Friday, April 4, 2014

War Never Changes ... Well, Unless You Capture That Keep

I hit level 10 yesterday in Elder Scrolls Online, meaning I was now eligible to queue up for their PVP zone, Cyrodiil.  The zone lies in the heart of the map, equally accessible by all three factions.  Naturally, this means there's lots of war.  But, there's also lots of running.  And waiting.  And wandering.  Luckily, the zone boosts your level so you can compete against the higher level players (albeit at a disadvantage).  And there's also PVE stuff to do there too!  And since it's an entire zone, not just a match or a battleground, you can spend as much time there as you like ... killing, farming, checking out quests ... there's no "MATCH ENDS" waiting for you in 15 minutes.

The Cyrodiil area (known as the Alliance War) is actually pretty amazing.  If any of you played WoW back in the Lich King days, it will vaguely remind you of Wintergrasp ...  but 50 times larger.  There are keeps all over the map that you can capture, as well as resource areas and even Elder Scrolls temples.  Own enough Elder Scrolls and you get special bonuses for combat (no clue what they actually do yet) and you can steal enemy Scrolls just to piss them off (and get more stuff).  The resource areas (farms, lumbermills, mines) provide bonuses to the keep they surround, making it harder to siege.  More keeps you take, the more land you control, the closer you get to the center of the map.  If you take the six keeps around the Ruby Throne (the center of the map and the ostensible objective) then hooray!  Your alliance has won the Ruby Throne an conquered Tamriel and the player with the highest number of Alliance Points becomes Emperor ... for a time.  Until the other two factions get rightly pissed off and smash you to a thousand bits.  The player who becomes Emperor gets a special, permanent skill line on his character and, while Emperor, becomes a juggernaut on the field.  Think Sauron waving that big-ass mace; that's what it's supposedly like (haven't seen it yet, but folks in Cyrodiil seemed to think that was an apt description).

In the Alliance War, not only can you storm keeps but you can also build siege engines like trebuchets, catapults, and ballistae to take out walls and massacre troops (and they feel tremendous).  You can also set fire to opposing siege weapons, which is inordinately fun.  Siege weapons are bought with Alliance Points, the PVP currency you earn during the war.  I believe you can also substitute regular gold for the PVP points as well, though I don't have conversions on that.  I didn't buy any siege weapons, but I did commandeer a couple that had been left behind.  Judging from the number of weapons I saw in my battles, I'd have to say they must be fairly inexpensive.  You can also use your points to buy Forward Bases (basically spawn points) and repair kits (which heal your siege weapons or repair walls).

The feeling of unrelenting combat is pervasive in the Alliance War.  Besieging castles and wiping out the enemy force is a wonderful, visceral rush.  Knocking down walls and watching your comrades pour through the gap to kill everything with a red lifebar is amazing.  Being stuck behind a wall you know is about to fall, with a horde of viscous Dominion troops on the other side ... that's actually genuinely terrifying.  You're looking around at the meager defense force you have, praying wholeheartedly that the reinforcements get to you in time.  And when that wall falls and those enemy troops crest like a tide of angry, well-armed ants over the fallen battlements ... well, there's very little out there in the MMO-sphere that can match the absolute feeling of dread you get.

It's not all peaches and handjobs though.  The PVP zone features a lot of running.  A lot.  Sure, there are transitus shrines in every keep that allow you to dart around the map to any keep your alliance currently holds (hence, the capture of keeps becomes vital to reinforcement and advance), but running from keep to keep to start the siege process is actually a fairly lengthy affair.  Running into an opposing force moving to siege one of your keeps can be a remarkable experience.  Two armies clashing on the open field ... it's a sight to behold.  Unfortunately if your army loses that particular battle, you'll respawn at the closest keep.  Which was generally the one you were just running from ... which can be frustrating.

Rumor has it that the Zenimax team took the entirety of the map of Cyrodiil from Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and plopped it down in ESO.  From the size of the zone, I absolutely believe it.  The scale of Cyrodiil is astounding.  It's so big that it beggars belief.  I can't honestly show you ... it has to be experienced.  And to be so big and have virtually no lag?  Unheard of.  Oh yes, the Alliance War runs butter smooth.  I was in an invading force of about 75 players; we besieged the castle, stormed the walls, slaughtered the 25 or so defenders, mounted, and roared off to another castle.  With no lag.  There wasn't even a stutter, even when the western walls crumbled and we swarmed the hapless Pact defenders, burying them under a tide of iron and hatred.

