It’s not always about games

Another medium I like is movies/TV but not the ‘reality’ shows and all that other garbage. If I get 2-3 shows in on a full week I’m doing ‘good’. I try to keep it to something that feels like it adds not only a distraction but keeps it visual and interesting.

But I seldom continue if things gets really stupid. I just can’t. I don’t owe a loyalty when it goes sour and dumb – I am of the belief that they owe me as a fan to stay the course.

Take Heroes, a show I quit 2 seasons in as it turned stupid. The one mistake you can do as a show is to try to ‘revive’ something by turning people into something they’re not. To take one character and twist their personality. Heroes suffered from a painted corner. The first season was about saving this cheerleader that had tremendous healing/regenerative powers. This unknown baddy were killing these ‘heroes’ (superpowers) and absorbing them.

So killing her would make it immortal more or less.

So in the end, after developing characters and fighting the end boss – they wounded him, saved her and that was it. Sure, second season suffered from a strike among actors/actresses and was short – but it ended with even dumber story. They allowed the bad guy to finally get her power – she survived because she could regenerate but after that I was done.

One thing I know about the medium is that once you allow something to be so powerful that it would take an act of god to undo it, the actual mechanic that would do it would be so cheesy that it made you feel stupid.

That’s true with any movie where everyone is constantly beaten to a pulp by a bad guy and finally defeat him with a whimper. Then suddenly the bad guy is weak. Or when a hero is almost impossible to beat and suddenly he’s defeated by the most idiotic of things.

That’s the problem; give something to much power then the balancing act will feel like an anti climax, make them to weak it’ll feel impossibly stupid. True in games, true in movies.

But worse is the mistake of changing characters.

Lets say you have a show (Grimm) where one character seems really bad arse. Build a lore. But some characters (like his girlfriend) seems meek and weak. Now start creating a convoluted conflict – that say there’s this bad girl, she loses her power, goes through some idiotic feature to get it back, then uses her power to remove the Grimms power through a really stupid thing, the have the Grimm walk around all weak and worthless, then figure out another convoluted thing to get it back, which gives his girlfriend the bad girls power and now all of a sudden the bad girl is pregnant with his baby and the girlfriend changes personality to a power hungry super bad guy.

And suddenly the Grimm is powerless to do anything about it since the girl friend is like the bad guy but on over drive. No one knows how to help her and no one knows how she could get so powerful. And she’s like ‘wow, I’m so super powerful I’m going to be like super bad’.

Meanwhile the original lore is completely forgotten and it’s all about this convoluted moronic drama.

That’s how you break a functioning story and make it some kind of meaningless reality show. Except worse.

The original story with Grimm was that one day his grandma (or someone) showed up with a key. This key holds the power to something hidden that these ‘Royals’ want to get their hands on. But suddenly bad girl got pregnant with a half Royal hiding in Portland and it became all about her special child. Not a mentioning about this hidden place. (yes she got pregnant twice)

So I’m done. Just as I was done with Heroes when they destroyed the story with a sledge hammer (something about a decease killing everyone and current day Heroes and their future Heroes counter parts getting mixed up in time line where some were good and others bad) I’m done with Grimm for after 2 seasons getting away from the original lore and making it about a convoluted drama.

Yes – I saw part of the next episode and it had his now super bad girlfriend being able to make him entirely powerless. Because, once you have to defeat someone powerful, you need to make up a convoluted reason to why someone else can beat that.

Pity, that leaves me with Castle and Constantine. And Defiance when that comes back. But I’m okay with it. I really liked Grimm. They had an awesome original concept and story and a terrific bunch of characters that they have now started ruining. And once they changed the premise or even focus of the story I knew they were flailing their arms and grasping for new material.

ScreenShot00130

Mysterious Shrines, a new cool feature and tactical use

Just like random rare encounters (bosses – both orange and red) and the single chests – these will be found across the different dungeon both in part 1 and 2.

