Trying something new (WoW, Rift)

Sometimes it’s fun to just try a new way to play a character, or a new approach to a challenge. Here’s two examples from my gaming this weekend that inspired this thought.

Last night we were leveling our next pair of alts in Stormheim (boring to repeat solo intro, rest of the zone is really great). We got to the point where you start using the Stormforged grapple launcher and this happened…

Spider Bear and his flying tortoise

Spider Bear and his flying tortoise

I laughed so hard the first time I saw this, my pet turtle flying through the air besides me with his mouth wide open – I could easily imagine him like a joyous dog that holds its head out of an open car window, mouth open and tongue lolling, as it enjoys the rush of air. We used the grapple launcher a lot in this particular area so I took a lot of similar screenshots as we were playing.

I’ve started investigating Survival Hunter, whereas I’ve mostly stuck to one spec/weapon for my main characters. The idea of melee Hunter in WoW has interested me since it was first mentioned during Legion’s development. It’s a completely different playstyle for the class, I’m not sure I’ll swap completely to it as it’s less practical for group content, but it seems fun for questing and the damage output is pretty high.

Sadly I have no screenshots of living opponents for this new spec...

Sadly I have no screenshots of living opponents for this new spec…

Earlier in the weekend I was leveling my Cleric through Goboro Reef and I reached a point where I had to close a water rift and then a fire rift. I conjured a water rift using my lure and closed it solo no problem, although it did end prematurely due to the intervention of the quest’s story. There was already a fire rift open nearby, however, so without thinking I just started on that. All went well until phase 4, the final phase before closing the rift (there was no way I’d beat the timer to push it further), whereby I became utterly stuck on simple swarms of fire bugs. I tried my Druid build with tanking satyr pet, said pet died in seconds and me shortly afterwards. I tried my previous solo build (Inquisicar), built around self-healing and a good measure of the tanking soul’s toughness, again these bugs put out so much damage I was dying really quickly. Almost at the point of giving up, having shouted in zone for help and got no response, I decided on a whim to try to create a new area damage build. So I did some quick research about which souls to chose, and then built my own mixture of the Cabalist, Defiler & Inquisitor souls.

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This gave me an array of area damage spells, some with a damage over time component, others that stun or root groups of enemies and even a ticking time-bomb spell that does no damage until it expires. Layering these different attacks, and keeping on the move while stunning and rooting the groups, made the fights suddenly so much easier: so long as I interrupted or move away from their coordinated blasts of fiery breath it was fine. It really gave me a sense of satisfaction and achievement to have solved the problem myself and to have discovered another radically different way of playing this character.

Posted in Gaming, Rift, WoW | 4 Comments

Gaming mix in early 2017

My current MMORPG gaming mix has changed somewhat since coming back from the holidays, as usual I have more stalwart games than I can find time to play so I have my usual shortlist that I try to concentrate on in order to make progress on self-imposed goals.

World of Warcraft

WoW remains our main trio game at the moment, although 7.1.5 didn’t add much for small groups beyond the new grind to upgrade legendary items. We’re leveling alts now through the Legion content; learning the quest chains to do and those to skip to get through zones efficiently. As I’ve written before playing the same zones again and again can be a path to boredom, so we’re also doing some rounds of World Quests as times and mood dictate. World bosses once a week are a highlight still as the gear and gold are still worth it for such a minimal time commitment.

Hunter-alt leveling in Val'sharah

Hunter-alt leveling in Val’sharah

Star Wars the Old Republic

I’m mostly leveling my Imperial Agent now in SWTOR, without a guild in this game I’m unlikely to ever really get back into doing group content. The IA story is pretty awesome, at least in parts, I’m in chapter 2 at the moment and nearly done on the Taris world story.

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Rift

Leveling through the Nightmare Tide expansion for the first time, still in the Goboro Reef zone – zones in this expansion are large! I’m rather enjoying the water-themed storyline, and am having fun this time around experimenting with builds on my cleric.

