Blaugust Day 3: A Great Many Trove Firsts

It’s amazing how much you get done after writing things down.

Here’s what happened in Trove in two days:

  • Tried a Shadow Arena (Uber 2) for the first time, solo, and won (albeit with some fancy-footwork tactics)
  • Bought an Elysian Flask from the store using cubits (zero real money spent so far)
  • Leveled a Tomb Raiser class to lvl 10 and thoroughly enjoyed it
  • Gained Mastery Level 20 and got my first set of free neophyte wings
  • Leveled ringcrafting to 250
  • Obtained 3500 cubits (just 500 shy of a store-bought raptor mount, one more day should do it)
  • Fished approximately a hundred times
  • Decided I could spare 600 glim to buy the cheapest and lowliest (but functional) boat to tide me over while collecting more resources for the nicer models
  • Found a Treasure Isles merchant selling buddybot soultraps and bought a few
  • Found a Treasure Isles merchant selling cat soultraps and bought a few (popping a rare Prowling Shadow ally on the 5th try! And then popping another while buying a few more for the hell of it, trying to collect the common rarity allies.)

What’s left on the list is get a mount, gardening, fish a lot more, and then it’s time to find new grindy goals (of which, Trove has plenty, never fear.)

Apparently, as apology for a spate of crashes and extended maintenance downtime (every time this happens in some other game, I remember that ArenaNet’s back end team is fucking amazing for creating a game that almost never goes down and never has regular weekly maintenance,) Trove offered up a free class coin and a bunch of cubits to each player that logged on that weekend as an olive branch.

Works for me.

I leapt at the chance to purchase the newest and most expensive class, the Tomb Raiser, for the wonderful price of free.

I’d been eyeing it for its reputation as a really good soloing class.

It didn’t disappoint when I put it through its early paces.

Left mouse button was a basic magic attack, and right mouse button called up a dinky little bone minion that fought monsters for you.

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Its passive attracted little deep purple ‘souls’ that orbited the Tomb Raiser. Each was a charge for summoning one of those itty bitty bone minions. Souls are regained over time, or when something dies, creating a snowball effect of an increasing swarm of minions that tilts the battle towards victory.

I had visions of the City of Heroes’ mastermind all over again, and it’s done even better in Trove, as the minions can do a respectable amount of damage, along with ‘tank’ by holding aggro / body blocking.

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Skill 1 converted the basic attack into an AoE effect, and gives you 90% damage resistance, allowing the Tomb Raiser to dive into his minion swarm and AoE burn enemies down while healing his minions with the same skill. Drawback: it ends when you run out of energy.

Skill 2 gathers up all your existing minions and makes them form up into one giant bone goliath, Devastator-like.

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I was already chuckling to see the three-headed monstrosity that I’d gathered from the three minions I had out, just about my height or the height of the boss. (Three souls, right?)

Then some chance spamming of itty bitty minions gave me 5 or 6 out at one time (killing stuff returns a soul charge back, yeah?) and I hit button 2 for the hell of it.

rarrrr

RAAAWRRRR.

Omg, I’d created a MONSTER.

And it was MINE.

It engaged the boss, towering over it and me, and cheerfully swiped the boss into oblivion with a few hits.

You may picture me in full-on maniacal laughter at this point as I thought “Best Mastermind/Summoner Class Ever! I am so leveling this for keeps!”

(And yes, you can create further itty bitty minions while this monstrosity is following you too. So much <3 <3 <3 for the skeletal horde.)

Creates tanks, does damage, doesn’t have to get into melee if it doesn’t want to, I can see why the Tomb Raiser is considered a really good soloing class.

Deciding what to do with the free bonus cubits was a lot harder.

I eyed the store raptor for a long time, before deciding being a little faster mounted could wait, and picked up the Elysian Jug I’d also been eyeing. The default Elysian Flask heals 40% health and has 8 charges.  The store-bought Elysian Jug heals 100% health for the same number of charges.

This might be an arguable case of paying-for-power, except there are two ways to obtain it: credits, earned via a real money exchange, or cubits, earned via playing over time (doing dailies, leveling higher up in Masteries, etc.), so it becomes more a case of paying for convenience or to circumvent a time-limited grind.

The flask options are also pretty interesting in terms of lateral choices available. You can also pick up an Elysian Bandolier, which heals 20% health, but has 18 charges. Good for those that like to spam, and apparently for those that want to frequently trigger accompanying emblem flasks that also provide various buffs. There’s a Balanced Elysian Flask version that heals 40% but has more capacity, and the lazy man’s Death-Defying Vial that heals 30% health, with 10 charges, but does so automatically when low on health – good for those that tend to die with half their flasks unconsumed because they forgot or couldn’t use them in time, I guess.

