I’m not drinking the Guild Wars 2 Kool-aid…

Well I never got into those free to play games. I found one thing to get me out of the funk I was in and that was a month subscription to Rift. I really love what they have done with the Instant Adventures there. Also, the mentoring system means you’ll never have a grey quest, you can always mentor yourself down to the appropriate level (by yourself too, take that EQ2!) and get xp or Rift’s version of AA points (planar attunement, I think)  if you are already max level. What is really funny was that EvE Online sent me that 3 months for $30 offer hours after I posted my last entry. I didn’t bite though.

I did sign up for the beta weekend #3 for Guild Wars 2 and since they were only giving away tens of thousands of keys, I got in. Now I have been watching the forums for The Secret World very carefully because I want to see what is going to happen when they are no longer the darling of the moment, the newest MMO on the block. I have already detected a small amount of complaining and people getting burned out and “hitting the wall”. There is even supposed to be one player who accumulated all 580+ abilities in the game and some lifetime subscriber regret.

So when GW2 drops at the end of August, I am going to be scanning the boards hourly to see the inevitable decline of the spotlight on TSW, or am I?

I really though GW2 was going to be a powerhouse title and make me have to juggle another title in my already crowded lineup but I am not drinking whatever kool-aid they passed around on this one. I found a game that while pretty looking, does not have the staying power or for me even enough to pull me in.

The fact that your abilities are tied to different weapons is both a blessing and a curse. What if I love fireballs but don’t want to equip a staff to shoot them? What if I want to cherry pick the abilities that * I * find useful from the different weapons and slot them all as long as I stick to the same element? Why can’t I mix spells from different elements? Why can’t I mix class abilities like I heard you can do in GW1?

A so-called Ranger that does not even start the game with a freaking bow? Are you serious? I tried all the classes and took a long hard look at the abilities you get for each weapon and I did not find a single combo where there wasn’t a skill I would never use. Sometimes only one of the skills seemed worth it to me. I’m sorry, but I am not going to slog it through 80 levels using abilities or weapons that I have no interest in. You only get 3 for a main hand, 2 for an off hand, and 5 for a two-hander.

Crafting you ask? Didn’t have time to try it. PVP you ask? Puh-lease! I hate PVP because I suck at it so I am not banging my head against that wall. I spent all my time equipping every single weapon and casting every spell a ba-jillion times to unlock all the spells for each of the four elements on my elementalist.

For what its worth, my gaming brother (also not much of a PVPer) did say that he absolutely loves GW2 and the PVP. I did see positive stuff on the GW2 forums about the PVP as well. If this game can present itself as a fun place for the PVPers, it will be successful. I guess it will be successful anyway, because once you’ve bought it there is not monthly fee so they already have everything they are going to get from you. With the exception of expansions and the cash shop I heard about.

So go forth and have fun in GW2! I might see you when it hits the bargin bin..

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The stigma of free to play

I am currently downloading four free to play titles in the hopes that by tomorrow evening, I will have something fresh to get me out of this gaming funk I am in.

I did not pull the trigger on the Rift 6 month sub. I’m not exactly feeling flush with cash right now and I wanted to give the f2p titles some more time to see if one will stick with me. I have been doing as much World of Warcraft as I can take without getting sick of it because I hate wasting the annual pass I paid for. Right now I am leveling a Paladin and it is fun, but I am getting tired of questing in Outland and not really looking forward to Northrend either. My time in EvE Online is almost gone and I have no plans to re-sub until the next $9.99/mo offer comes out. In the mean time, my little experiment with a character that only trains skills 5 days or less is going pretty well. I already have more ISK than I made on my two previous characters put together. Diablo 3 still gets some playtime. My main character is a Monk that is level 27 and ready to go into the crater in Act 3. My alts are only level 10-11. I tend to want to finish an area completely in a session so I have to be in the mood and have sufficient time to play.

I played both Lord of the Rings Online and Fallen Earth before they went free to play. With Dungeons and Dragons Online, I got into the beta for the f2p version and DC Universe Online I have never played. So I have a small base to work with in three of the four titles.

I was talking with my gaming-brother about this before, but I wanted to see if we are the only ones that noticed this. Once a mainstream MMO with a monthly sub goes free to play, we tend to lose interest in playing it. I know that seems weird and contradictory, but it is true. I’m not sure it’s entirely because of whatever limiting factors they put in to get transactions out of you either. Some of them give you quite a bit of content for free but for whatever reason we tend to gravitate somewhere else and usually have a $15 sub somewhere in a paid MMO.

It might be the stigma of “you get what you pay for”. If it’s free then it must not be worth anything, right? I don’t know but it is an interesting bit of human nature. Anyway, for my sake I hope I can get over it for just a little while and get some free entertainment out of one of them.

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It’s not so secret anymore

I have been aware of Funcom’s new MMO “The Secret World” for a while now but I have not been getting much info on it nor was I real hyped up to play it. I have a history with Funcom games. I played Anarchy Online for a while and I also played Age of Conan.

