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. :)

LotRO – The Road To Mordor, A Tweetstorm

I haven’t yet bought the Mordor expansion (I probably will, despite the hype-destroying trailer), but it dawned on me that LotRO is one of those rare MMORPGs where you can actually explore the world without having to unlock zones by completing quests. So I decided that I wanted to run my 95 Runekeeper as close to Mordor as I could get. I made it all the way to the Black Gate.

I had a lot of fun running there, and it didn’t cost me anything. I didn’t do a single quest on the entire trip, and honestly I didn’t see very many quests to select from either. (I haven’t purchased any of the content that I ran through.)

I was blown away by how massive the LotRO world is. I thought that I had covered a lot of territory to get my Hunter to Moria, but I had only just barely scratched the surface, and the amount of land in the game that exists between level 95 and 105 is just incredible. I don’t know if I’ve published this thought anywhere, but I feel like LotRO is the “last” MMORPG released that is actually “massive.” Nobody puts this much physical space in their games anymore.

Here’s the journey in tweet form:


FFXIV – Thoughts On 1.0

I mentioned a Let’s Play series showing Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 in my last post:

Out of intense curiosity, I’ve been watching this series for a while, trying to take some notes about what I like and dislike about 1.0. The YouTuber showers praise on the game while he plays, more than it deserves–to the point where I wonder if Square Enix actually paid the guy–but he’s at least enthusiastic. He is more of a talented radio-voice-guy than a talented gamer though. It’s very humorous to listen to him talking about mining like it’s some kind of exciting baseball game. (Also, I don’t want to brag, but I did way better at reading quest text in my Stormblood videos. :)

The precise version shown in the video is something like 1.18, by the way.

Never having seen or played the original version, my only knowledge of 1.0 was the popular opinion that it was total and complete garbage, the Atari E.T. of MMORPGs, not worth the pixels it was printed on, a game so bad that it somehow reached out of the screen and strangled the player to death right in his chair.

Watching the Let’s Play dispels that myth completely. It actually looks … not that bad.


Graphics. One thing I noticed immediately is that the color and shading in 1.x seems to be a lot better than it currently is. I don’t quite know how to describe it but it looks like there’s more contrast and saturation in the world–the darks are a bit more dark, the colors are a bit more colorful. Maybe it’s something about the YouTube video that makes it look that way. The current game often looks a bit flat and washed out to me (especially at night). This is something I’ve noticed in a lot of Asian-style games, so maybe it’s an intentional style. While it might be more “realistic” in that real life often looks flat and washed out, it doesn’t look that great on a computer monitor and I wish they would give us Contrast and Saturation sliders.

Left: Screen capture from YouTube video (1.x). Right: Screenshot from current game (4.x). Admittedly it was “foggy” when I took the screenshot but it illustrates the difference I’m talking about. It’s sort of like the difference between a regular and an HDR photo.

Leaning. Your character leaned side to side when you turned, and there were short starting and stopping animations. It looks very nice on video but I would not have liked it if it felt laggy while playing.

Fonts. I like the fonts used for the nameplates a lot better in 1.0 The font used in the current game is very plain and utilitarian and not very artistic. A variety of choices to pick from would be nice.

Map Size. Maybe it’s my imagination, but the outdoor zones in 1.0 looked bigger than they are in the current game. I wish they had retained that. (Though it doesn’t look like there was anything in the bigger areas.)

Seamless Transitions. Transitions between cities and outdoor zones were seamless in 1.0–I really wish they had kept that. I’m not a fan of loading screens between zones in MMORPGs. I find one of the defining traits of a “true” MMORPG is the ability to walk all the way from one side of the map to the other without any transitions (a la WoW), but hardly anyone does that anymore. I suppose it’s too much of a technical challenge, and players don’t demand it anyway.

Cut Scenes. The cut scenes in 1.0 seem to be more complex with more motion capture and more complicated camera movements, at least at the beginning of the game. It looked very nice, but as I’ve mentioned before it probably wasn’t a sustainable development model.

