The Tomahawk Investment

I just spent a good few minutes debating with myself whether it was worth it or not to buy a level 4 white weapon for my Warrior from a vendor.

I was doing OK with my trusty Primitive Hatchet, paired with a slightly ‘borrowed’ Bent Large Shield. To be fair, the imp that was lugging it around previously has no further need of it. Or anything else for that matter.

Wait, does that make it better or worse? … Anywho.

Firmly in the pro column was any weapon I might look to purchase would be close to, if not over a 2x DPS increase.

Holding me back was that I have only 7 silver to my name. Purchasing this now would very likely see training skills be a problem in the very near future, as it costs a little over 5 silver.

And as I said… I was doing OK.

…But adds are scary. Generally even a single additional enemy will see me scurrying. And that hardly seems befitting of a proud Orcish Warrior.

Earlier, I was fighting the Kul Tirans at Tiragarde Keep. Rather than a sigh of annoyance at having to go into one of these barracks structures, it was an indrawn breath of ‘Aw shiz’. (And terror.) Adds are fearsome and fatal, and these places are rife with spots in which to grab more than you intend. Fortunately, while I’m far enough behind the curve now not to see the ‘line’ phenomena play out — there are at least enough other people running through that I made it in and out without incident. Even grouped on the top level for the Lieutenant kill. :)

Alright, so I’m buying one. Now to decide which one?

From a pure DPS perspective, the 2H Axe is a clear winner head and shoulders above my other two options — a Gladius or a Tomahawk. In this pre-normalisation world of WoW Classic, Rend, Thunderclap — basically any other off-GCD damage skill — scales off the weapon damage value without accounting for the swing speed. So slow and powerful is the order of the day.

But dangit, I feel squishy enough already and that’s while holding a shield.

The Gladius then starts looking appealing with a 5-11 damage range (2.10 sec attack speed) vs. the Tomahawk’s 4-9 damage (1.70 speed).

The Gladius is the choice I should probably make — given I’m not willing to go 2H yet — but… ORC! ORC WANT AXE! >:|

(Which is to say, I get +5 attack skill with Axe, I’ve already leveled the Axe skill, and I dislike missing swings.)

But my reason for recounting this story?

I think it highlights one of the best bits of coming back into WoW Classic. Which is, finding meaningful decisions even at very low level. My Warrior is currently level 7. I’m wearing at least as many grey items as I am white. Not a green in sight, yet.

This might sound like a horror story to some. Honestly, if I had this story recounted to me absent the first hand experience, I would have thought it a horror story too.

But it isn’t. Not yet at least.1 It is remarkably refreshing if anything. Before coming back to try this for myself, I was very much in the camp of viewing the creature comforts of WoW Retail being a purely good thing. I thought for the most part, people were deluding themselves about the ‘fun’ to be had in WoW’s original form. The main thing actually — less than the comforts — is that I strongly believe (and still do) that there have been much more entertaining versions of these classes to play over WoW’s history.

Not necessarily the BFA iterations (in fact, almost certainly not2) — and not necessarily the same expansion for each class. But I think most anyone would be hard pressed to deny this as true.

So I guess my wish now would be to see some alternate universe path of WoW land in our laps — where the decision making remains present. And yes, the difficulty (at least first time through) remains present. But then layer over this the best versions of the classes and specs we’ve seen so far. And if I may borrow one ‘creature comfort’ for this iteration of WoW, it would be Dual Spec if not the full respec anywhere any time we have today.

Although I should also point out — even this I’m not sure would keep me long term. In terms of WoW, I’m not sure anything would now.

Durotar! (And Instant Quest Text)

Right — first things first. If the slow unraveling of quest giver text is driving you nuts, there is a way to switch it to instant text. When I first saw the slow quest text last night it struck me as very out of place. Then, through the night I remembered. This was a thing I turned off in the past. Generally instantly upon logging in to a new character.

Esc -> Interface Options -> Display, turn on ‘Instant Quest Text’ and click ‘Okay’.

Secondly, I switched it up from Human to Orc. Originally I had planned on running through the Elwynn Forest chain — as it is the starting area I remember most fondly. But I’ve done a lot of alliance in my most recent retail WoW play and one of my longest persisting mains in the past was an Orc Warrior. So I thought it would be nice to change it up a bit, while still keeping a bit of that nostalgic feel for a place and thing I’d done before.

