The WoW level-slowly-in-instances thing that helped re-hook me over the summer is coming along nicely. And as we were approaching level 70, our fearless organizer Mangle wondered aloud whether it might be fun to take a few at-level pokes at Karazhan again. Fueled by a nostalgia-induced haze, many of us quickly agreed, and last week a few of us finally made it to 70 and capped our experience gain thanks to Slahtz, the hidey NPC. Well, now Mangle is off on some Australian snorkeling adventure, and it didn’t seem right to see this thing through without him. So the group of us that was available this week decided we’d check out some of the notoriously difficult TBC heroics.
Keep in mind that, while I was very much playing during Burning Crusade, I was still learning how to hit the level cap. I only barely managed to do so during Vanilla – joining in on a month or two’s worth of Molten Core, Zul’Gurub, and AQ20 runs with my brother’s guild, and while I did level up that same (shadow) priest fairly quickly in BC, I quickly fell back into the “WHAT CHARACTER SHOULD I PLAY AND WHERE SHOULD I PLAY IT” doldrums for much of the rest of the expansion. All that is just a long-winded way of saying that I don’t have nearly as much previous experience and stories concerning these particular instances as the rest of the group I’m running with.
So when we jumped into a few heroics (Sethekk Halls, Shattered Halls, and Magister’s Terrace) and they turned out to not really be all that much more challenging than the normal versions of the same, it was pretty easy to fall in line with the general consensus that this was all a bit disappointing. No longer did you need copious amounts of CC and very careful pulls. While it was possible to end up dead as a tank, it wasn’t all that consistently dangerous – it just meant that the healer couldn’t be off sending text messages (yes, that did happen).
There are a lot of reasons for that, obviously. The game has been changed in significant ways since TBC was current. Itemization is totally different, we all have different skills (and no real “ranks”), various contents have been nerfed. And, of course, we all have a lot more experience with the “heroic” style of instance. But, whatever the reasons, it’s just a lot easier than it used to be.
However, the more I think about this, the more I’m convinced that it is actually okay. I mean, look, I’m only even doing these instances at all because of nostalgia. And do I really want to have to go run around and gear up to full/mostly full normal gear so that I can get creamed in Heroic Shattered Halls because I didn’t happen to get the nostalgia bug with a group of people that happened to have exactly the right number of mages? No, of course not. This way, I get to roll in there, fight some dudes that are (slightly) harder than normal, reminisce about how many times we had to run these or how much of a pain in the ass it was to get keyed for <whatever>, and then move on to the next thing.
That’s the thing about nostalgia. It’s a powerful motivator to go back and attempt to recreate a previous experience. But it really does put blinders on regarding all the terrible things that we all bitched about at the time. And nostalgia, for me at least, really does burn bright and hot – and fast. So being able to consume these instances at a reasonable pace – and without all the headaches of farming Karazhan for a month before we try one of the larger raids – is actually perfectly reasonable. This isn’t the content that I’m going to spend months and months on – we’ll probably spend another couple of Monday Nights time on it and then move on – and that’s pretty much exactly where these things now sit.
And in the meantime, we’ll all be playing all the rest of the parts of the game that are perfectly fun. I mean, sure, nostalgia brought us back, but it has been six months and we are still going relatively strong, so clearly WoW is doing something right. Oh, and we’ll be arguing over what the right class to instant-level to 90 is. When we are all pre-ordering the next expansion pack.
Plus, I got a cool shield to go with a dumb hat and axe made out of floating crystal stuff. So, basically, it really IS like I’m playing TBC again.
Look at my hat, my hat is amazing
Over the weekend, I got to start checking off a few things from my “What to do in 2014 gaming” list. I have now completed all of the MoP raid instances on LFR (a low bar, I admit), as well as cleared the first three bosses in Siege of Orgrimmar with an all-guild Flex group. That second is no small feat given the general difficulty in getting any of the Cats together for an MMO over the past few years. We had a couple friends that were well-geared, but also people who were pretty fresh to level 90, and we managed to power our way through Norushen over a couple hours of fun.
