Mondays are always a challenge. I realize that is the understatement of the year but there is just something extra heinous about trying to revive your week day routines after happily nuking them from orbit over the course of Friday and Saturday night. Sunday night is always the roughest night of the week to get to sleep, because my body is not quite ready to relinquish the last vestiges of true freedom. Similarly since giving up the whole weekend blogging thing for lent…. or whatever I did to actually give it up… rebooting that process each Monday morning is an equal challenge. This morning for example I have logged in to “check on” several things, all the while happily avoiding actually sitting down to put thought on paper or at least virtual paper. This weekend was an odd one, but a good one. It started off Friday night with House Stalwart my guild throwing together an impromptu raid into the Emerald Nightmare. We did not really have a lot of time, since it was literally thrown together over the course of that evening, but we did manage to go in and one shot the first boss. From there we started work on the spider boss, but given its moving parts I am wondering if that was the best choice. In truth ALL of the next bosses seem to have their own madness going on and with it a challenge or two that will force us to shift and adjust to the fight. We managed to get spider to phase two, which isn’t much of a challenge but at least I can claim it was progress.
Another thing we attempted this weekend was our very first Mythic+ dungeon… because well Grace and I had keys burning a hole in our pockets. However after attempt number one, I think we are going to wait to do number two… until we know the dungeons better. Mythic Plus Halls of Valor… also happened to be the very first Halls of Valor Mythic run for most of us. As a result we were less than efficient at a number of the fights and failed to get the timer. That said given the number of wipes we had I think we did fairly well in that our timer ran out around the time we crossed the glowing bridge of nonsense. So while we failed… we at least failed in style? The truth is all of us just need a lot more normal mythic runs before we start burning any more keys. None of us have any of the magical legendary drops that our UI tells us we can currently equip one of…. but I hear they absolutely maybe sometimes sorta drop in mythics. We were maybe unprepared given that we were also dragging Ashgar into his first mythic ever… and we went for a timed one. The truth is I think we just wanted to know what the challenge looked like so we could prepare for it. I know personally I find it hard to wrap my head around what is needed until I have failed for a bit at doing something. Similarly we had to fail at the spider boss for me to be able to wrap my head around the videos that I will ultimately watch before we make another attempt on Wednesday.
Finally I made a significant push on Exeter my Paladin, who is now 108 and about halfway through it. Not shockingly I ended up dropping Retribution around 102 and have been leveling as a Protection Paladin the rest of the way. This has allowed me to do things like tank for friends when they need to run lower level instances. We pulled together an Eye of Azshara for Thalen over the weekend… and I happened to need it as well. Now I have several more dungeons waiting in the wings for me to do that I may or may not wait for friends to get to as well. Now that I am so close to 110 I sort of want to push across the finish line so I can start doing world quests and such on this character too. Similarly I want to get in some Coren Direbrew runs for trinkets before those things go away. So at a minimum I am probably going to finish out the rest of 108 because 109 allows me to start queuing. I still think that is a major missed opportunity, in that they should have allowed the Direbrew event to scale with players. At this moment I have finished Azsuna and Highmountain and have just trudged through the faction bullshit in Stormheim. The first part of that zone feels so unlike the rest of this expansion, I can only hope in the future they are going to realize that this game feels so much better when you give us an interesting place to explore with its own story… and quit trying to force everything into a dated red versus blue narrative.