In this case, I’m still too broke to think about buying Emblems, and all I really want at the moment is more effective health to prolong my characters’ survival.

A 100% health recharge flask does that very well, as long as you have nerves of steel and dare to drop to a sliver of hp remaining before quaffing.

I’d taken my highest level Knight (16, +2 from two pieces of Shadow gear) out to do his daily Star Bar and was ambling around comfortably in a Uber-Level 2 Adventure World. (He was within the level range to go to U3, but I found it a little slow going with the current gear he had, and dropped to U2 for something better paced.)

Then I saw it.

A Shadow Arena.

The second I’d seen in my Trove play so far.

Entering the first was a moot point, as I hadn’t earned enough Shadow Fragments to create a Shadow Key yet. But the second… well, I had enough for ONE key.

Did I dare? Test out if I could solo it? Something meant for 8 people? At Uber-Level 2? (I mean, oughta try soloing a U1 first, no?)

Oh, what the hell, I was more nervous about grouping with unknowns to enter an unknown place, than just wandering in myself into said unknown place to see what it was like and get my expectations set properly.

So I made the key, opened the portal and stepped in.

shadowarena

A hasty scan of a wiki revealed something about 5 waves of monsters, with one -big- bad being the 5th wave.

The first wave wasn’t so bad, a lot of small monsters, just back away a lot and kite and keep AoE cleaving with my knightly sword. Spam flasks and my elite heal when my health dropped.

Ditto the second and third.

It started becoming obvious somewhere around wave 3-4 that I was running out of full-heal flasks at too fast a rate.

Dammit, and I still had a giant boss monster to go on wave 5. Was I screwed?

With one flask left on Wave 4, I knew I had to come up with another strategy. Stat.

There was to be no climbing, every last surface was spiked, and I heartily doubted that this arena would let you place blocks. I couldn’t stop anyway, the mobs would catch up and knock my health bar into next week.

And just like that, I realized my only hope. I -couldn’t- stop. I had to kite. Big big circles so that the melee mobs couldn’t touch me.

Why?

To buy time.

Because I had a pretty damn high health regeneration rate, and every second that a mob wasn’t hitting me was pulsing my health bar back up to full.

Plus, my elite was cycling off cooldown, and this is an elite that heals you to full AND gives you 7 seconds of 75% resistance to duke it out with something.

That’s 7 seconds of dps that I can swipe away at the monsters, before legging it around the mulberry bush in the arena again.

Wave 4 down.

Wave 5 came up, still one flask left for emergencies, time to -really- make this strategy work.

There were a couple heart-stopping moments when I realized the big bad also shot out purple energy balls when one got too far from it (like you might when you’re kiting it in a giant circle), but desperation is the mother of invention and I did my best to triple jump every time I heard it make a strange coughing noise that seemed to herald a ranged attack, and pretty much every other time too since jumping would likely put me out of range of a chance attack.

It got close a few times and flung me into the spiked walls, taking off huge chunks of health, but knights have that really high regen and health pool, so it was a mad scramble to get up and run rings around him again.

Every time my elite came up, I’d dive back into the fray, get a few hits in while it knocked off almost all my health, sprung the elite, then got 10 or so hits in relatively safety, before breaking away before my resistance shield came down.

sadone

Eventually, VICTORY.

Completing the little tutorial pop-up quest that had been hanging around for umpteen levels never felt so good. Completely achieved under my own power. Fragments earned painstakingly, boss solo’ed and killed.

It was pretty obvious though that more gear would improve performance on this front… like an actually useful ally, emblems, better stats and what not. (Sighs, such are the vagaries of vertical progression games.)

But it was still damned satisfying that good movement and tactics and the action combat allowed me to get away with something like this, slow going it might be.

The next day was work on the to-do list day.

Trove’s systems are really elegant in their simplicity, while still remaining interconnected.

Finishing the leveling of ringcrafting required 1100 shapestone ore.

I mostly did it super-casually, stopping to mine any purple ore cubes I saw, in between traveling from one lair or dungeon to another.

If I stumbled across a procedurally-generated mine/tunnel/cavern glistening with ores, I threw aside the “Destination: Lair” plan in favor of chasing after one shiny vein or another.

Now and then, one would organically end up mining together with some other players, speeding up the proccess, before just as organically (a la GW2) separating and going our own ways.

groupmining

Yet, it is possible to be even more optimal or organized for even greater benefit, if so motivated. See this Strip Miners Reddit thread, where whole groups of people apparently teleport to one location, throw a bunch of bombs for the quickest mining possible, and all reap the benefits. (Each bomb costs about 10 shapestone ore to make, so it’s a bit prohibitive to use when solo mining shapestone, imo.)

