Blaugust Day 9: To-Do List Recap

Easy way out today. Let’s do a recap of where I am with the to-do list:

Watching the Dota 2 International – Done. Some nice matches this year.

Gw2 Beta Weekend – Sort of played. If 30 minutes messing around with some skills can be considered ‘played.’

From reports, a great many events in Verdant Brink have been breaking all weekend… which doesn’t encourage me to try it out any. Exactly what kind of useful feedback can be offered then besides “need this fixed before any further opinions can be given?”

Decluttering the hobby room – Okay, guilty, I’ve been enjoying the holiday weekend and haven’t moved an inch on the good intentions yet.

Scan books – I gamely tried to scan one and realized it’ll take me forever the ‘try to preserve it’ way. So I sliced it up. And another five books cut up. Just not yet scanned. So a little behind on that, but I trust the ADF on the scanner to eat them up once I get around to it.

Trove To-Do List – Pretty much everything done besides fish.

Ringcrafting and gardening are at 250 and maxed out. I bought my store raptor.

Then Thursday was apparently doubled adventure box loot day, and I went nuts on visiting lairs and dungeons. Turns out that adventure boxes are like lockboxes but with no need to spend real money on them unless you wanted to shortcut the process and use a ‘golden key’ to get the ‘rare’ drop without grind. I’d been opening a bunch without seeing hide nor hair of the reputed panda mounts that were supposed to be in there, but Thursday saw a flood of boxes coming in and I just kept opening them and suddenly, there was a purple-pink fae panda mount that popped. Shortly after, the red panda mount.

That’s honestly more mounts than I need already, especially since I like the raptor so much. I compromised by letting my Tomb Raiser ride the fae panda so that they were color-coordinated, and kept using the raptor on everybody else.

Allies attained. Boat procured. Not only did I get to Mastery 20 and unlock wings, the next couple of days saw me hit Mastery 30, and unlock the hourly challenges too.

All the alt classes I own are leveled to over 10, the Knight is 19 and creeping up on max level 20, half-thinking of buying and trying out the candy barbarian, who knows, we’ll see.

GW2 To-Do List – I gamely tried to read all the volumes of Ebonhawke in one sitting the other day. I -swear- I hit all twenty of them, I was whispering to myself each volume number, but somehow the achievement didn’t unlock. Either it’s bugged or I made a mistake counting. That kinda deflated me from other completionist attempts.

The good news is that I’ve recovered my icy runestone backup fund (ie. 100g put aside for rainy days), the bad news is that I don’t have much more gold than that.

Nothing else on that front, just been lazy with GW2. I really miss the fortnightly Living Story updates. It’s like I feel frozen in time and unable to progress without the story moving ahead too.

Watch Indie Game: The Movie – I watched 3/4 of it? It was fairly interesting, dealing with all the runaway emotions of trying to make/sell an indie game, but I kinda got sleepy before it ended, stopped it to nap and never went back to it.

Other Games: I’ve been dabbling with Savage Lands, which is mostly awkward in many areas (but Early Access is the usual excuse) but shows some amount of promise if development continues and more content gets put in.

And I’ve popped back into Terraria for a spell, going singleplayer this time to try out the 1.3 patch. (Mostly because I lost my saves – worlds, characters – when I switched to the new computer and can’t be arsed to go digging around in the backup for them. Good excuse to start from scratch.)

So far it’s mostly been killing the Eye of Cthulhu, and wasting a ton of Worm Food trying to summon the Eater of Souls into a man-made corruption area – I think when it sinks down into the ground, it leaves the corruption area and thus scarpers off or something. I gave up, made a really stopgap arena in the real corruption region far far away from my base (hence the desire to make a controlled one nearer) and killed the Eater there with my last Worm Food.

I still need one more Eater of Souls to make the last piece of demonite armor, and then maybe I’ll think about visiting the dungeon and/or descending to the hell layer for the Wall of Flesh.

