Elder Scrolls Online

I've wanted to write something about Elder Scrolls Online for some time, as I've played it a fair bit since it released almost a month ago. However, whenever I sit down to write something, I end up unsure what to write, as there's a lot of good/bad in it, and I'm not sure what to focus on.

The good parts involve a very pretty game, it has extensive stories, lore, exploration and a "different" combat system for an MMO. Should note that nowadays, "different" means "not like WoW", as that's still the base comparison for all such games. Coincidentally, most of the time, different also means bad...

The bad parts involve a fair bit of bugs, a very insane inventory system, fair bit of imbalance PvP-wise (numbers and lvl50+ is almost everything), and the insane untimely maintenance windows brought on by the company, always during the evening prime-time.

The combat is the core of the game, and it's fairly interesting in itself. There's no targeting, this also applies for healers - so there's the unique system of all heals either being smart heals (targeting the lowest health friendly) or area heals. The most mana-efficient "huge" heal has a 10m radius from the caster, so you need to essentially stay on top of the tank during dungeon runs. The combat is also partially twitch-based in the sense that it focuses a lot on dodging, actively blocking and interrupting. If you're tanking a big mob, all you do is mitigate damage by hiding behind your shield with the odd jumping out of the way every now and then when an extremely powerful attack is up.

The skill-system is also quite flexible, the only permanent choices for your character are race and one out of four different classes. These also give you certain class-specific skills. This doesn't restrict you in any way though, as an example, for our initial dungeon run, we had a Sorcerer put on heavy armor and a shield serving as our main tank, the stats from heavy armor and the skills in the 1hand + shield weapon-line was enough to survive. This means you can have very unique characters and builds. You also get two weaponsets you can swap during combat, so you can have two different styles ready for combat. In some of the more stressful situations, I've found myself swapping between my two weaponsets every 3-4 seconds to use the different skills I have there.

The questing is probably the thing most people will have a love/hate relationship with in this game, as it's *very* story-driven and a fierce focus on immersion, voice and so on. The insane amount of lore and text written in this game is pure and utter madness, and if I had a dollar for every time I was forced to "wait" or "observe" something as a part of a quest, I could probably fund a few more years of development for this game.

The PvP is relatively okay from a Dark Age of Camelot point of view. The three factions trying to get control is well done, keep battles feel interesting, but there's the obvious problem of some faction outnumbering the other faction in open field battles. Even though this can be mitigated through the clever use of abilities and siege engines, most often the outcome favors the faction with the bigger numbers, or the faction with the bigger number of level 50+ players. The sub-50 player scaling doesn't really work all that well, and the minute you hit level 50, you just automagically triple your power in PvP.

One of the more interesting aspects of PvP which can be done in smaller groups, is that all characters have stealth. A group of characters can organize and just remain completely hidden until they strike their unsuspecting victims. Obviously this isn't as much fun if you're soloing and find yourself at the receiving end, but it's something that makes 2-4 person groups viable, even solo is doable if you're trying to cut off stragglers who are trying to reinforce the main lines, but you should have some decent escape tools or be prepared to die a fair amount if you plan to do this.

The crafting in the game is okay-ish, but very hurt by the fact that you end up with such a cluttered insane inventory full of madness that you need 2-3 characters to hold all your crafting materials. I'd still like bigger variety in crafting as you actually need to invest skill points into it to progress it, but I'm starting to think we may never see another SWG-crafting game ever.

The skill "respec" option is fairly weird and extremely expensive after a bit. Every active skill can be "morphed" into one of two different variants, giving further flexibility when making your character, but choose carefully, as you can't respec individual skills, you need to fully respec all your skills for a cost of 100g per skill, which adds up to a fair amount of gold. There really isn't an easy way to get gold, even at high-level, so doing a respec once you've gained a fair few levels is most likely a very rare event.

