Thursday 28 November 2013

Darklands: Walram of Teck

This is part of The Darklands story.

Given their current track record of assailing strongholds and being severely out-manned and out-equipped by Walram's men most of Bhagpuss's suggestions involving combat were immediately thrown out the window, yet the team agreed that they couldn't just in good conscience leave this evil man alone now that they stumbled across his lair. The bishop then had an idea. It was crazy. It was dangerous. They all agreed to it.

The guards must have been surprised to see the group march up right to the castle gate. More so when Bishop Syp requested food and shelter. Walram was so curious that he accepted, letting the team dine with him that evening and giving them a room to spend the night in. And when they slept, he planned to kill them.

Possibly Walram.

Bhagpuss is not one to be caught unawares though, and after waiting for their guards to leave for patrol the group snuck out of their quarters and followed Gypsy Syl quietly to where she figured Walram's private quarters were. The robber knight was alone but still armed. The bishop suggested he surrender, but Walram had other ideas - charging at the team with his two handed sword in a fit of rage.

He easily knocked out the elderly bishop and sent Ravanel to the floor with a well placed kick, making the world go white with pain. When she regained her vision she only saw two figures left standing. It was Bhagpuss and his blade rammed deep into Walram's chest. After a moment, the robber knight collapsed to the floor dead. Beside him lay Gypsy Syl, a fatal wound to the abdomen being her undoing. Ravanel cried as she closed her friend's eyes for the last time.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Darklands: Divine Intervention

This is part of The Darklands story.

After visiting a second town just as dull as the first, the party continued their journey into the wilderness. While walking through a forest Gypsy Syl signalled everyone to a stop, having detected an ambush up ahead. Bishop Syp took the initiative an in a bellowing voice drove the fear of God into their would be assailants, causing them to flee before they even drew their weapons.

Don't mess with Syp!

Further in the forest the team was then beset by giant spiders as Ravanel tripped on a web! Knowing the danger they were in Syp used his divine powers to pray to Saint Perpetua for aid. His prayers were answered as the team was suddenly transported past the eight legged monstrosities. From their new location Bhagpuss spotted another castle in the distance so they made their way there without any more encounters. As they approached though, they all could feel something was wrong.

This castle was far more foreboding than the tower from before. The armed men patrolling the grounds and the walls wore the mark of mercenaries and thieves. There were no peasants that lived nearby, not anymore. Those that did were probably robbed and killed by the same thugs now residing here. Gypsy Syl recognized the tattered flag lazily billowing in the wind. This was the home of Walram of Teck, the robber knight.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Darklands: A sign from God

This is part of The Darklands story.

The party found themselves standing before a dark tower. When Bishop Syp tried to talk to the peasants that lived in its shadow they were too frightened to speak, but the look of hardship on their faces told him all he needed to know. Against the wishes of the other three in the party he marched right up to the guards and requested an audience with the residing lord. A request that was declined.

While the others wanted to move on, Syp vehemently stood his ground on getting into the tower and meeting this lord who puts hardship on his serfs. Gypsy Syl playfully suggested that they wait for nightfall and then scale the walls if he was so desperate. To everyone's surprise, the old bishop agreed and there was little they could do to talk him out of it.

Alas, climbing a tower wall without any equipment is a challenging task, one beyond the abilities of an elderly bishop. Fortunately he wasn't so high up when he fell, forcing the others back down to carry him to the safety of the nearby woods. The gypsy playfully questioned why the angels didn't catch his fall, and Ravanel suggested that maybe that was God's way of telling them to move on.

Also a sign to NOT try this without a rope.

Syp the Elder had no choice but to agree as Bhagpuss carried him off to the next town, at least until his leg got better.

Monday 25 November 2013

Darklands: Looking for Work

This is part of The Darklands story.

The team decided to start looking for tasks and rumors at the tavern, followed by the town hall of Wismar City, and the castle keep itself. Alas there was no calling for an unknown group of adventurers in the town, in fact some places saw the guards throwing all four of them back onto conveniently placed mud puddles on the street. Bishop Syp decided they should visit the church for guidance and the team stayed to hear mass (a really long 3 hour mass).

When do we get to kill something?

By the time it finished it was night time, and as the group headed back to the tavern to evade the curfew they were set upon by thugs. Though one of the knaves knocked the elderly bishop unconcious, Bhagpuss, Syl and Ravanel made short work of them. Once he awoke Syp took this as a sign of their intended path. They didn't need to "look" for work, they simply needed to teach sinners a lesson.

