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I often get asked what i want from an MMO, or what i look for in one. This isn't a difficult question for me because i know exactly what i want. What tends to be the difficult part is the reactions and subsequent arguments discussions my response seems to elicit. I'm usually met with "that's not what you want" or "that's dumb in today's market" and even better "we had that already and we're evolved from that". As i rained blows upon these questioners, i figured there had to be a better way of answering while remaining calm. So here we go!

The genre hasn't evolved or devolved as some would say. It's not as black and white as some may make it. I like to use the term streamlined. It has become simpler, with fewer moving parts and much less time requirements. While certain aspects have definitely improved, such as combat and mechanics, i feel many other systems have been left in the dust. These small, yet interdependent and interlocking systems are what made the genre what it once was.

World Design

I'm sure everyone has already heard the term virtual world before, but this is what game worlds used to be like. A living and breathing world filled with danger around every turn, yet encouraging exploration. This is a tough balancing act but i feel players are up for the challenge. Zones used to be multi-leveled with a wide range of levels within them. I'd like to see that make a comeback at some point. I understand why the change happened, due to questing and story elements forcing players down a linear path. I just don't agree with the change.

The Eldieme Necropolis
I'd like to see zone design rethought from not just overall size but also depth. Every zone having two to three levels of complexity would be a nice start. An above ground section followed by sub levels of dungeons and crevasses to delve into and explore would be amazing. No reason these need to be instanced. If they are then i'd like to see them remain public so anyone can enter. These wouldn't just be the normal run of the mill dungeons either. To foster cooperation and grouping in the open world, i'd like to see certain requirements met to even be able to explore all areas.

For example, i'd like to see lots and lots of traps requiring thieves or rogues to disarm. Bringing mechanics like this to the world opens up player interactions that would otherwise never occur while players play with a single player mentality. I remember lots of sub-zones in FFXI having many pressure plate doors requiring groups of players to work together just to get through. Hell, some zones were inaccessible without players having certain key items or achievements. I know this sounds like gating, but it was done in a way that encouraged working together. I really miss these aspects. I don't see why complexity cannot be brought back to the open world.

Quicksand Caves
Exploring this world is content in and of itself. This is why i'd prefer not to have any forms of quick travel other than those provided by players themselves. Need to get somewhere fast? Better find a mage or druid to teleport you. Worry not, with this system in place, you can be assured that there will always be a dozen of them broadcasting their services in a town near you. All you have to do is ask and possibly provide a tip! Yeah right, they'll charge you and you'll pay because it'll save you 30 minutes of travel.

My basic premise for world design is that i shouldn't be able to run through a zone without fear of death. Players should also need the help of other players on their adventures. Zone maps should be complex with different paths and dangers around every turn and getting lost should be a possibility. Granted i could get lost in a square room but my point stands. I can already see heads shaking but i'm fine with that. Not every MMO should be for everyone. Luckily, this one is designed for me! It'll be small and niche but filled with my types of players. Those seeking adventure and danger will have a blast.


Combat Mechanics

I love this one because it apparently shows i'm old with slow reflexes. Nothing could be further from the truth but this is the normal reaction i get when i lean towards the tab-target side of the discussion. It may sound ironic but i'm so completely sick and tired of action combat at this point. Give me old fashioned World of Warcraft targeting mechanics all day every day. While i wouldn't call action combat shallow as far as the actual mob interactions go, i do feel they are shallow when encounters become group based. As a player that prefers group play over solo play, i feel normal tab-targeting just works better in this regard.

This debate also carries over into my next preference of having an expanded trinity system in place. Being a huge proponent of the six man group size as i am opens up slots for more roles. I'd like to see full support and crowd control classes back in play. Of course to achieve this requires content that actually needs all these extra roles. The emphasis has moved much too far to the side of damage and healing instead of control and minimizing that damage. I say this fully aware that i'm mostly a dps class player but that mostly due to limited options.