What’s heavily distracting are the butterflies. Literally. They keep flying into my base. I keep netting them and going “ooh, so many different types to collect,” and realizing that nearly every critter (besides butterflies) is now collectible.

And some of them are bait, which no doubt feeds into a giant fish collection of some sort. I think I’m going to need a bigger base.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, L for Lists and Lazy, and the number 9.

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NBI: Whoops…

… I missed my goal to write every 1-3 days on the very last day of the Newbie Blogger Initiative.

But you know what?

It served its purpose anyway. All throughout the third day, there was this little alarm bell nagging in my head reminding me that I’m overdue, and I was like, “Yes, yes, but real life, and then need time for current games and sleep. Blog juuust a bit later.”

Goals are guidelines. It’s not the end of the world if you miss ’em, but don’t disregard ’em either and use them as a “I missed it, so I might as well not bother” procrastination excuse.

So here’s your stopgap post at 6.50am on Day 4 to stop the nagging in my head.

joker

This fellow’s the reason I missed blogging for a while.

Yep, Batman: Arkham Origins finally went on 75% sale the other day, and according to my “buy a lot of games” greed principle, that was the time to pick it up.

I remember there were a lot of complaints about it being buggy and glitchy and not very innovative when it first came out, but it seems that time seems to have given the developers a little more opportunity to resolve major issues.

I did still encounter two spots where something a little wonky occurred (a suspect got knocked into a wall and then the right click to interrogate option didn’t come up, a fight with a boss stalled when he appeared too soon and the little minions became invulnerable punching bags,) but revisiting the area later or simply  reloading the encounter solved the problem so it wasn’t game-breaking.

All in all, I was able to ignore the glitches in favor of the storyline, which is utterly riveting to me.

It’s a prologue for the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games, so you get to see all the classic hero and villains of Batman at a younger stage of their lives.

You play a Batman that is considerably more reckless and ruthless a vigilante – I was surprised to have the option to beat up cops instead of criminals at first, but later realized that the cops of Gotham were crooked at this point of time, so this younger Batman considered them fair game. James Gordon is still an up and coming influence and again, surprisingly at odds with this younger Batman, a rather pleasant narrative contrast to juxtapose to their later alliance and friendship.

I was thrilled to get a glimpse of Barbara Gordon in her teenage years as well, another nice juxtaposition to her later “eye-in-the-sky” Oracle role for Batman.

And of course, the game’s story tells an origin tale of that classic Batman relationship, him and the Joker. I can’t say more without revealing the plot, but it’s definitely a good ‘un.

batman

I’m still in the last few levels of the storyline, and there’s gliding around the map hitting side quests, solving puzzles and playing a few challenge maps, so expect me back a few days from now.

Dota 2 is still sorta/kinda going strong. Getting an average of a game in every day or so, give or take. Proudly managed to finish the tutorial, at least. More on that when I figure out how to blog about it too.

NBI Writing Prompt: If you’re reading this and a little nagging voice in your head is saying that you really haven’t posted in a while and really should, go ahead and give yourself permission to write a stopgap post.

Post an update paragraph of what you’ve been doing, or take a screenshot of one game and caption it with something. Done.

GW2: Seeds of Truth and Kernels of Opinion

I’ve heard it said that it’s short. Others are a little more positive about it.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a “play everything” person in GW2, or if it’s because I’ve had to increase work hours (with corresponding decrease in play hours) to afford my shiny new computer, but I’m looking at the length of time it’s going to take me to play the content and it’s -not- short, in my book.

It took me the better part of one night (~3-4 hours) to finish the latest Living Story chapter on normal mode.

So sue me, but I actually talk to NPCs and enjoy the pacing when it’s presented to me for the first time.

A friend was going to run his second character through it, and I said, “Nah” and ducked out of the party because I wanted to savor the moment of novelty, rather than end up focusing on entertaining and accommodating the friend and missing the story.

I enjoyed it.

Just, er...ignore the anachronism over yonder. *hides mini quickly*
Just, er… ignore the anachronism over yonder. *hides mini quickly*

For one thing, it gives a look back at GW2 lore, with linkages back to GW1.

