ESO – Something New And Shiny!

As you’re reading this, I’m undoubtedly playing ESO. (Actually I’m probably at work, but I’ll be playing it when I get home.) I’m enjoying that magic time in every MMO when you don’t yet know all the things that make you want to quit playing.

I won’t bore you with my impressions of ESO because a) I’ve already posted them, and b) you’ve already got it because it’s a new MMO and you know you can’t stand not playing a new MMO that everyone is talking about, no matter how many bad reviews you’ve seen or how much you oppose a subscription model on principal.

I predict that many people who previously panned the game will start to say, "Hey, I know I said this game sucked, because it was hip and trendy to say that, but now that I’m actually playing it, it’s kind of fun." I’ve already seen subtle hints from podcasters and publications leaning in that general direction.

One thing I forgot to do at the end of beta was try all the classes, so I’m not sure what I’ll be playing. I won’t be playing an Argonian Nightblade, because that’s all I did in beta. (I picked it because it was the farthest from what I might actually play at launch.) Sadly I’ll have to continue with the Ebonheart faction because I know some people that picked them.

In any case I’m thinking about working on crafting skills before combat skills. In my meager testing, it seemed that you could actually craft equipment that was useful, which is a massive departure from what most MMOs provide. I think it would be cool to craft one’s own equipment. (Especially since, back in beta, I noticed that you didn’t often get drops that you could use.)

P.S. Here’s my one and only pro tip for people starting out in ESO: When you craft anything, you need a piece of material that determines the "racial style" of the item. Those can be bought from the vendors near the crafting stations. It took me forever to figure that out. I thought for the longest time they were drops from mobs, so, of course, I never found any.

ESO – Almost Here

Holy crap, ya’ll! The Early Access for ESO is almost here! It’s a 5-day head start, and that’s just a couple of days away!

I’m trying to think back to the last MMO I played at or before the actual launch day. Was it Rift? Maybe it was Guild Wars 2, but I don’t think so. I think it was Rift. That was like 2011. Good lord. That was ages ago.

Actually, in all my MMO time, I’ve only played on a launch day a few times. Asheron’s Call. Warhammer Online. Rift. Now ESO. Later, WildStar.

No matter what the long-term prospects for an MMO are, launch day is a giddy time for all. The servers never work right. The game is up and down. The quests are glitched. There’s a new patch every time you log in. The forums are overflowing with rage-quitters who want their money back. Area chat is filled with people asking which class is most viable for endgame. Google is full of “me first” guides and databases that will become obsolete within a month. Most of all there are crowds in the starter zones. Big, big crowds.

Has anyone seen the quest NPC?
Has anyone seen the quest NPC?

GW2 – Feature Pack

My reaction to the upcoming GW2 Feature Pack: Why the heck did we have to wait until after the Living Story to get these things?? Most of what I’ve read falls into the category of "it probably should have been like that in the first place."

The Wardrobe and Dye changes sound awesome. I have occasionally tried to figure out what to do with all the various "skins" I’ve picked up, but I don’t have a clue. I’m afraid I’m going to accidentally delete them or apply them wrong somehow. I don’t have very many, and they’re all mismatched pieces from various sets anyway. Having this Wardrobe system will make it way easier to deal with that stuff. (I hope.)

The biggest problem with these changes is that I don’t play GW2 enough to appreciate them. :/ If it had been out in 2012 I would have been raving about it every day, along with all the other super cool things in GW2. I could start a new alt but I already have an alt for every class and race. And now that I know what awaits me at level 80 (nothing) there is little or no point in leveling an alt all the way to 80.

Rift – Tempest For The Win

I spent most of a whole weekend playing … Rift! Man that game is awesome. Have I mentioned that? It’s the best WoW-clone of all the WoW-clones. Definitely more better than WoW itself.

I leveled my Warrior from 53 to 57, using a combination of quests and Instant Adventures. Mostly IAs. I used up three 160% Experience potions that I had from some Trion gift or another, and then I got a 30-day Patron status so I could use the daily 40% Experience bonuses for the rest of the trip to 60, which will probably occur during the week.

The biggest problem with Rift is that, tragically, nobody is playing it. It’s really quite sad. I only managed to get into a single normal dungeon as DPS over the entire weekend. And just my luck, it was Storm Breaker Protocol, which is the weirdest, most hated dungeon in all of Rift. (You run around half of it in mech suits. Sort of like the Praetorium instance in FFXIV, only way more obnoxious.) Even the Instant Adventures rarely had more than three or four people in them. And these are all cross-server tools.

Anyway, one reason I made so much progress is that I found a Warrior build that works well for soloing. My theory was correct: As the Storm Legion Harbinger is a great soloing soul for Mages, so too the Storm Legion Tempest is a great soloing soul for Warriors. It does decent damage and has fantastic survivability and self-healing so that you can run from mob to mob without any down time in between. It is not good for packs of mobs, though. During IAs I switched to a Champion build.

