GW2: Path of Fire Weekend Demo

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Crystal Desert, ahoy!

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Reddit is in love with the raptor mount’s animations – the sheer attention to detail is amazing.

Riding one of these feels very vehicle-like or ship-like, no quick side-strafing but more steering like a speedboat… that can leap long distances.

I created a warrior for the weekend demo.

This time around, Marauder stats were provided (similar to Berserker with less Power/Precision/Ferocity bang, but more Vitality), which I thought was a nice compromise for experienced players who can’t live without the damage potential they are used to, but had extra health pool for the new players.

I’m not sure what necromancers started out with, but both UltrViolet from Endgame Viable and Aywren reported some difficulty with the introductory instance that showed players arriving to the Crystal Desert and learning how to use mounts.

Part of it might be a problem with the preset traits and skills. The warrior started with a greatsword and rifle, which happens to suit my open world playstyle fine (direct damage, one melee and one range option) but I took one look at the traits and couldn’t quite make head or tail out of it.

I suspect they built it more defensively for new preview weekend players. “Kick” was on my skill bar, among other things. Ok, breakbar hint, I suppose, but I am totally not used to using the warrior physical skills. Especially after they changed it in the new patch and gave it an ammo mechanic in the hope of making it more popular/viable a choice, but new mechanic = something not even vets are familiar with using right now.

You can picture me poking at it quizzically with this sort of expression on my face.

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So I took some time at the start to flip things to the more standard PS berserker build I was used to, minus the banners for group support, plus Wild Blow utility and Head Butt elite skill for breakbar (I’ll take the hint).

Also, since experience versus Balthazar mobs in Siren’s Landing has taught me that Anet is very very fond of quick stacking burns as a theme on his faction (recipe for immediate “Ow!” and falling over downed), a condi cleanse might be super helpful. Shake It Off went on the utility skill bar.

Lastly, finishing off the open world utility trifecta besides a breakbar skill and a condi cleanse, a stun-break. Warriors have a number of options, I just like Balanced Stance because it gives swiftness for running around, stability if used pre-emptively, and breaks stun if used reactively.

With that, the story instance felt fine, though I did feel like I was hitting with… if not quite a wet noodle, at least a wooden sword. See, the downgrade was that the demo stats were all exotics – armor, weapons, trinkets – along with Marauder slightly diluting the max damage of Berserker stats possible.

On the bright side, I used no food, no utilities and completed it just fine on exotics, so it is doable – and I presume they tested with all exotic gear, if this is their preset demo gear.

The big issue, imo, is mostly that folks not used to GW2 combat are not used to two things:

  1. Moving while pressing skills, and knowing what the skills are so that they can be chained smoothly
  2. Reading the itty bitty tiny buff icons on the mob’s status bars and general mob combat animations and indicators that have become second nature to people who play GW2 more often

Running out of orange circles by being pre-emptively mobile and ready to sidestep is a trained reaction by now for most of us, while a new player probably doesn’t even -see- the orange circle against the beige sand of a desert setting, let alone react in time.

Reading animations is another thing. Mobs have been charging at us since Mordrem mobs in Dry Top and Silverwastes. You gain an instinctive “uh oh” hunch when a mob starts pausing and looking at you funny, gathering itself up… before you know it, you’ve thrown yourself with a sideways dodge out of the way of the oncoming charge.

This is a learned reaction. Painfully acquired over time from getting charged and knocked down and around every which way to kingdom come. Not to mention, getting shot to hell by the straight ground line of Mordrem snipers.

You go from not even knowing the mob is going to come at you, to recognizing that “ok, this mob type is probably coming at me,” to trying out different mobility solutions (running sideways will probably still get you caught, just hitting the dodge button leaves you still in the oncoming path), to realizing that the best solution is to dodge sideways, to -practising- the ability to dodge sideways (holding one key down while pressing another, are your keybinds in a comfortable place to do that?) until it becomes something you can do on demand, and even subconsciously.

(And if you are a little insane, like my particular raid group, you practice synchronized group dodging aka “dodge left” to control a particular mechanic for a certain raid boss in a predictable manner.)

Bottom line is, no one starts out ABLE to do anything automatically. It was practiced and developed over time. Frustration at the stages before “can more or less do it” is completely normal.