With new found conviction the party departed Wismar City and began heading in random directions as Bishop Syp took the lead, changing direction whenever he felt "God's calling" much to the chagrin of Gypsy Syl. As far as she was concerned, they were just going in circles.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Darklands: You begin in a Tavern

This is part of The Darklands story.

It was a strange dream of a gargoyle that inspired the 40 year old, retired bishop named "Syp the Elder" to go adventuring. He felt it was a message from heaven itself to help cure the land of its sin. Unwilling to see the many good reasons to enjoy retired life, one of his students named "Ravanel Swift" decided to accompany him to try keep him out of trouble. Being twenty years younger meant she was far more sprightly than the old bishop, but Syp knew they'd need a guide to lead them through the wilderness that the other two had been sheltered from their whole lives.

Fortunately Ravanel knew of just the person to help, "Gypsy Syl" a bard and vagabond of 30 years whose tales Ravanel would often listen to at taverns after her lectures. The worldly Syl was a bit hesitant to join the group at first especially being at odds with the pious bishop but was convinced by the younger girl to stay.

The final member of the group was one recruited by Syp. He knew that apart from a guide they would also need a strong guard to help protect them as they travelled the lands to do God's work. The only one available who was up to such a task was the 35 year old veteran soldier "Bhagpuss Catman". A stern warrior proficient in many forms of weaponry.

With the team assembled, the question that everyone asked simultaneously was... what now?

Syp had a follow up question.

The Darklands of Arkania

Inspired by Syp's retro gaming posts I decided to go back to a game that I really liked called Darklands set in Medieval Germany (and later on, Realms of Arkania). To make things interesting I'll be using characters based on people on my blogroll (and others) and will accept any result short of total team wipe. Though I'm playing on "basic" difficulty only I apologize now for any horrible fates that happen to you in the game. :P

So begins our tale...
1.   You begin in a Tavern
2.   Looking for Work
3.   A sign from God
4.   Divine Intervention
5.   Walram of Teck
6.   Rogues of Prenzlau
7.   Providence 
8.   Lothar of Bar
9.   Folkwin of Kyrburg
10. A Cold Winter
11. The Mines of Goslar
12. Flamed
13. The Source?
14. The Hunt is On
15. The Beast of Luveh
16. Oh, look at the time 
17. Jewel of Leipzig 
18. That Tarnhelm
19. Wanted
20. Party Crashers
21. The High Sabbat
22. That was Unexpected
23. Running like Mad
24. Graves of Vengeance
25. To Flensburg
26. The Great Monastery
27. The Great Escape
28. The Great Escape  Part II
29. Seige of Castle Schauffelin
30. King of the North
31. A New Quest  (Arkania)
32. Code of Thieves
33. Easy Going
34. Cult of the Nameless God
35. Unfinished Business
36. Lonely Inn
37. Keep moving Forward
38. Curian
39. Hermit's Lake
40. Distractions
41. Mountain Ruins
42. Truth in Rumors
43. The Missing Piece
44. Runinshaven
45. Hygellik
46. Pit Falls
47. Not the Sharpest
48. Two Years Later 
49. Summoned by Elsurion (Star Trail)
50. It's an Axe
51. The Order of Anathema
52. Revenge isn't Murder
53. Black Pelts
54. One Way Door
55. Going Deeper
56. The Salamander Stone
57. Evil Twin
58. Forceful Entries
59. Left Behind
60. Gorillas in the Mist
61. Denizens of the Swamp
62. Thalen the Mage
63. Pain in the A--
64. Freedom
65. The Pursuers
66. On the Star Trail
67. Phex Dungeon
68. Drug Addicts
69. Home of Ingramosh
70. The Devil You Know
71. Arkandor
72. The Dragon
73. A Reward of Good Will
74. Effing Elves (Shadows over Riva)
75. Customer Service
76. Suspiciously Familiar
77. Not Responsible
78. Stipen
79. Is this Moria (Level 1)?
80. Is this Moria (Level 2)?
81. Railroaded
82. Level 0 Gumshoes
83. Dog Gone
84. Toranor
85. Oh Gnolls!
86. Round Two
87. Law & Order SVU 
88. Ocean Interlude
89. Accused
90. Hunting the Fey
91. Moon River
92. Screwed
93. The Eclipse (Thea: The Awakening)
94. Character Building
95. News of the World
96. Cosmic Scales
97. Leshy Leshy
98. Tears of Peace
99. Magic Compass
100. Zmey
101. The Vision of Horos
102. Divine Quest
103. Rookie Mistake
104. Child Care
105. Ice Princess
106. Not going to "Let it Go"
107. The Leech Lord
108. Team Talarian
109. Unexpected Actions
110. Zmey You
111. A Hero's Reward
112. No Safety
113. Short Lived
114. Impending Doom
115. Kupala Night
116. Catching Fire
117. Thurazz's Hammer 
118. Last Memory