Plus, I also then remembered just how much I hate Westfall.

The Den (Orc & Troll Starting Camp)

I started the night full vanilla. That is to say — no mods of any kind. I thought that is how I’d keep things too, unless I started to raid (which I viewed as extremely unlikely).

For a starting character this was fine. There aren’t too many skills anyway, and bag management is simply around not picking up more unstackables than you’re willing to go back to sell for. And I have very little tolerance for going back to sell outside of aligning it to a round of quest hand-ins.

Beyond that, I was struck by a few things off the bat:

  • The kill / item required counts for quests were very high compared to retail.
  • There are no map indicators of any kind for quest locations out of the box.1
  • Actually reading the quest text is, as a result, far more important.

And I wonder if it is that last bullet that led the Blizzard devs of the time to default to the slow unraveling of quest text.

After the initial shock, from being so accustomed to not only MMORPGs, but all games now providing quest markers by default it took me a while to actually remember the experiences of doing this in the past.

I remember looking for Mankrik’s wife based on the description alone. I remember looking for items in the open-world dungeons by having to explore with hints alone.

I’m not convinced this is a better experience than having quest markers, but I’m also not convinced it isn’t. As I noted — it makes reading the quest information vital, and provides an aspect of puzzle solving otherwise absent. When I was heavily into Morrowind, I loved this aspect. I hated it when Oblivion brought in the quest and location markers. It felt as if a whole part of the game had been ripped out.

But then in the context of MMOs, I’m still, like it or not, a subscriber to the way of thought that the ‘real’ game starts at the end, and everything else is in-the-way-filler. I find it difficult to enjoy leveling for leveling’s sake.

Generally.

And I understand that if WoW Classic is to have any future for me, that mindset will need to adjust. I will admit too, that I received a small spike of joy at working out where Sarkoth was hiding without any outside assistance. It wasn’t a quest I remembered at all until I spied the plateau referenced in the quest text, triggering a dim and foggy voice of memory to say, ‘go right to get up’ — so I did and there he was.

Less fun though?

The Burning Blade Coven’s Den

It appears that no matter how many times I do this place, and swear to myself that next time I’ll remember the path — I don’t. Also add on top that I somehow let my quest hand ins get out of sync, and I found myself here one or two times more than was necessary.

It was also here that I asked myself, ‘Can I run safely all the way out?’

Turns out — yes, yes I can. I didn’t get dazed which struck me as odd. I remember there being a defense and attack skill interaction here, but I wouldn’t have thought my little bitty warrior sufficiently over their attack skill to warrant not getting dazed at all.

Hmm. *Goes to look it up*

Oh OK. That might explain it. It has to be a melee attack, and mostly the enemies in here are fireball casting imps. I must have been at least a little lucky with the Felstalkers.

In any case, many slaughtered pigs, slapped peons and selected apples later, the quests in this area dried up. I’d made it to level 5 — almost 6 — and was being sent on my way to Sen’jin Village.

It was also here that I decided I would throw some mods in after all. Mostly those recommended by Belghast in a recent post. The knowledge that ElvUI existed for Classic — the base UI for my retail play — was enough to tip me over.

After installing and spending a little time configuring, I turned to run from The Den. It had been my home for the past little while, so I waved.

Sen’jin Village

I had planned on playing through this section today as well… But the energy just wasn’t there, as I’m still rather on the sick side of things. It wasn’t just energy in facing WoW Classic, I didn’t play anything else either.

I ran myself over though, and picked up the quests. Now — these ones I remember a lot more vividly.

This is a portion of a much longer Tweet thread, that is well worth a read. (It took me a while to find it again! I was desperately searching through recent blog posts, convinced it was Kaylriene who had written on the topic.)

I may not be able to remember the exact location of everything on the isles off the coast from Sen’jin Village but I sure as hell remember the pain of exploring them as a newb. Densely packed, team AI mobs. Even going through it with my brother didn’t make it much ‘better’ from a very functional, play efficiency point of view.

But it created shared stories. And emotions. Ones which in the moment might have been frustration, sure — but also ultimately ones which ended in triumph.

