Weekend bangup

This weekend I did 2 basic things; hit 28 with my pure Barb – and unlocked a full ToEE set. It’s not bad once you get that set bonus – but the Falchion cleaves are borked and I’m not sure if that’s resulting in a lot of misses or is simply only graphical. Either way with 28 means full Thunderforged armor and thunderforged great axe. But I must say that it was a nice combo while it lasted.

I also started getting my Vanguard up and running again after taking a few weeks off from leveling him. Most of it has been some terrible tedious weeks of a lot of ToEE running and it was a nice change of pace to level up my level 17 then to level 19 and 2 bubbles away from 20.

I’m clearly lacking a good bastardsword in the 15-20 range. I don’t know of a named that fills that gap, but there are plenty of shields in that range.

I’m using the level 16 from Web of Chaos and the level 14 First Blood. I will I had a Elite version of it but it would be a marginal improvement over the other stuff.

There are a few I’d like for the coming levels. The Epic Web of Chaos one. I still have not pulled the shard for it. It’s an okay sword. I finally pulled the shard for the heavy armor so that’s going to be nice with it’s +15 Vertigo (The Sentinels). Then at 21 I have either a Drow one or the B-sword from Epic Sentinels (well I got that one for 20 too). At 23 I have the Citw and at 26 thunderforged. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on Spinal Tap or a fully upgraded ToEE with the combo with the heavy armor I just unlocked. Both would add an okay amount of DPS to the Vanguard.

 

Small chest

My suggestion, skip it.

I mentioned this before; but the premise of ToEE is to explore for rare encounters and therefore greater chances for named items and more mats.

You do this by slaying hordes of mobs and usually to fight a pile of HP.

Note only named rare encounters give you that chance (and an assortment of ‘lone’ mini chests and such. None of the permanent named encounters, such as the gargoyle, troll, locked up chest, chest in the corner in part 2, chest in the water in part 1 etc does. Those are random trash loot chests and you can safely avoid them.

Same with Red Ogres. The only thing you get form them, eventho most of them are random placements is a chest of vendor trash. And they’re on ransack to for some unexplained reason – so while you are most likely going to run into them in part 1 and definitely in part 2 they’re quick to ransack if you run ToEE a few times – making the experience of clobbering a mountain of hit points just that more tedious.

However the entire premise, despite the fact that set encounters are pointless and random ogre spawns don’t add anything worthwile, it’s still fairly useless to do full runs.

Let me explain; I’ve done a few full runs (more than I care to admit). Both when it was first released and until patch 3 and after. Now with more rare, it still remains a fairly useless thing to do.

Partly because you won’t really run into that many more encounters (20% higher chance on a very low chance makes for about what seems like 1 or 2 more encounters ‘maybe’). You still end up slaying trash mobs by the bucket and nothing has been done to the overall HP balance on some of the encounters. But even with that the world is mostly full of trash mobs with a few rare instances of ‘WOOHOO RED NAMED’.

I recently ran 2 full node runs, one run was completely bust with not ONE single yellow named prisoner (free yellow mushrooms) or red named boss. The only thing I recieved that time was the end fight for each node – 3 mushrooms in 3 of them and 6 in one. Now that was a 2.5 hour run clearing out every nook and cranny and I was completely skunked with only end fight chest for each node.

The second run was ‘slightly’ more productive with 2 bosses in the earth node, nothing in the rest of them and with 1 yellow named prisoners in the water node.

That’s it. That was by large another 2.5 hour unproductive run.

Then I figured I try part 1 again – same deal. Slaying galore, 1 small chest, 1 large locked chest, the rust monster encounter and the dude with the frog and in the second section the Lava golem.

That was well over an hour running carpal tunneling my hands through button mashing with a few encounters to show for it.

Time wise the only suggestion I can give is that if you can run on EE either solo or with friends, do it. Take the critical paths to save money and you might run into something along the way and profit. Don’t worry about nook and cranny stuff. It’s not worth the resources you spend and it’s not worth the material. Same with EH and EN. But with even less incentive to explore.

Until Turbine seriously up the rare encounter rate AND increase the material drop in those chests I suggest make it quick and cash out in the end chest. Everything else is bound to disappoint you.

A weekend in Barbarism

He ain’t no Conan. No loincloth, bulging muscular bronze skin. Ferocious and cat like.

More like a well armored rapidly cleaning scythe of mayhem. It’s not so much finesse as a reliance on 5 cleaves, Momentum swing, cleave and greater cleave, the tier 5 smite from Crusader and the one from the tree.

5 brutal swings, raged to the hilt and a few other things thrown in for good measure. So from the Thursday time frame and to Sunday I hit the quest chains as hard as I could and advanced from 22ish to 26 – through Sagas or simply vacuuming all Epic quests in turn on EH.

