Trying to Wrap My Head Around LotRO’s New Legendary Item System

Lord of the Rings Online, Rivendell

I’m not finding this easy. Maybe LotRO’s new Legendary Item system would be easy if I was at max level and was basically rebuilding a max level Legendary into the new format but I’m not. My main character, and the one I’ve made the most progress with so far, is only level 75, and just finished The Great River pre-Riders of Rohan zone.

Or maybe it’d be easier if I hadn’t stepped into Moria and got a fresh Legendary Item at the beginning. But no, I’m only part-way through leveling and, for someone like me who likes to simplify systems and make a clear progression path forward, I’m finding the new system very daunting. Let me explain.

Lord of the Rings Online, talking with Elrond
Hey Elrond, are you renting any rooms out?

First, you have the weapon itself, in my case a Runekeeper’s stone. At first they didn’t release any stones besides frost for RKs and my character specializes in fire. Took some waiting and reshuffling to make it fire again. So it goes. The weapon has to be reforged every few levels at a forge-master. Simple enough.

On reforge you can open up slots to put in special abilities like extra damage, more healing, primary stats, etc. But those “traceries” have different levels to them, based on your character level, and limits to enhancing them. So they need to be replaced as you level up and reforge.

Then the traceries can be enhanced with runes to push them ever further, but those enhancements are also level gated, with different levels and limited on how much they can enhance.

Lord of the Rings Online, Great River dream, a big sword in the swamp
I bet that’s Legendary.

It’s all tied together with Ancient Script, a currency to buy all the upgrades and enhancements that seems hard to come by. Not only rare, but a currency that is inexplicably capped, too. I guess, to prevent you from hoarding it to force you into using it? Beats me. Acquiring the script comes from deconstructing traceries you don’t need and a Battle Pass type system that resets every three months or so. Or at least those are the only ways I’ve found.

My character is currently sitting in the Legendary Item room in Rivendell poring over all the fiddliness, trying to create a path through the level 75+ game. Figuring what abilities to add at which levels and when to replace those abilities for higher level abilities and how to enhance them so as to conserve Script, which I won’t acquire as much as more dedicated players, while still capped at max Script. All wondering when the system is going to screw me over and leave me with an underpowered weapon while pointing me toward the cash shop as the solution to “fix” it.

Lord of the Rings Online, a beautiful sunset
Beautiful.

As much as the previous system was also heavily maligned, it certainly wasn’t as fiddly or it didn’t feel as fiddly as this. This will take me quite a while to really wrap my head around and make a full leveling plan. As much as players were originally saying that it’s much better than the old system, right now I’m just not seeing it.

Maybe Elrond will let me rent a room. The amount of time I’m going to be hanging out here at the Last Homely House, I’m going to need one.

// Ocho

Quick Review: Guild Wars 2 Living World Season 1: Clockwork Chaos

Guild Wars 2, Clockwork Chaos, giant robot

Guild Wars 2 has been in the process of filling in the gaps in their storylines with all the content brought about during the first season of their “Living World”. In effect, filling in the now quite awkward jump from the end of the base game and the second Living World series, and I’m here for it because that jump was, well, awkward.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m well behind the times when it comes to current content and so it was that from January 2013 to March 2014 I was playing anything but Guild Wars 2. Or maybe I was but since I hadn’t reached the end of the base game yet I felt the new Living World content was out of reach. They didn’t want me to think that, of course, but playing content out of order just never sat well with me.

Guild Wars 2, Clockwork Chaos, Scarlet Briar brandishing a rifle
Scarlet Briar: Awesome, but definitely an under-developed villain-of-the-week.

So when I finally beat the base game and Zhaitan I was met with a “hey, go talk to this person in Lion’s Arch”. That led to a cinematic about Scarlet, what her whole deal was, and how she was defeated and then immediately pushed into the Living World Season 2 prequel into Heart of Thorns. Including all these new people and friends we’re suddenly besties with that we’ve never met before.

Which is fine, it’s an okay stopgap, and the new characters you meet are all pretty great. But the sudden jump and obvious gap were still less than ideal. So when ArenaNet announced they were going back and recreating the events of the Living World Season 1 so the player could play through them, I was all there for it.

Guild Wars 2, Clockwork Chaos, a watchknight ready for duty
High heels? Really? Who put in the order for the super sexy model?

To be honest, though, having played through the first 3 chapters now, mostly 100%ing all the achievements (except the group-focused ones), there’s not a metric ton of content there. What is there feels good, like adding world events to the timers that will run perpetually now, but each chapter so far has only taken between 3-7 nights to fully flesh out. And, I don’t know, the original events over time have felt so mythical that they seemed much larger than this. When it originally launched in 2013, was this basically all there was?