After the initial few days, when they nerfed PvP kill quests, the only viable ways to level in a sane fashion have been questing or grinding mobs - and in most zones, the questing will be faster and slightly less tedious. This means that leveling alt characters will likely be a very horrible affair, as you're ending up doing the same quest-insanity over again. Should note that I'm a person who have absolutely no problem questing another WoW character from 1-90, but I get physically sick just thinking of the effort of leveling another ESO character to max level due to the insanity of the quests. As such, make sure you've picked the right class before you decide to go all in for leveling. Another note here is that this is probably one of the games where duoing or grouping in general is extremely efficient for quick leveling, just make sure you get all the quests done at the same time or there'll be grumpy people.

All in all, I can't really recommend ESO for everyone, you should ideally enjoy questing and exploration/lore more than anything before jumping into this. If you're in it for the Realm vs Realm combat, and you enjoyed Dark Age of Camelot, you should give it a go, provided you're able to stomach a fair bit of leveling before actually being able to contribute as much as "everyone else".

HumbleBundle - Alpha Protocol

Just a quick post to warn people to pick up the Humble Bundle weekly sale at https://www.humblebundle.com/weekly this week, as Alpha Protocol is most likely the best game people in general haven't played.

It received a dodgy reception due to a fair few technical issues, and its reputation never recovered despite those issues being fixed. It's a very good stealth/action/fps/rpg game which will be yours at the unbeatable price of $1 from the bundle sale!

Hearthstone - Daily Quests

If you're playing Hearthstone excessively, you'll probably be able to plow through the daily quests without any problems at all - either by doing arena or simply playing one of your constructed decks. However, for the slightly more casual players, this isn't always as easy to come by - and it's quite "important" for your gold balance in Hearthstone to make sure you clear out the daily quests, at least by the time there's 3 of them, or there'll be "missed gold".

Now, I've decided to share my "mindless dailyquesting" strategy here, which usually gets the dailies sorted in a matter of minutes while I'm primarily focusing on ... well ... anything else to be honest! I've made mindless agrodecks, and switch the play to "casual" to avoid messing up my played rank, and just have fun seeing how disgusting I can be with primarily only spamming damage to my opponent's face.

Here's a sample of the basic decks I use, I've edited them slightly to attempt to only include basic cards, with a few rares sprinkled in here and there, and the odd epic. But, to be honest, you can replace them with basics and still do relatively well. You should note that this won't make friends, and (apart from the hunter deck) they probably won't do well trying to get high on the ladder, but they'll get the daily quests done usually quicker than "serious" decks would.

Now, the basic principle is really just to try to hit the hero for face damage as much as you can and don't trade minions unless your opponent has a huge damage potential with one of them. Everything should really be straightforward here, one note with the mage deck is to always save your frostbolts for when you have 1 or 2 ice lances for the bonus damage.

Things to do while Waiting for the New Arena Season

So it's the week where one season has ended, and another begins! Nothing much to do really... so, here's a couple of suggestions!

  • Get enough Lesser Charms to get Warforged Seals for 9-12 weeks (150-200 charms) for every character
  • Top up Honor on any characters that might for some reason still need som i522 gear
  • Do Battlegrounds?
  • Level a new class!
  • Encourage Blizzard to nerf Heart of the Wild even more
  • Check enchant/gem prices and purchase as needed for your next season gear
  • Play Hearthstone!

Path of Exile

I've relocated the blog and upgraded from SubText to BlogEngine, and wanted to give a quick update on general gaming progress!

I strongly recommend that everyone give Path of Exile a try, especially if you're a fan of the Diablo genre. The slightly hardcore approach to the well known genre makes for heaps of fun in terms of flexibility, character customizability and innovation Diablo 3 players could never even dream of.

There's not much more to say, other than not letting the skill tree scare you, give it a go! It's also a great example of how a company can implement a proper free to play title, without falling into the traps of giving paying customers and advantage gameplay-wise.

A couple of my videos showing various test-builds (unlisted videos as I'm just showing them to friends initially)

Then I've recorded my main character doing some of the endgame maps, this is an exceptionally tanky build I've made for soloing purposes primarily.

http://pathofexile.com/ just go, sign up, have fun! Or grab it from Steam, it's a good game!