But, if PVP isn't your thing then there's actually still stuff to do.  There are quest hubs dotted around the map with adventures waiting.  There are resource nodes so you can farm.  There are NPCs ... like the crypt I stumbled across while racing to reinforce our latest attack ... it was full of skeletons and I spent some time there waylaying the undead.  Heck, you could get a Nightblade to 10 and spend the entire time in the zone just sneaking around and ogling the scenery (and providing .

In short, Cyrodiil is everything I've ever wanted in a PVP experience.  Massive zone, full-scale battles, exploration, and a real sense of the ebb and flow of war in Tamriel.  I couldn't be more impressed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Diversification of My Holdings

As I make my way back into SWTOR, I think about what got me to quit in the first place ... burnout.  With that in mind, I'm going to diversify my MMOs a bit to keep 'em fresh!  Obviously, SWTOR is on the plate.  Currently, so is World of Warcraft.  But wait, what's this?  A new challenger rises?

Elder Scrolls Online launched this Sunday and I pre-ordered that bad boy.  I spent Sunday leveling, deleting, and generally just running around in the online version of Tamriel and I can safely say ... yeah, that was a blast.

Full disclosure here: I participated in four weekend beta events, so I pretty much knew I liked the game.  A lot.  And I pre-ordered the Imperial Edition, so that should tell you something too.  But the betas were always a little choppy/unfinished and the quest bugs were fairly significant, so I was rather unsure of how the final product would look.  Most of my fears were allayed because the launch runs ultra-smooth.  Honeymoon period is in full effect here, so I'll refrain from posting a review/impression until I get some more time with the finished product.  But so far, it's looking good.

SWTOR will take a back seat at the moment; I'm not raiding or doing dungeons at the moment (even though I know that new patch with the Tython/Korriban flashpoints will be out very soon (April 8th actually!) but those can wait.  I'll check them out once I get something cleared up ...

... and that thing would be friggin' World of goddamn Warcraft.  Since Mists of Pandaria (or Mists of Pan-daily-a as it was known at launch), WoW has basically consumed my MMO time.  I've been heavily invested in raiding, doing all the tiers so far (Mogu'shan, Heart of Fear (bleh), Throne of Thunder, and Siege of Orgrimmar).  I've not exactly been pushing the 'bleeding edge' of raiding, but for our pokey little RP server, I do ok.  I'm generally recognized as one of a handful of excellent DPS warriors and I consistently pull my weight every time.  The problem is this: I've yet to kill Garrosh.

How can an orc this awesome not get the satisfaction of a Garry Hellscream kill?
This is a major point for me.  This kill is everything I've been working for in WoW since MoP launched.  This is the ultimate achievement for me.  This will complete a story that I've had in my head for a long time; a running narrative since the anticipation of Pandaria.  The defeat of the Warchief, the orc who sullied Blackhowl's Horde!

Most of the folks I know (except those on my raid team) have all gotten their kills by now.  My team has had to rebuild four times (four!) and is still facing issues on every single pull.  Folks stand in bad.  Folks panic and don't spread.  Folks die, and die, and die.  And die.  It's so incredibly frustrating because I'm so fucking close.  SO CLOSE.  Once I get my Garry kill, I can officially say, 'Fuck off!' to WoW for a while and play other things.  Like SWTOR.  And ESO.  Or maybe go enjoy the damn sun (if it ever decides it wants to show up).  To be frank, raiding in WoW always starts as fun and winds up being a goddamn part-time job.  The mechanics are so insipid and unforgiving.  Granted, this is the final boss of the final tier of Pandaria, but still.  C'mon, throw us a bone.  Nerf it like ICC if you want ... anything to get more people killing this stupid asshole (namely me).  But still, WoW always devolves into a never-ending shit-fest of raid fuckups that I seriously ... SERIOUSLY ... question why I play it.  And I question it constantly.  And I do this every expansion.  So why do I continue to play?

Damn, if I could answer that question I wouldn't need to write page-long whinefests about WoW.

I think in each of my MMOs I look for something different.  In SWTOR, I look for story and plot.  In ESO, I look for exploration and freedom.  And in WoW, I look for raiding and end-game.  It's funny, because I don't plan on doing anything end-game related in ESO.  And I haven't done any end-game stuff in SWTOR since Eternity Vault was relevant.  It's just not something I'm there for.  Maybe because both ESO and SWTOR don't treat end-game as the be-all, end-all?  There's serious gameplay in the leveling aspect and they treat it as a journey, and I respond to that.  Although, it's interesting to note that my response is to love the gameplay and occasionally drift away from the game over time.