But anyway, after the story instance completes, you’re tossed out into the first open world map of the expansion.

Boy, were they really careful with its design.

The first thing you get is a fairly big settlement, not quite racial city-sized but definitely larger than a village or outpost.

You can run around it in relatively welcoming safety, like Lion’s Arch. It introduces the special mechanics of the map – races, bounties – and has some amenities like a bank and trading post.

What’s pretty special is that in a fashion somewhat remniscent of Warhammer Online, you can actually get “public quests” *ahem* “dynamic events” within the town confines.

You can run around and collect objects with your mount and contribute to event completion. A pack of rampaging choya (planty quaggan things, but -angrier-) can attempt to stampede into town. It gives the whole city a little more life – or at least, more action.

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The real verisimilitude comes from the outside.

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This -is- a big map, compared to the rest of the GW2 zones. (And mind you, one third to one quarter of it on the right side also appears to be locked off at the moment.)

Wide open is the watchword, and IT FEELS GOOD.

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Explorer souls, rejoice.

The awe of gorgeous surroundings, the curious sensation of wondering what’s over the horizon in whichever direction yonder and just -choosing to go- there (without being hindered by sheer drops, puzzle updraft/mushrooms and Mordremoth’s clingy tendrils), and then finding something interesting to see – all that is back in the map on weekend preview.

I find myself sometimes just wanting to run on foot through the place, rather than mount up.

If you miss that sense of MMO as a WORLD, rather than as a meta map with a game objective on a timer, then I think you can get some sense of that back in Path of Fire, if the rest of the zones are similar to this one.

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World map-wise, it looks pretty promising in potential. Given the coloration of the Elonian region, we might see bits of the Brand, the sulfur deserts of old with the junundu wurms, as well as grassy oases in the Crystal Desert proper.

Even in the first map on preview, it’s not -all- beige desert, there’s some other colors too, if you know where to look.

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What I do like, that I haven’t really seen commented on:

There are some really faithful references back to Guild Wars 1, with added new combat mechanics twists.

Man, hydra farming was a thing in GW1 – which I was never very good at, but tried my hand at anyway.

And I remember they were Elementalists of much fiery rainy pain.

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Hydra says “ahai.”

Now here’s something we haven’t seen before, mob skills that use a lot more verticality.

The meteors are a little mean when first encountering them (I got smashed by the first meteor before I could react, the first few times) but after a while, you realize they’re going to do that and keep moving so that you’re not there by the time it lands.

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Their heads pop off. And they wiggle around like beheaded triple trouble wurms. That’s a little nuts. But a very nice effect.

Overall, it’s not just the mount animations that are worthy of praise in Path of Fire, it’s pretty much all the mob animations. Sand sharks dive in and out of the sand in a convincingly fluid manner, unsoweiter.

The fanged iboga, another GW1 throwback, with an arcing poison/hallucination style attack as befits its mesmer class.

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New shapes are coming. A fire wall, in all its 3D glory.

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New buffs on the mob’s buff bars to read too. It will be interesting to see if boon stealing will be more valuable a mechanic in Path of Fire.

Bounties are an interesting map activity. Basically, they are like Queen’s Gauntlet mobs. You can pick up a bounty to go and trigger them in the open world. Once “summoned,” they exist for the space of 9-10 minutes, and anyone walking by can join in the fight, dynamic event style.

They have more complex mechanics than the standard open world mobs. Apparently, they can spawn with different buff “affixes” so they may vary from bounty to bounty, and necessitate slightly different tactics to defeat.

They seem to be a good intermediate training/tutorial mechanism on GW2 combat.

For one thing, it’s not a cage fight like the Queen’s Gauntlet.  One can break off combat any time and run away far enough to get out of combat and switch skills/change traits to adapt to the encounter.

For another, multiple people can join in, help each other, teach each other, or at least in a worse case unfriendly scenario, -observe- how another person is soloing while in a downed state.

I followed a commander tag calling for help and fought a really angry giant choya on a flat mini-island in the ocean. The thing was rolling around like a rolling devil on steroids, smashing anyone that got in its way (ie. everyone -on- the floating platform of an island) and summoning up ley line energy things that spun around and did damage – essentially limiting even more of the already limited arena.