This story has ended for now, thank you for reading!

Return of the King (in Yellow)

Just a quick post to say I'm back from my sojourn mostly in one piece. While away we managed to have two six player games of Arkham Horror, both victorious through different methods. Mainly what we did different this time was - shopping!

First up was Hastur, the King in Yellow who absolutely thrashed us last time we went against him since he woke up at maximum power (terror level 10). After gearing up this time one of our number got a spell that could summon the big bad before he's at full power , and that's exactly what we did. Combined with someone else's spell to remove one terror track token instantly Hastur didn't even last long enough to launch a second attack.

Defeated by discount deals. The shame.

Our next match was against Azathoth, who basically instantly wins by eating the world (no final combat) if he wakes up. We lucked out in being able to purchase two elder signs early and eventually won on both having more than 6 gate tokens collectively with no active gates on the board AND having 6 sealed locations at once. We shut him down good! 

I think the only ancient one we haven't yet played from the original pack is Cthulhu himself, so we'll have to challenge the tentacled one next time (still haven't won against some others though, I think Nyartlatholep and Shub-Niggurath). If you have no idea what I'm on abut, don't worry - the normal schedule of gaming posts will resume tomorrow. See you then!

Monday 18 November 2013

Today I Smiled: Wizardry and talking Dogs

Okay, this is my first attempt at my Today I Smiled Challenge so hopefully you all like it!

There are those times when your game of choice simply frustrates you into table flipping moments. You aren't alone. I know most of my readers don't play (or have even heard of) Wizardry Online, but here's a nice (oldish) clip by Dremlock to cheer you up.

It just puts a smile on my face everytime I watch it... until I remember I have to get past that dungeon too. As a bonus, here's a funny Japanese Ad by Softbank (they have a whole series) that also gave me the giggles.

Hope you enjoyed those. Just one last note: It's going to be a bit quiet on this site for the next few days so savour the sillyness, and if you want more extra reading material (by me) please browse the Library links in the top right hand corner for organized links or scroll down as per usual to find stuff chronologically.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Today I Smiled Challenge

This is inspired by my friend Teresa who almost daily posts something that made her smile that day, and often times it gets me smiling too! I think having some funny, inspirational or motivational posts than can make others happy is a good idea. A small positive force in the world. Anyone who has read my blog will know it could use some of that!

I'm inviting all the other bloggers who happen to read this to give it a try too, even only just once. Doing it daily would be overkill for me, so I'm just going to try every two weeks, maybe less. There's no set format and no set boundaries so you can go as conserved or as crazy as you like. Maybe post something you found that you think others will find funny or a story from your past or an experience from in-game? Whatever it is let's try make people smile, or at the very least smirk. :P

Friday 15 November 2013

Blood and Jade

If you want an MMO where the game will literally play itself for you, look no further than Blood and Jade! This free to play browser based game is 2.5D, which I think means they had 3D models that they flattened into sprites. The result isn't bad but with very few animation frames everything feels a bit robotic. Indeed, after awhile you too will feel like a robot! Quests are super grindy but feature an interesting mechanism where you can instantly teleport to the bunch of baddies you need to kill (if they are in a different zone).

Targetting manually is woeful and there seems to be no reason to explore at all but why do you need to? Just press a button and let autopilot take over. There seems to be a story behind it too but I didn't bother reading any of the quest text since the game simply teaches you to click and forget, making you take a very passive role in the whole thing. You can even garden, play a slot machine and sell stuff directly from your inventory (to who, I am not sure). In my first, brief session I reached level 40 and didn't die once while half the time not even paying attention to the screen.

Pretty much the only thing it has going for it.

