SWTOR: Chapter 12 – bringing exploration back?

I played through the latest chapter of the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion (12: Dark Passages) last week and was very pleasantly surprised by the change of pace and mood. Without delving into spoilerific details, it seemed quite a contemplative chapter. I’ll focus on mechanics and not the story but there are probably some really minor spoilers in this post.

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The biggest difference I felt, much more than any of the chapters set in or around Zakuul’s underbelly, was that this chapter offered a sense of exploration. Although the main story may have been fairly linear still, the steps in-between were much more open-ended and could be done in more than one order – some back-tracking was necessary for me.

I love climbing ...

I love climbing …

New mechanics were introduced to give your character greater freedom of movement and intermediate mission goals were of an exploratory nature. In some ways it reminded me of Wildstar’s Explorer path or jumping puzzles in Guild Wars 2. Those activities in the two other MMORPGs have mixed connotations for me; I like the exploration part of it but I grow tired of the ‘twitch’ aspect – the need to precisely time jumps or judge virtual distances on a screen. SWTOR’s latest chapter has a nice take on such exploration content without the player needing twitch skills.

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I suppose the downside to this approach is that once you’ve memorised the map there’s no real gameplay to it, jumping puzzles still challenge you to a certain extent whether you know them off by heart or not. That doesn’t bother me though, other games have jumping puzzles already, so I’m happy that SWTOR has a different take on exploration content. I hope the devs do something similar in a future episode at least once in a while.

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR

Fun vs goals

I’ve found my gaming priorities derailed the last week or two, I had intended to try to get my poor champion to the level cap in LOTRO before it rises yet again but that’s a bust as Update 18 is due to launch today (delayed by one day).

Then without any forethought I ended up subscribing back to WoW via a Token to be able to play that game with visiting family four evenings straight.That’s been a blast, I have a lot of characters that could do with pushing up to 100 (from low 90s) ready for Legion and the possibility to use the Legion pre-order instant 100 to prep a class that I’ve rarely played (mage?) for the next expansion.

I read last night that a close friend has started playing Black Desert Online, which coupled with spending money for my birthday is enough to break my last attempts at resisting giving that a try too. I guess in the end it’s all about enjoyment, shared experiences and having some fun. Online gaming is a great hobby; it can connect you to people you don’t see so often or introduce you to really nice people from a wide variety of places and backgrounds.

When I was thinking about trading gameplay back a few weeks, I gave Archeage a brief but intensive try, and despite liking the systems, classes and general gameplay, I was struck by that sense of “having missed the boat” and not seeing much activity in low-level areas. At least if I try Black Desert Online now, relatively close to launch, I guess it is pretty busy everywhere? Although I try to set goals and have some kind of organised plan to my gaming, sometimes it’s worth just going with flow…

Posted in Gaming, LotRO, WoW

WoW Token and Zangarmarsh

I’ve taken advantage of the WoW Token path to adding game time to my World of Warcraft account in order to play the game with visiting family. The system has some strict limitations on it to protect it from the predation of gold sellers, for example you cannot resell them. Also the Starter edition of the game, i.e. the limited access given to lapsed subscribers, also has some pretty strict restrictions – no trading between characters or using the mail system. This had left me in a quandary since I didn’t quite have enough gold at the extortionate EU Token pricing levels to buy one (80,000+ gold as of 9th April). Without any means in-game of my husband trading me the remainder it looked like I might have to subscribe for a month just to be able to then purchase a Token or two.

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Thankfully I thought to search online for a way past this blockage – it turned out that simply sending a help request in-game from a low-level character was enough to get my account credited with a day of subscription time, all very easy. So now I have 30 days to play with. The priority for the weekend was playing with family though, the two relatives are serial altoholics – they’ve always ignored end-game in any given expansion in favour of leveling new alts. So it happened that we ended up questing in Zangarmarsh once more.

