Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Elder Scrolls Online: First Impressions

Posted by Stropp on April 15, 2014

I asked the question about PC performance regarding The Elder Scrolls Online in my last post because my current gaming rig is getting a bit old and is starting to behave a bit crankily towards some of the newer games on the block, sitting on the front porch and telling them to get off the lawn.

After a positive answer to my question, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the game. I didn’t go for the super happy awesome edition, despite the Imperials as a playable race, it was a fair bit more expensive, and I didn’t feel the need. It cost nearly (over?) 90 Oz dollars as it was.

It was a pretty big download, around 22 GB, and I started it around 12:30am on Saturday morning the 5th April. I woke up about 3:30am to use the loo and checked and only 4% had downloaded. The next morning I was up at 6:30am and the total was now 8%. By the time I left for Oz Comic-con Adelaide at 7:30, it was sitting at 10%. It was looking like, at 10% in 7 hours, it was going to take 70 hours to download and would be complete sometime in the early AM on Tuesday.

However, when I got home that night around 8pm, the download had completed. I can only assume it sped up when US primetime had finished.

So I played a couple of hours.

I didn’t play at all Sunday night. After two full days of Comic con and standing in queues for most of it (worth it, got photos with Benedict Cumberbatch, Amanda Tapping, and Jewel State, and autographs from AT & JS, along with Corin Nemec, Nana Visitor, Connor Trinneer,  and a few others) I was completely wrecked and just wanted to lay on the couch.

Over the next week I played sporadically in the evenings, but this last weekend gave the game some quality time. These are my thoughts.

Graphics

Can’t say too much about the graphics. The game installed at the lowest settings, but at the native monitor resolution of 1920×1200. They do look a bit drab. But I haven’t yet tried to increase the levels, so I don’t think it’s fair to grade TESO on graphical quality yet. On the upside, there’s no jerkiness or frame rate problems  at all. So that’s nice.

Bugs

I have been reading that players have been finding bugs in the game. That, frankly, doesn’t surprise me, especially so close to release, but I haven’t found very many at all at this stage.

I have crashed to desktop twice, after long gameplay sessions, and there was one instance where I couldn’t enter a building to do a quest, but after coming back to it a bit later I was able to get in. I haven’t noticed the quest showstoppers that some folks have, or the huge lag spikes. There’s been some lag, but nothing serious as far as I’ve seen. That might be my timezone though.

Servers

I’m on the North American Mega Server. This is something I didn’t notice straight away. No server choice, everything is on a single shard.

Spammers

Every game has them. TESO has them in spades. They infest zone chat like cockroaches, and I’ve even been in-game mailed (reported.) I’ve been told that turning off zone chat just makes them mail you, but I’m not sure how they’d know. I have even been invited to a guild by one of these douchebags.

I have read that the devs are cracking down on this. I really hope so, and I really hope they can be effective here. I have no idea how these guys could afford the cost of sub and account if they are getting banned. Are there cheap accounts available?

Quests

There seem to be less quests in TESO, but they aren’t as simple as other games. While there are a few kill x of something quests in there, they’re not all that common; and they feel more thought out. I’ve only started to get quests where there are choices to make that affect the outcome, but I’m not sure what the long term ramifications of those choices are, if any.

Character Advancement

Character advancement is done by both leveling and choosing skills.

With every level you get you get a skill point. You also get a skill point for every 3 Sky Shards you find, and for completing some quest lines. I don’t remember exactly how many you can end up getting, but apparently it’s enough to really flesh out your character.

You level your skill lines too. For example, Stropp the Redguard Dragonknight gets 3 class skills, a racial skill, a world skill line, skills for each of the weapon types 2H, 1H & Shield, Bow, and skills for crafting etc. Each of the skills is free but you spend skill points  to unlock abilities when they become available, or to morph existing abilities when they max out.

