SWTOR: non-spoilerish KotFE impressions

This post follows me having completed the new KotFE expansion through to chapter 9, i.e. the end of the new expansion’s solo mission arc. As usual I’ll keep it spoiler-free, so this ‘first impressions’ post will stick to general thoughts and the systems-side of the expansion.

The play through was on my new level 60 character, a Togruta Jedi Shadow. I’ve specced for damage not tanking although the class retains a good deal of survivability even-so.


Firstly I must emphasize the feeling of quality and polish to the content, the story-telling is top-notch and the game feels to have matured well at this stage. There are some stunning visuals and set-piece animations.


Alt-play encouraged

More than ever I’m feeling motivated to play through content again on an alt. That’s pretty unusual for me: in WoW, EQ2 or similar games I generally avoid repeating a story soon after a first play-through but the choice-based, morally-aligned nature of Bioware’s game give plenty of situations with a “what if I choose otherwise…?” question that you can resolve by a replay.


Companion characters are greatly affected by the expansion as you lose access to all your class companions at least temporarily. This may upset some players but I’m all for the change especially as it gives players real choices for which companions to recruit and use, prior to KotFE only a very few store-bought companions were available to any class. The removal of companion gearing may be a simplification but I’d say it’s an overall positive one since I rarely managed to keep more than one companion well-equipped while levelling.

Keeping the troops happy

Keeping the troops happy

Alliance hub

The new end-game is the Alliance hub system. You have various faction and companion-related missions to take and complete as you build up forces. I’ve only scratched the surface so far having just completed chapter 9. From what I’ve seen it’s a mix of daily &  weekly missions plus some companion or NPC ‘contact’ specific non-repeatable story missions.

Collecting research for an old 'friend'

Collecting research for an old ‘friend’

Monthly updates

The Alliances story will be continued through monthly story updates starting in January next. That sounds like a really good cadence for keeping subscribers happy with new story-content. In the past the story aspect of updates to SWTOR was sporadic, a big chunk with the expansion then a long gap, as it is with many other MMOs. Guild Wars 2 was one of a very few MMOs that managed to maintain a regular injection of content frequently for any length of time. Let’s hope Bioware can deliver timely and polished updates in the New Year. If they do then I’ll actually feel motivated to keep up the subscription to SWTOR for a while longer.


Posted in Gaming, SWTOR

EQ2: a time for heroes and server merges

I popped into EQ2 for a couple of sessions over the last two days. The second session was dedicated to doing the round of “puppet bosses” for the Heroes festival. These are  simple public-event fights against puppets of iconic boss monsters.


The fights happen in a rotation between six different zones and have a respawn timer. This kind of event can encourage the best in a server’s community; while I was online players were  announcing in global chat which zone was up and after a fight portals or other quick travel options were freely offered. The puppets are passive, they do not do any actual damage, but they absorb a lot of punishment before being defeated so having more players makes for quicker success.


Since I was watching global chat for announcements of which puppet was up where, I also happened to read a brief discussion about the server merge. I had forgotten that EQ2, like several other MMORPGs, is having a server consolidation this year. Freeport will merge with Permafrost and Nagafen to make the new Skyfire server (see EQ2Wire for details).

This merge is happening this very Wednesday no less and will require a 24 hour maintenance period! That’s a day or more of Heroes Festival time lost to players on three servers, I wonder if they’ll offer to extend the festival?

My plushie army grows!

My plushie army grows!

For my part I won’t have time to play much more this week anyway as there are lots of non-gaming things happening right through to next Monday – at least I managed to get enough tokens to grab a new appearance shield and one of the puppet boss plushies…

Posted in EQ2, Gaming

Blizzcon 2015 – World of Warcraft

It may be premature to be posting about this today since the conference is still on but there’s a lot to process coming out of it. We sat watching the hour+ opening ceremony stream and short of the excellent new League of Explorers content for Hearthstone, it was very boring for a World of Warcraft player. Even the Warcraft film trailer didn’t excite me much, it’s the game’s prehistory afterall since it’s based on the the first RTS game.