An actual in-game look at events that have previously only been touched on briefly outside the game on wikis and fansite interviews.

Regardless of how popular the Sylvari and (even more) Trahearne are, I personally liked getting to see the interaction of the Firstborn with each other, and the Secondborn. This is lore. This is history.

Hooray, they're not just wiki entries anymore!
Hooray, they’re not just static NPCs or wiki entries anymore! Newborn technicolor sylvari! Firstborn and Secondborn!

We even get a Caera cameo, which hopefully, over time will build up and when the first season’s Living Story finally gets re-released in permanent form, Scarlet will end up coming a lot less out of nowhere than when we experienced her for the first time.

We get the asura reaction to the new Sylvari race (and vice versa) shown to us, rather than told to us.

Suffice to say, they don't hold hands and sing kumbaya together.
Suffice to say, they don’t hold hands and sing kumbaya together.

For another thing, the mechanics of this chapter again harkens back to GW1, where we had story books we could enter and play a historical personage with new and unique skills. New lore was exposed in the course of playing through the book chapters, along with a new content challenge in the form of learning and mastering the new skills in order to get past each chapter.

Coming to a gem store near you: Caithe's purple blossom daggers!
Coming to a gem store near you: Caithe’s purple blossom/lotus daggers! (Disclaimer: Just me talking out of my arse, but I wouldn’t be surprised…)

I didn’t mind playing Caithe.

It’s an interesting change to be brought back to the same level as everyone else, unfamiliar with the skills and no longer able to rely on muscle memory.

It’s just like one of the seasonal minigames where you get presented with new objects with new skills to use, after all.

I thought Caithe’s skills were well picked.

(Yes, I died a lot because I have no patience being stealthy.)
(Yes, I died a lot because I have no patience being stealthy.)

She’s a thief, and many of the skills had a resemblance to a normal dual-dagger thief (with the exception of dagger 5), with a unique slightly-OP Caithe spin to it.

First skill is your regular slashy slashy dagger attack, but where a normal thief poisons on the third hit, Caithe gets to petrify – which also interrupts. (Dayum.) In stealth, she gets to pull off a backstab variant with it too, complete with helpfully shadowstepping to the back in question.

Second skill is normal thief heartseeker… on steroids. She leaps super far, and does nasty damage with the leap, and then poisons to add insult to injury.

Third skill is a dagger spin that evades and bleeds, similar to normal thief Death Blossom.

Fourth skill is a dagger ranged attack, but where a normal thief cripples, Caithe immobilizes.

Fifth skill is the most different. Normal thieves stealth with Cloak and Dagger, Caithe gets a Daggerstorm variant here.

Basically, the elite and fifth skill has switched places, as Caithe gets to cloak with her elite and stay cloaked for the duration, even while attacking, iirc.

Utility skills are a dash (that evades while in movement), a trap (of ridiculously humongous radius) and a pull similar to scorpion wire.

The interesting add-on effect of all these skills to produce a fighting style that is recognizably a GW2 thief, but plays out differently than the more standard stealth-abusing one that many thieves are used to.

Caithe is very much a movement-based evading thief (which some GW2 thieves do still use), but taken to extremes. I learned the hard way that she isn’t a stand and deliver sort of fighter, through multiple deaths from attempting to salvage botched sneak attempts, but found relative success when darting through crowds of asura, hit-and-running before dashing off to heal up.

I’ve yet to try the hard modes for this chapter yet, but I expect it will require a bit more mastery of her skills than my first go at it.

Your definition of “content” may differ, but anything in my “to-do-one-day” list for GW2 counts as content to me.

Speaking of which, we have the Silverwastes “grind” that some people are complaining about.

I have yet to find all the Lost Badges (because I don’t really feel the need to check a guide until I decide I want to finish something ASAP), and now I have Golden Lost Badges to also collect, and a jumping puzzle that I’m intent on giving a go sans guide until I’m stuck and frustrated.

Content.

