Summer’s fading light – gaming plans for the Autumn

Summer, if one can call the monsoon-like weather we’ve experienced recently in the UK summer, seems to be drawing to a close. I’ll soon be faced with the start of college again and a busier schedule including the odd evening-lecture that may impinge on my gaming time.

Nevertheless I’ve had a very full summer gaming-wise and have plenty of good things to look forward to!

SWTOR
I’ve power-leveled my Trooper to 55 and have now a nice dilemma over which character I should prepare for October’s expansion. That’s quite a dilemma as I’ve played the Trooper a lot more in recent months but then I did play the Consular for so much more time over the years since the game launched.

STO
I’ll continue to play Star Trek Online if time permits as a side-game. It’s fun to play casually and easy to drop-in and out of as such. I can’t see myself catching up with the current end-game any time soon but that’s probably a good thing as casual gaming and end-game content usually doesn’t mix all that well.

World of Warcraft
The return of several friends to this game and my desire to see Draenor at a slower pace just to enjoy the story and level a character or two to the cap (100) prior to any Legion pre-launch event has finally tempted me back to my original MMORPG. More posts on this will follow soon.

Wildstar
This is a bit of a potential wildcard, there’s no hurry to jump back in, but at some point my husband and I will probably have to create that Chua duo that we’ve talked about since we played in beta.

Shadowrun Chronicles
We’ll continue slowly leveling through the Boston Lockdown campaign, no point rushing as the new content hasn’t been announced yet but we’ll certainly buy anything the developers release as this has been an unexpected gem of a purchase.

The Secret World
Sadly Funcom aren’t encouraging us to spend much time in this game since release 12 lacks substantial story content and rumours are that release 13 will also. It’s fine, we’ve played a lot of TSW this year already, we’ll return hopefully refreshed when release 14 is ready. Fingers crossed it opens up a new location entirely!

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Profession-use beyond crafting

In Shadowrun Chronicles there are gathering style skills that allow you to access random rewards or unlock special features on a map. For instance the hacking skill might allow you to open a side door to a room offering your team a tactical advantage against opponents waiting in that room.

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In some SWTOR flashpoints (a k a dungeons) there are similar nodes that allow a character with the relevant crew skill to perform some beneficial action whether opening a shortcut or activating a defence droid as a temporary companion.

Bioanalysis skill rewards an item that can summon a temporary pet

Athiss: bioanalysis skill rewards an item that can summon a temporary pet

I love to see extra use made of these profession or gathering skills beyond the act of crafting itself. It’s a way to link your character more to the world around him or her. Naturally it’s not so great if such skills are required too often, but if you can benefit from them by teaming up with someone else with the right skill then I believe even locking areas or shortcuts behind such skills is acceptable.

Relic hunter private party

Relic hunter private party

Wildstar has similar bonus content for professions and for characters with a specific path (e.g. explorer can spawn a jumping puzzle). In my recent time playing Wildstar I was very happy to see the profusion of this content, and from casual observance some at least seems designed to be shareable with party members. I’ll look forward to testing how much this bonus content is available to group members if we end up jumping into the F2P version of the game for duo leveling.

Do you like to see professions having applications beyond crafting?

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Wow Class Halls: Guesses & Desires – Part 2

Meznir here – Telwyn’s hubby. I’m hijacking his blog again for some World of Warcraft speculation.

In Part 1 I suggested iconic locations where the class halls for Death Knights, Druids, Monks and Shamans could be (or could have been, for those that have already been announced). Today I’ll propose some guesses / desires for: Mages, Priests, Paladins and Rogues. Continue reading

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 5 Comments

AFKish for a week

Just a brief post to note that I’m away for a week from today. I have posts scheduled to keep the content flowing for my readers but any comments will not be responded to as rapidly as I would normally like.

Happy gaming for the week to come!

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SWTOR: Trooper level 50 and Makeb v2.0

I’ve been playing my Trooper in Star Wars: The Old Republic, leveling this second character towards the old cap of 55. I haven’t as yet bought the Shadow of Revan expansion to unlock the levels 56-60 that is the current endgame. The next expansion, Fallen Empire, launches on October 27th so I have almost two months still to time that unlock and the necessary time to level at least one character through to 60.

