Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Kul Tiran Recruitment, Heroic Rastakhan

Kul Tiran Recruitment

The quest line to unlock the Kul Tiran Allied Race was really well done. It had you revist all the zones in Kul Tiras, and had several callbacks to the levelling experience.

Being able to name the new Alliance flagship was a very nice touch, especially as Blizzard got the location names to match what you picked. I went with Tiffin's Melody.

The only issue I had is that Blizzard tried too hard to "surprise" you with the fact that shipwright was female. In fact, it was really obvious because a lot of the sentence construction and word choices used were unusual, and served no purpose beyond veiling the shipwright's gender. And whenever writers do this, they invariably make the character female.

Whenever authors do this it feels as though they are condescending to the audience. Like the audience is so obviously prejudiced that they cannot possibly conceive of a female shipwright, and so it falls to the enlightened writer to educate the audience.

Heroic Rastakhan

We also killed Heroic Rastakhan. Surprisingly, this was the first night we attempted him, and the previous boss had taken a while. But Heroic Rastakhan isn't that different from Normal. We actually tried a different strategy to start, but then we gave up and went back to our Normal positioning.

The only real difficulty is the phase where the raid is split in two, and once you have that down, the fight is pretty much done.

We then tried Heroic Mekkatorque for an hour or so. I think that fight may take us a few nights. It seems pretty obvious that we aren't executing correctly on Normal, as we had a lot of gigavolt charges blowing up in the middle of the raid. That should have been a mechanic we mastered previously.

Friday, March 15, 2019

8.1.5 Alliance War Campaign

The Alliance War Campaign for 8.1.5 is fairly reactive. Things are happening horde-side, and the Alliance is basically watching the fallout. Shades of this older post of mine:
Now in Pandaria, we see the end result of that. One side had to go evil to make the war "fit" with modern sensibilities. Thus one of Garrosh or Varian had to go bad, and Garrosh was the one chosen. 
That sets up two stories: a civil war within the Horde, and the Alliance attempts to finish Garrosh. Of those two stories, the civil war is always going to be the more interesting story.
There's a nice cutscene, though:


The writers' work with Jaina has been the major standout this expansion. They've done an excellent job with her all around.

I wasn't really on-board with all the "Garrosh 2.0" complaints about the storyline earlier. But it's looking more and more like this expansion will be a re-tread of the Pandaria story line. There's some differences, notably Sylvanas is treating the rest of the Horde much better. But her character and motivations are really mysterious. There's been no attempt to get Horde players to sympathise with her or her aims, even if you disagree. That lack makes it really seem like they're setting her up to be deposed.

Oh well, there's still plenty of time left in the story. Perhaps Blizzard will surprise us.

I think this story illustrates the disadvantages of "going big". If Sylvanas hadn't burned down Darnassus, there's actually a lot more room for the story to manoeuvre. But because she did, the story points in one direction. Though imagine a scenario where Sylvanas sues for a peace or truce that leaves her as Warchief still. Anduin agrees to this truce (as his nature inclines him to), and that causes a schism in the Alliance as the Night Elves, Worgen, and Kul Tirans strongly disagree. That would be an interesting turn of events, and move the "civil war" over to the Alliance side.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Patch 8.1.5, Heroic Conclave, Glimmer Build

Patch 8.1.5

Patch 8.1.5 launched yesterday. As it was raid night, I only did Magni's quest to get 10 ilvls for the Azerite necklace. That quest was pretty short, featuring a return to Uldir and a couple of cutscenes. It felt a bit more like set up for future developments (in 77 cycles, a nod to the 77 day patch cycle of Legion).

I'll probably continue the main campaign line next, though I'm considering making a Kul Tiran druid. Of course, I've never actually finished levelling an Allied race character. So it will probably languish as an alt.

Heroic Conclave

We got Heroic Conclave down tonight. Pretty fun fight, though I think we still aren't positioning the frog quite correctly. In particular, I use Avenging Crusader during the Paku phase, which means I have to be in melee on the edge, and inevitably I get bounced when the frog jumps there.

Also Conclave is a little annoying because you have to look through translucent mobs to marks on the ground beneath them. The translucent mobs don't actually do anything but act as timers (and a marker in the case of Paku), so it is unfortunate that they take up space in the arena.