After getting downed a few times, I rolled off into the ocean to float and actually read all the mechanics on the mob’s bar. The ocean was a perfect safe zone. (It was a little tough to figure out the correct side to even jump back up into the fight.)

There were 3-4 other people there, all getting smashed to high heaven. Barely anyone was touching the break bar.

Which…seemed like the best strategy, actually, because it wasn’t going to stay still otherwise. And it was lethal once moving erratically.

So I gamely jumped back onto the platform, tried to land Wild Blow, Head Butt, and even Rifle Butt. There was one other person that also helped cc a bit. Together, we managed to knock out the break bar and stun it. Now it was a punching bag for a crucial few moments. Rinse and repeat. Bounty done.

There was another bounty out in the desert. I can’t recall what it was, but I do remember it had the Sniper affix.

What this produced was a slow-moving shiny ball that would select a random player and creep towards the player. It moves -just- a little faster than one can sidestep though. Once it hits the player, a target gets painted on the player and a ley line energy snipe of doom emerges from the bounty and does 95% of one’s health bar, if not more, and typically downs the player.

Cue an amusing sequence of everyone getting downed in turn and Benny Hill running away from the death ball.

I wanted to “solve” this mechanic, so I backed out of the combat leaving the two other players to alternate being downed and switched skills.

The first thing I thought of was to “block” the sniper hit.

I wasn’t on my guardian though, and warriors can usually only block reliably on demand with a shield… which I didn’t have on the demo character and wasn’t interested in wrangling with the gear explosion and stat selection of the demo box.

The other thing warriors have that essentially are more sophisticated “blocks” is a) endure pain (immune to all direct damage, but conditions go through) and b) defiant stance (heal for the amount of damage that hits you, within the limited three seconds or so that it is active).

So I put both of those on and went to test them out on the shiny ball of doom.

Allow shiny ball to hit me, trigger defiant stance. Boom, sniper shot heals me to full. Giggle maniacally.

Shiny ball comes looking for me again, and trigger endure pain. Boom, sniper shot does no damage. Perfect.

So now I just need to manage cooldowns so that one is always ready to go by the time the shiny ball comes to me… tricky… hmm, what about classes that don’t have the specialized skills of warriors, can they do anything? Well, anyone can dodge with an invulnerability frame… HMM…

The next time the shiny ball comes in, I cross my fingers for luck and dodge the moment it hits me. BAM, evaded, just as the sniper shot comes in.

Therrrre you go, that’s IT. That’s the solution. It’s a mini-training tutorial for dodging!

Suddenly, I am the only person staying alive consistently while the other three people also fighting the boss just keep going down when the shiny ball decides they look interesting.

I leave them to observe me for a while: a mixture of not wanting to attract the shiny ball of doom and get sniped to death while locked in a revive animation, and wondering if the other three can learn by observation and arrive at the solution.

Mind you, these were not completely new players. The lowest had a 56 mastery point level, the middle was somewhere around 143, and the last was a full 193 mastery like moi.

They downed, revived themselves, downed again.

I stayed alive, and sat at range pewpewing the bounty as a rifle warrior.

After the second time they downed in sequence, feeling a little bad that I wasn’t bothering to rez them while I was enjoying my sequence of reactive dodging or soaking the sniper shot, I tried a teaching moment.

“Dodge when the shiny ball reaches you” was all I needed to say.

The next time they revived themselves, I watched as the shiny ball hit them. And BAM, they dodged and stayed alive. Just like that. The bounty died.

These were not complete newbies. They -knew- how to dodge. What they lacked was the ability to read the mechanics and experiment with solution finding. Their first impulse was to run away from the ball, and they kept trying to do that, even when the ball caught up with them and kept downing them.

I don’t know if this problem solving propensity can be trained or encouraged, but certainly, these new mobs are a way to at least let some people inclined to strategizing have some fun, and then the best solutions will get passed around verbatim or via Dulfy guide until everyone just knows “the strategy” for the encounter.

It’s a nice intermediate step from normal open world mobs anyway, but less punishing than that in Heart of Thorns (you don’t just die and have to waypoint run from far away, running out of combat is possible and mostly the punishment is getting downed).

My only fear is that this might break in larger numbers and groups of players. If they can be zerged down like guild bounties, then it’s possible that some players will just go ahead and do that and learn close to absolutely nothing (but maybe some osmosis will still happen in the company of others.)