I happen to like playing the Silverwastes events, and still live in the perpetual hope that there will be eventually a ‘need’ (or strong motivation, rather) to semi-organize in similar fashion to the Marionette.

gw2-morevines

Those three western lanes have still so far been unused, and the vines sprouting from that corner appear to be in greater and greater need of a pruning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the 8th (and last?) chapter.

Content, hopefully.

In the meantime, there are the Luminescent armor collections.

Content.

The Mordrem bodyparts are an obvious RNG time tax for those who cannot wait. If you choose to collect the most current body parts, you buy the green extractor and you hope RNG smiles on you. A basic understanding of probability would suggest that this gets harder the more potential parts show up on the loot table.

If you’re a little more behind, or a little more relaxed on not getting the newest shiniest thing NOW, you should eventually be able to use the white extractor and pick the part you need later, once you’re past the two weeks of the current bodypart of the fortnight.

Ditto the carapace boxes. If you need them NOW, you’re going to have to grind very intently for them, opening tons of chests or accumulating 1000 crests to buy them.

Or you can just play the content over the course of two weeks and see if you get lucky enough with drops, or worse case scenario, build up 1000 crests if you’re unlucky.

So far, I haven’t had to spend 1000 crests on any carapace pieces yet. I got two glove boxes from the Greater Nightmare Chest in the maze, and will just get the shoulder boxes from playing through the relevant chapter with multiple characters.

I am given to understand that one more armor piece in this latest update works similarly, playing through the Living Story chapter multiple times will get you the box, and the last piece is RNG from Lost Bandit Chests or through crests.

I still am not seeing the problem.

We need those chests opened, since Ascended recipes are going to come out of those now, and there has to be some kind of motivation for players to keep digging up those chests. They need shovels, so they’ll keep playing the Silverwastes events, and keep the zone functioning.

Working as intended, no?

If you hate or are now bored to tears with the Silverwastes, it’s time to go elsewhere and do something else. The only one keeping your nose to the grindstone is yourself.

Zone design is still fantastic, considering it's all mostly red rock.
Zone design is still fantastic, considering it’s all mostly red rock.

Take Dry Top.

It’s a little bit more deserted now, but there does still seem to be enough people running around the zone to occasionally take it to T4 – which is sufficient for (rather expensive) Ambrite weapon recipes.

If you’re a cheap bastard like me, who cannot bear the thought of paying extra for anything, then you have to wait for the right time and participate in an organized attempt to get to T6.

Which so happens occurs every week, one hour after reset, on Friday and Saturday (which is my Sat and Sun morning, perfect) by a Dry Top guild that has generously decided to take on the task of herding cats.

Eventually, even if regular player interest in the Silverwastes dies out, there will be the weekly or bi-weekly organized event to do it successfully.

Especially if there’s a final raid-like world boss waiting at the end of the zone. *keeps fingers crossed*

Any feeling of player urgency is self-imposed. You want the shiny stuff NOW. That’s the heart of it.

The NOW demand is what lets other players profit off the impatient at the TP. Been there, done that, from both angles.

It’s a tradeoff that you just have to suck it up and recognize. Same as in real life.

If I want to play Evolve when it launches, I have to pay $60. (*nervous twitch* Why yes, I’m still brooding over that decision.)

If I’m willing to wait a week or few months later, I can probably get a 25-33% discount. If I hold out to a Steam sale, I can probably get it at 50% in about half a year to a year, tops.

If I’m feeling miserly and not terribly in need of the game, I can probably get it at 75% off some time in between one and two years, and it might even drop to $5 like Left 4 Dead after two years.

If I want to be one of the first all shiny Luminescent and being a “Light in the Darkness,” then I’m going to have to play a LOT of Silverwastes and spend many hours in the zone. (Weren’t people asking for a time-and-effort based prestige armor, rather than gem store armor some time ago?)

If I wanted to be one of the first people with Mawdrey, I probably had to drop a ton of gold on the Trading Post, buying outsourced effort for the materials.

