RotMG: The Godlands

…And I’m right smack in the middle of playing Realm of the Mad God.

Realm of the Mad God is one of those games that defies conventional classification. It’s sorta kinda an MMO (in that there’s lots of people playing it at one time), and it’s also a Flash game (which follows the pattern of quick bouts of gameplay snuck in whenever you want), and it’s definitely in the bullet hell arcade shooter genre (plenty of projectiles flying about, but not too extreme.) It has Roguelike permadeath. But you know, it has classes and levels and grinding over and over for better stats and gear in order to get buff enough to kill bigger bads, and that’s gotta make it an MMO, right?

I really like the game. Steam says I’ve got 44 hours logged in it, and before that, I was playing it a fair bit on Kongregate.

I also probably suck at it. Because I’m nowhere near to being “expert,” “pro” or “hardcore” at this game, going by the level of all the leetspeaking folk on the game’s forums who seem to wander around casually in maxed out stats and amazingly good gear. But you know what? I don’t really care. I like playing the game and learning it on my own time.

What is definite is that I’ve moved on from the newbie stage. The newbie stage, imo, is when getting from level 1 to 20 is an adventure in itself, wandering the roads and rivers encountering all the various monsters is a big surprise, and picking up lower tier equipment is an exercise in glee because you sure don’t own anything better yet.

I’ll call myself in the “learning” stage. After you play for a bit and start regularly killing the Gods (monsters) in the Godlands, you start to accumulate a decent amount of T7-T8 gear. To the pros, this is probably still trash to be thrown into the chipper, but it’s enough for my new characters to walk around fairly unmolested and do slightly more twinked out damage, speeding up the process of getting to the max level of 20.

After having wandered the world sufficiently, one also starts to recognize the various areas and various monsters expected to be found in the various terrains. My favorite spot to level really fast is to meander off solo and walk around in the desert until one encounters the huge morass of Giant Crabs and Sandsman Kings that always seems to over-spawn in there. Some people join XP trains, but it seems slower to me – it’s a preference, I hate waiting around for other people before getting moving, I feel more constructive just regularly killing stuff.

So I’m at the stage where I can field level 20s regularly. The next stage is “potting up” or stat-grinding. By killing Gods in the Godlands, there is the rare chance that they’ll drop a potion with which to raise one stat by one point. (Some other event or boss mobs in dungeons also drop potions, but I still find them fairly rough going.)

Some really skilled guy made this video series where he records himself “potting up” a wizard from scratch. Me, I am nowhere near that confident of my skills dodging bullets. I think I went through 4+ wizards and a couple necromancers by taking silly risks in dungeons trying to learn boss fights, getting accidentally shotgunned by Oryx in the end-of-realm fights, and just lagging or being careless a couple seconds too much.

Having sated most of my curiosity (as I’ve ventured into most dungeons, only to Nexus out screaming from most of them when I find myself low on health, and seen most event mob fights), I’m determined to properly pot up a character.

I’m fondest of the wizard class, it’s the simplest to play (hence why everyone starts with it first), long ranged (giving more time to dodge and react), straight firing (easier to aim) and does a fair bit of dps (enough to qualify for soulbound drops on Gods, aka a good farmer!)

Now, general advice is that you earn pots for one character with another farmer – because hey, characters in active play can have shitty things happen to them – accidentally kicking the bucket and losing all your gear is already bad enough, losing all your stat potion progress would be even more irritating. Ideally, in order to get a truly badass wizard, I’d have another wizard on the side farming the pots for him.

Alas, my altholism also has me nurturing a lvl 20 rogue and lvl 20 archer on the side, and I’m unwilling to kill them off at present, nor buy any more character slots. So I’ve decided to try potting up the archer. He has higher defence than wizards, but slightly shorter range and a wider spread of fire. It’s not my best playstyle, but I get by. I also think his performance might get better if his stats improve, so I’m determined to give it a shot.

I had a bad accident with a lvl 20 huntress just a few days ago, which lost me T9 Roc Leather Armor that was from Oryx, a T4 Demonhunter trap that I had been hoarding up for some time and a free T10 Bow of Fey Magic that a nice random player gave me after seeing me plink away at Gods with a measly T5 Fire Bow. Ah well, easy come, easy go. That’s Roguelikes and permadeath for you.

The silver lining to the accident was that it freed up a slot for a dedicated wizard potion farmer, which I resolved to make, and keep re-making when it eventually bites the dust from another accident.

So… enter episode 1: In Which My Wizard Farmer Goes to the Godlands Again and Shoots up Gods in the Hope of Potions Dropping

Well, no, I lied. A couple careless deaths will teach one the value of proper preparation. I’ve made it a habit to always carry health potions before going to any risky areas. This gives me some reaction buffer time in case my health drops too low in a hurry, and lets me stay around longer before I’m forced to Nexus and leave the server and the fight. Oddly enough, the higher tier mobs seem to drop health potions rarely at best, and most of them are a pain in the ass to fight because they’ve got quite a hail of bullets.

So I wander around for a few minutes one-shotting mobs meant for level 1s. Conveniently, they still drop health potions. Sumos are a good source of health and mana potions when you find them. Well stocked, I teleport over to a group of lvl 20s in the Godlands. (This is always just a little bit risky because they could be in the middle of flaming bullet death, but you know, the 1% risk of inevitable death beats walking over.)