After crafting the rings, it is amusing to see that the rings turn up in boxes that you open to see what randomly generated stats turn up. This, of course, is a sneaky way of getting players used to the feeling of opening lockboxes, even if these particular lockboxes are entirely generated from in-game resources.

They sure are shiny when tossed on the floor like that though.

ringsgalore

Then I went fishing. Lots of fishing.

Realizing that I probably ought to collect the lowliest boat and ugly ragged sails anyway for the sake of completing the collection and earning mastery points (all those interconnected systems), I decided not to be cheap and spent the 600 glim to buy the really basic dinghy / raft thing.

Since I had it, I might as well go sailing around the Treasure Isles for a while, right?

Then I stumbled into the merchants. The first sold Buddybot soultraps, which were not the cat soultraps that I wanted, but eh, it was only 300 glim for an ally, and when you have a grand total of zero of them, any lockbox containing an ally is a win, right?

I bought a couple. Got a few cute bot allies, some that reduced damage taken, some that increased physical damage. Oh well, didn’t seem too bad. Better than Diggsy the mole, which only increases mining speed.

Some more sailing later, I found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The cat soultrap merchant.

catsoultrap

Eh, it wasn’t as if I had that much glim left to try my luck, but what the hell, I bought 5 and thought I might get a few common cat allies.

prowlingshadow

On the fifth lockbox, this popped out, nearly causing me to hyperventilate.

THE Prowling Shadow ally that was supposed to give really good lifesteal and be great for Knights and Dracolytes for effectively bolstering their health.

After spending only 1500 glim.

That seemed ridiculously fortunate for a ‘Rare’ drop.

Ironically, I decided to buy 10 more lockboxes because I wanted to see what other cats I might be able to add to my collection, and after being dismayed at some seven repeats, and oh, one uncommon skeletal cat, -another- Prowling Shadow dropped out.

“…..”

I tucked it into the bank for now, awaiting the day I get brave enough to figure out how to use the trading system / trading post and *ugh* manually trade. (Something I’ve always loathed and never did in Guild Wars 1, and only did once -super-nervously- in Path of Exile.)

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a dive into Uber-3 after that, with a Prowling Shadow out, and could immediately feel a pretty solid difference in Knightly survival.

Soon, it’ll be time to collect enough resources to make an Uber-4 portal and then figure out just how much more I need to buff out my gear to handle that.

It presumably gets grindier and grindier from here on out, but I do have alt classes to amuse myself leveling with, and I’m not really racing with anybody regarding gear progression. As a secondary game, it’s more of a “let’s play every day for an hour or two, accumulate whatever progress is possible, and we’ll see what we can manage to achieve in 2-3 months from now.”

Assuming I don’t get distracted by something newer and shinier.

This post was brought to you by the letter B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 3.

Trove: First Impressions

Why do all the games I like have a floating castle?

Trove.

Simple, colorful, pixelated and addictive in the vein of Free 2 Play + Cash Shop games like Spiral Knights or Realm of the Mad God.

It has the blocky building nature of Minecraft, albeit only saving and preserving your creations in certain approved areas (Cornerstones and Club Worlds.)

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It uses procedurally generated biomes, producing the endless (yet similar and possibly ultimately recognisable) variety and novelty that explorers often like, especially when they discover a treasure trove of needed resources.

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It dots the landscape with player-created structures – aesthetically attractive dungeons and lairs filled with platforming and traps, where it’s sometimes even a challenge to locate the entrance IN – taking advantage of crowdsourced content creation to sate the Adventurer subset while giving Creator types that all-important audience and sweetening the deal with extra reward perks.

It’s probably what Landmark hoped it could be.

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Comparing the various popular games in this genre:

Landmark stresses more heavily on voxel creation/building and ‘realistic’ immersion, before crafting and game aspects.

Minecraft places the focus more on ‘survival’ exploration, creation (building/crafting) and immersion, while many Minecraft mods tend to lead up the intricate crafting and tech trees to focus on mechanical design.

Terraria is a lot more about game (in terms of boss combat) and gear progression, with creation as a runner-up, with less care for anything resembling immersive exploration.

Trove very much follows in Terraria’s footsteps as more ‘game’-focused. It’s an MMO (complete with gear progression, soloable and group content) meets Minecraft, in a smoother, slicker Adventure Mode, with a sidelong helping of mobile-browser-like F2P that takes care to make things colorful and attractive, while dangling ‘speed-up-now’ conveniences for cash.