Back briefly to Hearthstone; I wasn’t that interested in the game when it launched but the style of this new Explorers content looks really intriguing (pulp style?)  and it seems they are expanding the PVE side of what began as as PVP online card game.

So then we got, finally, to the World of Warcraft: Legion trailer:

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Both the husband and I were very impressed by this trailer – personally I’d rather they’d made an animated feature-length film like this! We only had access to the opening ceremony so the rest of my information for the post is coming from summaries of session – MMO Champion has lots of detailed posts up.

It’s a deluge of info so I’m going to cherry pick the parts that most interest me:

Open tapping expansion

They’re going to look at expanding open tapping to non-boss mobs in the open world. No details if this will be everything, just quest mobs or other types. Any expansion of this will be welcome in my book; we’ve had open tapping for boss monsters since late in Mists and it works well so let’s dial-down the “mob-stealing” opportunities!

Legion will allow you to use all the specs

So dual-spec will no longer be the limit, all classes will be able to switch to any role. That’s an interesting idea although I can’t see myself really wanting to chop and change that much. Dual-spec was useful of course when we were mostly running heroic dungeons as end-game since the guild liked to swap and change teams to ensure the tank and healer roles weren’t always lumbered on the same individuals. But with the artifact weapon system there’s going to be some grind and effort in being able to play extra specs effectively (they note in the Warcraft Q&A panel that there will be catchup mechanisms of some kind for off-spec weapons)

“The team doesn’t like account wide things”

An interesting but slightly ominous quote regarding account wide items or unlocks perhaps? As a long-time altoholic in the game I’ll agree that actually making lots of über-powered account-bound gear available really takes the shine off leveling and gearing alts – it’s too easy! For the same reason I don’t like using the heirloom gear, not just because of the XP boosts but also because it means gear drops lose their potential use! The same quote mentions catchup mechanisms to make it easier/quicker for a 2nd or 3rd time without flat-out negating the effort involved. I’ll want to hear more about this.

“Karazahn will be relevant in Legion”

“The secrets we need to beat the Burning Legion are in Karazhan. Karazhan could be a 5 player dungeon in Patch 7.1.” Darn the Blizzard devs, they know my weakness! This has the potential to be extremely cool or a massive blow to nostalgia. Please hear me Blizz devs, do not butcher this place like you did with the revamp of Sunken Temple! There’s so much they could do with Karazhan as a 5 man but if they nerf it into a series of linear corridor dungeons or dungeon wings I’ll be really, really upset!

Class Halls and quests

This feature intrigues me a lot, it has the potential to be great since it will finally provide a quantity of unique content for alt-leveling. How they’ll mix Alliance and Horde together I don’t know although I’m happy with that in general. I’ve never cared for the faction war in the game and always thought the best content was the shared storylines. I may have quite a dilemma on who to play first though, the new druid home of Dreamgrove sounds interesting and I’ll certainly want to level my shaman in the expansion as well. I’ll also want to come back to survival hunter for this expansion as I once played one back when hunters had both melee and ranged weapons and abilities. There’s also some class-spec flavour tweaks coming; they mention wanting to get away from shadow priests feeling like the “poor cousin of Affliction warlock[s]”.


It sounds like they’re putting a lot of effort into giving professions more to do in Legion; hopefully undoing the damage the Draenor expansion did to them. There’ll be questlines for each profession which again adds more unique content for alt-leveling. Sounds like they’ve taken a leaf out of Everquest 2’s book there! Another big change is the adoption of a Guild Wars 2 style of gathering node – all nodes are shared so no node-stealing in the open world! That’s a very, very welcome change.

That’s all I have for the currently available info. It’s enough to already get me rather excited for the expansion. Of course the downer of a spoiler just before Blizzcon was the launch date of the expansion on or before 21st September. That’s very sad news to be honest, I think World of Warcraft needs to move beyond the Draenor era as soon a possible. There’ll be a pre-expansion event, the Legion invasion build-up, sometime before then but that still leaves more dedicated players stuck for content for 9 months or so. I have a couple more characters to level to 100 and then I’ll be taking a break from the game again until the expansion hits.