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Despite the aging graphics it is a beautifully designed zone. It appears pretty monolithic at first but there are little patches of stark variety – dead areas, areas at the fringes where the land drops away suddenly, invasive species and so on.

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Playing here is a reminder that the Burning Crusade content is lost in time – it wasn’t revamped as part of the great Cataclysm upheaval. That means there’s a rather patchy logic to the quest flow (including some egregious back and forth travelling), a lack of consistency in how group quest updates are applied for all members and there are a ton of “collect the parts” quests with pretty abysmal drop rates.

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Regardless these nostalgia-rich sessions have been enjoyable and leveling characters through older content remains a nice change from the latest expansion. I think I will get some Horde leveling done for the rest of the 30 days Token-time; we’ve never leveled a Horde character through the Pandaria or Draenor story content so it would be nice to see that from the other perspective.

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 1 Comment

The freedom to roam

On Monday evening I had a pretty momentous moment in Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve been playing through the Gondor content and had reached, finally, Dol Amroth. Looking at the map to identify where my quests zones were, it suddenly hit me – my character had reached the open sea (or at least the Bay of Belfalas that leads to the same) for the first time in-game.

Open sea on the horizon

Open sea on the horizon

It was a pretty magical and immersive moment to stand and look around at the ships in the bay, the coast and the sea off in the horizon. This kind of moment is a reason why I love LOTRO specifically – the world is very expansive and contiguous. Ignoring dungeons and the gates leading in and out of Moria, the explorable world is one space. People do crazy-cool stuff like swimming the navigable length of the Anduin river in game or running half-way across the world transformed into a chicken.

The road leads ever onwards.

The road leads ever onwards.

Such freedom to wander or ride reminds me of certain other MMORPGs as well, my first proper online game was World of Warcraft and that game certainly has a very large virtual world to roam (albeit split into four separate continents). It’s one aspect that I appreciate about some games over others: Eorzea (Final Fantasy 14) is heavily segmented into walled-off zones and although SWTOR has some pretty large planetary zones, Alderaan or Belsavis spring to mind, these planets have a lot of barriers and instanced areas.

Loading screens, portals or shuttle rides connect fragmented zones.

Loading screens, portals or shuttle rides connect fragmented zones.

Wildstar fits into a middle ground with a mostly open world to explore but one that is more modest in scale. The parts of Nexus that we have available as players are however unusually accessible because of double jump and the Explorer path which, by design, offers the means to reach high-up or otherwise blocked areas.

Don't look down...

Don’t look down…

Exploration can be a lot of fun; I believe that a wide and connected virtual world adds to my  sense of immersion when playing. It is not necessarily the only or most important factor to influence which MMORPGs I choose to play, but I consider it a positive design choice when my character can roam free.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars, LotRO, SWTOR, Wildstar | 4 Comments

TSW: progress well earned

Last night, on a whim, we decided to try to get past our impasse on the Nightmare in the Dream Palace story mission in The Secret World. We’ve been stuck on this for a rather long time, although we haven’t tried it again recently. Filling in some gaps in various zones and repeating some older content over the last few weeks did give me a chance to practice the game again after quite a hiatus, and also an opportunity to try out some new builds and skills. Since I always try to avoid spoilers I’ll not dwell too much on details in this post but if you haven’t yet done the Tokyo content don’t pay too much attention to the pictures!

I had saved progress part way through the story mission but was stuck on the second of a series of challenging fights. It took a couple of tries and some support skill swaps but I managed to kill my opponent and move on through to the next fight. This proved the easiest of the three for me to complete and on I moved.

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The final big boss fight was touch and go however, the balance between my damage output and self-healing still isn’t probably what it needs to be. I died probably 5-6 times, either to the avoidable damage abilities or to not dealing with adds quickly enough. I did win through in the end and have passed that big hurdle finally!