Either way, I’m super happy that they’ve decided to at least fill in these gaps. Even if the chapters themselves can be blown through fairly quick. It shows that they’re caring about the long-term health of the game, preparing for when the servers drop in population and players like me want to still experience the story.

Catering to my playstyle will always make me happy.

// Ocho

Perpetually Behind the Curve

Lord of the Rings Online, Isengard

The way that I’ve found I’m most comfortable playing games these days is taking things slowly, at my own pace, on-level (if possible), and completing as much as possible before moving on. I feel like this isn’t that special and many others play this way, too. Probably not with as many MMOs as I do, though. However, this has led to a fairly obvious conclusion: I’m perpetually behind where most players are in almost every game.

This isn’t a bad thing, though. I’ve absolutely come to embrace this as game companies seemingly push the latest updates like they’re the only content still worth playing. To me, though, skipping to the newest content is like reading a book and skipping to the middle. You’ll probably be able to figure stuff out, sure, but the references won’t make any sense. Level skips and whatnot have to sell well, though. Skipping everything just to be at the top has to be in demand enough to be a draw. Just hard for me to fathom.

So in Lord of the Rings Online I’m currently rolling through Great River, 10 years old now. Guild Wars 2 working through the Living World Season 3 content post Heart of Thorns, 6 years old. Guild Wars 1 working through Factions, 16 years old. Elder Scrolls Online, getting ready to enter Clockwork City, almost 5 years old. Even the most modern game I’m playing regularly, Division 2, I’m 3 years behind.

Guild Wars, Kaineng City
Kaineng City is such an amazing zone, I’d have missed out if I rushed.

Truly, though, I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. Others would kill to see this content again like it was the first time, I’m giving it the appreciation it deserves.

Older stuff deserves respect! Or at least that’s what I tell my aging self.

// Ocho

Why Start Blogging Again?

Elder Scrolls Online, looking out at the vast sea off the coast of Vvardenfell

I honestly have no idea. Years ago I started this blog as just a way to socialize with others in the gaming community as there were fewer options to do so in the larger gaming space. The blogging medium, however, has completely changed. It has gone from long-form opinions being largely found through personal blogs and news sites to a more visual bend or fragmented, smaller snippets of text. Youtube, Twitch, Instagram, and Tik Tok are the leaders now. The written blog is quickly losing favor.

I’ve had some luck with Twitch to see the inner workings. I get it, and I get the draw to it, but even Twitch admitted a while back that streamers are largely discovered from outside the platform. Is a hope for popularity a reason to write or stream, though? If not professional, why do it at all? These questions periodically haunt me. Time and effort invested into the equivalence of screaming into the void.

Lord of the Rings Online, a sweeping vista of Dunland probably

I have no training in writing professionally (this should be obvious). Truth be told, I believe that I’m a horrible writer. At least with Twitch I’ve had a modicum of experience with professional theatrical work, but the arts are all connected. Writing, streaming, drawing, painting, singing, acting, they all have a shared connection. I find I get the same fulfillment from a good game as I do from a good movie or a good book or a good streaming show. Different engagement, but a similar fulfillment.

In the end the only reason I could come up with is just that: connection. To not just be the outside observer and consumer, but to throw in my two cents into the perpetually churning ocean of content. All in the hope that a connection out there, somewhere, is made. A mark that wasn’t there previously has been indelibly left behind.

Secret World Legends, following a path into the abyss, searching for Tyler Freeborn

The struggle to attempt to make that mark, though, is balanced on a psychological See-Saw. Tottering between the See: “What’s the use? Nobody is going to see this.” and the Saw: “I don’t care if anybody sees it!” See: “Where is the value?” Saw: “Why does it need value?” See: “There is no return on investment!” Saw: “Not all hobbies need returns.” See: “The effort won’t lead to professional development.” Saw: “All endeavors develop you in ways incomprehensible in the moment.” See: “Why take the shot if it won’t lead to anything?” Saw: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Those times when the See-Saw falls on the See side, though, are my long breaks and lack of consistency. Those breaks are why I won’t celebrate anniversaries, their number marred by discontinuity. When life rears it’s head and truly says ‘No’ and you have to listen. With the past few weeks I’ve had I’m wondering how I’m even able to hit the ‘Publish’ button now.

Star Trek Online, some random planet with rings of asteroids

So please don’t be fooled by me being able to periodically hit that button. It’s really not as easy as it looks. You have to be comfortable with serious introspection. That may lead you to new places you’ve never been otherwise. Or it won’t and, like this post, may just lead you wandering around inside your own head giving a tour to the world.

For some reason I find both worthwhile. I don’t know what that says about me.

