SWTOR: Chapter 13 – Profit and Plunder

The latest monthly content release for the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion came out last week and I finally managed to fit in a playthrough yesterday. I was somewhat unsure whether I’d actually enjoy this one since I’m not a Gault fan and haven’t played Sith Warrior so Vette is a virtual unknown companion to me also.

Despite the fact that both new focus-characters aren’t that special to me or my character, I was very pleasantly surprised. I found the writing, dialogue and balance of the content to all be very enjoyable. Both Vette and Gault had some really great jokes and, in my opinion, the interplay between the two characters was believable. More importantly I bought into the reasons why they would end up agreeing to work for my Jedi in his ‘Alliance’ against Zakuul.

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Perhaps the real star of this chapter for me was the setting – the gas giant Vandin. I’d read about gas giants and the orbital platforms operating within their atmospheres for some pen & paper roleplay preparations last weekend (for Alternity, not the Star Wars rpg). So to then be leading a mission to such a world in SWTOR had an extra angle of interest for me! The general background visuals of ships tethered to a central station were really impressive and I did seem to spend a lot of my play-session taking screenshots.

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The overall balance of story to combat seemed good enough although the mission was certainly back to a more linear standard than last month’s chapter. That’s fine though given the setting on Vandin, wandering free in a gas giant’s atmosphere isn’t that practical! I do wonder if the combat has been slightly tuned this time around, I have no numbers noted to compare against previous chapters, but the fights seemed to take slightly longer without becoming tedious. I also was able to stealth around a lot more mobs than before, even one gold-label Knight of Zakuul, normally in earlier chapters they spotted me regardless of my attempts to stealth past them. My character is at the current cap so XP from fighting isn’t so important to me. I engaged enough mobs to complete any bonus objectives but otherwise used stealth to good effect where possible.

Even normal mobs weren't dying so quickly this session

Even normal mobs weren’t dying so quickly this session

The gas giant setting in more open areas did offer some truly delicious opportunities to use the Force Wave to comical effect. There was also the mandatory boss fight towards the end of the chapter but I didn’t find it particularly challenging. Part of the reason for it seeming easier might be that through most of the chapter we actually have both of the named companions as active helpers.

I'm not evil, honestly!

I’m not evil, honestly!

I found this to be a really enjoyable chapter and I look forward to the next one in early June to see where the devs take the story next.

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR

BDO: alt play and the intro

This weekend we have a friend visiting so the focus has been on pen-and-paper roleplay more than MMORPGs but I did have some time to roll a new alt in Black Desert yesterday for a quick look at duo gameplay.

It took a while to be grouped up!

It took a while to be grouped up!

Like many aspects of this online game, there is some confusion surrounding grouping early on. You start instanced in the introduction without it being obvious that you are shuttered away from other players. You’re in Olvia in the world but can only see NPCs. After six or so quests/steps you reach the weapons trainer and suddenly you can see other players. Since the game didn’t make this clear we did waste some time trying to invite one another to a party but that doesn’t work and the error messages are unhelpful. Also friend invites don’t work with characters in the intro and the error messages are not clear why (“character doesn’t exist!”).

Once we were past the training we managed to party up. Other than this initial confusion the game also presents a bit of a mystery with certain quests and NPC interactions. Apparently Knowledge and Quest completion (for some quests) is account level, i.e. shared between all your characters. I realised this when my character had quest steps auto-complete or be skipped entirely. It was most obvious when doing the early Black Spirit quests (kill some imps, then more to “learn about them”) as I skipped the Knowledge quests completely. I also had several quests unlocked that he did not due to my more advanced progress with conversations with various NPCs in the region – that could be a real pain to keep track of the first time you play through zones with someone who has unlocked less content.

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It’s an interesting design decision to reduce the amount of repetition in alt-play, although a clearer tutorial/hint the first time a quest is skipped would be nice! I also noticed and appreciate the little “phone-signal” indicator to both tell you that XP gain is enhanced in group and to warn you that you need to keep close to your other party members for this to stay in effect!

