What have I been playing recently? Why, thank you for asking!
Parasite Eve made my list of Most Influential Games for the last episode of Cat Context, which got me thinking about it again. Thanks to the magic of the Vita it only took $6 and about an hour of downloading to own a copy.
(The Vita is so the perfect platform for nostalgia gaming. I don’t have a single game on there that’s less than a decade old, and I regret nothing.)
Of course almost 20 years have passed since I played Parasite Eve last and I was a little nervous about how the game would stand the test of time, but so far it’s been an entirely satisfactory experience. The gameplay itself is extremely similar to Final Fantasy VII or really any JRPG from that era with lots of menu fussing, adding mods to your inventory, and waiting for your action timer bar to fill up to attack, although with more aimed attacks that require movement.
Thumbs up, will play again in another 20 years.
ArcheAge (English Alpha)
I am honestly not entirely sure how I got on the list for an ArcheAge alpha invite, but I literally did a hoppy victory dance when the email arrived.
I want to dedicate a whole post to my first impressions of the game, but my short review is: fun, but going to be time consuming. ArcheAge is a (ugh) “sandpark”, which means that the mechanics are not that different from WoW, but the end game is about settling, crafting, farming, and trading, as opposed to running dungeons and raids.
The result is that it’s really hard to tell much about the game in the first 12 levels. So far it’s been a highly fun WoW-like with a small garden, but there’s the promise of so much more just around the corner…
Mass Effect 1
I have been working on a 100% run of Mass Effect 1 for a very long time. After finally clearing out every Mako quest I could find, a not insignificant challenge, last week I finally got back to the central plot and almost immediately got to make a decision to kill someone off. Hooray! Take that, person-I-will-not-name-but-is-a-dude!
Although the UI is old and clunky as hell — I don’t need any more damn omnigel! — and any Mako mission is like trying to commute in a bouncy castle, the immersion of ME1 is outstanding and the dialogue is even better without the shiny polish of parts 2 and 3. Now if only I could romance Garrus….
World of Warcraft – Challenge Modes
No suprise to anyone here — I’ve also still been playing WoW. Recently we’ve been working on hitting some of the Challenge Mode dungeons before they go away with an eye to getting Silver and the fancy reward mount.
I’ve been really enjoying the CMs so far. They’re tough, and they require buttons that I don’t usually get to hit in my standard WoW play. We die a lot, and suddenly have to worry about things like making sure someone brings buff Feasts and gathering mats for invisibility pots.
So far we’ve gotten 2 Silvers, which leaves us 7 more to go, an entirely reasonable goal for us casual critters. The whole experience has made me reflect on how I play WoW differently now though — I used to be a Gold-or-Die kinda player, not only in attitude and drive, but also in talent.
It makes me wonder where I’m lacking now. Is it just experience and the quantity of hours put into playing a character each week? It is experienced teamwork, rather than the sorta-once-a-week we play now? Gold seems like a huge amount of work, frankly, and that’s work I don’t want to do. What happened to me, man? I used to be cool.
** This information is correct as of the Closed Beta in April 2014 **
There are currently no tutorials in the Closed Beta stage of Landmark, and while that makes sense from a development perspective it’s also kind of confusing for new players. So behold: step by step instructions on how to create your first claim flag as a newbie in Landmark.
Stage One: Crafting a Copper Pick
1. Claim flags require “Tier 2″ materials, so first we have to upgrade your pick. Run out into the wilderness and look for rust colored patches on the ground, usually around mountains or foothills. Start digging by hitting “1″ on your keyboard to activate your Stone Pick and then pressing and holding the left mouse button over some copper. Copper patches will not only give you Copper Ore (obvs) but also the random rare drop Elemental Copper. Mine until you get 1000 Copper Ore and 10 Elemental Copper. (Hit “i” on your keyboard and then click on the materials tab to see your inventory.)
2. Tree chopping time! Find some trees. Hit “2″ on your keyboard to activate your Stone Axe and then press and hold the left mouse button over a tree. Chop it down all the way. Keep going until you have 25 pieces of “Heartwood”, a random rare drop from all trees.
