Early Legion Impressions

So far Legion is … well, just┬álike playing WoW.

On your mark, get set, ...
On your mark, get set, …

I only played for about an hour and a half last night. I stopped right after I got my Mage Artifact staff Ebonchill. Obviously I haven’t seen all there is to see in Legion, but it starts out with … quests. Just like you’ve done in WoW for the last 50 bazillion years.

As yet there is no emergent new gameplay to be seen, which makes it a bit less interesting for me than the pre-expansion Invasions. I hear there will be something like Invasions somewhere in the expansion, though. Here’s hoping.

As per usual, this WoW Lore newbie has no idea what is going on or who any of the people or places are that the quests refer to. They really don’t explain much in the quest dialog text itself. I can only assume that there are external sources (like the trailers maybe, or comic books, or fan sites that deep dive into lore) that give some context to all of this.

Not understanding the lore is nothing new for me and WoW, though, and it wouldn’t stop me from playing. I mention it though because it would be nice if they could put some thought into helping new, super casual tourists to understand the characters and story. (Inside the game that is.)

Oh! I just thought of something they might try. They could link to the previous quests in previous expansions that would give you the background you need for the current story. In the quest text somewhere, it might say, “Click here to get the Level X quest that introduces Character Y.” (Like Khadgar, for example. I have no idea who he is or why he’s important in this expansion. And the whole thing where Jaida(?) stormed out of that one meeting. Who the heck is Jaida?) They could provide a whole list or index of the previous quests. Something like that. Maybe somebody could make an Addon like that.

Anyway, on to other things. I really like the concept of the class halls. It ensures (I assume) that each alt you play will have a different Legion experience. I don’t know how far the unique class path goes, but I hope it goes beyond the point where you get your Artifact weapon. So, for people who play lots of alts, this should be a bonanza. (I only have two characters at level 100 though.)

Unfortunately it was a huge disappointment when I got my Artifact and came back to my class hall to find a whole bunch of other players were trespassing all over the space that I thought I would have all to myself. Let’s hope I don’t have to spend a lot of time there watching people run in circles and jump up and down.

One thing that was a big surprise to me was how hard it was to get my Artifact. I’m playing a Frost Mage, who I just leveled from level 74 to 100 using Invasions. I thought I had all the ilevel 700 gear, but I got killed six or seven times in demon-occupied territory.

Likely to be attacked indeed...
Likely to be attacked indeed…

(I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I learned nothing about how to play my class solo from those Invasions.)

My experience of soloing with the Mage class over the years is basically that you need to stand there and kill the other guy before he kills you. Kiting is usually not an option since all the best spells have a cast time. The Mage has nothing in the way of self-heals, and also when starting Legion, I realized I had no healing potions because in leveling to 100, all of my previous potions became obsolete, and I never bought any new ones. (I don’t even know where to buy them.)

Usually the mobs in WoW are pushovers so killing them quickly is easy. But it wasn’t the case here. So it was that in fighting the Big Bad to get my Artfiact, I had to pull out every trick I could think of to increase my damage output and mitigate damage input. I think it took four tries before I got him. It was a very unexpected obstacle to overcome, since I seem to recall blowing through everything at light speed in the last expansion.

This is a good thing, right?
This is a good thing, right?

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s kind of cool to be challenged in WoW for a change. As yet I can’t tell if it’s just me or if they have actually designed it to be challenging. (My bet is that it’s me. I probably missed an obvious button I was supposed to push that would insta-gib the guy.)

LotRO Volume 1, Book 11: The Search for Narchuil

For the one or two folks out there looking for non-Legion posts, over the weekend I completed another book in LotRO: Volume 1, Book 11.

(Spoilers ahead if for some reason I’m not the last person in the world to do these quests from c. 2007.)

LotRO is a great game to play in the morning with your coffee when you don’t have anything pressing to do for a few hours. The music is really good and it’s nice and relaxing to crank up the tunes* and wander around in the scenery. This time I even paid more attention to what was going on (since I planned to eventually write a post about it).

To reiterate (and yes I’m looking this up on a wiki because I don’t remember), after Angmar, we went to Evendim in Book 9 to learn more about Sara Oakheart and Amarthiel, then in Book 10 we captured Amarthiel’s henchman Mordrambor (who I called “Mort”) and recovered a palantir.

