Archive for lotro

A return to LoTRO

Posted in Diary, lotro with tags , on September 1, 2014 by Corleth

A fair deluge of water has poured under the Last Bridge since I last played LoTRO with any anger. Level 85 was the level cap then; it is now 100. Updates 12, 13 and 14 have all been released, patched, re-patched and conquered – but not by me. Wildermore has been explored, Helms Deep has been saved by a good chunk of the remaining player-base, the Paths of the Dead have been trodden and my hobbit-house has had a ‘For Sale’ sign erected on its lawn.

Many things are certain. One of those is that the golden age of LoTRO has passed, its summer days have departed. I have very fond memories of those years from 2007 through to, perhaps, 2012. This period, for me, would cover the journey as far as Mirkwood and perhaps a little beyond. The certainty of seeing twenty-plus kinnies online most nights of the meek, is now nothing but memory. The Watcher, Dar Narbugud and Barad Guldur raids are nothing but screenshots in an almost forgotten folder (together with a few housing trophies, of course!). LoTRO has now entered its autumn years. Acceptance of this now comes easily to me.

Time for some combat, LoTRO style

Time for some combat, LoTRO style

But what of the other MMO dalliances of my recent past? DDO, Rift, Secret World, EVE, and Wildstar, have all been briefly tried. SWTOR, I went back to a second time, but never got past level 30-odd. GW2 was a standout, and I have two toons at the GW2 cap, but only because the world of Tyria is breath-taking to me, and the toon personalisation isn’t far behind. However, my interest in GW2 waned pretty much when I hit 100% world completion – it took just over six months. I now pretty much accept that I am unlikely to get drawn into another MMO, long term. I can’t imagine that I will ever play another game for 7 or more years, as I have done LoTRO. I no longer believe that the experience of playing, and then being consumed by, your first MMO can ever be repeated. I think I am one of many who have now come to realise this. There’s that acceptance thing again.

Now, the urge is with me to take continue my own personal journey in Middle Earth, to travel the roads of East Rohan to Helms Deep and whatever lies beyond; to catch up with those few old friends that I know still play. And so my LoTRO story is resuming…

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New Year Stagnation

Posted in Diary, Guild Wars 2, lotro, SWTOR with tags , , , , on January 14, 2014 by Corleth

The Christmas and New Year period saw me ‘off work’ for the best part of two weeks. In previous years that sort of break would have seen me put in some serious gaming hours. Not so this year. Well, not as much as recent years, anyway.

At the start of the holiday season, my gaming tipple was still LoTRO; specifically, my ‘Minstrel project’ on Landroval. Progress up to mid-December had seen me complete all quests in the Misty Mountains zone in general and, more specifically, Goblin Town – including soling the Great Goblin instance ‘on-level’. As I mentioned in my previous post, I found the Goblin Town experience very enjoyable, probably because it was pretty much all new to me.

Epic Volume 1 in Angmar

Epic Volume 1 in Angmar

After finishing up in Goblin Town and the Misty Mountains and picking up my first legendary weapon via the ‘Gates of Moria’ epic volume 2 introduction, I was left with a choice of heading to Eregion or pushing on with Volume 1 of epic quest line. I went for the latter option which, for me, turned out to be a bad option. Despite some streamlining a couple of years back, Volume 1 still requires an almighty amount of running about the world for no particular reason. How dull! In the event, after hitting level 52 just before Christmas day, I got bored of all the epic volume 1 toing and froing and haven’t been back to LoTRO since.

Between Christmas and New Year, I was almost entirely immersed with my Smuggler in SWTOR. One bugged quest apart, my free-to-play experience has been excellent but, now at level 17, my two skill bars are filling up rapidly and I can see that I might have to shell out some cash in order to make the game more playable, in the not too distant future. All told though, I’m enjoying the story telling in SWTOR and am making a point of listening to all the dialogue at the start of each quest. “Why rush?”, I say.

The last week or so has also seen me dabbling with GW2 again for the first time in six months or so. On loading GW2 for the first time in months, it really hit me what a good looking world Tyria is. In my opinion, as an MMO setting it blows SWTOR and LoTRO out of the water. Back in game, I toyed with my mesmer, and even rolled a ranger, but the draw of my necromancer has seen me playing her most of the time; at the moment, I’m mainly trying to get my head around WvW again, and also just trying to complete my ‘daily’ on a more or less regular basis. GW2 still is a game that you can just dip and out of, in an ad hoc manner. In gourmet parlance – good food, fast.