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Lord of the Rings Online

I’m not really finding much time for LOTRO, annoying as I’d just found a new guild before Christmas, but then leveling alts through zones I know well isn’t doing it for me at present. I did have a really fun afternoon last weekend playing all three wings of the Great Barrow dungeon on my Runekeeper, his first go at healing! If I find other opportunities for group fun I’ll certainly pop back into the game again.¬† If not before I’ll be back in-game properly when the next update comes around.

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Everquest 2

Another game that has fallen off the list, I played it pretty intensely before Christmas to get my second character levelled, so I think a bit of a break is needed. I kind of have SWTOR and EQ2 as a bit mutually exclussive in my gaming mix at the moment – I prefer to play both when I am subbed, so until my current SWTOR run ends, I’m not going to do much involved in EQ2, the new expansion will have to wait.

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Rift and WoW – the PVP flag issue

There are two world bosses up in WoW since yesterday, so we jumped into game as our normal trio to get those done early. In previous weeks we’ve not been free on a Wednesday and it gets rapidly harder to find the necessary pug raid to kill such bosses after the first few days. There is a tool, not quite as automated as the Dungeon and Raid Finder tools, that offers a way to look for groups advertising raids to tackles these bosses. After the first couple of days this tool is usually our only hope of taking a boss down.

Wasting time trying to heal a target I can't heal...

Wasting time trying to heal a target I can’t heal…

The first of the bosses we tackled was an imp-mother bonus boss in Suramar, it didn’t seem very popular as there wasn’t a group forming even when we arrived, so we queued using the aforementioned tool, and as usual got dumped in a group of randoms from various servers – half of which were PVP flagged. This aspect of pug-raid play in WoW really annoys me – I play two main-spec healers for the level 110 content and not being able to heal half the raid is so frustrating. It reminded me of my older experiences of public quest content in Rift, where there was almost an expectation from elements of the community to flag.

No mention of PVP here

No mention of PVP here

At least half of the time we’re dumped onto a PVP server anyway with this tool so I’m auto-flagged – sadly the tool doesn’t provide a warning that you’re joining a PVP-realm group and the majority of such groups, based purely on anecdotal experience, seem to be on PVP realms. It would be very nice if Blizzard could fix the tool to allow a toggle “exclude pvp group/realm” option or similar when searching.

I can contrast this with my more recent experiences of public content in Rift: the game has evolved quite a bit since I was last playing regularly. The faction divide has been lowered almost totally, meaning that I now regularly group both with fellow Defiants and one-time-foes from the Guardian faction.

Tackling a group with two Guardian heroes

Tackling a group with two Guardian heroes

Healing in Rift’s public content is now so much more viable, since all players in the group regardless of faction are counted as friendly targets. I’ve not yet seen any problems with not being able to heal other characters because of PVP flag status.

Healing in Instant Adventures - faction is irrelevant

Healing in Instant Adventures – faction is irrelevant

I’m not expecting Blizzard to head in this direction (less emphasis on faction) from this anytime soon, but it would be nice if we could at least have an option to avoid PVP given that I have always played on a PVE-RP server in the game…

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WoW: keeping it fresh and dungeon experiments

I’ve played enough of the Legion expansion to feel a bit bored with my main characters – there’s a bit of the Suramar questline left to do on my Druid but otherwise he’s mostly done with the expansion until this questline gets expanded in the next major patch. Of course there’s some stuff always to do, but grinding endless AP for tiny incremental increases isn’t my thing, nor is running Mythic + dungeons or raids for teeny, tiny ilevel improvements.

Stop yawning cat, it's rude

Stop yawning cat, it’s rude

My Paladin healer is likewise pretty much finished, I’ll not be doing Suramar on more than one character and he’s done his class hall and is nearly completed on filling out his Holy artifact weapon’s talent tree. So to keep things fresh a bit longer I’m looking at other alts to play going forward. I still have a bit more to finish on my Shaman healer: his weapon is less upgraded. But he’ll be done soon enough and then it’s on to characters that I’ve not yet even levelled to 110 yet.

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I’ve started levelling a Hunter now, a class I’ve not ever really played that much. In Legion, Hunter seems to have come into its own in a way – so many fights in group content (dungeons and raids) are high movement fights – so a class that can use all its abilities on the move is suddenly very appealing. Knowing the zones now means we pick and chose to some extent what content to do and what to skip, repeating some of the content is unavoidable in order to level and gear the new alt but I’m somewhat averse to rerunning zones without more of a gap in-between.