The other thing I did in Rift was finish the Dendrome quests with my 60 Mage. Of course then I had to go into the Queen’s Gambit Chronicle and exact bloody revenge upon those evil Architects. It takes a while to solo, but I got through it without dying. The loot was worthless to me, but I got some achievements out of it, and spawned some other quest to find things in other Chronicles.

All-in-all, a fun time was had by all.

WildStar – Trying Out The Classes

Having pre-ordered, I used my first beta weekend in WildStar to figure out what I’m going to play at launch. I think my first character is going to be either a Warrior or an Esper. Probably Warrior, because it was the most fun. Those are the only two classes that "clicked" for me in the first three or four levels.

So far, ranged combat feels weird to me with the telegraph system. I didn’t think I would like any ranged class but the Esper felt tolerable I think because it actually forces you to stand still when you cast. It is no match for the fun of the sword-wielding Warrior class, though. (I didn’t try the Stalker but I assume it would also be fun.)

As for the paths, I liked the Settler and Scientist paths the best, and the Soldier and Explorer paths the least. I will probably do Warrior+Settler and Esper+Scientist.

The factions and races don’t matter that much to me.

Side note: People criticise WildStar for over-sexualizing the females, but to me they looked … deformed. They were so crazily proportioned that they did not look even remotely human, as if they had been subjected to the demented experiments of a mad plastic surgeon. It was the same for the men. Speaking just for me, there is no danger of mistaking any of them for real.

Anyway now that I’ve scoped out the classes and slaked my curiousity about the game, I don’t see any reason to play it any more until launch day.

Rift – Re-thinking the Solo 53 Warrior

I thought maybe I could use this time before ESO launches to level another character in Rift up to 60. The lucky winner of my attention is a Dwarf Warrior, who is currently at 53 and wandering around the depressing, sickly, bruised blue-and-purple landscapes of Seratos.

It seemed like a great idea until I remembered that almost every single encounter ended with my health nearly depleted. I read once that the Storm Legion zones had been nerfed, but they don’t seem all that much easier to me. If I run a DPS build, I take so much damage that I have to stop after every encounter to heal. If I run a tank build, the encounters take so long that I still lose most of my health from being exposed for so long. The point is that I really miss soloing with the Harbinger-Chloromancer build which self-healed so much that I never had to stop – I could go from mob to mob at a dead run.

Of course, I still have a pre-Storm Legion attitude about playing Warrior. I have done little or nothing to re-optimize my Warrior souls or rotations since I came back after Storm Legion. When I came back to my Mage, I built a Harbinger and never looked back. Perhaps I need to go full Tempest to see if it has a corresponding awesomeness compared to the other Warrior souls.

Also, I think I need to do more Instant Adventures and pop a bunch of XP potions. Questing around the Storm Legion zones is a little dry. (One of the only bad things about Rift.)

Claustrophobic Endgame

I figured out what is missing from my daily FFXIV experience: Soloing.

I realized this when I logged into Rift and picked up my Dendrome quest line where I last left off months and months ago. There’s something fundamentally satisfying about toodling around by yourself, chipping away at quests and turning them in. You can stop at any time and fix yourself a drink, or make a sandwich, or whatever. You can get up and go to the store, leaving your character standing right out in the middle of nowhere. Nobody will be waiting for you. There’s no pressure to perform at peak efficiency. You can watch Netflix while you play. You can listen to an audiobook while you play. There’s almost limitless freedom when you’re out soloing.

But when you’re in the progression endgame, almost everything you do (with combat at least) requires you to work with a group, and that means you have to put in at least a modicum of effort to stay focused. There’s also an implied time commitment. When you start an instance, for example, it implies you’re going to finish it, too, and with the higher-end instances, that can be quite a while. Problem-free runs of Crystal Tower in FFXIV take around 40-45 minutes, and that feels like a lifetime. Dungeon runs can be 30-45 minutes, which I’ve talked about before. And if you’re not doing a group activity, you’re usually grinding on something else for the purpose of improving your performance in group activities (eg. increasing your crafting level so you can make better potions, or increasing your faction reputation so you can buy better gear).

So I think that’s why FFXIV is feeling a little claustrophobic to me. I can no longer play on my own terms and expect to make progress. (Except for gathering and crafting I guess.) Don’t get me wrong, I love endgame content and all, but I think it wears on me more than leveling content does. There’s a loss of freedom that takes away some of the fun.

P.S. Holy crap the global cooldown on Rift’s Harbinger class is so much faster than FFXIV.

WildStar, ArcheAge, and Landmark

Some random news bits.

I pre-ordered WildStar, which now allows me to finally play in the beta. By the way I did sign up for the beta many, many long months ago, but they never invited me. They thought they could keep me out, but who’s laughing now?

Trion is apparently hoping to get ArcheAge out this year (2014). That would be super. I hope it’s after summer, though, so that I can be sufficiently bored with WildStar before it comes out.

Landmark is going into beta next week. I’m having a hard time not feeling like SOE is ripping people off with this product (and by people, I mean me). The biggest feature they added to the game during alpha was a store where you can spend Station Cash. And by the way, after the latest patch, I can’t even run the game any more. Each new version gets buggier, while they continue to avoid adding sorely-lacking gameplay features.