Friday, September 28, 2012

My First Night of Pandaria


SWTOR


I got word today, via our guild forums that my SWTOR guild has officially folded. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. I did. I know I could try to find another guild in SWTOR, but I really want to see how the game does with the conversion to a Free To Play model before I make the commitment to a guild. If I’m just going to go Free to Play in November, there’s little point in trying to get established in a guild right now.

Besides I’m a little busy with Pandas.


WoW


I have three Level 85 toons in WoW : Hunter, Paladin, Warrior. I had already decided I wanted to take the Paladin to the new level cap of 90. I couldn’t take any time off of work so I didn’t get started until Tuesday evening. It wouldn’t have mattered even if I did. I have a toddler at home, and he makes it very hard to do anything on the computer when he’s awake.

I started out in Orgrimmar, and like most of my nights I knocked out the cooking and Jewelcrafting daily. I figured it would be some fast, free experience points. The bar barely moved.

As I was flying around, I noticed the quest giver mark over the Battle Pet trainer. I flew down and, trained, and did the first quest. I also hadn’t gotten into Beta, nor had I read much about MoP. For the first time with an Expansion pack, I was going in fresh. 


Pet Battles


I had not intended to do Pet Battles. I thought the entire idea was silly. Pokemon, really? But I figured, again, that this would be fast, free experience.

The next 30 minutes vanished in an blink.

I didn’t want to like Pet Battles, I really didn’t, but it was so much fun

WoW has given us this wonderfully deep mini-game. Pets have different classes (Beasts, Mechanical, Flying etc.) and they have different attacks. Each has strengths and weakness against other types in a very rock, paper, scissors kind of game. It’s a system that is easy to learn, but tough to master. I love the fact it’s turned based. Over my years of playing WoW, I’ve observed my reflexes have gotten slower. Reflexes don’t matter with Pet Battles. 

I leveled my Panda Cub, and then one of my guild mates suggested the Curious Wolvar Pup. He did really well, and he has this trap attack that really does major damage. 


Jade Serpent


While I was channeling my inner Ash Ketchum I saw one of the warriors asking in guild chat if anyone wanted to queue. Even though I hadn’t stepped foot in Pandaria, I went ahead and queued up. We got Temple of the Jade Dragon or something like that. You know, it’s funny, I find doing dungeons as DPS to be like being a passenger in a car going someplace new. You get a general idea how to get there, but not the detail you get when you are driving. When I’m tanking, I tend to soak in more details like I would when I’m driving.

I learned one lesson very quickly. Sha puddles HURT. Thank you, repair bill. The first couple of bosses were pretty simple. It’s gotta be a little tough on the encounter designers. We’ve seen so many diferent raid and dungeon bosses, it’s almost a game of figuring out which mechanics we’ve seen before. The first boss did a Lurker Below kind of spray around the room. The final boss summoned copies of ourselves. We wiped once on that boss. I’m not sure why. The tank told us to stand on him and we did. The healer said he messed up, and we pulled again. This time we killed him.

I completed the two instance quests. I briefly thought about switching to my Prot spec before picking up the reward, but someone said there would be a vendor to buy tank gear, so i went ahead and got the Ret Bracers, and Legs.

I still don’t have a good bead on what I’m going to be doing in our raids. I’m hoping that gets settled soon.


Pandaria


When I left the dungeon, I was back in Orgrimmar. I did the quest to talk to General Nazgrim and saw the cut scene between him and Garrosh. Honors made a rude gesture to Garrosh right before he ran out of the room. It sort of makes me wish I was more into RP because Honors is a very conflicted character these days.

I finally got to Pandaria and started questing in earnest. We lost another gunship. Gallywix is going to love that. I’m sure he’s bidding on the contract to replace it already.

I didn’t get very far and logged off just after I started on some quests to kill these monkeys called Hozen. 