A few levels involved unlocking Crusader and I’ve used Saga XP to unlock other destinies as much as possible. The idea is to scrape together 2 more Fate points and eventually twist in consecrated ground then run mostly on Legendary or Fotw for DPS. Simple enough. The build is a mix of pure Barbarian using components of all 3 trees for as much rage strength and Constitution as possible together with self healing and heal amp.

I still wish I had the Esos, but I am curious as to getting a ToEE heavy armor and 2 hander combo for 26 since I don’t have a black dragon armor on this guy.

Of course that means running part 2 until my eyes bleed and I’m burned out on ToEE right now. There’s just something mindbogglingly boring about slaying hordes of  creatures through all nodes.

Time to move on

I’ve been half halfheartedly playing ToEE as of late. I usually get more into new content for a longer time but it has so little repetition value for me that I’m down to throwing my sorc at it. But without the mysterious shrines that becomes fairly tedious too.

So I’m going back to leveling my barb, vanguard and pally – all three whom I recently either IR’d or ER’d. I’d like them all to get back on track as far as hitting a few MoD here and there and perhaps drudge away at getting a few items I’m still missing, but there’s significantly less reason to stay at 28 than it was before. Partly because they raid scene is pretty much shot.

Unless you want to wait a week for that group that always blow through 20 or so MoDs in a row. If you get in on time. It’s a pity too, the shadowwyrm raids are more or less down to once or twice on argo – CITW is completely dead and MoD is the serial exhausting blow through maybe once a week.

You see more regular shroud runs than you see a combination of those 4 raids. Pity since I’d love to get a few more CITW weapons including heroic comms, complete a few full sets of thunderforged items and get a few MoD stuff on all my active guys.

But that’s raids these days – thanks to bypasses. Plus less then a stellar incentive to run these raids. Hopefully Shavarath and upcoming Epic vale can change that. I would not be adverse to put a 6 months moratorium on raid bypasses for new raids. Just so it slows down the process and allow people to get into a slower more deliberate pace.

TOEE the beginning

ToEE patch 3, now with 20% more chance for rare

It’s not the only ‘new’ thing. They’re adding a few more items to the daily roll (or if you like – for an investment of 15 shards you have a small chance to pull something like a 6 to 7 tome).

For ToEE in particular Turbine heard the complaints and decided to add more rare. 20% more. The actual chance to pull named items seem to be the same. That in itselt doesn’t bother me. I welcome having ‘more’ chances, but the fundamentals of the problems still remain the same; even with 20 percent more rare you’re still wading through tons of mobs to get there. And when you do you’re still up against the mountainous HP rare.

In order to articulate the problem you also have to compare it to what works.

So lets compare with Haunted Halls for effect. Haunted hall was, much like traditional quests about getting to the end zone and profit. Along the way there was options and in the end you also had a choice of a few more optional encounters for specific named items. In other words, just like regular quests but with a slightly different scheme for named items.

ToEE took this further, here the premise was that IF you explore you have more chances for named items, some of which ONLY drops in the ‘explorer zone’ (such as armor in random rare chests in nodes) and it also adds more materials.

You can go to the end zone, but the incentive in order to get more and have more chances is to explore.

The problem is the method, not the premise since the premise remains fairly close to HH. Here it is the ‘mechanic’ in place. It’s sorta like a slayer and rare explorer in Wilderness. But being the defacto premise and not just something you do once in a blue moon while going for the quest itself.

HH had specific encounters, with separate mechanics, tactics and strategies. Each encounter hand crafted with several possible good solutions.

ToEE got one. Kill mobs, find rares, get keys and profit along the way or end. But there’s no tactics to speak of. Unless if you count skipping part of it because the alternative of fighting it seems so dreadfully tedious.

So while Turbine read the tea leaf’s wrong and provide ‘now with even more rare’ the kept the problem intact and exacerbated the outcome. More rares might mean more chances for named items and mat, but it’s still the same boring and unbalanced encounters. It’s still a tedious flora of mobs, spaced out every so many feet with possible a few more small chests and more red named piles of beat me forever.

That is the issue. I’m not saying that ‘we want more chances for named items’ or ‘we want more xp’ players are wrong – but it missed the Elephant in the china shop.

Slaughtering gobs of enemies is not fun. And the experience drenches, SOAKS, overwhelms the images and the score. It becomes the one thing you don’t want, but must do to profit.

HH offered portioned out specific encounters. All with separate approaches. There was some trash mobs, but they were spaced out and anonymous in the larger scheme. Within the specific encounters there were mechanics. Each one had intensity and relied less on massive HP bloat and more on ‘must beat the mechanic or else I run out of resources or get overwhelmed’. Like the undead area.