Or I could take my time with it and work on it as a long or medium term goal, when the demand has dropped and things are cheaper. (Or in the case of time-and-effort-based objects requiring groups of players, it may take longer. But one will still get there in the end.)

Finally, beyond the Silverwastes, Seeds of Truth also comes with a new spruce up for PvP.

Much shinier UI. I kinda wish they'd allow us to choose what rank emote shows up when we /rank. Kinda reluctant to move beyond Dolyak.
Much shinier UI. Still not much of a PvPer. I kinda wish they’d allow us to choose what rank emote shows up when we /rank. Kinda reluctant to move beyond Dolyak because Dolyak stampede is so shiny.

Despite my limited time, I got two games in.

I was mildly amused with being able to vote on which map came up.

-Especially- amused when RNG picked the 1 person who voted for one map, while the other 4 and 5 people had voted for other maps. (Why can’t I have 1 in 10 lucky RNG like that in the PvE game, eh? For the record, I was one of the 5, so maybe not so lucky.)

I honestly can’t say if the matchmaking’s any better or worse than before, but I do have to say that it’s a lot easier and more encouraging to hit “Unranked Arena” and just -play- a proper game, rather than be relegated to the dregs of hotjoin where people shamelessly stack their way to victory.

I am going to assume it’s easier to actually queue up with friends as a party and play Unranked (without risking your MMR plunging), as opposed to the old system where if you actually wanted to play a proper game, you HAD to play ranked, and your only choice was between Solo queue or Team queue.

There’s content there too, in the form of a new crowd attracted by the changes (though time will tell if it’s temporary or if it lasts.)

Anyhow, with my limited time these few weeks, I’d rather spend more time playing GW2 than blogging about it, which I guess speaks volumes about what I think about the last few updates.

Path of Exile: Forsaken Masters First Impressions

There's actually some neat art for some gear. If only wardrobe customisation were a thing...

It’s really fun.

Granted, it’s from the perspective of a slow lowbie or a noob’s eye view, but as a representative of the beginner player subset, I think the latest update for Path of Exile goes a long way towards making the game more interesting when you simply play through the game.

(As opposed to more ‘endgame’ or ‘alternate’ gameplay modes where one speedruns through everything, racing though maps or levels, or sit around repeating instances and farming for loot – though it probably does make life more interesting there as well.)

First off, the UI has changed:

The Old UI
The Old UI
The new UI
The new UI

The most obvious addition is that of an MMO-like ‘quest tracker’ to the right side of the screen, that probably makes things a lot clearer for newbies as to where they’re supposed to go and what’s optional and what’s not.

Even though I’ve played through the Acts enough times by now to have memorized the sequence, it’s still nice to have a quick reminder of what quest stage one is at, without having to bring up the entire quest objectives menu.

(Now, if only I can figure out how to stop the damn square exclamation mark from popping up every time I fulfill a quest objective. Any Path of Exile pros have any tips on this front? It’s driving my OCD nuts to have to press U to clear it every time.)

It would be a little better if it were more customizable, but small steps forward, I guess.

The strange rune-like icons on the left have been replaced with a single pop-up menu button that expands out to show all the options in detail. Again, a more newbie-friendly change. Experts will already have memorized the keyboard shortcut by now.

The cryptic dollar sign has been replaced with a more clearly labeled “SHOP” button for the microtransaction shop.

And the flasks have had a little pretty visual upgrade, complete with recessed shadows that conform to their shapes.

Anyhow, I logged in with barely contained glee onto my level 65 Shadow, full of confidence that Forsaken Masters would make everything better.

analysisparalysis

Then reality struck.

They’d literally reset ALL of my points, since duh, I’m a Shadow, and that part of the tree got completely rearranged.

That’s 81 skill points to reallocate.

uhhhhh

As if that were not intimidating enough, going into the passive tree warns you that the patch gave your character a full one-use skill tree reset, except that if you allocate any passives before using it, it will be lost.

