GW2 – HoT Chapters 12-14

Contrary to expectations, I was able to get my Nuhoch Mastery point and continue to chapter 12 in record time (one day). I got the Mastery point while I was running around on my Ranger, incidentally. My mastery level is now at the earth-shattering level of–you might want to sit down for this–10!

I returned to my Necro for the story. He’s been my main guy for all these years and I have a decent feel for the class–as best as I’ll probably ever get in GW2, at least. I abandoned the Greatsword and went back to Axe/Warhorn and Staff.

One thing I’ve noticed: The more I’ve been playing, the more comfortable I feel with the game, and the more fun it gets. It’s a game that requires sitting down and making a conscious decision to push through the learning curve. It’s a bit like Dark Souls in that regard, and once I make that connection in my mind, it gets a little easier to deal with.

Still, it’s ridiculous how hard they make you work just to watch some stupid cut scenes.

Previously I wanted to nominate Chapter 9 as the most annoying chapter. Now I would like to nominate Chapter 14.

It might also have been Chapter 12, “The Way In.” The map markings on where to go and what to do to get that chak enzyme (pronounced “chalk” but for some reason spelled “chak”) were extremely confusing. Not to mention the maze of verticality in that region.

Chapter 13, “Buried Insight”–discovering the underground ruins of Rata Novus– was okay, almost a welcome respite. Taimi whined and scampered around impetuously and then complained that the team didn’t take her seriously. Welcome to real life, Taimi. Act like a professional, and people tend to treat you like a professional.

 You’re not my supervisor!

By the way, how exactly did Rata Novus get “lost” when it’s, like, right next to Rata Sum on the map? Just one more of the many suspensions of disbelief one needs to make in the GW2 story.

Anyway, next we come to Chapter 14, “Sign Cutting.” Another episode that is really nothing more than running from Point A to Point B on the world map. But since this is HoT it has to be as difficult as an endgame raid. First there’s navigating the maze of roads that go up and down and spiral around on themselves. Then there are the hordes of mobs everywhere. You can barely stop long enough to open the map before a mob finds and attacks you. There are several chokepoints guarded by those nasty veteran mobs blocking the way. Sometimes mobs literally appear out of thin air to gang up on you. I still haven’t quite figured that out.

It took about an hour and three deaths to reach the portal to the next zone. (Each death meant returning to the starting point because there are fewer waypoints in HoT–to make it more hardcore I guess. God forbid anything be convenient in there.) I tried to fight my way through but those last Mordrem mobs were too tough. They kept ganging up on me, and those bleepity-bleeping Rolling Devils! Ugh! They are worse than the Skeleton Wheels in Dark Souls! Way worse, because you can only reliably dodge twice in GW2. I had to make a run for it and hope for the best, and on the third try I finally made it through and unlocked that Waypoint.

I am rather surprised to learn that there are only two chapters left in Heart of Thorns. That seems awfully short for an expansion.

GW2 – Rangering In HoT

I saw Bhagpuss mention an easy-mode “Bearbow” build in one of his recent posts, which made me wonder if I would have any better luck with my Ranger. By coincidence, Aywren was looking for feedback on the Ranger as well.

I had a lot of fun playing the Ranger leveling from 1 to 80, but that was back in the months after GW2 launch. Since then, my Ranger has largely been parked, as most of my GW2 characters are when they hit 80. (My most fun experience with Heart of Thorns was leveling a Revenent from 1 to 80.)

Anyway, at first I was going to give the level 80 Ranger a positive review after running around in Verdant Brink for an hour. I didn’t have to carefully avoid every mob I saw. I could handle single-mob encounters with ease. My pet (a tiger or lioness or something) held aggro a lot more than I remember him ever doing before. (In the beginning, I seem to recall the pet was more of a DPS buff and decoration with little actual functionality.) That freed me up to just sort of casually stand around raining arrows at the enemy.

But then I started wandering around in Auric Basin and I got streamrolled pretty thoroughly. Perhaps I was getting overconfident. Maybe there were no more single-mob encounters in Auric Basin. Maybe they nerfed Verdant Brink. Undoubtedly I don’t have an optimal build. Perhaps it’s a combination of all of those things. But I died a lot more and it was quite a bit less fun.