Any form of ‘realistic’ immersion is cheerfully thrown by the wayside in favor of a more cartoon-y whimsical genre blend of fantasy and sci-fi and steampunk and dragons and ghost pirates and candylands.

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It does, of course, mean that one has a vast variety of costumes (pixelated they may be) to play dress up with. Especially since those are also player-created.

And boy, does it have gear progression. It has it in spades. So many spades that it reminds me of Dungeon Runners, the only other game I’ve encountered that cheerfully used rainbow as an item rarity level. (I’m sure there are some MUDs or Asian MMOs that have this too, but I couldn’t name them off the top of my head right now.)

Biting down on my automatic revulsion of anything that pegs performance to ever-increasing stats (and rest assured, Trove does), if you accept the premise of grinding for better stats in order to defeat essentially identical but enemies with numerically-superior stats for shinier numerically-superior gear rewards so that you can repeat this treadmill over and over and look shinier/more glowy/blacker-than-black-cool with wings and flying mount things and feel good about yourself, Trove does this very very well.

It feels very good. You go from green uncommon gear, to blue rares as you level. (Wow, rares, sounds cool already.) Next comes purple epics. Orange legendaries will drown you as you hit the mid-level of 10+. Occasionally you find a red relic. Then oh wow, is that RAINBOW resplendent in quality?

troverainbow

(Darn, too bad it doesn’t have the stat spread you want. *flush* into the item deconstructor it goes.)

And all of it will apparently become meaningless when you hit max level 20 and realize that you can only level up further by increasing your gear to edgy /shadow/ levels that go from Shadow-1 to Shadow-6.

troveshadow

Oh, and the last update apparently now brought -Radiant- item rarity, because glowy white is the new black, I guess.

(I lied, some Googling reveals that Radiant is indicated by yellow text surrounded by a bright blue outline. I like the phrase though, and I’m keeping it!)

While I’m usually not a fan of this sort of hamster wheel, especially since Shadow Arenas are apparently meant to be defeated by a manually-LFG-assembled group of 8 (smells like a raid, to me!) I am heartened by reports that -some- people find it possible to solo the higher end content with a good solo class (and presumably overpowered stats out the wazoo) plus good tactics.

If it is possible to get ‘there’ in the end via both group or solo means, even if solo is a touch slower than grouping, it makes the game less of an immediate write-off to me.

Anyhow, as a secondary game, it’s unlikely I’ll even get ‘there’ before I get distracted by something else to play.

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(I’ve realized that when I play vertical progression games where rising stats are pegged to improving performance, I tend to play them solo. In this way, it becomes a game with -myself- that I’ve willingly entered into, to grind for improvement like how the game wants, so that I can feel that ‘sense of progress.’ And when I no longer enjoy it, I just walk off the treadmill and stop the game there, until I want to experience that feeling again.

Grouping makes the whole system grate more, due to that possible unevenness in playing field. Someone might be stronger numerically than I, or the other way around. And once there’s a disparity there, it tends to lead to negative attitudes regarding the perceived ‘weak link.’ Not just from the stronger party, whose thought patterns will tend to follow along an elitist ‘don’t waste my time’ mindset, but also from the weaker party, who may worry that they’re holding back the group or not performing up to par.

Skill disparities are fixed by knowledge, learning, time and practice. By challenging oneself to reach a higher state.

Stat disparities are most typically fixed by repeating a doable activity over and over until one gets lucky with RNG. No learning there, just a lottery. Meh. But I digress.)

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There are two big attractions of Trove to me, and this is subject to personal taste, is its straightforward simplicity (but without handholding) and its action combat system.

Many of Trove’s systems are simple and straightforward to grasp. You can fish. You can harvest things. You can venture into lairs and dungeons and kill stuff. You can buy a boat to let you sail on water. You can craft rings for more stats. You can garden for decorative items and several useful resources. Unsoweiter.

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But it won’t pull any punches or make it super easy for you. This is what is needed. Yes, it may take some time to accumulate what you need to accomplish what you want. Your job: Figure out how you’re going to get what you want. Play the game while you’re thinking about it. Or just play the game and let what you need come with time (kinda like GW2’s legendaries.)

Playing the game, of course, involves my other favorite thing about Trove. Its action combat system, simple but not overly so. After GW2, I can no longer adapt well to static tab-targeting combat, I like to press a mouse button or key and see a sword swing, a spell fire, my avatar dodge in reaction.

More importantly, I have to be able to -move- as I do it, and preferably jump as well.

Trove absolutely lets you run and gun (with possibly some skill exceptions.)