3. Next you need a desert biome. If you spawned in one to begin with (do you see a lot of sand?) then skip to the next step. Otherwise, head back to the portal where you started (hit “m” to see the map). Click on the floaty blue stone in the center of the portal, and select Dune. You are now on the Dune island!
4. Run around a look for a patch on the ground that is bright orange — something similar but much brighter than copper’s rust color. That is Agate, and you need 20 of them.
5. Head back to the portal and click on the Forge crafting station.
6. Craft all of your Copper Ore into Copper Ingots.
7. Craft a Copper Pick and equip it. Hooray, Stage One complete!
Stage Two: Crafting a Claim Flag
1. Go click on the blue stone in the middle of the Portal and select any zone that says “(Tier 2)” after the name.
2. Mine iron — it’s in locations similar to copper, but has a dark blue tint. You need 7 Elemental Iron, which is a random rare drop like Elemental Copper.
3. Mine Aquamarine. It looks like a very bright blue version of Iron. You need 10 Aquamarine.
4. Head back to the portal, and click on the mill crafting station. Craft a claim flag. Easy cakes, Stage Two complete!
Stage Three: Using your Claim Flag
1. This is the step that can take a while: find a place you like. Take your time, travel to all of the islands (any Tier) and see what kinds of biomes there are. Look at the map and make sure you have “Display available claims” checked at the top. Any area with a red overlay is not available.
2. Once you are standing in a spot you like, right click on the Claim Flag in your inventory. Landmark will ask you to click on a map where you’d like your claim flag. If the square outline is blue, you’re good to click!
3. Congratulations, land owner! Now pay up! Hit “u” on your keyboard right away. This is where you pay for your claim. The price as of writing this is 300 copper ore per day, and you can bank up to 5 days of copper (1500). If you don’t pay your 300 copper ore you’ll lose your claim. The first day is paid for you.
I’ve been kind of psyching myself out of posting lately by thinking that whatever topic I have in mind is “not serious enough” or “ugh, enough about WoW already Liore”. I mean, that is clearly silly because at the end of the day it’s my blog and I’ll write if I want to, and honestly I don’t think any of you delightful readers care that much, but there you have it.
So anyway, here is a lovely fluffy post for Friday about five of my favorite boss fights in MMOs! Listed in no particular order.
(That’s right, no talk of the Warlords of Draenor alpha notes that came out yesterday evening. I haven’t even read them, to be honest. I just have a hard time being too concerned about changes 6-8 months before a game launches, plus I enjoy being a little ignorant about WoW things now. I will smell the flowers once they bloom, and until then I ain’t gonna worry about it.)
Archimonde – WoW
As will quickly become apparent, two things I love in my boss fights are movement and teamwork, and the Archimonde fight had both in spades. Players had to avoid Doomfires, and be ready to click their tears when they got shot up into the sky by Air Burst (wheee!). It’s also a fight where a single person’s death can wipe the raid (even more than usual), so coordination was critical. And even beyond all that, the setting was cinematic and Archimonde himself was satisfyingly gigantic.
Volan – RIFT
Despite my misgivings about the Storm Legion expansion in general, I have to give props to Trion for this showpiece of an encounter. Volan is technically a world boss, although he’s associated with a regular daily event. He is huge — like, really really huge — and spawns by bursting out of the side of a mountain. Often there would be 80+ players in the fight using jump pads to leap through the air, or manning giant cannons, or occasionally even jumping on Volan’s head. I would love to see more MMOs invest in cinematic world bosses!
Sartharion with 3 dragons – WoW
The cool thing about the Sartharion encounter was that you could adjust the difficulty by killing up to 3 of her henchdragons before engaging. Choosing to engage her without killing any was known as Sarth 3D, and it was in its day one of the most difficult fights ever in WoW. There were multiple tanks, and clouds of whelps, and portals to spirit worlds, and occasionally even gigantic waves of lava that everyone had to dodge. This fight required crazy amounts of coordination, felt amazing to complete, and rewarded a rare dragon mount.