The bottom line is that Ranger wasn’t quite the easy-mode miracle cure I hoped for.

Aywren was also interested in feedback on the Druid, so I gave that a try as well. It was the first time I’ve ever played it.

Upon perusing the Druid abilities I deduced that it’s probably meant to be used in group situations as a healer. (Or “person who slightly increases healing in others” in the world of GW2.) Every ability has a healing or cleansing component, including the auto-attack damage ability, which looks like a laser beam shooting from the end of your staff.

Note: I have only just realized that you don’t have to use a Staff to be a Druid. I am definitely an expert at this game.

I was able to walk around in Verdant Brink solo without too much trouble, but I felt considerably weaker than I did with a bow. It was markedly more fun to play the Druid in events with other people around so you could watch more green numbers flying about.

(Actually most all classes and GW2 in general is more fun in group events.)

Unfortunately when I got to Auric Basin, my Druid pretty much died whenever a mob looked at me funny, so that wasn’t very fun.

Keep in mind I did not have the entire Druid skill line, and again, I don’t know much of anything about this game, so there is a 99.8% chance that I am playing the class wrong. Those are just some initial impressions.

As for Aywren’s questions:

  • “Is Druid okay at soloing (especially HoT)? Will I do enough damage?” My initial impressions were not really, and not really, but your mileage may vary.
  • “Best weapon combos?” I don’t know about best, but I was using the Staff and the Long Bow. I’ve pretty much used Long Bow for Ranger from launch all the way to today.
  • “Is there an example of a build I should work towards? I’m terrible at making a build from the ground up.” I am also terrible at this, so I can’t really help. :) I don’t even like looking at that screen. I had Beastmastery, Marksmanship, and Druid equipped, so based on my terrible performance in Auric Basin you may want to avoid that combination.
  • “Best armor/rune combos?” There are runes in GW2?? (Seriously, I know they exist but I’ve literally never done anything with those things. I wear whatever my armor has on it.) My Ranger wears “Assassin’s” armor (Power, Precision, Ferocity–whatever “ferocity” is).
  • “Can I still use pets?” This at least I can answer: Yes.

After posting this, I’ll go look at the comments on her post to see how wrong I am with my answers. :)

Note: I am extremely wrong and readers should ignore all of my GW2 ramblings. Also you apparently need a master’s degree in GW2 meta studies to understand what experienced GW2 players are even talking about, much like EVE. They have developed their own language at this point.

GW2 – HoT Progress and Thoughts


I mentioned going through Heart of Thorns and the Living Story Season 3 in my last post, so I started working on that again. At least until I got to Heart of Thorns, Chapter 12, “The Way In.” This requires a Nuhoch Hunting Mastery before you can access it. Boo.

And people complain about FFXIV locking content behind a Main Scenario Quest!

I had previously completed up through Chapter 8, “City of Hope.” In that post, I predicted it would take six months to get to Chapter 9, but in fact it took about eleven months.

I would like to nominate Chapter 9, “The Predator’s Path,” as one of the most annoying chapters in the Heart of Thorns story. In this chapter, basically all you have to do is run from one map point to the next to look at Taimi’s hologram or whatever. Except that there are hordes of mobs at every turn and you can never just stand there and listen to the hologram. You either have to clear out the hordes of mobs (a dicey prospect by yourself), or you have to trigger the holograms on the run and flee for your life. And of course, every time Taimi speaks she says something cute and funny, which after all the annoyance of getting to her, makes you just want to punch her smug little face all the more. There’s a time for comedy, people, and right after annoying your players to death is not it.


Chapter 10 and 11 were fairly benign and unmemorable, thankfully.

Now we can start making predictions about how long it will take me to get that one Mastery point and continue into Chapter 12.

Here’s something else that consistently irritates me about the GW2 story: The characters talk in modern vernacular and American accents. Where are all the Fantasy British accents! :) I am half-joking there, but also half-serious.