Impressions


I know some people have commented on how linear the Jade Forest is, and I’m sure it’ll be a grind on my 3rd or 4th alt, but last night the story was amazing. I felt a sense of wonderment and exploration I haven’t felt since the opening of the Dark Portal. I loved the fact that my toon was IN a couple of the cut scenes. It isn’t as good as the SWTOR storytelling, but it’s not as invasive if that makes any sense.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Putting a Bow on Cataclysm

I realize I'm a day late with this post. I'm writing it on Monday, but you probably won't see it until Tuesday with visions of pandas swimming in your head.

With the three End Time heroics down, there’s was only one thing left on my bucket list.

Deathwing.

I knew this weekend would be my last chance, unless I found an achievement hunting group that would go back at Level 90. I asked in guild if anyone wanted to queue with me. Most of them were, understandably, sick of seeing the Deathwing raid. However, Blue, one of my old guild mates, agreed to queue with me on his Disc Priest.

One thing I noticed overall was it seems like people are back to playing Paladins. I know we can fill all three roles, but it seemed like there more Paladins in the raid than any other Plate wearing class.

We started with the Siege of Wyrmrest Temple. Much like the final End Time heroic, it was weird being back in Dragonblight and seeing everything changed. The giant gaping maws reminded me of a Sarlacc.

Everything was pretty chaotic. As I had figured, going as Ret was my best bet. My DPS was in the bottom half the DPSers, but no one complained. If I'm going to be main spec Ret in Mists, I'm going to have to get much better at managing my cooldowns and putting up numbers.

The fights were something of blur. Blue did his best to talk me through the fights. The mechanics seemed pretty straight forward and it helped that Blue could call upon some of our mutual raiding experience like 'hide behind the spikes sort of like Sindragosa'. Some one in the raid shouted which color slime to attack on the slime summoning boss. I tried to follow the crowd and attack whatever mob had a ton of debuffs on it.

It was wild doing a raid in Eye of Eternity again. I'm just so thankful they didn't make us do a phase on dragons like the Malygos fight. It was kind of cool running around with the lightning and shorting out the totems. Up to this point, the entire raid sort of felt like a montage episode of your favorite show where they go back and show clips of the older episodes.

Loot was really strange. Most bosses I got a sack with 25g, but one one boss an epic appeared in my bags. It was a plate DPS belt. Unfortunately, I had purchased the 397 belt already from the Valor vendor, and the belt that dropped was a 384.

I'm kind of curious, since the loot is doled out automatically, how offspec loot is handled? How do you gear up an offtank, or that 3rd healer for your 10 man?

After we completed Siege of Wyrmrest, we decided to queue for Fall of Deathwing.

The first fight was Ultraxion. It kind of reminded me a little of Ruby Sanctum with phasing in and out of the Twilight realm. After Deathwing destroyed the Horde Gunship, we hopped on the Alliance one. Since we are Horde, shouldn't he have destroyed the Alliance gunship, and we use the Horde one? Oh well, more gold for the Gallywix and the goblins to build a replacement I guess.

I love that Blizzard still has that sense of humor. After we defended the gunship, we were led on our parachute drop by Captain Swazye and Ke'anu Reeves. Point Break here we come.

The fight on Deathwing's back was crazy. There was so much going on. I got really confused because people were yelling for us to stop DPS. I stopped and moved out of melee range. I even sheathed my weapon. I wanted to be sure people saw I had stopped. My main goal was not to get kicked out of the for being a fail DPSer. Blue told me to look for a little number on the mobs portrait and stop when it got to 9, but I use ElvUI and I didn't see any number on the portrait.

How do you decide what gear to keep for later Transmog purposes? We only have so much bank/void storage space.
Eventually we got it down, and I snagged a tier token for a helmet. I'm pretty sure it was that boss, but it might have been the gunship itself. The helm was another 384, and I already had the 397. I wasn't sure if I should grab the Holy, Prot or Ret tier piece. My raid group is still sort of organizing itself and I'm not entirely sure what role I'll be asked to play. Prot would obviously be my first choice, but I'll do whatever the group needs. I ended up buying the Ret helmet. My Prot and Holy sets are in pretty sad shape, and basically its transmog gear at this point.

