Monday, December 31, 2018

Ask Coriel: What's Changed Since 2015?

A reader asked:
I use to read your blog for many years and I have been away from WoW since 2015... How is the game nowadays and what major changes have been made ? I plan on returning next week.
Welcome back!

Since you say 2015, I'm guessing you missed Legion. The most noticeable changes Legion introduced are World Quests/Emissaries and Mythic Keystone dungeons.

World Quests/Emissaries replaced daily quests at max level. Instead of getting a bunch of dailies, when you open your map, there are a variety of quests scattered around the zones. Each day, there's an "Emissary" quest to do 4 World Quests from a specific area or faction.

Mythic Keystone dungeons (also called Mythic+) are extra-difficulty 5-man dungeons. They're timed runs which reward higher item level the more difficult the Keystone used to start them is.  They're basically an alternate to raiding, and higher Keystones award comparable gear to Heroic and Mythic raiding.

Battle for Azeroth introduced Island Expeditions and Warfronts. They're lower difficulty than dungeons, and more optional activities. Their reception has been mixed, but they're worth trying out.

Otherwise the game is pretty much the same as ever. BfA has separate stories for each faction, so it's worth having both an Alliance and a Horde character.

Any other changes in the last couple of years worth talking about?

Edit: I completely forgot, but Legion added Demon Hunters, which are a pretty neat class.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Soul Calibur VI

Over the holidays I picked up Soul Calibur VI.

It's been forever since I've played a fighting game. I'm pretty terrible, the veriest button-masher. But SC is a lot of fun. It's bright and colourful. There are lots of characters and weapons. Each weapon set is a different fighting style.

Soul Calibur VI also has an extensive custom character creator where you can make your own unique fighter. You assign that fighter a weapon which determines what moves your character uses.

The main story mode, Libra of Souls, has you creating a character, then wandering around in a quasi-RPG. Your character gains XP and levels from fighting enemies. You can also find or buy weapons which have levels and powers.

The RPG mechanics are actually a really nice fit for a single-player fighting game. As far as I can tell, levels just reduce the damage you take and increase the damage you deal, while the fighting game aspect is the same. So if you're actually good at fighting games, you can do everything at low levels. If you're bad, you can grind a few levels with the random encounters, and then have an advantage on the fights.

The story is pretty basic. There are a couple of choices you can make which change parts. You can do a Good or Evil play-through, though I'm still working my through it. Sometimes fights will have special conditions, like the area being slippery, making it very easy to fall off the edge.

There's also a second story mode (Soul Chronicle) where you play shorter stories as the specific characters in the game. Soul Chronicle doesn't have RPG elements, basically a series of fights with some story scenes in-between.

As for fighting game mechanics, I have no idea how it compares to other fighting games. It's quasi-2D, you can move towards or away from the camera, but it's mostly to dodge attacks and change direction in the arena. The camera keeps the view like a standard 2D fighter.

The basic moves (horizontal attack, vertical attack, kick, and block) are simple but effective. Then there are throws, break attacks, soul edge, and reversal edge specials. Soul edge are specials you can only use after a meter builds up. Reversal edge is a special break attack that takes you into this rock-paper-scissors mini-game, which I think allows you to "reset the momentum" if your opponent is pushing hard. Then there are combos after that. I'm still learning the basics and next tier though. Trying to learn how to block effectively.