Blog Discussions

There have been some great conversations about GW2 in the blogosphere. Here are some great blog posts about GW2 to read:

Inventory Full: Taking It Easy, From A Distance

Why I Game: Path of Fire Weekend Demo, Help Me, I’m New or Returning

Aywren: Trying to Give it Another Chance, Further Progress. Aywren and I have similar experiences. :)

Jeromai’s posts on Why I Game and his comment here are extremely informative. Most of the things he describes as basic GW2 knowledge are completely unknown to me. (Sometimes I can’t even understand the words he uses.) I no know (duh!) almost nothing about what kind of attacks individual mobs have out in the world at level 80… he speaks of them as if each individual mob is a boss with specific mechanics that must be learned. I have never in my life felt the need to learn and absorb the mechanics of mobs out in the world of an MMORPG. I suppose if I were to play a lot I would learn them over time by osmosis, but I just don’t play that much.

I’m sure there are other GW2 posts but I feel like I’m losing touch with the blogosphere. Long-time bloggers aren’t blogging much anymore, and I don’t know where to find new bloggers. :/ That’s a whole different topic, though.

There’s far more in those posts than I can respond to, but here are some thoughts.

The Two GW2 Games

I personally consider GW2 to be two entirely different games: 1) The “casual” game you play leveling from 1 through 79, and 2) the “hardcore” game you play at level 80.

I love the leveling game from 1 to 79. That game is casual, easy, fun, carefree, filled with exploration and adventure. (I like leveling in most MMORPGs, to be honest.)

I don’t much care for the level 80 endgame, starting in Orr. That game is more work than fun. It’s as if they want to force us to live the life of a hardcore endgame raider, even when we simply want to run from one part of the map to another part of the map to look at something. (Jeromai’s description of world mobs as having boss-style mechanics sort of reinforces this.)

In other MMORPGs, you have to organize a group of players and enter an instance to do hardcore endgame raiding. That’s great. I don’t have a problem with people doing that. I even like doing that sometimes myself. But I have to be in the right mindset to do that. I have to mentally and physically prepare for it. I have to make sure the cat isn’t walking all over the keyboard, and the dog is fed, and I’ve eaten some food, and have a drink nearby. I have to set aside a block of time. I have to make sure I understand my role and know the fights.

Most of the time, when I play an MMORPG, I don’t want to do any of that. I usually don’t even want to give the game my full attention. I want to take my hand off the mouse occasionally and take a drink. I want to take my hand off the keyboard and fiddle with the remote control for the television. I want to stand up and go to the door and let the dog in or out. Sometimes I’m eating food while I’m playing, clicking hotbars with the mouse and holding down left-button+right-button to move.

In GW2 from level 1 to 79, I can play that way if I want to. But at level 80, I can’t (usually). In these Heart of Thorns zones, I can’t even stand up and stretch because I have a hard time finding places to park my character for two minutes where he won’t get killed by a wandering mob or dynamic event.

GW2 Combat

Bhagpuss said this:

“Exactly, in other words, just what I love most about combat in GW2. It’s explosive, colorful, exuberant and above all utterly chaotic.”

This is clearly a personal preference… because that statement utterly baffles me. I want to feel like I’m controlling the battlefield. With GW2 fights, I always feel like I’m reacting–like I’m always on the defensive. Most other MMORPGs I can watch the enemies and predict what is going to happen and take the right steps to mitigate or avoid the attacks. In GW2, I never know what is coming and I always have to dive out of the way of red circles that magically appear under my feet and pray that my heal skill comes off cooldown before I die. It feels totally random and that’s outside my comfort zone.

Bhagpuss described moving with the keyboard and clicking hotbar abilities with the mouse:

“GW2 has all the flexibility, all the dynamism of that kind of set-up and yet I can play it exactly the way I prefer – using the keyboard for nothing but movement and conversation and the mouse for the purpose God intended – clicking hotbars.”

I think that probably helps a lot in GW2. I have to contort my fingers to hit T, R, G, V, B, H, 5, and 4 while I’m constantly holding down E, S, D, and/or F. I have the same problem with WildStar actually, but it’s far worse there. It’s physically awkward to play games where you have to move and dive constantly while simultaneously pressing hotkeys to fire off abilities. We never learned how to do that in touch-typing class back in high school.

