Playing with anima powers #WorldofWarcraft

As a direct follow-up to my last post, we had some really fun and interesting anima power combos on a Torghast run yesterday. There are no doubt ‘balancing’ issues with some of these, and I do wonder if nerfs will eventually come in a future patch, but then Torghast is basically an instanced playpen. I guess it’s kind of “what goes in Torghast stays in Torghast”. No matter how broken your character becomes, how overpowered, as soon as you finish the run and step back outside they’re back to normal. I even noticed for the first time that we effectively get temporary hotbars while in there, I changed a few spell positions on that run and when back outside noticed they’d reverted to their normal positions automatically.

I found some varied and interesting anima powers for my monk, running as Windwalker dps, for a change. Upgrades to Faeline Stomp, for example, are always fun as I love that covenant ability. I’d had the “Faeline Stomp now has four charges” one once before, but not this Fae Aftershock upgrade whereby it gains a ticking damage over time effect.

Time for another choice!

The run became rather dominated, once again, by Touch of Death zaniness. This time I got both key anima powers combined on top of the legendary ring that he has. My monk had zero cooldown on the ability, it had the area effect component to hit up to four additional mobs and I got several increases to health – by the end floor my dps monk had 104K health: so he could ToD any non-elite mob from the first pull, and could quickly get most elites as well.

ToD massacre aftermath

Somewhere on the fourth floor, I had gained the anima power that gives stacks of a buff from each Touch of Death that then temporarily raise my characters health on each application of Fortifying Brew. So for the final boss fight I was able to buff my health up to 482K and then start Touch of Death spam when the monster was at 33% of its max: four or so global cooldowns later and the boss was down.

Although my view of this so far has only been from the monk perspective, I’m hearing from my group that other classes also have some great stuff. Mage, for example has interesting time warp, alter time and mirror image related anima powers. Towards the end of this particular run his mage had received several mirror image enhancing effects, to the point that his draenei had a small army of illusionary clones each cast.

How many fireballs…

I wonder if some classes have more fun or broken combos than others; I find the runs really enjoyable, but when I eventually swap to alts will it not be as good a selection of powers to play around with as I’ve had with monk?

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Torghast zaniness #WorldofWarcraft

Some of the anima powers have some very interesting effects on the nature of running Torghast. We’re still delving into the tower casually, either as a duo or a group of four. The highest level I’ve seen is a level 3, and I’ve only explored the first two ‘wings’ of the place as yet. The eighteen level mega-version really doesn’t interest me at all.

The anima power system does add some rather interesting playstyle wrinkles to what could otherwise become a tired-old dungeon routine. My brewmaster tank recently gained his first crafted legendary item, thanks to a bit a team effort among close friends.

This is part of a growing pattern with this character, like the game is trying to tell him something. I really like the monk’s Touch of Death ability in World of Warcraft. It just feels very satisfying to have such an impactful cooldown ability. It helps greatly in open world content such as world quests and callings as it can speed up movement through more densely mob-packed areas, or allow for a quick end to combat for heathstoning or running away. It also adds a powerful attack to his rotation on elite or boss monsters, even if its no one-shot kill in those cases.

I then had two different Torghast runs that made me love this ability even more. Firstly I happened to get the purple anima power Fatal Flying Guillotine for one run. That gave this ability an area effect, hitting one creature would affect other eligible targets nearby. That was a really fun run, especially with some speed ups to the cooldown. He could touch one monster and cause entire groups to collapse!

Then an even more death-touch filled run followed. By then I’d crafted said ring, so my cooldown was one third of the default. That plus an upgrade or two to reduce it and I had no cooldown at all on this ability. My panda ran from mob-pack to mob-pack slaying all the non-elites as fast as he could target and touch them.

I imagine these runs weren’t as much fun for my comerades as they were for me, things keeling over before you can even get a hit in is something I’d find grating after time. Lots of laughs were had on my monk’s deadly progress through the tower’s levels, but perhaps I’ll aim for a bit less hyper-specialisation in future. He’ll still have the much reduced cooldown in any case…

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Free mount #SWTOR

I read just now (Sunday evening) over at Massively that there’s a promotional event this weekend in Star Wars the Old Republic: to grab a free inspired by the Star Wars Squadrons game. I’ve not played the latter, and am not likely to either, but a free mount is always worth a look!