Characters and Story. F’lhaminn is in 1.0! (Minfilia’s mother.) That is so cool! Thancred is also there, in the Ul’dah starting zone, though he seems to be just a lovable rogue and not part of any kind of organization. This kid Ascilia I’m seeing in the videos is apparently little Minfilia, according to the wikis. So apparently the story of how F’lhaminn ended up adopting Minfilia was in the 1.0. I wonder if Raubahn and Pipin is explained as well?

Starting Area. I like that you could start any class in any of the three starting zones. Currently your starting class dictates which zone you start in. Not sure why they changed it.

Map. The map looked better in 1.x, perhaps because of–again–more contrast. However I don’t like that it was full screen.

Character Shops. Tentatively putting this under “likes,” it looks like there was an area where players could setup their own shops with retainers. It also looks like you could go up to actual players and “browse” things they had for sale. It’s a neat concept, but I can’t really tell from the videos how it would work out in practice and at large scales. (Apparently not well, since they abandoned the concept.)


Bugs. Quite a few bugs have been shown in these videos. There’s one where players slide around on the ground without moving their legs which really breaks my immersion. :)

Lag. There is a lot of lag and stuttering shown in the YouTube videos. It could have been this guy’s connection (I’m assuming he’s in Australia) but I would have hated to have to play that way.

UI. The UI in 1.x looked very strange and overly tedious. There are plenty of tedious elements in the current game but it looked a thousand times worse before.

Leveling. It looks like there was a “master” level with sub-levels or “ranks” for each of the classes. I didn’t like it. I like the way it is now, where each class has it’s own individual level.

Combat. Combat seemed to be more tedious than the current game (which is pretty unbelievable considering the current game is paced slow). It looks like it did not use a global cooldown system familar to MMORPGs but instead a system more similar to something like Dark Souls, where every swing deducted “stamina” points, so you had to manage your stamina pool during combat. I personally like Dark Souls combat but it doesn’t look like this implementation worked very well in 1.0. (The slower pace made for some glorious animations though–marauder axe swings looked incredible, and also the conjurer spell casts.)

Doors. You had to click on doors to open them. Yuck!

Gil. In 1.x it seemed like you got a lot more gil as rewards, so you had thousands of gil in the first few levels, which is weird.

Zooming. The person doing the above Let’s Play never zoomed in or out. I don’t know if it’s because you couldn’t or not, but if so, I would have hated that. I play zoomed out quite a lot. (Oh, I see he zoomed in in episode 21, but not out.)

Crafting and Gathering. It looks like the crafting and gathering minigames were a lot more arbitrary and tedious. There was some kind of thing where you had to move a slider up and down to select where you chopped at a tree and so forth. And mining had some kind of pulsing circle that you had to click at the right time to get the best results. I’ll give them points for creativity but it looks like it would have been frustrating to do over time. I like the current system better.

Hotbar. This episode I’m watching shows that it doesn’t remember your hotbar settings when you change to a different class! You had to setup your hotbar again every time you changed? Yuck! Double yuck!

Other Notes

It looks like version 1.0 didn’t have the tight coupling with a Main Scenario Quest that the current version does. It looks like it was more of a sandboxy feel, in that you did your leveling through the use of levequests, rather than following a story to the exclusion of everything else. I don’t really mind either style of MMORPG, so that wouldn’t have bothered me. On the other hand, it looks like it was a bit more grindy to gain levels.

The YouTuber mentioned at one point that there was no digital download available for the game, and you had to buy it at a retail store. I always wondered why I never even knew the game existed until A Realm Reborn came out… that certainly would explain it! I definitely would not have bought a retail copy of any game in 2010. Maybe that was just in Australia, though.

FFXIV – Latest Adventures

To make a long story short, I left my old job and will be home all this week before starting a new part-time job Tuesday. (Technically it’s in the same building.) Being home is weird. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. I haven’t had a full week off of work since the last time I changed jobs, which was in July 2014.

That means I’m writing this post on Tuesday morning on my gaming PC, which is a very strange situation for me. Most of my posts are written in a text editor when I’m bored at work, so it feels very strange to be “working” in the place I normally reserve for goofing off.


