead of the expectation that Module 6 will bring new mounts, companions and packs to buy.

Neverwinter has a dual economy, where an in-game earned currency can be exchanged for a real-money purchased one (In Neverwinter there’s also the third mostly-irrelevant currency of gold coins) via the Zen Astral Exchange (ZAX).

I’ve only bought ZEN using Astral Diamonds once myself, farming a lot of ZEN via Astral Diamond exchange is a time-consuming task if you’re not very knowledgeable about the game’s dungeons and also if your character isn’t very well geared. For much of the time (late 2013 through much of 2014) that I was playing the exchange market was pretty broken – orders to buy ZEN using AD would take a week or longer to fill as there was such demand. The economy did change dramatically in September last year with purchase prices on the Astral Diamond-fed auction house dropping significantly and the ZAX freed up somewhat, however whatever measures Perfect World put in place to ease the exchange economy (either through new AD sinks or banning more bot-players) it seems things have since gotten worse again. This might be a systemic problem or it might be simply market forces at play. It’s an aspect to the game that I find rather interesting to watch even when not actively playing my characters.

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Pillars of Eternity

Syp at Bio Break is posting about Pillars for Eternity so I just watched the trailer video. It looks to be a very polished Baldur’s Gate-like game. It’s not a direct successor of course and is not set in the Wizard’s of the Coast’s Forgotten Realms setting. Scree mentioned this when I was discussing Sword Coast Legends in a previous post.

The game lacks any form of cooperative gameplay, none was planned I gather from this forum thread. That sort of kills any interest I might have in the game sadly despite it looking polished and interesting. I have a small back catalogue of solo RPG games that I’ve not completed since discovering the MMORPG genre and it’s not likely I’ll get to them soon (games including Dragon Age 1, Mass Effect 1, Kingdoms of Amalur and Skyrim).

Pillars of Eternity might well be a really good solo RPG but unless it gets multiplayer added at some point it’s not likely to make it onto my gaming roster.

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TSW: golden golem invasion!

The last time there was the Golden Week event our characters were still very new – we’d just unlocked Savage Coast and had QL 2 or 3 gear at best. So I read with happiness that the event is back starting the 24th and ending the 1st April. That’s enough time for us to cram in a few sessions of golden golem stomping!

Logging in last night briefly to test the waters, we specced for ranged combat and sat watching the event channel. Golems were popping in a number of zones although we missed the first couple as when you ‘meet up’ with a someone calling out a golem’s location you have to get there quick enough before the zone fills up. We were a bit confused at first over switching dimensions – unlike say Neverwinter or SWTOR where you can deliberately switch  between instances of the same zone, in TSW you can only ‘meet up’ with a friend or a party member. A lot of people advertise to help though so you add whoever as your friend quickly and meet up before the zone fills.

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I took the time before we got into a fight to create a pure ranged deck using Assault Rifle. It’s the only ranged weapon I have at QL 10 where I have a decent amount of abilities unlocked (I have a QL 10 pistol but barely anything unlocked so far). It also has super long range, just beyond the reach of the golem’s “knock up in the air” attack so I can safely shoot, grenade and sling the odd leech heal with only the golem’s extra large area damage attack to worry about.

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It was fun and looks to be a profitable use of time in terms of AP and SP gain. I’m not so fussed about golden costume items but hey, if anything drops I won’t complain!

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 8 Comments

FFXIV and the currency symbol switch

Although I’m loving playing FFXIV at the moment, this doesn’t blind me to the greedy little decision to just swap currency symbols on the pricing of the Collector’s Edition of Heavensward from $130 to £130 (it should be £87.95 approx.). There’s a forum thread about this, currently at 533 posts long. Calculations vary depending on the exchange rate used but it was a bad idea to expect UK players to pay equivalent of ~$190 for a $130 box (EU players will pay equivalent of $145 at €133).