I'm probably going to stick with single-player, rather than fighting other players online. But so far, the single-player component of Soul Calibur VI is surprisingly extensive, and very enjoyable. If you feel like trying a modern fighting game, I recommend giving Soul Calibur VI a whirl.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

8.1 Island Expeditions, Part 2

Though Blizzard announced that they had changed the way rewards were determined for Island Expeditions in 8.1, they actually made many other changes.  Many of the changes I wanted in the previous post have been implemented, even if it is still something of a race:
  • The location of monster packs has been tightened up. It's a lot easier to move between or around packs without accidentally pulling the entire island.
  • The amount of Azerite elementals has been greatly reduced. I don't think I've seen a large elemental yet. This puts the focus back on the varied fauna of the island.
  • Invasions of other creatures occur a lot earlier, and I think it's possible for two different types to land. Like you might get Vrykul early and then Mantid later on. 
  • I think that the items you need for the various quests to rescue NPCs are now found much closer. So it's much more likely you'll actually be able to do those quests.
All in all, the changes to Island Expeditions have made them a lot smoother and a better experience. It feels like you have more control over your progress, with more focus on special monsters rather than zerging everything in sight.

Island Expeditions are still the same in many ways as in 8.0, just a more refined experience. I think they're more enjoyable, and I rather like doing the four or five Heroic ones you need for the Weekly Treasure map.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

8.1 Faction Assaults and War Mode

8.1 introduces Faction Assaults. Like Legion Invasions, one zone comes under attack for a set period of time. New world quests appear, and after you complete four, you do a final quest to finish the assault.

There are some changes from Legion. The Assault World Quests don't replace existing World Quests. They are all clustered in a specific part of the zone. There are different (but similar) quests for each faction.

The assaults are well done. The zone changes, and it really feels like a major battle is taking place. For example, in Drustvar, the city has magic shields fending off Horde bombardments.

These Assaults are excellent in War Mode. I turned on War Mode to do the kill 25 Horde quests, and it was a lot of fun. There are Alliance groups running around clashing with Horde groups. The Assault structure funnels everyone into the same locations, encouraging lots of faction combat while doing the World Quests.

I even joined an Alliance raid group in Zuldazar that got hyped up and decided to sack the city of Dazalor. Not really sure why, but we invaded the bottom of the city, killed everyone at the inn, then charged all the way to the Great Seal and killed everyone there. It was pretty hilarious.

Even though I had a fair amount of fun in raids, I still don't think they're a good match for War Modes. It's just too uneven. I was in a raid of 25, and we encountered a raid of 10, and wiped them out. I strongly believe that War Mode would work better if they were somehow restricted to 5-man groups. Even multiple 5-man groups loosely coordinating would be better. It also might improve performance a bit, having several 5v5 fights scattered around, rather than a single 40v40.

I'm not sure how Blizzard would do that though. Perhaps War Mode is automatically disabled while in a raid. I have a feeling that there would be a huge outcry though.

In any case, Faction Assaults are quite fun. I strongly recommend turning on War Mode for them, and joining a small group.

Monday, December 17, 2018

8.1 Alliance War Campaign

I finished the available parts of the Alliance war campaign. There are three "chapters" available, out of four total. I'm somewhat surprised that Blizzard didn't time-gate each chapter. It would have fit well, and each chapter is a reasonable chunk of content.

The first chapter is working with Jaina to fend off an assault on Anglepoint. This was a pretty good use of a previous location and NPCs. Also, the final cutscene combined with the Achievement name ([Kul Tirans Don't Look At Explosions]) was very amusing.

The second chapter was this very odd blend of comedy and tragedy, where you use a gnomish device to "embiggen" an intelligent gorilla at the cost of his intelligence. The gorilla volunteers for this operation, seeking to strike back at the Horde (goblins, naturally) for hunting his people. So the entire quest line is a bunch of things that are normally funny, but kind of aren't anymore. I'm not certain if this was a good idea or not, but it was an interesting way of presenting the usual light and mindless gnomish shenanigans.

The third chapter was a treasury heist scenario featuring our favourite Alliance rogues, Mathias Shaw and Flynn Fairwind. Even though they're both rogues, they're both very different characters. Lots of fun banter. The scenario itself was pretty interesting, with several traps that you have to navigate.

I believe the second and third chapters are setting up potential bosses in the Dazalor raid.

There's still one more chapter, which I'm guessing unlocks tomorrow.