Corellia once more

Corellia once more

As with my main character, a Jedi Sage healer, I easily dinged 50 while still completing the class story on the war-torn world of Corellia. The trooper story is enjoyable enough, but somehow the ending seemed anti-climactic and bizarrely informal (e.g. the cut-scene in a corridor) at least compared to that of the Jedi Consular.

trooper2

Since I’ve leveled this character mostly with the 12x bonus, leveling purely via the class missions. Without running the planetary story missions I was reliant on the generous gear token handouts that came with these missions since I skipped all the planetary missions that would normally reward level-appropriate armour or weapons. Any gaps were filled via cheap Global Trade Network (i.e. auction house) purchases, although that can have an unusual impact on a character’s appearance – the pictured orange chest piece happened to be a Jedi-style heavy armour + robe combo. With the stats all derived from the class-specific modules it’s fine for my character to wear this although I’m not sure General Garza would approve…

trooperMakeb1

Although it’s not been that long since I was doing Makeb on my Sage, I’m not finding it so repetitive on this second run. I guess it’s mainly as I’m breezing through the sub-zones via the 12x XP boost. The main storyline is enjoyable enough and with the GSI buff to boost my health pool and gear stats I’m not having to obsess too much about frequent gear upgrades in order to keep progressing. Overall I’ve grown rather fond of my Tooper, and I love his droid companion M1-4X.

"Thus to all who threaten galactic liberty!"

“Thus to all who threaten galactic liberty!”

 

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Strategic gaming options: Star Trek Online

I’ve recently been interesting in more stratey oriented gaming. So spurred on by the fun of playing the turn-based Shadowrun Chronicles, I decided to jump back into Star Trek Online.

Klingons off the starboard bow

Klingons off the starboard bow

Back when I briefly tried the game last year something didn’t click with me. The game can seem very complex to a new player – especially when you begin to unlock the more advanced systems like crafting or the Duty Officer (DOff) system. This time around I’ve found the game easy to understand. I’ve been playing it when time permits for  the last month and have made pretty fast progress on my Klingon tactical character (from about level 14 to level 38).

Is that a Tholian I see before me?

Is that a Tholian I see before me?

Although I think of myself as slightly more of a Star Wars fan than a Star Trek fan I’ve certainly watched the movies and TV series over the years. I also really loved the Starfleet Battles tactical board game – the space combat in STO is a pretty good homage to that legacy. It is simpler than I remember SFB being, but still with enough complexity to be interesting (weapon arcs, shield arcs, relative positions in 3D space, power levels, tractor beams etc).

baH!

Phaser light show

Part of my issue I suppose with the game back when I was last playing was the feeling that encounters were pretty confused, both in space and in ground-based away missions. Stuff just happens while you’re attempting to learn (or remember) all the controls and options. Space combat can feel frantic since the game is quick to send multiple opponents at you. Ground combat feels chaotic as your four NPC bridge officer team runs around showing just a touch too much initiative.

Stand here, or I kill you myself!

Stand here, or I will kill you myself!

But the game offers the tools to control the chaos, something I didn’t notice or learn about on my first attempt. Simple things like telling your NPC away team where is safe to stand makes all the difference – because even if you’re slow at understanding fast developing tactical situations they are very quick to lay shields and heavy hitting artillery for you. They just need a bit of help not standing in flames, or acid or the like…

Light show spectacular

baH!

As for the space combat I think practice makes all the difference. I did have trouble surviving some of the more challenging early missions but lighter Klingon vessels have a cloaking device so you have more option to stay hidden in-between mission steps to repair back to full. Nowadays, armed with more understanding of some space combat strategies, I’ve eschewed the cowardly cloaking tactics for a more full-frontal assault strategy, my lovely Vor’cha battle cruiser is quite literally my pride and joy.