Bhagpuss mentioned that he always fights at range. Jeromai mentioned issues with melee. Over the last several days that I’ve returned to GW2, I’ve noticed that I’ve been gravitating away from the Necro Reaper… I’ll start a fight running into the middle of the fray with the Greatsword, then realize, “Egad! This is not going well,” and run away and switch to the Staff. The Staff feels a lot weaker but at least I don’t feel like I’m going to die any second. Yesterday I started using an Axe again on my Necro and I feel like it’s working a lot better. I think I’m going to ditch the Reaper spec entirely, even though I loved it when HoT first came out.

Bhagpuss also mentioned a “Bearbow” Ranger spec. I leveled a Ranger to 80 after launch but I never really felt like any of the pets held aggro very well. It never felt like a WoW Hunter, in other words. Maybe I should try it again. :)

LotRO – Hunter Level 58!

I just wanted to announce that my Hunter made it to level 58 in Moria. Gaining another level in LotRO (when you’re not subscribed or anything) is a major accomplishment.

I am not really sure what is going on with the epic story here. I am on Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 3 as of this writing. The dwarves are just sort of rooting around looking for chambers and relics and books and stuff. I’m not paying that much attention because none of the characters have much personality. Dwarves are all the same–loud, bombastic, and either Scottish or Russian. :)

It’s really difficult to capture the scale of how massive the Mines of Moria is.

Incidentally, I was looking forward to dual-wielding legendary swords but apparently you can only wield one legendary sword at a time. Bummer.

GW2 – Path Of Fire Demo, Take Two

This morning I tried the Path of Fire demo again, and it went much better. Thanks for the encouraging comments on my last whiny post. :)

In fact, the second time through, I got all the way through the burning village and killed the two Veteran Forged Warhounds without dying. Then … the client disconnected.

That was disappointing, to say the least.

So I had to go through it a third time. I got through it all again without dying. I put out all the fires in the village, got the Raptor mount, met what’s-her-name and what’s-his-name, and got out into the city. (I actually saw the city before, because if you rage-quit the episode like I did yesterday, it drops you into the city.)

I really only did three things differently to get through the combat: 1) I actually bound Dodge to the key I expected it to be on, 2) I kept moving constantly, and 3) I hit every ability on the hotbar as soon as it came off of cooldown.

Just doing those three things I managed to stay relatively damage-free for most of the fighting. (I stuck with the scepter, too.) I had spent too much time playing more “traditional” MMORPGs and forgot that playing GW2 is basically like playing a shooter from a third-person viewpoint. If you stand still for any reason, you’re going to die in seconds.

Anyway, the new city looks nice, although there’s a very noticeable drop in frame rate. GW2 is not a game that appears to be rendering a lot of high-end graphics, but it certainly chugs like it is.

Mounts are one of the major selling points of this expansion. I can say that the Raptor is neat, the jumping is neat (if somewhat imprecise and frustrating), and the tail swipe is neat. I don’t see it fundamentally changing the game in any way, though, except that it will allow the developers to add different kinds of jumping puzzles. So … yay?

Other than the mounts, I just saw more of the same GW2 continuing into a desert zone. I’m starting to rethink whether $30 is cheap enough to buy this expansion. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I feel like I should work on finishing Heart of Thorns and the Living Story Season 3 before I think about venturing into the Crystal Desert.

GW2 – Path of Fire Demo, The Rage-Quittening

I’m going to try really hard not to sound bitter, angry, and resentful as I write this. :)

I’m home today so I logged into GW2 to try out this Path of Fire demo thing. At first I had no idea how to even participate.

I logged into my Necro, who I had left in Orr outside of the Zhaitan dungeon. Last time I played, I tried to do that last personal story mission to kill Zhaitan. Hoo boy what a mistake that was, but that’s another story. The point is that when I logged in, I was in the middle of one of those Orr events where everything in the area is trying to murder you and I got killed over and over and over again before I could even run far enough away to teleport away from it. So that was a great start.

I logged out again. I noted on Twitter that no other MMORPG makes me as angry as GW2 when I play it. The way the game kills you again and again, knocking you around like a pinball, just feels so bleepity-bleeping unfair.