In the world of Final Fantasy XIV, I’ve been coasting along with my main Bard job. There’s not much to say about it. I try to do an Expert Roulette every day for the Verity tomes, and I pop into Omega raid PUGs once a week for a drop, but that’s about it. Soon neither of those things will help me, as my item level is now 313. I still haven’t gotten around to the Extreme trials or Omega Savage yet, which would be the next thing to do on the progression list.

White Mage

Rawr. Now I can make blue bubbles too!

When one caps out their main job in FFXIV, one typically turns to an alternate job or two, and I’ve decided I want to work on White Mage next. (I’m also mildly interested in Samurai but, you know, DPS queues.)

Leveling White Mage unfortunately means confronting the fact that I don’t remember how to heal. :) I got fairly comfortable with healing leveling dungeons by the time I reached level 50, but that was several years back and I never healed any “endgame” dungeons. I’ve not done anything with the job since ARR.

I actually started a new Conjurer with the idea that I would level it to re-learn the job (see below), but I realized I was only stalling the inevitable. I would have to confront the perils of healing a dungeon one way or the other, so I went back to my 51 White Mage and jumped into Haukke Manor, a relatively short, lowbie-level dungeon I know pretty well. It went fairly well, in the sense that nobody died. It helped my confidence a lot, even though it wasn’t a very complicated run.

I thought about trying some other low-level dungeons, but I was disappointed with the lack of experience I got from Haukke, so I decided to “rip the Band-Aid off” and jump into The Dusk Vigil, the level 51 leveling dungeon. (Queues are basically instantaneous for healers, by the way. Wow.) It was nerve-wracking, but I got through it and nobody died–except me. For some weird reason I died right at the very end of the second boss. I think I was watching everyone else’s health so much that I forgot to look at my own. That run got me to level 52.

I’ve never quite understood why these kids have horns.

It was then that I realized I had not done any White Mage class quests yet, so I found and completed the 50 and 52 class quests. At level 52, White Mage gets the magic blue bubble spell, which is something I’ve never had before. I did another run of The Dusk Vigil and the blue bubble was very helpful. (In that second run, the tank said, “This is my first time here.” I chuckled and thought about saying, “That’s okay, it’s only my second time healing here,” but I thought the DPS would instantly abandon us.)

Disciples of the Land

In other news, I’ve leveled my Miner and Botanist jobs to 60, and finally unlocked the Collector in Idyllshire. Ironically, you have to get to level 60 to unlock it. Some other gathering stuff unlocked at 60 but I haven’t figured it out yet. I picked up the initial Miner and Botanist quests at 60 and then I’ll be on to gathering collectibles until I get to level 63 for the next quest. (The quests are the hardest part of leveling gathering jobs, because they make you gather a bunch of HQ items which takes a long time.)

Uhh. I guess I’ll figure this out someday.

I even did some fishing to get from level 19 to 26. Fishing is pretty relaxing, and when you get that “throw fish back” ability, it helps quite a lot with filling your inventory up with fish that you’ll never do anything with.

Low-level Playthroughs

I had so much fun recording my videos for Stormblood (most of which still have ZERO views, ahem) that I wanted to make some more for the Main Scenario Quests in A Realm Reborn (1-50) and Heavensward (50-60). In a happy coincidence, thanks to one of Aywren’s posts, I learned that the Midgardsormr server (a name I still can’t reliably spell) is a “preferred” world and thus if you create a new character there, you get an experience bonus through level 60.

So I created several new characters to play through the initial MSQ. I created one each to start in Gridania, Ul’dah, and Limsa Lominsa, to get the MSQ perspective from each starting zone. When the MSQ converges (which happens when you unlock airships and fly to the other factions to deliver a message, normally around level 15), I’ll pick one of the classes and continue from there. Unless I get bored and give up on it, that is.

I had completely forgotten about Ground Zero in the Salt Strand.

The point is that I’ve really enjoyed going through the lowbie stuff again. I find it quite fun to play MMORPGs at low levels, personally. I’ve never seen the MSQ starting from Limsa Lominsa before. Going through many of these low-level quests makes me very sad that I can’t go back and see version 1.0 though. I can tell there are references back to people, places, and things in the initial version, but I can’t fully appreciate them. :(

Wait! I just found an 80-Part Let’s Play for Final Fantasy XIV 1.0!

