The highs and lows of side quests

Syp of the Bio Break blog started a discussion, earlier this week, about the value of side quests, or indeed whether they still have any value at all. More prominent storytelling in many MMORPGs has caused a split between quests that advance the main story and tell of big and dramatic deeds, versus those smaller less consequential events or tasks that fill gaps in-between the main story.

I certainly agree that some games take side quests too far, Rift for instance when it added the carnage quest made the stereotypical “kill ten rats” type quest into a numerous and entirely narrative-free category of quest – one that you invariably had to do if you wanted to keep leveling at the required pace for zone progression. I guess I’m a sucker for story but I found such quests to be quickly boring.

Other games that I have played exemplify the other end of this spectrum, little quests that hold great value to me as a vehicle for telling non-essential, but equally enjoyable, stories as any main storyline. Two immediate examples spring to mind from two different MMOs.

Star Wars the Old Republic is bursting with side quests, although changes to the leveling speed probably mean that newer players would be forgiven for not even knowing they exist. Perhaps the most memorable for me, because I’m a linguist at heart, is that of the Gree chain of missions on Coruscant. These missions made me grin like the Cheshire Cat the first time I played through them, simple enough quests if you look at the mechanics, but they encapsulate the Star Wars universe: there are very strange things out there, not least the very alien Gree and their barely translatable speech-patterns.

Lord of the Rings Online also has very many side quests, completing some is likely needed to get the XP required to level, but you skip whole quest hubs or zones given the scope of the virtual world. I really loved the questing in Rohan in particular from a story perspective, but I’m going to mention a zone that has a surprising number of hidden-away side quests, ones that I’d never completed until a recent run through of a Year 9 anniversary quest. In Bree town there are more quests than I’d realised – several chains relating to residents that show a whimsical or mysterious side to this main settlement. As always I avoid detailed spoilers, but go check out hunt for uncompleted quests in and around the time if you have the time!

So I’m a fan of side quests if they’re done well overall. I don’t expect every single one to breathtaking storytelling but they should give a sense collectively for the zones and overall world that your character travels through.

Posted in Gaming, LotRO, Rift, SWTOR | 6 Comments

EQ2: PQ distractions

Recently, when playing Everquest 2 on my main server (Skyfire, nĂ© Freeport), I’ve noticed a lot of buzz in general chat about PQs or Public Quests. In previous years when playing the game I had tried such public, group-optional content before but found them to be not so popular. Now it seems the developers have found a more enticing formula (or at least better rewards), as they are getting a lot of player attention.

I have tried two such PQs, one in the Kylong Plains zone and another in Fens of Nathsar. Both fights are big brawls with very large boss monsters, some additional small monsters and the odd mechanic to mostly ignore unless you’re unlucky (or melee). Sitting back and attacking with ranged spells seems to be the safest way to contribute to these fights at least for someone with as little raid fight experience as I.

The rewards confused me at first as I hadn’t read up about them. The first three goes at them on my Inquisitor rewarded me with a distinctly superior piece of plate armour, but one that I couldn’t equip as it was “merc-only”. That’s a new concept I’ve not gotten around to investigating for this game – gearing up mercenaries to improve their stats. Seems like EQ2 is learning from early SWTOR (a game which moved in the opposite direction by getting rid of the complexities of companion gearing)…

Finally last night, as a I took a break from the Fallen Gate server to do a quick round of PQs, I received a gear upgrade that my character himself can equip; and what an upgrade! It just shows me how out of date his gear is now, he’s not done Trakanon or the latest Kunark expansion yet as I haven’t been playing that much (and distracted by new leveling servers!). Seems it might be worth checking out what else he could get from these as a catch-up mechanism?

Posted in EQ2, Gaming

LOTRO: making new memories

The ten-year anniversary quests are still available in LOTRO, and despite my lack of gaming time I have managed to now complete a quest for nine out of ten years. This event has been very interesting for me as a long-time but casual player of the game.

One of the conceits of the travels quests are the collection of ‘memories’, clickable objects that represent the locations where memorable events occurred for the NPC named in that particular quest. It’s mechanically very simple but actually there’s a chunk of exploration needed to complete these, the memory items only appear when you are close by so spotting them even with the help of map coordinates can sometime prove a challenge.

The memory collection quests have also taken my Champion all over Middle Earth, a huge virtual world when you spend time travelling the length and breadth of it.

Never been to Forochel before…

I’ve found entire villages that my character missed in places like Dunland and Rohan – out-leveling content was sometimes an issue, and I’ve had phases where I’ve focused solely on leveling through zones. Despite having played the starter zones many times, there are even new memories to be made in Breeland. I’d never done the ‘turtle’ quests before; a charming low-level quest chain that was required for the year nine quest I chose to complete. It’s refreshing to know that there are still corners of Middle Earth yet to discover!

Posted in Gaming, LotRO | 1 Comment

EQ2: back on the Isle (briefly)

I’ve finally found got some free time back for gaming and blogging, just in time for the launch of Everquest 2’s latest nostalgia server, Fallen Gate. Almost a year ago, I was dipping my toes into the old-school Isle of Refuge starter zone for the first time on a similar server.