Alpine Necro

Alpine Necro

All that said, overall, I find I’m playing MMOs less than I have done at any time since my pre-LoTRO days in 2008. Realistically, there are multiple reasons why – including increasing dislike of both the ‘levelling-grind’ and the ‘end-game-grind’, an increasingly ‘solo’ experience within all the MMOs that I play (nobody has to group in MMOs any more, more’s the pity),  and over-familiarity with the genre.

Plenty of other genres to be explored though!

Deus Ex Revisited

Posted in Diary, lotro, SWTOR with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2013 by Corleth

So, what am I playing on my shiny new PC?

Most of my time at the moment is being consumed by Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I was a huge fan of the original Deus Ex, back in the day (circa 2001), playing though it twice. I’d actually held off buying the Human Revolution re-make (it’s allegedly a prequel, in term of storyline), because I didn’t want to ruin my fond memories of its much older sibling. I need not have worried. Having been offered Human Revolution for free, as bonus gift with my new motherboard, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try, and I’m now glad I did.

Ten years on, the ‘new’ Deus Ex, seems to have all the hallmarks of the original in terms of game play, with the added graphical and game-play advances that the last decade has allowed. So far, I’m loving it, although it’s still early days (I’m approx. 5 hours in, game-play wise).

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Elsewhere, LoTRO-wise, I still haven’t purchased Helms Deep and have no plans to do so this side of 2014. As such, I still haven’t done anything with my high level toons [on Gilrain], since before Wildermore hit. This is no reflection on Gilrain, but more down to the fact that what little draw LoTRO now has over me, is coming from playing my single toon on Landroval. The freedom of exploring regions that I hadn’t seen in several years, without the assistance of (baggage of?) alts, is still proving to be refreshing and fun. Currently, my Landroval minstrel is running around Goblin Town (love this map!), solo, at level 49; GT is actually an area that I’ve never really explored or quested in before, on any toon. How weird is that?

Down in Goblin Town

Down in Goblin Town

As an aside, I have a few comments to make with regard to the new trait tree functionality that was introduced with the Helm’s Deep patch. My Landroval based minstrel, both before and after the HD update, has been running round the Misty Mountains with a build that was, and still is, fully down the red line – i.e. built for damage.

Post HD, it feels like I’m killing things much faster, landing way more, and larger, critical hits. At level 49, I’ve been able to solo the entire ‘Great Goblin’s Throne Room’, including the Great Goblin himself – albeit whilst running as many buffs and boosts as I could lay my hands on. I’m pretty sure this would not have been possible (at least for me!) pre-HD, so my unscientific feeling is that toons are now a good chunk more powerful that they used to be.

Is this over-powering a good thing? Well, in general, you can run around the landscape with absolutely no fear of dying. Only if you take on instances, and/or mobs, that were originally designed for multiple players, are you going to be in any way stressed. This lack of challenge is not a good thing in my opinion. For me, the enjoyment of a reward is far diminished unless it’s had an associated challenge; something hard-earned, is almost always remembered and appreciated.

Exploring the Misty Mountains

Exploring the Misty Mountains

Moving on, it may seem a bit random, but a few weeks ago I got the urge to download and install SWTOR. So convinced was I, back in mid-2012, that I’d never play SWTOR again, that I put my SWTOR installation DVDs into a charity bag. Remember, that was before the game went free-to-play, so those disks cost me a good few quid , once upon a time. Anyway, I was a little shocked that reading about the latest ‘Galactic Starfighter’ expansion, got my juices flowing enough to feel like taking a peek. Now, I’m not a ‘twitch’ gamer, by any means, so the Starfighter expansion may well not float my boat, if/when I actually decide to subscribe again, but once I had SWTOR re-installed, I created a smuggler and have been enjoying her journey (currently level 22) ever since. How long will it last? Who knows…but for the moment, the journey is proving to be fun, and that’s good enough for me!

