ESO: progress report

Since my last post we’ve played a few more decent sessions of Elder Scrolls Online – so far it’s proving to be a very suitable game for a leveling trio. Each session is a mix of questing, exploring, the occasional Dark Anchor event and a lot of “loot everything that doesn’t involve stealing”.

So many cooking ingredients...

So many cooking ingredients…

Inventory management and dealing with the plethora of items lying around in the wilder parts of Tamriel is a mini-game all to itself. I bought a 10-slot inventory upgrade from a vendor in the town of Khenarthi’s Roost, at 400 gold it seemed good value. The equivalent vault upgrade is rather pricey in comparison and any further inventory upgrades will have to wait until we’ve all earned a decent amount more gold.

Not right now, thank you...

Not right now, thank you…

The vault is shared bank space between all the characters on my account, having a shared bank is pretty useful, and playing with a couple of friends means I can save on inventory and bank space by dividing up items by class of armour and crafting profession to avoid having to carry all these different types of loot.

It seems for the most part that the beta-test problems with group questing have been resolved, we’ve played a good number of quests already by our current level (8) and not seen any problems with bugs or phasing. The challenge level is on the low side, hardly a surprise for such early game content or for us playing as a full trinity group as we normally do.There are occasional forced-solo quests, the main storyline it seems features these, but I’m used to this enough with other MMORPGs (e.g. TSW, LOTRO) that it’s not a big issue for me.

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There are a lot of other players active around us, always an encouraging sign to see so many other players running around and questing. The Dark Anchor events are swamped with players in the starter zone we’re in (Auridon) so they complete very, very quickly – it’s hard to reach them before they complete unless we happen to be nearby. I do hope they get a bit more complex or challenging as I enjoy them but all is over far too quickly – they seem to lack the measured pace that Rift’s titular rift events have.

Dark Anchor event underway

Dark Anchor event underway

I’m dabbling again in crafting, Blacksmithing on this new alt, plus I aim to develop my solo Dragonknights Alchemy and Provisioning some more as materials permit. Selling items is a real task in ESO since there’s no auction house system. I guess if I want to pursue crafting properly I’ll have to join at least one character to a trading guild to be able to access a network of potential buyers and to buy rarer materials. Being limited to what I can gather myself did limit my attempts at Alchemy in the past – leveling the crafting professions seems to be quite a substantial time and materials investment from what I’ve seen so far.

Making a start on crafting

Making a start on crafting

Overall I’m impressed with the game’s current state and feel it’s a good match for our group play sessions. I’ve other priorities for my solo gaming time so I doubt ESO will become my main MMO anytime soon but I do find the world immersive and so far at least I’m enjoying the character customisation and combat dynamics.

Posted in ESO, Gaming | 4 Comments

Rift: elemental consumables

One of the little things in Rift that I’ve always appreciated are the variety and character of the various consumables that drop when you’re out questing or rifting. These items are one-use buff items are common in the genre whether scrolls, potions or more exotic items.

Combined mana recovery - stat buff item

Combined mana recovery – stat buff item

I enjoy the notable variety of such items in Rift: there are the usual stat scrolls and potions of course, but the omnipresence of elemental invaders in Telara gives inspiration for a host of elemental-themed consumables beyond the norm.

Item description bottom right

Fire buff item slotted on middle bar

I regularly use these items during combat or as preparation before a tough fight and always have done. Early memories of the game also feature these items. I have an alchemist to make potions in the game, although as yet I haven’t leveled an artificer profession to make scrolls. Making such items in MMOs always pleases me for some reason; during the Wrath era of World of Warcraft I delighted in leveling inscripition on my Shaman more for the ability to make the previously random-drop only buff scrolls than to make the glyphs the profession added to the game.

Using the power of Crucia against my enemies

Using the power of Crucia against my enemies

Many MMORPGs if not most have one-use, temporary buff or resource-recovery items but Rift takes it to a new place with all these elemental-themed items; you are taking fragments of the power of invading forces and turning it against them. In reality the items are presumably such a minor boost as to be forgettable, but I use and appreciate them all the same.