(Not that the Shadow really needs it, they already reset the whole thing for me!)

yeahhhh

Finally, one looks at the whole relevant part of the skill tree, trying to take in all the changes, while still trying to figure out if my previous playstyle can still be built for, without totally gimping myself again…

…crap.

I am perfectly aware that there are skill builders on websites that I can use.

Those rather assume a bit more knowledge and familiarity with the tree than I start out with, nor do I have the interest in staring at and reading each node online, then spending three hours tinkering with it without playing the game.

(Those kinds of things are fun -later- after you’ve mastered the basic game. I spent plenty of time playing with City of Heroes’ offline build creators, slotting IOs to eke out that last percent of optimal, but that was -after- leveling a bunch of alts and being familiar enough with the powersets to pick the arrangement I wanted without thinking about it.)

Granted, the new layout does feel a lot better.

Just going through the Shadow-related nodes, you can see more distinct paths where you can be more an elemental spellcaster, or a melee user – and pick up more survival-focused nodes at the beginning.

There’s a very clear Trap focus, to give the Shadow a more distinct specialization, as well as damage-over-time through poison/chaos damage, and daggers / claws, etc.

It gives some promising ideas for new Shadow characters later, but trying to find the right nodes for my rather quirky design vision was a little more challenging.

All in all, I wussed out.

I decided that the best way to explore the newly rearranged part of the tree was to make a NEW character, checking out each node organically as he leveled, with the express purpose of trying to recreate the same playstyle.

If the new character did well enough through the levels, then I could copy the bulk of that tree over to my 65 Shadow, with any extra improvement tweaks from playing and feeling out the weaknesses on the new character.

It was also a good opportunity to check out the new Rampage league.

Rampage is the standard not-hardcore league, with the twist of having a killstreak mechanic for chaining multiple mob deaths.

The more kills you increment on a counter, the more things happen around you.

Hit 15, and a handy dandy projectile stun spins out in all directions – it’s very nice for my lowbie Shadow, since all the mobs obligingly hold still to be stabbed.

Other stuff that happens include animated weapons showing up, and some kind of corpse explosion, but I tend to lose track of anything happening on screen at that point, besides trying to stab things with red health bars until there aren’t any left.

relic

There’s a nice synergy to this with the Loremaster Elreon minigame.

You see, each master apparently has a miniquest activity associated with it.

I’ve only met three so far, because I r a slowbie.

elreon

This is Elreon, and he seems to be the Templar class representative.

He has little ‘defend the relics’ miniquests, that can be as simple as one relic and one small circle:

relic2

Or something like this:

relic3

Yep, 4 relics.

The 4 circles above crashed my game, by the way. I assume there were just too many mobs generated for it to cope at that point, as the servers were a little jittery at the time with concurrent users – there was a queue of several thousands when I tried logging back in, something I’d never seen before – though granted, it only took a few tens of seconds for hundreds to enter at once.

Couple minutes wait, at most.

All in all, a fun minigame, which rather reminds me of the Mythbusters’ zombie special:

Haku the Armourmaster, on the hand, opens up a separate mini-area when you talk to him.

haku

Here, you’re supposed to retrieve a Karui spirit for him, in what is possibly the most streamlined version of an escort quest yet.

There is no slow-moving NPC to lose your temper with.

The spirit is essentially an object you pick up.

Except that it’s like frickin’ dynamite when you DO pick it up.

Most of the time, you can choose to fight through or run your way to the spirit as you desire. Sometimes, you’ll have to kill a mob to free the spirit.

Once you do grab the spirit, MORE mobs will spawn and chase you, while a ‘self-destruct’ mechanic will trail you like a most persistent hound. Fire falls out of the sky, blood explosions gout out of the ground where you’re standing, and they all HURT.

Moral of the story: Don’t stand still.

I ran around being on fire and trying to kill an endless stream of mobs, draining health flasks like water, for all of the first instance before I figured it out – you’re not supposed to stay there and kill everything until it stops moving. You won’t, you’ll just die instead.