I finally got a beta invite for this weekend, which I guess is beta #4. It is supposed to be PVP focused, but that did not stop me from using it to get a feel for the gameplay and the skill system. The game looks like it uses the same engine as Age of Conan which I was able to get some pretty decent looking graphics on even turning some things down. The character creation was not anything to brag about. It’s weird but they look better in the game than they do when you are building them.

I like the art they show while the different areas are loading and how they slowly color in from black and white. I also like how you get an in-game cutscene when you get quests from NPCs. The quest system is a little strange with limits on how many you can have and how you have to basically pause one if you want to take another in the same category. The way to “con” monsters and see how they match up to you is a little hard to get the hang of because it is not their name, but the color of the little symbols to the left of their name that identifies that. There are 3 dots for trash mobs that swarm you, a single dot for single mobs, and either skulls or a checkmark for heroic versions. I only ever saw the checkmark which means they are for a quest you are on. The color system on the marks is similar to other MMOs – green, white, yellow, red. I found as you get out from the borders of the starter town, the mobs turned yellow and started to bunch up where you would most likely pull multiples even if they were single dots. Also, since there are no levels, your strength is determined by the overall quality level (QL for you AO vets) of your gear. But some reading I did on the subject suggested it is only the QL of the talismans (lesser, greater, head) that you have equipped that the system seems to key off of.

The skill system is an interesting take on removing levels and classes. If you ever played Anarchy Online, it is similar only the point totals are much smaller and instead of picking what would be classes, you can pick skills from various disciplines that are tied to specific weapon types. That is okay if you agree with what type of skills get associated with the weapons, but I found myself not wanting to do fist weapons or blood magic in order to do healing, so I had to pick assault rifles instead. You are allowed to have weapons from two different disciplines equipped at the same time so you can do active abilities from those two schools. Passive abilities do not require an equipped weapon to be used, so you can do some cherry picking to pick up passives you want from all over. The only limit is you can only have 7 passives and 7 actives equipped at any time. I really like how this limits the action bar clutter from all other MMOs.

All in all, it has some good ideas. I like the setting, the graphics, the UI is simple and gets the job done. I did feel myself tempted to play it, but it still feels a little clunky and unfinished and I don’t know if it can survive as a monthly fee MMO especially given Funcom’s track record with AO and AoC both going free to play. I also was disappointed that while I could have been a dual pistol / fireball slinging character, there is no way I could have done so and been a healer.

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Father’s Day

Today I spent the bulk of my Father’s Day organizing things at my Mom’s house trying to separate what we want to keep and what we want to sell and what is just trash. I also had fun getting her cat, who was quite unwilling, to come out of the house so we can find a home for it. I even managed to visit my Father’s gravestone at the cemetery while I was in town. It was the first time he got to meet my wife and two daughters.

I could write a big article about the some odd eight garbage bags of old computer software I cleaned out of her basement (mostly games) which is only about half of my collection there. What I started thinking about on the hour and a half ride home was, for some reason, scenes with fathers from some movies I enjoyed. Particularly where they saved their children.

I came up with the idea of a top three movie fathers moments so here it is in honor of the holiday and in honor of my father.

#3 – Liam Neeson in Taken

What can you say about this performance? Someone kidnaps his daughter overseas and he tears apart anybody who gets in his way finding her. It is what every parent wishes they could do in this situation. While all parents can get something out of the movie, fathers who have daughters will find it resonates with them. He basically kicks butt the whole movie doing whatever he has to in order to save his little girl.

#2 – Dennis Quaid in Frequency

I found this movie on free cable and absolutely loved it. You have a depressed policeman whose marriage and whole life basically is falling apart and the long spiral all goes back to him losing his father, a fireman, when he was a young boy. Through a weird aurora borealis effect, he is able to talk to him in the past over his Dad’s old ham radio and he starts altering his Dad’s and ultimately his own timeline. Now there are some twists and turns where his Dad’s and later his Mom’s fates change every time he thinks he has things just right. The ending is awesome. The son is fighting with the person who killed his mother at the same time his father is fighting a younger version of the same man before he did it. It looks like the son is going to die in the present day and then there is his Dad, who is still alive now in the altered present,  to blow a whole in the guy.

#1 – Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi

The ultimate redemption story. The evil father is redeemed by his love for his son. What else needs to be said? Love conquers all ultimately. Sometimes it just takes a while.

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The Rift was not so empty after all

Sorry that it’s been a while since my last post. I got a stretch of time where things calmed down and I selfishly gobbled it all up with gaming goodness. I plan on posting about my adventures in Diablo 3 and the enigma that is EvE Online later this week. But I wanted to get something up about Rift.

