Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Sanctum of Domination, First Half

The new raid, Sanctum of Domination, came out last week. We only had one raid day last week, since a large number of people went on vacation. As is our tradition we went in on Normal.

First, it must be said that this is the most annoying raid entrance in a long while. It's surrounded by elites, and there doesn't seem to be an easy path. I switch to tank spec and ride through. DPS players have started using [Comfortable Rider's Barding].

The instance itself is pretty nice. It's a bit drab with the Maw and Torghast colour scheme and architecture, but Blizzard has made the layout interesting as you wander through the different sections.

We killed the first five bosses in Normal. The Tarragrue was interesting with anima powers before hand. We had two accidental pulls and wipes because people took the power that makes you jump far distances. Personally I think it's better if you just stick with straightforward defensive and offensive powers, and avoid the unusual ones.

The Eye of the Jailer was a pretty good fight, especially with the jump behind the eye. Not very difficult.

The Nine was an interesting fight. The first phase was pretty fun, but it didn't last very long. It seemed like the majority of the fight was fighting the last Valkyr alone. As long as you handle the Fragment mechanic decently, the fight is straightforward.

Soulrender Dormazain wasn't too bad easier. It was a little hard at first to see which slice of the platform was clear, but after a while you got used to it. I did like the mechanic where you want people with the debuff to overlap the adds to make killing them easier.

There was a cutscene with Garrosh afterwards which was pretty neat. It's kind of funny, but it was pretty popular online. Garrosh was totally unrepentant, and I think the playerbase found that attitude refreshing compared to whatever is going on the main story.

The final fight we did was Remanent of Ner'zhul. As long as you don't get knocked off the platform, this fight is straightforward. Stay in the center area, and time the knockback so it happens after the Orb of Torment has its armor broken by the boss.

There is a big cutscene after the Sylvanas fight at the end. I haven't actually watched it yet, but it was all over the WoW community. I've been trying to avoid spoilers, but I'm not really sure it's worth the effort.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

First Impressions of Crowfall

Crowfall formally released today. It's been something like six years. I backed it on Kickstarter so long ago. I tried it out in early early alpha, but it was too early for me. So I haven't really looked at it for several years.

In any case, I installed it and gave it a whirl. So far, it's not too bad. The graphics are cartoony and pleasant. There's not a great deal of character customization, though there are quite a lot of races. Some of which are far more unusual than the standard human-type. There are centaurs!

I'm playing a Human Templar, a 2H paladin type, which working out pretty well. There seems to be a big emphasis on harvesting and crafting.

Combat is decent. I'm only in the very early tutorial stages so far. So far it's left-click for your main attack combo, right-click for dodge or a defensive (you can replace the default ability with class abilities) and hot bar abilities with cooldowns. There's also combos and context-specific abilities. For example, my Templar's Parry Defensive combos into a knockdown after the parry.

Classes have a decent size talent tree, and it looks like all your abilities come from that tree. So class customization might be very important. You also get points to improve your stats as you level. Since I have no idea what I'm doing, I'm just raising all 5 stats evenly. What's interesting is that some talents you take in the tree also adjust your stats significantly.

If I have any complaint, it's that I think they could have done one more round of simplification, especially in their UI. For example, if you kill a mob, you can loot it with the F key, or full loot with the G key. I'm constantly hitting the wrong button. I think they should have just gone with F key full loots, and maybe bring up the regular loot window if your bags are full. 

A lot of the UI feels like that, just a touch too complex, and one more pass of simplifying would smooth things out.

In any case, I'm rather enjoying this simple part of Crowfall. We'll see what it's like when the PvP games come into play. If you're looking for a new MMO, maybe give it a whirl. It is Buy-2-Play, not Free-2-Play. You can use my account name, "rohanv", as a referral code for a discount or some-such if you want.

One thing to keep in mind, Crowfall uses your account name for all your characters. The actual characters are more like disposable tools, which fits with the game's story. However, this means you should take care with your account name, including capitalization, as I haven't found a way to change it. My account name is "rohanv", because I made it so long ago. I don't really mind using my name, but I would have preferred to have it capitalized in game.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Korthia and Maw Assaults

I've continued working on Korthia. I'm not really farming anything, just casually doing dailies and the Maw Assaults.

 The first Assault was Ardenweald. This was pretty good for the most part. The sneaking section was a little weird because other people were in there with you. There were a couple times where someone else redirected the searchlights right on to me.

The second Assault was Revendreth. This one was a bit unusual because it had a kill 30 mobs quest combined with a "feed corpses to a critter". But then there were two other "vehicle" quests where you couldn't activate the critter, but could still kill mobs. It wasn't too bad, but it kind of felt that the quests were fighting each other. Like you didn't want to kill too many mobs while in a vehicle, because you'd have to kill extra to feed the critter.

Also the last boss of the Assault must have been terribly annoying if you didn't have an SSD, as there were 8 loading screens!

I also took a couple of alts to Korthia. The skip is really nice, taking you right to the dailies.