Honestly though, I would give this one a miss. If you really, really, really want a browser based MMO that is F2P then you should try Sherwood Dungeon instead. The graphics may not be as swishy or sexy there but it is certainly more fun. Not bad for something made by one person.

Thursday 14 November 2013

MMOs: Stale Worlds

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

One of the things I miss most about the free shards of Ultima Online are the GM's and their impromptu quests.

Yes, some were incredibly silly ranging from "catch the talking cat" to "suddenly - SKELETON ARMY!" while some were obviously just there to kill you, like "A pit fiend pops out of hiding... in your house!" Most were still very well thought out and actually did have storylines running behind them, and given the nature of the game all of them were just one time events that you had to be at or miss them entirely. Half the time there weren't even notices to let people know that something was happening. It was always a surprise, and that is actually what made them so good. Their random encounters that could happen along any part of the map, even the middle of the ocean, was what made constant exploration fun. Sure you could fast travel to spots, but odds are you risked missing out on stuff in between.

Not all random encounters are hostile.

Compare that to modern day MMO's. There's a main quest everyone can do, at anytime they choose. The spawns pretty much stay in the same place. The "dynamic" events, if there are any, are looping on timers. Special events are held in major populated hubs or are specifically announced to the world. Sure, I appreciate the theme park nature of getting everyone to come try out your new ride but with that system it somewhat of kills the adventuring part of the game and the uniqueness, the story of your character.

Despite being unable to attend, I didn't mind the one-time event karka finale in Guildwars 2. I felt they were on the right track for that (apart from overestimating their server capabilities). Where they fell off though was when they declared that they would only run events to their highest populated time zone. That's a big nope right there. Simple rostering is all that's required to cover multiple events for global time zones, or they could have just said the next one time event will be at a favourable time for Europe, then China, etc. The backlash they got was so severe they've not had a one time event since.

When was the last time you encountered a unique quest or event that was just for you or your party in an MMO, which no one else got to experience?

MMO Design Folder

Since I've been posting a fair bit about MMO design lately I thought I'd just collate them all into one place to make them easier to find later on. Ordered from newest to oldest.

An AFK PUG Solution
MMOs: Limited Resource Design
Design: Longer Combat isn't always more Fun
MMOs: Enemies should be like Plants
Ban those Lockboxes II
Bad Design: Checkpoints
Bad Design: Unenforced Laws
Ban those Lockboxes
Design: Subtitles Mandatory
MMOs: How not to Sunset a game
MMO Agendas: Do you quit at max level?
MMO Agendas: Pixel Wedding / Affair
MMO Agendas: The Rule of Law vs. Judicial Temperance
MMO Agendas: Rights of the Accused vs. Swift Justice
MMO Agendas: Investment vs. Immediate Need
MMO Agendas: Checks and Balances vs. Expediency
MMO Agendas: Council of Elders vs. Trial by Jury
MMO Agendas: Accountability vs. Privacy
MMO Agendas: Rehabilitation vs. Punishment
MMO Agendas: Freedom of Expression vs Public Decency
MMO Agendas: Achievement vs Equality
MMO: Shop Price Comparison
Game Design: PvP in "Story Based" Games
MMOs: Idle Hands
MMOs: Vindictus Quest Structure
Design: Empty / Scaled Maps
MMOs: Getting Players back in the Game
MMOs: Vet Party Building
Question: Non Combat Excitement
NWO: Black Ice Backfire
Design: Credits
MMOs: Witcher Potion System
MMOs: Gold Denial
Poor Design: Competitive PvE
MMOs: Fairer RNG Drops
MMOs: Ammunition
MMOs: Fame and Influence
MMOs: Unmarked Quests
MMOs: A Test of Morals
MMOs: One of a Kind Items
MMOs: Voice Actors
MMOs: Rewarding the Ordinary
MMOs: Spells and Spelling
MMOs: Need more Heroes and less Soldiers
MMOs: Why we Hunt
MMOs: The Problem with Levels
MMOs: Where Equipment is more Heroic than You
MMOs: Stale Worlds
MMOs: Fast Travel
MMOs: Winning Conditions
MMOs: Zone Population Balance
MMOs: Cheaters in the Third Party
MMOs: Consqeuences of Choice
NBI: Armchair Game Designer
MMOs: Craftiest Ideals
MMOs: Level Restriction and Threat

Wednesday 13 November 2013

MMOs: Fast Travel

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

 "The journey is more important than the destination."