I was a big fan of Rift from the start. Like most of my MMO larks of the last couple years, I heard about it from Syp. I got into the middle of the betas (beta 4 I believe) and played the heck out of each archetype to find out which one I really clicked with. For me it was the Rogue, specifically the Bard class. That was an unusual choice for me, but the idea of doing damage and healing myself while doing it really played into my enjoyment of the vampiric play style of the EQ2 Shadowknight or my fantasy daydreams of being Elric wielding Stormbringer.

So I buckled down and did not play any alts (well mostly) until I hit max level on my Rogue. I fell in with a great guild on the Keenblade server and was even doing things unheard of for me (grouping, heroics, raiding). Then the poop hit the fan when the SWTOR beta started. I got into that and suddenly logging into Rift was taking away my precious time from SWTOR even though it was beta and I was going to lose everything anyway. I was obsessed like anyone gets (right?) about a new MMO with all that shiny stuff you have never seen or done before.

It’s pretty ironic that now Rift is one of the things that I’m starting to feel compelled to play now that SWTOR has lost its luster with me temporarily. Let’s be honest here. I am one of the most fickle gamers you will ever meet and I usually play one of every single class to the detriment of any kind of reaching max level. But I have come to terms with it and I accept it. I know I will go back to SWTOR at some time, just not right now. Right now all I want to do is play Rift and get my other three callings up to level 50 before the new expansion comes out.

I have been dipping my toe into the Rift Lite version where you can play up to two characters per server up to level 20. Then last night something happened where I had to change my password (something about upgrading their security) and they wound up giving me a trinket item that adds 10% to money gains from monsters and also activated my account for 3 days. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I logged into my old server and started digging though all the backpacks and banks and I think I am sucked back in. I also did some research on what the busiest servers are and moved my characters to one of those (Deepwood).

So here I am, contemplating signing up for 6 months to get the next batch of their veteran’s rewards (I already have 6 months in towards them) and anxious to straighten out my banks and bags so I can get on with the happy leveling to 50 for my Cleric, Mage, and Warrior. What could go wrong, right?

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Star Wars the Forgotten Republic

Anyone who was a recent subscriber of SWTOR might remember that for their 1.2 patch code named Legacy, they were offering a free month of gameplay if you either had a max level character or had reached a certain Legacy Level  by a certain date. Well, as an alt freak, I was not withing range of a max level character but I was close enough to go for the Legacy Level and I did make it and earned myself a free month.

The only problem is that I found I pretty much wasted the month playing other games and I’m wondering if I am alone here. There is a lot to like about SWTOR, but after getting a couple characters into the 40s on both sides (and separate servers), you basically see the same planets in the same order depending on which side you’re on. If you don’t like one of those planets, it makes it kind of hard to level unless you want to grind space missions, or *gasp* pvp to skip it – I’m looking right at you Balmora.

I normally prefer to play healing characters even though I like to solo. I like being able to help out the odd passerby and it makes leveling in flash points/dungeons easier because healers are usually in demand. The only thing is that none of the healing classes in SWTOR appeal to me except for the Jedi Consular Sage (possibly the Sith Inquisitor Sorceror, mine is still in the teens). The reason? I know it is going to sound shallow – but it is the healing effects on the abilites.

The Sage’s heals are pretty darn cool, plus you actually feel like a hero using the force powers in all the story line stuff. I was so pissed during my Smuggler story how they were like “Oh no, a Sith. You can’t possible handle her, so here is this Jedi as her nemesis because there’s no way you can take her down.” That really ruined the immersion for me. I also got a taste of that in the Imperial Operative story line where I had to basically beat a Sith lord three times just to weaken him enough to advance the story. How come player controlled Jedi/Sith are so weak but NPCs are nigh untouchable unless you can use a lightsaber?

So, feeling kind of salty about SWTOR, I squandered my free month playing EvE Online and Diablo 3. Now, news of an expansion for Rift has me updating and playing the Lite Edition on a new character to see if that special feeling is still there – and it is.

I think I am done with SWTOR until they release an option to have multiple talent specs. The dungeon finder is just not enough for me. Plus the little circle of friends that I play with is starting to disintegrate from the changing weather. I only have one die hard gaming brother that sticks with me through anything and we will be attempting to duo some Lich King heroics and vanilla raids in WoW for achievements as we both have the annual pass.

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The new X-COM

Hopefully fans of the original 1994 classic X-COM: UFO Defense are aware that 2K Games is re-making it, bringing all the original goodness along with some nice graphics and minor tweaks for today’s gamer.

Most important is that the tactical turn-based combat, which fans of the original loved, is in the game! Now, I am not very religious but can I get an Amen? Heck yeah! Any long suffering fans of turn-based games will remember the gutting that happened when studios thought gamers wanted the more action oriented real-time combat and how many games that could have been great suffered for it.

The more I see about this game, the more I like. I’m not trying to get too eager, but man I love me some turn-based combat.

Take a look for yourself at the site http://www.xcom.com/enemyunknown/

Save up for October 9th, 2012!!!

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