Ahem. Anyway. If anyone is curious, the experience buff you get from rolling on a preferred world is insane. Normally you reach the Envoy quest at about level 15, but I’ve been getting to it at level 18 or 19. And that’s doing nothing but following the Main Scenario Quest. No side quests, no FATEs, no hunting logs, nothing. And very little rest experience. It took me about two and a half hours to get past the Envoy quest to the first dungeon Sastasha on a new Conjurer, running from quest to quest, skipping all the dialog and cut scenes. (I did all the training missions at The Smith to get the cool gray gear though.) It’s definitely a lot faster to level now than it ever has been.

The most condescending-looking Elezen I could make, shown here in Hall of Novice gear.

That pretty much covers everything I think.

Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire Announced

Since I’m home this week (see tomorrow’s post :) I had a rare opportunity to actually watch the Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire expansion announcement live today. (Those things are usually timed so that only the unemployed can watch them.) Not only that, but I could write a post about it and publish it with a screenshot all in the same day!

Path of Fire is scheduled to release September 22, 2017, less than two months from now.

I am not what you’d call a fan of Guild Wars 2–evidenced by the fact that I had literally no idea that an announcement would be made today until I saw people talking about it on Twitter–but I do pop into the game occasionally to make sure the launcher is up-to-date and I have whatever the latest installment of the Living Story is. Hey, it’s free, so why not? Also to ArenaNet’s infinite credit, it’s one of the fastest games to launch, measuring from the time you click the desktop icon to the time you can move your character around.

But I’ve yet to complete the Heart of Thorns story or even start on Living Story Season 3.

I have to admit the mounts and new elite professions in Path of Fire look pretty cool, but the announcement did not in any way overcome my healthy skepticism of the “horizontal progression” philosophy of the game. If the great Guild Wars 2 experiment has done nothing else, it has taught me that, yes, I want MMORPGs to deliver another 5 or 10 levels with every expansion, and I want my character to progress vertically. Horizontal progression is fundamentally unsatisfying to me, especially when combined with ridiculously frustrating and arbitrary game challenges to unlock lackluster story chapters.

So yeah, the continuation of the story is 100% meaningless to me. I have never followed or even tried to follow Tyrian lore. I feel like you had to become attached to Tyria in Guild Wars 1, because the lore delivery systems in Guild Wars 2 haven’t been very effective for me. Fundamentally I think it boils down to a lack of sympathetic characters in their stories. I don’t even care about my own character, let alone anyone else in the stories. I never really put it into words before, but the game “feels” more like an arcade game than an RPG to me.

But back to more positive thoughts. I saw mention of some sort of hunting system (Bounties) that might be interesting if it works anything like the hunting system in FFXIV.

The bottom line is that I will not be pre-ordering, but I’ll almost certainly buy the cheapest edition for $29.99. That’s a price point that is easily affordable for someone to casually peek in on the game, even if I won’t be spending much time in it.

FFXIV – Bard 4.0 Thoughts

I posted a comment on Aywren’s blog that made me think I should write a short post about what I’ve learned about the Stormblood Bard job. Then I wrote a way too long post about it, because that’s what happens when I’m bored for long periods of time.

I’ve leveled a Samurai from 50 to 55, but other than that, I’ve been playing the Bard almost exclusively in Stormblood. I’ll admit the new abilities were a bit tough to grasp at first, but fortunately it wasn’t an impediment to playing through the content. I got through the whole MSQ story without doing much of anything with the Ballads, and it wasn’t until after I got to 70 that the new stuff started to “click.”

When I say “new” stuff I actually mean the same ballads, but which gained entirely different functions, among them: Mage’s Ballad, Army’s Paeon, Wanderer’s Minuet, Foe Requiem, and Battle Voice.

You can pretty much forget everything you previously knew about those ballads, because they are 100% different now. You can also forget that the names of the ballads have any relation to their function anymore. Mage’s Ballad? Yeah it doesn’t do anything with mana, a fact that took me a stupefyingly long time to learn. (I literally thought the tooltip must have had the wrong description for like 8 whole levels.)