Amarthiel (the Big Bad in this part of the story) was using that palantir to find the ring Narchuil. She learned that the ring is in the Trollshaws (aka. the zone containing Rivendell). For um … reasons … it’s important for us to get that ring before she does. (I assume Narchuil is one of The Rings but I don’t really know.)

To the surprise of nobody but the story NPCs, early in Book 11, Amarthiel’s henchman Mordrambor, who previously let himself be captured, escapes in a fiery killing frenzy. This leads to a touching if somewhat drawn out instance where we bury the dead under cairns beneath a scenic purple sky.

Funeral in Evendim

Our job then becomes to find Narchuil before Amarthiel and her Angmarim (the bad people of Angmar) do, so off we go to the mountains and forests and rivers of the Trollshaws, stopping off at a few scenic spots on the way.

Weathertop

Our contact in the Trollshaws is a woman named Candelleth. She first sends us to a cave populated with wood-trolls, but there’s no sign of Narchuil there (we are obliged to destroy the biggest wood-trolls while we’re in the neighborhood, though, for the betterment of mankind, or something).

Scenic route to a cave

Candelleth next sends us to an underground ruin called Delossad, where we find a locked door that won’t open. Candelleth doesn’t know how to open the door, but surmises that the Angmarim searching the area might be looking for the key. One such group was defeated at the Crumbled Cellar, so Candelleth sends us to investigate.

(I don’t know how these people all seem to know what everyone else is doing all over the map… I guess they have something like cell phone technology in Middle Earth.)

Among the debris of the Crumbled Cellar is an old diary of Sara Oakheart, which tells of ‘N’ being held in the Delossad. This eventually leads to a puzzle and a bag of broken keys. (I couldn’t figure out the puzzle and only solved it by clicking every possible hiding place.) Naturally nothing is ever simple in Middle Earth, so we have to traipse off to Rivendell to find an Elf who can repair the broken keys.

This particular Elf won’t fix important keys for free, of course, and asks us to journey way up into the far reaches of the Misty Mountains to collect some gems from Goblin-Town, a place that I had to Google to even find. Returning to the Elf with the gems we find that she’s fixed the keys (reminding us in that haughty Elvish way of how difficult it was and that not just anyone could have done it).

Opening the door

We take the keys back to the ruin Delossad and open the door, which leads to a fairly interesting montage of flashback scenes in which we see Laerdan (who died getting the palantier in the last chapter) secretly holding his daughter Narmeleth (‘N’) captive and trying to free her from the evil spirit of Amarthiel who possesses her. It turns out the infamous old woman Sara Oakheart was a nurse hired by Laerdan to take care of Narmeleth. In the end, as misguided plans often do, everything went wrong and Amerthiel escaped in the guise of Sara Oakheart.

Before we leave Delossad, we’re visited by Mordrambor, who taunts us by revealing he knows where the ring Narchuil is. At the end of the chapter we take all of this news to Elrond in his Homely House library, where he permanently stands next to his shelves.

Thus endeth Book 11.

Most MMORPG stories are pretty lame, but I kind of enjoyed this portion of LotRO, especially the flashback scenes. ‘N’ turning out to be daughter Narmeleth instead of the ring Narchuil was most unexpected, and I found myself genuinely curious about what was going on there. Poor Laerdran: First he lost his daughter (presumably), then he went and got himself killed.

* I have a new appreciation for MMORPG music now that I bought some nice speakers. Mackie Creative Reference Monitors–I got the CR3s–are way better than any computer speakers I’ve ever owned.

ShareX For Uploading Screenshots

A while back I asked on Twitter if there was a way to automatically upload screenshots taken from games to some kind of online repository:

It turns out that ShareX has this capability.

You can’t actually take the screenshots using ShareX, because it doesn’t support full screen applications, but it has a feature where it will watch certain folders and upload any new files to wherever you want. (It defaults to imgur, but there are a zillion different options.) This is exactly the kind of functionality I wanted.

ShareX_Watch_Folder

I added all of the folders where MMORPGs save their screenshots and viola, every time I save a screenshot, it automatically uploads to my imgur repository.

Endgame Viable’s Imgur

The main reason I wanted something like this is that I usually write my blog posts far, far away from my gaming PC, so I never have access to any of my screenshots when I need them. Having them on imgur allows me to embed them in posts at the time I write them, as opposed to trying to remember to add them in later, which I almost always forget to do.