Patching the game up to get in took some time, but in the end logging into swtor.com and using the code on my account was enough to claim the reward. Naturally I wanted to see what the mount actually looks like in game, so the patching was worth it – but at least the other friends who also have played with me could save some time and trouble while not missing out!

The vehicle is a rather swish starfighter-like mount, it’s always nice to have a variety of mounts available in this game – it’s one of the ways I like to differentiate my characters. Go grab the mount if you haven’t at SWTOR.com with the promo code “SQUADRONS” (then check your mail in game)!

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Any more Overseer on the horizon?

I’ve been searching today, in vain, to see if there is any new Overseer missions that I’ve not yet unlocked. I’ve been running the same set of missions with some regularity on my two main characters since season 2 came back in April 2020.

I have even checked for online resources that might give me a clue, but I found nothing so far mentioning new missions in either of my usual sources for such features, the wiki or Bhagpuss’ blog. It was worth doing a bit of research though, since I almost missed out on the temporary Overseer missions for the Reign of Shadows prelude event, because I’d not realised they were there till late in the prelude event’s timeframe.

At the moment it, along with some pottering around or crafting, remain the best way I can keep engaged with Norrath since long questing sessions are still not possible. Here’s hoping some new missions (and agents…) will be announced soon!

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Torghast seems rather fun

My exploration of the Shadowlands post-cap content continues, and I’m thinking that Torghast is a rather fun content-type. I’ll caveat that with a few conditions: I’m only playing it duo or with a larger group, not soloing it, plus I’m not running it to the max but rather once or twice a week.

There are some interesting little mechanics built into this semi-randomised dungeon system, for instance the interactive details like the puzzle chests and traps. There are also thematically varied monsters in the different named ‘wings’. I guess there’s the potential to get rather bored of these wings if you run Torghast a lot or on multiple alts, but then that’s no different from rerunning dungeons or over-doing the open world zones. For now, I’d say Torghast represents something with a bit more longevity for repetition than standard dungeon fare.

Varied layouts and teleporters can offer some appearance of non-linearity, and there is quite the incentive to really explore and clear all the levels since there are significant, if mostly temporary, benefits to opening all the pots and clearing all the mobs. It is reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons Online with the destructable furnishings, my monk gets to have fun spinning crane kicking his heart out!

The best aspect of the system for me so far is that of the anima powers. These temporary abilities add a lot of variety to how your character plays in a given run, with you finding maybe a couple dozen or so powers. Each power is found when slaying foes, breaking pots or purchased from one of the vendors in dungeon. Each time you get a choice of one to three powers, so more often than not there’s interesting choices to be made. Finding a rarer blue or purple anima power still feels good, even if you know the power will go away when you exit the Torghast run.

Purple!

The anima power system seems too good to waste on just Torghast content. I could see this being a template for future more nuanced character customisation – applying effects to class abilities or non-class aspects of gameplay. It could be a fun way to bring back more choice to character levelling in a future expansion, if a way to balance it for open world were found, perhaps?

To add to this the main permanent reward other than any quest completion seems to be the soul ash currency from the end boss. That means runs have a certain risk to them – it seems to take the best part of an hour to go through all the levels – if you get to the end and fail to beat the end boss then no soul ash for that run. Not running them solo is a good thing here, the more players in the run the more chances you’ll have the right mix of abilities and skills to beat the boss. This is one of the key components of legendary power crafting. So far I’ve only unlocked one (Fatal Touch) on my monk, though it’s a tempting one for general open world gameplay as touch of death is so overpowered. It’ll take me a long time to gather the ash and the crafting mats with help from my husbands crafting alts, but such powers are a nice to have for a casual player like me, so something to work towards mid-term without it feeling like I’m under lots of pressure.

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Happy New Year!

Another year rolls around although I am particularly happy to see the back of 2020. Of course not much will change in the early part of 2021, but there are signs of improvement in the real world on several fronts, so I’d say there is room for optimism.