I don't enjoy healing or tanking so i'm left with damage. I'd love to play a support class like bard or even a control class full time. When shit hits the fan, everyone will be thankful i'm there. Classes like this just make everything smoother on healers and tanks. Damage dealers are of course not left out here either since support classes can also buff their damage as well as debuff mobs to allow them to do even more damage. I really could see myself full timing a bard the more i think about it. I fondly remember being inundated with tells back in the day from groups begging me to join them on my bard. It was a fun time.

Class Variety

Now that we have an expanded trinity with our faithful tab-targeting in place, we need proper classes to make them shine. I do mean a lot of them. What is it with newer MMO's releasing with only a handful of classes? It aggravates the hell out of me when i can't find a class i like because there just aren't enough to choose from. Warrior, Priest, Mage, and Scout is not variety! It's a lazy system to create one class for each armor type and calling it a day. This is unacceptable.


Look no further than the original EQ for a basis to how class variety should look. I don't believe anyone has done classes better in this regard. Perhaps FFXI is a close second but those two games are so similar that either could take the lead. They had not only a ridiculous amount of classes when compared to today's MMO's, but they all have interesting and distinct play styles.


Now while everyone had a role with all those classes, i certainly wasn't a fan of what roles those always were. I would improve on this system by implementing options as far as roles go. Just because i might be playing a warrior shouldn't mean i'm relegated to tank duties only. I absolutely hate when i'm role locked depending on my class selection. I've always enjoyed having the option to dps as a plate wearer and i see no reason why this should be limited. I know this would complicate class balance but class balance be damned. I'll take options over balance any day.



Housing

I'll never understand how a beloved feature such as housing either gets continuously overlooked, poorly implemented, or completely disregarded. I think it's just laziness on the part of developers. Blizzard can't even seem to get this right and they have the manpower and funding to blow the roof off any previous iterations in any number of other MMO's. Apparently this is more difficult than i had previously assumed. Regardless, this feature is something i want and i want it done right.


What do i mean by right? Well EQ2 and Wildstar are a good jumping off points for personal housing. While i appreciate what Star Wars Galaxies brought to the table in this regard (hello player made cities), i'm willing to cut devs some slack with instanced forms of housing. I really don't mind if the tradeoffs are we're allowed to be more creative with our homes. They do need to have an option to allow the public to visit when, say, a toggle is turned on. Players can show off their creations similar to the way EQ2 does it.

In order to accomplish this, a lot of thought and care has to be put into giving players the proper tools to be creative. This means getting the crafters involved as well. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different and interesting furnishings could be created by the players as well as dropped from mobs in the world. I think there could be an economy within the economy for these types of items. It certainly would open up player interactions and trading, which is another plus for such a system. I'll build it and they'll certainly come.


Of course none of this means anything if players don't have the tools to put what they want where they want. The last thing i want to see is some pre-built plug and play layout for housing where only certain buildings can go in certain plots. For me, that takes all the fun out of being creative and thinking outside the little box they give us. Allow me to build whatever eyesore i feel like building. Trust that creative players will outshine the ones erecting penis statues and other nonsense. I certainly have faith they will.

Appearance/Wardrobe


I can't believe there are players out there against this feature but they do exist. Crazies are what i call them because they just have to be a bit cuckoo not to appreciate what a game changer for the better this system can be. Once again it has to be done correctly and with a bit of thought. One way not to do it is the way GW2 decided to handle it at launch with their town gear system. I don't know about you but if i can't wear my outfit of choice out of town or in combat, then it may as well not exist. Thankfully Anet redeemed themselves and built a system even WoW is now copying.


Having a huge collection tab with every item in the game that unlocks skins as players acquire them is just genius. This basically fixes the need to horde items in a bank or on alts and nicely cleans up everyone's inventory. I can't be the only one with maxed out banks on my main and my alts with nothing but appearance gear filled to the brim. This stuff had to go somewhere and i'm glad it has a place now that no longer fills up my inventory.


Now, no wardrobe feature is complete without a proper dye system. This seems to be yet another feature that everyone gets wrong more times than not. There are usually either not enough dyes or items can't be dyed properly. An even worse system is when only one dye can be used on a single item instead of multiple dyes. It's no surprise when such a limited system is implemented that everyone typically looks the same.


