I love it when artifacts make me laugh.
Archive for March, 2011
I was a little iffy about starting a Cleric at first, as I always get nervous whenever I tackle a healing-capable class for the first time, but I’d underestimated the power and flexibility of the Rift soul system. Now after a full month of playing the game, I realize it was the perfect class for me after all.
My World of Warcraft guildies used to tease me all the time, calling me the “Swiss Army knife of the guild” because my main was a Druid dual-specced feral and resto, and I lugged around about four different sets of armor so I could pretty much fill any DPS, healing or tanking role that was required of me. But I liked that! Sometimes I think it’s my OCD and ADHD clashing together in an epic battle to influence my way of playing. For one thing, I’m not really into alts. I’ve started a couple in Rift, but they’ve barely been touched. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to experiment with all the other classes and their souls one day, but for now I’d much rather focus on a single character and experience everything the game has to offer, including achievements, collections, and higher level content.
At the same time, I enjoy having options and love variety. I like filling multiple roles. Maybe that’s why I always find myself being drawn to the “hybrid” classes. Sometimes, being able to switch from one style of ranged to yet another style of ranged just isn’t enough for me.
What I was delighted to find in my first or second week of playing was just how adaptable the Cleric is. I started off with a solo melee build — Shaman/Druid/Justicar — with survival being my first priority. I wasn’t the best healer, nor did I have the best DPS — but I had just enough of both to crush my enemies and survive a barrage of anything they could throw at me.
Shortly afterward, it became clear to me that since I am always playing with my other half who is a Warrior, I wasn’t going to need that much survival anymore if he could just act as my personal shield. I began crafting a new soul combination for myself, one that focused more on pure damage. The result — Inquisitor/Cabalist. BAM! Suddenly, just like that, I was a caster. This is also the role I tend to use when I’m in dungeon with a healer already in the party, or if I’m in a big group or raid doing rifts.
When my husband started building a new main tank role for instances, I went and bought my third role and started looking into healing. As a tank/healer team, finding groups is never a problem, and the two of us are strong enough to take on elite quests and even major rifts by ourselves. For this, I went Purifier/Sentinel/Warden, which I use mostly for instances but also sometimes too when rifting, if I see a disconcertingly low number of light blue names in the raid frames.
Believe you me, if I only had the platinum to spare right now for a fourth role, I’d be trying my hand at tanking too!
Dammit, I love my Cleric.
We first met him in a Star Wars: The Old Republic game trailer — the mysterious masked Sith that brought down the Jedi Temple during the sacking of Coruscant. Darth Malgus, dark lord of the Sith, was the one who led this brutal assault and cut down countless Jedi on their own sacred ground. Now he is one of the main characters in Deceived, the second book in the SWTOR series by Paul S. Kemp, which tells the story of the attack as well as the calamitous events which came afterward.
On the surface, Deceived might just be another novel based on a video game, but after reading it, I admit the quality of the storytelling took me by surprise. Even as Star Wars novels go, I have to say it is better than most. Granted, it is still your standard Star Wars fare — you have your archtypal tale about a Jedi and her comrade pitted against a Sith Warrior and the dark side and such. But still, it was refreshing to read a game book for once and get the sense that the author is actually more interested in telling a good story rather than trying to write a blatant MMO marketing piece that attempts to showcase every single player class and their abilities (which, incidentally, was my main complaint about the first SWTOR book).
That is not to say Deceived is completely devoid of references to the upcoming MMO, just that I feel they are much less pronounced. In fact, in true BioWare fashion, what I think the book attempts to do is to set the stage for the type of light-side/dark-side interactions we can expect to see in TOR. Deceived does this by delving deeper into character motivations and ambitions, and treading the line of morality.
Instead of hobbling the story, the addition of this interplay actually made things better. Subsequently, I felt the characters of Deceived were more fleshed out than I would have expected from a video game tie-in or Star Wars novel, because of the personal reasons and internal conflicts that drive them. The angry and hate-filled Darth Malgus, for example, may surprise you with his tenderness towards the woman he loves. Similarly, the Jedi protagonist Aryn Leneer has her own reasons for turning her back on the Order and going rogue. The reader will also find the smuggler Zeerid struggle to make some difficult decisions, in the name of keeping his family safe.