Gaming-wise I’ve closed the year in a similar position to the last few months: I’m somewhat lacking motivation for PC gaming at the moment due to needing to avoid spending so much time at my computer desk. Now that language revision for exams is sufficiently distanced behind me in time, I am also feeling motivated to try re-learning some of the Japanese that I’ve forgotten in the year and a half since I stopped classes. Netflix has a whole host of Japanese TV series to watch, so access to something of a suitable genre is no problem. At this stage it’s more about indulging myself in watching shows I want to watch anyway, but reacquiring the ear for listening to the language would also be a good first step.

I’ve rediscovered the passion for writing D&D modules in the last couple of weeks, I left my third module in early draft back in the summer when the need to ramp up French revision hit. It takes a *lot* of hours to produce a polished and edited module for publication, but I’m going to focus instead on just drafting the whole thing for play-testing as that should be achievable in a much shorter time and may well save on some editing work down the line.

I’m pottering around in Shadowlands post-levelling with my husband, mostly doing a batch of Callings (emissaries from BfA) every couple of days. I’m using my phone to play the odd ‘adventure’, a.k.a command table mission. If Hearthstone had ever grabbed my attention, I might find this really engaging, but it I just stack my champions in the same pattern every time and send them off – usually I do a couple a day but I’m not into min-maxing it.

Otherwise I think the early part of 2021 will be more of the same. If I manage to improve my work patterns / setup to allow me to comfortably spend more more leisure time on my PC, then I’ll be diving into Reign of Shadows as a high priority. At some point hopefully enough of Baldur’s Gate 3’s story will have been released to warrant buying that for our 4-person online-coop group…

Here’s to a 2021 full of good gaming!

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Diving into the Covenant story

I feel like, narratively at least, I’m really digging into the deeper story content of Shadowlands now. I chose the Night Fae (in Ardenweald) as my first character’s covenant, partly because of certain spoiler ‘hints’ that I’d come across through both online and in-game sources, notably the map of the zone itself. There’ll be some minor spoilers for this covenant’s storyline in the screenshots and thoughts below.

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Merry Christmas!!

As the toughest and bizarrest of years comes to a close, I’m ever thankful for virtual worlds to take refuge in. Our home is looking the most festive it ever has, simply because we’re locked down, and cannot travel away, as we have done every other Christmas. In contrast this year I’m not that engaged with virtual Christmas-themed events since there is too much unexplored expansion content in both World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 for me to be setting aside time for seasonal activities.

I don’t remember ever noticing the northern lights that whizz overhead…

So to all my fellow blogosphere contributors and readers, I hope you have a safe holidays and manage to make the best of what remains a very tough situation for most. I’ll not have that much time for gaming today as we have a lot of Skype/WhatsApp video calls to make, plus I have all that cooking to do just for the two of us!

I’ve taken to listening to a lot of music this year, mostly via having YouTube open on my second monitor and playing random stuff I as I think of it. Husband and I have even listened to some Christmas music, which is a rarity for me at least before arriving to stay with family for the festive period.

I’ll sign-off for today by sharing a particular music video that I really love, both for the sentiment and the humour in the video. Fair warning it’s not Christmas themed, though it is certainy celebratory. Merry Christmas and happy gaming!

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More views of Shadowlands

I have continued my journey through the Shadowlands expansion of World of Warcraft, reaching the end of the four leveling zones and, just last session, choosing my covenant. Overall its seemed like rapid progress, although it has been stretched over many days because of other priorities, I don’t feel like I’ve played that many hours of the expansion as yet.

Catching up with my last post, I ended up with a grand total of 85 screenshots from Ardenweald’s first play-through, and then I came finally to Revendreth…

Revendreth, 100 screenshots (not counting dungeon runs)

So this zone proved the second most photo-genic if I just go by the number of screenshots I took while levelling on through it. All the zones have fascinating skyboxes, varied landscapes and impressive architecture so there’s plenty to catch the eye. Equally the characters that we meet as we adventure on past are memorable I find.