Like Father, Like Sons…

Posted in Diary, Guild Wars 2, lotro with tags , , , , , , on November 4, 2013 by Corleth

My LoTRO experiment on Landroval is still going well and I have to say that I’m enjoying same. My one toon, a minstrel, is currently finishing off some quests I the north-west corner of Evendim and is racing up on level 44. I say ‘racing’ because the 100% XP boost that Turbine currently in place means that it’s almost impossible not to level rapidly. My gaming is currently restricted to weekends, more or less, so I’ve pushed on twenty-odd levels in only a couple of weeks, in reality.

I’ve taken care to try to tackle quests that I’ve not done before too, particularly around Dol Dinan and Meluinen in the North Downs, Oatbarton (North Cotton Farm) in Evendim and Garth Agarwen in the Lonelands. I’ve also been running all ‘Volume 1’ epic quests on-level which, again, is a first for me.

Evendim - view from the Colosus

Evendim – view from the Colosus

It’s very noticeable how much more populated Landroval is compared to my home server of Gilrain, too. The global lff channel on Landroval often ticks over 250 users where as I’ve never seen more than 150 on Gilrain, and that only in exceptional circumstances; presumably as a consequence, there’s noticeably more grouping activity too. This all leads to a server with a more active feel to it than what I’ve been used to, which is definitely ‘fresh’.

In short, I’m going to keep my Landroval experiment going for the foreseeable future. Quite what I’ll do when Helms Deep hits, I’ve yet to decide.

Elsewhere on the LoTRO front, my kids have noticed me playing again, and that it turn has renewed their interest in the game. My 9 year old now has a level 37 hunter in the middle of Evendim (Ost Forod) and my 11 year old’s level 29 guardian is questing around Oatbarton – both on Gilrain, so I’ll be popping back to keep a closer eye on their progress! As an aside, they’re both running on free-to-play accounts with the ‘Mithril Edition’ applied.

Away from LoTRO, I’ve also spent a few hours in GW2 over the past week – the latest Living Story update in the Kessex Hills actually caught my imagination. I really like the way that many of the mobs now have to be ‘finished’, much the same way as players in WvW (and PvP, presumably). It’s a fun touch, though maybe it would become tiresome if applied universally…I’ll be popping back over the next few days to see how much I get done before the (inevitable) next update takes it all away again!

A New Regime

Posted in Diary, Guild Wars 2, lotro with tags , , , , on October 18, 2013 by Corleth

Game rotation is a bit of a mystery to me. Throughout my gaming life, I’ve been pretty much monogamous, when it comes to games. Pick one up, play through it and don’t move on until I’m done. Once I’m done, don’t look back. So, in the interests of freshness, I’ve decided to a little MMO rotation. Nothing too structured, but I’m setting out to play at least one session on each of three MMOs, each week, for the next month or two – and see where that brings me.

The order of play will, for starters, meander between LoTRO, GW2 and TSW. It’ll be tough not to get drawn into one of these more than the other two, I think, but I’ll try to persist.

First up, was LoTRO. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have an itch to scratch with regard to starting afresh in this…so I’ve started scratching. I first picked a well-populated server – Landroval – which is already proving a much more lively base than my ‘home’ server of Gilrain (which currently has one of the lowest populations of any server). My character pick was a minstrel, because I always enjoyed the technicality of this class. For race, I went for an elf,  and therefore found myself in the Ered Luin starter zone, for the first time in a few years! As of now, I’m through to level 22 and having a ball. As a premium player (ex VIP) who has purchased both the ‘Mithril Edition’ and the ‘Steam Edition’, over the last few years, I have a good number of freebies on any new toon, so staring is relatively easy for me. Still, having zero gold in the bank was interesting. That said, is it me or is it easier to accumulate gold now than it used to be? And heck, how the prices on the AH have risen! More updates to follow.

The bright lights of GW2

The bright lights of GW2

I’ve also picked up Gw2 for the first time in a couple of months. After cleaning up my mail inbox, I took my necromancer off to Orr to finish up her personal story, at least as far as the final ‘Kill Zaitan’ part (anyone for Arah?!). I then broke out my level 50 mesmer and toyed with the latest dailies. Since then I’ve been engaged in the Frostgeorge Sound champion ‘chochoo’. Needless to say, I’m ignoring the Living Story – at least for the time being.

I’ll play TSW a visit over this weekend – watch this space for an update from the Savage Coast.