Okay, true, I obviously don’t know any of the “meta” or any of the best builds or anything about anything. I don’t even have my dodge key bound correctly. I saw another player running around in the same Orr death zone that I was in who didn’t seem to be having nearly as much trouble as I was, so obviously I am doing something fundamentally wrong when I play this game. But frankly I don’t care to figure out what I am doing wrong. The game makes me so angry in the way it punishes the player that I just want to tell it to bleep the bleep off and bleep it’s bleeping bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Deep breaths. Anyway.

With some Twitter help I finally discovered you have to make a new “demo” character to participate in the Path of Fire demo. It’s really, really easy to overlook this in the interface. There’s a “Create (demo)” button in the lower right corner which I completely missed. There’s also two extra “demo” character slots where you can make characters, but I didn’t even see them because I already have so many character slots I had to scroll over to the right to even see them.

I made another Necro character. I picked a random-looking long-white-haired human dude. He has the exact same voice as my long-suffering bald human Necro from launch, which is very weird.

I started out on an airship, another one of those fantasy airships that obviously looks like it could never fly because of the basic principle that most things are heavier than air but we just go with it because it looks cool and *hand wave* “it’s magic.”

Once the airship lands you walk off the deck into a cave or something and right into a massive fight with … bad guys that you will probably understand if you’ve played the Living Story Season 3. Unfortunately I haven’t, so they are totally random and arbitrary bad guys to me. It is a typical GW2 fight–totally chaotic, a million bad guys throwing a million AoEs and other effects at you all simultaneously. I died.

After a couple more deaths, me and my NPC Charr lieutenant (a completely unknown character to me) finally cleared the room. At this point I noticed that I had a bunch of gear boxes in my inventory. I opened one and it exploded into a new set of gear. I started to put it on, but of course with every piece you have to “Select Stats” and of course I have no clue what to pick. Even if I did, you have to do it for every single piece. So I gave up on that and just kept the default gear, staff, and scepter.

A Herald of Balthazar arrived. There was some conversation between us that made no sense to me, since I know nothing about the story leading up to this point. Of course this turned into a boss fight. I died again. Eventually we drove off the Herald of Balthazar and my character (“The Commander”) declared that he was going to follow it. (Something that I, the player, had NO desire to do.) I followed, fought some more, listened to some more dialog from the Herald that made no sense out of context, a thousand other mobs appeared in a burning village and I died again.

Then I rage quit so that I could write this post.

I mean, I just don’t understand this game at all. I don’t understand how it’s even possible for people to have fun playing this game at level 80. It’s nothing but work and chores and more work and more chores to fight and claw your way through nonsensical fights to see a story. And they just keeping doubling-down on it, time after time after time.

So someone please make a video or a blog post or something with step-by-step instructions on how to casually enjoy this game at level 80, because I’m obviously not getting it. :)

Update: I did better on the second try. :)

LotRO – Mordor to Moria

I was having some fun in the Mordor expansion, bopping up to the Black Gate, talking to Gandalf … pardon me, Mithrandir … meeting those four “adventurers” with different personalities. It seemed like they were setting up those four folks as characters we might see again throughout Mordor, following their adventures so to speak, and it seemed like a good story idea. They all had their different reasons for going into Mordor, and it was the hook I needed to get interested in the zone. I wanted to see how they fared.

Then I got to that first town beyond the Black Gate (Udun?), and I noticed some new bar telling me about a Mordor Evilness debuff, and then I tried to fight some mobs, and I almost got killed by a couple of stupid birds. Everything around me was level 106 while my experience bar was still only about 75% of the way through 105. It entirely killed my enthusiasm for playing. I thought to myself, “You know, self, you could just go back to your 55 Hunter and pick up the story back in Moria, where you didn’t have trouble fighting mobs and there was no debuff bar.”

So I did. My Hunter is far more fun to play than any of the other classes I’ve played in LotRO anyway. (Hence the reason my Hunter reached level 55 while every other class never got out of the 20s.) So I’ve been bopping around Moria for a couple of days now,  and actually managed to gain a whole level in the process! Level 56! It always feels like a momentous milestone to gain even a single level in LotRO.

Moria is a somewhat tedious place to get through, considering that you get lost every 10 steps and there is so much running around, but I have to give them credit for making the place look amazing. I stop a lot to take screenshots.

