The Leveling Game

Wow-64 2016-07-27 06-15-06-28

Buckling Some Swash

Wow-64 2016-07-27 06-15-06-28

Since the 7.0.3 patch landed in World of Warcraft, I have been more than a little obsessed with relearning classes given the significant changes to the bevy of talent trees.  On my rogue I have more or less always been combat, other than a brief flirtation with subtlety during vanilla thanks to knowing a few insane “sub” rogues.  If one thing should be certain by now is that I am not a huge fan of stealth mechanics, and my ideal “rogue” is that of a pirate or swashbuckler rather than assassin or thief.  As a result it feels like Outlaw the rebranded combat is essentially tailor made for me.  The spec itself is made up largely of huge sword slash moves and pistol shots, making it feel a lot to me like the Witch Hunter from Warhammer Online.  The core of the gameplay focuses around either a melee slash builder or short range pistol shot builder, coupled with a slashing combo dump and a long range combo dump that also happens to stun the target… but is on a rather long cooldown.  Other than these there is an additional combo dump called Roll the Bones which gives your character one or more buffs from a list of available buffs.  For those who raided during Wrath of the Lich King, it reminds me quite a bit of the way Deathbringer’s Will felt.  Completely unpredictable but when the buff is up it always does something interesting.  When the patch landed my rogue was sitting at level 91 and had barely seen anything past the Garrison.  As of yesterday I dinged 100 and have begun gearing him to at least do some basic content like LFR.

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Not to be undone by the new school rogue experience, I opted to start working on my druid again which I generally play as feral.  Feral mostly feels the same as it always has, which now represents the way combat rogue largely previously felt.  In some ways I am grateful that it didn’t change a whole lot, but in other ways I admit I am a little disappointed.  So many classes with Outlaw Rogue and Survival Hunter feel new and different and shiny…  that the ones like Feral Druid and Protection Warrior that stayed largely the same feel a little diminished.  Belgarou had been my character of choice for leveling during the AggroChat podcast for awhile now, and I had made slow and prodding progress.  However last night I made a serious push and went from just shy of 96 to 100 in a single evening.  Traditionally when I level characters I follow a basic pattern which will make completionists cringe.  I tend to say in Shadowmoon Valley until 92, and then immediately drop those quests and swap to Gorgrond until 94.  From Gorgrond I jump to Terrokar, and then again to Spires of Arak at 96.  Finally I reach Nagrand at 98 and continue there until I ding, with the theory that spending the maximum amount of time in that zone will mean I will have the best gear to start angling for the 620 item level that unlocks that first LFR.  The end result is a quick succession of zones each one giving me the maximum experience for my level and getting me to the level cap as soon as possible.

The Stable Fills

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I am by no means the fastest at leveling characters, but I am doing largely okay when I can actually stick with a game for any given period of time.  At this point I have eight level 100s, but that is nothing even vaguely close to the number that Grace has and hers span multiple servers.  In theory the next closest to 100 would be Belglorian my priest, but honestly I am not super enthused about leveling it.  At some point I want to try out the new Shadow with its Old God based lore, but I am in no real rush.  I mean it would be awesome to have my tailor at max level when Legion lands, but I am thinking it might be too “finger wiggly” for me at the moment.  There is of course my monk who is still sitting at level 53, but that means a return to more leather.  I am kinda getting tired of wearing leather, since I just finished off my rogue and druid back to back.  Also there is the problem that for whatever reason I have never been able to get into the flow of a monk.  I really enjoy playing pugilist in Final Fantasy XIV, and I had a Monk in Everquest II… but for whatever reason the World of Warcraft version doesn’t feel as interesting.  For me at least it feels very much like another dual wielding class, since I went the dpsy version.  Brewmaster tanking felt odd, and “Fistweaving” I have heard is no longer a thing… so more than likely that means I will always be a sorta rogue on that class.