Leave it to GW2 yet again to get this system headed in the right direction. It's not perfect but it's miles better than any other system i've seen from any other MMO. Not only do i have a huge selection of dyes to chose from but every piece of armor has multiple options to actually dye. Being a collection type system also means i don't have to run and buy a dye every time i either get a new piece of gear or just want to change up colors. I'd like to improve on this by making all dyes crafted by players as well as rare drops off mobs in the open world. This again creates more items for players to interact with and create markets for.

Interdependence

I'll finish up my dream MMO with the lone aspect i believe to be most important to not only gameplay and role playing, but also longevity. I got into this genre for the social aspects of overcoming more obstacles by having to rely on others. It's why i stuck with the genre for this long and why i still love it despite the road many devs have taken to lessen that interdependence. It should be no surprise that my fondest memories of this genre are ones that involved many other people over long periods of time.

While i and many others simply don't have the time we used to in our younger days, i don't believe my needs and wants have changed. I believe the players that expect the genre to change for them and their limited time is the reason we have so much throw away content and subpar games these days. They still expect to see everything despite time constraints. That's simply not how this genre was originally built. I fully understand i won't get to see everything in my MMO of dreams, but that's perfectly fine. That'll be a carrot on a stick that will keep me motivated and playing for a really long time. That's exactly what i'm looking for in an MMORPG.


It's been quite a while since my last mount conquest. Luck has zero to do with it this time fortunately. It had everything to do with not logging into WoW for the better part of three months now. What dragged me back this time? It certainly wasn't the actual game or some gameplay related feature that's for sure. No, it had everything to do with getting a free mount of course. That carrot is strong i tell ya and i'm weak to it's pull.


I'm of course talking about the Hearthsteed. Thanks to a friend of mine and her willingness to win me some games of Hearthstone, i now have this lovely mount. I sure as hell wasn't going to sit through a trading card game even for a free mount. I personally don't get the fascination with such games and feel dirty even having one installed on my pc, but that's me. Regardless, i have a new shiny mount and it kind of goes with my DK's transmog. That's a win in my book. Thanks laser brain.



In typical me fashion, i ended up missing the first ever Pantheon pre-alpha gameplay stream on Friday evening due to working late. I still could have watched it live but would have been unable to participate in the discussion and ask all the questions that i had. I decided to wait until i got home and watch the recording instead. There's logic in there somewhere i think. Either way i was not disappointed with the game in its current form. I do wish i could have participated in the chat as i have more questions now than i did a few days ago. That'll have to come another time.



First, let me correct myself and add that this is "pre" pre-alpha footage. The game is a long ways away and the current iteration will of course change and hopefully be improved upon. Regardless of how far along development  may actually be, i was surprised that some of the basics seem to be in play form already. By that i of course mean group interactions in a PVE environment. This is the most important aspect of any MMO for me. I so despise watching solo gameplay of one class fighting one mob whenever a new game is shown for the first time. I could care less about that and would rather see how the group dynamic works.


So far it seems to work exactly how i imagined it would, Some will say this sort of gameplay is simply too old and outdated to work and, more importantly, be fun. I of course disagree and really liked what i saw. Taking into account that this group was around level seven in this video, it gave me a nice glimpse into what early grouping is going to be like. What can i say other than seeing the feature i'm most excited for relieved some of my concerns. There are others though of course.

More surprising than anything is how modern the interface appeared. I'm sure these may all be placeholders for now but i hope they remain and become improved as well. I was worried we'd get some sort of terribly clunky interface all for the sake of either EQ nostalgia or some sense of stubbornness many old school players seem to have. So far i'm not seeing that, which is another positive in my book. Everything appears to be clean, simple, and without clutter. The way all basic interfaces should be. I do need my floating damage numbers though as i'm a very visual person and i don't enjoy having to stare at a chat log for them. 

I'm also pleased at what appears to be a group size of six. I've been championing this number for over a decade as my preferred group size. I'm not a fan of five or the most recent four man group/party size as that limits the roles players can bring and also limits the kinds of encounters and mechanics devs can implement. Now it's not definite that the group size was locked to this number or if that's just how many players happened to be around at the time of the stream. It could be larger for all i know but i'm glad it's not smaller. I'm more than happy what the group size could mean for expanded roles.