Melee Classes in WoW

While leveling my alts in WoW, it occurred to me that I don’t ever play any melee characters. I have a Warrior–two of them in fact–but I just don’t like Warriors in WoW. My very first character in 2006 was a Warrior, who I leveled to about 20-something and gave up on because I kept getting killed by those stupid Defias (or whatever they’re called) guys in Westfall. (Back in those days if you ever got jumped by 2 mobs you were basically dead–at least I was–hence my switch to a Hunter.)

Since 2006 I’ve tried to revive that Warrior many times. I even made a new Worgen Warrior several years ago, hoping the werewolfiness of it would make it more interesting. Alas, nope. In fact I found the warrior combat animations quite a bit more silly-looking as a Worgen.

When I think back on that Worgen Warrior’s run to level 20-something (which incidentally took about 1/100th the amount of time as the 2006 Warrior’s rise to level 20-something), I think I know what the problem is.

It’s the timing of the key presses. I’m so used to Rift classes where you can and should hit a key on every single global cooldown, whereas with the WoW Warrior it seemed like sometimes you need to NOT hit a key and instead utilize auto-attacks and wait patiently for the next GCD, which feels weird. That’s probably why I’ve always gravitated toward ranged classes in WoW, which all seem to have some kind of “shoot” ability on every GCD.

(Except now Beast Mastery Hunters run completely out of focus if you mash a key every GCD. Boo.)

I have some kind of problem with all the other melee classes too. I’ve never liked Rogues in WoW, though I suppose they are probably sufficiently altered by now that I wouldn’t recognize them from the last time I played one (c. 2006-2008). Still, I have a visceral dislike of the class from when they were stealthing around and sapping me in arenas. I guess in my mind, only griefers play Rogues. :)

I tried a Death Knight a couple of years ago but I found it too complicated for me to bother with. I recall something about green, blue, and red abilities, and having to combine or chain them for optimum results. It was too much work for a game I knew I wouldn’t play very much.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a Paladin more than a handful of levels before. They just felt very boring to me, starting out with that wooden mallet that looks like it would be more suited to a carnival’s strongman strength-testing bell game. Perhaps I should give it another try with the latest patch. Maybe I should boost one to 90 or 100 and skip right over the boring parts. Then again, it isn’t very likely I’m going to tank or heal in WoW, unless I start my own static group, which is about as likely as me starting my own sketch comedy troupe.

Shaman? I think it has some melee abilities but I think of it as a ranged DPS or healer class, and both of those roles are better served by other classes.

I played a Monk for about 15 levels in my last burst of WoW time before Draenor, but I don’t remember being that excited about it. Again, it felt more complicated than I wanted in a WoW class. I felt obligated to make one though since every dungeon I ran had a Monk in the top DPS slot.

What else is there? Oh, the new Demon Hunter is kind of meh to me. I only played it for like 30 minutes though.

I gather that the Hunter Survival spec is sort of melee-based, but I’ve never tried it, and what’s the point of a melee Hunter anyway?

I’ve felt for quite a while that WoW’s classes are the weakest part of the game. I’ve always had a hard time finding one that I like over the long term. (Not to mention they usually change them if you do happen to find something you like.) There’s always something “off” about them.

Little Mage fending off Fel invasions.

For the moment the Mage is my favorite class. Frost spec for soloing and Fire spec for groups. (Arcane spec for rolling through old dungeons to farm materials.) It’s mildly challenging to solo with it, but easy to play in groups, and having teleportation is really handy. I also like how they gave you a Talent in the Frost spec so you don’t need to summon the Water Elemental. I never liked that thing. (The constant bubbly sound got on my nerves.) And the fact that my Mage is a tiny little Gnome is sort of apropos to my overall involvement in WoW.

Dark Souls Character Loss

You might be wondering why I’ve been playing WoW and/or LotRO instead of continuing my re-plays and re-re-plays and re-re-re-plays of Dark Souls 1, 2, and 3, the greatest three games in the history of the universe. (Not to be hyperbolic or anything.)

It’s because I setup and moved to a new gaming PC. Guess what? You can’t move your characters from one installation to another with the PC version of Dark Souls 2 and 3. So all my plentiful characters remained on my old PC, which is kind of a bummer. (I was able to copy my Dark Souls 1 characters though.)

In truth, it won’t take that long to run through the games again, but it’s something I wasn’t counting on. I was planning to record blind playthroughs of Dark Souls 3 DLC when they come out (allegedly the first, Ashes of Ariandel, is coming in October), but before I can do that, I need to build up some new characters.