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As a result it seems like my next leveling target is going to be the Warlock, because it is just finger wiggly enough for me to be able to enjoy it.  Additionally all that time I spent leveling my Arcanist in Final Fantasy XIV has taught me a greater respect for damage over time classes.  Generally speaking I have always been a demonology player, because I like running around with giant demon pets.  However I might branch out a bit and try something new, it all depends on if I can get the swing of the new changes.  In any case I am not exactly sure why I have been on this marathon leveling session, but I am mostly just going with the flow.  I think part of it is also my attempt to catch them all as far as appearances go.  I have added so many items to my wardrobe that it isn’t even funny.  The hope is that in doing this push I will get at least one leather and one cloth class that I actually enjoy playing, that I can run old world content with for those cloth and leather pieces that I seem to be missing.  I have a huge stash of plate and chain, because those are all classes that I play pretty frequently.  The worst seems to be the finger wigglers, so I am hoping that I can make the Warlock into a soloing beast to farm up awesome transmog sets with.  In any case… this has been my recent obsession and I thought I would share it with you.

 

Crusaders and Guardians

Diablo III 2016-05-01 11-14-05-01

Season Six

Diablo III 2016-05-01 11-14-05-01

While I greatly enjoy the concept of the Developer Appreciation Week… I am always somewhat happen when it is over.  During the week I feel like I have to be making posts along that them, so when things happen that I want to talk about…  I end up pushing them down until the week is ultimately over.  Now as I sit here for the first unfettered post in awhile…  I am finding it super hard getting started.  The biggest happening of this weekend is that Friday evening at 7pm my time the newest Diablo 3 season began.  For season six I opted to roll a Female Crusader, because I had so much fun playing as one last season.  I have this general goal of getting a male and female of each class eventually, but that also means that someday I will have to finish playing that mage and attempt to play a witch doctor.  The only problem I am running into is that it feels like what made the crusader so amazing last go round… was the fact that the Invoker set was just phenomenal.  Now that I have my six piece Akkhan set, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as powerful as I did last season.  In fact while the set dungeon was a breeze for me last go around, this one is only causing chain wipes.  Granted I am not nearly as geared as I was at this point last year, in part because I am not getting drug by Carthuun.

When the season started we ended up with six people on the guild discord, and as a result we split into two three player teams.  Ultimately ending up with me and Grace playing together, with Solaria and Kodra joining up for short periods of time.  Towards the end of the evening Kylana was with us as well as the other three player team ultimately disolved with Ashgar got pulled away for work, and Callalil went to bed.  I myself only lasted through level 60, because that was ultimately the point at which I was starting to fall asleep at the keyboard.  So I went to bed around 11pm and the rest of the group pushed onward.  Yesterday morning Grace and I ended up playing together, and she helped me get the rest of the way to 70, and unlock my gear set.  She was sitting over 100 paragon levels, which means that more than likely Carth is sitting around 300ish.  At some point I will join in his Torment X shenanigans because I really need some gear.  All in all it was a great start of the new season, and at some point I will sort out my spec and with gear should be able to solo more stuff.  Right now the challenge is finding thorns on gear, and I have ended up burning through all of my materials trying to enchant away useless stats and turn them into thorns.

Banana Split

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Another awesome happening this weekend is that yesterday while waiting on folks to show up for the AggroChat game of the month show, I managed to push my Hunter to rank 5.  This is the first month that I managed to get to characters to rank 5, and I’ve since started working on getting the warlock there as well.  My hope is that after I finish knocking out this blog post I will head upstairs and work on that.  Iron Banner has been really damned good to me, letting me amass a lot of gear and weapons that will ultimately either get used as is or serve as infusion fodder.  In theory I should probably be doing matches on my Titan with the hopes of getting more 335 items, but it feels good actually working on my other characters.  After playing the hunter I can absolutely see why they do so damned well in the crucible.  Throwing knives are amazing, and I had so much fun yesterday finishing off people with them.  I still feel like golden gun however is the least exciting of the supers, but I am getting used to using it to optimal efficiency.  There was one point where I managed to get three kills in a row with it and earned the way of the gun trophy.