Avenging Wrath Buff

Paladins got a small buff to Avenging Wrath in this patch:
Avenging Wrath now causes your next Holy Shock, Light of the Protector, Templar’s Verdict, or Divine Storm to critically strike.
A little unusual for a mid-expansion buff. I'm not really sure what prompted this change.

Edit: Apparently a bunch of cooldowns for different classes got a small effect on use. I guess Blizzard just wanted to add some "punch" to these abilities.

Glimmer Build

I tried the Glimmer build in the raid. My Retribution chest had Glimmer so I reforged that to try it out.

My verdict: I disliked the build.

I was performing a little worse than normal, but a lot of that was unfamiliarity with the build, and generally Holy Shocking the wrong target. In particular, the same people often took damage, and I would instinctively Holy Shock someone who already had Glimmer on them.

What I found, though, is I really disliked the number of Crusader Strikes you use. The priority is Holy Shock > Light of Dawn > Crusader Strike, and sometimes it felt like I was spending half my GCDs on Crusader Strikes instead of healing.

As well, it felt like you had to be stricter about staying in melee. The old build, you want to be in melee, but it's not strict about it. If the boss is moving, you can heal and then catch up to melee. I did do a fair bit more DPS with the Glimmer build than normal, though. And mana seemed much more forgiving with the Glimmer build.

In any case, I switched back when we took a break in the raid to the standard Judgment of Light build. Given that we did get Conclave after that, maybe I'll take it as a sign that the JoL build is the one for me.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Anthem Loot Issues

On Friday before the patch, there was a brief window where loot in Anthem dropped like crazy. The patch restored loot rates to normal. Since then the Anthem community has been clamouring for loot rates to return to that pre-patch state.

In my opinion, Anthem loot rates are correct up to Grandmaster 1. Every difficulty should have a purpose:
  • Easy - for people who find Normal too hard, or perhaps people soloing
  • Normal - go through the initial story
  • Hard - finish levelling to max, equip Javelin with epics
  • GM1 - replace epics with masterworks
  • GM2+ - replace masterworks with better versions
I think that GM1 loot rates are fine for that primary job. It won't take you very long get masterworks for most of your slots. At which point you should move up to the next level.

It's like Torment I in Diablo 3. Torment I doesn't actually drop that many legendaries, probably a bit less than one per rift. You farm Torment I until you have legendaries for most slots, and then you move up.

Anthem, however, does make that last stage, where you are chasing better versions of your masterworks, more difficult than it needs to be. I do think that drop rates in GM2 and especially GM3 could be increased a fair bit.

I also think the community outcry is excessive. It's been two days, over a weekend. I think it's unreasonable to expect a response on an issue like this so soon. 

In some ways, maybe this is Bioware's fault for trying to respond to earlier issues so quickly. Rather than giving them credit for that fast response time, it's just conditioned the audience to expect that, and become upset when responses don't appear that fast.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

New Holy Paladin Glimmer Build

A new Holy Paladin healing build has popped up recently, one based around the new Azerite trait introduced in 8.2: Glimmer of Light:
Holy Shock leaves a Glimmer of Light on the target for 30 sec.  When you Holy Shock, all targets with Glimmer of Light are damaged for 1076 or healed for 1587.
The basic idea is that you get 3x Glimmer of Light traits on your Azerite gear, and then use your talents to get as many Holy Shocks as possible. You try to put Glimmer on as many people as possible, and each Holy Shock then acts like a mini-Beacon of Light to all your Glimmered targets. You also have to be in melee and using Crusader Strike to get more Holy Shocks.

Here's a more detailed article: A Glimmer of Hope for Holy Paladins in BFA.

Apparently, the build plays more like a druid putting HoTs on the raid than a traditional paladin build. It's also quite powerful, as many of the top parses are using it.

There's all sorts of interesting nuances to this build. You eschew Judgment of Light, which has been a staple for so long. You go back to a single Beacon. You don't use Avenging Crusader, though you have to be in melee more.

You even want to take one Retribution Azerite trait, Light's Decree. I admit I was very confused when I saw people in the Holy Discord channel asking about that.