Still, the weekend preview map feels surprisingly empty. Either the maps are deliberately being kept at a very low population number per instance (haven’t had skill lag in here), or folks have seen what they came to see and don’t want to progress further in a demo, or exploration as an activity doesn’t actually interest the present GW2 population as a whole.

I really hope it’s not the last. There doesn’t seem to be violent opposition on Reddit to this, so hopefully, people like it. I’m personally quite happy to have more of this stuff. (Cantha is a word that comes to mind, just sayin’.)

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Nightime in this zone is fantastic. What better to end on but screenshots of this?

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Spoiled for Choice, All of a Sudden

Now here’s something that hasn’t happened in two years or more:

I have two PC games that I am dying to play / make progress on at the same time.

Usually, one or the other is on a downswing and I start getting bored or antsy or grumpy or what-have-you and I take that as a signal to go focus obsessively on some other game instead.

And when stuff is really bad, then I don’t feel like playing any games at all and go read a book, sleep or find something else instead.

With GW2 finally introducing stat-swappable armor into the WvW and PvP game modes, my last major unhappy whine about raids promoting exclusivity through design immediately resolved itself and flipped my mood 100% in the other direction.

Do we still have a partitioning and division in the playerbase? Well, yes, some, that’s been there before raids, further exasperated by raids, and is not going to go away completely, but players like to partition themselves off anyway and seem to be happier mostly playing in their little sub-communities.

(Game design -promoting- siloing though, should be avoided. The point is to keep nudging players out of their little happy zones from time to time with positive carrots, rather than force them kicking and screaming anywhere with a stick; as well as to avoid over-rewarding one partition over another. e.g. Can you imagine the whining if the PvP gamemode got stat swappable armor first?)

DPS meters are a thing now in GW2. That’s another change. All meters are prone to misuse and misreading; but they also bring positive good from an objective numbers standpoint.

One can seek self-improvement measuring one’s own performance or by observing someone else perform at a higher level; others can quietly adjust for a poorer performing player or put them in a role which they can actually do well or passably in, and so on. You’ll see the good of meters happening in the more closed groups, while the PUG scene is, well… it’s a PUG for a reason. Bad mixes with good, and usually the bad sticks more in memory.

Overall, any “bad”, “negative” and “toxicity” components that were introduced alongside raids comes from players now, not by game design, and that is how it should be.

(Are there a few more of those ugly players? Well, yes, but you can’t win ’em all. And more probably came in via free to play being introduced, rather than raids as a feature. If anything, they come in attracted by raiding as a concept and inflict their ugliness on PUGs and the difficulty/wipes scare everyone away even further. Which is a problem for new blood into the raiding scene, but hey, raiders like to be part of closed groups anyway, and we will let that ecosystem play itself out how it will.)

The last still-valid general complaint about GW2 raid design-wise is the sectioning off of some level of story content behind a group-needed, time-needed, certain-management-of-difficulty-required barrier. Plus the insulting suggestion from certain devs to beg a raider to let you walk into an already cleared instance to read what remains.

That personally isn’t a dealbreaker for me but well, it may still be for some.

My last word of caution about raids is the future fear of pushing the envelope so hard and measuring based on super-raid guilds playing at NA levels of ping or using ping dependent mechanics (bullet hell, I’m looking at you.) They can hit upwards of 36-40k dps on a raid golem, and people at higher levels of latency… well, cannot. 30-32k can be a heroic effort and 28-30k while in a raid is pretty darned good already.

The current raids are more mechanics dependent than must-meet-crazy-good-dps-to-avoid-enrage scenarios, and that’s generally fairly palatable/acceptable.

Anyway, with legendary armor function now available via two other game modes, it is perfectly okay from a lateral progression standpoint now. You don’t have to raid, you don’t have to PvP, you don’t have to WvW. If you want stat-swapping armor, you can do options 1-3 or all of them as it suits you. You can make a piece here and a piece there, or do all six pieces from one game mode. If you hate all the options, then you live without stat swapping armor functionality and pay one-off costs to Zommorros if you really need to swap stats once in a while.

