Archive for September, 2010

What? Huh? Eh?

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming with tags on September 25, 2010 by koljarn

It should be obvious that I enjoy playing LotRO, and I feel that it is a superior game.  Most of my time is spent in solo play, but I have been trying to group up a little more often of late.  This has forced me to use the one feature of LotRO that is done extremely poorly – the voice chat.

When I play online games with my usual circle of friends, we use a Ventrilo server.  The sound is clear and coherent.  My kinship also runs a TeamSpeak server, which works pretty well also, although it is set to use a slightly lower audio quality than our Ventrilo server.  However, the LotRO voice chat is simply abominable.  Even with the voice sound controls cranked up to the maximum settings, I find it to be too quiet for general use.  If you turn up the associated volume control to the point where you can hear other players, you will be deafened by the sound effects.   It is truly infuriating.

Rant over.  Taking a deep breath.

I’ve been playing around with some of the instances to collect Superior Third Marks and Annuminas Marks.  Mostly, I’ve been having a blast.  The PUGs I’ve been in have been about 75% good ones, with the remaining 25% rather dismal.  One of the worst ones I have been in featured a guardian who didn’t really know how to tank, and was afraid of getting all of the agro because he might take damage.  I’ve been guilty of breaking a mez here or there myself, due to my unfamiliarity with grouping in this game, but I usually manage to keep my nose clean.  Overall, it has been fun.

Speaking of instances, I find it to be a brilliant idea that Turbine split up the Great Barrow into multiple encounters.  While I love the Great Barrow, the size of the place was so unwieldy that a full run took huge amounts of time.  The three instances that can be run from the interface are much more focused, and you can budget your time much better.  Kudos for that.

Werewolves, Skirmishes, and Armor

Posted in Background Noise, LotRO, Online Gaming, Skirmishes with tags , , , on September 19, 2010 by koljarn

I’m going to start this post with something non-gaming related.  Relax, I’ll post some LotRO stuff in a little while.  I’ve noted in the past that I enjoy the occasional bad movie.  Not boring ones – let me be clear on that.  Bad movies can still be entertaining (in a campy sort of way), boring movies are an excuse to do something else.  One thing that went hand-in-hand with bad movies used to be the Horror Host.  Now an endangered species, Horror Hosts used to stampede across the wilds of late-night television on Fridays and Saturdays.

Well, I came across a live one.  If you’re lucky enough to have access to a cable network called the Retro Television Network, then you may already know about Wolfman Mac.  His show is a little more family-friendly than some horror hosts, but it has all of the classic earmarks.  Low budget?  Check.  Bad jokes and sketches?  Check.  Actors that look like your next-door neighbors?  Check.  Cheap movies?  Check.  Enough humor to liven up the dull parts of said movies?  Check.  Last night’s show featured the original House on Haunted Hill.  The movie is alow-budget classic, and Wolfman Mac made it even more entertaining.  Great show – I’m going to have to get a DVR so I don’t miss any episodes in the future.  Oh, and the show has a blog right here.

Anyway… LotRO.  Yes, gaming, I remember.

As I stated in my last post, it is just not possible to upgrade your gear to anything decent by crafting alone any longer.  You have to churn through instances – level 60+ ones.  One of the nice things that Turbine featured in this last mini-expansion is the ability to sign up for the classic instances from anywhere in the game world and the ability to set the level of the instance.  These instances drop tokens which, combined with skirmish marks, can be used to purchase some jewellery (which is okay, but not great), decent weapons (if you use an offhand, it may be useful to you), and two armor sets.

There is also a chance (a slim one) that a Symbol of Celebrimbor may drop off of the final boss in an instance, but I would rather focus on the armor sets.  There are two major skirmish armor sets available at level 65 – an Annuminas set, and a Helegrod set.  The Helegrod set is quite nice – the Champion set bonus is a bit underwhelming, but the stats are significantly higher than the Annuminas set on a piece-by-piece basis.  It also lacks Radiance, which is not that important if you’re not a raider.  The Annuminas set has some nice set bonuses as well as a higher armor value.  Frankly, I prefer the Annuminas set, despite the unimportant Radiance bonuses that it features.

Why would a Champion prefer the Annuminas set?  Well, last night I got a nap in so that I could stay up late and hit some of the updated instances with some of my Kin.  Although we had a capable Warden to do the tanking, I had to off-tank frequently.  It is just the way the encounters are designed.  If I’m going to be a punching bag, you can be sure that I want to have a thick skin, and that is what the Annuminas set offers me.  The set also offers a good measure of might and vitality – I will have to make up for other stats by changing what rings and other items that I use.  As for how quickly you can get the set, we did three instances last night, and we got enough special marks to get one piece of armor.

So, how do you gear up at 65?  Keep skirmishing (you need a bit more than 1k skirmish marks for each armor piece), keep hitting instances for daily quests (for the special marks), and hope that a Symbol of Celebrimbor drops from instance bosses.  It will wear you down, so do not grind away at it or it will feel like work.  A few instances each week will be plenty to keep you slowly upgrading while still enjoying the game.  If it’s not fun, do something else.  Otherwise, this sort of grind will burn you out.

LOTRO Renaissance? Not Quite.

Posted in City of Heroes, LotRO, Online Gaming with tags , on September 11, 2010 by koljarn

Not all those who wander are lost.  Some are just on the way to Enedwaith.  I set aside City of Heroes this week after running through three of the four Praetorian arcs from start to finish.  CoH can do well in the future, if they expand on the Praetoria area of the game.  With some trepidation, I fired up LoTRO on the day of the subscriber head-start for the new content.

The game is mostly as I remember it.  They were nice enough to tell me that they had refunded the points that I had spent in my legendary items.  They neglected to tell me that my skirmish soldier (a healer) had also been reset.  Thus, the first skirmish that I attempted was a total bloodbath – and I was the supplier of the blood.

After re-training my soldier, I skirmished for a long while to get the feel for my character back.  Honestly, champions are easy to play.  Beat on things, get angry, and then beat on multiple things at once.  Learning to play a champion is easy – remembering where all the icons are and what they do is more difficult.  Unlike CoH, LoTRO requires at least three toolbars for a character, and most of my character are actually using five toolbars strategically spread about the UI.

Having re-acquainted myself with melee AoE, I set off for Enedwaith,  Enedwaith is the new zone south of Eregion.  Which will come as a shock to anyone trying to level up while playing in Eregion, because mobs jump 15 levels all at once.  If a level 48ish character wanders in, they are not likely to wander out again.  I’ll admit that I like what I’ve seen in Enedwaith so far.  It is a good expansion, and it is outdoors under the sun for a change, rather than in a cave or in a gloomy forest.  It was needed – I know people who refuse to play in Moria or Mirkwood because it is too depressing to visit long-term.  On the other hand, the problem that I experienced before with LoTRO – a lack of casual content for people at the level cap – is still there.

I liked the fact that there were small 3-person dungeons in Mirkwood.  I intensely disliked the fact that they were set up for people to farm for hours at a time, collecting  loot tokens.  I like skirmishing – you can skirmish every day and do a few different skirmishes.  It’s not a grind.  On the other hand, hitting the same instance again and again is a grind.  In the Moria expansion, a casual player could collect the materials for and create excellent general-purpose gear without raiding.  It wouldn’t be radiance gear, and it wouldn’t be the top-end stuff, but it was good stuff.  The craftable level 65 gear you got out of Mirkwood was actually inferior to the level 60 gear you could make in Moria.  In other words, crafters are in serious need of some love right now.