Angry panda

Angry panda

There are other aspects to keeping it fresh though beyond which alt I’m playing at the moment. Playing with a wider group of people from my moderately large guild brings the occasional insight into how to approach dungeon fights from new angles. In a recent run of Halls of Valour (Mythic), a guild-mate told us how to climb up onto the overlooking hill to skip a particularly nasty group of trash mobs – easy to do if you ever thought to try it. It is not always possible to induldge in such experimental gameplay, some fights or areas are too restrictively designed, but when we find a new way of tackling something it always makes me happy.

There are quite a few different ways to tackle Fenryr...

There are quite a few different ways to tackle Fenryr…

Legion requires a lot of repeat dungeon runs on a given character, so if you play alts you can multiply that repetition up quickly enough. Having people to play with who like to try different approaches to the same fights or challenges then is important to me – repeating the exact same rote runs through such instances, especially if its just for the sake of speed or efficiency, quickly leads to boredom (IMHO).

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Rift: back to leveling

A few different things have inspired me to take a peak back into Rift once more. I logged back in recently to do some Instant Adventures and to try Intrepid Adventures (a raid version of the former). In the course of a few play sessions I got my Cleric from level 58 to 60 and finally, just over 2 years later, reached the next expansion: the Nightmare Tide.

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I’d actually returned to the game three times last year, starting in January/February when we briefly played as a group of four through various leveling dungeons. That fun experience of the game kept niggling away at the back of my brain. I actually returned to Rift a total of three times last year albeit for brief stints. Mostly I wanted to level my main to 60 of course, but I also wanted to actually finish some of the storylines for Storm Legion. Not seeing the expansion’s story to its (open world) conclusion irked me somewhat. I’d done a good chunk of Morban and Steppes of Infinity in the most recent sessions and had found the natives’ stories of the horrors of fighting against the Plane of Death’s worst monstrosities rather compelling.

Dungeon fun

Dungeon fun

I ran out of story content with my character still at level 58 back in December, and ran out of leveling steam too, but reading about the Starfall Prophecy expansion since has inspired me once more to get back on with leveling. It’s not as though I’ve not had recent exposure to a slightly more “old school” leveling experience – EQ2 has that by the bucketload. This time though I stuck to public group content as the easy way to conquer that XP bar once and for all.

Hammerknell Intrepid Adventure

Hammerknell Intrepid Adventure

Instant Adventures are akin to a rollercoaster ride of randomised questing. You queue (usually for a few seconds literally) and then get teleported to a group of other players in a leveling zone (can be the base game or an expansion’s zone) with your level sync’ed appropriately. The Adventure then leads you through a series of randomised tasks, like any normal quest, with the odd “close this rift” thrown in for good measure. The grouping is chaotic and fast-paced as you might expect from public quest-style content. Group size varies but is usually a raid between 8 and 15 people, it varies a lot as people drop in and out throughout the Adventure’s duration.

Following the pack

Following the pack

Intrepid Adventures are somewhat different in that they take place inside one of two different raid dungeons. I’ve not experienced the raids in their original form but the system guides you through the raid somewhat with the teleport option from Instant Adventures to take you to the next section of the raid after each boss is killed. Again I’ve no idea how the difficulty levels compare but they are certainly more deadly than Instant Adventures – it’s easy to die to boss mechanics in Hammerknell if you’re as clueless as I am!

Goblin-slaying

Goblin slaying

The experience from both types of activity are good, I have my character at level 60 and have made a start on the Nightmare Tide expansion’s questing content – time to get wet!

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SWTOR: five suggestions for the next expansion

Ravalation has a recent post on desired changes to Star Wars the Old Republic. Reading this got me thinking about what I’d like to see changed or added to the game for or by the time of the next expansion. Here’s my shorter and more broad-brush thoughts on what I’d like to see done differently in future.