These shrines seem to come in 6 flavors – 1 for each element, defensive and offensive. The elemental ones add 20% absorb (for that element) and damage. Damage for melee, ranged and spells (each ‘bolt’) and it increases with spell power. You get roughly 56 in additional damage on melee and ranged and it can range up to 500-600 on crit for spells (dependent on your over all spell power for that element). So that’s a lot of extra damage – for each individual bolt or missile and the best part is that they all add up. If you happen to find 2 elements, say water and air, you’ll get both water and air damage for each weapon or spell in addition to spell damage and say Shiradi procs.

The defense one seem to double your HP and add both PRR and MRR – my Sorc for example goes from 730ish to about 1400 – which is a terrific amount of HP running around on EH.

The offensive adds melee, ranged and universal spell power – again – these all adds up with other potential shrines.

They all last for an hour, persist through rest and expires on death. They even continue to work when you leave ToEE.

One of my current tactics is that if I decide to check the entire dungeon I will make sure to ‘retake’ the shrine again (yes – it comes back after you click on it) before entering the end fight in say part 1. And before leaven the dungeon I will DDOOR out, go back in and find the shrines again and click. So when I leave the quest I have 55ish minutes of these shrines, that I can enter the quest again with for a much quicker run.

In general terms most fresh part 1 runs (complete, every nook and cranny) takes roughly 2 hours, maybe a little less.

Getting lucky and have a few shrines running – especially the elemental ones or the offensive, will cut down on the next one greatly. Especially if you get lucky again and find more shrines as the former counts out. My last using 3 shrines ended up taking 70ish minutes, a record in terms of completing (note – ddoor out from Water temple and Air temple to avoid boring red named hp bloat bag battles)

Granted; this is not as efficient on melee for elemental damage but it’s still roughly 60 per swing and it adds up quick.

That’s why I like to run my sorc under those circumstances. Provided he finds a few shrines – most of the time you’d be lucky to find 1 in part 1.

ScreenShot00129

This and the featured image plus an offensive shrine ended up being found fairly close to each others. So naturally it helped greatly in clearing out part 1.

Not all runs will be like these.

But if you do get lucky and decide to go for broke and hit part 2 right away and get to the queen as quickly as possible, reapply all potential shrines first. They’ll last into the next part and will be a great benefit when you clear out the first inner temple and even in the nodes.

Heck, even against the queen, but I’m not all that good with my sorc against the queen. And once those Hezraus drop he goes down quickly and once you die those shrines will be gone.

But for now – this is one good tactic for anyone who want to flower sniff and get it all. Less useful for people bolting to the end. Unless they get lucky and find it on the way that is.

Is it powerful? Yes and no. It’s random. Just as with ever thing else you can get entirely skunked on a grueling 2 hour run with few if anything rare. So it comes with a few drawbacks. None of them are guaranteed and you might end up wasting tons of time just to go through all of it.

But once you find a few you know that with simple tactics you can have a leg up on the next run after this one. So lets hope Turbine keeps it that way in the case this was not meant to persist quite as much as it currently does.

It’ll just make some runs a little smoother than others and it’s not something you can bank on all the time.

Fungi Queen

TOEE, end fight

Some fights are easy, some are hard. But the key to all are the mechanics. Take Sins in Shavarath. Gobs of mobs to slay but the end fight my be short and simple (dependent on choice of course). In others like invasion (Shavarath again) the trip there is long, random but not ‘too hard’ but the end fight can be grueling if you don’t have a divine that can drop blade barrier and run in circle while healing and remove curses. 2 quests out of the same area with entirely different difficulties in the end battles.

Some end battles are no more than ‘beat the bag of HP’ and others are contingent on constant maneuvering. Example – MoD – constant maneuvering while going in, beat some HP, then move out when the mark of death lands on the boss. It’s chaotic and messy.

Shroud end fight; surround the boss, beat a bag of HP and get constant heals. Done.

ToEEs end fight is a mix of MoD style ‘stuff is about to go nova’ and ‘surround and beat it’. But in a small confined area which makes maneuvering pointless (she’ll hit you with the spell spam and you’ll end up spending more time healing a low MRR class than anything else).