LotRO – Mordor Expansion Thoughts

I did indeed buy the $40 edition of the Mordor Expansion, and boosted a Hobbit Minstrel from level 24 to level 105 so I could actually play said expansion. (Folks on Twitter seemed to think Minstrel was a good solo class to play.)

Once again the gear you are given looks awful, like a suit of white underwear. I guess they really want people who use level boosts to look like total newbies compared to the people have been playing all along, which I suppose isn’t entirely inappropriate. At least this time they gave me a neat-looking pony, though it is literally only like 5% faster than the blond sorrel pony I had at level 24.

My level 105 experience began with Book 8, Chapter 1, “No Other Way.” This is one of those “scenarios” where you experience a piece of the story from a different character’s point of view. I had never seen these until late in the Volume 1 Angmar story, when my Hunter was over level 50, so I was glad to have that previous experience. I imagine someone brand new to LotRO or someone who had never leveled beyond the 20s (a popular place for people to fizzle out of LotRO–or at least that’s where most of my characters fizzle out) might be a bit confused about what was happening to them.

It was a neat little story section but it was also entirely expositional. No combat, just reading text and walking around as Golum. Possibly not the greatest way to begin the expansion.

Then it was on to the Black Gate, and a tense attempt at parlay. (I did not remember this from the story–seems like a silly idea to try to negotiate a treaty with Sauron, but I guess it was mainly just an attempt at a distraction.)

Then on to the Battle of the Black Gate aka. the Battle of the Morannon. This battle was just amazing. If my wiki research is correct, this was added in the previous Update 20. I can’t believe I didn’t hear more people raving about how amazing this battle was. (Perhaps this is why the game nearly died.) I was blown away by how much LotRO managed to deliver with its creaky old game engine.

It was really laggy and slow, but it was worth it. None of my screenshots do justice to all the activity going on around you. Archers firing, people getting shot by arrows right in front of you, cavalry riding into battle, big ogres knocking people high up in the air, fires burning, Nazgul flying around, bombastic music blaring in the background: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Book 9, Chapter 1, which I think is the official beginning of the Mordor expansion, didn’t start until the middle of the battle. It was not long before the Ringbearer completed his quest and the battle ended. I hope that’s not a spoiler. :)

It was so quick that I thought it was actually a bit anti-climatic. One minute we’re wandering around Mount Doom to find Frodo and Sam, and the next minute the eagles arrive and everything’s over and we’ve won the day.

That’s about as far as I got as of this writing.

I really enjoyed the Black Gate battle but I honestly don’t feel much burning passion to continue beyond that. As a newbie outsider to LotRO, it feels like it’s “over” now. I know, I know. I remember hearing a number of people talking about how there would be more to Mordor than just Mount Doom, and that’s pretty clear, considering that three chapters into the expansion, we’re all celebrating our victory over Sauron, so there must be something else beyond that. But I personally have no idea where they can go from here, and the game itself has not yet introduced any compelling new storylines for me to follow. My knowledge of Lord of the Rings lore is not that great, but I think there is something about The Shire and sailing west to the New World to discover America. We’ll see.

P.S. Apparently there are tons of bugs in this expansion and it was rushed out the door too soon but I haven’t seen any of that. I’ve seen some strange quirks with people appearing and disappearing around quest givers but that’s about it. I would have just chalked that up to an old game engine and the fact that LotRO has always had strange quirks.

Personally I think this expansion controversy illustrates just how close LotRO was to shutting down forever. SSG is apparently so desperate to keep this game alive that they have no choice but to rush out a substandard expansion. I know a lot of people are upset about it but I personally don’t blame them for it. At least they’re trying.

I will also add that there aren’t many people playing this expansion. I’m on Brandywine, which I thought was one of the more populated servers, and these zones are dead as a doornail. There are none of the crowds you’d expect to see at the start of an expansion. (Granted, I’m five or six days behind, but still.) Not to be pessimistic, but this does not seem to bode well for the future of this game.

Update: Finally wandered beyond the Black Gate into the first Mordor zone. Lots and lots more people there. Not as deserted as I first thought. No need to panic. :)