With those expanded roles will come crowd control and buffs. I loved seeing all the deaths that occurred due to the lack of said control as well as mobs not resetting. Both mechanics i personally enjoy and seeing devs struggle with them gives me some hope. I know these are not everyone's cup of tea but then this game isn't for everyone. That's a good thing as far as i'm concerned.

I do have some negativity to throw towards the animations. However, i also understand that the emphasis of this really early iteration is the basic core everything else will be built upon. Animations and spell effects come later in the process so i'm not really worried about them right now. I'm also not expecting a lot in regards to them later on either. They're expensive to produce and with this game being niche and crowd funded, i don't expect AAA level of polish.

This is a very good first step in the development cycle for Pantheon. While we already had some proof of concept as well as early gameplay videos, this actually looked like a game with mechanics for the first time to me. Hopefully this builds some sort of momentum and brings in some much needed funding. I'm personally not a fan of supporting any game financially before it's complete but i' leaning towards making an exception for this. I like what i see so far.



For the first time in a really long time, i've been without an MMO for over a month. It's actually been pretty crazy and not as full of withdrawal as i'd imagined it would be. I was sure that after a few days i'd have been craving another fix, but i've been pretty calm about my hiatus from online adventures. This is probably mostly due to a lack of excitement in the genre. It's been rather stale for a while now, as far as i'm concerned. I don't see that changing any time soon.

My plan was to fiddle about in Blade & Soul for a bit while waiting on Black Desert and explore that game until Legion launches this summer. Well i fiddled for a few weeks and Black Desert's beta weekend came and went and something just hit me. I really don't enjoy all these new games as much as i used to. I also have zero history, and more importantly memories, in WoW. I'm a man without a home, so to speak. A man without an MMO to call my own. That game was FFXI but that ship sailed years ago. I'm sure Legion will bring me back but that's a bit off still and i doubt it'll be long term.

It's not that i'm burnt out. It's not that at all. I've gone through that in the past and i know those symptoms all too well. Those usually came with playing too much or chasing those rare pixels until i drove myself bonkers. I'm not experiencing any of that. I guess i just came to conclusion that the options available currently are not what i'm looking for or craving. I know exactly what i want as far as MMORPG's go, and i'm not seeing them and certainly not getting them from any studios.

The only MMO on the horizon that i have any sort of inkling to play is probably Pantheon. It's also the reason for my realization that it has been a while since my last post. They tossed up a post on their site saying they'll be streaming the game on their Twitch channel on Friday. That immediately made me all giddy like an eight year old on Christmas morning. I'm excited to see how the game is coming along. I'm not expecting much and i'm trying to keep my expectation low, but it'll be nice to finally see something. Here's to feeling some excitement for the genre again!



In a very nice surprise, Black Desert Online released a stand alone character creator here. Not only does it appear to be free for anyone to download and try, but characters created can be saved for when the game actually launches later down the road. The tool comes in at just a bit over 6GB is size so keep that in mind. This is a feature i wish more and more studios would implement going forward. As someone that could spend hours just tweaking my character looks, this will save me so much time and allow me to get into the game so much quicker. 

I do admit i tend to drive my friends crazy when a new MMO launches. Everyone is typically eager to get in game and group up for adventures and whatnot. Then there's me still sitting on the character creator screen while everyone asks if i'm ready yet. Well, i'm never ready because i spend a lot of time, far too much time depending on who you ask, messing about with every minute detail of my character. I look at this as a long term decision on how i'll look in game for years to come so i don't like to rush in and half ass it. I'm hopefully not alone here!

It's understandable why more studios don't do this though. Most MMO's have absolutely garbage character creation options. A half dozen or so options for hair and maybe a few sliders for height and that's it. Nothing more than a few templates that require as little time as possible before getting into the game. Not so with many Korean MMO's though. I tend to go back to Aion as a good starting off point for any decent creator but BDO's version blows every other out of the water. This is the route i'd really like to see the genre move towards in the future. Go get your creator and start the madness.