Instead, it’s like a little training tutorial in introducing newbies to the concept that yes, you can run away from trash packs of mobs, and juke around them (and hope you don’t get stuck and die from desync.)

NPCs have never made it back to the quest-giver so quickly, when the player can pick them up and carry them, and then is promptly given a sizeable inducement to GTFO as fast as possible.

There may still be a few tweaks needed. The Path of Exile Reddit is all busy talking about the “Rocks fall, everybody dies” Haku miniquest which seems to be near-certain death. Me, I’m just glad I haven’t seen that variant yet.

Tora, the Mistress of the Hunt will request you to track a series of appearing footprints (or green blood pools, in my one specific case) back to a miniquest entrance, to which you enter and do a short kill quest.

wtfisthisdoinghere

It was a bit of a dead giveaway when I stumbled on the miniquest entrance before even finding the master. It was like, “hmm, this is odd… guess I better run around and check the map to see if there’s a master here…”

There was.

Doing these quests for the masters nets you faction reputation for them, and places them in town, where they become vendors that sell armor for the class they represent.

That’s kind of nice, in a way, since that’s another source of gear where RNG -may- possibly favor you.

Eventually, as you build rep with them, they can offer to create a hideout for you with a specific tileset, and then provide crafting stations in those hideouts if you invite them to it, or some such.

Wouldn’t know yet, I only have enough rep with Haku and am waiting to find all the masters and get them into town first before deciding on a hideout.

(Preferably -after- all the PoE veterans have put the info on a wiki so that I can make a decision I don’t regret. The whole thing is apparently shared by all the characters in the league. The good news is that this is the Rampage league, so it’s sort of a four-month trial run. Faction rep will combine down with the standard league when the Rampage league ends, apparently, so it’s not wasted time either.)

The last interesting change is that some of the early bosses seem to have gotten more of an upgrade in combat skills.

merveil

Merveil, if you let her get away from you, starts calling up a bunch of adds and whirlpool tornado things.

Brutus, in the Prison area, also summons up adds and has a few more interesting attacks.

I rather like it, since it seems to balance out a bit more of the prior slightly weird difficulty spikes, where everything seemed like a cakewalk until BANG, you run into mobs that start using high-damage elemental attacks and here you are, with no clue that resistances are a priority… or BANG, here’s the Piety or Dominus fight where the bosses suddenly have multiple phases and understanding the specific attack mechanics of the fight is suddenly important.

I’d already been learning this through rather painful trial and error on the higher Cruel and Merciless difficulties with my alts, but it’s nice to know that newbies won’t have to go through the same experience.

Now, from the start, you expect that boss mobs will have a whole bunch of weird attacks, and that reading animations and dodging these (hey, just like GW2!) is important to avoid damage, rather than just running up to the mob and killing it… until you suddenly can’t, one day out of the blue and explode into little perplexed gibs.

All in all, a very nice patch.

Knowing there may be different masters in an area encourages an interesting tension between being thorough in exploring versus being speedy and just rushing through to the next zone.

Encountering the different masters also changes things up in that procedural generation manner. Prior concepts from various leagues are also in – so you may encounter Strongboxes of loot, Corrupted Areas for vaal gems, Ambushes from various rogue exiles (aka sort of elites or mini-bosses).

Altogether, it becomes more varied an experience.

Though farming may now be more of a pain. I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a consistent way to get a corrupted area to try and find a Vaal Summon Skeletons to make my new character more resemble the old one, and it doesn’t look very promising on the RNG front. Since I’m neither willing to manual trade, nor do I even -own- a chaos orb’s worth of currency, it’s a bit of a moot point to get it via other players.

The good news is that for the other kind of playstyle that I normally prefer – ie. not building and matching a character to a specific design spec, but working with what RNG doles out to you and creating a unique playing character from it, this sort of varied roguelike map layout matches pretty well.

For example, I picked up Cold Snap and tried it out, and discovered that it actually synergizes quite well. Freezing enemies in place for a short time gives more room to a) survive damage, and b) stab things.

