The winds of gaming

Sometimes my gaming time gets blown off course by unexpected opportunities or unforeseen circumstances. It looks as though schedules will not align this week for any DDO for instance. The gap in my game time is likely to be filled with a sedate jaunt in Norrath as I show Everquest 2 to a friend. I’ve recently played a good chunk of my usual favourite starter zone, Frostfang Sea, as part of my hunt for a patchwork pegasus. So I may have to push for a different starter area just to avoid the omnipresent whiteness.

A whole lot of white going on...

A whole lot of white going on…

The other, slightly random, return to a MMO came about after a conversation some weeks ago with a niece and nephew. They missed our Guild Wars 2 sessions from that game’s launch era. In the intervening years they’ve played other games; by coincidence, my niece has spent most of her time in Tera. When she suggested we start playing a group in that grindy, action MMO, I actually felt it might be time to return for a bit.

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The game has changed quite a bit from my original time in-game just before and during the conversion to free to play. You now receive mob-dropped relics to construct an “Avatar weapon” – a powerful weapon appropriate to your class. This is replaced every so-many levels to keep your weapon in step as you level up.

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Another new system (to me) is the Vanguard request system that gives you tasks to kill X monsters of a type in your local zone. As you do the story quests you inevitably complete a bunch of these requests as well. They are handed in from the Vanguard UI window remotely, so there are no detours required. From the ones I’ve completed so far, the rewards were XP and crystals for slotting in your armour or weapons.

The death throes of our first Big Ass Monster!

The death throes of our first Big Ass Monster!

We have zoomed through the first outdoor zone in no time and find ourselves at level 20, on the brink of entering the first dungeon (Bastion of Lok). I’m looking forward to our next session to get back into group healing proper in this game!

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Tera | 2 Comments

LOTRO: Minas Tirith and contrasting content

I played a double session of LOTRO yesterday, set in and around Minas Tirith, as I work my way through Volume 4 Book 4 of the Epic storyline (wiki link).

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I’m still mostly focused on the Epic storyline: I’m making use of rested XP bonus and am handing in task items where possible. There are *so* many quests in zones that for this main character, I’d rather focus on progression and levelling. I have plenty of alts in LOTRO and I’ll want untouched side/zone quests to keep some variety to their journey.

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I do sometimes take the side-quests that a NPC happens to offer me while I’m busy working through the Epic questline. After a long session in the narrow, zig-zagging streets of the city; I did feel the need for some open horizons. Thankfully the Epic storyline conveniently took me outside to the North Rammas wall and surrounding fields. I even had an old quest in my log to go there, dating back to my initial arrival in the city.

Failing to screenshot the lightning in the Eastern sky.

Failing to screenshot the lightning in the Eastern sky.

It’s one aspect of LOTRO that I enjoy. The game’s levelling experience has a great variety of content. There are very tightly focused sub-zones with high quest density and opportunities to grind XP fast. Then there are the ‘roaming’ quests that send you on a wider journey out into the beautiful landscapes. Having options with a different pace is pretty important in gaming especially on repeat play-throughs on alt characters.

Posted in Gaming, LotRO | 2 Comments

Dipping into the Stormreach waters

So the gaming trio group has rotated around to doing some Dungeons & Dragons Online as a trial for a game to play together. We tried Neverwinter and Star Trek Online recently but the common game engine for those two games was causing major problems for one of us (crash to desktop, issues with default display etc). So we have come back to Korthos, DDO’s starter island as a group, after some years away (2012 according to my blog post history!).

Once more unto Korthos!

Once more unto Korthos!

We’ve created new level 1 characters to play together because leaping back into the game, even on relatively low, level 6 characters seemed like a bad idea. The idea is just to play some of the starter island for now: if we chose to continue playing then we may swap back to our old characters instead. We have a Fighter (tank), a Cleric (healer) and I’m trying out the Artificer – to provide damage, some buffs spells and to handle traps and locks.