All in all I like this way of doing things, but I would like some other traditional Elder Scrolls skills, sneak for example. You can sneak in game, which provides a bonus to attack for bows (I think) but I haven’t found a skill for it which increases with use.

Leveling is also pretty slow. It’s taken quite a few hours for Stropp the DK to get to level 8.

Gameplay

Including combat here which is reasonably responsive. Fights don’t last too long, if you’re lucky, and are certainly far shorter than The Secret World, but they do tend to be tough level for level.

Adds are scary. I’ve died a lot, when I’ve aggroed more than one mob, or when another joins the fray. Some are also tougher than their level. It’s most frustrating when a quest event spawns three at the same time. Even at the same level it’s almost impossible, I’ve gone away and come back a few hours later several times.

Maybe it’s my build.

Crafting

I haven’t done too much of this. It’s pretty basic stuff. Gather resources, refine them, use them to create things. One at a time (there’s no craft all button yet.)

There are a few other options such as research, but I haven’t figured them out yet.

The biggest problem with crafting is bag and bank space. It’s quite limited, and costs a bunch of gold to expand. I watched a conversation last night, in between gold spam messages, where the players were talking about how many bank alts they had.

In most MMOs I give crafting a try and then give it up because it is either boring or doesn’t offer any value, the crafted items are inferior to loot drops: WoW looking at you! I’m hearing that, at least early on, TESO crafting has value, but the bag space issues will likely keep me from it, at least on a large scale.

Guilds

I haven’t joined a guild yet. There are some advertising, but I haven’t made the move. I’m thinking it might not be a bad idea as the game does seem to slant towards a more cooperative play-style.

You can apparently join up to 5 guilds. Interesting concept. Not sure how this will work in practice. From my experience in WoW, guilds can be jealous things, demanding monogamy. Will have to see here.

The Forums

Da Da Daaahhhh!

Most of the official forums I visit are pretty rank. Full of wretchedness and villainy. So far what I’ve read in the TESO forums aren’t too bad. There’s a couple of the don’t like this game and why posts, but that’s par for the course. There’s no nastiness there yet.

There are some sub-forums I recommend that have player written tips and guides. I have found these helpful.

Conclusion

Hopefully that wasn’t TL;DR. I probably should have included some screenshots, but I’m at work right now with a quiet moment. A meeting I had cleared time for got pushed back to this evening, so likely no play tonight.

These days I’m a little cautious about getting too enthusiastic early on. I’m quite aware of raving about a game only to drop it two months later. Will TESO have the same fate?

That’s hard to answer. I’m enjoying the game as it is, and want to keep playing. I was looking forward to playing tonight, which is a good sign, but meeting…

At this stage, I think I’ll ride out the ‘free’ month and take it month by month. As you know, these days it’s not so much if I like a game, but if I have enough time to keep playing, especially if something other comes along.

But in anycase, my first impressions of TESO are fairly positive. I reckon it’s a winner.

Wizardry Online First Impressions

Posted by Stropp on January 31, 2013

Another game, another first impressions post. When I checked my email this morning, lo and behold, there was a message from SOE announcing the release of Wizardry Online.

I had been keeping half an eye on WO since it does promise some interesting features including the dreaded permadeath, high difficulty, and always on everywhere PvP. I wasn’t sure I’d have the time, but today I did, so I downloaded the game and gave it a shot.

First thing, it’s not a huge download at about 2GB, so it didn’t take that much time to patch up. It’s kind of amazing since every game lately seems to be in the tens of gigabytes taking hours to download and patch. The last couple of games, TSW and SWTOR, both required me to start the download/patch early in the evening and leave running overnight. This does have a single major consequence though. Wizardry doesn’t have the same graphical level of those games.

Second thing. Launch day blues means big queues. Except you don’t know you are in a queue. I had multiple waits when logging in, the only indicator a static “Connecting” message on the screen. No queue countdown. No regular update. I even had one instance of a completely blank/black screen for around ten minutes. If I didn’t have a dual monitor setup to allow reading the WO forums, I would have thought the game had crashed. According to the forums, several players thought they had.