This is nothing new however, there’s a popular newspaper-coined concept of “rip-off Britain” because for decades we have had to pay way above the odds for imported cars, household appliances and in particular IT tech. Talk of this started in the 1990s with the car industry, but it soon spread to include computers and other high value items. As this consumer-rights magazine article points out, it’s one thing for manufactured goods like laptops – items that need actually shipping to the UK through our sometimes byzantine customs controls; it’s another thing entirely for digitally delivered software to be overpriced in this way!

I wouldn’t consider buying the collector’s edition of Heavensward in any case, $199 is way too pricey for a game in my book. But it still rankles that even on the standard digital edition I’ll probably be paying over the odds – not something I’ve faced recently with other subscription MMOs (Everquest 2, World of Warcraft) which make some attempt at converting prices for their different playerbases. Since I have no desire to pre-order the expansion I can only hope that Square Enix will bow to pressure between now and June and actually setup a reasonable pricing model ahead of the expansion launch.

Posted in EQ2, FFXIV, Gaming, WoW | 1 Comment

TSW vs ESO

I’ve been playing The Secret World for some six months now casually. More recently I bought a digital copy of Elder Scrolls Online ahead of the removal of the mandatory subscription; originally thinking it might be a good modern MMO for my roster. We’d tried it in beta but the excessive phasing used in quest design put paid to any ideas of playing it as a coop game. That plan has gone out the window since I realised that the games are too similar for me to want to play them both at the same time (and since I got hooked on FFXIV again).

Both games do have similar elements:

  • Action combat with a limited active skill bar
  • A story-rich world to explore with voiced dialogue/cut-scenes
  • Skill-point character progression – you earn skill points and then assign them with few restrictions to improve specialisations
  • The choices of skill points spent can lead to certain play styles or builds including the trinity roles of tank, healer, dps or hybrids of the same

Story quality

From a tone and story point of view the games are ages apart although ESO does have some pretty dark quests it’s nothing compared to the occult-horror of the Secret World. TSW wins in terms of the excellently expressive cut-scenes that are used to introduce missions – NPCs often have memorable characters and the dialogues are well scripted.

The Secret World is full of wonderfully weird characters...

The Secret World is full of wonderfully weird characters…

From what I’ve seen so far ESO has some nice quests but the characters are not as well-realised or as closely tied into the stories you are playing trough.

Combat

For me Secret World’s combat is very ‘spammy’, you hit builders and then consumers in an endless cycle with the odd utility or defensive cooldown ability. So far this is the same basic mechanic for all skill builds. It’s a balanced and flexible system but not that exciting to play.

ESO seems to have a very flexible system that offers more variety of pacing. My dragonknight feels very tanky and you have the parry, interrupt and knockdown reactive actions as part of basic combat. I do wonder whether I’d grow tired of the combat, as I did with Tera, if I were playing the game intensively however.

Block tell animation

Block tell animation

World interactions

Secret World has a beautifully realised set of zones, although they are naturally spread far and wide across Earth so they’re disjointed for a reason. Within the zones you generally only interact with things that are relevant to the current mission so the wider world is just a background for whatever mission you have active. There’s no gathering from nodes in the world, crafting generally is fueled by deconstructing items or buying materials from the broker.

In ESO, somewhat like the single-player Elder Scrolls games, you can interact with items much more than the MMORPG average. Barrels, boxes and such may contain items to pilfer. I haven’t seen it yet but I guess with the newly implemented Justice system – taking someone’s household goods will now be considered stealing! Beyond picking up items there’s also gathering out in the wilds – the usual options of mining ore, harvesting wood, gathering herbs and the Tamriel-specific rune stones.  Also like the solo games, ESO has a lot of books on shelves in the world so that’s a collection mini-game for those interested in the lore or achievements.

Gathering...

Gathering…

Audience appeal

Secret World is a very unusual game. It’s horror setting is more niche than either the fantasy or sci-fi genres and it’s very dark in many of the featured stories. The game has possibly the heaviest story focus I’ve seen in an online game, yet it also has action combat and the platform-style sabotage category of missions.