Equipping my mechanical dog pet

Equipping my mechanical dog pet

The game is rock-solid at least, all three of us able to play it at good frame rates and without any issues beyond having to relearn the UI/controls. I have the advantage of having played it solo very recently in that regard. Group play is very different from solo mode, however, and the dynamics are somewhat different from last time we played since we’ve switched trinity roles around completely.

Locked door? No problem!

Locked door? No problem!

As I’d already noticed with my stealth-character the devs have apparently upped the quality and quantity of loot drops for the early missions. Magical items used to be pretty rare until your character was hitting the second or third section of the game (the harbour and marketplace of Stormreach respectively) but now they drop or are quest-completion choices almost from the start. Power inflation is a fairly common thing in MMORPGs though, it certainly has occurred in WoW and in LOTRO as two examples I can think of – that feeling that your low-level character is overpowered for the starter areas.

Puzzle time

Puzzle time

Otherwise the game has kept its charms intact. It’s still a joy to run around smashing barrels, especially when you hear that chink as a random potion drops. The verticality of the instance design has always appealed to me. Plenty to climb up or down in the game, and it’s worth looking in nooks and crannies for this reason. That high shelf above might have some barrels or boxes that are worth smashing; there might even be a chest hidden from view above you! I have no problem with the slightly aging graphics, gameplay is more important to me and as a happy bonus it appears the client will run on a netbook, something we’ll probably put to the test soon as one of us will travel with work and the options for gaming would otherwise be limited by this hardware.

Posted in DDO, Gaming | 5 Comments

Blaugust time!

Well it’s time for the annual MMO blogging community event known as Blaugust. I’ve not officially participated before as the custom has been for it to involve posting daily for the month. Blaugust 2016, however, is the super relaxed edition, so I’m jumping on-board this year.

Blaugust 2016

Details of the event are available on Belghast’s Aggronaut.com blogsite. I’ll continue to post every other day as normal but will include as many community-led or inspired topics as possible amidst the usual gaming posts.

Have a happy Blaugust bloggers and readers!

Posted in Gaming | 2 Comments

Demon invasion countdown, Minas Tirith and Arcterra

The start date is finally here to the pre-launch event for the Legion expansion of World of Warcraft: the 9th August. The Demon Hunter class will also unlock then too, although that interests me less. I didn’t bother with the build-up event for Mists of Pandaria since I had no intention of playing that expansion at launch. Naturally there’s a fly in the ointment, my husband is away until the 14th so we will probably be a bit late to the pre-expansion party.

I’ve had a preview of the talent changes when I spent a session helping a relative sort the talents on their eight or so level 100s. I’ll reserve judgement on that until I’ll repeated the process on my own capped characters.

Having a date also helps me to focus on what else to play in the meantime. I will certainly be trying to get through the epic story in LOTRO some more; my Champion reached the mighty city of Minas Tirith in my last play session and is currently getting lost in the winding tiered streets. The city’s architecture is very, very impressive!

Arriving at the city

Arriving at the city

With no flying mounts in this MMO to ‘cheat’, navigating this defence-oriented city requires a lot of riding in ascending or descending zig-zag patterns. It’s like nothing I’ve seen in an online game before. There are also several deeds for clicking on the profusion of signs and landmarks – so exploring the city rewards you with the progression of these collections.

Otherwise I need to get back into Wildstar some more to give Arcterra a look – since capping my character I’ve been a bit too busy with other games. I’ll have a good chunk of solo-gaming time between now and the 14th so hopefully my Engineer will get to explore the new land and sort out some appropriate gear upgrades.

Lots of new stuff to do in Arcterra

Lots of new stuff to do in Arcterra

Posted in Gaming, LotRO, Wildstar, WoW

DDO: stealth-sniper gameplay

In a recent foray back into DDO, I’ve played a solo character I created on a whim at some point in the past – a character that was conceived as an experiment with a ranged/sniper type character. As a very sporadic player of the game I do not claim to have that much in-depth knowledge of character builds, especially with the new enhancement trees that revamped the character customisation system back in August 2013.