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written something here, and wanted to attempt to write a quick intro to the new Final Fantasy game, as I’ve been spending some time with it over the last week.

The game is a re-launch from the earlier FFXIV – which was horrible, with everything revamped and to a certain extent optimized. When I played the previous game I just couldn’t bring myself to like it regardless of how much I wanted to, and I actually ended up playing FFXI for a while instead, that’s how horrible it was.

The new version is a huge step up from the previous one, although it’s still being marketed for PS3 as well as PC, and have slightly more clunky UI than regular MMOs, it’s not horribly apparent like it was in the previous version. There’s still signs of the insane things that Square likes to do, they have a Sony type mindset where they don’t want to do something simply because others are doing it, even if it makes perfect sense, and their own way is just insane. Note that this isn’t exclusive to the game, take for instance when I decided to actually pre-order the game from their official page, I actually had to navigate around for close to 45 minutes to satisfy all their requirements and update my account with all kinds of information. I’m fairly sure new accounts wouldn’t suffer these issues, but still, it’s harder to give money to someone that makes you jump through hoops to actually give them the money.

The game itself is quite pretty! The graphics are very typical Final Fantasy, and when you throw up the details to their extreme levels, it’s very hard to move away from the wonderful sunsets, lush forest and skimpy females in character creation…

The gameplay isn’t too horrible either, although I suspect some ADHD kids will find the 2.5 base global cooldown on skills to be slightly over the top. The UI isn’t 110% responsive either, so if you cast a cure, it’ll land, and you’ll see the results roughly 0.5seconds after it lands. In tense situations, this isn’t ideal obviously, but once you get used to it, it’s not too bad.

One of the primary selling points of the game is the emphasis on story, which is thoroughly underlined by having the main story arc be what unlocks most of your useful utilities. There’s also the flexibility of the job system, where you can level all the different classes/jobs on one character, and swap between them simply by swapping your main hand weapon. In theory, if you’re smacking a monster, and he’s very resistant to physical damage, you can break out a wand instead, which switches your class to Black Mage, and rain fire down on him instead. This obviously requires both of those classes leveled to a similar level to be efficient, and there’s also a skill-lock delay, so you can’t hotswap in combat… but it’s still an option!

Up to roughly level 30, I wasn’t thinking much of the dungeons and instances you do, as they seemed to be sane enough. The main story quest actually forces you to do some of these to progress, so you’ll end up in some parties whether you want to or not. The party configuration is a 4 player party, with 1 tank, 1 healer and 2 dps. I didn’t really think much of it one way or the other earlier, but after finishing the last boss fight, it struck me how different this makes this game, with the boss encounters designed around this.

Based on the last fight I did, I’m fairly confident that, this is *not* a simple game. The fight had mechanics which meant that every player had to do exactly what they needed to do, or the fight would be a wipe. In WoW, I could usually load up a sane tank and healer, and be 99.9% sure that the dungeon would be cleared without incident, but let me describe exactly what the mechanics in this fight were…

Every now and then, the boss would jump up into the air, dash down and deal damage, and at the same time chop away at the platform the fight was on. If you were in the middle of the platform when he landed, you’d die. If you were on the edge of the platform, it’d get crushed, you’d fall, and die. If you were almost at the edge of the platform, you’d “only” take 40% of your hp as damage, and you’d live on. That’s not so bad, but let’s move on to the specific party roles!

The tank actually had it quite easy in comparison, he simply had to keep agro on the boss, and avoid any charge attacks. The boss would do a line attack, where he’d knock back everyone in it, and deal roughly 60% of their max hp as damage, this is avoidable, and if someone by chance gets trapped in it, it’s very likely a wipe.