Players who play any of those game modes for a long time get exclusive cosmetics and titles and minis and toys (finishers, white mantle portal, etc.) as prestigious things to show off, but their characters are not functionally better than someone else who doesn’t do those things. (The players, though, may have functionally improved in skill over someone who doesn’t specialize in that game mode, so that is fair too.)

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We pink now, bois

Anyway, Path of Fire is coming, and with it, the prospect of wide open world zones, more cooperative open groups and new things (zones, mounts, elite spec skills) to discover.

Since GW2 has become all about lateral progression again, I am tempted in multiple directions at once.

  • I want an Incinnerator as my next legendary – my raid team is named Incinnerator, it’ll be a great mascot weapon and I want a shiny weapon for  warrior-spellbreaker. It requires insane amounts of Deldrimor steel (which, honestly, is the least annoying timegated ascended material imo, and makes it tolerable in my book) so that means hitting every last iron and mithril ore node I see, while currently working on geodes (Dry Top? I have to go back to Dry Top? It is a thing?)

 

  • I’ve been thinking of trying to get gud in fractals because fractal rewards are great. PUGs are not so great, which is a turn off. My choice of classes keep vacillating – I moved from a necro to condi PS and I -was- entertaining the thought of a condi druid and thought about learning to elementalist properly for once. I want something I can try learning to solo fractals with, as well as something that can carry a PUG as well. There’s mesmer, but I can’t wrap my mind around mesmers so well.

 

  • Ad Inifinitum is also a backpack collection that I’ve been idly working on for 2 years now? Mostly through opportunistic jumping into a PUG looking to complete X challenge, when I actually think to check LFG for fractal groups (ie. not often.) And just focused long enough to get past tier 2 a few days ago.

 

  • I’ve been thinking about the next legendary armor set, probably light armor. I have 500 LI burning a hole in the bank, but everything else will take quite a while. Especially the HoT currencies = a lot of time playing HoT events.

 

  • WvW is a thing, especially now that they’ve reworked the pips and ticket rewards to be less depressing for low rank plebians like myself who are stuck on the last tier of WvW that still exists (RIP Tarnished Coast, but at least we aren’t one of the subsumed servers?)

 

  • Oh, and I’m still raiding twice a week, so there will be things to do to suit the new meta as and when it arises after this balance patch shakes out. I am surprisingly quite calm about the new patch, possibly because I have one of every class (if not more) by now, and enough magnetite shards out the wazoo and odd pink drops to equip 4-5 characters in new Ascended in the blink of an eye.

OR, I can totally ignore GW2 for the moment and go play Path of Exile.

Which is in a total Renaissance period at the moment, with famous Twitch streamers all zeroing in on the 3.0 patch.

I’m up to level 61 now, and somewhere in Act 6 or Act 7?

The hilarity of the new maps means I don’t know where anything is, which puts a damper on beelining to the exit, and usually means I end up crisscrossing the map multiple times looking for a way out.

And since I’m constitutionally incapable of ignoring anything that moves when it’s showing up on my screen, that means I kill pretty much -everything- and become super outleveled, if super slow at progressing.

I exploded a few times versus some of the newer Act bosses, but I figure that’s just not being used to the mechanics/animations and not knowing what to do.

(I also had an issue hitting some of the object bosses like Act 5 Kitava and the unpronounceable Spider god Silk was in love with, while using an attack-in-place num lock workaround I read on Reddit. Not exactly the best time to wonder why I couldn’t fire an attack at the boss while the whole room is lit on fire / acid / blood explosions / minions / melee swipes, etc.

Well, just have to understand the bosses a little more, then I’ll be able to deactivate and reactivate stuff as needed.)

Minion clearing though, that’s been sweet lately.

Some time in Act 5 or 6, an NPC offered some unique jewels as a quest reward, and the only one that was relevant for me was some kind of buff to zombie AoE attacks. So my 7 zombie entourage (went up to 8 now, but not in the screenshot below) has started “biffing” more than “whiffing,” while still doing their part in providing a wall of bodies.

Said wall lasts long enough for me to fire off Arc a few times, now linked with spell echo among other supports (still 4-linked only, so room for future improvement there) and that usually ends the fight.

I cleared the Labyrinth and picked up Elementalist as an Ascendancy (just didn’t seem to have either the gear or build for Necromancer, maybe another character down the road), and am now dragging along an entourage of dual ice and lightning golems.

