Ennui and the Coming Days

Well, it seems that even I am not immune to the “End of Expansion Fatigue”, despite my best efforts to keep myself entertained. PvE-wise, all I could hope to gain is Heroic Lich King or Halion, and to be honest it does not draw me half as much as the earlier content. It seems a lot of hassle for little gain. Leveling Alts also seems more like a chore, and without access to the Beta, all I can report is second-hand info – but mind you. I will report it if it’s awesome.

Perhaps then, it might be an idea to devote some time to the other online games I play or have played, give my view on them and why I keep returning to WoW…

Guild Wars (GW)

Having bought all expansion packs for GW and having played it off and on for five years, I must say that this is a great “time waster” game. There’s very little pressure, balance is merciless, and the game is huge. I quite enjoy the Ranger with its traps, supporting my team with a Warrior/Paragon or destroying my foes with my Necromancer/Ritualist.

The downside of the game is that it is not very graphically impressive, and that some of the missions leave you quite easily destroyed if you happen to take the wrong combination of henchmen with you. Worse still, some players display worse AI than the henchmen…

All in all it’s a game I play once every few months, since it’s free anyway, to kill a few hours on. The lack of pressure and the shorter size of dungeons also makes that I don’t have to worry about raiding guilds, progression, or better loot. At max level gear, that’s what it is and has been for three expansions.

Age of Conan (AoC)

To me, this is a completely mixed bag. I love the class design, the graphics are very good and the atmosphere of the place simply oozes through its pores. But fighting is very frustrating using the combo system. Clicking your ability and then directional arrows is very uncomfortable. I leveled an Assassin to 50 and found to be not quite as daunting as people warned me it would be, although you could feel the lack of survivability even with Lotus abilities. When you hit 50 you get another level 50 character for free, which became my Tempest of Set. This was AoE and Survivability heaven, but I could not help but feel my performance was lacklustre.

I decided not to renew my subscription, because it simply wasn’t involving enough to keep me in. It was great for wasting some time, but it was not worth paying the money for. The dungeons were uninspired for the most part, just dungeon maps with mobs in them, with little interaction or puzzles. The few dungeons with more challenging content just seemed to be that way because there was no guidance whatsoever.

So if the game ever went Free to Play I might consider going for it again – I love the graphics and the atmosphere – but it did not draw me in with regard to the Dungeons. Also, the Guild system where you have to build a keep for which someone has to devote a profession to build, as well as enormous Guild resources, seemed to me a waste of time. The advantage of no Guild Housing is that you can join and leave Guilds as you wish in WoW, instead of feeling remorse on how many resources you put into your pretty castle.

Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)

Lotro is a different league altogether. The graphics are very good for the environment, but players and NPCs are pretty damn ugly. It was impossible for me to build a character that was beyond “passable I guess” in looks. The number of options to customize your character with was also very limited, and hair styles seemed to be shared between all toons of all races.

The gameplay itself is pretty easy to learn, although it takes some time to learn to handle the more difficult classes. The learning curve is pretty forgiving, but by the time you start running into Elite Undead you discover that you might want to stick in the lower level areas for just a little longer. So far my favorites have been the Champion and the Minstrel.

I haven’t played Lotro long enough to glimpse more than the first fourteen or so levels of Champion, but it did get repetitive quite soon already. Fortunately, if you are a Roleplayer this game has tons of goodies for you! You can actually play musical instruments, and you can sometimes find a band of PCs playing in front of the Prancing Pony in Bree, recreating the Middle-Earth variety of the latest pop songs. There’s a million outfits, and a clever system that allows you to look the way you want, but have the gear you need. Imagine wearing T10 but looking like T6? That’s what is in there, and it’s a great way of handling look and feel of a character.

There’s even a profession or two devoted to the leisurely gamer – fishing has its rewards, most of it being as relaxing as the real-life sport. Then again, you can also choose to farm vegetables or pipe weed and become famous at the market! There’s always something to do if you want it. This game tops WoW in the immersion department, but has far less excitement.

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO)

This is a recent addition to my little addictions. Until it went Free to Play, all I could see was D&D ported to the PC like a half-brained copy of Neverwinter Nights. In addition, the most awesome things of Eberron were either removed (Artificers) or were premium options (Warforged, Drow).

Well, when it did go Free, I decided to give it a go. I mean, what the heck, I love D&D and it is still Eberron, so I am sure something good will come of it. Well, it did, sort of. Kept me from logging on to WoW this week it did. You see, despite its initial appearances, it is not a “fun little game”. It is a statmonster worthy spreadsheet on legs with a two-handed axe. It’s a minmaxer’s heaven. And if you feel like a curmudgeon, you can do most of it alone.