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 4 Comments

Remembering to vary gaming activities

It should be apparent from my blog feed that I play a mix of MMORPGs at any one time. For a long while now I’ve wanted options when I sit down at my computer for a gaming session. However with several goals this summer of progressing characters in various games (e.g. SWTOR, EQ and WoW) I think I forgot a cardinal rule.

Gaming happiness for me isn’t just about having a variety of games to play, it’s also having a good mix or balance of activities to do in those games. Guild mates in WoW were chatting on voice comms and they started talking about how many garrisons each had fully unlocked, my gut reaction was a huge wince – I just wouldn’t want to spend large chunks of gaming time swapping alts to micro-manage that.

No mining for this alt

No mining for this alt

The strongest reminder of this though came after several recent sessions of Everquest 2 in the Vesspyr Isles zone. After questing away intensively for hours and seeing my experience bar creeping slowly towards 96 (despite having guzzled an XP potion AND having my AA conversion set to zero), I happened to stop next to an ore node and reflexively started mining. I realised I hadn’t gathered anything, nor crafted since coming back to the game.

The Great Norrathian Bake-Off

The Great Norrathian Bake-Off

What followed was most of a session of not-questing. It was rather liberating to stop staring at the XP bar. Ravious of Kill Ten Rats talks about watching the XP bar in a recent Guild Wars 2 post. It struck a chord. Sometimes you just have to remember to stop caring about progress and to just play the darn game for fun!

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, WoW | 4 Comments

Favourite MMO Characters IntPiPoMo 2015

My first themed post for the Interational Picture Posting Month is to feature my favourite characters from MMORPGs. Creating characters has always been a particular pleasure of mine – I tend to make multiple alternative (alt) characters in any given game just to try out different class/race/spec combinations. I’ll do a semi-chronological tour of some of my favourites.

1. Cerian the Druid, World of Warcraft


This Balance Druid has one of my favourite character looks of all my history in the game, despite the aging model for Moonkin I still love him dearly. I don’t play him much anymore but this post is about pictures and not gameplay. It’s an interesting entry for me  because he very rarely spent any time in his natural Night Elf form.

2. Belnius the Shaman, World of Warcraft


Almost as old a character and played recently in the Draenor expansion, this “space goat” character is my current main character and much-loved. I always liked the other-worldly Draenei race and the latest expansion has given more lore and background to that race.

3. Eskarr the Shadowknight, Everquest 2


My current main in Everquest 2 is a Sarnak Shadowknight. The races are particularly varied in this game with very well animated emotes and character abilities. It’s hard to capture in a screenshot but he has some very satisfying evil spells to use on his foes.

4. Arviyal the Mesmer, Guild Wars 2



It’s actually quite rare for me to happily play a smaller character but the Asura from Guild Wars 2 are adorable. This was my main character for all the time I was playing the game.



He’s getting two screenshots because I couldn’t find a good screenshot showing his face and him using an ability at the same time. More than almost any other character, I loved the visual style of this character’s abilities.

5. Targash the Necromancer, Guild Wars 2

gw003I cannot post about favourite characters and not include a Charr, so here’s Targash (a Necromancer). Again the character design and animations for this race are superb – it’s all in the details, the Charr run on all four legs for example yet stand and fight on two.

6. Tobyas the Commando, SWTOR


Although he wasn’t my main character for the majority of my playtime in SWTOR; playing a Commando through the class story this summer really endeared me not just to the gameplay of the class but also to the visual aesthetics. This ability alone (Pulse Cannon) is pure joy to use.

7. Adaari the Jedi Shadow, SWTOR


In a sense this character is what my original main always should have been. I should have chosen the Shadow advanced class over the Sage. Also I always wanted a Togruta character and now I finally have one.