Waves of undead until you get the necromancers. But you can’t get to necromancers until you clear areas in front of the force fields. So the encounter hinges on snap judgement and well times DPS.

Each extra rare for named items in HH require separate tactical approaches. The lighting ‘statue’ guy require evasion or plainly run in circles while hitting but maintaining a safe level of stack.

The Giant skellie intimi and timing as far as replacing back the spear.

The Mummy maintaining resources, fighting off spawning skellies and to keep moving to fight the Mummy and remove rot. All fights, but intense. Not dependent on HP bloat of standing and smacking for minutes, but more coordination of maneuvering, spot heals and maintaining momentum.

ToEE relies on hordes and HP bloat. That’s it. There are no real optional strategies. Ones hordes are dealt with each rare becomes a matter of math. Dish out x amount of DPS, heal y amount of incoming damage. Rinse and repeat. Moving is almost entirely optional for most parts.

To put it bluntly; ToEE suffers from too much of the same. It would be one thing if you had a smaller quest with this mechanic, but ToEE is huge, so naturally doing the same for a few hours feels more like Crystal Cove or Mabar than an actual quest experience. And maybe that’s fine for a few times but not for longevity.

The answer was not 20% more rare – the answer would be to re balance the entire approach and make encounters special. It’s not the amount of time it takes to beat down stuff. It’s how intense and engaging you make it. That it feels special, apart from other encounters and that you feel accomplished for winning it. Having 20% more rare might ‘help’ getting stuff, but the price you pay is getting burned out a lot quicker.

I want ToEE to succeed. And people to play it, but I think Turbine is missing the window of opportunity here and ToEE will just be another example of sideway fail that might doom Turbines willingness to try again – as it did for Turbine to invest in another MOTU and Wheelon type release. After shadowfail Turbine have been outspoken in stating that there is probably not going to be another one.

background-toee.jpg

ToEE (3 of 3) – On the far side of the Moon

Eulogies are good for first impressions. But it can’t substitute a serious long term look at the issues.

Lets start with a premise. ToEE was meant to be another classic module released, much like Haunted Halls and with guest narration.  ToEE being bigger, naturally mean a lot more. And a lot more evidently meant less ‘special’ stuff and the need to bank on more random encounters.

There was also a difference in over all itemization scheme. Meaning that unlike in HH they wanted to provide an incentive to people to explore the entire map, so they instead added named items to rare encounters and ‘mats’. The idea was that you can always rush to the end OR as an added incentive you should/could explore and find more stuff. Either way – exploring meant profit, more so than always going for the end zone.

There was also the premise of making it ‘hard’. And hard in the world of exploiter builds and flavor of the week uber DPS toons means HP bloat. Hard either boils down to hitting really hard or in combination with hitting hard add x amount of HP. And in this case also add DR and resists. Just to make the pile of HP you have to plow through as unappetizing as possible.

ToEE is several large maps combined together. And Turbine figured that in order to keep players doing something they were going to add a randomization scheme that would add regular mobs everywhere, sometimes just a bunch of urns or boxes and seldom rares or something like a small chest.

Small chest

PROFIT! 2-3 rusted on EH out 200 needed

 

So in order to profit you plow through a multitude of hordes and once you finally find a rare it’s time to punch the HP sack until you either wish it was another trash mob or that you simply quit out to save your humanity.

The issue with ToEE boils down to a failure of premise. If wading through trash mobs to fight a few bloated rares is the alternative to bolting to the end zone, most people will bolt to the end zone.

First – there’s just too many randoms trash mobs to find a rare and the experience of fighting becomes auto attack snooze fests.

Second – it’s not worth it. The items you can upgrade are situational and not really worth the investment. You need a LOT of material to even upgrade to tier 1 and you need almost as much to upgrade to tier 2. That in itself isn’t all that bad since they’re BTA, but given that you will spend about 1.30 to 2 hours going through ONE part and you mostly end up with about 10-15 of the first material (rusted), means roughly 20-30 hours of monster slaying for a weapon that might be good for crushing more mobs in one of the nodes.

Air priest

Air Cleric, guardian of the Rune so you can fight another bloated encounter and get nothing for the experience

Third – some of the encounters are absolutely absurd. On one hand the earth elemental temple can be dealt with by either destroying a number of high HP Earth elementals or charming them. Either way the fight against the actual cleric is trivial.