Never say ‘Nevah!’ again?!

Posted in Diary, Legendary Items, lotro, Radiance with tags , , , on October 4, 2013 by Corleth

Just recently, I’ve been contemplating something that even three or four months ago, I never would have countenanced. Loading up LoTRO. The human mind is a strange thing, and absence nearly always makes the heart grow fonder, no? To some of my kin-mates, I may even had uttered the dreaded phrase  ‘Never again!’ in relation to LoTRO. But hey…never say ‘Nevah!’, right?

That’s not to say I’ve taken the plunge yet. My LoTRO client maybe fully patched up, but that’s ‘cos by kids still play occasionally. Me, I haven’t set foot in Turbine’s Middle Earth for, well, six months or more. So, if I do go back, what’s my motivation? Why would I do it?

Pre-dawn in the Lonelands

Pre-dawn in the Lonelands

In truth, I still love the start-to-mid part of the game. Leveling from 1 through to 60 is a fun experience in LoTRO. For me, once you hit the far side of Lothlorien, it all starts to go pear shaped, but before that, there’s a huge amount to admire and enjoy. But let’s do a quick recap of where LoTRO is and how we got there…

Originally, the level cap was 50. Many players that hit that mark then spent countless hours grinding out end-game gear in ‘The Rift’ and other salubrious locations in Angmar. I never ran the Rift in anger because, by the time I got there, the level cap was already at 60; but It was a fun time, apparently, and I believe it.

Then came Moria and the level cap got bumped to 60. All that level 50 gear got binned (at least metaphorically speaking) but this was acceptable as everything was new; legendary items had arrived! ‘Radiance’ became the goal for all would be raiders so that they could take on ‘The Watcher’ – and in the process hope to complete their Moria armour set. Shinnies all round!

Next came ‘Lothlorien’ and the raid of Dar Narbugud, which required yet more radiance. So another set of armour went  in the bin and another was ground out, by those that cared. DN was a tough nut though, and those that survived in there could honestly say that they knew their class(es) well. Elitist? Maybe. Tough, challenging and rewarding? For sure.

Lake Evendim

Lake Evendim

Mirkwood was released, raising the level cap again, this time to 65. New dungeons and yet more requirement for radiance in the Barad Guldur raid. The gear grind started all over again, and folk began to get a little tired of dumping their hard earned sets. Oh yes, and don’t forget to ditch all of those level 60 legendary weapons, folks, ‘cos you need level 65 ones now!

Then what? Ah yes, scrap radiance. A good thing in isolation, no doubt. However, for those who had been grinding it out through the previous expansions, it was a little hard to take. Suck it up and move on, you oldsters.

So on we go. The level cap was moved to 75 with the advent of Enedwaith. Again, ditch all that level 65 gear – and start yet again with your legendary items while you’re at it.

Rinse and repeat for Rohan at level 85, but this time throw in an additional legendary item in the war horse bridle. Oh joy of joys!

So, here we are, 35 levels on from when we first picked up a legendary item at the entrance to Moria. Still were stuck with the dreadful legendary item system that means that nothing legendary is really legendary at all, because the damn things drop like confetti at a wedding, and have to be replaced more regularly than a baby’s nappy (diaper for any US reader)! Am I bitter?!

Looking forward, the recent whisperings on the development progress of Helms Deep, do not fill me with any enthusiasm for the level 95 end-game, either. The introduction of ‘skill-trees’ sounds like it might well result in the further dumbing down of the once unique LoTRO classes. I say ‘further’ because the said dumbing down process has been ongoing for some time now. The likes of my once-loved guardian class, was once a tank and only a tank, can now be turned into pretty okay DPSers. Captains, originally buffing machines, can now both tank and DPS. The list goes on.  Turbine have, under the eye of WB, ceased the production of complex-but-interesting mechanics that we saw in the original versions of Dar Narbugud, Skumfil, Dark Delvings and Samath Gul (to name but a few), and, with the advent of Helms Deep, look to be introducing what sounds like a zerg-centric battle system. Maybe they’ve been looking at how GW2 does end-game?