I haven't tried the build yet, as I think I only have 2x Glimmers. But maybe I'll try and pick up that third Glimmer and give it a whirl.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Guild Updates, Server Transfers and Names

As you may remember, the guild I was in for Legion and BFA imploded in the beginning of February. The remaining officers and a few others from that guild transferred to a new server and went Horde.

The previous guild leaders came back, and formed a new guild from the remaining players. We've been raiding with another guild on Doomhammer for the past couple of weeks. They're a pretty good group and are around our age, skill level, and preferred schedule. We've picked up Heroic Grong and Heroic Opulence, and are working on Heroic Conclave.

In any case, the Doomhammer guild asked us to server transfer and join up with them. Our guild leaders want to step back from the work of recruitment and building up the new guild to a point where we could raid on our own. So they, and most of the other people in our new guild have decided to transfer.

I'm probably going to join them, but there's one thing holding me back. My main name, Coriel, is taken on Doomhammer. It's taken by a level 90 blood elf paladin, who I think left the game in Mists of Pandaria.

I am rather loathe to change names, since that character has had that name since Vanilla. But I guess I'll have to do so. If it was a low level alt, I'd try and get it released, but it looks like someone's endgame main.

Several of the secondary names I use are free on that server, so it's not a huge deal. It's not like I'll have to resort to alternate characters. Though, amusingly, one person who was trying to invite me to a group recently asked what the code was for the "i" in Coriel, automatically assuming it was something special.

The other thing I'm considering is, since I have to change names anyways, is switching to a male character. I don't talk a lot in Discord, and I think some people have started assuming I'm female. It's kind of unusual, because in the past the default assumption has always been male. But maybe it's the combination of healer + female character + not talking. Either way, it's a little awkward, so I'm thinking of switching.

Server transfers are annoying, though. They're simultaneously too easy and too difficult. They're easy enough so that people don't really bat an eye at transferring a single main to join a specific guild on a different server. But it's also annoying to have characters spread out on multiple servers.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Solution to A Makes B Worse

There's one interesting mistake pattern that Bioware has made a couple of times so far in Anthem.

Basically, Bioware predicted that Situation A would be problematic and devised a solution for A. However, in practice, it turns out that Situation B is more common, and that solution actually makes B worse.

For example, take tethering in missions. If you get too far away from the group, a warning pops up and then the game will automatically port you to the group (unfortunately, this requires a loading screen). It's clearly intended for people who go the wrong way, or get turned around, or just get lost. Porting that player to the group is a great solution for this situation.

However, it turns out that the more common scenario is for one player to be a little bit slower than the group, and she falls behind a little bit. Maybe she's not as good at flight, or took a few seconds to look around before taking off. She's still going in the right direction, and will catch up eventually. However, the tethering mechanic triggers and can port her, which is very annoying.

Bioware made the mechanic more forgiving in the Day One patch. However, the basic issue remains. There are too many false positives with the tethering mechanic.

A similar thing is happening in quick-play. If someone leaves a mission, then the spot is back-filled from the quick-play queue. This is a great solution to handle people who just leave missions for arbitrary reasons. But it turns out that the reason most people don't leave missions arbitrarily. Most of the time they leave missions is because the mission is bugged, which is a really good reason to leave. Then quick-play people get back-filled into the instance and can't do anything, end up leaving as well, and the cycle continues. Even if only a tiny percentage of missions bug out, those are the ones that people will always see in quick-play.

One has to wonder if it would have been better if Anthem just did not back-fill at all. If someone leaves, well, you carry on with three people. Quick-play always starts you with a fresh mission.

The main thing here is that the "effectiveness" of the solution depends on the frequency of the problem. If getting lost was more common than falling behind, there would be minimal complaints about tethering. If people leaving was more common than bugged missions, quick-play back-filling would be a great solution.

Of course, these issues will get fixed by narrowing the solution. Maybe tethering will consider if you are moving in the right direction before triggering. Or back-filling might put a cap on the number of people that fill. Like the queue will fill 2 empty spots, but after that it will mark the mission as unsalvageable, so no more people cycle in.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Community Reaction to Anthem

The gaming community's reaction to Anthem is really harsh. It's getting savaged in press and reviews, and on the internet.