8. Torstall the Bard, Final Fantasy 14


Final Fantasy 14 has pretty amazing characters, beautiful clothing design and of course some great character animations and skill or spell graphics. Of the classes I levelled on this character  I think Bard was my favourite overall, offering mobility and some wicked attacks.

9. Kawli the Spellslinger, Wildstar


The newest of my characters but already a firm favourite. With the announcement of Wildstar going free to play, I knew we’d eventually get around to duo’ing some Chua. The race is charmingly devilish and oh so well animated.

Posted in EQ2, FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars, SWTOR, Wildstar, WoW | 2 Comments

#IntPiPoMo 2015

I found out via my feedly that there’s a thing called International Picture Posting Month (IntPiPoMo) this month. The home site this year is over at Gamer Girl Confessions. The rules are simple, post 50 pictures over the course of the month – quite a few MMO or gaming bloggers are taking part.

I’ve become a total screenshot addict since I got into blogging, I usually try to include the odd picture in my posts to liven them up. Since I’m unlikely to post every day given other time pressures I’ll have to do a bunch of pictures in each IntPiPoMo post. I’ve come up with some themes for the posts to both help me to select the pictures to include from the many, many screenshots I have across all the games I’ve played. The plan so far, at this early stage is to do posts on these topics:

  1. Favourite MMO characters
  2. Storytelling moments
  3. Favourite MMO locales
  4. Mobs I hate
  5. Glorious skyboxes

I’ll revisit the list of topics if I see other bloggers using better themed posts since it’s a community activity and responding to others’ posts can be fun. Feel free to suggest topics in comments if you have any you’re planning to do. I’ll post the first proper post with screenshots later in the week but to get me started here’s just two from my weekend of gaming.

look up...

look up…

I have so many screenshots now already from the KoTFE expansion in SWTOR and I’m only half way through. Running around a swamp area I forgot for a while that I was actually still on a highly urbanised and technologically advanced planet…

Purple shiny!

Purple shiny!

We finally spent enough time in Wildstar to unlock housing on our Chua. My Spellslinger has weaponsmithing trained but he needs ore desperately to get started on the crafting. So I opted for the mineral deposit plot but the first node to spawn was a tier 2 node so I then had to spend time catching my mining skill up. It didn’t take that long and it felt great when I returned to my home to find a whole bunch of mining nodes waiting for me to harvest!

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR, Wildstar | 5 Comments

MMO spoilers and reading choices

One of the core rules I follow in writing this blog is to avoid spoilers as much as possible. This can be quite a limitation on the styles and content of posts that I want to write but it’s a rule I stick to because this issue matters to me for my own gameplay enjoyment. I play MMORPGs for the combination of shared story and exploration that the genre uniquely provides.

Beyond limiting the topic or what I chose to write about a topic it also impacts my reading choices on occasion as well. There are multiple series of very interesting blog posts that I have to bookmark for another day because of the inherent spoilers they contain. For example Shintar at Going Commando has excellent class story reviews, but I’ve only read Consular and Trooper so far as they are the only class stories I’ve completed. I used to read Syp of Bio Break‘s coverage of The Secret World out of general interest in all things MMO, but now I’ve been playing the game I have to selectively skip entries if they’re about content I haven’t tried yet.


SWTOR loading screen now declares how many class stories you have done…

Avoiding spoilers can become pretty tiring really as you have to often sign out of global chat or maybe even guild chat if your guild has no rules about avoiding spoilers. It can even affect other media such as whether you chose to listen to podcasts or live streams – for example we had to stop listening to an episode of the Blizzard Watch podcast recently because the hosts started talking in detail about some WoW quest chains we’d not done together.

Sometimes spoilers can at least signpost something you’ve missed: I spotted from blog posts about the Halloween event this year in The Secret World that there is a new investigation mission to do, but we haven’t had the chance to play it yet so I’ve not read the posts in full. Do you care about gaming spoilers in the choices of MMO coverage or media that you follow?

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR, TSW, WoW | 5 Comments