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Over the course of the week I have picked up so much gear, with the latest acquisition being a 335 Tormod’s Bellows.  The only challenge here is that I am not sure if I will keep it or infuse it into one of my heavy weapons.  I could really use a 335 sword… just saying.  The funny thing is… I got the 335 drop on my absolute lowest level character while working on the Warlock yesterday.  So I am wondering if maybe the buff in faction that you get for pushing up additional characters does something as well to the chances of getting max light drops as well?  In any case another Iron Banner has come and almost gone, and I have loved every minute of it.  I finally sorted out why I like PVP in Destiny and never have in other games.  There is something about getting real loot at the end of matches, as opposed to a currency in lieu of loot that can maybe someday add up to be enough to get something interesting.  I love random chance, and I love being rewarded with interesting stuff.  More so than that… I love getting not quite perfect items… and then trying to figure out how to use them to my advantage.

SkyForge Impressions

Recreating Belghast

SkyForge_BelvsBel Skyforge is one of those games that I have consistently been unable to decide if I am interested in.  There are certain aspects of the game that I really like, but then again there are certain aspects that I am really uncertain of.  [Edit] Having to rewrite a chunk of this real quick because I was under the false impression that this game was from a Korean publisher.  I guess this is primarily a Russian game with the assistance of Obsidian an American company.  I guess this explains why I could easily create a character I liked when I have so much trouble doing this in most Korean MMOs. [UnEdit] So I was pleasantly surprised that I could create “Belghast” or at least a reasonable facsimile.  In the above comparison you can see the traditional old school “WoW Bel” against what I was able to create using Skyforge, and I am pretty happy honestly with the look and feel.

SkyForge_WeirdManTouchingMe Last night I spent some time streaming my first few adventures into the game, and as such did not take a lot of screenshots.  The result is you are going to end up with a lot of screen captures from my stream that include my little chat blocker box thingy.  As the weird little man that is touching my face asked me what I think…  that is ultimately going to be my mission this morning.  I can’t really call it a review, since I have not spent more than a couple of hours playing it.  I can however talk about my thoughts.  There have been so many times I have missed out on a games open beta period only to kick myself later when I start to get interested in the game.  Similarly there have been many games that I bought my way into… only to find out later that I didn’t really care for the game at all.  Even though I am still very much engrossed in Final Fantasy XIV and spent about four hours playing that last night AFTER my foray into Skyforge, I felt I owed it to myself to give the game a test drive.  Similarly if you are on the fence and looking to my article to give you some guidance… I highly suggest you just try the game yourself while it is free.

The Setting

SkyForge_MoreQuestText For those who have been around MMOs for awhile, you will remember a game that was discarded somewhere along the way called Imperator.  Mythic games had originally planned on building its “Rome in Outer Space” title but quickly dropped the title when they got the license for Warhammer Online.  After playing a little Skyforge I seriously wonder if someone from that original Imperator team rebooting this idea over at either Obsidian or Allods.  Imperator_CollesiumThere are only a few screenshots from the original Imperator team around, but to the right is one of the more interesting ones.  From what I have seen of the world of Skyforge, it very much shares the same look and feel of a “Rome in Space” concept.  To carry this even further the enemies and their leaders have a very “ancient egyptian” feel to them, which makes me wonder if we are going to see a lot more of these “high tech ancient  civilizations” concept as we get deeper into the game.

Skyforge 2015-07-17 06-07-54-37 The game does a decent job of setting up the story of how you came to have the powers you do and setting up a reason for why you can die multiple times and keep respawning.  Your character is an Immortal, and just like in Highlander your powers do not manifest until you have died the first time.  The introduction to the game is the story of how you died during what turned out to be a suicide mission.  One of the interesting things about the game is that you play a fully armored character during the introduction and then choose your appearance later as you are telling your tale.  While I may have missed it, it did not seem like I had a way to change my gender during this introduction.  So I am wondering if that means that quite literally everyone is “male by default” until you get back to base and choose your gender and appearance.  This did not bother me on a personal level, but I could absolutely see how this would really be a sticking point for some folks and rightly so.  As you can see from the screenshots… the world is absolutely gorgeous and every little aspect of it feels highly detailed.