Soa, The Infernal One – SWTOR
My time raiding in SWTOR was brief, but this fight stood out for one big reason: jumping. After phase 1, the floor of the room you were in collapsed and the raid had to simultaneously fight robot minions AND slowly hop down to the underfloor by jumping on debris that was stuck to the walls. Unfortunately the fight was frequently buggy back in the day, but when it worked it was really great.
Mimiron Hard Mode – WoW
This fight, my friends, is my favorite fight ever in an MMO. It is amazing, right from the very moment you push the giant red Do Not Push button to start the fight. There is fire — oh, so much fire — and organized cooldowns and multiple tanks and robots. There is Mimiron himself, taunting the raid in a very sassy fashion. And did I mention the fire? This fight is all movement and controlled chaos and it is never, ever not fun.
I have never really been much for alts in MMOs. I mean, I’ve rolled alts of course, but they were always clearly secondary to my main. Often I would create alts with the best of intentions, but they ended up being just extra bag space or profession slaves.
I think a lot of it came down to my achiever nature in games, as well as being a serious raider. When you have one character with the best gear in the game and a collection of mounts and pets that took hours to amass, and another character in quest blues with a sparklepony it’s tough to find the motivation to take the latter anywhere outside of a major city.
And then even if I did play my alt(s), any unique achievements or whatever I got during that time would just have to be repeated on my main for completion’s sake, not to mention that I just plain didn’t have the time to start raiding on another character.
That was a few years ago, and while I am still not an “altoholic” by any stretch of the imagination it appears that both me and WoW have mellowed out enough to make alts much more enjoyable.
Props — mad props, even — should be given to Blizzard for some of their recent changes in this area. Shared pets, mounts, and titles help a lot, as does the fact that most of the major achievements are also shared by account. The new token thingy that gives your alts double faction reputation is amazing, and even the hated LFR (and Flex too) is a nice easy way to progress with your character without having to think about it too much.
The results of these changes, along with my own casual-ification over the years, is that I am enjoying my boost baby paladin much more than I ever expected.
She is levelling up mining and engineering, and although engineering is the same boring grind as any profession I enjoy churning out 5 explosive sheep or fabulous goggles much more than another gem cut or enchanting my bracers over and over. The double rep means she’s already revered with Tillers and has 12 active plots on her farm. (I like tending the plants, okay? I don’t know why. Don’t judge me.)
Thanks to being a healer the paladin has LFR queues of 10 minutes or less for pretty much any wing, giving me an endless stream of gear drops, legendary quest bits, valor points, and victims on whom I can practice my heal skills. And I haven’t even gotten into PvP yet, where I hope to combine my slightly masochistic love of MMO PvP healing with the gift of plate armor.
And speaking of plate armor, man, paladin gear looks cool. It looks way cooler than anything priests have seen after TBC.
Long story short, suddenly I am playing my main and my alt for equal amounts of time and when I’m on my paladin I no longer have that nagging feeling that alts are just wasting time I could spend on my main. Thanks to a few changes in both the games I play and how I play them, it turns out I could get used to this alt thing.
The closed beta for Landmark (no longer named EverQuest Next Landmark!) started up yesterday afternoon, and I was fortunate enough to be given a beta pass by alpha investor Aurelia, she of the awesome Democracy 3 DLC review video from a while back.
When you first boot up the Landmark beta client you’re treated to a mandatory 3-ish minute video by David Georgeson, the game’s Director of Development, where he talks about what happened in alpha and what players can expect from beta. It was charming, if totally weird in that trademark SOE way.
The character creation is very simplistic, and the character graphics are not great. I run oddly, there’s no strafing (not that there’s anything to strafe away from exactly, but in a world of exploration I occasionally like to move diagonally), and I can’t zoom my camera.
That all being said, we’re not playing Landmark for the character generation, are we? No sir, I’m here for some mining!
I suspect that the same cartoony graphics that hinder the character display help the look of the environment. And it does look good, in a creamy sort of way. I liked that hopping up steep hills is totally acceptable, and there seems to be some mechanic to keep players from plummeting to their death when sliding down the side of a mountain.
Eventually I stumbled across a shiny patch of what I correctly suspected was copper, and started to mine.