… as the healer has to conserve mana while trying to keep everyone up. There’s not a lot of different healing options, you have a basic heal, a better heal and an AE heal. The problem is that the better heal costs twice as much, but only heals for 50% more than the basic one, so if you just keep spamming the top heal, you’ll run out of mana long before the fight is even close to ending. The boss deals unavoidable AE damage to everyone just to keep you on your toes, huge hits from 25-50% to the tank at times, and obviously the huge leap where everyone drops to 40% provided they were at 100% to begin with. In addition to this you need to avoid the line attacks, and if you’re the target, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and just run. This is especially rough if you’re halfway through your heal, and you need to cancel it to run and save yourself. In a bad spot, this could actually be a wipe on its own, needing to run out of a danger zone to avoid a certain wipe. When we managed to beat the boss on my healer, I was completely out of mana and had just died, think one person had been hit by the avoidable line attack once, and I had been spamming the basic heal like crazy to make sure I had best sustained healing possible.

The DPS people should technically have it easy, but not today. In addition to needing to avoid the obvious damage, the boss would spawn a part of him that needed to be burned down on a relatively short timer, and at the same time, trap another person. Whenever one DPS would get trapped here, the other one *needs* to shift focus immediately and blow everything to get the other guy out of the trap asap, or there’s simply no chance of burning down the part in time, and it’s a wipe.

Essentially, if either player is not on their game, it’s a wipe. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen it be as obvious as this, but cutting the party size down to 4 people really makes it tougher on everyone when they implement mechanics like disabling one DPS, who then is dependent on the other DPS and so on. The challenge is also level capped, so you will be down-scaled to be level appropriate for these fights – so no use getting help from overgeared maxlevel characters here!

Now, the slightly worrying part is that if you can’t beat this fight, you’re not able to progress the storyline, which again locks out areas with quests and potentially other benefits, so, it’s probably not the best move for attracting casual players, as I’m fairly sure some people will get really discouraged when they get to that point, but it’s also refreshing to see that they actually dare to put something that’s challenging to a certain extent in a very central role.

All in all, I think there’s a place for the new FFXIV – I’m not sure what it will look like when it comes to endgame, as my preference for arena PvP makes most other endgame content seem boring – but we’ll see when that time comes!

Link to the boss fight described at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bATN5hI4fTA

Quick Gaming Updates! SWTOR, DDO, DotA2, D3

It’s been a while since I managed to update this and provide some interesting updates! Since I last updated this site I’ve played SWTOR excessively - and found it to be an excellent game, although it didn’t manage to catch me enough to keep playing a lot once I hit the end of the storylines. It’s still well worth the money as it’s somewhat of an interesting evolution in mmos from a storytelling point of view.

Falling back on old habits, I revisited Dungeons and Dragons Online, which should be considered one of the more challenging and fun PvE-oriented online games out there, not being extremely friendly to new players (read: WoW players) as it requires a bit of research before you start it properly, but the rewards are well worth it once you get into it. It’s also free, and if you want a PvE-challenge type game where you can (and will) screw up your character builds, feel free to check it out and sign up here!

One game I’d like to mention in addition to these is the upcoming DotA 2. I’ve been playing this every now and then in the beta, and I’m really enjoying a quick skirmish with bots there. One of my major gripes with Heroes of Newerth (and other similar games) is how matches tend to end up in constant blame-fests. How a typical game usually works out is that one guy dies early and gets some quick insults yelled at him from his teammates. This guy then realizes he has 15-60secs of downtime cause he’s waiting for the respawn, so he hits caps-lock and starts blaming everyone else and commenting on how horrible they are. If you’re really lucky now, someone will respond and in the process losing their focus so they’ll end up dying as well, at which point … you guessed it, more people with capslock-time! There’s a pattern here…

I really enjoy playing these games, but with the state of the community for them being as it is, I only really enjoy them playing with/against my friends – and DotA 2 manages to satisfy that in the sense that even if we’re not 6-10 people online, we can still “bot it up” and have heaps of fun! So, I strongly encourage people to try it out when it comes out.

Diablo 3 deserves another mention, I’ll most likely be playing this a fair bit, although I’m slightly concerned with the server splits again. I would really like more games of the type that Diablo 3 is to adopt the server-system that Guild Wars is using, where you have your character and can freely select which servers you want to play on for any given play-session, as opposed to what seems to be the norm with having to maintain multiple characters if you want to play with both EU and US friends.