I don’t know if WoW Classic will recapture much of this for me now or not. WoW wasn’t my first MMO which I certainly think to be a large factor.

But we’ll see how it goes. While I still completely expect to be done with WoW Classic before the end of my first subscription period — that time isn’t here yet. I plan to play more as energy allows.

Exploring The Intro to the Magician and Gunner Classes of Lost Ark

The Berserker set a very high bar of fun with meaty, impactful blows mixed with a certain brutal grace. Pirouetting through the air or between enemies on the ground. Was it even going to be possible for another class to live up to this?

Early indications? Possibly not. You see, I’d toyed around with the other two Warrior subclasses — Warlord (think a tank/guardian type, with a gunlance) and Destroyer (giiiiiant hammer) before I’d settled on Berserker in the testing facility.

The Warlord felt a bit clunky. I could see the potential, but as you might imagine wielding a giant shield with an even larger gunlance, this guy wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Destroyer seemed to be in a similar boat, but I’d seen some video hinting at a few acrobatically inclined skills later down the line.

But I couldn’t test any of the tripod-system modifiers or skills above level 10. A fact that had slipped my mind in the 15-20 hours of play that followed.

We’ll return to this later.

Magician

Well, the zone is pretty enough.

Magician leads the way into Arcana, Summoner or Bard. Summoner and Bard were both classes I was keen to try, so it was next on my list to try.

I… was pretty quickly disappointed. There were highlights to be sure. Summoning a water elemental right in front of me which spat a torrent of water, pushing enemies back and creating some space was pretty nifty.

Teldrassil?? Nope. But wow. Even the music was similar.

But the spells for the most part felt a bit finicky and underpowered compared to the brute strength of the Berserker I was used to.

I played it through to the testing chamber and quite enjoyed the Magician’s introductory story. Funnily enough, The Arcana — i.e., the one I initially had no real interest in — seemed like it might be the most fun to me. It was a highly mobile assassin-mage feeling class. You threw cards like a magical Gambit and had a lot of options for casting on the go.

I didn’t lock in a choice though. Not yet. And as it turns out, that was probably for the best.1 Early impressions are deceiving, as I’ve since found out.

Gunner

Indiana Jones meets Steampunk is the best way to describe the introductory story for the Gunner. Annnd I loved it. The class itself (in base form) is incredibly nimble too, which I am discovering much to my surprise is a trait I value in this sort of ARPG/Brawler hybrid game.

Now, the ‘base form’ qualifier was important. The Gunner is a class of extremes you see. If you go Blaster you get a transforming heavy weapon that can fire anything from… well, fire through to homing missiles. But it’s heavy. And it shows. No hoppity-skippity dash moves for you. Get caught letting loose when a boss turns its ire to the ground you stand on — you might be about to have a bad day.

Devil Hunter and Hawkeye though can both move around very well. Hawkeye can even go invisible for short periods of time. Hawkeye is like your more typical bow Ranger, albeit with a pretty serious tech upgrade. Devil Hunter uses a range of guns from dual pistol, to shotgun to sniper rifle. And you can cycle between them and their unique skill bars.

Even with just the level 10 skills and no tripod-modifiers, I was having a blast with this set. And as with the Magician, the class I thought I would like the least — Blaster — was the one I enjoyed the most. The lack of mobility didn’t worry me despite finding I’m like it more generally.

What about the Fighter?

I did actually start the Fighter’s storyline as well! But I haven’t finished it yet. The fighter can become one of four classes: Battle Master, Infighter, Soul Master or Lancer. I kinda wanna play all of them.

I’ll talk more about the Fighter later, but starting out it feels very much like a Diablo 3 style Monk, and the story line sees you trying to work through demonic possession of a rival house. There is a lot of martial arts throughout as well, and the environments (as you can see above) look fantastic.

I’ll leave this one here though in order to wrap this up.

What I Learnt Today

You know the old saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover?’

Yeah.

The same sort of applies here. I really should have known this from my own experience with the Berserker. While I already enjoyed the ‘base’ level 10 experience of it, it really started to shine with access to the Tripod system and ranking skills up to work in new and interesting ways.

But as I mentioned way back near the beginning of the post — I hadn’t really consciously connected that to the experience I was having with the starter classes. And I might’ve missed this entirely for longer if I hadn’t rolled a Warlord to play alongside a friend who joined me today.