There was a cool little cut scene, but it again underscored one of the problems I have with current WoW storytelling. We, as the heroes, are there. We are helping Thrall and the Dragons. But at the critical moments, we are little more than bodyguards. It's Thrall who is the true hero, just like it was Tirion and Bolvar in ICC. Is it too hard to have someone from the raid inserted into that cut scene and have them wield the Dragon Soul and bring down Deathwing?

Well, Deathwing goes splosh and for a moment I think its over, but people don't start abandoning the raid en mass, so that's a clue it's not. We did lose four people including two healers, but one of the tanks wasn't watching that I guess, and started the final event. Even down four people, two of them healers, we still go through three platforms. I did what I could with Selfless Healer procs, but if I tried to any major healing, I ran dry in about three spells.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but we queued and filled the last four spots. The next pull went better.We moved from platform to platform. When we got to the fourth platform, something happened, I'm really not sure what, but me and about four other people just went splat! The raid was able to hold together and finish Deathwing off.

There was another cool cutscene, and Alexstraza declared the Age of Mortals to have begun. Aggra looks much better in game than she did in the cut scene. Cute and Orc just don't go together well.


It was almost like a graduation ceremony. The Aspects have decided that the mortals are strong enough to guard Azeroth ourselves, and really we've been doing a pretty good job of it for a while now. Look at all the threats we've defeated. Ragnorus (twice!), C'thun, Ke'Thuzad (twice!), Kael'thalas Sunstrider (three times!), Archimonde, Illidan, Yogg-Saron, Alagon, Arthas/Lich King, Nefarion (twice!), Cho'gall, and even Deathwing himself. All vanquished before they could destroy Azeroth.

Now that Deathwing is defeated, I'm ready to move on to the new lands and challenges of Pandaria. I never would have guessed when I left WoW a little over a year ago that I would be back for the expansion, but here I am. I only hope our raid group gets organized and we have a good group to explore the challenges that lie ahead.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SWTOR and WoW

If you would indulge me today, I’d like to talk about what I miss from each game when I play the other.

Stuff I miss from SWTOR when i’m in WoW






  • Lightsabers - the iconic weapon of a Jedi. It makes a beautiful snap hiss as you enter combat.
  • Music - There is just nothing like going into combat with a John Williams soundtrack playing in the background. SWTOR saves the really iconic music like Duel of Fates and the main Star Wars theme for Raid Bosses. It still sends chills down my spin to Force Leap into Kephess  as the main theme starts playing.
  • Companions - Soloing in WoW feels lonely now that I’m used to having one of my trusty companions by my side. They add a little chatter both in combat and out. They also really help when you level up in a support role. You can really level as a tank or healer because you always have a group, even if it only you and your companion. As a corollary, I miss the romance options and having your companions send you out on missions for them and advancing their story. I also love being able to send my companion out to sell all my grays items.
  • Writing /Stories  - The writing in SWTOR is outstanding. The story arcs are tight and the characters are deep. The twists and turns keep you on your toes. At the end of a major chapter quest, I’m blown away. Knight is my favorite story so far, followed by Trooper. I haven't played the other stories to completion but Smuggler and Agent have some great lines. 
  • Color Matching - Basically all your gear takes on a color scheme that matches your chest piece. It gives a nice uniform look, and its how SWTOR avoids the 'clown suit' problem.
  • Out of Combat Rez for all classes - I know pretty much everyone has Mass Resurrection now, but it’s still nice to have.
  • Out of Combat Heal/Recharge - Every class has a spell that heals them up out of combat and recharges their resource. Yeah I know I can carry food and water, but it have it as a power is more convenient.