The first ever trailer released for Blade & Soul came way back in 2009. Let that sink in for a second. That was over six years ago. The way i put that in prospective for myself is that i was still playing Final Fantasy XI back then. For me that was forever and a while ago. An eternity as far as MMO's go. I can still remember discussing this game with my guild at the time - about how amazing B&S looked. Well, anything looked amazing compared to what we were playing, so it didn't take much to impress us. Little did i know it would take longer for the game to release in the west than the complete duration of my XI playing time.



Blade & Soul is finally here and it's about damn time. Is it too little too late to make a mark on the MMO landscape? From my short play time so far, i'd have to say yes, absolutely. I could go through a laundry list of what the genre has gone through in the last six years, but that would take a week to read so i'll refrain. I will say this game had a window of opportunity a few years ago when it officially launched in Korea, but at this point, i just don't see it having any lasting power. I'm going to spend some more time in game before i fully make up my mind so this isn't a review of any sorts. This is just my gut feeling after waiting so long and finally getting to experience the first 20 levels or so. Take that as you will.

As with any Korean MMO, i see no reason to play as anything other than a female character. Lets be honest here - the eye candy is strong with this one. It certainly doesn't disappoint in that regard. I broke out my favorite anime tropes, from when i was younger and still watched anime, to create my character. Of course i have a thing for red heads so i did my best to indulge that the best i could. I think i did a decent job creating my Blade Master. I better have since i spent a ridiculous amount of time with the character creator, which by the way is pretty good.

Blade & Soul Blade Master

The martial arts theme is also prevalent in this one so it's no surprise that the use of high wire flying acrobatics is a major game play mechanic. I actually really enjoy this feature so far. It perfectly mixes what would typically be called a sprint and a glide into what could only be described as something from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I love that movie so it was no surprise to me that i enjoy it in this game. It's nice to see more and more MMO's embrace the fun of gliding without the need for flying mounts. This is the way i would personally go with any new MMO but that's just me. The beauty of this mechanic is that it also works on water and allows players to glide on the surface. It's ridiculously fun seeing how far you can glide by jumping off high structures since there's no limited glide resource.



Of course no MMO would get a second look from me without some sort of wardrobe or cosmetic feature. B&S doesn't disappoint in this regard either. The outfits are gorgeous and of course completely impractical for any sort of combat encounter. I've never been one of those players that required realistic protection in my games so i'm fine with this as well. This is why it's called fantasy. By level 20, i was already rocking six different outfits. Since armor doesn't actually have any sort of stats on it, one could wear whatever they like. They're completely for aesthetics. Player stats are handled by your weapon, jewelry, and what i like to call pizza slices. Anyone that has played will understand the reference.


I'm going to spend a little more time in the game and get myself to max level before i decide to write any sort of review. So far my negatives outweigh my positives but those could change later on. Evaluating any MMO on the first few levels is never something anyone should do. There are exceptions of course, if the game just outright stinks from the get-go, but this one doesn't so far. I'm not expecting my main opinion to change but stranger things have happened. Stay tuned!


Black Desert Online

I've been trying to stay away from this one. My concerted effort to skip any and all upcoming Korean MMO's due to my history with them was bound to fail. I really thought i could do it this time and stay away. In fact, I've skipped any opportunities to read up about the game and i certainly avoided participating in beta events. Other than my random curiosity leading to some stream viewing, i tossed this one in the pass bin before the notion of playing even began. I was done with Korean MMO's for good.

Then the subsequent nudges from friends to try the game began. That coupled with the current doldrum we're in right now MMO wise has only pushed me into the awaiting arms of yet another new game. Even with everything in the universe conspiring to get me in bed with another Korean mistress, i was still hesitant to do so. Unfortunately i then saw this informative video from someone that i have to curse at for rustling my jimmies. There are actually some good points i was surprised to hear about. The bad are still there of course. Those are unavoidable with this type of game unfortunately.