Third thing. Character creation was kind of minimal. Only five faces, hair colors, and hair styles for character design. And I was not able to make a bald male warrior…

There were some odd things too.

When creating a character you roll for a number of bonus points to assign to your characters main attributes. This roll can return anything from 1 to 80 I think, but the algorithm is weighted so the number is usually between 6 and 9. It took me around 15 rolls to get 12. There is one chap on the forums who had been rolling for hours to get the highest possible roll. He’s noting the results so expect some data on that soon.

I don’t think I like the soul system they’ve developed. Here’s how it works (as far as I can tell.) You have one soul per account. You can have up to five characters, 3 initially free and 2 paid. Your soul has a surname. Everything you do on any of your characters reflects on your soul, so if you become a criminal all your characters are flagged as criminal.

This also reflects on your story quests. So far it looks like every character is at the same point in the story quest regardless when the character was created. I created a fighter first and did the initial quests, and then in a bout of altitis created a priest. The first quests were not available to my priest denying her the experience gain that my fighter had. This made the first dungeon somewhat difficult to start. So if you want to start fresh with a new character class you’ll have to simply do missions to level up and lose the big cash and experience gains of the story quests.

Having said that, Wizardry is a free game. If you want to try the dark side of criminality without it affecting your main characters, simply create a new free account. I haven’t seen anywhere that this is against the rules, so go wild with accounts.

The upside of this system is that you can pass gear and gold to your other characters through your bank, and I think (but I’m not sure) anything in the bank is protected in case of permadeath.

That’s the other thing. The permadeath system isn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds. When you die in a fight, there are several ways to be revived (which I won’t go into here) each of which have a certain chance of success, and you get two tries in the bargain. So far I’ve died a few times and each time had a 100% chance of revival. That’s probably a noob feature. Still, it takes away the fear of death due to circumstances out of your control such as the dreaded lag monster.

I haven’t encountered PvP yet as I’m not high level enough to be forced into it. This is another feature I’m not sure of, being something of a carebear I prefer my PvP consensual. I figure if I get ganked and corpse camped enough it will reduce my enjoyment of the game and I’ll simply stop playing. But the criminal flagging feature, and the fact it applies to all the PKers characters may make the system a little less random. Perhaps that is a benefit of the soul system. We’ll have to wait and see I guess.

The game promises a hardcore level of difficulty, and yep it is hard. Nearly every modern MMORPG tries to insulate its new and low level players from death. You’d have to be playing pretty badly to die to a mob under level 20 in WoW, even a mob 2 levels above player level. In WO, I died a few times early on.

Tips

  • Health and mana is not regenerated. Use the fountains in dungeons to restore health and mana. Some mobs drop health potions, but not a lot. Conserve as much as possible.
  • Fighter and Priest are the easiest classes. Priests can heal themselves but are weaker in melee. Fighter cannot heal but kills faster. These are probably the best classes for a new player.
  • Keep any good items even if they are not for your current class since you can bank them and use them on another class.
  • Be careful with chests. ALWAYS be at full health when opening them as they are generally trapped and do a fair bit of AOE damage. If there are other players in the room you can royally piss them off.
  • When creating a character, keep re-rolling until you get at least 12 bonus points, more if you have the patience. It’s not essential but those extra points can make the early levels a lot easier.
  • There are certain types of coins, Kraken Coins I think they are, but I’m not sure what they are for. It will be a temptation to sell them, but from what I’ve heard this may be a mistake.
  • Make sure you interact with the statues/shrines as you pass them. If you die you need to use these to rez, but you need to touch them first.

So that’s it for my first impression of Wizardry Online. For the minimal investment in download time it’s worth having a look at. Have you been playing?

Let me know what you think.

Champions Online Impressions

Posted by Stropp on October 1, 2009

I have to admit. I’ve been putting off writing this post for a couple of weeks.