As such, even though this book can be read as a standalone novel, if I have to relate it back to SWTOR, I want to say Deceived prepares us for the kind of moral dilemmas and questionable choices and we will no doubt face in-game. In the context of the novel, however, this also serves to provide in-depth characterizations for the heroes and villains, and helps readers connect to characters who are otherwise new to the Star Wars expanded universe and are thus relatively still unknown. It’s a win-win situation, really.
There were a few things that annoyed me about Deceived, and I feel I need to mention them. One of them pertains to Darth Malgus, who was the one I was most looking forward to reading about, but unfortunately he also turned out to be the weakest character for me. I felt that his evilness, anger, hate, and all that lust for destruction and melodrama was just a tad over-exaggerated, making him just another broody Sith Lord in the Star Wars line-up, overshadowing what depth he could have had. Aryn and Zeerid, on the other hand, were much more interesting to me.
The book also changes points-of-view very frequently, bouncing around, sometimes only after just a few paragraphs at a time. Word of warning, it can get taxing if you are unused to that. Thankfully, there are blessedly few subplots in this novel, which made the constant shifts bearable. I liked how the storyline in Deceived has a clear focus, and Kemp follows through with it very well.
I would recommend this book to fans of Star Wars, fans who are looking forward to the MMORPG, and even those who are just looking for a quick but fun video game-related read. If you enjoy scenes of lightsaber combat and space encounters, you will not be disappointed — in fact, you can even expect to read about the Sith attack on the Jedi Temple in all its glorious detail and appreciate it anew. However, there is also more to Deceived than just constant action; there is also a deeper poignancy and intensity behind the events that I honestly didn’t think I would find in a Star Wars game novel. Perhaps other readers will be pleasantly surprised as well.
They say behind every great kingdom, there is a great king. Or at least I think they do, anyway. For the charming, picturesque kingdom of Fairhaven, this man was Lord Wellic Kyranny. He loves family (which doesn’t really mean much, ’cause he hasn’t got one), is friendly (only when he needs something from you), and his fatal flaw is being uncouth. But seriously, can uncouth really be considered a fatal flaw when you’re a king? It’s not like being a merchant or anything, where being a total boorish and vulgar clod would actually hurt your livelihood. On the other hand, who’d dare gainsay a king?
Now, Lord Wellic isn’t a bad man. He’s just…pragmatic. And feeling a little tired in the above screenshot. Hey, give him a break, running the kingdom is hard work! But don’t just take my word for it, let Lord Wellic take you on a tour of a typical day in his life as king of Fairhaven.
Early in the morning, the day begins with a hearty meal of bear stew (breakfast of champions!) This is also the perfect time for Lord Wellic to meet up with all his royal staff and advisors to discuss the going ons of the kingdom.
“A fine job we are all doing, lads!” he says to all. “Now what kind of death and suffering can we inflict upon the good people of Fairhaven today?”
Like all kings, Lord Wellic has a weakness for the thrill of the hunt. “If it bleeds, we can kill it!”
The royal inventory happens to be running low on whale, so Wellic is tasked to take to the high seas in order to fill the larders up again with some Humpback or Bowhead (was so about to write Sperm, until I realized how that would sound).
The crew, however, finds no whale that day. Instead, the lookout in the crow’s nest cries out, “There, over by the rocks! A mermaid, m’lord!” Indeed, an enchanting, beautiful young creature with a head and torso of a human female and a tail of a fish, sits sunning herself by the water. The men on deck are moved to tears by her sweet song.
“Pshaw!” Wellic snorts. “Everyone knows mermaids don’t exist! Harpoon the thing, butcher it for lunch, and let’s just go home already, I’m bored.”
