Diving into RIFT

Zyngor | Thursday, October 23, 2014 0 Comments
After receiving plenty of emails and tweets that the latest RIFT expansion, Nightmare Tide, was undergoing beta testing and all that good stuff, I never kept track on when it'd finally be dropping. I saw a tweet the other day, announcing the release of this free expansion to an already solid Trion free-to-play MMO title. Boom - RIFT 3.0 is upon us.

I figured I'd at least get through the patching process, and perhaps give it a whirl on not launch day. I checked out the patch notes while the server was busy getting my set up with all the bells and whistles, and I guess something triggered me to hit "Play" once it was all downloaded. Perhaps it seemed a little exciting & overwhelming to see bits like "5 more levels of adventure," or maybe the "three brand new zones" of the Plane of Water (water-themed Goboro Reef, dream-themed Draumheim, and frozen-themed Tarken Glacier). Other details certainly sparked an interest, like the new minion system and further advancements in crafting. I'm neither a PvPer or raider, so I was indifferent to new warzones/dungeons.

Upon loading into the game, the first thing I noticed was that my health pool must have been doing some backflips, as it took a leap from about 14k to 41k health. I did see the patch note explaining this, in order to reduce the difference in health between tanks and squishies. What I didn't realize was quite how much this balance would ultimately affect my rogue's well-being (not that I'm complaining!).

Minions, a new activity in Rift 3.0
I had myself sitting in Meridian (home town for the Defiant faction), so I figured the first thing I would do was check out this new minion system put in place as a casual side-game. I had seen some comparing it to WoW, which I had no connection to, so I went into it with the Neverwinter "Sword Coast Adventures" in mind.

It is presented as a card game, in which you pick a minion (some starters are available for platinum purchase, other premium ones acquires in various means), and an adventure. It is usually best to try and match up your minion attributes to the detailed attributes within each mission, usually for a better result. Starting off, it seems best to just do the beginner adventures to level up your minions. It is a nice little side-game for those slow times, though I have not gotten far enough to tell how the premium minions compare to the starter selection.

After playing around with the minion game (or should I say, while - the minute adventures kept me on my lazy toes), I took the porticulum over to Goboro Reef, the first of a whole new page containing the three new zones within the Plane of Water. I will say that I'm still only about level 60.33, and have really just been running around the first zone a bit, discovering land & porticulums.

Goboro Reef, the first of three expansion areas

From what I have seen, the world builders must have been busy filling out this lush area. Meanwhile, the designers literally gave another dimension to combat by means of underwater combat (there was a preview of this in an earlier update, in a mini-region of content). It's a little jarring to deal with what is not just in front/back/sides of you, but also up and down. Fortunately, I have only actually needed to complete underwater combat in one smallish part of the region thus far. The rest has been designed to show you being in the Plane of Water, but plays as regular landscape combat. It looks like there is also a shark mount that can be used both on land and sea, though I'm not sure if it is only available for those who made the optional expansion purchase.

Zone events on launch days in the expansion starter area are...touchy.
Playing launch days on an MMO expansion is always a gamble. It's a new fresh experience, so that's cool, but then you have to remember that the floodgates are now open for ALL players on that server. Many of whom have been waiting around for this to launch. So you pop open into the new land, and you realize there are probably several hundred avatars standing in the same spot as you. It becomes more apparent as you start questing, and if spawn times aren't on their game, it can become a waiting game (good time for Minions, at least!). Another highlight of RIFT are the zone events - dynamic occurrences that are randomly activated on various zones. So a zone event pops for one of the new areas, and now a good percentage of the server's level 60+ are now working together en masse to complete this sucker. We reach the final boss, a 600 million (I think) health demon. When everybody is crammed at the same place at the same time, our biggest enemy became the lag monster. Skills fired off at least 5-10 second later, allies would flash in and out of existence, all that good stuff.

I also got the chance to take my first bite of the new nightmare rifts. Another staple of RIFT, portals (known here as...you got it, rifts) open up all around each area in the game, as enemies from another plane attempt to infest the lands of Telara. Normally, rifts have a set number of stages that can be completed, several of them on timers to advance. Nightmare rifts, introduced with the latest update, take it to another level by having an endless number of stages. They run on timers, and must be completed in time to proceed to the next. They also increase in difficulty as you progress, and are also scaled depending on the number of allies you have in your vicinity to the rift. I joined one in progress, probably somewhere in the 30-50th stage, and went another dozen stages before the enemy health was a bit too tough to take down in time. It looks like a nice way to pick up a swath of goodies, and if you can get the right group, would be interesting to see just how far the player-base could reach.