Firstly, because I really haven’t spent terribly much time playing Champions Online over the last two weeks. I got into it for about ten days, made a few heroes, and then bought Fallen Earth. Now every time I sit down to play something, Fallen Earth is what I end up selecting. So my impressions of Champions is effectively limited to four characters, of which the highest level is thirteen.

And second, because Champions Online hasn’t grabbed me.

I’m not really sure why. And I’ve been pondering that for the last couple of weeks.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  • The game seems thoroughly inconsistent. I can fight one boss with both hands tied behind my back, and then come up against another and be creamed before I can blink.
  • The quests need a ton of work. Some of them can be extremely frustrating. For instance there was a quest in the desert area that had me using devices to catch a zombie. Only it didn’t work. Reading the quest text wasn’t clear either. I had to ask my guildmates what to do. Turns out I had to burn him down until he said a phrase, then I had to use the device.
  • Speaking of quests. There’s no other way to advance. Simply grinding bad guys isn’t going to earn enough XP to level up before your champion is sitting on the porch of the Old Heroes Home. And you really have to do both areas, the Desert and the Canadian Wilderness, in order to reach a high enough level to start in Millenium City. That in itself will make alts an exercise in repetition.
  • Because Quests are the only way to go, Champions really comes across at this stage as a theme park. While there’s nothing wrong with theme park games, I think at this stage in my MMORPG career I’ve had enough of them and would like a more free-form gaming experience. Fallen Earth seems to be very good at scratching this itch at the moment.
  • I don’t really feel like a hero. Let’s face it, in most other games you know you’re a Paladin in training, or you’re on a heroes journey. But in Champions, you’re a superhero… with powers. And if you face off against more than two or three baddies you’ve had it. In City of Heroes, you can bound into a entire gaggle of thugs accosting the local citizens, and can spank them thoroughly.
  • The User Interface isn’t that easy to use. It took me a while to find some features, and even then I had to search the web. It’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen, but it could use quite some improvement.

Now it can’t be all bad, can it? There are some good points.

  • Up, Up, and Away. Flying is very cool. There’s nothing like scoping out the situation from altitude and coming swooping in to deal out some sweet, sweet justice. And what’s better is that there is no clock on it like CoH. At first I was a bit hesitant to fly too high as I was wondering if I was going to run out of flying juice. Once I became used to it, the sky’s the limit, baby! In fact, all of the travel skills are pretty cool, there’s even a Spiderman web swinging skill.
  • The costume designer. It’s a little more complex, and perhaps a little more difficult to use than the CoH version, but there’s a lot you can do with it. People have come up with some amazing designs. What’s better is that your costume is not fixed. It costs a bit, but you can go back in and alter aspects of your appearance. This is necessary because certain achievements unlock new costume parts.
  • The graphics are very nice. When I turned off the outlining, that feature really did make the characters ugly (and apparently hit performance too) the character graphics improved out of sight. The graphics are crisp and clean, and the game really does look excellent. The artists did a brilliant job considering how hard it must have been to get all those costume pieces to fit together cleanly.
  • Aside from costume design, Champions Online offers a wonderfully expansive range of powersets. In fact there are more powersets than there are character slots, so I won’t be able to try every powerset without some character deletion. And the powersets, for the most part,  have a unique feel to them. My fire guy felt different to my powerarmor guy.
  • Did I mention flying?

Now to put all this into context. One of the things that I have repeatedly heard is that the early game and levels are not as good as the later levels. If that’s the case, I suspect I am just a level or two away from a much more enjoyable game. Since I have the six month preorder, I’ll be able to give Champions a little breather before I head back in (probably December when I finally finish the work contract I’m on and take a much needed break.)

Hopefully at that time, Cryptic will have gotten over the launch blues and will have fixed, balanced, and added content to the game.

If that doesn’t grab me, well, at least my preorder bought a ticket to the Star Trek Online beta.

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