Thursday, December 25, 2008

Played Lately: Lord of the Rings Online

  • If you've read this post, you might wonder how Lord of the Rings Online could end up in that title. I will forgive you for snickering at me. Two months after giving up a game that I called "boring", the ubiquitous Michael Zenke has lead me to reenlist. And it seems that I'm not the only one. If you're wondering why, there are sure to be several rambling paragraphs to follow that may accidentally swerve into an answer.
  • I've always had a soft spot for LotRO. There are so many things that is does right, this would likely be the game I played if I wasn't playing World of Warcraft. The first twenty levels of the game give a better impression than just about any other game I've seen. After twenty, I know the game becomes a grind because that's where my ship ran aground previously. But starting a new character is quite a joy.
  • When I restarted my subscription, the first thing I did was roll a Warden character. My previous character, a Champion, felt particularly vulnerable while soloing. The warden, while limited to medium armors, is designed to tank as well as provide hefty damage depending on how they are played. The best part of the class is the gambit skill mechanic. Instead of having thirty individual abilities to cast, the warden relies on four: a basic spear attack, a shield bash, a taunt, and a gambit trigger skill. By using chains of the basic skills, a gambit is opened that have different greater abilities. The shield-shield combo improves your chance to block while spear-taunt opens a double attack. At my current level, I have access to all of the two skill chains, though they can go up to five at the highest levels. I might have to draw up a diagram to keep it all straight.
  • I also came back because of the crafting system, still one of the best in an MMO. For my warden, I chose the Explorer vocation, which grants Tailoring, Prospecting, and Forestry. Although I previously complained about this bundling, having two characters with compatible vocations help a lot. So far I've been using the forestry to make leather for my tailoring to make armor. Any wood or ore I've been mining I've sent to my champion to be converted to weaponry. Since my champion's woodworking can make spears and javelins for the warden, there is a nice synergy. So I'm that much happier with crafting system now.
  • The entry level quests are as fun as I remember, though I'm playing an elf now instead of a human. I've been able to tackle some lower level group quests, but I'm still worried about whether I'll be able to tackle the epic quests to my satisfaction. I know this is a preemptive worry, along with the impending level 20 grind wall. So I'm trying to enjoy myself and not think about it.
  • And this isn't about LotRO, but today is the day to say it. I hope you all have a happy Wintersday, Feast of Winter Veil, Yule Festival, or whatever holiday you celebrate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • As much fun as I'm having with the new expansion, the best time I've had in World of Warcraft of late had nothing to do with my mage's run to level 80. Instead, I started a new priest alt for two reasons. First, I wanted to see what playing a new character with the achievement system in place would be like. Logging in with my old characters and finding them with a bunch of retroactive achievements was interesting, but not nearly as gratifying. Not first, I really wanted an inscriptionist of my own. (I know scribe is the right term, though it's not as much fun.) Since I wanted a priest on the horde side and inscription has some interesting bits for spellcasters, it seemed like a good fit. That's a lot to say to completely miss the point but I'm getting to it.
  • The specific bit of fun I'm referring to was an unexpected invitation to run the Shadowfang Keep instance. SFK, as it's known, is a dungeon for characters level 17 to 21 and has been around since the game launched. I was running though the Undercity on Monday morning, thinking I would spend just enough time online to complete my daily Minor Inscription Research, then log off. As I was going about my business, I got a whisper asking if I wanted to run SFK. Many times, I politely refuse such a request since I don't like getting tied down to the expectation of other players for long stretches of time. This morning, though, I couldn't think of a good reason not to. The fact that I had a few days earlier sporting the great looking Robes of Arugal might have tempted me as well.
  • So off I went with a rogue, a warrior tank, and a higher level warlock to fight our way though. Even though there were only four of us, we were plenty to win though to the end. Although the robe did not appear, I did win the slightly less impressive Belt of Arugal as well as the Bloody Apron and Feline Mantle.
  • My fear, of course, is that now that I've hit level 20, I have to start the long climb through the dreaded middle levels. I still have a lot of fun playing the old world content, but a lot of it was designed with a different paradigm than the expansions. Quests in one zone that take you to another zone on another continent is busy work, not adventure. If you find that I never talk about my priest alt again, you'll know why.