Okay, enough mucking about, time to do some real work around here. One of the most important jobs of being a monarch is to listen to the petitions of the common people. “Perfect! I practiced extra hard on my ‘you-must-be-kidding-me’ and ‘you-are-soooo-far-beneath-my-notice’ expressions last night! Let’s go meet the peasants.”
Villager #1: I would like to have a female sheep from the royal flock. All my ewes died. May I please have one?
Lord Wellic: NO EWE FOR YOU! Do you think simoles grow on trees?! If I just simply pandered to every single bloody peasant who comes in here asking for livestock, how would I be able to afford that solid gold statue of myself I’ve been planning to install on my front lawn?
Villager #2: I seek guidance. A neighbor always leaves out food and attracts stray dogs. They’re mean! They taunt our chicken and eat our shoes! What should we do?
Lord Wellic: BRIBE ME! Not only will I sentence your neighbor to death and get rid of your stray dog problem, you can go to sleep happy tonight knowing you did a fine service to your kingdom, by generously donating to the royal coffers. Oh, don’t look at me like that. Did you think “Lord Wellic Kyranny” rhymes with “tyranny” was just a coincidence? (It was, actually!)
Villager #3: Mighty One, I have a problem. I am possessed by demons. That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that I’m beginning to enjoy it. What should I do?
Lord Wellic: GET THEE TO A TAVERN! There’s only one thing to do when you feel that good — get stinking drunk and fornicate the night away. Go on, enjoy! You’ll thank me in the morning. See, I’m an awesome king!
Time for the daily afternoon tour of Fairhaven. First stop, the Judgment Zone where the stocks are located and where the kingdom’s pet beast of justice resides. Oh dear, there’s something terribly wrong here. Lord Wellic does not seem to be liking the sight of those empty stocks…
“AH HA! Much better!” Lord Wellic laughs. “Come on, gather ’round my countrymen, don’t be shy! Hurl your eggs and rotten tomatoes at the prisoners, it’s so much fun! Especially when they are completely innocent!”
Man, all work and no play makes Lord Wellic a dull boy. One of his favorite things to do besides shirking his royal responsibilities is to sneak into the back of the storeroom and make out with that saucy foreign lass Fionnuala, Merchant Princess of Tredony.
Wellic says, “Hmm, we’ll just file this under ‘diplomatic negotiations’, shall we?”
Ah, what a nice way to end the day. The king falls into bed, glad for a hard day’s work, ready to do it all again and more tomorrow. “I am a wonderful monarch,” he thinks to himself as he stifles a yawn. “Fairhaven could not ask for a better king. I was born to do this job — I love my people, and my people sure love me!”
Huh. If that’s so, why is our Lord Wellic suddenly dreaming of assassination? Find out next time!
Another week, another Friday where I get use this blogspace to talk about my thoughts on the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic update. Today’s reveal — the Jedi Knight Character Progression video.
Okay, so while I don’t remember when I watched the original Star Wars movies for the first time, I do know it had to be somewhere in the late 80s when I was just a little tyke and at the time my parents were transferred overseas. So what would you do if you happened to be a little kid stuck in the outskirts of some foreign city, where at the time there was not much to do and no such thing as Saturday morning cartoons (and even if there were, you wouldn’t have been able to understand them)? You watched your beloved 70s and 80s movie trilogies on VHS, over and over and over again! It was all we had. And that’s how I fell in love with Star Wars.
So I was watching the Jedi Progression video and thinking to myself, “Hey, this looks pretty cool,” but at about 0:36 where the Yoda-ish theme song kicks in and the droid pipes up with its little trill, I suddenly I found myself feeling a little choked up. This is going to sound embarrassing, but I don’t know how else to put it. It was like being pulled back 20 years ago and watching Luke Skywalker take his first step from being a naive farmboy to becoming a seasoned Jedi Knight all over again.