The Paladin

SkyForge_PaladinShield Since I tend to always play tanks in MMOs… I opted to roll the paladin.  I am not sure if EVERYONE starts as one of three classes, or if this is just limited to the Open Beta, but I was limited to a choice of Paladin, Cryomancer and Lightbinder.  These represent the tank, dps and healer essentially, and this is a game much like Final Fantasy XIV where you can swap your class at any given time.  Unfortunately the Paladin is the only one of the starter classes that I have any interest in…  there are really three classes in this game that interest me and that is the Paladin, Knight and Berserker.  Now we are going to start delving into some of the negatives.  Combat is similar to Neverwinter Nights which in itself is not bad.  Essentially it is a combination of mouse clicks augmented by abilities you cast off keys around your WASD and numeric keys that tend to have long recast times.  It uses a system similar to TERA in that your secondary mouse button is a variable combo ability.

SkyForge_PaladinSpinAttack As a Paladin my combos offered an impressive 360 degree whirl attack that you can see above, a single target lightning bolt, and a frontal cone slash attack.  The problem being is that the combo system seemed to have a mind of its own.  In Tera it related to a certain number of clicks… in Skyforge it seems to be tied somehow to your character animation.  As a result I found it really hard to predict when I could hit a specific attack and always seemed to have the wrong ability available as my combo attack at the wrong time.  Now this combo tree is something you can fiddle with freely and maybe given some time I could sort out how best to use it.  However it gives the combat interaction a bit of a “sloppy” feel to its design.  I find myself greatly preferring the ability to press a unique button for each attack rather than allow the game to sort all of that out for me.  I know at least if I press the button, an ability will fire…  instead here it felt more like the game was playing for me sometimes and I was simply mashing the attack buttons blindly.

SkyForge_PaladinFinisher I feel like all of the attacks were designed to look and feel impressive.  For example the above screenshot is of me executing my finisher, that shows up when the mob is low on heath and there is a pop up window telling me to hit E to use it.  It involves me throwing the mob up into the air and then a bolt of lightning or holy power or whatever it is that Paladins care about striking them back down to the ground.  Again this felt like something I had to freaking mash E for whenever the mob was getting close to being low enough to use it… because my main attack seemed to run away with itself and I would get locked in a combat animation that seemed to be of variable length.  The thing I keep coming back to is that maybe this game feels significantly better when played with a controller than with a mouse and keyboard.  I need to sort through the settings and see if it supports my Xbox 360 controller because this might be an awesome offering to the console market more so than it is to the PC one.

My Impressions

SkyForge_PaladinCharge Like I said at the start of this I have really not spent much time playing the game at this point.  I got in yesterday morning and last night, and between those two play sessions I have completed two of the small instanced missions.  After the second mission I went back to the main hub and got yet another one… and then decided that I was not really having enough fun to keep playing that night.  That is a bad sign, for me personally.  I love combat and combat missions, and if a game wants to throw me at kill X things… I generally eat them up like warm cobbler covered in ice cream.  The problem is… I just found the combat boring and repetitive.  I feel like maybe I am not grasping the “master plan” to its design but it really felt like I had to wail away at random with abilities and mash my shield whenever it was up to keep from taking damage.  It really did not feel like there was much structure to the flailing about, and I found this frustrating especially compared to say the Cryomancer that I watched Jabberant play that seemed to have lots of strategy to it.  It could just be a side effect of my being used to Final Fantasy XIV where every single key press feels like it has some importance behind it.

I’ve embedded my play session from last night so that you can see how the game looks and feels while moving through combat.  I am not giving up on this game quite yet, but I will say my first day of play was “strike one”.  Maybe it feels better as I go along, but I have a feeling that pretty much all of this game is going to be a Lobby/Instance approach with no real “open world” to go exploring.  I might be wrong, and maybe I just have not seen “leveling zones” yet but the whole thing feels a lot like the way DDO did content, mixed with the combat styling of Neverwinter Nights.  All of this said, since you can get in now for free and give it a spin… then I suggest you try it out for yourself.  Maybe you will find it a refreshing experience, and not the boring and repetitive one that I found.  Maybe I was simply in the wrong mindset, because yesterday was a really long day.  In any case I am going to give it a few more shots this weekend to see if it does anything for me.  Sometimes games take a bit for me to enjoy, and this might be one of those.  In any case I am happy I gave it a shot before “buying in”.  So far the verdict is pretty mixed, but I wanted to at least put my thoughts to paper for anyone who might be interested in them.