The difficulty level for our group is just about dead on. It’s not like LFR where you can literally not know what is going on in a fight and still come out on top (generally speaking, at least). And, yes, I know this to be true because I was the bad that spent the whole time DPSing the wrong bosses or standing in the fire – and, sadly, still doing better damage and dying than half the group. But, in Flex, you do have to know what is going on, the void zones will kill you, and you have to do at least reasonable DPS. Or, at least, it seems that way so far. And even if it these early bosses stop providing any sort of challenge, there are 14 total bosses, so we can just keep getting better at it in our 2-3 hours per week group and add 1-2 new bosses each week, giving us a few months to get it all down. That seems just about perfect!
The other half of the checklist is a combination backlog and multiplayer game update. On Sunday, several of us got together to play Guns of Icarus Online. Not to be confused with Guns of Icarus (which was apparently the pre-Kickstarter single-player predecessor game), which unfortunately caught at least one of our group out. However, for the six of us that managed to get together, the game turned out to be a blast! It is a team-based airship combat game, with some number of airships on each side (we picked 2 v 2) and 4 people per ship (AIs can fill in each role but pilot). You pick a role for your character (pilot/sailor?, engineer, gunner) which gives you a set of options, choose whether you want to wear a TOTALLY SWEET SCARF or be lame and just use the default face, and head out into the skies to blow each other up.
We could have used a few more people because I don’t think the AIs were particularly great about gunning/repairing appropriately, but it turned out to be really awesome. After about an hour and a half of trying to figure out what the hell was going on, the Hindenburg and Mytanic managed to leverage their quick early lead to defeat the Goldfish and Not a Goldfish! It was a narrow victory, but that’s what counts in the skies.
There’s something about having to really work as a team in a squad-based PvP game that totally hits the right buttons for me. Plus, it looks and feels really unique. I have no idea what it would be like to jump into a random public game, and I’m not entirely sure I’d do it without at least a full ship crew the first time, but I hope that I get the chance to play this some more. There are lots of hats and glasses and outfits to unlock, and somewhat less interestingly (dressing up my dude is awesome), more ships, too. Including something that looks like it belongs in the Cloud City of Bespin.
I’d definitely recommend it. And if you want to see more, you can see Corr’s stream of it either on the Twitch channel or shortly on our YouTube channel. Enjoy, and I hope to see you in the definitely-not-explosive skies!
It’s day three of Blogger Listmas 2013! Every day from now through Christmas, I will be posting at least one list on a topic of my choosing. Most of them will be about games, but (possibly) not all of them. Hope you enjoy! For more on this, you can have a look at this roundup of all the posts, or follow the #Listmas tag on Twitter.
Mists of Pandaria has been out for over a year (although, I’ve been playing it for only a couple of months), and Warlords of Draenor is expected by this time next year. So it’s as good a time as any to start setting out goals for things that I still want to see/accomplish/attempt before the next expansion drops! Here are the top five for me.
- Complete all MoP raid instances on LFR (and hopefully Flex!) difficulty. Yeah, I mean, I know this one isn’t all that hard, but it’s something I still want to do! And, ideally, I will do it in a Flex raid so that I can do it with my friends (and maybe actually stand around and watch the cutscenes and understand what the hell is going on.
- Complete the Loremaster of Pandaria achievement. I think I’ve done this for all the other expansions (including getting pre-rearranged Loremaster), and I generally enjoy the questing and lore enough that I’d like to see it through at least once. Not sure if I will try to do it on both Horde and Alliance, but I will do it somewhere!
- Finish leveling my paladin to 90 via Monday Night Instances! This is the reason I’m even playing WoW again, and it’s been really fun. We’re going through every instance on the way from 1 – 90, by pretty much only playing as a group in instances. It’s been a great trip down nostalgia lane, AND I get to play with friends that I haven’t gamed with nearly as much as I would have liked in the last few years. Also, we mostly aren’t all wearing full sets of heirlooms, so sometimes we die.