I created a Defiler cleric this time, yes another cleric, I’m rather obsessed with self-healing characters in my MMORPG gaming. As I plowed through the vaguely familiar quests, I unfortunately did not remember my conclusions from last year in terms of finding the Isle of Refuge to be frankly underwhelming. The questing is ok, but the gear progression is poor and some of the monsters that you are asked to kill seem rather sparse.

There were plenty of other players on the Isle for the launch, always nice to see, but practically speaking an issue in any game with mob ‘tagging’. Laying down a little creature to tempt down a hawk, only for another character with faster skill execution to tag said hawk from above my head was pretty annoying. Ultra-competitive mob camping isn’t my idea of fun in 2017.

It was then that I remembered I could go to any other starter zone by speaking to an NPC. I chose to go to Darklight Woods since this character is a Dark Elf. I jogged over to the starter area and almost immediately I was getting gear upgrades, despite having quested on the Isle up to level four, the gear upgrades in this starter zone were much better. Also the Isle lacks the now-standard gathering and crafting intro quests. Apparently there’s something old-school about crafting on this nostalgia server, so that’s definitely something I will look at next session now that I’m in a city (Neriak) with proper services.

Learning to Harvest quest gives a lovely harvesting crate…

Unlike last time, I have no interest in the ‘mount’, this server offers for the reaching level 10 achievement. But it is always fun to play through low-level zones, especially on a server where they’re crammed with players, so I’ll play for a couple more sessions at least, maybe even try to get a group for a dungeon to experience low-level healing…

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 4 Comments

Afk-ish

It’s crazy summer season once more. The temperatures have been soaring and I’ve been mostly stuck in-doors with a study deadline. It also means I’m not finding the thinking time or mental energy for blogging at the moment. When I do game it’s generally friends/family oriented grouping stuff. Helping people with dungeons, our Elder Scrolls leveling trio, etc.

So my posting isn’t likely to be on the usual every other day schedule for the next couple of weeks, I’ll continue to post when I can though.

Enjoy the sunshine whether real or virtual!

Posted in Gaming

Magic the Gathering MMORPG?

A rather intriguing bit of gaming news has appeared on Massively OP this week. Cryptic it appears is to be launching a Magic the Gathering inspired action MMORPG. The IP is enough to get my considerable interest up-front, I collected and played this card game for years, although none of the online attempts at creating a game from it interested me that much. I have more cards than I can ever use from the early years of playing.

An earlier card, but I love the guildmages.

What actually interests me more than mechanics or comment debates over classes, is which of the many and highly varied ‘planes’ the game will feature. The lore of MtG stretches across dozens of different magical settings, traversed by the ultra-powerful mages known as Planeswalkers. Some of my favourite settings are likely to be of niche interest I would assume.

Mirrodin, a plane where all is made of metals

The settings offer countless possible opportunities for variety of zones and expansion ideas, whether Cryptic link the game’s stories to the back story of published card-sets or not.

Kamigawa – samurai and dangerous ‘kami’ spirits

Perhaps one my favourite setting of all is the more recent Ravnica, a plane covered entirely by a practically endless city. The setting is dominated by the politics between ten rival guilds of mages, ready-made factions that players could join or gain reputation with through their adventuring? I have very few cards from this set as it came out years after we stopped actively collecting. I suspect there are other sets that are more popular or more likely to be chosen as the main basis for the game – if Cryptic’s more recent releases for the Neverwinter game are anything to go by then this new MMORPG is likely to feature content that ties into upcoming MtG cardsets to cross-promote both the cards and the game among fans.

In any case it’s a game I’m likely to try just out of curiosity, the potential is certainly there to deliver something a bit different and more varied lore-wise.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter | 5 Comments

WoW: class mounts

The last major patch for WoW has brought a few new things for the more casual player, like myself, including the unlocking of new class mounts.

Pictured above is my Druid main in his new owl flight form. I haven’t played him since unlocking this, I’ve been too busy on my Paladin unlocking his mount, but apparently like the travel form (the stag version), the owl is a ‘passenger’ mount. This allows you to carry one party-member with you! Since I haven’t ever unlocked the sandstone drake mount, it is my first flying passenger ‘mount’.

I’ve just finished unlocking the second class mount, the Paladin’s valorous charger. This is a flying mount despite the lack of wings. It’s a nice mount for sure but I normally use Tyrael’s charger on him as a paladin-appropriate yet winged horse.

Next up will be my Shaman to unlock his elemental mount. Each mount requires a class-specific quest chain, assuming that you’re already up to date on the weekly quest series of the Legionfall campaign in the Broken Isles zone. I found the Druid quest pretty easy on my Boomkin, but the Paladin quest was a pain as Holy (mainly due to ‘dumb as rocks’ AI companions). My Shaman is a healer too, hopefully he’ll have an easier time of his quest!

Posted in Gaming, WoW