I’m using Herald of Ice and Arctic Armor since I had the mana reservoir for it, Vaal Storm Call as a panic button/damage supplement, Vaal Summon Skeletons as panic button/damage number 2, and Conductivity as a curse to up my damage when things actually stay up long enough for me to toss it.

A Raise Spectre gem dropped some time back, and I was idly experimenting with it. It’s really quite something depth-wise, as its effectiveness seems to depend on you picking the right mob for the job and slotting support gems accordingly.

I had an amusing period where I put Lesser Multiple Projectiles and Faster Projectiles in with it and looked for a good ranged attacker to shotgun projectiles.

Sadly, I heard that the old stalwarts of Flame Sentinels (or something like that) no longer completely apply now that the Acts were revised (they got outleveled or something like that) so I kept my eyes open for new mobs to play with instead.

In Act 5, there was a promising Scholar or Sister or two that seemed quite shooty, but they were really quite slow and my zombies/arc/golems were mostly killing things before they got to the fray to shoot.

Sometime in Act 6, I found my new favorite Spectre to play with in the Axiom Prison, necessitating a whole bunch of support gem swapping.

There is this CRAZY skeleton cage that walks on four legs and has multiple sword swinging hands. I -think- it uses the Cyclone skill. It just likes doing this spinny attack of doom and it is just so bulky.

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“You know what, self,” I say. “You need a new tank pet, yes, you do.”

Beyond the odd AI quirk where it sometimes does not figure out where the swarm of mobs I’m attacking are (in which case, they die to Arc), it is pretty hilarious to see it buzzsaw in, surrounded by a pack of zombies.

Shit dies pretty quick, if I left them to it.

And I’m usually sitting around supporting them with a chains-5-times Arc, so that’s even better.

If things stay up, that’s usually because it’s not one group of mobs but like three groups of mobs converged in one place, plus rare mobs, and that’s when the minion entourage really earn their keep, tangling up most of the mobs for long enough for me to run or Flame Dash out of there and then Arc fire into the fray to clean up the mess.

Gear is likely going to be an issue soon – my resistances are all at 50% only, so not great, and I haven’t been actively looking or specifically crafting for gear with serious amounts of life or energy shield but just randomly picking up what works – but we’ll cross that hurdle when we come to it. (I seem to recall level 62 and 72 as the levels where I start having to worry about passable gear tiers while on the way to the top tier.)

Game life is good.

Some Things Are To Be Savored

On the Path of Exile front, I dodged a bullet by virtue of my time zone and cheerfully missed the expected overloaded server crashes and queues caused by a hundred thousand odd screaming NA or EU fans trying to race to the top of the leaderboard/economy of 3.0 Fall of Oriath.

Instead, by the time I got around to playing it, some 8-12 hours past launch, the SG servers seemed to be behaving just fine.

As usual, I’m in Solo Self Found and content with playing in nublet-like fashion, so economy issues worry me not at all.

In a very out-of-the-ordinary fashion, I am playing this run in a super-slow leisurely manner because this is it, this is my LORE run, this is the character that I’m actually stopping to smell the roses and read the quest text on – or have the quest text read to me.

Path of Exile’s voice actors actually do a good job with the chunks of paragraph in the game… it’s really too bad few people will ever slow down to listen.

(Guilty: I keep trying to click Continue out of habit.)

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Path of Exile is actually chock full of lore.

I find I am enjoying the slow drip fed reveals about characters that I’ve brushed by in a hurry numerous times.

I learn odd trivia about historical figures whom I’ve never paid attention to before. Lioneye’s Watch, the first settlement the players walk into, is named for Marceus Lioneye, a general who fought against King Kaom and lost. They called him the Lioneye because he stuck a orange-yellow gem into his eye.

On the path to the Axiom Prison (which I never knew had a name before now), you can find one of his flags and a phrase “There is no glory without sacrifice.” Later, in the sewers of the City of Sarn, you retrieve some busts for an NPC called Victario, and what do you know, his bust actually depicts the gem in his eye.

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I have done the Act 1 to 3 runs so many times before this – Piety blocks off the path, you have to go around the long way to get through, yadda yadda.

But until today, I never quite put two and two together and realized that Piety raised “Shavronne’s Barrier” to block the player.