You want me to go up there?

You want me to go up there?

Elder Scrolls also seems to be a bit of a weird hybrid in terms of target audience: it has action combat and more of a PVP emphasis given the three factions setup and the entire zone dedicated to large-scale faction combat. Yet the world is well realised and full of stories to explore for PVE fans.

It pays to listen and take your time in ESO. Blessing the corpses of fallen soldiers rewards you with brief animations as the spirits are freed - rush around and you'll miss details like this.

It pays to listen and take your time in ESO. Blessing the corpses of fallen soldiers for this one quest rewards you with brief animations as the spirits are freed – rush around and you’ll miss details like this.

 

 

How do you view these two modern action-combat MMOs side by side?

Posted in ESO, Gaming, TSW | 9 Comments

FFXIV: double unlock

Quick visual update on my last gaming session:

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and

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The Arcanist level 30 quest gave me some trouble until I checked my average gear level (23) and bought some quick upgrades from the marketplace. Then it was easy enough, without spoilers just watch what your pet is doing carefully.

The two job unlock quests in comparison were easy enough. I’ll probably main Summoner for a while since it’ll be quicker to kill stuff as a DPS class. As Pkudude briefly mentions in his post about tanking in FFXIV hunting logs can be completed underlevel, with my new tanking pet I was able to complete all the level 20-29 hunting logs for Arcanist by level 24. That left the last few levels of the 20s to mostly FATE (public event) grinding, I could have done dungeons but I wanted to unlock my proper DPS job before I get started on that path.

One slightly annoying feature of the Arcanist as a ‘damage over time’ class is that often in FATEs the down-leveled capped characters will be slaughtering the monsters before I can get more than a single Aero cast. Otherwise I do love the gameplay of it though and I’m looking forward to taking this a bit deeper with Summoner. Checking online there are apparently very few guides to playing this class since there’s no obvious rotation that players have settled on. I guess that’s a good thing as I’m more free to see what works for me than follow some guide for “optimal DPS”.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 1 Comment

FFXIV: it’s scholar/summoner time!

I’ve been leveling Arcanist and Thaumaturge the last few play sessions to get the former to 30 and the latter to 15. I’m now at Conjurer 30, Arcanist 29 and Thaumaturge 15. Job-wise  I’ve had White Mage (healer) already unlocked for some time and with the above level goals achieved I’ll be able to unlock both Scholar (pet class/healer) and Summoner (pet/ magical dps; see this wiki guide). That’ll give me more choice of trinity combat role that I can play in group content.

Me, my pet and some strange locales

Me, my pet and some strange locales

As I noted when I last took a break from the game, having selected White Mage wasn’t the best option for me for the game’s mandatory story content. Indeed I’ve put off doing the current main story quest in Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak, a level 24-27 dungeon, because I just wasn’t ready to run it with random players. With Summoner and Scholar both unlocked I can level the behind-the-scenes Arcanist class at the same time as playing either job all the way to 50 and not feel like I’m having to pick one or the other.

Levelling Thaumaturge in a guildhest.

Levelling Thaumaturge in a guildhest.

I’ll still have some thinking to do about tertiary cross-class skill unlocks from other classes (see wiki link above) – I might need to level Archer a bit to unlock extra skills for my summoner for instance.

I’ve taken the advice given from commenters on previous posts and have just joined a guild which seems pretty active even at EU peak time so I should get the chance to get to know some solid, reliable people for the more demanding group content in the future. I’m also going to take a pragmatic approach to dungeons and look at the videos ahead of running them; it’s a lot less stressful to be prepared and they’re not so full of story or plot surprises that I’ll be loosing out by ‘cheating’.

FFXIV offers a good balance of content types but so far I’ve been playing solo and been avoiding most grouping beyond the ultra-simplistic guildhests. I think it’s time to step things up a level and to get into the dungeon-running scene since dungeons are such a core element to this rather traditionally-oriented MMORPG.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 1 Comment