With WoW, the 'real game' doesn't start until max level.  Then you start the horrible, never-ending grind of LFGs, LFRs, and raiding.  It's all about increasing your ilvl (item level).  My warrior's ilvl is 564 ... that's about as high as I can get it without doing heroic/hardmode content.  Everything I do in WoW revolves around raiding and boosting my ilvl.  And it's funny to note that while I drift from SWTOR because I enjoy the leveling portion so much, WoW has kept me locked in for years and years.  Even when I'm not actively subbed, I'm still checking into it and seeing what's going on (like I did during Cataclysm).

I guess, in the end it boils down to this: I'm a typical MMO gamer.  I've got a love/hate relationship with the games I choose to play and demands (that are different) for each one.  I love the feeling of achievement (in WoW) ... I love the exploration of new lands (in ESO) ... I love the story and plot (in SWTOR).  I hate the endless grind (in WoW) ... I hate the lack of things to do at max level (in SWTOR) ... and I haven't found anything to hate about ESO.  But gimme time ... I'm sure I'll come up with something.

But lemme tell you ... I can't wait to get this damn Garry kill in WoW so I can step away for a while (maybe until next expansion) and just BREAAAAATHE.  Damn, I hate you WoW.  Stop making me play you.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I Quit and Why I'm Back

Look what the bantha dragged in.

Hello Kaliyo.  Been causing any trouble while I was away?

As if I need your permission.  Where ya been, agent?  Been boring around here without you.

I decided to see the sights.  Take some time off.  Become normal.

So, why are you back then?

Kaliyo, I abhor normality.

Well fuck all, look who's back.  I know that I've had a love/hate relationship with this game.  Well, sometimes it's seemed like a hate/torture relationship.  And I think my wild swings on SWTOR are primarily chalked up to my intense fanboyish love of this game in pre-release and the early days.  And ... to be honest ... the soul-crushing decline of the game in the following months.  So many of my friends abandoned SWTOR, my guild imploded, the community dried up (a bit).  It turned me fanatical and bitter all at the same time.  Constantly justifying my love/hatred for this game.  And in the end it just go so damn tiresome.  My attention drifted to other games; WoW, World of Warplanes, hell even MechWarrior Online (what a shitshow that was).

And in the back of my head, SWTOR kept sitting.  Patiently.

After the final disappointment of the Starfighter PVP expansion, it seemed the last straw, really.  The one great hope I had for reigniting this massive fanboyism for SWTOR had been so cruelly snuffed out.  So I went away.

And some funny stuff happened.

As you may or may not know, I raid in WoW.  We're not particularly successful at the moment (13/14 in Siege of Orgrimmar) but hey.  We've rebuilt the team a few times, lost some folks.  And while progressing through this latest raid, I'd hear folks on Vent saying, "Oh wow, the storytelling in this raid is just fantastic."

And I'd snort.  WoW's best "storytelling" is about as cogent and fascinating as watching paint dry.  SWTOR had infinitely better storylines, cohesive and alive.  They tell a unified story in a universe that makes sense.

And I'd hear folks say that the newest expansion is going to be soooo immersive.  They'll have garrisons and crafting from the bank and followers!

And I'd giggle because SWTOR has those too.  Garrisons; your ship.  Crafting from the bank?  Yessir.  Hell, even RIFT had that one.  Followers?  Sounds like companions to me.  You can even send them out on missions, just like SWTOR.

And slowly, slowly it started to dawn on me.  Fuck, I missed SWTOR.  I missed the leisurely appeal to it, the lack of drive to hit endgame as soon as possible to start 'the real game.'  The real game is 1-55 for SWTOR.  Everything else is icing on the cake.  A well-told, beautifully crafted, lovely little MMO.  Raiding?  Sure, it's cool.  My favorite raid instance of all time is Ulduar.  You know why?  Story.  You know what my second is?  Eternity Vault.  Because of story.  And the second to last fight against all the council guys ... that's sorta bad ass.  But raiding isn't the end-all, be-all of SWTOR.  It's just the carrot at the end of the journey.  And hell, you don't even have to take a bite if you don't want!

So I'm back now and I'm really taking my time.  Playing on my own schedule and finally ... finally REALLY learning ... to appreciate this game.  It's a great feeling.

So, hey ya'll.  I'm back.  Yer screwed now.