// Ocho

There are Now Whales in San Francisco Bay in Star Trek Online

Star Trek IV, Scotty (James Doohan) exclaiming "Admiral, there be whales here!"

Admiral! There be whales here!

That’s right! Whales! In a July 22nd tweet posted by @TekknoNerd on Twitter noticing them and subsequently confirmed by Star Trek Online Associate Art Director Thomas Marrone, a “recent update” to Star Trek Online has brought whales to the Starfleet Academy map in San Francisco Bay.

Star Trek Online, two tiny waterspouts can be seen in the far distance in San Francisco Bay on the Starfleet Academy map. Whales!

This is possibly the smallest bit of news out there for Star Trek Online, and amounts to only the visual effect of small periodic water spouts far off shore, but to me and, I’m sure, many Star Trek fans, this means a lot. It’s a little surprising they weren’t there sooner, to be honest, considering the love still given to Star Trek IV. I’m going to believe that the whales were just on a really long migration until now.

Whatever brought them back, these descendants of George and Gracie are a more than welcome addition to the game.

// Ocho

Exploring No Man’s Sky’s Payment Model

No Man's Sky, starship hanging over a ringed planet.

Sean Murray, let your employees have a break! Please! You’ve more than made up any hard feelings for No Man’s Sky and simultaneously in the process have stumbled into possibly the greatest payment model for modern gaming!

For real. Having paid attention to the MMO genre going on, uhhhh, wow, 17 years? Has it really been that long?! Huh. Well, that long we’ve seen all kinds of payment structures come and go. No Man’s Sky’s feels unique.

No Man's Sky, warping through asteroids by a planet's rings with three suns hanging in the sky.
Have to be careful while warping. Just kidding, no you don’t.

Essentially, when every game’s pricetag plummets mere months after it’s been released (and, to be fair, No Man’s Sky’s did this originally as well), this game’s instead has relatively remained steady. Aside from periodic holiday or special sales, it’s right now at a full $60. That steadiness has allowed them to produce consistent updates which, in turn, draws more players in. A consistent box price as a method of income! How novel!

Can you imagine? A game producing very high quality updates and essentially doing the whole thing just through box price alone? No microtransactions. No gambleboxes. No weird payment currencies. It’s refreshing, really.

No Man's Sky, an abyssal horror shooting a beam out of it's singular eye
Ahhh nothing like finding existential horrors waiting beneath the waves

Can every game do it? Obviously not, not every company’s structures and whatnot are the same and saying that every game should take it up is ridiculous. However, it does make you wonder what the MMO space would look like if some games hadn’t just dropped their box prices at the first sign of trouble and instead worked on producing quality content drops to justify it.

Probably not world peace or anything, but fun to think about.

// Ocho

Quick Review of No Man’s Sky Polestar Expedition

No Man's Sky, traversing a wormhole in a freighter

Way too late last night I finished up the 8th Expedition in No Man’s Sky, the Polestar Expedition, and overall it was okay. Definitely not too hard, like previous ones making you search for really obscure star systems, scale and jump off huge cliffs, or fend off battalions of Sentinels. I’d consider Polestar to be up there as one of the easiest.

Taking my time and going off the beaten path a little more than is needed, like exploring an abandoned freighter and beating up on some Sentinels for fun, the Expedition took me only 5 nights to complete. Less time than most of the others, which usually took between 6-7 nights to complete, but more than the anomalous Cartographers which only took 4 nights.

No Man's Sky, a solar eclipse above a blue world
I cheated. When you take screenshots you can move the location of the sun.

The way No Man’s Sky tells it’s story is very oblique, letting you find snippets of lore and lost logs along the way all with an existential and disjointed feel to them. Primarily the story in Expedition was conveyed via logs kept by your freighter’s commander and logs found in crashed freighters along the way. I didn’t even really realize what the story was about until I had turned off multiplayer which was preventing me from inspecting the first few downed freighters. People building bases right atop the freighters so they couldn’t dig into the ground, you see, was also not letting people retrieve that snippet of story.

From what I could make of it the story was about a world that was falling apart and its inhabitants taking to the stars en mass. However, among all the people scattering to the winds, it turned to a search for all those lost people. We had to find a large beacon, build a singularity engine, and traverse a wormhole to end up where I guess we were supposed to be. It’s unclear. After the final warp the Expedition just ended, no extra story to conclude that we had found who we were trying to. Ah well. What it lacked in story it made up for in theming, focusing entirely around the freighter.

No Man's Sky, an asteroid field with the sun's light scattering through above a cloudy planet.
Updated asteroid fields looked nicer and were a little harder to find

At the end I had a nice bankroll of 20 Million credits and 7000 nanites to work with as well as a mostly built out base aboard the freighter, a kitted out ship, and a few specialized multi-tools. Not a bad launching point for any new character, for sure.