I think the reaction is excessively harsh. Anthem's moment-to-moment game play is superb. It has some issues, that's true. But it's about what you would expect from a game like this. It isn't a "You must play this!!!" game. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who had no interest in looter-shooters. But if the general idea of the game attracts you, you'll probably enjoy it a lot.

The best explanation I've seen for the scale of the reaction is that Anthem is the "last straw" for a lot of gamers. There's been a whole host of AAA games which have disappointed recently, especially with regards to polish, and Anthem is just the point where the crowd decided to make a stand. It's a particularly attractive target as EA is so hated, and thus the community can indulge in the narrative that EA ruined the once-great Bioware.

One thing that concerns me, though, is that there is one game cited as "Anthem should have been more like this": Monster Hunter World.  Now, it might be true that MHW was much more polished on release. But MHW was released on consoles in January 2018, and the PC release was months later, in August 2018.

An awful lot of the "polish" problems are PC problems which only occur on some setups. Differing loading times, that sound cutting out bug people keep complaining about, occasional crashes, etc. Absolutely none of which have happened to me. From my perspective, the game is rock-solid performance-wise. Even the lack of text chat is really a PC problem, and doesn't really apply to consoles.

I'm concerned that the lesson EA and the games industry will take from the contrast between MHW and Anthem is that the simultaneous launch on PC and console was a mistake. That Bioware should have just released a polished console-only game, and launched the PC version months later.  If that console version had played how Anthem plays on my computer, then I think the reviews would be 10 to 20 points higher. But as a PC player, I'd rather not see that future.

In any case, I don't think Anthem is as bad as much of the online reaction is making it appear to be. Even if much of the complaints are rooted in reality, it feels like they are not weighing the sheer fun of the game. If you're interested in the game, I strongly recommend the Origin Access subscription route to try it out.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

FreePlay in Anthem

I'm currently level 16, and am "blocked" on the story. You have to do four trials which are basically collections of achievements. Kill 50 enemies with melee, etc. You can complete these achievements in the earlier story missions, but it's likely you'll be missing a few of them, so you have to head into FreePlay for a bit.

The major problem for me is that one achievement (open 15 chests) was bugged, and it only counted if you were the person to open the chest. It has since been fixed so that it counts if anyone opens a chest near you. But I entered FreePlay with zero chests, and have been slowly accumulating more. Most of the other achievements were about 80% complete, except Ultimate Kills. Apparently I wasn't using Ultimates earlier in the game. But since they're Ultimates, you rack up kills with them quite quickly.

FreePlay is a bit lonely. The map is very big, so meeting up with other people already in the map is rather time-consuming. As well, people leave and join often. You meet up with someone, do an event, and then they leave FreePlay and you have to go find someone else. You don't see World Events on the map, so there's no obvious location where people converge.

Once you meet up, wandering with people and doing events is fun. I guess if you played with friends,  or an online community, it would be even better. Note that you don't have to group up. You can do most things solo, even the events. The only thing I was unable to do by myself was kill an Ash Titan. So much fire!

Javelin-wise, I've unlocked the Ranger, Colossus, and Interceptor. I don't care for the Interceptor play-style. It is a fast, fragile, melee type, which is just a bad fit for me personally. However, I really like the Colossus.

The Colossus has a shield, and you can hold up the shield and then charge at people, dealing damage to them. I have a component which increases that shield damage by 300%, so my Colossus just runs around the battlefield stomping mobs. It's pretty hilarious. It doesn't really work with flying enemies though.

In other news, I bought a Logitech g600 mouse for use with Anthem. Somewhat ironic, since it is an MMO mouse. But I found I needed about 4 extra buttons, and they were awkward to use on the keyboard. So far the new mouse is working well.