I am convinced that time slows down when you wake up early… and then attempt to go back to sleep. This happened to me today, and between 5 and 5:30 I am pretty sure several hours passed. I kept waking up thinking that surely I had forgotten to set the alarm, and that I had now overslept significantly and would have to rush around in the morning. However I would look at my watch… and see that it was only 5:15, 5:22, 5:26 etc until finally the alarm went off. At this point as a person of reasonable life experience… I know that I am probably far better off just getting up and dealing with the fact that I am awake a bit earlier than normal. Instead I attempted to go back to sleep and I am pretty sure I will now be sluggish the rest of the day. Yesterday was of course an important maintenance day in World of Warcraft because it unlocked both raiding and mythic+ dungeons. I however don’t yet have a proper raid team, and last night represented the first mythic I have done yet. This expansion has been a significantly more casual pace for me… yet still somehow I managed to end up just about as well geared as anyone else out there starting raiding. I did a doublecheck this morning looking at a friend of mine in the warrior class hall and inspecting him… and I am maybe a couple ilvls behind him in total, and he is a serious progression raider. This is absolutely been the expansion so far of multiple paths to the end game… which is ultimately what I always wanted out of warcraft. You can craft your way to madness, or dungeon, or world quest, or raid… but in the end we all wind up in roughly the same destination allowing folks to swap paths at will rather than allowing choices within the first few weeks of a new expansion to forever dominate their fate.
The other cool thing that started up last night was the first of the world bosses. Apparently from this point on we are going to get a new world boss every week, and the first of these was Nithogg, a monster I have slain in so many games with so many different spellings. In World of Warcraft I have a particular vendetta against this creature for doing bad things to my Ravenbear friends. Even though I was reminded during the day… I absolutely forgot to go fetch my re-roll tokens. This time around they are located where the daily dungeon quests used to be during Wrath on ArcheMage Lan’dalock. Similar to the birbfolk in Draenor we can purchase the seals with Gold or Garrison… I mean Order Resources. Once again the prices go up not to subtly nudging you to spend multiple kinds of currency to get them, so the first seal will be 1000, the second 2000 and the third 3000 of either gold or resources. With the absence of Apexis Crystals… or some equivalent currency we are missing the option to buy three of the “cheap” tokens and are going to have to choose either resources or gold to escalate the cost with. As far as the boss fight… I did it a total of three times. The first time I didn’t have any stones, the second I did.. and the third I was testing to see if I could spend more than one token a week. The answer to that last question is no… and as a result I am stuck with earning 60g for my two attempts. It is at this point Tam should be happy because he always complains about my good luck… which in truth is not really a thing, its just that I do a lot of content that can potentially drop good stuff so in the end I get a lot of stuff. The boss itself is a bit boring, and reminded me quite a bit of the zerg dragons of old but mostly the boss is designed to be that. I was not in a proper raid group in any of the three times that I took Nithogg on, and sooner or later enough people amassed that someone pulled and the fight was on, with me furiously trying to dodge lightning patches while obeying the rules of fighting dragons… stay away from the head, stay away from the tail.
The other big happening of the night is that I finally did my first Mythic dungeon. The biggest problem I have had is when I feel like doing something like this… I lack the stalwart team to pull it together (pun intended). There are in truth few of us who are really at “mythicable” level, which seems to be around the 830 mark if you want to be safe. So while we might have 20-30 people on during prime time… a lot of them are still leveling and or gearing. What I assembled instead was a team where myself and the warlock were the only folks safely in mythic range, and the rest of us were a bit on the undergeared side. We felt it, but in the grand scheme of things I think we did just fine, especially considering it was my first mythic to tank, and Grace’s first mythic to heal. The long and short of it is… shit hits really hard. Like from the first trash pack onwards it was noticeable that the incoming damage on my side had stepped up a few notches. It was not unmanageable but it was a constant mitigation tug-of-war with my trying to maintain shield block and ignore pain whenever possible. Out in the world it always feels like I have all the rage in the world… in mythics however I am constantly hoping for enough rage to set up that next active mitigation. What they reminded me the most is the way that Burning Crusade Heroics felt, in that if we wanted to… crowd control would probably smooth out the difficulty curve significantly. Namely I am thinking somewhere around the Shadow Labyrinth difficulty, for those who are long enough in the tooth to remember how that felt the first few times. Our particular run was made harder probably because we had a marksman hunter… which are going to ultimately be the bane of anyone trying to carefully pull a dungeon. All in all we did well enough and other than the final boss only suffered a single wipe, which I found surprising because I was absolutely expecting issues with the serpent. It took significantly longer than your average dungeon, but we were being extremely cautious… which is something we are going to have to pick up the pace for when we start attempting keystone runs.
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.
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.
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. There 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.