The story is getting a bit more interesting too, with the introduction of the Nathrazeim. Be interesting to see where this goes. I hope it doesn't go too far into "The Jailer was responsible for all the the previous Evils in Warcraft!" It's already pushing into that territory with the Lich King and the Helm of Domination and Frostmourne.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

The Old Republic: Legacy of the Sith Announced

SWTOR has announced it's latest expansion, Legacy of the Sith, coming at the end of the year. It also kicks off the 10th anniversary celebrations of the MMO, which seems to be mostly flying under the radar these days.

Legacy of the Sith has the standard SWTOR expansion features: a new planet, some new instances, 5 new levels, and a new raid or operation.

However, the big announcement is that Bioware has managed to separate mechanical classes from stories. Apparently starting from Legacy of the Sith, you will first pick a story, and then pick a class to use. The classes are separated into Force and Tech, but you can use any Force class for any Force story.

So for example, you could play the Jedi Knight story with the Inquisitor theming and mechanics. I imagine it will make more sense with the Tech classes. For example, a Sniper in the Republic Trooper story does seem reasonable.

Bioware has also been vague about this, but they're hinting that you can switch classes on one character. Maybe you can take your Sniper and switch to Commando. Shades of FFXIV's character and class situation. This isn't confirmed yet, but it's certainly possible. All the work that went into separating out class and story might have been enough to make switching classes easy from a technical perspective.

Finally, the other interesting possibility is that Bioware can now introduce new mechanical classes. Before, any new class would require a new 1-50 class story, with all the requisite cutscenes and voice acting. But now a new class could just attach to the existing stories.

In any case, it looks interesting, so we'll see what future reveals bring.

Friday, July 02, 2021

First Impressions of Patch 9.1

Patch 9.1 in World of Warcraft came out this week. I've been going to some lengths to avoid spoilers, so it was pretty much all new to me.

It looks like it is continuing the Shadowlands max level content strategy of having several areas of content with separate currencies, and the bulk of the rewards coming from weekly quests. I like this strategy a lot, and the resulting pacing, so I'm happy that 9.1 continues with it.

The new story line still isn't that good, but it's serviceable, I guess. We'll see if Blizz manages to improve in the next few chapters.

The new zone, Korthia, is interesting. It's not as bleak as the Maw, but still kind of drab. So far the quests seem okay. It feels a lot like Rustbolt from BfA. Though there seem to be a lot of unusual complaints on Reddit. Today everyone was complaining that doing one daily where you had to pick up some animal was impossible. I logged in and it seemed perfectly reasonable to me.

I did try level 9 of Torghast solo. I scored 2 out 5, but I died twice. If I hadn't died, it would have been 3/5. I guess I need to go faster to get the better scores. But then there's also this Deck of Many Things which boosts you as you fill it out. Probably end up like Horrible Visions where it gets significantly easier to score higher as you fill out the talent tree.

All in all, Patch 9.1 looks good so far. Nothing really stands out, but it continues the steady pace. I'm looking forward to the new raid and dungeon.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Sire Denathrius and the Lack of Titanforging

As one raid tier ends and we look forward to the next one, I've been thinking about the end boss of Castle Nathria, Sire Denathrius.

I think Sire Denathrius was an excellent end boss for a raid. He was a difficult fight, which took us many attempts to learn and master. But at the same time, Denathrius was a predictable fight. Abilities happened on schedule, and there were definite marks the raid aimed for and tried to hit. Once we killed him once, and knew we could kill him, we repeated the kill every week. If we failed to kill him on an attempt, it was always because we made a mistake somewhere in the fight.

At the same time, though, Sire Denathrius never really became easier to kill. Killing him every week felt as difficult as killing him the first time. We would always switch from alts to mains and make sure we had the full complement of healers. Heck, one of our tanks switched classes after the first kill to take less damage and make repeating the kill easier! We couldn't really carry anyone on the kill. We only got AOTC for our two casual raiders (who don't come for progression night) in the second-last week, even though they had been faithfully attending every week.

I think the primary cause of this was the lack of titanforging. As a raid group, we killed Sire Denathrius near the peak of our gear level. Obviously we got some better gear from Denathrius and filled out holes, but we didn't improve enough to really put him on farm. In the two previous expansions, titanforged pieces or corrupted items would continue to drop. The raid's power level continued to increasing, making farming the end boss easier and easier.

I think that aspect of titanforging was useful. It made farming less stressful and more casual. People could bring alts, or we could carry friends, or take non-optimal compositions. I'm pretty sure we were two-healing an 18-person heroic N'Zoth by the end of the tier.

Maybe taking advantage of the Vault would work. For example, if you killed Sire Denathrius, your vault would guarantee one piece of gear from the next tier. So if you killed Heroic Sire Denathrius, you would get a Mythic item in the Vault next week. A Normal kill guarantees a Heroic piece. I think that would be enough to preserve the challenge of the first kill, but still allow the raid to improve enough in three to four weeks to make farming the end boss more relaxing and allow for more slack.