1) Fix coop play (a la GW2)

This is a big bugbear for me with the current development of the game, at launch and for some time afterwards SWTOR represented almost the perfect coop MMORPG. Great for couples and friends to play in duos or trios. Leveling together was, for the most part, a great experience – perhaps the only major downside is the spoilers from seeing other people’s class missions. After the Hutt Cartel expansion the game main storylines became much less group friendly, however. That’s a big mistake in my mind – all this content (including KOTFE and KOTET) should be group friendly. Playing with friends is, in my mind, a big part of the stickiness of MMORPGs as games!

I bring here the experience of Guild Wars 2, which from launch back in 2010, had a slick system for progressing story quests when in a group. Similar to SWTOR, any story instance had an ‘owner’, however in GW2 when your group finished the particular instance anyone coming along to help would be presented with a simple yes/no option to either progress their quest to the next stage or to leave it where it was. That same, long-established system, would allow SWTOR players to group up for say KOTFE missions to play with their friends. If the choices made, using the existing multi-player conversation system, didn’t work out as they wanted, they could always choose to not progress the mission and do it again solo on their own to get the result they want. Perhaps to be 100% sure no-one has problems you could even have that same yes/no choice for the instance owner too as they might ‘loose’ a few conversation choices as well.

2) Explorable new planets

Adding new planets always makes me happy, but only adding them for a short walled off story instance makes me sad. It’s also a pretty big waste of developers time compared to the potential for those areas to be opened up for resource gathering and future content such as daily mission hubs or new world bosses. Why not fix it so the Alliance base has a door leading out into Odessen’s forests, for instance?

3) Open world content

Should SWTOR have more “public quest” style content? It does have world bosses, although I suspect these are mostly targetted by guild groups. Seeing how the Legion expansion of WoW handles open world content, and how other games like Rift have long-had such content, I do wonder if open world content in SWTOR would be a good idea? The game is pretty heavily instanced for grouping, so it might be good to see more content that happens out in the open, such as the Relics of the Gree event.

4) Break from the big story

After two very ‘big story’ expansions, with tightly focused and very epic storylines, I’d be tempted to say we should have a change of pace. The next expansion could be less focused and more about the aftermath of such a galaxy-encompassing conflict. It would give the devs the chance to tie up missing or underdeveloped companion stories and to address any hanging issues, such as the aftermath of events on Voss. A less focused story would also allow for the introduction of new planets or the expansion of existing ones without needing to conform to a set narrative. We could have an expansion of lots of little stories rather than one big one.

5) Give me my ship back

Although this is only partly an issue, we never actually lost it from a gameplay perspective, I think in the next expansion our characters should, from a story perspective, get to reclaim and use their own spaceships again. The gravestone is cool and all but it’s not my Defender, ok?

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars, SWTOR, WoW | 4 Comments

SWTOR: zones and faction impressions

Have you ever had a different impression, negative or positive, of a zone in a MMORPG because of one faction’s story versus the other’s?

Flapping the skies of Alderaan once more

Flapping the skies of Alderaan once more

I’m currently playing through Alderaan on my Imperial Agent, and have found the planetary storyline (it is faction-specific in SWTOR) to be very engaging. I have played Alderaan once before on our Imperial trio but I don’t remember the story as standing out particularly when I was playing a Bounty Hunter.

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There’s some great interaction between your character and the murky, fractious politics of this divided world. Although the politics does feature equally for Republic-side characters, I’m left with the feeling that the Imperial story is more impactful and has some less obvious¬† plot-developments. It might just be that this world ‘suits’ my Agent’s class and personality more than it did other characters so I’m identifying with the story more for those reasons.

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I’ve also been especially engaged by the Killiks this time around, probably because of the extra dimension that the Imperial Agent’s own class story brings (no spoilers in comments please!). The Killiks are pretty borg-like but more subtle a threat, perhaps – the people of Alderaan can and do negotiate with the Killiks. I liked the presentation of that threat on the Republic-side well enough, but I have the impression it’s handled better Imperial-side. I may have to replay the planet on a Republic character now, to refresh my memory for the comparison!

These zones, that I have played through four times already, have managed to present me with a fresh perspective on the planet. So not all content in MMORPGs has to lack repeat-play value, I’d say that’s one of SWTOR’s strengths.

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