And then it was over. Subsequent armor sets started reminding me of the prequels era and pulled me out of my heavy cloud of nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong — the armor sets themselves were stylish, fashionable and overall looked very, very cool — but thinking about Episodes I, II, and III always tends to have that “smelling salts” effect on me. For a few moments there though, the powerful music and the image of that Jedi reaching that momentous milestone in his evolution — igniting and marveling over his first ever lightsaber — almost had me thinking about ditching my Bounty Hunter plans and going with the Jedi Knight for my main. Luke Skywalker’s “hero’s journey” was one of the things that made me love Star Wars so much. They’ve even got that pose from the poster down.
The fact that the Jedi Knight was the class I played in the Taral V demo probably also had a hand in making me feel this way. The wide range of abilities I had to play with impressed me, and that was only just a small subset of what was available. I know I said before that I had very little interest in the force users, but it’s one thing to say that before I saw the Jedi Knight in action, another to have actually experienced the joys of breaking a vine cat’s face in with my lightsaber.
What it all boils down to, though, is the epiphany I had after watching the video — I think I understand better now why someone would want to play the Jedi Knight. You see, I’d always thought of it as a “typical” decision, but now after the video and reflecting upon my own fond memories, I kinda feel bad about that. This update has made me think that perhaps it would be more accurate of me to replace “typical” with “meaningful” instead.
Okay, I’m no altoholic and I love my Cleric, but I’m also not precluding the possibility that I might want to make myself another little Ranger or Warrior in Rift one day. Around the time of launch, however, I started getting a bit worried about the future of rifts and rift events, especially given how their frequency are based on both player population and their level of participation. Remember how I pondered about what would happen when the majority of the server moves beyond the lower-level content? Will my future alt be fending off rifts mostly on my own while tumbleweeds roll by and crickets chirp on? Or worse, as overall populations become sparser at the lower levels, will there even be enough to trigger events like zone-wide invasions to do at all?
Well, after I actually started playing, I realized Trion had much of this figured out already. When I wander the starting areas now, I still see a ton of people — and not just the lowbies either. There are players from all level ranges, all doing rifts together. I find that whenever I have the time, especially when I’m playing by myself, I’ll go back to the lower-level areas to do the them too. The game actually gives you plenty of reasons to go back, perhaps as a way of ensuring populations in all the zones will remain relatively healthy.
I’ll tell you this though, it’s not for the rewards or experience. Things are adjusted in a way that a higher-level character will not always contribute more than a lower-level character, so more often that not, players who are well above the level of the rift will only get crap planarite. Which is also why I try not to be a jerk whenever I find myself at a rift with lots of lower-level characters around — I’d hold back on the DPS, single-target instead of AoE, etc. I want the others to reap most of the benefits, while personally, I’m after other things:
1. Achievements and Artifacts
Can’t resist…must do…achievements! There are many related to closing rifts of certain planar types, some of which can only be found in certain zones. There are also specific achievements requiring you to close rifts only unique to a zone, and same with bosses. Sometimes I’d hang about hoping to get lucky enough to be around when a zone-wide event triggers so I can participate in the battle leading to their defeat.
And since I’m in a completionist mood, some artifacts also only drop from certain rifts or certain plane types. I’m too poor to afford even buying one or two artifacts from the auction house to complete my collections, so I try my luck with the rifts while I’m at it.
There are a number of rift factions in the game associated with certain rift types. Players can gain notoriety, or reputation, by sealing rifts, defeating footholds and invasions, and killing planar mobs. Each faction has a quartermaster located in the major city, dangling their rep goods smugly in your face. Curse you, Atlas Nicolo of the Ember Scholars, you dirty tease! I want your flippin’ Flame Squirrel!
My Cleric is a Runecrafter, quite possibly one of the most annoying and abusive professions I’ve ever had the misfortune of leveling. Raw materials for it can be obtained from items that are “runebreakable”, which includes more than just uncommon or rarer equipment. Planar essences and crafting augments, both of which can sometimes be obtained from rift rewards, can also be broken down. Being able to pick these up every now and then while doing rifts is a nice side benefit. The best thing about runebreaking is, the lower-level mats can be combined to form higher-level mats, so nothing goes to waste.