- Proving Grounds – Specifically, get “You’re Doing it Wrong” The Proving Grounds is, conceptually, one of the cooler things that has been put into the game recently. I love doing difficult solo content in WoW, and I’m glad to have another opportunity to do it. The fact that there’s something extra for, say, doing a tanking challenge as a healer (or a healing challenge as a DPS), is really exciting! I expect it will give me a reason to practice a lot, and maybe even try to pick up some random purpose-focused gear.
- Get a Triceratops mount – I know there are a bunch of these, and one of them appears to be from reputation (and farming rep is always annoying), but I seriously must have one of these. I mean, just look at it!
It’s a freakin’ triceratops!
As always, there are some other things that I want to do, too. Pet Battles are fun, and the Celestial Tournament seems like the logical conclusion of that. There are tons and tons of new mounts and pets to collect, which is always fun! I farmed a thing or two, and it seemed like an easy way to kill a bit of time each day, so I should probably figure out what all is involved. Oh, and now that I’ve committed a bit to a rogue, I am pretty tempted to go farm a blindfold from Illidan!
As a quick aside before I get to my main topic, there has been a lot of discussion over the last week or so about the female character models in Wildstar. I tend to agree that they are rather disappointing, but there are a number of better posts on the topic than I am prepared to make today. Liore made one on her blog, and I saw this post and this other post that both speak about the issues involved reasonably well. Several of my friends (who were previously pretty excited about the game) are now having second thoughts about it, and that’s terribly disappointing. Not only because I would like to be able to play what appears to be a fun game with my friends, but also because having to constantly deal with artists’ choices that make people feel uncomfortable playing their games is really tiring. There are so many kinds of people in the world, and these games are so good at customization in other ways, that it just seems ridiculous to have everyone look the same all the time.
So I finally hit level 90 with a character in WoW over the weekend. I ended up picking my rogue as the character I’d go with for several reasons – specifically, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about re-opening the Ellyndrial/raiding-character box, which still feels a bit like an open wound – and I’m pretty glad I did. I had taken Katla (a female dwarf, because they are awesome and underrepresented) up to 85 in Cataclysm and gone through LFR, some normal mode raiding, and the early Legendary rogue quest steps. My friend Djoshe really helped me get a lot better at stabbing things, and I’d developed a pretty strong affection for the intricacies of Subtlety. It was the closest thing to the complicated WotLK Feral rotation that I’d played – plus I got to see my armor while doing it!
Well, I’ve been spending most of my time on the Horde lately (which is awesome, as it has always been my favorite faction, despite having mostly been a part of Alliance raiding guilds), so I took the plunge and transferred over to Nordrassil. After a couple of instances and an oddly-required name change, Jakhra was born:
So, yeah, obviously I picked an Orc female character. They are awesome, and have long been a favorite of mine. I’m annoyed that I’ve only found fist weapons so far and thus have to play Combat, but whatever, they’ll come.
So, what do you do when you hit 90 nowadays? It turns out that you skip all the rest of the quests, go to Kun-Lai summit, talk to a giant white tiger thing to unlock Vale of Eternal Blossoms, where you learn to fly, go talk to Chromie, and get sent to Timeless Isle. Timeless Isle, a place with so many nicknames and EVEN MORE loot. It’s a bit silly, really.
I’m doing my best to ignore the various maps that exist – or, worse, the TomTom waypoint list that just puts an arrow to NEXT PIECE OF LOOT in the middle of your screen – since the place is intended to reward you for exploration. Which is pretty cool, honestly. When I first got there, there are a few quests to ride around the island and check out the various places. While doing that, I came across a few different Rare spawns that I helped kill (they’ve changed everything there to shared tagging, so you only need to participate in a kill to get quest credit and LOOT), found a cave with a pseudo-quest to help out Zarhym’s spirit and get some more SWEET LOOT along the way. I also found a couple of the chests, which literally just have a BoA item that you can click to get some epic gear for whatever your current spec is.
Lootbag Timeless Isle is a great way to get some gear when you hit 90. But as a first-time 90, I’m not sure if I love it or not. Sure, it’ll help me get into LFR and Flex raiding and get all of the various achievements related with those this expansion, but it basically cuts out any need at all to go run dungeons or scenarios (I think those are the 3-man things) or finish up any of the regular questing zones. I’m not sure I really like that. I do know that I’d probably be frustrated if I had to spend 6 months gearing up and then LFRing each of the previous raids in turn for 4-6 weeks, but going from level 90-killing-everything seems like it ought to at least have a nod to the other content somewhere.