And before I do that, I need to setup my microphone and audio gear in the new house. I tried to record some Doom with my old USB headset but it sounds too awful to meet my rigorous audio quality standards.

WoW Invasion Level Tally

WoW leveling tallies from the Invasion events so far: Mage from 73 to 87. Warlock from 50 to 60. Priest from 34 to 52. Druid from 23 to 32. My goal is to get the Priest and Druid to 60 before the end of the event. That will give me three choices from which to pick my two level boosts (one to 90 and one to 100). (My understanding is that if you boost from 60 it will also boost your professions too.)

(In truth it will almost certainly be Warlock and Priest, because I don’t like the Druid class that much. On paper it’s awesome but I don’t like the look of any of the shape-shifted forms.)

It seemed like the experience gains were about right to me over the weekend. However it’s definitely on a curve: The higher your character level, the less experience you get per Invasion, and thus the slower the leveling.

I got noticably more XP from participating instead of AFKing, with bigger mobs generally giving more experience than littler mobs. Also it seemed like all you had to do was tag a mob to get the full experience from it. Many times I came up late to groups killing the big skull-mobs, threw in a hit or two at the very end, and still got a bunch of experience from it. (I was never in a group so I don’t know if that affects XP gains.)

I’ve long since lost interest in opening any of those Legion chests. The chests fill up my inventory and when I run out of space I put them in the bank. My assumption is that if I wait until I get to level 100 to open them, they’ll have ilevel 700 gear in them. Maybe that’s wrong. I guess I’ll find out in the coming years if these characters ever get to 100. (Of course, I’m sure the first quests in Legion will also have ilevel 700 gear so it doesn’t matter either way.)

I have to admit to having a lot of fun with the whole Invasion process this past weekend. I spent more time playing than I intended to, and cancelled some boring chores because of it. It just seems like time disappears when you’re "into" WoW. One minute it’s morning, then the next minute it’s afternoon and raining and too late to mow.

Maybe "fun" isn’t the right word exactly. Maybe "comfort" is a better description for the feeling from playing WoW lately. These kinds of large-scale group events where you can participate anonymously are especially comforting to me in a way that dungeons aren’t. They are easy and predictable and I know exactly what to do. That’s really an attractive prospect at a time when everything in real life seems nerve-wracking and chaotic. (EG. My house is now covered with boxes and I have no idea where any of my possessions are, and the task of finding and organizing them is completely overwhelming.)

The problem that I’ve always had with WoW, though, is that it tends to become repetitious or unrewarding too quickly. It’s too easy to see behind the curtain, where it’s revealed that nothing fundamentally new awaits you no matter where you go or what you do. Let’s hope Legion will be different.

P.S. It’s amusing to participate in these events sub-level 60, and especially sub-level 40. Everyone else takes off to fly to the next boss, leaving you in the dust to hoof it on your roughly-turtle-speed ground mount, hoping to even reach the next boss before everybody else kills it. There’s always a few stragglers putt-putting away along the ground, having to go around obstacles instead of over them, straining and hoping to keep up with the cool kids, looking somehow vaguely embarrassed about their slowness.

LotRO Volume I, Book 10, or A Lot Of Running

I’m continuing to make slow progress on seeing the rest of LotRO*. Since I was on a roll, I’m continuing with the Volume I Book 10 epic story over in Evendim (rather than returning to Moria).

I’m glad that I went and subscribed to the game, because I noticed that I was missing out on rest experience. Hopefully that will speed up the leveling curve a little bit. (But I still finished all of Book 10 without reaching level 54.)

Story-wise, most of Book 10 revolves around finding a palantir stolen by … um … you know, that evil woman whose name starts with an A that I can’t remember and don’t feel like looking up. For reasons I can’t remember, I was told to capture a henchman of hers who I will call Mortimer (because I don’t remember his actual name but I’m pretty sure it starts with "Mort"). It was suspiciously easy to capture him, but nobody else seemed concerned about that. Anyway he was held in a cell in a tower in the middle of Evendim which incidentally takes a loooong time to reach indoors on foot. I then spent quite a few quests gathering intelligence from him (which he was suspiciously willing to divulge) and running around the world stopping bad things from happening based on his advice. Not surprisingly, it turns out that Mortimer was playing everyone for fools, but regardless, in the end I managed to get the palantir away from the evil clutches of … that woman whose name starts with an A. Some other prominent NPC whose name I’ve also forgotten (he was at the top of the right-hand stairs, as opposed to the left-hand stairs) distracted her while I ran away with it. I don’t know what happened to him.