Apparently not if you need to meet up with your party at the entrance of the evil lair or attend an event in a distant zone "now". Fast travel is one of those conveniences that I'm on the fence about. If I only have x amount of time a session, do I really want to spend it running from point A to point B while dodging blood thirsty monkey-snakes? If I "skip" to the nearest portal or waypoint what would I miss by going on foot? Well, unless the game has dynamic spawns or better yet random encounters placed by a game master, then probably nothing you haven't seen already if you've run there before.

While I wouldn't want to remove it entirely I'd probably be ok if it required a bit more forward thinking to achieve, like maybe having to purchase warp crystals or rations that occupy inventory space (they don't stack) and the further you travel the more of those are required. In addition maybe using (consuming) rations outside fast travel gives you and your party a full heal while the warp crystals grant full mana or something. Most importantly though, these would only be available in friendly cities and villages. It would be up to the player to carry enough for a return trip, sacrificing loot space, to fast travel back.

Alternatively maybe "fast travel" involves going through a horrible maze with unkillable foes chasing you down to involve some risk in doing so. The Ways and Machin Shin in the Wheel of Time books are a good example of this, and the PC game really had it as a terrifying force you could only run from. Maybe that would get at least some people to use the slower form of travel to experience (or re-experience) the content of the game.

Seems like it exists in card form too.

What do you think about skipping content? Is fast travel the only way to bypass the "been there, done that" mentality? Is warping from point A to point B very different from starting with a level 90 character as all the WoW people are talking about lately? And is that a feature you'd like to see in other games, like paying extra to start at the final zone of Mario or the last quest in Skyrim with a fully powered up dovahkin?

Tuesday 12 November 2013

MMOs: Winning Conditions

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

You are the chosen one. The hero who saved the day. Just like everyone else.

That's the feeling I and many others get when MMO's offer a main storyline quest. In Guildwars 2 I'm the commander of the Pact, second only to a lettuce man (the true hero of the story), and I've helped slay an elder dragon. Any character that completes that main quest can say the previous line and it would be true, but by having so many of them existing in the same world at the same time really kills any importance or bearing it may have had. Indeed, there are as many winning conditions as there are people playing so why force everyone into one mold?

Unique experiences are always the best ones which is why human controlled game masters add so much to virtual worlds for me. However since they seem to be being phased out of the online scene I think that instead (or aside) from the main "plot" each character should be given their own quest, their own reason for existing - and who better to decide what that is than the player playing it. Part of the character creation would be including a goal. A few examples might be:

-Finish the main story (if there is one)
-Find the secret doo hickey in the secret dungeon that constantly changes position and ONLY YOU can find
-Get all the (non cash shop, non tradeable) hats. Possibly one from that secret dungeon above
-Kill x number of specific targets (players) randomly chosen by the game (must be people who have been active lately)
-Slay the boss of whatever dungeon on a particular difficulty
-Forge the uber sword of uberness
-Assist x number of other players achieve their final personal goal

However, they also need to choose a fail condition. The two simplest that come to mind are finish within x number of months or die x number of times. Now the catch is if you fail OR succeed, that character is then retired (complete with cutscene). Maybe you can still log in as them, but you will be limited to being in the safe zones only for RP and show-off purposes or some other limitation. If you wish to keep playing, you will need to create a new character who will have their own overarching goal. Should their predecessor(s) have been successful maybe they start off with a cumulative bonus (like the uber sword) based on how difficult the previous goal was and how harsh the fail condition was. Indeed, not all stories will have happy endings.

Guess how Xena ends.

It's still a hamster wheel. All I've done is add some stops and removed some over population (of players) in the higher end zones. I'm guessing if any game attempts this they'd still need an option just to have a "standard" character though for those who want to opt out - of course those characters cannot gain benefits from any previous ones. What do you think? Would you play a game with this setup or does having a visible finish line break the whole concept of an MMO?

Monday 11 November 2013

Got Bartled

According to the Bartle test there are four main types of MMO gamers.

Good summary.

I've known about it for awhile but only decided to take the test recently - ironically only because Bhagpuss just posted his less that positive view on it. Still, I enjoy silly things like this - though I do wonder what category gold farmer robots would fall under. Is there a fifth hidden type, "the enemy of man" or something?