Anyways, I'm still enjoying Anthem. Hopefully I will get past this stage soon and then back to the story.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Anthem First Impressions

In the end I picked up Origin Access Premium to try out Bioware's Anthem. Origin Access got to play the game starting on Friday, though the full launch is on Feb 22. I'm not very far in, I'm about level 13 and I have unlocked two Javelins: the Ranger and the Colossus. Here are my impressions:

Good
  • Javelin game play - this is just superb. It feels great, and is a ton of fun. In particular, flying in a Javelin is outstanding. The javelin heats up in flight, and you have to land if it gets overheated. But you can do things like fly through waterfalls, skim the surfaces of rivers, or dive straight down to reduce heat. So managing heat and flight time is a mini-game in and of itself.
  • Combat is fun. You have guns and two "powers", which depend on your Javelin type and equipment. You can equip many different powers, and the guns also play differently.
  • Different Javelins play differently. The Ranger is more long-ranged with a shield that regenerates. The Colossus meanwhile charges in with lots of health and armor.
  • Gearing is good so far. There looks like a wide variety of gear and options. One interesting thing is that you only see loot at the end of a mission. I kind of like it, as you don't really need to worry about loot during game play.
  • "Multiplayer-by-default" - Whenever you start a mission, you are matched with 3 others working on the same mission. Anthem in small groups is a lot of fun, especially seeing all four of you flying towards a destination. You can change the setting to Private, and play by yourself if you wish. Though you might want to dial the difficulty down in that case.
  • Performance is pretty good. Some people are reporting lots of trouble, but Anthem has been rock-solid for me. It looks good as well, but I don't have very high standards for graphics.
Uncertain
  • Story and Writing - It's decent, but not as good as I would have expected from Bioware. In some respects it's making me wonder if I'm looking back at Mass Effect and SWTOR with rose-colored glasses. Maybe ME and SWTOR writing wasn't as good as I remember. It feels like Bioware focused on improving game play significantly, as that was the weakness of ME, but in the process they let their writing team and practices degrade a bit. Now, it's not terrible or anything, but so far I'd give the story and writing a B, not an A.
  • Real Money Transactions - the store is entirely cosmetics at this point, and you can earn Coins to buy stuff on it through gameplay. I generally ignore cosmetics though, so I'm not really someone to give advice here. All I can say is that so far, I've been able to ignore the system entirely.
Bad
  • Load times. You absolutely must install Anthem on an SSD. Load times are long even on an SSD, and there are fair amount of load screens. This is especially important because you can start missions as soon as you load in, even before the others have loaded. So if you're on a older HDD, it's very likely you'll miss the beginning of every mission.
  • Keep group together mechanic - During missions, if you fall behind too much, you'll get a warning and a countdown timer. If you don't catch up, you'll get ported to the group. Now, this is a good idea in general to help people who get lost, but the mechanic is very aggressive. You look around for five seconds, and the timer pops up. As well, failing the timer triggers a load screen, which hurts given the previous point. More than once I've been two seconds away from catching up to the group, when the timer expired and I got thrown into a 20 second load screen.
  • Menus - there are a lot of nested menus. The control scheme is pretty clearly made for consoles, and it is a bit of a pain to navigate.
  • Mechanics are opaque. For the most part you can muddle through, but if you're the type who needs to know exactly how stats and mechanics work, you're probably going to get frustrated. Even the basic damage mechanic of how Combos work, with Primers and Detonators, is extremely poorly explained. I found the following chart on Reddit, and the game mechanics and gearing make a lot more sense now:
Overall

Anthem is pretty good. The core game with Javelins is lots of fun so far. The story and writing is a bit disappointing, but really only because we have such high expectations of Bioware.

I have no idea about the longevity of the game, though. I'm still just leveling up. If you're on the fence, consider getting a month of Origin Access and trying out the game first.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Guild Implosion

The first raid night in Battle for Dazalor we had a whopping 29 people in the raid. Three weeks later, we had 11, and the guild leadership decided to swap factions and transfer servers. I am not really certain what exactly happened.

Or, well, I guess I do know. In Legion, we were a Heroic raiding guild. In Battle for Azeroth, it was decided to push for Mythic raiding. We didn't do too badly in Uldir, going 3/8 Mythic.

But before Dazalor, our long-time guild leaders decided that we were getting too hardcore for their tastes, and stepped down. After the first couple of raids, a large chunk of our best raiders decided that we weren't going to be good enough and split off. Then another, newer, group decided our times were not right for them, and they left too.