One thing I immediately found out is that it is really hard to get any viable screenshots from this game. It’s an arcade shooter with bullet hell wannabe pretensions. Stuff moves FAST. You must dodge FAST.

My left hand is on WASD. My right hand is aiming the cursor and my firing arc with the mouse. There is an auto-fire toggle key in this game, your own bullets can shoot helluva fast, especially once you increase your dex stat. Taking the hand off the mouse long enough to hit Print Screen is an exercise in significant risk. To make matters more interesting, my wizard farmer has pretty decent dps, so Gods evaporate in a couple seconds of being hit square on by my stream of bullets. Many times, I ended up taking pictures of Gods that weren’t there anymore.

Still, it’s interesting to note how far I’ve come. When I first started the game and got to the Godlands, I found it a very confusing, scary place with all kinds of unrecognizable monsters shooting all many of chaotic colors. I ended up huddling with the big pack of players that like to shoot up Gods together – most of them are looking for free XP, I suspect, though it is actually faster to kill stuff at one’s level range. It’s a big risk to go too low leveled into the Godlands because your speed stats are slower, so you dodge slower, you have less defence, and that means when you accidentally eat a faceful of bullets, you earn yourself a happy death announcement notice to the server – like that guy in the screenshot killed by a Djinn at lvl 5.

Between reading the wiki and just plain old experience, I can now tell apart the various Gods, and recognize all their firing patterns and colors.

Medusas are fairly nasty in that they have a red AoE attack they like to throw in front of them. The green stuff they fire starts close together, but spreads out, so keeping at range and dodging a couple milimetres works. White Demons are very easy, with the three ball pattern.

Treants shoot an orange shotgun spread too, they do it fairly fast and are a bit annoying.

Yes, there’s Gods in the snow fields as well. White on white, very tricky when you first encounter it, but really, it’s about knowing their patterns when you saw them on the grey rock already. Djinns used to confuse me with their flower like bullets, I couldn’t quite figure out where to dodge them at first. It’s still hard to describe in words now, but there’s a little gap between the fourth and fifth bullets that I usually just strafe left and right a little between, and one can maintain firing on the Djinn pretty much constantly. Djinn also release a circular ring of bullets when they die, so when you see that, you know they’re dead, even if you’ve dodged off-screen from them. Ghost Gods are nothing special, a spread of bullets as in the picture above, just stay in the gaps.

Stuff gets more confusing when there is more than one God at a time. It’s still about anticipating the patterns and knowing where to dodge. There’s a Flying Brain behind the Treant, they like to shoot very fast pink bolts. I’m not terribly good at dodging them but I try. Two Beholders shooting their star shaped pattern. Some of the Gods also shoot those asterisks, which all tend to be nasty debuffs like blinds and slows. I try not to get hit by any of them, period.

The Leviathan is one of the harder Gods. It appears to have higher hp than most, and it has a really complex bolt pattern it fires. Up close, it’s a horrible shotgun that can wipe out a careless character, so I just stay the hell away from the bullet spread and plink it from afar until it dies.

Eventually, you can even tell what Gods are beyond your visual sight range just by looking at the bullet patterns. In this case, at least 2-3 Treants, and a Flying Brain.

Interestingly, I find it easier soloing Gods because you pull them away one at a time or in manageable numbers, and you’re always backing away into a previously cleared safe zone, so blasts are more predictable.

My initial urge to huddle in a big group was actually counterproductive in more ways than one. For one thing, other people can do more damage to the God than you, killing it too fast for you to do sufficient damage to qualify for a soulbound loot drop. For another, various people are attracting more Gods and they are backing toward the big huddle from various directions, causing overlapping fire from different angles, and there’s all these people running about and shooting producing even more visual chaos.

I didn’t expect there to be much more to the story. I killed a lot of Gods. Had a meditative flow experience slightly broken up by the panic of trying to capture screenshots. Alt-tabbing to keep pasting Print Screens into a paint program is more than a little scary when you’re afraid some random guy will drag a horde of Gods into you while you’re not able to react and dodge in time. A few of them dropped stat potions – two defences that I recall. Yeah, miserable drop rates. Brought them back to my bank Vault to give to the proper character. Went back and fought the Gods some more.

Then serendipity happened:

I teleported into a group of lvl 20s who were attempting to break the Mysterious Crystal in the Godlands. Do enough damage, and it releases a special boss. I joined in. The crystal eventually gave way.

The Crystal Prisoner boss was released. I joined in, not really expecting much because I tend to get very hurt and have to back away and lose my damage on the boss or else bite the dust. Turned out there were sufficient priests in the mix that were shooting off heals, and I managed to actually get by and dodge properly. And to my immense surprise, when the prisoner boss died, a white soulbound bag (the rarest kind of soulbound bag, I am given to understand) dropped for me.

Jumping on it in glee, I pulled out my greatest haul yet. A Crystal Wand and an dexterity stat potion.

That’s the RNG for you. Into the bank vault it goes, until I have an open slot for a priest. (Which would, of course, mean me losing the current wizard to permadeath.)

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