 

Posted in Gaming, Rift | 2 Comments

Rift: levels and builds

I’ve been focusing on non-linear content in Rift of late because I was finding my character too weak to tackle quests in Draumheim, probably due to his gear being somewhat behind the difficulty curve. There’s no shortage of what else I can do however, including invasion events in that zone, Instant and Intrepid Adventures also give currencies and the odd random drop that can help to fix this issue.

End boss for Life invasion

End boss for Life invasion

In case my build was also at fault I also decided to try a Shaman based build. This has given me a slightly easier rotation than the equivalent Druid build I was playing most often before. I’m finding it seems more impactful without sacrificing survivability. I’m not 100% convinced having a splash of Druid is worthwhile as the basic pets are pretty weak, so I may experiment with a different third soul to round out the build further.

Previous Druid build

Previous Druid build

New Shaman build

New Shaman build

I had a zone quest to collect items from Invasions, which I finished last night. I’ve been running Intrepid Adventures and have a real appreciation for the striking art designs for the Hammerknell fortress. One section, which I’ve not seen on previous Intrepid Adventures here, takes place on the storm-wracked outer walls of the raid.

Hammerknell walls

Hammerknell walls

I’ve also started trialling a DPS meter add-on, I’ve not used add-ons with Rift before but I wanted to have a way to quantify the performance of my different builds one to another. I lack the competitive drive to care about my dps versus other players, however having a simple measurement to see whether a new build is objectively better than a previous one makes a lot of sense to me.

 

This character is just shy of level 63 now, so two levels shy of getting to the latest content in Starfall Prophecy. Seeing this latest expansion is my main goal in-game at the moment.

Posted in Gaming, Rift

TSW: relaunch in 2017

So I read this article over at Massively OP yesterday: “Funcom is relaunching The Secret World in 2017“.  That caused a major double-take incident, I was not expecting that. The details come from an earnings report to investors, not from a PR article or announcement so the language is rather dry and lacking in details.

Redesigned new player experience
The first of the bullet points, with the aim to “broaden the appeal” of the game. I suppose the weapons and skill wheel systems could do with better up-front explanation beyond “having two different weapons is good”. The importance of status effects and combinations thereof does need some explanation but then how much detail can they include in a tutorial without it scaring off potential new players? Tera’s old tutorial had you playing a level 20 version of your class, it was story-wise rather confused, but it gave a taster of what the class would play like at later levels. That kind of ‘sampler build’ for each weapon would offer one solution to presenting a flavour of the gameplay for different weapons.

Major improvements to gameplay including combat
Hmm, I’m always wary of this kind of announcement as revamping combat wholesale can radically change the feel of playing a MMO – not always for the better. That said this may not be that extensive a change anyway, the line is vague. Discussions on the forum have mentioned possibly removing or reworking Aegis, something I’d applaud as I feel it would be awkward to keep the system for new zones in future without limiting storytelling.

Retention systems
Daily rewards can be a minor motivator in my experience, logging in to invoke in Neverwinter worked for a time but it doesn’t drive deeper engagement with the game – it may keep you logging in after you’re starting to tire of the game but then that can also build a kind of resentment against it as a ‘needy MMO’ so it’s a double-edged sword at best.

Business model
The addition of daily login rewards reminds me very much of the broad free to play model that’s in place for most of the Western converts and Eastern imports. That’s reinforced by the line stating the game is adjusting the business model to allow story access for free. So we’ll not be buying Issues anymore but spending on something else? I’m in a probably unusual position here, I very rarely spend cash on fluff in MMOs or pay-to-win boosts either. I’ll pay for content unlocks (expansions, issues or otherwise) but otherwise I’m not interested. So if this new model gives the game more money to develop and allows them to start producing new content again faster, then I’ll benefit without actually spending as much money on the game as I did before…

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 4 Comments

ESO: Tamriel trio

We started yesterday playing Elder Scrolls Online as a potential new trio group game. I’d recently popped back into the game because there has been quite a lot of buzz around this MMO and the announcement of the Morrowind expansion. It was one of the potential games for us, as a trio of friends, to try as we wait for more content to launch in World of Warcraft.