I still miss my Vaal Summon Skeletons ‘elite’ or ‘ultimate skill’ but well, one makes do with what one has, for the time being.

GW2: Log Harvester Edition

The League of Orrian Lumberjacks strike yet again!

It’s official.

I’ve joined the ranks of those who risk life and limb virtual lumberjacking (aka getting mistaken for a bot by ArenaNet’s algorithm detections and slapped with a ban.)

Though by now, there’s an army of people standing by the grove of Cypress Saplings west of Pagga’s waypoint, all busy half-heartedly grumbling and chop-chop-chopping.

I held off selling 13 Foxfire Clusters in the last few days before the Dragon’s Reach Part 2 update hit, suspecting that we’d probably need them again for a whole new batch of plant food to grow the next stage of the backpack.

Good decision, as it turned out.

Except we were talking 20 for the clay pot upgrade, and 28 for the plant food, and that’s just for the first stage of this new incarnation. Double that for the next.

The names of the backpack are classic though – Mawdrey and Mawdrey II.

Being a Little Shop of Horrors fan, that’s a must have.

Not to mention, a bloodstone dust disposal unit would really come in handy.

I don't even champion train or EOTM train on a regular basis!
Yeah… I don’t even champion train or EOTM train on a regular basis!

If only we’d get another such device for dragonite ore, empyreal fragments or maybe even *gasp* elder wood logs (now 16c a piece and probably plunging further.)

What this means though, is that Foxfire Clusters are not likely to drop in price terribly soon, and I’m really tired of buying them for 60-80 silver apiece.

So the self-sufficiency option means to go woodchopping myself.

Except I’m also tired of running around 4 zones with one character from tree to tree. It was fun for a while, but I’m bored with that now.

The efficient tactic that most are using is, of course, alts. Double the characters, double the chopping power, unsoweiter.

As loathe as I was to move some very comfortably ensconced crafters from humping the Divinity’s Reach crafting stations, I decided I’d rather quintuple my usual Foxfire Cluster harvesting rate instead, at least until I get 76 of them – and then decide if I’d put up with repeating the same routine to sell more to others.

So now all five level 80s of mine are parked by the cypress grove.

Every odd half hour or hour, I log them all in to check if the trees have respawned. Feels a bit like one of those Facebook farming or resource management games – log in every 4 hours to check on things!

On the bright side, this is encouraging me to play my engineer and elementalist more, both at level 52, and consider extra key farming as another activity on the ‘to-do’ list.

Living Story episode-wise, Episode 4 definitely makes up for the slightly weaker stuff in Episode 3.

While doing my best to avoid spoilers for now, there’s one instance that had me grinning and thinking about Phoenix Wright in GW2, and the final instance is a spectacular climax to this series of 4 episodes, before we break for feature patch.

I really really liked the end-boss fight and am looking forward to repeating again for chievos. Made me feel super-heroic, taking it on singlehandedly.

It will, doubtless, be a bit too hard for some.

Overheard a more casually logging-in guildie seek help for it – kept dying as an elementalist, apparently, but imo, it’s a moderate test that asks of the player constant movement and some dodging ability.

Anyhow, if one doesn’t like to solo it, it can be done in a group as well.

I like how immersive the instances are. They encourage a little bit more “RP” into a genre that has left its RPG roots way back some time in the past.

I RP walked through the first ‘Party Politics’ instance, chatting to various NPCs.

A badly mistimed phone call stopped me from my first impulse to do something in the Waypoint instance, had to AFK during a critical story bit (yeah, this is why people solo too, rather than group) but I hear many others gave in to the emotion of the moment and acted accordingly.

And while watching the procession of leaders go past in the Summit instance, I couldn’t resist emoting a /salute as the charr Imperator walked past, which just so happened to time -perfectly- with the NPCs saluting.

It's the little things...
It’s the little things…

Anyway, this episode counts as a big must-play.

Go, go, play it, and then we’ll talk speculation in a week or so.

There’s so many delicious GW1-related hints and echoes to speculate about…