I like the fact that the game will require a time investment to achieve anything. This is my main gripe with anything out today in the market. Call me a fan of the old school model all you want but i just think game aspects are better when players are invested long term instead of disappearing for months at a time. Daily logging in isn't foreign to me and i still prefer this play style over any other. This has been more and more difficult to find in recent years.

The art style and game world are absolutely spectacular. I was surprised to see that the map seems pretty open with no loading screens between zones. The fact that there's no quick travel or flying is yet another aspect i absolutely adore. Want to get somewhere? Better start walking, or running, or riding! This makes a game world so much more immersive to me. Not being able to bypass it is something i wish more games would do. I like my quick travel to be handled by certain classes in game. Whether or not this is available in game is unknown to me though.



Also the character creator is absolutely phenomenal. Finally we have something that'll surpass Aion in terms of options, which is six years old now. It took long enough but hopefully this feature inspires more studios to stop skimping on a feature i find just as important as anything else in the game. I know fully well that my first couple of hours in game is going to be spent on the character creator alone. Such is the gaming life of an appearance junkie i suppose. I welcome it though.

All this would be perfect if it were not for two major gripes i still have with the game. It's still going to be PVP focused and it has action combat with no trinity. I'm not sure if i can overcome these two features and enjoy a game like this long term. I'm probably going to be spending the majority of my time dealing with both of these as they're obviously the main selling points of the game. Am i a fool for thinking i can overlook such overarching aspects and still enjoy the game? Possibly and probably. I'm still going to make up my own mind by trying it instead of just writing off.


I've been in one of my moods for the past month or so. One of those bored with everything and nothing interests me kind of moods. WoW has been on the back burner for quite some time as i wait for Legion. Other than the random mount farm here and there, I've not logged on much. If i were still raiding then of course this would all be different, but guilds seem to come and go far too easily these days.

Thanks to the release of the new Star Wars i had to go back to The Old Republic for a fix. I've actually done this quite a few times this past year actually. Every time i go back, i make it less than a week before i'm done and off again. This time was no different unfortunately. I don't know what it is but i just can't sit through any more dialogue or cutscenes in my MMO's. It completely ruins the flow of leveling for me and takes me right out of the game. TOR without the story isn't worth my time in my opinion. I know it's the major selling point but i think i'm over it for good.

This brings me to what i have been playing for the last few weeks. As has been my trend over the years, i seem to always find myself back in Lord of the Rings Online whenever i'm in a lull. Something about the atmosphere and game world always makes me miss it and eventually load it up for a few sessions here and there. Surprisingly, I've been sticking with it this time. I'm not sure how long this will last but it's been a nice change of pace and one i'm enjoying. Thanks a lot Steam for your damn sale!

Lord of the Rings Online Champion

My previous highest level character was a level 33 Hunter. I've had this character for over five years and never really got anywhere with it. I realized it was perhaps the play style that's kept me from continuing so i decided to make something i thought i'd enjoy more. The Champion fits my criteria for what i enjoy in a class. A melee plate wearing juggernaut with crazy AoE capabilities. Whats not to love? It certainly hasn't disappointed so far and can only see it getting better with levels.

Lord of the Rings Online Champion

Speaking of those levels - it didn't take me very long to hit level 30 and quickly surpass my Hunter as my highest level character in game. Man do i love the level up animations which i somehow never noticed before. They might be new but i somehow doubt it. Mr. Oblivious strikes again me thinks. So far so good on the leveling front. Now is when i get into uncharted territory which has me really excited. I've not gone past these few zones before and i'm curious what they have in store for me. Bring on the adventure!

Obligatory showing off of my outfit may now commence -

Lord of the Rings Online Champion

Lord of the Rings Online Champion


This one is a little bit late but you know what they say. I'll call this one a Festivus miracle and place it somewhere between the airing of the grievances and the feats of strength. Thanks to a friend of mine i was able to snag myself an Amani Battle Bear out of Zul'Aman. Obviously this was another super simple mount to get but once again the desire to get in there and get it eluded me. No longer is that the case and mount number 135 is in the books. Time to get the pole out of the crawl space. Happy Festivus nerds.

Amani Battle Bear

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