All in all, the Alliance War Campaign is pretty good. One interesting thing Blizzard is doing this expansion is taking their time with the story. 8.0 was all about setting initial outposts, and trying to avoid the enemy's attention. In 8.1 things are heating up, and there is more direct confrontation. This long view of the story is interesting, especially as we see many complaints that the factions aren't clashing as much as people think they should be.

Edit: One thing I forgot that I wanted to point out was that Blizzard was very good with cutscenes featuring your character in this patch. The aforementioned first chapter cutscene with both your character and Jaina walking away from the explosion was particularly stylish.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Battle for Darkshore

Patch 8.1 was released yesterday. I did the Night Elf quest chain leading to the Battle of Darkshore.

I really enjoyed the quest line. It was good to see the Night Elves go feral and strike back.

The new warfront is interesting. The initial phase before getting a base is longer, which makes it feel more like an invasion or amphibious assault.

The primary resource seems to be wood, where Arathi emphasized iron. In Darkshore it feels like you use iron for recruiting troops or special abilities, and use wood for building. I liked the Night Elf style of the buildings, and the abilities you get.

It did seem to go a bit faster than Arathi, with a shorter building phase, but that might be just because we're learning the new zone.

I'm not really sure about the undead/goblin opposition. Though that's mostly because I don't like goblins and the "tech" that they bring in. They seem out of place in a night elf/worgen/undead fight. It's all shadows and knives in the dark, then the goblins burst in with flashy neon lights.

All in all, the new warfront is pretty good. Warfronts aren't really an activity I focus on, but it's nice to do them once or twice whenever they become active in each cycle.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Island Expeditions in 8.1

Blizzard is changing up how rewards work for Island Expeditions in 8.1:
Currently in Battle for Azeroth, Island Expeditions have a chance to reward cosmetic items based on which type of creatures you and your team defeated. For example, if the island theme of the week was Hozen, there’s a chance to receive one of the Banana toys. If the invaders were Nerubian, you could have a chance to receive the Voru’kar Leecher companion pet (among other things). They way this has worked is by means of a hidden scorecard that counted your group’s efforts against anything on the island that was part of the invaders’ ecology. So if anyone in the group earned some Azerite from killing invaders or mining Azerite near the invaders, everyone in the group had a chance at the cosmetic rewards. That chance grew based on how much invaders’ Azerite was obtained, and was also a higher chance in Heroic and even higher in Mythic difficulty Islands. We set the maximum chance you could earn at a reasonable threshold, in the hopes that players wouldn’t feel that they needed to only kill invaders and not complete the islands in a natural way. 
Of course, that’s not how it worked out. Confusion around the best way to get cosmetics led to a divergence in playstyles, with some players wishing to focus exclusively on hunting specific creatures, while others wished to win the island efficiently to get Azerite. This caused a significant amount of tension between players who had differing goals. 
In Tides of Vengeance, all players on an Expedition will have a chance to receive cosmetic rewards based on the island’s inhabitants, rather than which enemies were specifically defeated. That chance will again be higher on higher difficulties, but there will be no need to strategize around invaders. The most efficient way to receive cosmetic rewards will be whatever tactics cause you to complete the Island quickly, on the highest difficulty that you’re comfortable.
I agree with Blizzard that the two playstyles interacted badly with each other. However, I wish they had chosen the other path to be the default.  Hunting rares and specific enemies is much more fun than speeding to the goal.

What I would have preferred:
  • Expeditions are a fixed time, say 20 minutes.
  • Most Azerite at the end wins the match.
  • Normal creatures do not give Azerite, only named creatures.
  • Many normal creatures become non-hostile.
  • The "invasion" occurs at the half-way mark.
  • No Azerite elementals.
So you can't speed up the expedition, and all you have to do to win is stay ahead of the enemy. Your focus becomes finding named enemies, and doing the mini-events around the island. Then when the invasion occurs, you hunt them down and clear them out.