Then you have this guy; Kelno. Lots of DR and resist and with about 135k-160k HP (EH). After a small wave of mephits you’ll be clobbering this guy for a while. He’ll throw some spells and you keep mashing buttons. You can’t avoid this fight unless you don’t want to finish part 1 (you need the key). And unlike the earth temple this guy do not have a chest. Or anything. Just a sack of HP and nothing better to do.

But it’s not over yet; now you go to the air temple to pick up the key. And once you do that you have to fight a Goristo. Hits like a truck and has a ton of HP. Provided that you don’t have a ddoor, then you can ddoor out of it and save some sanity.

And in contrast the Fire temple have either an option to skip combat by giving plat’s (you don’t get the chest) or fight and get a random vendor trash chest and the key. This entire fight is fast paced and fairly well balanced with several orange named Fire Salamanders and a red name with the appropriate amount of HP.

And then there’s the Water Temple.

Cube

This is the zoomed out version of the water guardian

Seen here is the water guardian itself and about the room you have to move around in. You can either stand in the middle of it as it jiggle around on top of you or you can stand against a corner and be ‘outside’ it and fight. Either way you’re going to get hit. Moving around is entirely pointless.

If you have a ddoor you can escape this IQ killing encounter but if you don’t there’s another surprise lined up for you.

After you destroy the cube, you also have to fight 2 more Water Elementals (red named for effect) in order to escape.

And yes – there’s no chest. Nothing.

Part 2 is not all that different.

Lots of trash mobs lined up every 10-20 feet and a few (something like 2-3) red named here and there in each node. But it also adds something dreadfully worse. Random placement of node stones.

Briefly; in part 2 you start in the inner sanctum of the temple. After a brief clear out of some of the living quarters and 2 orange named priests you now have one random entrance open to a node. It seems to favor Air, but it can be any of the elements. In there you need to find a node stone to unlock the next node in line or to get to the end boss fight.

If you do all 4 and defeat the boss you get an extra chest. In there you can find Elemental Victory (an all absorb helmet without augment slots). If you don’t have time since you spend 40 minutes looking everywhere for a randomly placed stone in a fairly large node area, you at least get one chest at the end fight.

Again, there’s virtually no incentive to check out all of the map since the chance for a rare encounter is so abysmally small, the HP bloat is dreadful and the waves of mobs tedious. Altho there’s a great chance that you end up doing most of the map anyways just to find the stone.

Conclusion.

Is ToEE worth it?

For that one first time experience, yes. It’s a beautiful quest and the score is great. But it’s soiled by a boring scheme of playing slaughterhouse with horde after horde of trash mobs. Every corridor, every room and every tunnel. There is nothing else to do. All traps are randomly placed, you don’t click or interact on something and there are no secret areas. Yes, some require search but there’s always a longer way around.

By the time you’re done the first time and you start doing those secondary and tertiery runs for stuff, you’ll notice just how much you end up dreading the time you’re going to blow on wracking up kills and show almost nothing for it. Soon you start forgetting the visuals and the scores and you have that creeping nausea of one more fight, just as pointless as the previous.

 

Dakuulun the inner beast

The Barbarian

I currently have two barbarians. I converted the one in the picture from a 2 handed swinging Kensei to a 2 handed weapon swinging pure barbarian. I don’t need too, or feel like have I have to multi class. I’m good.

My other barbarian is a 2 weapon swinging light armor wearing level 19. Maybe it’s just the weapons but I don’t ‘feel it’. It’s okay – but I wish I kept those Cannith challenge khopeshes as BTA so he’d have something nicer.

I do have a thought in the back of my mind – a Vanguard bezerker. A sword and board on steroids. I might try that out next on my fighter/pally vanguard experiment. Just to add a 15 barbarian/5 vanguard to the mix. Or something like that. I haven’t thought about any specific synergies yet – just a thought that intrigued me to have a more tactical using barbarians for more helpless damage (adding lots of stun to the mix and some self healing/heal amp).

But back to my ‘traditional’ 2 handed swinging pile of raged destruction. First. I’ve tried out the whole ‘maximum’ DPS frenzied Bezerker with a secondary in Ravager. I ran a Legendary blitzer and most crits hit for about 2-4k.

Now I’ve scaled down stuff and I’m unlocking Crusader. Crits are in the 500-800 range and I run heavy on Ravager for heal per strike as suppose to heal ticks every 4 seconds.

The trade between them both are bigger crits with Bezerker and more ‘smaller’ crits (crit chance of 15+ with Ravager+Crusader expanded threat range).

My hope is to use consecrated grounds as a twist (for pivotal moment heal ticks) and legendary for the solid amount of cleaves and DPS. Cleaves are important, the more you have the better. And the quicker you’ll expire large groups.

Agro lots of mobs, drop a consecrated grounds and hammer the nails down.