Is riding on a mount too much to ask for in Shadowlands…?

Not that it’s a scientific method but I spent the most effort and time on screenshoting Bastion (128), followed by Revendreth (100), Maldraxxus (89) and Ardenweald (85). This is probably for a combination of reasons: firstly due to how focused husband and I were on the actual questing when we played each zone. The more distractions happening in guild chat, Battle.Net chat or outside of game there are, the more likely I’ll start looking around. Equally my sense of investment in the zone’s story may also be inversely proportional to my tendency to play virtual tourist. If I’m laser-focused on the NPC dialogue and what they are doing on screen, I’m much less likely to be looking around my character at what else there is to see. I wonder if Ardenweald also has a bit too much “chase after the NPC on your mount”, so it’s a bit more ‘hurried’ perhaps?

Revendreth has its fair share of comedic NPCs, a nice contrast to the rather grim atmosphere there. For instance it was also rather a surprise to find a zone bathed in the Holy Light, an interesting additional wrinkle added to what could have been just a rehash of the same old fantasy Vampire story.

This area was my favourite sub-zone by far within the Revendreth story overall, and one of my favourite for the expansion so far, it really stood out. I should mention the voice-work for the NPCs in this zone were particularly good. Revendreth wins a prize for the ‘coolest’ zone ability, the ‘blood teleport’ (a k a Door of Shadows) is really rather useful for exploring otherwise inaccessible places: I do so love utility abilities in MMORPGs. This has shot Revendreth up my list of probable next covenants to try, maybe on my Hunter? However, since my main character is very group-content focused I went with Ardenweald when it came to choosing his covenant. I prioritised the area damage/heal and the movement ability combo from Ardenweald that would be useful for dungeon runs. The ability choices wasn’t the only factor, I identify personally with the story and NPCs in that zone the most.

I have more story to experience, my chosen covenant’s associated story plus any that’s hidden in the remaining dungeons. At some point I’ll return to my hunter, currently sat on the arrival ramp in Oribos, and probably give the skip-story mode a go to see what alt-levelling through repeatable and side-content is like in this expansion. But for now, onwards to the Great Hunt!

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Reign of Shadows, some first impressions

I’ve dipped my toes into the new Everquest 2 content, the Reign of Shadows expansion, in what time I could spare after work this evening. That didn’t amount to much as I faffed rather too long on upgrading gear on my Shadowknight on the Summer event vendor, then zoned into the new Fordel Midst zone and promptly replaced it all again at the expansion gear vendor. Maybe next year I’ll remember to not bother double upgrading characters like this…

Two new belts in one session

I then proceeded to spend a good hour or so wandering around the new city zones to just find my way about. Some quests were there, others appeared soon after I arrived, so my SK has a small list of tasks to accomplish. I managed a couple, but spent more time wandering than anything else.

I took quite a bit of pleasure in making map makers for each zone I discovered. Like with the last few expansions the map and mini-map are devoid of detail by default, so I’m using the in-built map marker system to make notes for myself. With a city zone to start with, replete with multiple doors in each section, there’s plenty to mark. It’s a fun little ‘expansion starter’ passtime; it reminded me slightly of drawing maps on paper for ttrpgs or old 8-bit adventure games in my youth; only I focused time on adding important details to exquisitely pre-drawn maps, instead of wasting time attempting to draw vaguely accurate outlines myself.

Marking points of interest

There are a lot of NPCs to note and potentially keep track of, although most don’t want my business at the moment. The perennial problem for adventurers in any MMORPG: we always have to prove ourselves before merchants will talk to us. Can you imagine a shop in real life refusing to sell you something till you’ve proven yourself a worthy customer?

I’m making note of the factions I’m finding as well, and the associated merchants. I’ve always liked the faction system in this game: there’s normally some great items to obtain from them, especially house decorations. Hopefully, in the seasonal holidays I’ll make good progress in the expansion’s levelling (both adventuring and crafting) and maybe even start unlocking some of the goodies from said merchants too! I suspect Frostfell will not draw any of my gaming attention this year.

Luclin’s people have polyhedral dice, I’m impressed!

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