Overall, my limited time with the latest RIFT expansion has been a pretty good time. I have not really gotten far enough to give a better opinion, but first looks are leaning on the positive side of the board. There also appears to be a new equipment slot (2x earrings), which can be unlocked by either purchasing the Nightmare Tide optional pack, or paying some huge amount of earnable currency (assuming it's possible for any subscription type to gather that amount). I believe there is also a new bag slot available, though the 5 bag slots (with the larger size bags) that I have at the moment seem to suffice (especially when I can access and sell vendor trash anywhere I am in the world via the RIFT store).

If interested in trying out the game, head over to the RIFT site here and give it a whirl. In general, I think Trion is fairly successful in producing free-to-play models with a large amount of content to be enjoyed without immediately attempting to whisk their fingers into your wallet.

Revisiting my LOTRO Goals

Zyngor | Sunday, October 12, 2014 0 Comments
Goals and resolutions can be a pain in the rear to attain. Those big, lifetime changes you'd like to make to improve the quality of your life can take years to accomplish, generally through the means of baby steps.

While browsing my Twitter feed this morning, I passed a "Daily Grind" link from Massively, which serves to probe the player-base with a question to answer in their comment section. Today's post dealt with long-term MMO goals, and made me remember my goals I had left in LOTRO Academy's "Goals for 2014" episode. Below are the following LOTRO goals I have left for myself to accomplish:

1) Get both my Riddermark lore-master (currently 44) and my Arkenstone captain (currently 46) to at least level 75. Alas, no combining their levels, or I’d be done already! ;)  
2) In honor of Pineleaf’s “Skirmisher of Middle Earth” (SoME) goal, I’d like to get ONE character (most likely my main, Riddermark hunter) to attain the SoME title. I think he already has decent progress, so finishing it off would be great.  
3) I would like to complete at least one raid that I have not done before (BG, any OD wing, Flight or Smaug [Erebor], Saruman [ToO], or DN), and two 6-man instances that I have not done before (Roots of Fangorn, Foundry, Lost Temple). Level does not matter – it’s the experience that counts.

Thus far, I have not fully accomplished any of these goals. Then again, I had basically forgotten I had these running goals for many months this year, so no specific focus has been made toward their completion. With roughly 2.5 months left until 2015, I guess I should start giving it the old college try. Running through each proposed goal, individually...

1) Leveling Challenge: One of the bigger problems with this challenge lies in the fact that neither of these characters were in existence during my month of VIP. As such, neither of them have Swift Travel, which allows for MUCH quicker travel while leveling. Adding up all the times you need to travel here and there across the world (especially for the Epic story quests), having Swift Travel accessibly is a pretty huge boon to leveling in LOTRO. Not having it kind of makes it a turn-off to leveling those characters, so I have not focused my efforts in their leveling. As it stands, my lore-master is level 48 , and my captain is level 51. This is likely the most difficult of my listed challenges for me to complete.

2) Skirmishing Challenge: This is the goal that I had probably forgotten most about. I do not skirmish that often, and as such the information about my progress on skirmish encounters is something I have not looked at in forever, on any character. On my main (hunter), I believe I have 20 encounters remaining to complete the SoME deed (out of 18 skirmishes, each containing anywhere from 5-9 encounters). Considering you'll only get about two random encounters per skirmish, this is a rather RNG-based challenge. I think I'll be happy enough if I can get to 10 or under encounters remaining.

3) Instance Challenge: Combined with my general "whatever" attitude toward completing group instances, and the dwindling server sizes on which I play, I'm not sure I would honestly fully complete this challenge. I have done Dar Narbugud (DN) at least twice with a group, but that is probably the easiest of the raids I have listed. I have not fully completed any of the 6-mans I mentioned, though I did get to the end of Lost Temple solo...aaaand promptly died due to DPSing too quickly.

Anyways, these goals should be less important than my real-life laundry list, but there's something about virtual goals that make it more desirable to attain. I assume it's the fact they are generally easier to accomplish, plus there is no real downside to not quite making it to the finish. That just makes it that much more fun to add it to next year's gaming goals!

Do you generally make MMO/gaming goals for yourself, or do you simply pat yourself on the back when you finish something and say "Well done, me. Well done!" ? Share in the comments below!