After some travails to all get downloaded/patched and in-game we chose Aldmeri Dominion as a faction and a trio of races as characters: my Altmer Templar, a Bosmer Nightblade and a Khajiit Sorcerer. Last year I’d played the Ebonheart Pact starter zone already on my Argonian Dragonknight so something different was good for a change of scenery from the ashy volcanic slopes of Stonefalls.

Tamriel trio rebooted

Tamriel trio

The tutorial was mercifully short and mostly not instanced so we were able to group early on. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down to play a game with friends, only to then have to all play a lengthy tutorial solo. We wandered about playing through the starter island story for a good evenings session and have arrived at the town of Mistral.

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The game seems to have straightened out the phasing issues that plagued our beta experience – we played through quests as a group without phasing mishap or bug. I realised that the bank account is shared across faction so now have the potential to get crafting potions on my Dragonknight and to have this new character craft armour or something else useful to both a Templar and Dragonknight (provisioning?). This easy transfer mechanism certainly has helped to tidy up two characters inventories, already full of standard starter area materials like ore, cooking materials and herbs.

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More impressions to come when we’ve progressed beyond the starter island!

Posted in ESO, Gaming | 2 Comments

Rift: carnage quests synergies

I was running some Instant Adventures in Rift when I noticed, for the first time, the synergy between this jump-in questing activity and the carnage quest type. Instant Adventures seem to often take place in low-level areas of Mathosia or occasionally in a Storm Legion zone.

IA in Morban

IA in Morban

Seeing quest completions pop up on occasion during the IA events, I discovered that some “kill X” quests in the old world zones were converted to carnage quests after Storm Legion‘s launch. I haven’t leveled a new character through the original launch zones for years so had no idea about this change. It makes for a nice synergy and a way to bump up the experience rewards on Instant Adventures, at least the first couple of times you do them in a specific zone.

Coincidentally my cleric’s quest log is pretty full of Goboro Reef carnage quests as he’s finished that zone recently, and I’ve not been very focused on cleaning up those kill counts. I did think about riding around to finish some but it’s a big zone packed with monsters. I did go back to participate in Invasion events with the hope it might get me some carnage kills as well, but that it doesn’t seem to synergise as well as IAs.

Invasion boss

Invasion boss

So I could really do with getting an Instant Adventure in Goboro to allow him to teleport around with the group, vacuuming up XP and as a side benefit clearing out all those carnage quests…

Posted in Gaming, Rift

SWTOR: Loner agent?

I’ve been playing more of my Imperial Agent after the recent vacation, and ruminating on the companions this class has. Some characters have a very strong ‘team vibe’ going with their companions – of the ones I have played the Jedi Consular and Trooper spring to mind. Even the Bounty Hunter has somewhat of a team ethos; given the treacherous nature of the profession, it’s only natural that any good bounty hunter needs someone to watch his or her rear.

Agent and Vector

Agent and Vector

But the Imperial Agent really feels like a loner class; having companions so far has tended to seem more like baggage than backup. Vector is a good companion, if somewhat creepy. Otherwise I haven’t any affection for any of them particularly and all of them seem to have their own flaws or reasons to get me in trouble with my superiors. I suppose that’s good for the vibe of working as a spy – how much can you ever trust others operating in the that shadowy world?

Oops

Oops

The game reminded me in the last session that all SWTOR characters are expected to be a team player regardless of class or ethos. I was so used to having a pocket healer walking around with me (Vector by choice) that without him I died on a class mission! It seems to me that character death when running solo missions hasn’t been much of a risk at least since companions were changed to be flexible. During a mission on Belsavis Vector was out of action suddenly (because story) and I found myself rather suddenly at the death screen – I’d been fighting almost on auto pilot without paying any attention to my own health bar. With this character I’ve almost never had to use his own heals since the companions do the job better anyway.

Sneaking around as usual

Sneaking around as usual

I play so much in stealth on this character that it is easy to assume that danger is an unknown to him, but it seems I do need someone to keep the kolto at the ready!

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR | 5 Comments