Close enough, it even comes with some feel good text.
"Explorer Socializers are the glue of the online world. Not only do they like to delve in to find all the cool stuff, but they also enjoy sharing that knowledge with others. Explorer socializers power the wikis, maps, forums and theory craft sites of the gamer world."

While it's probably just as trivial as the "which DBZ character are you!?" test I think it would be interesting to see what everyone else (at least those that comment here) got too, if you're willing to share? :)

Sunday 10 November 2013

Change of Alignment [NWO]

Part of the Tales of Skrmischa!

He should have killed me. That's what keeps running through my head. It all began when I answered Lord Neverember's last call to arms, to assault a demon controlled cathedral in Helm's Hold. After slashing through waves of imps and cultists I found myself standing before a horrible pit fiend. His attacks were just too strong, and my arms too weak. Worse, he was taunting me in my mind the whole time... showing me... horrible visions.

I was defeated. I was ready to die, then he showed up: Joseph Skyrim, my psycho ex. Ex-boss that is. Slaying demons is a specialty for him and his family. In mere minutes the pit fiend was flayed, mutilated, and dead - in that order. But it did something to me. Broke something inside. I didn't tell anyone about it. A few days after I decided to join another expedition (a popular one for a change), which sent me to the fire ruins to destroy a cursed ring... only there at the precipice I... changed my mind.

"Tired of Being the Hero" @ Stebss (NW-DGTCLL4N74)
It was incredibly fun killing my own party and the contigent of guards that came with us. Acquiring an ability to call forth an army of shades was just an extra bonus. When I exited that place I felt... free. Powerful. Able to do anything I wanted.

My first stop was Vellosk. Ever since arriving in the Sword Coast I've heard tales of the werewolves there. I have a personal grudge against that species so I decided to rid the world of a few of them. It was going splendidly well until he showed up again. This time it was me he was hunting, and somehow he defeated my new found abilities and beat me into the dirt with just his fists. He didn't kill me though. He just broke some of my bones and left me for the wolves... well, more like "hand delivered" right to their chieftain. Now I sit here as their prisoner, waiting for my turn in the clan's pit fight where the losers get eaten and the winners live merely to fight again.

He should have killed me. Because when I get out of here, I'm going get stronger - get better - and then I'm going to hunt him down.

One angry dwarf.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Futuristic Medieval Fantasy: Atlantica Online

Finally a game where I can drive up to a centaur shaman in a bright yellow sports car and then whack it with my sword, magic and cannons then go pick up Joan of Arc, Anck Su Namun, Napoleon and the spartan Leonidas to take part in the Battle of Red Cliff in China. I think that sentence sums up the WTF time travel factor that's going on in Atlantica Online. Despite age consideration, almost everything in the game feels clunky and the constant popups of other people winning / doing stuff that have to be manually closed don't help. I do quite like the music though, and the combat system is... different.

"Different" doesn't always mean "good".

Each fight is an instance where you and your enemy take turns to command your team (of up to 9) to annihilate the other. There's a small level of tactical play to be had but I can't really say this is an improvement to the standard combat present in other MMO's. It actually reminds me a bit of the old Final Fantasy games complete with lack of useful terrain but with more importance on positioning. I understand that there's a second mode of combat that expands on this which hopefully is better but I haven't reached it yet being only level 56 (out of 150 I think) as of this post. At least leveling is fast, I mean you even get XP from idling. Powerup by going AFK?

Quests are as basic and grindy as you can get, with no branching paths (so far) most of which involve being a courier or to kill a number of fairies/robots/fairy-robots combination and a lot of long distance running. Huzzah for the auto move feature. There's even an auto fight feature if you want the game to play itself for you I imagine. I don't think Atlantica has a whole lot going for it, but for some unfathomable reason I keep wanting to follow that sparkly trail to the next quest just to see how much more whacked out the game can be. Still, I can't really recommend it. If you really want to play a F2P Nexon game give Mabinogi a try instead. It's way better. :)

Update: I just got to the main world map and it is hilarious. The map pretty much tries to emulate the real world (scaled down) with cities and all, specifically during eras of unrest. From Babylon, to Troy, to Yggdrasil, to Sydney and Uluru (yep, Australia is one of the hardest zones. Lol!). The overland zones are strangely very sparsely populated with enemies too (they make up for it in the hostile dungeon zones).