This character is a Bard/Rogue (currently level 3 Bard/ level 2 Rogue). In any case, my main yardstick of whether a character works is the practical relative effectiveness of that character. Running dungeons that I’m familiar with, I can gauge a sense of whether the character feels weak or strong to play compared with the Paladin main that I played for my longest stint in-game.

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Stealth used to avoid surprises, not enemies

At level 5, he is mostly active in the Marketplace area of Stormreach. Common foes are kobolds, hobgoblins, troglodytes and vermin (i.e. oversized spiders and scorpions). Solo play imposes a certain need for some flexibility: a pure ranged character would be difficult to play as there’s no heavily armoured ‘tank’ characters in the party to block monsters from rushing my sniper. So although I’m concentrating somewhat on boosting his ranged attack abilities, and greedily collecting different types of bows and crossbows accordingly; he inevitably also has a few pairings of swords, maces and short swords in various magical flavours to suit different challenges.

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Arrows of slaying make short work of specific foes.

Just like the Ranger gameplay in the more modern Neverwinter MMO, this character switches between a bow and paired swords with ease to face threats as they present themselves. It’s an extremely pleasing gameplay style actually. The choice of ammo matters a lot in DDO, at least at lower levels – having some arrows of goblinoid slaying makes very short work of any hobgoblins or their ilk. Likewise he carries arrows of reptilian slaying will one-shot kobolds and nearly slay any troglodyte outright. So the magic of his weaponry really gives that sense of being the deadly ranged assassin.

Disabling traps, as any good rogue should...

Using skill and patience to bypass challenges…

Solo-gameplay is pretty sub-optimal in DDO, but I play it for a different challenge from soloing in other MMOs. It strikes me as being a MMO that, for solo gameplay at least,  really shows the benefit of planning and preparation. Having enough ammo of the right kinds, thinking about what resistance potions I should take and the variety and quantity of self-healing items I should pack are all choices that I can make to make solo-play easier for specific quests. If you play the game as a group such preparation is  beneficial but hardly as essential. It’s a very intense kind of gaming, I suppose closer to the FPS/stealth modes of console games than a standard MMO experience.

Posted in DDO, Gaming | 2 Comments

Neverwinter and mount systems

Playing Neverwinter again this last week, one aspect of the game that I have noticed has received quite an upgrade is the mount system. Mounts are no longer objects that take up space in your bags (when not slotted in the mount actionbar space) – they now are a separate pane of the character window.

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Beyond tidying up some bag space the system has been upgraded so that mounts can have a speed ability slotted and have various insignias attached for permanent bonuses to your own character and in some cases combat bonuses as well. The speed boost as a slotted ability is interesting – it means you can choose the speed your mount will go at, up to the maximum that quality tier of mount enables. So if you’re playing with a friend who only has a lower quality of mount, and thus a slower speed bonus, you can ‘downgrade’ your mount with a click to match their speed. That’s a really nice little touch for coop group play.

I’ve not really delved properly into the insignia system yet, it seems like yet another layer of stat-gathering in the game, and potentially another grind for those caring to optimise their character(s). Still the system is a clear improvement over the basic mount system that the game had beforehand.

Mounts in most MMOs represent the speed boost only. Everquest 2 does have mounts with stats that permanently boost your character, my Shadowknight’s Pterodon mount is the one example I own in-game. EQ2 also has a simple-to-use appearance mount system that allows you to slot a mount to override the appearance of whatever you are riding. So for example I can ride my Pterodon for the stat bonuses, but use the appearance of the new patchwork pegasus to enjoy that new mount’s looks.

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Lord of the Rings offers another example of a game where mounts can be more than just a fast travel option. The complex mounted combat system, similar to the legendary item system in the game, offers a very detailed customisable mount aspect to the game; although to access this you require the Riders of Rohan expansion and to be of an appropriate level (75).

Mounted combat

Mounted combat

It’s an aspect of the game that I generally ignore as much as possible, as I find the controls and responsiveness of the mounted combat not that great. But it is an example of how mounts as a system can be evolved to be something more than just a simple speed boost.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, Neverwinter | 2 Comments