// Ocho

Guild Wars 2 has Jump Pads from the Lion’s Arch Bank to the Auction House

Guild Wars 2, Octopus-themed bank in Lion's Arch

Who knew these were a thing?! Did you know?! When did they put these in?! I’ve played Guild Wars 2 on and off since beta and I’ve never seen these!! Well, to be fair, I did take about a year and a half hiatus after the whole Price/Fries thing and didn’t come back until O’Brien left. Yet, every time I’ve passed these jump pads I’ve missed them entirely. Check this out:

Guild Wars 2, Start of the jump-chain from the bank in Lion's Arch to the auction house, a small purple disc near one of the octopus's arms on the side near the Mystic Forge
Starting jump pad outside the bank

It’s a little hard to find at first, but the first jump pad is a small purple disc on the side of the octopus-bank that is closest to the Mystic Forge by one of the arms. It’s a little hidden by foliage but not as much as the other pads in the jump are, a little tricky to see. Jump on it and it launches you toward the dancing fountains.

Guild Wars 2, jumping through the air in Lion's Arch
Wooooo!

There will be, I think, 4 more jump pads in this chain and occasionally you might not hit one directly and be automatically launched to the next one. If not just jump on the missed pad and keep going until you finally land at the auction house.

Guild Wars 2, at the entrance to the auction house in Lion's Arch
A perfect landing

Have these been here the entire time and I just missed it every time? I’m just shocked that after 10 years I’m still finding little details that I’ve never seen before. If there’s anything that could be said of Guild Wars 2, though, it’s that it’s really dense on details. There’s little stuff everywhere for those who love to explore. Probably why I keep coming back to it.

// Ocho

Escapism

Elder Scrolls Online, Balmora

“IF YOU LIKE PINA COLADAS!!!” … I sing softly to myself in a futile attempt to preserve my sanity. Some days are much worse than others. Much worse. Days like this I’m thankful for all the games out there that keep us going.

I’m not going to go into specifics because we all have those days. Just look at the past number of years and the world around us! Heck, this blog is nothing but a fiddle to be played while the world burns. Did you know it took centuries for the Roman Empire to fully fall? (At least that’s what Reddit says)

Lord of the Rings Online, Heathfells, Gap of Rohan
Ahhh… nice.

I’m thankful that after it’s all done and I can finally relax that I can get fully immersed in jumping from star system to system in any number of space games or exploring Middle-Earth, Tyria, Tamriel, or you name it. These worlds aren’t just for entertainment, they’re a form of pseudo-therapy or at least I believe they are. I’m certainly helped by them. (I’m no doctor, don’t listen to me)

Guild Wars, Factions, Shing Jae Island, Sunqua Vale
One of the best gaming vistas out there. Prove me wrong.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better. And even if it’s not, well, the games and worlds will still be there to stave off the slow descent into madness again. Or at least I hope they’ll still be around. Don’t shut down our worlds please.

// Ocho

Commanding the Polestar Expedition

No Man's Sky Freighter warping through space

No Man’s Sky has had some history, for sure. One of the best stories in gaming, going from a loathed product at launch due to woeful underdevelopment and promised hype to an amazing product well worth the cost of entry and a relatively humble team behind it. It’s nothing short of remarkable the transformation. My favorite of all the updates, though, was easily the one introducing Expeditions.

Expeditions are, essentially, a thematic and structured path for new characters to take that showcases whatever is new in their latest update. Completed in phases, they offer account-wide rewards ranging from ships to cosmetics to pets to frigates and are an excellent way to give a new player or character a huge boost. Expeditions have taken a game that was, mostly, a sandbox with some oblique storytelling and gives it some much-needed structure.

Rocket boosting up above the freighter's bridge, a grey planet in the background
Rocket boosters don’t fail me now.

For a player like me that finds purpose in that structure, it takes a game that’s still enjoyable in a “base-building and efficiency” sense and turns it into a nice week-long romp through the unknown. Spoiler alert: I’ve completed all the Expeditions they’ve offered and enjoyed every one.

The latest is the ‘Polestar Expedition’, and focuses on the building out of your space freighter, recently given some much-needed development love. They’ve added some teleporters from the hanger directly onto your bridge and completely separated out the base, allowing you to create a huge, sprawling orbital home. All the convenience of a terrestrial base but adding the ability to look out on the vastness of the universe. All excellent additions.

Ocho’s Aurum coming in for a landing.

For an astrophysics nerd such as myself I may never make another terrestrial base again. Or, that is, probably until the next Expedition.

// Ocho