It might sound like I’m damning the title with faint praise when I say the following, although I assure you I am not: Landmark has the most satisfying mining experience I have ever encountered in a game. Seriously! The voxels, however they work, make me feel like I am actually excavating a seam of materials. Chunks break away in different shapes, and the pick’s animations give it the right amount of heft.
Unfortunately I didn’t find crafting so compelling. That is more a statement about my short attention span than the crafting, really. I looked at the list of ingredients needed to make a claim flag and spent a few minutes trying to gather them, but I quickly got bored and instead focused on digging a tunnel to the center of the world.
I was digging for quite some time when a random player jumped and/or fell down the ice hole. He seemed to quickly shake off his misfortune, and started digging downward with me.
Eventually my new friend started digging off in his own direction, and after about 20 minutes of finding nothing but subterranean ice I logged off the game.
Overall my first impression of Landmark is that it’s definitely on the road to being a good multiplayer Minecraft. I’m not sure I personally am interested in a game that frontloads gathering so much over crafting, but that’s more a design issue than a fault. Should you get the opportunity to try the game for free, I highly recommend that you mine something.
I played quite a bit of Hearthstone back in beta, but quickly burned out on being pretty terrible at it. I just started getting back into it a bit with the WoW mount crossover deal (oh Blizzard, curse your nefarious marketing plans) and suddenly I have gotten a lot better!
Okay, okay, arguably the change is in the wider, less experienced post-launch playerbase rather than some innate skill on my part, but also I just really feel in the groove with my paladin deck right now.
In fact, I went from rank 25, the lowest rank, to rank 20 with this deck with no losses. That’s like 8 games in a row!
For those curious about the free-to-play aspect of Hearthstone, I have spent in total $8 on the game. I bought one pack directly, and 3 Arena tickets (each rewarding a pack) during the Extra Life Marathon last November as a cure for the 3am doldrums. All of the rest of my cards are through crafting or Arena tickets that were funded with quest gold. No, my deck isn’t dripping with legendaries, but it suits me just fine.
Anyway, let’s look at the cards!
Early Board Control, Best Board Control
The deck is weighted towards small drops, which I find works the best. I have 3 minions that I can drop on turn 2 (or turn 1 + Coin), or 5 minions if I’m fighting an opponent who doesn’t have weapons. I also have one secret, Noble Sacrifice (“When an enemy attacks, summon a 2/1 Defender as the new target.”), that I tend to drop early as a cheap and simple way to help keep the board in my favor.
Minions and Minions and Minions and Minions
This deck is generally oriented towards spamming minions, a tactic well suited to the paladin. I have two particularly badass cards helping me with this goal: Knife Juggler (“After you summon a minion, deal 1 damage to a random enemy.) and the epic card Sword of Justice (“Whenever you summon a minion, give it +1/+1 and this loses 1 Durability.”).
If you can keep a Knife Juggler safe (health buffs help!) in the mid-game, it becomes a beast. Between cheap minions and the pally hero skill that summons a 1/1 minion for 2 mana, I can easily dish out 2-3 extra points of damage each turn, which can help a lot.
Meanwhile, the Sword of Justice has obvious applications and is also a great mid-game card.
The Venture Co. Mercenary works with minion spam in a way. It’s a monster 7/6 card that only costs 5 mana, but its ability is “Your minions cost (3) more.” However, that cost doesn’t count towards the paladin hero skill, so drop the Knife Juggler, drop the Mercenary, and spam 1/1 minions. Then laugh evilly. Go on. You know you want to.
Needs More Tweakin’
Just while writing this post I can spot two big ways I could improve this deck. The first is to get rid of Truesilver Champion (“Whenever your hero attacks, restore 2 Health to it.”). It looks good on paper, but I have actually used it in maybe 1 game out of 20.
I also think getting rid of one of the Gnomish Inventor cards (“Draw a card.”) would be optimal, assuming I find something better to take its spot. I was worried about card generation when I put them in the deck, but that hasn’t actually been a problem so far.
So that’s my current fave Hearthstone deck! Any suggestions?