First off, building your character will take half an hour at least. Between choosing class, skills and feats (most of which cannot be changed later on barring high-level options) you will spend 10, and then you will spend another 20 getting your toon’s appearance just right. It may seem odd, but there are quite a few faces that can be built using just the limited number of options you have to choose from.

As a Free player, I can only have 2 characters – currently a Level 4 Rogue and a Level 1 Cleric. My Rogue’s pretty much a gearmonkey which I am moving towards getting the Assassin prestige enhancement. My damage is not too awesome on the whole, but when I get behind foes or my Bluff check comes through, they drop like flies. The best part about the game are the dungeons, which have a lot of mobility in them, traps and little puzzles. It made me feel like I was playing Tomb Raider crossed with Tenchu.

The bad part about the game is that Guild system is, again, horrible. Guilds gain levels, you spend oodles of cash on an airship, only to find out you have to pay gigantic upkeeps to keep your crew and facilities – not fun. If your Guild is not large and active, forget about that awesome airship.

So what’s to come?

When Cataclysm comes, I am sure my enthusiasm will be rekindled. Whatever I fancy to play, I have enough level 75+ characters on my Server to pick from. Plus I will make space for a Goblin – a mean one. And I will probably love Archaeology as well, so at least my time-wasting is covered too.

So far it seems that GW and DDO will be my standbys in time of boredom for now, especially now that I have figured out in DDO I can do dungeons to gain favor to gain Turbine Points to buy more dungeons *wheezes* to gain enough favor to unlock the Drow race on my server. Whew.

I did the math (honestly, I have a spreadsheet!) and I will need to build six characters on five servers and level them to twenty to do it (including using True Reincarnation on my Main three times) so I will have quite some work ahead of me in the coming years. Yay!

So what do you pass the time with when not on WoW? I heard Aion is the pretty blonde with no brain (err, no Game I mean) and that Warhammer is a rather unfriendly game, so haven’t tried those. Star Trek online seems to me like it could never beat the Next Generation series, but convince me and I’ll give it a go.

I’m always looking for some less-grindy and less-pressure games to keep me occupied in between.

3 Responses to “Ennui and the Coming Days”

  1. Hi Nat, long time reader, first-time commenter. I love the shadow priesting tips and advice you provide here, as well as your free-flowing and conversational writing style. Keep up the good work. :]

    I agree with your assessment of the other MMOs, though I’ve never played D&D. I just couldn’t get past 15 or so levels on any toon in GW, AoC, or LOTRO without contracting a terminal case of the “mehs” and quitting.

    And as far as AION goes, STAY AWAY. The graphics are pretty at first, but after the starting zones everything devolves into a washed-out, uninspired and generally lackluster MMO experience. Also it’s incredibly grindy. Bleh.

    The main thing it did for me is make me aware of the vast cultural gap present in Japanese games, and how anyone growing up in either the Eastern or Western mindset will prevent them from truly understanding a game produced by the other. The little in-jokes and references of WoW are my favorite part, though probably lost on a good deal of the Asian playerbase. But hey, after years of controlling groups of plucky teenagers with spiky hair on their quest to save the world in countless JRPGs over the years, showing them a game with a good old ‘Merican sensibility to it is quite fair :].

    Sorry for the novel here, just wanted to let ya know your blogging efforts are appreciated. Take care!

    • Other people I talked to also commented on the disparity between Western and Asian MMOs. Specifically Aion was mentioned, but also some of the “free to play” MMOs from Asia seem to have great looks and controls, but grindy gameplay.

      I imagine the aim of the game is more to spend time and achieve something rather than entertainment value, or laughing at some cultural in-joke. Then again, if there are cultural in-jokes in Asian MMOs, I think we’d have a hard time spotting them anyway…

  2. I spend my escape time in Allods Online, a free to play MMO from a Russian studio (which means no anime hair! :D ). The summoner class is an spriest/warlock hybrid, i.e. DoTs and heals and various preset pets. I’m enjoying it a lot, even though the class is a noobmagnet — as soon as a catchy term like “huntard” get coined it’ll stick like glue. ; )

    I like the game’s style, traditional fantasy mixed with a Russian aesthetic, an urban vs. rural conflict, and a bit of sci-fi space travel thrown in. There are also some very unique mechanics in the talent trees/ruby grids that really stretch your brain. It’s definitely more similar to vanilla WoW than current WoW — to succeed you have to spec with care, keep your stats balanced, avoid turning in quests when your rested XP has run out, and tread carefully through the world rather than recklessly aggroing mobs above your level. I rather enjoy the increased challenge though…I actually feel like I’ve earned each level, compared to my heirloom-enabled “run dungeons for 2 hours and ding 3 times” WoW alts.

    There is a cash shop, but you can work around it (most cash shop items are unbound and resellable in-game, some can be obtained through quests, and you can earn currency by signing up for surveys and junk mail lists).

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