So then the leadership and core raid team decided to go Horde, since many of them wanted to play on that faction, and transferred to a larger server, hopefully with better recruiting prospects. This happened super-fast. They announced it Saturday afternoon, and people were transferring in the evening.

I have an invitation to join them, but I'm a little unsure what to do. I've raided with several of these guys for two years now. They're good people, and I enjoy playing with them. 

But I really don't want to faction-swap Coriel. I suppose I could transfer or level a Horde character, even another paladin.

The other thing is that, looking back at my tenure in this guild, I preferred it as it existed in Legion. Focused on Heroic raids, 2 nights a week. I didn't mind Mythic raiding at 3 nights a week, especially since many other people in the guild wanted to try it, and I enjoyed raiding with them. But I did like the Heroic version of the guild better.

Hmm, perhaps writing this post has made things clearer to me. I want to find a decent Alliance Heroic guild, but one with zero intention of going to Mythic. Maybe one willing to "graduate" extremely good players, and help them find a spot in a Mythic guild, but able to resist the pressure from those good players to have the guild go Mythic.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Diablo Season 16

I haven't played Diablo III in a while, but I jumped back into Season 16 when it started a week ago.

Normally, I stop playing Diablo after I finish the first four Season chapters and get the full 6-piece set. Usually Torment 6 or Greater Rift 20 or so. This time I've decided to make an attempt at getting into the Diablo III elder game. Primal legendaries, ancient primals, Torment 13 etc.

I'm basically following an online guide to the Hammerdin build, and it's going pretty well. I'm in Season chapter V. I still need to find a proper weapon and shield for the build, but most of my other pieces are decent. Though I cannot roll a socket on my amulet to save my life.

It's interesting because usually I don't "farm" in Diablo. I play on difficulties close to my gear level, pushing to finish the chapter requirements. Enemies seem to take a while to kill, but also take a while to kill me. This time around I'm farming T6.  Everything dies super-fast, and I can finish a rift in five minutes or so. But everything also does a lot of damage, and death can happen very quickly.  It feels very different from the Diablo III I normally play.

Season 16 is the Season of Royal Grandeur. There's a universal buff which mimics the effects of the Ring of Royal Grandeur, allowing you to get set bonuses with one less set piece (minimum of two pieces). It's an interesting twist. I'm currently running five pieces of the Seeker of the Light set (so I get the 6-piece set bonus) and two pieces of the Blackthorne set for the 2- and 3-piece set bonus.

Playing Diablo III this way is an interesting experience. Probably what most serious Diablo players are used to, though.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Origin Access Premier?

Has anyone tried Origin Access Premier?

I saw someone link it in a discussion about Bioware's Anthem. It looks like quite good value for money, especially if you like to buy newer games.  It's $20 CAD/month or $130 CAD/year, but given that Anthem will cost $80 CAD at launch, that's basically 4 months of subscription. Or a full year is 2 new games.

The back catalog also looks pretty decent, with a wide variety of games available. I am particularly interested in Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition, as I never played them.

You can probably do better value for money through Humble Bundles and waiting for Steam sales, but this looks really solid for new games. Of course, I think you're restricted to EA games. And like most subscription services, you probably lose access when you stop paying.

But it seems almost too good to be true for games that you will play and finish. If anyone has tried this service, can you post your impressions in the comments?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Blue Mage

FFXIV released their newest job, the Blue Mage, last week. The Blue Mage is a "limited job". It currently has a level cap of 50, and is not allowed in normal random-matchmaker group content. You can do dungeons and trials with a Blue Mage, but you have to be in a pre-made group.


The central mechanic of Blue Mage is that you don't learn abilities from levelling up, like all the other classes. Instead you learn abilities from monsters. You have to attack a monster, see it use the ability, and then defeat it. You then have a chance of learning the ability. There are currently 50 abilities to learn, of which you can equip 25 at a time.

The big problem, as I see it, is that the game doesn't give you very much information on what abilities you can learn. The spell book starts blank, with 50 slots. The only information given is the zone in which a monster with the ability can be found. It doesn't even tell you the name of the spell!

Now, obviously, all the information was data-mined and there are guides already up on the internet which will direct you to all the monsters you need.