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We played as far as testing out duo play on the first summoned ‘mini-boss’ fight against Red Nose. It was actually fun to test out the combat system in group, me on my Musa and him on a Warrior. Although I don’t yet understand much about group combat mechanics clearly there is the a concept similar to threat or aggro as we both had the monster’s attention at one time or another. Both of us received quest completion from the fight as I would expect from a modern MMO. Since my friend still had his scroll we were able to summon him again for a repeat performance just for the fun of it.

Posted in BDO, Gaming | 2 Comments

WoW: levelling paths

I’ve been busy levelling a couple of characters through the Warlords of Draenor expansion since coming back to the game. Playing new characters through the initial zone (an instanced version of Tanaan) and the first proper open world zone of Shadowmoon valley has already gotten old if I’m honest – by the fourth playthrough I’m feeling like I know the quests backwards.

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Shadowmoon is well designed, but like Hellfire in TBC, it gets annoying to do it every time

Two characters are in the mid-90s now, I’m levelling my insta-90 Hunter as a duo with my husband’s rogue. Unlike the early zones I’m now into zones that I haven’t played or at least not completely. It’s been a while since I took my Shaman main through Draenor for that first push to 100 so the specifics of what I did aren’t so clear anymore; but I do not remember that much of Talador and didn’t touch Spires of Arak on that character.

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Playing completely new content shows me just how much I enjoy playing World of Warcraft when I do not know the content off by heart. I’m really loving the Spires of Arak zone for its storylines and the main proponents – the Arakkoa bird-people. I found them intriguing back in the Burning Crusade era so I was happy to see them brought back!

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I’ve commented before on the speed of levelling in Draenor and earlier expansions. Perhaps one justification or at least side-effect of this speedy levelling in modern World of Warcraft is that we have the choice to vary our levelling paths for different characters. Choosing which zones to skip on alts gives some variation to the levelling process.

That’s actually quite a big benefit in my mind, MMORPGs that force you to take every character through every zone in the same order would actively discourage me from playing alt characters and thus lower my long-term engagement. The planned auto-scaling of characters within the Legion expansion zones will allow players to select which zones to do in almost any order. I wonder if, once again, you’ll be able to level from 100-110 without doing every zone? That would be my preference for sure.

Posted in Gaming, WoW

LOTRO: self-reliance and gearing-up

I’m still playing a good session of LOTRO a few times a week; balancing the leveling of my main towards the new 105 level cap with crafting progress. LOTRO has always been a game where I have way more characters than hours to play them. The synergies of the crafting system is something I find very appealing though so I can’t always focus on just one character at the expense of everything else.

Part of the reason for this is probably the desire for self-reliance, the last two longish stints I’ve had in the game have been mostly solo affairs – my old kin (a k a guild) has withered to almost non-existence but I haven’t found a suitable replacement kin yet. Even if I were to be in a different kin I’d still be very motivated by the desire to ensure my characters have a good stock of consumables and decent gear upgrades crafted myself.

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WTB Champion’s one-handed sword

The biggest aim really is to get my Warden’s reputation with the Weaponsmith’s Guild up to Westemnet standing so I can craft either a level 95 or even level 100 legendary weapon for my Champion. It’s my best bet of having a good replacement weapon for this character as none of my characters are that rich by the inflated standards of this elder game. If the mats aren’t too painful to farm in future I could also probably redress this issue by crafting more weapons to sell on the auction house. My Warden is sitting at about 40% through the Eastemnet tier, so he’s closing in on this goal now.

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As for my main he’s also just shy of level 100 but I have a lot of the Gondor legendary story quests still to do. Without delving into spoilers, my first couple of attempts at the end quest for Book 1 were dismal failures and I suspect that my gear was the main problem. So it’s time to get my crafting game on and get my character prepared for the challenges ahead!

Posted in Gaming, LotRO | 6 Comments

Needy MMOs v2.0

Just over three years ago I wrote about a trend in MMO-gaming towards games becoming ‘needy’ or high-maintenance. Specifically by this I meant the tendency for MMOs to want you to login every day and for the game to reward you for doing so. In that post I mentioned the plans for the Hobbit presents in LOTRO; well now of course they’re a long-established part of the game. Admittedly it is an account level feature so I only have to log in one character to get it and since I’m trying to power-level my Minstrel’s weaponcrafting guild reputation I am logging in most days regardless.