Misty Mountains

Misty Mountains

I very much doubt I’ll pre-order Helm Deep. I’ll bide my time and read the reviews. Maybe I’ll buy post-release, maybe not. But, in the meantime, I have an itch to see the likes of the Lonelands, Evendim, Eregion and Forochel again. And if I do decide to pay them a visit, I may just play on a new server too – it might be even more fun to start from the very beginning, with no 200 gold in the bank, and no ready-made crafters in support.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Still in awe after Orr

Posted in Diary with tags , , , on January 19, 2013 by Corleth

I’m wondering how many MMO players research their MMOs before they start playing them? The majority, I suspect, do in fact indulge in fair degree of Googling before and during their initial tussles with a new MMO. However, I don’t fall into that category. I prefer to go in almost bind.

I’ve only ever played two MMOs that have ‘stuck’; those being LoTRO and, more recently, GW2. So it is then that I’ve now come to the realisation that my personal modus operandi involves actively avoiding information about the games that I play, until I’m thoroughly and completely engaged.

So how does this avoidance manifest itself in my play-style? Well, for LoTRO and GW2, I only started playing the games on the recommendation of others, so I really had little or no idea about either, before taking the plunge.

My first forays around Thorin’s Gate, way back in 2007, were all the more enjoyable for not having a clue where I was, what I was supposed to do, or what my aims were. Indeed, I ambled my way to level 50 (the then level cap) in LoTRO, by a very slow and meandering path. Everything was new and I couldn’t stand to leave any discovered quests uncompleted, so much of my time was spent completing activities with little or not ‘gain’. And boy did I have fun!

Lord of the Rings Online

Lord of the Rings Online

My period of ‘blind’ enjoyment and exploration in LoTRO was, in the nick of time, extended by the arrival of the Mines of Moria expansion – which hit town only a week or so after me hitting level 50. MoM increased the level cap from 50 to 60, and the LoTRO’s epic story pulled me through the Eregion region and then into Moria itself, without me having much of a clue what joys I was in for. I remember seeing kin-chat at the time covering topics such as ‘legendary weapons’ and ‘Grand Stairs’ and not having a clue what they were. By the time I crossed Durin’s Threshold, many were already wearing their first pieces of the Moria armour set with ‘Radiance’ holding a new meaning for them. However, for me, ignorance was happiness.

Time passed. I eventually found my way though Moria and, for the first time, hit a level cap that was not to change for some considerable time. And this changed things. ‘End Game’ became a reality. Only now did I find myself looking around thinking…’Now what?’

Well, the ‘What’ entailed starting to run the Moria dungeons in pursuit of that ‘end-game’ armour together with its (now thankfully defunct) radiance stat. As a casual player, this meant I needed to undertake research in order to become competent with my toon within group environments. No longer could I potter along doing what I liked, when I liked, wearing whatever gear I liked. Now I had to start looking at game mechanics; understanding how my toon worked and how to get the best from his skills.

So, finally I began to read about the game that I had been playing for so long. I discovered blogs, web sites and pod casts. As my experiences changed, and my knowledge increased, my view of the game subtly shifted. No longer was I an explorer of a strange and unknown world, but now instead a dwarf with a mission. The ‘wonder’ was replaced by a determination to accomplish. Being content with ‘not knowing’ was replaced with a desire to know everything, to understand as much as possible, to be the best (well, to be at least viewed as competent by my piers!).

Looking back now, the loss of that ‘wonder of exploration’ was permanent. Every time an expansion and subsequent increase in level cap has come along since, within LoTRO, my main aim has been to get to level cap and deck my toons in the best gear I can, as quickly as possible. I now see this as real negative, and probably the main reason why my love affair with LoTRO has waned to an occasional fling. It’s also the reason why I’m currently in love with GW2.

Darkness and Light

Guild Wars 2

Playing GW2 has brought back the wonder of exploration, of the unknown. Of course, that doesn’t happen by chance – the GW2 world, Tyria, including the character classes and races, have thoroughly caught my imagination. I love the look and feel of the game, the game-play, and the overall change in ‘style’ when compared with LoTRO. A different type of polish, I think.

I know however that at some point my ‘wonder’ will begin to fade; my play style will become more focused…indeed, I can see it happening already, as I finish off gearing my elementalist with exotic pieces, and start chasing daily and monthly achievements.

For the moment though, I’m in the here and now, and I’m still walking around Tyria, wide eyed and full of awe.

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