But if you want to try and do it organically, you basically wander around attacking every monster in the zone. And since learning an ability is not guaranteed, you have to kill several of that type to be confident that you can't learn anything.

The saving grace of the system is that most abilities can be learned from several different monsters, not just the ones from the zones noted in the book.

What I'm currently doing is just finishing FATEs to level my Blue Mage, and incidentally learning abilities along the way. I can't target specific abilities, but the spell book doesn't tell me what abilities I can learn in any case. So far it is working pretty decently. I'm level 12 and I've learned 5 abilities or so. Among them an AoE bomb spell from goblins, a cone stun from Quirin, a "Sticky Tongue" pull from giant toads, and a self-destruct spell from bombards. Not really sure what use the last is, since it does kill you, but maybe it will combo with something.

I rather imagine I'll end up at 50 and then look up an online guide to get the abilities that I'm missing.

I do think it would have been better for the spell book to give the names of the abilities, but not the locations. That encourages the player to remember what monsters use the abilities. As well, if you're fighting a new monster, you know if you can't learn the ability, rather than wondering if you are just unlucky. Another option might be some sort of Lore spell which tells you if the monster has a learnable ability.

Still, FFXIV's Blue Mage is an interesting experiment. It's more of side-content, rather than a straightforward combat job, but it is enjoyable so far. It's a bit of a shame that the internet has already obsoleted the exploratory aspect.

Monday, January 14, 2019

FFXIV 4.5 MSQ, Orbonne Monastery, Suzaku

Final Fantasy XIV released the latest patch, 4.5, last week.

Main Scenario Quest

The MSQ continues setting up the next expansion. The Garlemad Empire is moving against Eorzea. The new dungeon, The Grimhylt Dark is pretty neat. It's essentially occurs during a battle, and has lots of cameos from the major named NPCs fighting in the conflict.

The dungeon is a bit easier than The Burn was, especially the last boss.

Orbonne Monastery

The patch also released the latest 24-man raid, the Orbonne Monastery. The third boss is a bit crazy, it took us many attempts. I still don't really understand the Crush Armor mechanic.

This raid took my group a long time to finish, mostly because half of Alliance B left after four or so wipes on the third boss. FFXIV has very generous timers on their instances, something like 180 minutes. We finished with less than 10 minutes.

Aside from the third boss, it felt a little easier than the previous couple of raids. At least the boss mechanics were more straightforward.

All in all, it is a pretty good. Three tank pieces actually dropped for me, but since FFXIV has a 1-item-per-week restriction, I had to watch 2 pieces go unclaimed. Very sad, as I'll now expect to never see the chestpiece again.

Suzaku

I realized that I hadn't actually done the Trial from the last patch, Suzaku, and I had to finish it before I can do the Trial from this patch.

Suzaku was a pretty interesting fight, though not that difficult now. It's interesting, but FFXIV fights are much more "gamist" than WoW, relying on very "unrealistic" visual elements. For example, in Suzaku, the arena is divided into four quadrants, each inscribed with a different colour and Japanese character. Then the four characters appear in the air on the edge of the area, and there's a flying phoenix circling. When the phoenix hits a character, the matching quadrant explodes.

I haven't done the latest trial yet. FFXIV is also staggering a lot of the content in this patch. For example, Blue Mage releases tomorrow. The MSQ also continues in a month or two.

Patch 4.5 is pretty good. I'm looking forward to trying Blue Mage tomorrow, along with everyone else on the server.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Mag'har Orc Scenario

I finally got exalted with the Honorbound on my Horde character, and unlocked the Mag'har Orc allied race.

The scenario itself was really neat. You go back to the alternate Draenor, this time twenty or thirty years after the events in Warlords of Draenor.

In this timeline, the Draenei became fanatical members of the Lightbound under High Exarch Yrel. They seek to convert everyone on Draenor to the Light. You have to rescue the last remnants of the Mag'har from them and bring them to Azeroth.

It's a really interesting set up. The real question is if Blizzard will do anything with this. I could see another expansion based around the Lightbound invading Azeroth. But perhaps a better method might be like how Star Trek used their Mirror Universe. Save it for occasional interaction, but don't focus on it intensely. A bit like how the Infinite Dragonflight was used.