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STO, like Neverwinter, is a pretty easy game to jump back into. Not currently a candidate for a “main MMO”, but something I can happily dip into to queue some DOff missions or to run a few story missions. The mix of ground and space combat is pretty unique in the genre (since in SWTOR space combat is more of a PVP thing); what can I say I’m a sucker for firing a full spread of photon torpedoes at my enemies!

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Gameplay and story progression

It seems to me that developers sometimes put rather high barriers to story progression through the gameplay mechanics they choose to deploy. I’m talking here about following a sequential story and not character power or gear progression.

Take the last content patches of Guild Wars 2’s pre-expansion Living Story for instance, the fights were tuned pretty high and I found them personally frustrating as heck to play through, all in the cause of finishing season 2 of the story.

Time to found a College of Weedkiller.

Time to found a College of Weedkiller.

What about Square Enix’s insistence that you do dungeons & trials in FFXIV to progress that game’s story? Although the earlier dungeons were fun to play through, the later content was a stressful rush in a pug; we were only there to experience the story, but sadly the playerbase in general want you to do that via Youtube strategy videos before you even enter. Of course the game design encourages this by having veteran players rerun those dungeons repeatedly for later rewards.

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I’m not trying to say that there shouldn’t be any challenge to story-focused content in MMORPGs, but I do think developers should put more of a line between the stuff we play to see a saga unfold and the end-game repetition of content to grind out new gear or for other character progression reasons.

More recent patches for SWTOR have taken a leaf out of LOTRO’s solo-mode for story dungeons by allowing players to see the content (the first time at least) at their own pace. I played through a few of the ‘tactical’ flashpoints and was very grateful of the chance to do so without pressure to “gogogo” past all the story and background.

Taking in a familiar scene, easy to miss details like this if you're in a rush!

Taking in a familiar scene, easy to miss details like this if you’re in a rush!

I’m not just writing here about the option to solo content however. As mentioned above with the Guild Wars 2 Living Story it’s also the difficulty level chosen by the devs for content. This is not a new discussion, World of Warcraft has long locked the ends of story arcs inside raids.  Before the advent of LFR (pug raiding) you had little chance of seeing it unless you were part of a solid raiding guild. Not that the LFR experience is that conducive to enjoying story but at least you’re in the instance with the content. I believe that’s generally better than just watching someone else’s character experiencing it in a Youtube video.

This post leads to our current state of non-progress in The Secret World. I’ve been stuck for weeks now on the last part of the Nightmare in the Dream Palace story mission. It’s actually like playing a platformer game from the 1980s. There’s a sequence of extremely difficult combats with no check points; so if you exit the mission to repair due to dying constantly then you have to redo all of them regardless of progress.

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Our DPS player made it through without a problem – gear is everything in most MMORPGs I suppose. Meanwhile the healer and my tank character are stuck unable to progress because our damage output isn’t good enough and these missions are forced-solo content. Most frustrating of all, my character’s tank spec didn’t function as it should during one of the fights. I wasn’t able to aggro attacking apparitions off the NPC; had my tanking abilities worked I would have had a viable alternative strategy to finish that fight without relying on the “brute force” method of the DPS check.

So I’m faced with the prospect of creating a completely new build for my character and collecting a new set of purple gear just to be able to do three or four instanced combats. My lack of progression on the cybernetic branch of the aegis system isn’t helping either. I have already tried a new build or two with the skills I have unlocked and purchased green/blue DPS-gear but it’s not enough. I’ll need to invest a lot more time repeating content to buy some purple quality gear.

I’m an advocate for the character development choices presented in the game to all have equal validity and to remain so as you progress. If TSW allows me to build a tanky character from the start, why shouldn’t I be able to progress as that character throughout? Many games allow healer or tank characters to experience the story in that spec. A similar example of gating story by playstyle was in WoW’s Mists of Pandaria expansion; PVE-only players were forced to run two PVP battlegrounds to progress the legendary story chain.

Many games seem to lock story content behind gear-checks, build-checks or tests of player ability unrelated to your character. Do you think story progression should be blocked by these kinds of barriers?

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars, SWTOR, TSW | 14 Comments