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Jump? Haha. Heard of double-jump in 3D shooters? Trove takes it over the top. Triple and quad jump are not good enough. Here, have +6 Jump as a stat on your gear. Take +7 jump on your ring, if you want. Subscribe as a premium member? Enjoy 5 extra jumps in mid-air.

You can literally hop and float in mid-air as you navigate strange gauntlets of platformer-like traps, mostly negated by running along at mount speeds and +15 jumping your way to freedom (or the big boss at the end of the gauntlet.)

There’s probably an upper limit of usefulness (which feels to be in the 6-7 jump range, imo, but depends on your class,) but it sure is pretty ludicrous fun.

The dodging is a bit more slippery, and it may be a latency issue, as I simply can’t time dodges right for the life of me. I see the cue, I hit dodge, I usually get hit anyway.

But fortunately, there’s jumping, which throws off the AI a little more, there’s kiting in circles, kiting at range, and in perfectly good Minecraft vein, there’s being able to build your own pillars or walls to flummox dumb enemies if you were so inclined.

You have one character/account, but can switch classes, similar to games like Marvel Heroes, and unlock a variety through time spent playing and earning a special currency or shortcutting the process with cash. This does tend to extend the longevity of a game, as folks switch around and get the variety of leveling up different classes.

trovedragon

The classes I’ve unlocked – Knight, Dracolyte, Shadow Hunter – all feel quite different in playstyle and reports are that Trove has done pretty well with varying their feel for the other classes too.

Skill-wise, there’s less variety than in traditional MMOs, resembling more of a MOBA.

You get one skill as a left-click attack, another typically stronger one with some extra flare (like AoE damage, a control aspect, etc.) as your right-click, button 1 is a little extra flavor and button 2 is an ‘elite’ on a timed cooldown. And a fifth passive skill that gives extra class flavor and synergizes with some of your active skills.

Coupled with moving and jumping and dodging and positioning, it generally is sufficient enough to be engaging, and simple enough to immediately grasp.

Timing and staggering them for best effect though, while managing your available energy, may be trickier to get the hang of.

I personally enjoy the combat of Trove more than I do that of Marvel Heroes, which has nearly always struck me as more punching bags gratification (as long as your stats are overpowered enough.)

Trove complicates the simple action combat just a little further with some mobs that have overhead swings that do knockback, some that do ranged attacks, some that lob arcing bombs at you and so on.

There’s no complex raid dance pattern to learn, just some basic patterns and typical things certain mob types do, but nothing Dark Souls or even GW2 hard. It’s ‘just right,’ skewed towards the easier side of the difficulty spectrum, but not insultingly simple.

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It’s structured well for short play sessions.

One ventures into an Adventure world of appropriate level range.

One instantly calls up a mount with a keypress and zooms toward a small lair or large dungeon, navigates as one likes to the boss of that locale (aka speed past all trash or treat it like a dungeon crawl, up to you), defeats it, badabing, a quest reward of xp and a chest of items are yours.

Rinse and repeat as often as you like.

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With more time on one’s hands, you could putter around with crafting and building, fishing, harvesting resources (mining ore and collecting crafting ingredients) and so on, interspacing non-combat activities between all the swordswinging and spellflinging.

Trove bears the social design of the more modern-day MMO. Xp and resources are automatically shared (as in doubled, individual loot to each person, not divided into half.)

It errs on the side of generosity, shrugging about leechers. Galloping through a dungeon or lair and some guy speeds past you on their much faster mount and slays the big bad? No matter. You get the quest complete xp anyway.

It is possible and does speed things up if one does lairs in an unofficial group – I’ve had the occasional duo or trio that decide to follow me or vice versa for a time, but it seems many playing are soloists at heart and will eventually go their own separate ways after a string of lairs and then both seeing something else shinier in different directions.

The groups, I suppose, have already found their way to the top, in their Clubs (guild-equivalents, of which you can join 5. Hoorah! And each has a separate club chat!) and private parties of friends they already know.

It’s not the first game I would think of, if someone is looking to meet up and form firm bonds with new friends that last for years. There are other games for that sort of thing. (Though I’m sure there are exceptions, even in Trove, such as clubs that spend all their time building musical creations and socialising and so on.)

Trove is more of a dip-in, dip-out, loosely attached temporary alliances, group for a time or solo at will sort of affair.

It’s an affair that I am happy to dally with.

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P.S. If you’re tempted by this post to make an account, please feel free to use this Refer-A-Friend link so that I might conceivably get a really cool black Elder Dragon mount one day!

(They did, however, set the bar quite high by requiring the recruit to hit Mastery Level 30… I haven’t even hit Mastery Level 20 myself. But eh, I can always dream, right?)