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Lord of the Rings Online, Free to Play, Skirmish

I recently fell into the trap of Lord of the Rings Online as they were transferring EU ownership over to Turbine, and found that the improvements done since I last played 2 years ago were quite interesting, and made me really want to play more, so, I did!

The major changes since I last played involves first off the free to play model, you no longer need to pay to play, yay! Of course, there are some limitations to what you can do, but with a fair bit of dedication, you can actually make it to the end without paying at all.

Second off, they’ve “solofied” the Epic storyline, which means the horribly difficult group quests which you needed to get through to progress the storyline now has the option to do them solo. You then get a buff which makes you roughly as strong as a full party alone, and can have fun without worrying about others getting you killed.

Last, but not least, they’ve added Skirmishes, a new set of small instance dungeon types, where you customize the level, group-size (or solo), and the dungeon/loot scales according to your settings. The best part with this is that the rewards gained here can be used to buy gear equivalent to decent quest rewards at that given level.

A final note on Skirmishes… While running these you get to pick a Skirmish Soldier which works as your sidekick while running around inside, now, it’s possible to run all the skirmishes with all the different soldiers, and that’s pretty much what everyone says as well – but in my experience, for the QUICKEST progress through these skirmishes, always go with the Sage decked out with heavy AE, until you start running out of Power/Health and get downtime as a result (was 40+ with my characters), then switch to a Herbalist with the Power Regeneration skill.

Give Lord of the Rings Online a try, it’s free, Signup Here! Enjoy! :)

Final Fantasy XIV

I was going to write something about this towards the end of the Open Beta, but as they still hadn’t addressed most of my concerned, I didn’t go for the game at all. I think this gamespot review says it all though, it’s very accurate in terms of what’s crap really. I honestly hoped that this game would be something I’d be playing now, and it’s quite sad to see such an excellent opportunity for a good fun online game wasted.

The end of the review says it all - Updates may address a multitude of flaws, but "fun" is not a feature that can be added with a simple patch.

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Civilization 5 and Achievements compared to SC2

After playing through an insane amount of SC2, having heaps of fun grabbing all the different achievements you could think of there, and feeling quite challenged in the process, I was pleasantly surprised to see achievements in place for Civilization 5 as well! However …

There’s obviously a fairly huge difference between the gameplay in SC2 and Civ5, but there’s just something that made me worry slightly as I was going through the list while playing my first few games… they’re quite simply all piss easy for someone who wants to “achieve”! You can just set the game to fit whichever achievement you want to get, and soon thereafter… you have it! With the obvious exception being “Do 1000 things” – with no tracking of how far you are along with these, you just stop caring after a while…

I think in a sense, the achievements implemented in Civ5 to a certain extent made the game a lot “worse” for me personally than if they hadn’t been present at all. My OCD kicked in and I just rushed through the list in no time, only the 2-3 multiplayer achievements and the “do insane amounts of things” remain…

I think I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that single player games have a challenge in the sense that you want to complete them, but you also want to have something to show for it, even if it’s just a simple image or a small icon you can see somewhere in your account profile… it’s “something”! And now that I’ve rushed through these, the game feels like it’s “over” in a sense, whereas in Civ4 I would play it just for fun quite a few times to try out various things, I’ve found myself come across a mental block which says “why bother? it’s not THAT much fun, already done everything… and I get no more achievements…”

I can safely say that the achievements in SC2 prolonged the game by an insane amount for me. There’s no way I would’ve replayed the entire campaign on Brutal difficulty if I hadn’t been able to get that little shiny achievement and the ability to use a picture of Kerrigan as my avatar. In addition to that, they added achievements to carefully thought out challenges, which again partially trained me in terms of what to expect from multiplayer – resulting in me getting hooked on that as well.

So, instead of saying No More Turns – Civilization 5 should say No More Achievements!