I think the key abilities swaps that made the difference were to include the pistol skill Semi-auto and to swap Anima Shot back in. Semi-auto is a chain attack, it’s a multi-target damage attack that doesn’t require as much precison aiming as the cone- or targetted-area skills that I’ve been using in the past. Anima Shot is an old favourite that I’ve always considered a bit weak. I’d read on forums that it’s actually rather overpowered if you gear well – you can spam it as a builder and heal yourself at a decent rate; the only downside is that it doesn’t build pistol resources but for this build I only had the one pistol skill slotted.

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Prior to this session I’d also spent precious bullion on buying two purple quality weapons (assault rifle and pistols) for this dps/leech healing build and they made a lot of difference to the build’s effectiveness. Having QL3/4 AE Capacitors may have tipped the scales in my favour as well (I probably had a QL 2 and 3 mix last time) plus having bought two points of the Aegis Efficiency skill (now up to 4) wil have increased my Aegis damage output too.

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Both the husband and I made it through the mission that evening, so finally we’re all ready to look at purchasing Issue 13 or 14 to try some new content. I’m more tempted to buy Issue 14 first since it sounds more interesting and isn’t connected to the Tokyo story arc anyway. I wonder is there likely to be a bundle for the most recent issues anytime soon?

 

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 5 Comments

SWTOR: looting issues in KOTFE

We’ve been playing the odd trio or duo session in SWTOR as time permits but since the latest expansion we’ve had a regular issue with looting being more of a chore than it used to be. According to the forums, I’m not the only one to notice this.

Why show me this, exactly?

Why show me this, exactly?

By now, in 2016, any MMORPG without area loot isn’t worthy of my consideration; I know that’s not a universally held opinion, but I do not feel any gameplay value out of individually clicking slain foes to get more loot.

LOTRO probably has the very best system – loot is auto-vacuumed from foes without even having to click any of them. Thinking back to the Wildstar beta, one of the issues I noticed while feeling confused by the UI was that I’d miss loot lying about. I have gotten used to hitting ‘v’ as I finish fights now but it’s hardly ideal.

Apparently there is some loot in that mess, somewhere...

Apparently there is some loot in that mess, somewhere…

SWTOR had a perfectly good loot system, well other than the odd bug with quest items not dropping for all members of a party. Since the Fallen Empire changes there are two-fold difficulties that make playing together that little bit less smooth.

Firstly, when you click on a mob, the system may randomly display loot for other group members; that window does not vanish unless you click off it or move away. It seems to me utterly unnecessary to be showing me what other group members have received if I’m not rolling on them as well.

Secondly when I loot a mob the game does not automatically distribute loot to the other party members – they have to come over and click that mob. Indeed sometimes it seems the game doesn’t decide until that moment of the first click that other players may have loot on that same mob – so suddenly others will see the loot beam appear where it wasn’t before. It’s a bit of a confusing mess at the moment for group play.

Posted in Gaming, LotRO, SWTOR, Wildstar | 1 Comment

Spring time gaming

Spring time is a pretty awesome time of year. The rising temperatures and daylight hours are great for re-invigorating body and mind. On the gaming front there’s a few things I’m focused on at present.

The Secret World has just released Issue 14: Call of the Nameless. We’ll be buying that next week I hope to be able to dive into the new missions when all three of our group has the time to play. I’m still waiting patiently for the reveal of an eventual new zone/region but this side mission arc is a welcome addition to the game in the meantime.

Levelling through Gondor on my main in LOTRO is my main solo activity. The change of scenery and mood is welcome after having spent many sessions in Rohan. Recently the date for the next big game update (18) was announced – due April 11th. That’s sooner than I had planned for so if I want to get to the current cap of 100 before it is raised to 105, I haven’t got long!

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Otherwise I’ve been tempted back into Wildstar for the odd session on my Engineer, just dinged level 30. It’s not likely to be my main game anytime soon but I am having fun in-game and am hoping to fit in some duo sessions as well.

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Posted in Gaming, LotRO, TSW, Wildstar | 2 Comments