This scenario was excellently done, and it's worth grinding rep with the Honorbound on a Horde character to see it.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Updates

Just a quick round up of what I'm playing lately.

World of Warcraft

Nothing really new. We're just coming out of the holiday lull and waiting for the new raid to open in a couple of weeks.

I guess we're going to end this tier with 3/8 Mythic. That's not bad, but for some reason we stopped putting in attempts on new bosses. Instead there was a push to do Mythic Keystone dungeons. I hope this trend was just because of the holidays, and we return to focusing on raiding.

Final Fantasy XIV

I haven't really played this much lately. I did the seasonal events. The Starlight Celebration this year was pretty neat. It featured an attempt to organize a seasonal choir, complete with a musical rhythm game. It was pretty funny if you failed. Here's a video I found on YouTube:


Lord of the Rings Online

I haven't played it since my dungeon runs. I rather think I'm going to drop it.

Soul Calibur VI

I'm still working my way through Libra mode. I stopped using the highest level weapon that dropped, and just started focusing on learning and mastering one weapon style. The style I chose was Knightmare, a heavy 2H sword. I'm about level 48, though I'm not sure how far I've gotten in the story. My guess, based on the map, is about 70-80%.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

8.1 Horde War Campaign

Over the holidays I also finished the 8.1 Horde War Campaign. Like the Alliance version, there were three chapters, and the last chapter waits for the raid to open. There's also a second questline involving Saurfang.

The first chapter is a raid on the Norwington Estate to destroy stockpiled azerite weapons. It featured Rexxar. It was pretty straightforward as these things go.

The second chapter was a goblin escape with Gallywix and a mech. This was okay, if you're a fan of goblins you'd probably like it. I'm not, so I wasn't particularly enthused. There are some funny lines here and there.

The third chapter involved springing Lady Ashvane from Tol Dagor. Your compatriots are Rexxar and Arcanist Valtrois of the Nightbourne. I really like how Blizzard is reusing Allied Race NPCs in this expansion. I like Valtrois, and it's good to see her return. The actual quest is an enjoyable prison-break, featuring disguises and explosions.

The other major quest is the Saurfang quest. This is an excellent quest, as you try to discover what happened to Saurfang as he escaped Stormwind. It's really worth having a Horde character to go through it.

You even get to make a choice at the end to side with Saurfang or Sylvanas. Which is great, except it points up one of the downsides of this thing. I sided with Sylvanas on my blood elf, so to see the other side, I'd need yet another Horde character. I'm debating leveling an Allied Race, or simply using my BfA boost on a Horde character. I don't think the choice will make much difference in the long run, though.

In any case, the Horde War Campaign was a good counterpart to the Alliance one. The story is beginning to heat up, so we'll see what happens when the raid opens in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Othrongroth, the Great Barrow

I ended up making several different characters in Lord of the Rings Online. I finally settled on a Captain, even if the NPC ally is a little janky.

I got my Captain up to the level of the first dungeon, the Great Barrow, and gave that a try.

LotRO has an interesting dungeon system. You have to form the group on your own, mostly by advertising the the Looking For Fellowship channel. But once you form the group, you start the dungeon using a menu system where you select the dungeon and a level for the dungeon. Then everyone teleports inside.

Selecting the level is interesting too. I just set it to the level of the lowest person in the party. But I think setting it to a higher level rewards more XP and loot, but is more difficult.

The actual dungeon run was very disappointing though. It was a total zerg. The tank took off at warp speed and blitzed to the end. To make matters worse, the dungeon is a bit of a maze, so you're chasing down corridors and hoping you don't take a wrong turn and end up with more mobs.

It was also very dark, and very hard to tell what you were fighting. The bosses were okay, I'm not sure if they had special mechanics. But it is the first instance, so one really only expects basic fights.

I did try the dungeons (there are three separate wings) twice. I had to do it twice because the first run was so fast I didn't finish some of the quests. If anything, the second run was worse.

All in all, The Great Barrow has really soured me on LotRO. I don't really want to do more dungeons, and I'm not sure if I really want to keep leveling solo. Especially as the Captain feels like a dedicated group character.