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 | 7 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

TSW: patch 1.11 changes and story depth

Our latest session in The Secret World happened just after the patch 1.11 was deployed. The Enhanced Player Experience is the big-ticket news item for this update, the kind of marketing-speak label that has players of early MMORPGs twitching in a dark corner since revamps of game systems and content can radically change the feel of the gameplay.

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So far we’ve had mixed experiences of the changes to the leveling zones (everything before Kaiden/Tokyo it appears). Anecdotally our dps player found City of the Sun God much easier to solo than before. The patch notes include:

* Reduced the health of all outdoor solo monsters outside of the Kaidan area.

Also from one-time experience we went back there as a duo to do an investigation mission since and I found them easy enough to kill as a tank yet our healer found them no easier if I wasn’t with him. This isn’t scientific (we’re games players not game-analysts) but it does feel like the balance of combat has changed – perhaps some builds are stronger and others have been nerfed now? The patch notes include the following of relevance:

* Increased the maximum number of targets AoE abilities can affect to 6.
* Reduced the effectiveness of most AoE abilities (damage, healing, leeching) from a 33% reduction relative to single target abilities to a 50% reduction relative to single target abilities.

We also found Besieged Farmlands (first zone in new area) pretty easy which either means our gear is above the difficulty curve or the nerf has made it easier than we would have otherwise found it pre-patch.

Other changes include a revolution in fast travel. Now we can click on Anima wells on a map to ‘anima-leap’ to them. As a player of Guild Wars 2, FFXIV or similar more modern MMOs this is perfectly normal. As our dps player noted though it does take exploration out of the gameplay as you don’t accidentally find things as you try to take a shortcut across land between objectives. Notably the map also shows all the side-missions before you have discovered them, another ‘nerf’ to exploration. You can switch this off using the map filters.

The Besieged Farmlands zone seems crammed with content and it’s a big zone. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by elements that are layered on by the story-writers onto what could have been a poor copy of Dracula.

Amazing NPC characterisation as per usual

Amazing NPC characterisation as per usual

The stories we’ve peeked into so far in the zone are as excellent as any before. We recently played the final investigation mission back in Egypt (The Binding), which by the way is superlative, with the heavy lore and (possible) plot inspiration from ancient Egyptian history. It was an epic mission indeed, it really embodies the idea of a’quest’ in how many stages and how much thinking is required. Seeing what the devs have done to elaborate on history to create this immersive and detailed gameplay I have to commend their efforts. I think the fact the game is so anchored in our own world just makes it that much easier to feel immersed in the game and to relate to the storylines.

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 10 Comments

Neverwinter: Elemental Evil delayed

Neverwinter has an announcement on the Arc website and game launcher stating that the release of module 6, Elemental Evil, is delayed until April 7th. The stated reason is the need for more testing. I’m happy for them to take their time on this as the game has had its share of serious bugs in content in the past.

It also works out better timing for me not to have Neverwinter back on my plate on March 17th as planned. Admittedly I may not dive straight back into the game when the module does launch but I’ll be keeping an eye on reactions to the new class when it does.

Logging in to do my invokes this morning I thought of The Secret World and Neverwinter and the differences in payment model. I started imagining what Neverwinter would be like under a buy-to-play model – you buy the game and you buy the modules but there’s no lockbox economy based and super-grindy gear enchant upgrades at end-game. That might be quite an interesting variation on the free to play standard the game fits at the moment. Pure fantasy I know, I’m 100% sure Perfect World have no thoughts of changing but I really admire The Secret World’s business model and would prefer to buy well-tested and content-rich modules in any game over keys for random lootboxes!

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter, TSW | Leave a comment