The Warlord gets a number of skill options at rank 1 of the tripod system which *hugely* change how it plays. I went from stationary as a rock to charging about the battlefield very quickly, adding a dash to the start of a number of base abilities. Although for the main attack this meant sacrificing the other option at Tier 1 of turning from a straight-line attack into a 360 degree sweep.

I ended up swapping back and forth between that one a bit actually, depending on where I was and what I was doing. Open world content seemed to go better with the wide AoE attack. In dungeons I really wanted that forward dash with only the cone attack in order to help better position out of boss attacks.

When I started to throw in a leap ability, and the power to call thunder from the Heaven’s like Thor himself… Just… Wow.

So what I learned is that I really need to go back and revisit the Magician classes with this in mind. I suspect that their abilities will similarly grow without too much effort!

Sneak Peak at Lost Ark

Mailvaltar recently reminded me that Lost Ark was a thing. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a Korean made MMOARPG. Wait- no, don’t run! This one actually looks pretty good. The scope of the game is mindblowing and it has a solid core set of gameplay mechanics backing it all up.

Turn on captions and auto-translate to English. (And then have a good giggle at Google’s best efforts at real time translation throughout.)

If you can imagine your Final Fantasy XIV, or WoW, flipped around to an isometric perspective. Then given something between an ARPG and a brawler’s combat system. Put in just a splash of Monster Hunter. And also a very anime-esque story over the top of the whole thing, you’ll be partway there.

If you’re anything like Mailvaltar and I, this will have you chomping at the bit to get in right now. For others almost every element of that will be a turn off. If you’re in the ‘right now’ camp and you don’t happen to live in Korea, I probably owe you a bit of an apology. You can’t. And the western release while confirmed now, doesn’t really have an attached timeline.

But Wait, Where’s the ‘Sneak Peek’ then?

OK, perhaps “can’t” was a bit strong. Because you certainly can. But it’s not exactly low effort. Or risk. To even embark on the journey of getting in you have to be aware you could lose access again at any time and be OK with that. This makes me somewhat wary of investing a lot of time at endgame right now, but to test it out and get an early look at how it’s shaping up?

Hell. Yes.

I’m happy to share how if anyone is interested!

My Warrior

My Warrior (later to be spec’d Berserker) starting out life as a slave.

Every base class (currently there are four, with two more on the way) has its own introductory story. The Warrior gets a pretty rough deal starting out as a fighting pit slave with no weapons or armor and everyone expecting him to be dead ere too long.

Thankfully, this is not a foe.

Fortunately, it isn’t too long before you stop needing to punch things and get to wield an excessively large sword. Already by this point I’m extremely impressed with the mix of weighty impact and fluidity the combat has. Your skills are hotkey based, and are targeted in the direction of your mouse cursor (for the most part).

Chaining from one skill to the next, juggling your opponents simply didn’t get old. And learning how best to weave in new skills as they were learned to best extend the stun effect out. Working out their wind-up times and when to dash through an enemy before attacking again… Just so very satisfying.

Although he is a foe.

And this was all before level 10 and selection of your actual class.

You see, every base class has three or four sub-classes which are what you will actually play as from the end of introductory sequence on.

What I really appreciated is that the game gives you the opportunity to test the three sub-classes out before you are asked to commit. You can spawn in normal or boss monsters and then have fairly free reign over testing a decent number of skills to get a feel for things.

Because once you commit, that is it. These aren’t specialisations that you jump between at will, this defines who your character is.

My Berserker

Journeyed a long way since my cell.

I kept wanting to test out other classes, but not being able to tear myself away. At 10 I thought. Then 15. Surely at 20. I’ve at last managed to convince myself to log out at around level 23. Level 50 is the cap but there is a ridiculous amount of stuff to do beyond that.

I was thankful in the extreme that the first mount is given fairly early on, I was level 14 when I got to pick my horse. Thankful because the world is huge. HUGE. And actually I should say the continent I’m on is huge. Eventually you will get a boat and access to entire new continents and island adventures.

These guys just wanted to see the whole world burn. In a feverish fit of plague.

I think (but don’t quote me yet) that you level to 50 entirely on the first continent and then unlock your boat.