Here is my take on the altered abilities:

Wanderer’s Minuet: Enables a buff that allows building stacks of “Repetoire.” Repetoire only builds when your DOTs do critical damage, so keep your DOTs going on your targets at all times. When you get three stacks of Repetoire you can use “Pitch Perfect,” which is a hefty damage ability. (Actually you can use Pitch Perfect with one or two stacks as well, but it’s less damage.) This one is probably the most straightforward of the ballads to understand and use, and perhaps a good place to begin the learning curve.

Army’s Paeon: Enables a buff that increases the speed and damage of your attacks with every stack of “Repetoire.” As above, Repetoire builds when your DOTs do critical damage. It’s straightforward to use, but the effect seems fairly negligable to me so I don’t use it very often except on long boss fights when I get bored.

Mage’s Ballad: This essentially enables a buff that causes your Bloodletter and Rain of Death abilities to proc more often. Again, only if you maintain your DOTs on targets. I find this now to be the most effective way (ie. the only way) to do AOE on big packs of trash pulls. Once you have DOTs going on several targets, trigger Mage’s Ballad, and the Rain of Death AOE ability will proc almost every global cooldown. It takes some practice but it’s very effective. In single-target situations Mage’s Ballad just lets you hit Bloodletter more often, increasing damage.

Foe Requiem: Simply increases damage taken by 3% for nearby enemies, effectively buffing your party DPS. (Presumably you need to stand close to the enemy targets.) It uses up mana as it plays, and it doesn’t last long. I often forget to use it. It’s a pain because it’s one of the few Bard abilities that isn’t an instant cast. Probably the best time to use it would be in those rare situations where you have to kill a target very quickly or the group wipes. (Like the nails in the Ifrit trial.)

Battle Voice: Another buff that increases direct hit of all party members by 10%, but it can only be triggered when singing another ballad. I have to admit I never use this, even though it sounds pretty useful when I write it down. :) This one hasn’t yet made it to the two highest-priority hotbars which have keybinds.

And here are some thoughts on other abilities:

Peloton: This Role ability is the replacement for Swingsong, which I use only in dungeons between mobs. I don’t know it for a fact, and I’ve never heard anyone ask for it, but I assume people like to run faster through the boring parts, especially on the Roulettes.

The Warden’s Paean: Removes a detrimental effect. I thought this was new, but it was apparently in Heavensward as well, and I never used it. I still don’t use it. I’m not sure it’s even on a hotbar. I suppose it would help the healer if I removed my own debuffs, but the cooldown is really long and frankly I’m not even looking for debuffs in the heat of battle as a DPS.

Troubadour: Adds an additional party-wide defensive buff based on which ballad is in effect. No one has asked for it, and I can’t think of any situations that would have been significantly improved by using it, so I generally ignore it. If the almighty “meta” ever demands it I’ll start using it.

Nature’s Minne: Increases healing rate on yourself or another party member by 20%. Okay? I guess? I occasionally cast this on myself if I’m low on health and happen to know I’m about to be hit with some damage, just to make things easier on the healer. (In such cases I might also use my emergency self-heal Second Wind.) Otherwise I’ve not yet encountered a situation where this is needed. I’ve yet to encounter a healer who has asked for help with healing, or who would be helped by a 20% buff on healing.

I have to say that the support abilities of the Bard in Stormblood fall into a similar category as the support abilities of all classes in Rift: They aren’t supportive enough to really warrant using them. A buff that increases defense by 10% doesn’t sound terribly valuable to any group. Now if it was a buff that increases defense by 50% I could see people wanting that.

By the way, I found that Square Enix actually has a fairly comprehensive reference for the Bard job (and all other jobs), something I wasn’t even aware of. It has a very handy “Patch 4.0 Adjustment” next to each ability that tells you how each one has changed. It doesn’t go so far as to tell you how you should use the abilities, but it’s a great guide for the exact function of every ability, which is something I like. When I know the exact function of the abilities, the way you use them and chain them together becomes far more apparent and intuitive to me. That’s something guides tend to lack. They just tell you what to do without telling you why you should do it.

The bottom line is that the Bard is very enjoyable to play again. You can move around again without having any effect on your ability to produce damage, and that’s what attracted me to the class in the first place.