Shavronne, meanwhile, being another historical figure who created Brutus the Warden (whom you fight as the boss of Axiom Prison) and created the Barrier as a line of defence against the rampaging hordes of King Kaom and his Karui warriors. The Shavronne whom you will later meet and kill as a mini-boss and so on.

I’m barely into Act 4 and no new content yet, but I’m still very much enjoying myself by paying attention to the story and lore for once.

There are some nice, smoothed out touches here and there, that I’ve noted in 3.0.

Some waypoints have popped up in more convenient places, like each floor of the Solaris Temple and the Market has a more central waypoint.

A new help/guide/tutorial button pops up every few levels, opening out an optional chapter/page/section that can be read by newbies to learn more about crucial PoE mechanics.

The extremely tedious three locale sewers (Slums, Market, Warehouse) have been truncated into one single Sewers map in which all three busts and the waypoint and the Undying Blockage (previously in the middle Market sewers) can be found. This was worth a small Hallelujah when I wandered in and found it far less onerous than before.

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Surprisingly, I am not the big burly red fiery darkity character in the lower left.

I would be the shadowy figure on the upper right… having a serious case of wing envy.

I don’t have a super pre-set build for my first 3.0 character, but was vacillating between a summoner and arc (as usual, I set my eye on spells after their OP heyday and have been nerfed into the ground.)

I keep hearing that summoners need a lot of special gear, while spells scale better with poor gear, but you know, I really enjoyed my wall of zombies when playing PewPewPew’s Firestorm/zombie build.

So I’ve gone and am attempting a variant of that using Arc/zombies. It should be all very well until I reach the point in maps where I can’t hide behind the wall of zombies any longer and explode when something looks at me – but it’s not like I haven’t been there before with firestorm/zombies, so… whatever.

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In the meantime, fashion wars dictates that I dress up in something that reflects both lightning and darkity undead summoning. I’m enjoying what I call the Stormcrow ensemble.

A plague mask provides a bird-like plague doctor beak, stormcaller gloves and boots provide the lightning elements, legion body armor for a little gold color and the outlaw cloak because new capes/cloak physics are awesome.

Somewhat sadly, cloak = no wings.

Anyway, I don’t think wings suit this particular character. I’ll save it for big burly Karui marauders when I get around to playing those.

I totally could -NOT- resist those wings though.

Grinding Gear Games strikes again, as I searched heroically through the microtransaction store to figure out where that guy’s wings came from, and eventually figured out that they were from the new Chaos and Order mystery box -just- released some 7 hours ago from the time I was having wing envy.

Well, I had the Fall of Oriath supporter pack already bought from when it went into beta… I had microtransaction points burning a small hole in my pocket…

…before you know it, I’d reached for the Buy button and bought 3 mystery boxes. 90 points, $9, that’s responsible spending, right? Whatever’s inside would be worth/priced more than 30 points anyway…

I got a semi-decent order/light footprints, some kind of shiny weapon effect that I could always use, and a really sweet-looking black-red chaos sword.

Sword made it totally worth the $9 already.

No chaos wings though.

*twitch*

Ahh, what’s a few more, right? $12, chaos footprints, not bad.

$15, beast egg hideout decoration, worth a solid meh.

$18, my life is complete.

wingsyay

Relatively responsible spending.

I’ll probably end up picking up a couple more mystery boxes in the weeks/months ahead while the order/chaos themed ones are around.

Seriously, Path of Exile’s mystery boxes are the only lockbox that I can buy without either feeling dirty or cheated at the end of it.

Instead, I feel sated and awesome and happy.

I got some pleasant surprise cosmetics that I would not have bought at the direct price (footprints, etc.), I got a cool surprise sword I really like the look of and can use, a minor letdown decoration that I can still put in my hideout, and struck it lucky on the cosmetic that I was hoping to get.

If I had not gotten it by $25-$30 or so, I would have stopped and simply waited out the mystery box and for it to be released as a separate cosmetic option a couple months later (preferably on sale at some point), so it would not have been the end of the world if the wings didn’t pop.

(And I would have gotten some other usable and most likely pretty-in-their-own-way, if random, cosmetic effects from the boxes, so it would not have been wasted cash.)

Ironically, I’m still using the black cloak on my current character. Wings don’t suit her.

The next melee character I roll though, he’s gonna be awesome.