Please Bear With Me - Beorning Play

Zyngor | Saturday, October 11, 2014 0 Comments

Note: All pictures and information are subject to change - all come from Bullroarer Update 15, Build 1...at least the non-photoshopped ones...

So yesterday I decided to check out the first LOTRO Update 15 beta build on Bullroarer, the preview server. This update boasts two fairly big pieces of content: the continuation of our journey through Gondor (Central Gondor), and arguably the bigger feature - a new class! The Beorning marks the 10th class to be introduced to the game, and the second time we've seen a class added (Moria brought us the Rune-keeper & Warden).

Beornings are explained as "skin-changers that can change into the form of a bear in combat." Their roots descend from the big fellow himself, Beorn. They are mainly a reclusive type, though the ensuing struggle of enemies pouring into the lands have pushed these people of the forest to lend their claws to rip the enemy open like the tasty honey pots they are.

As I sat in line to patch the server, I could only imagine how many Beornings would be rampaging the lands in both beta and launch day. Bears, bears, everywhere! Not to mention the plethora of puns that would no doubt strike the name box. Step aside, Honey Boo Boo!

There was a fair amount of talk about how the Beorning was a "race" and not a "class," and as such would cause a tizzy of shaking fist pumps and heresy heckling. I think that it was at least half-settled when it was revealed at character creation screen that the Beorning is also listed as a separate race option from Man (from which they were descended...at least ancient man). I guess it will be kind of strange, since the only kind of racial Beorning you can create is...a Beorning class. Though I guess it would also be kind of strange to create a "Beorning Skin-changer," since that is equally redundant. The Beorning class was purchasable in the LOTRO store for a BETA PRICE - SUBJECT TO CHANGE YADDA of 1000 Turbine Points, which seems roughly what I'd imagine it to cost.

Character creation screen - Beorning Beorning hype!

Sorry ladies...no pink hair...or facial
hair for that matter. [CONCEPT]
At least there is no gender restriction in the creation of a Beorning, so there is no Dwarvish inequality going down. Another pretty neat bit is that an extra detail tab is available to adjust your facial war-paint/tattoo (one of the options being to remove it, should you decide to act as the rebel plain-faced Beorning). You make also pick from a fairly wide selection of colors for both that tattoo, and eye color. Other than this, the available hair and facial choices are basically the same as those available via the race of Man (which makes sense).

It is important to note the color of your hair during character creation. Depending on your choice of a lighter of darker hue, your bear-form's fur will echo this selection. Choose a light color, and your bear will likely try to migrate north and take up chugging cola. I'd love for them to add an option to see what your bear-form will look like from this screen, to allow us to make a more informed decision.

Jumping into the game will take you to a new solo instanced starter area for the Beornings, in the Vales of Anduin (specifically, Grimbeorn's Lodge). Getting through this area will introduce you to the basic mechanics of the class.

Grimbeorn's Lodge - Beorning starter area

Basically, you will generally find yourself starting combat in humanoid-form. There are a set of skills dedicated toward building Wrath (what I'd imagine as honey-infused bear mana). Once you feel you have a sufficient amount of Wrath, you can activate a skill to swap over to your bear-form. The set of skills only available to use in bearmode will then use up Wrath (as well as a Wrath being spent just being this fearsome creature). Once you are out of juice, you will shortly return back to your bipedal form. It is a pretty smooth transition between the two modes, but I can imagine it will take some work to get a good flow between the two forms. Sorry South Park fans...there is no pig-form.

Battle transformation - I hope that's honey the combatant is bleeding, yum!
One of the parts that felt a little weird was that upon the completion of the short starter area, my character was level two. After my character hop, skipped, and jumped to post-burning Archet, she must have had some tasty rabbit protein bars along the way, as she loaded in at level five. I understand the purpose of auto-leveling our characters to better fit the starter quests and to be in line with other classes making their way out of the starter, but it still felt a little jarring. I know that I'll keep in mind that this is just the first build of the public beta, so as always, anything is subject to change.

Overall, it seemed like a good start. I had to put in a report on the apparent clipping of a couple of the male Beorning beards, and several placeholders seemed to be place in the starter area for this build. I'm sure I'll go ahead and try out the Beorning class come the live launch of Update 15, assuming I have acquired the proper TP cost. The hard part? Deciding the craft. Maybe I'll craft large holes in trees, enough to sneak in and grab the precious honey.