Also it's very funny to be selling stuff to Colombus and chatting with Caesar while an army of players mounted in tanks AFKs nearby. Similarly while wandering through the Troy battle field I turned a corner to find someone chilling in a Ferrari. Lastly there is a housing system of sorts but it looks a lot more like a customizable warehouse than an actual home, the one I went into anyway. 

Monday 4 November 2013

Walking the Path of Exile

I was all set to bag out this obvious Diablo clone for being just that, and then I played it. It's a pretty decent game, and arguably better than Diablo in parts once you get past the limited character creation. I imagine it's because they put all their development into the character advancement screen. It definitely overwhelmed me the first time I saw it!

The game also features more skill options in combat, though for the most part you will still be breaking your mouse buttons while you not only level your character but each "skill gem" which means your fire ball or shield bash may not be as effective as the guy next to you. The self-refilling potions is a new one for me too. Instead of lugging around hundreds of health or mana potions, here you have a belt of five (of your choice) that refill as you kill baddies. Obviously you'll be swapping out the little flasks for the big ones that are more beneficial but does this also mean you'll be hoping each boss comes with adds (extra minions) to give you top ups? It's a little weird.

I think she's about to refill her potions.
The other thing I also like is the barter system they have, but can see where there is room for improvement. There's no gold in the game, instead NPCs trade you random bits and pieces to form little consumable things like weapon or armor improvement and scrolls of identi-*cough*-wisdom. The problem is that all the NPCs give the same tidbits which means players have found common items to use as currency. I would have preferred if each NPC (at least in the one zone) traded different goods from all the others, and possibly doesn't accept items of particular types but I guess that's an improvement for next time.

Really my biggest issue with the game is a little one. It is an ARPG, not an MMO. You have safe zone hubs where you can run into people, sure - but out in the ever changing, procedurally generated wilderness each instance is only for you or your party with zero chance of meeting anyone else (actually didn't DDO and GW1 do the same/similar thing just without the procedurally generated map). Even in Warframe if you play "online" there's a chance other random players will show up to help in your mission (which also has randomly generated maps), though only a maximum of 4 at any one time. I think it would be nice to be able to bump into others out in the wilds every now and then, but I guess that opens up the door to other issues.

Of course the real question is: is it good enough to keep playing? To that my answer is a solid yes.

Sunday 3 November 2013

By the Light of the Moon [AoC]

I got the chance to do the Halloween Quest in Age of Conan a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was, compared to GW2 anyway. As an aside, GW2 no longer lets me log into the game (or forums) now. It keeps saying "email authentication sent" but nothing ever gets there. According to their forums "the problem is with my provider" to which I call BS since all other mail gets through fine. Guess ANet are trying to reduce player numbers? 

Back on topic, the gist of the story is that a wandering tribe are visiting Conarch village and they turn out to be werewolves. Through deceit you are made one of their number (for very good RP reason too) and awaken in a solo instance wherein you try to save the village from being massacred.

Stabby time.

I know I've mentioned before that this is a strange single player MMO at times, but after seeing the zerg fest alternative I don't mind it at all. Apart from the obvious advantage of not having to rely on anyone else, enemies are scaled to your level (which lets everyone participate), and there are a few branching optional paths with mini-bosses that drop extra loot. The presence of friendly tough but mortal guard NPCs and panicked villagers that distract the werewolves really adds to the atmosphere and the boss fights have simple mechanics to learn, but are forgiving enough to let you learn them without killing you over and over in the process. The rewards are decent too, even if they are just aesthetics you can sell them for decent amounts of currency if you don't like them.

After defeating the alpha you are then sent to cure yourself which entails a small grind of killing 30 of anything, which still a lot less than the GW2 grind since 30 bunnies is valid, then go into another solo instance wherein you fight your wolf self. The way this small plot is written is great and really involves the player, you get that sense of "I need to do this" that doesn't really come across as well when Trahearne is just handing you another mission. Lore wise it works too, there are werewolves in the game near Conarch village and you can go fight them - it's not like they made up something out of thin air with nonsensical requirements to achieve (like acquiring GW2's candy corn elemental, yeah that made sense).

Maybe part of the reason is the scope of the tale. Most of this takes place in just one night in one village, and then the fields nearby. It's not really a world impacting event involving grand scale armies that you either have to fight off or be a part of to defeat a zone threatening foe. Maybe because the focus wasn't so wide we didn't lose sight of our own character and that our actions are more impactful when we don't have anyone to cover our weaknesses.