Hobbit presents are old news

Hobbit presents are old news

World of Warcraft took the farming mini-game and turned it up quite a lot of notches with the Garrison system, it’s a min-maxers dream as you can benefit from logging in multiple times a day to send those followers off on missions. As I prepare for the Legion expansion in August and try to earn enough gold to keep myself in WoW tokens I have rapidly found myself with not one garrison but five – it’s rapidly feeling like “Needy MMO” territory.

Fifth garrison underway

Fifth garrison underway

But I can’t decide if Black Desert Online is a whole new level of ‘Needy’ in this context or something else. The game wants you to stay logged in for anything to happen – worker production tasks, long-distance auto-travel, training via “auto-loop” – I suspect there are plenty of other examples I could give. Things that need a good chunk of time to complete but do not require much input from your character or even you the player. The game does have a helpful “minimised” mode that, at least according to the tooltip, consumes minimal system resources. So I can have BDO running in the background while actively playing something else. That seems kind of odd to me, like the game wants to be there in the background nagging you for attention even if you’re trying to enjoy something else.

Auto-travel on a dark night

Auto-travel on a dark night

Plenty of other MMOs have daily-login reward systems of course; Wildstar has its cumulative daily login system and Archeage has a daily reward chest. Blade & Soul has daily rewards that require a longer time investment – you get a free spin of the random reward wheel at login and another after an hour delay. That’s rather like Neverwinter’s revamped invocation system – you only get the full rewards daily by invoking multiple times now over an hour and half period.

I’m happy to ignore such rewards if I’m not actively playing a particular game but I do wonder if games are being developed to be more needy now than ever?

Posted in BDO, Gaming, LotRO, Neverwinter, Wildstar, WoW | 2 Comments

TSW: Issue 15 – The Sleuth’s Gallery

I was rather surprise to read over at Massively that Issue 15 for The Secret World is due in a few weeks, so soon after the launch of Issue 14. The title is rather intriguing, The Sleuth’s Gallery. My husband and I are Agatha Christie fans so the cover art for this (at the bottom of the linked article above), at the very least, has got our attention!

We’ve still not had any time to play TSW since my last post; hopefully next week we’ll get around to grabbing Issue 14 and giving that a play through. Sadly there’ll be no time this weekend as real life plans are going to limit my gaming time. I’ve been prioritising other games of late but I will say this sudden burst of content from Funcom is very, very welcome. Here’s hoping we get to see a steadier stream of new Issues in future to keep this very unique and enjoyable game buzzing with players!

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 2 Comments

BDO: Black Stone riches

Playing Black Desert Online over the last few days I’ve collected several daily login reward coins, Maehwa Seals. They can be combined by laying them out in your inventory in certain patterns (Secret World crafting, anyone?) to obtain rewards.

Combining three seals in a 'V' shape

Combining three seals in a ‘V’ shape

I’d already missed a few days of not logging on and certainly won’t be logging in everyday the event lasts for (until 4th May according to login page). I’ve collected four in total and combined the first three to get the lowest tier reward. I received two orange items: Black Stone (Armor). I hadn’t read much about the event or the rewards and on a whim I decided to try selling a stone. Much to my surprise the value on these are pretty high, at least from the perspective of a latecomer.

Profit!

Profit!

I quickly sold the second stone I had as the price seemed to be on a downward trend. Making several hundred thousand silver on free items handed out for logging in seems a bit strange so early in the game. It means I can pour some money into learning to craft – I’d started on cooking but was worried that my previously paltry finances would soon run out if I took up any type of crafting in earnest.

Perhaps I have recklessly sold “end-game” style items that are meant more as a gear-catchup mechanism than to allow new players to catchup financially; but from my perspective, as someone not interested in anything the game currently offers at end-game, I’m happy to have a suddenly solid base for crafting and trading in-game.

On an unrelated note I also was inspecting some items in my inventory and realised I can barter certain items in larger quantities for a chunk of silver. These [Exchange] hand-ins are hidden as far as I can tell – you do not see any indicator above the NPC buyer’s head but the item does mention in text which settlement you should take it to and the item has also has a right-click option to give you a map marker to the buyer.

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All-in-all my character is feeling rather flush all of a sudden. The question is, what should I be spending all this money on?

Posted in BDO, Gaming