Maybe I’m just being sad that, now that I like Pandaria, I didn’t play it from the beginning. And I’m a big proponent of there being some flavor of catch-up mechanic. Plus, it’s still fun to do. It just all feels like it’s being invalidated too quickly, and while, yeah, I’m still trying to check out the instances/heroics/scenarios/etc, I feel like I’m using a single flight over Europe as proof of my vast knowledge of the continent.
But, hey, at least I get free LOOT!
Okay, some takebacks. In fact, it seems like Microsoft is all about the takebacks these days. This time, it was their firm “no self-publishing for indies” stance. Which they doubled-down on after E3, only to be all, “Just kidding guys, we LURVE (and always have) indies self-publishing on Xbox One!” this week. Which, like, I don’t know. It’s a good thing. I’m happy that Xbox One owners will be able to have easier access to more indie games. There are tons of great indie games out right now! And I think they are generally a great thing for those of us that love to play games, because it knocks down all sorts of barriers for developers.
But I’m not sure that Microsoft’s latest reversal actually makes me more likely to buy an Xbox One than I was before. I’m not one of those people who yelled about how there were dumb design/marketing/whatever decisions made but now wants to yell about how they should really “stick to their principles” and fuck the haters, or whatever. I just think it sort of confirms my suspicions that the Xbox isn’t built as a gaming platform first and general entertainment box second. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe, once people have them in their homes, it will come to be understood that the general nature of the design is actually an awesome thing AND it is an awesome gaming console. Maybe I will want to put one in every business I interact with because it is so awesome at being a Skype machine. But Microsoft’s recent attempts at making a machine that is totally awesome for literally every purpose are not entirely confidence-building.
I really just want a console that is good at gaming. If it does some other stuff, like making my streaming/media experience easy, that’s cool. But if it doesn’t? I have PlayOn, and AppleTV, and HTPCs, and all sorts of other avenues for that.
UGH, nobody cares about consoles. Talk about something interesting!
Okay, fine! Here’s a takeback that you might not have already known…
I’ve picked up WoW again, and it is actually fun! It all started a month or two ago when Arolaide started talking up pet battles as a good way to spend bite-sized (or larger) chunks of time with minimal commitment. I’ve heard from a lot of people that WoW is basically as much fun as it has ever been right now – that pet battles were cool, that raiding was in a good place, that just random casual logging on gave you a bunch of options – and so, when MoP was on sale at the end of June, I went for it. (A week or so after my wife did and found that she was enjoying it, so she can share some blame…)
I originally decided that I’d start a new character and just go around collecting things and trying to solo things. I was not particularly interested in picking up Ellyndrial again, since there is a ton of baggage associated with him, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to tempt those old feelings coming back. Pet battles sounded fun, and I’ve always thought that it would be cool to take part in whatever few solo skill challenges did exist – so I decided to play a hunter, figuring that I could collect mini-pets AND full-size pets AND hunter challenge pets! That’s a lot of pets!
It was going pretty well, too. I would log on once every couple days, play for an hour or so, and then go do something else. But has it stopped there? Oh no, it has not. My dear, dear friend Mangle had a bright idea. He saw that there were a few people picking WoW up casually again and was all, “Hey, this seems like a fun thing! We can all just pick a night and make characters and whoever shows up will do some the instances, and we’ll go slow and blah blah blah”. And, well, now there are a whole bunch of folks who previously completely swore off WoW are making characters, leveling up to 15 and preparing to start running instances once a week or so. It’s madness. Awesome, and great that we are going to get a few weeks of playing together as a group, but madness. I mean, what is this, 2007?
Thusly was a Sunwalker born.
So, yeah. That’s a thing that’s happening. I will update as it progresses. I’m trying not to get too excited about any long-term prospects (or things like flex raids), because these kinds of things are often fleeting, but $15 to play with a game with a bunch of friends for a month? Sign me up.