Already I have seen quite an array of terrain though. Frosty wastelands (although that was in my Warrior’s backstory), verdant farmland, swampy marshes, dingy caves, ancient ruins, salt flats. And I’m barely into the second major region of the first continent.

None of this would matter though if the gameplay wasn’t fun, and as I think I’ve alluded to — it is. There is skill in execution of your combos for sure, but the build diversity also seems fairly strong.

Skills

My sword now has eyes. Is it alive? Unsure. I haven’t started hearing it’s voice in my head yet, at least.

When you level past 10 you are awarded skill points. Generally 5, but some levels seem to award more, and some quests can also award them.

You can rank your skills up and each rank does the basics of increasing damage, knockback, stun or other base effects sure. But at certain thresholds it unlocks a new tier of the ‘tripod’ system. So called because there are three tiers of three options for each skill, that can layer on top of one another to create fairly dramatic differences in how the skills execute.

Your selection within the tripod system can be changed on the fly, unlike your overall specialisation. So you do get the ability to adapt your build to the content you happen to be doing.

I haven’t been able to unlock the third tier of anything yet, but I have added extra duration to how long I can hold Whirlwind (vanilla tier 1 option) and then at Tier 2 added 40% additional range which also acts as a higher crit and damage zone. If I can keep enemies in that new outer reach of Whirlwind they take significantly more damage.

Dungeons

Pretty much every zone you run through winds up with a dungeon. You can go in on Normal or Hard mode, alone or as a party of up to four. You can solo Hard if you wish to, and in fact I would recommend it over Normal.

There was nothing… wrong with these dungeons. But they weren’t anything to write home about either. I had heard much fuss made about the cinematic dungeons of Lost Ark so was expecting a fair bit more.

Turns out those end of area dungeons are not the cinematic ones. The first of those comes around level 20-ish and they live up to the hype. Well. So far, with a sample of one they do.

I had almost given up on attempting to queue for dungeons too before this one. The end of area ones are being only infrequently run at the moment (should be a different story with a fresh Western release). But this one the queue pop was instant, and the run ever more enjoyable for having people along.

As is fairly standard fare for ARPGs, the dungeon difficulty scales for each person you include. There is no holy trinity to worry about (although Tanks (Warlords) and Healers (Bards) do exist if you’re that way inclined) so the queue times are never going to be waiting around for a specific type to decide to join.

Our run was in fact three Berserkers and a Warlord. xD

And this is pretty much where I left things off to come put this post together! When I jump back in I kind of want to try out a caster class (Summoner or Bard, most likely). But I may end up just jumping back on Berserker and rolling further into the game. :)

New Art! #2

So earlier in the month was the first reveal of work Alli1 had completed for me on commission. I promised more was on the way! Today, I deliver! … Well OK, OK, Alli delivers. Although actually Alli delivered earlier in the week. … Nope, not sure where I’m taking this, let’s move on. ;) Take a squiz!

The Warrior

First up is the Warrior profile pic! Alli couldn’t reuse too much of the base profile for this with the pose being so different to accommodate the sword and shield. I reaaaally love this one.

It’s sort of a throwback to when I almost exclusively tanked in MMOs. That is going back quite a ways indeed, as I switched to almost exclusively healing for quite a long time. Druid healing in particular. Although I did flirt with Priest for a single expansion of WoW.

Possibly there is something here too, for future art… Possibly…

The Ranger

Second is the Ranger. Fortunately, Alli was able to re-use much of the ‘base’ Naithin portrait, adding over the top quite a different look in costume and equipment.

This one is also sort of a throwback, as my oldest of old Naithin ‘characters’ in D&D and other roleplay was as a Ranger who primarily used a staff to fight with.

Right now my main MMO character is of course a Bard in Final Fantasy XIV. And Bards in FFXIV very much use a bow.

So… Possibly there is something here for future art also… :D

Also, the Site Banner!

Alli worked in the site logo to create a bit of a banner for me, too. Original concept had included the character art as well but the compositions didn’t quite look right at this sort of size.

Alli has been amazing to work with, so if you’re looking for any art of your own, I’d heartily recommend getting in touch with her!

The only real problem I have now is deciding which profile image to use. I’m quite enamored with each of the three options I now have, and I already have more that I’d be interested in having created! xD