These quests in Book 10 illustrate perfectly one of the biggest flaws in LotRO. It goes something like this: Person A says, "You need to go see Person B." Person B then says, "Talk to Person C about that." Person C says, "Okay, now deliver this message to Person B." Person B says, "Oh I see, take this response back to Person C." Person C says, "I understand, but let’s ask Person A about this." Person A says, "I agree with C. Take this news back to Person B." Person B says, "I’m glad we all agree. While you were gone, Person C went off somewhere. Tell Person A about it." Person A says, "Oh my! This is terrible news! Go ask Person B for help." Person B says, "I will help you! Let’s go through this instance." And so on and so on. And of course, Persons A, B, and C are in entirely different, far-flung parts of the world. If it weren’t for the Mithril Coins letting you skip some of the travel time, it would be maddening. (Also being a Hunter helps a lot, too, due to the travel skills.)

Overall it was reasonably enjoyable, although it’s odd that so much of this level 50 quest chain takes place in this level 35-40ish zone. Most of the mobs in Evendim are gray and inactive for me. I thought that all of the Volume I story was part of the initial LotRO launch, but after a bit of research, I see that Evendim was not released until somewhat after the initial launch. I am guessing that Volume I, Book 9 and beyond was new content meant for all the people who had reached endgame the day after launch.

Oh my, the wikis are telling me that I have to get through Volume I Books 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 before I can resume Volume II in Moria. Yikes! Well, at least I’ll be well ahead of the leveling curve by the time I get back underground.

* I’ll stop saying "before it closes down" so my relentless pessimism won’t scare anyone.

Legion Ordered

I went ahead and ordered Legion. Why not? I had fun with the last expansion. For a little while, at least. And a level 100 boost is worth a fair chunk of change to me, considering it normally takes me years to get to the level cap in WoW. (Although I confess I have yet to use the level 90 boost I got in the last expansion.)

My second-highest level character in WoW is a Gnome Mage at, now, level 77, thanks to a handful of Invasions. This was also one of my original characters from back in 2006. I hear the experience gain from Invasions has gone down so I guess I won’t quite get the free ride to 100 that I’d hoped for. Still, I picked up four levels a lot faster than I would have through questing. And as it turns out, maybe fast leveling isn’t such a blessing for this character.

While playing this Mage over the last few days, I remembered that my professions were Enchanting and Tailoring, which was cool because I could simply disenchant all the extra gear filling up my inventory from the Invasions. (Oddly, none of the Mage gear I got from the Invasions was better than what I’d previously obtained from dungeons.) Unfortunately I kept getting the dreaded message, "Your enchanting skill isn’t high enough." Then I came face to face with the reality of what a royal pain it is to level the Enchanting profession and keep it roughly at the same level as the gear you get.

Maybe you folks who’ve been playing for years and now have 50 bajillion gold stockpiled don’t remember how difficult it was. For your amusement, when I started a few days ago I had about 200 gold on this Mage. Let’s just say you can’t buy very much at the Auction House with 200 gold. Even the most meager of trade skill supplies are 1 or 2 gold each. Even if I’d had millions of gold, a lot of the materials weren’t there anyway. So I had to find most of my Enchantment materials the hard (ie. slow) way.

It’s a pain, but I have to say it was quite a bit of fun soloing my way through TBC dungeons (in the 60-70 range) farming materials for enchanting and tailoring. (I even skipped a bunch of Invasions.) Most of my experience with the Mage over the years has been that it’s slow, squishy, and underpowered, but when you’re over-leveled, invincible, and can 1-shot every mob on the run, it’s really fun. :) I pretty much just Arcane Blasted everything in sight, including bosses.

Getting to the right dungeons took a while though. I realize this is probably whining, but it sure takes a long time to get around the world in WoW. Since they are now implementing Rift Zone events so well, it would be nice if they could also install a Rift Porticulum in every zone too. Or maybe the dwarves could get off their butts and expand the subway system beyond just Stormwind and Ironforge. They’ve had plenty of time now to dig an underwater tunnel from the Eastern Kingdoms to Kalimdor too.

Speaking of Rift, next I’ll be spending more money on pre-ordering Rift’s Starfall Prophecy so I can get all the sneaky pre-order benefits that require you to order early. It’s an expensive time to be an MMORPG player.