Stuff I miss from WoW when I play SWTOR




  • Addons - SWTOR UI is customizable enough, but its all the other little things we use addons for that I really miss, especially the auction house addons. SWTOR Auction House is very much like WoWs before Auctioneer or other addons like it.
  • Macros - Much like addons, my goodness do I miss macros. Even a simple target marco helps so much when I’m tanking in WoW, and would be really nice to have in SWTOR. Healing without mouseover macros is painful.
  • Threat meter - I play both DPS/Heal and tank toons in SWTOR. I really miss that little % threat over the head of the mobs.
  • DBM - This is important enough to be its own point. SWTOR telegraphs a lot of boss abilities, but the timers and notifications DBM gives you are nice, and I definitely miss them. I think my guild would be further in SWTOR with something like DBM.
  • Dual Spec - You can purchase the ability to respec anywhere but you still have to reset your talents manually, and set all your bars up again. A true dual spec would help a ton, especially on my Commando Trooper.
  • Equipment Manager - Much like dual spec, having a one button function to switch from DPS gear to healer gear would be very appreciated.
  • Ease of Travel - SWTOR has way too many load screens, and unnecessary running around to get from point A to point B.
  • Flying Mounts - This is another one I wouldn't have anticipated, but after having the freedom to fly around so much, it's really missed. You just feel constrained with just a land mount.
  • Achievements - There are similar things in SWTOR, but WoW's are more varied and better presented.
  • First MMO problems - There's just a host of tiny annoyance that seven years of development have eliminated from WoW that still plague a young game like SWTOR.
I'm actually not planning on taking a break from SWTOR. I'm going to switch to SWTOR's Free to Play model once that goes live and enjoy the excellent story content in the game. Meanwhile, I'll be doing my raiding and group stuff in WoW.

Over One Hump

I made the decision to reactivate my account. I still hadn’t seen the End Time instances or the Dragon Soul raid. I’m going to play my old Paladin, Honorshammer. Right now I’ve got him as Ret spec because I figure it will easier to PuG End Time and Dragon Soul as a DPS rather than as a Tank.

I also love the changes Patch 5.0.4 made to Retribution. I feel like I build Holy Power so much faster. The rotation is smoother, and a little more forgiving. The new talent tree is interesting. They feel more like glyphs. I don’t care what the math and sims say, nothing is more fun than Holy Avenger.

5.0.4 made some of the previous Valor gear available for purchase with Justice Points and in very short order, Honorshammer was ready for End Time.

I let the group know this was my first time and asked for any tips. For the most part people were tolerant, if not helpful. The fights weren’t too bad, and I only ended up dying on Sylvanas. Then we got to Morzubond or whatever his name is.

It’s really cool to return to the place where you met your future self in Wrath of the Lich King as you leveled up in Dragonblight.

This has become my favorite fight in WoW.





You get to pop all your cooldowns, and then they reset throughout the fights. Avenging Wrath plus Divine Ashbringer along with Guardian of the Ancient Kings, sign me up. The holy power flows in so fast I can hardly spend it fast enough, and it just looks awesome with my Paladin flaying away with Ashbringer. Something or other is going one with an hourglass but I just keep hacking at the dragon. I managed to pickup some sick looking shoulders as well.

I ran that a couple of times in a row before I got Well of Eternity. This was really exciting for me. We’ve heard and read about the events surrounding the Legion coming through the Well for years, but now we were actually going to experience it.

I gotta say it felt really weird to fight side by side with Illidan. I just kept looking at those glavies and thinking back to how they became the giant Fire elemtentals I tanked in Black Temple. The group moved quickly and the healer gave me a couple of tips after I explained it was my first time in the dungeon.

We moved through the dungeon pretty quickly. It was awesome to finally see Azshara, though we really didn’t fight her, just her minions. I guess they are saving that for another expansion.

I don’t know if newer players feel the same impact I did when Illidian brought out the vials from the Well of the Eternity. I had to work so freaking hard to get those Vials back after he gave them to Vashj and Kael. 


The final fight was a bit chaotic and the buffs you get skew the dps numbers to the ridiculous at times. I died to the the fel firestorm.

I ran several more End Time and Well of Eternity before finally getting the Hour of Twilight. How many times I have escorted Thrall somewhere by now? This was the least memorable of the three new instances, probably because I’ve only run it one time.