To that end, the end fight is boring. You either go in with a good PRR, MRR and heal amp toon and just stand there and smack it – hide by the sheltering shroom when the waves of death starts and beat up creatures when they spawn, then go back, drop a consecrated ground and continue beat up mommy fungi demon.

Or you run hysterically in circles trying to avoid spam of spells and self heal a lot, getting knocked down a lot and waste a lot of resources.

The tragedy of the end fight is simply one of class choice; either you have the one that can take the beating and stand there and smack.

Or you don’t and it’ll be a more miserable experience.

Ideally you’re with friends. Maybe 2 massive dps self heal barbs and one pally dropping consecrated ground and then a divine spot healing and a caster throwing out tons of dps. In that case the end fight will most likely be a breeze. But soloing you should stick with DPS, PRR/MRR and self healing, heal amp. I like my Vanguard but I assume my Pally will do just as nicely. The arty was a mess and my sorc was a dread. I wouldn’t bother with my ranger because of the low MRR.

Glacier crashing

This Weekend in DDO

I’m still working on part 3 of TOEE, redoing TOEE a few more times, adding a few more images etc until I have a good idea how to make it at least focused.

But first, a comment left in regards to the nature of the unlocked nodes in part 2 by Tholgrin

I can confirm personally that it is random – East and West both have each element and you’re given both a direction and an element which will tell you where to go (pay attention to the banners, and you can pick the right one every time). After 25 runs, I can also confirm East Air Shrine is the most common, but not the only one; you can either do them sequentially, or recall/reset until you get the element you’re looking to upgrade.

Although, as far as I can tell, aside from shrooms or inflating your kill counts for optional XP, there doesn’t seem to be any advantage to doing all four nodes.

It’s my experience as well; I finally ended up in a situation where the one I normally go to (eastern air node) and it was locked and found myself hitting water instead. So it’s random but it seems to favor air often enough that I didn’t see the randomness. And this is of course good. Good in that you’re not always forced to do the same set time and time again. Thanks Tholgrin for letting me know.

This weekend I wanted to get my Bladeforged Pally back to 28 so I could put on all the good gear and go romp through TOEE. I’ve noticed (sadly so) that if you are going to flowersniff TOEE you’re better off with a heavy armored melee or something like the Arti than a skirmisher type or caster.

True, if you’re looking at hitting the end chest as quickly as possible you could just go for broke on the pertinent parts and end up at the end a lot quicker. But for flowersniffing you need a low resource and high DPS situation (with good amount of self healing) and having played my Vanguard and liked it, I figured a higher DPS type like my Pally would do great.

But that meant hitting 27 and 28 and I did so hitting most of the suspect Eveningstar quest chains like Wheelon prison, the second chain in the mountains ending with what goes up (as per the image) and then a few assorted one – such as soloing EH MOTU 1 by doing a quick intense romp through each.

I finally hit 28 doing a final VON 3 – before hitting the end even and was ready for the marathon 2 hour flowersniffing TOEE part 1.

I’ve come to loath the specific red named encounters.

They’re boring. I’ll cover it more in part 3 but I can tell you now that smacking HP out of bloated created like the air cleric, the goristo (not too bad with a pally but dreadful with the vanguard), 1 water cube and the 2 red named Water Elementals. Tedious waste of time. I don’t know what possessed Turbine to add a cleric with 160k HP just so you can turn off a force field, and fight ANOTHER bloated HP bag (Goristo), but the water temple puts all of that behind it by a mile.

One HUGE cube in a small room, wiggling on top of you as you smack it for minutes. And then when you’re done with that you do the same in each side room to two Water Elementals. That encounter need a re-balancing and most of all some added fun.

On top of that you don’t get anything. The 2 worst encounters (Air and Water) and you get squat. You get a chest from the more reasonable Fire and you get one from Earth. But not the Air cleric, not from the Goristo and nothing – ZILCH – from the entire dreadful water temple.

Talk about sour you for what is visually not bad (Water).

Speaking of other meaningless and terrible encounter – the random red named cube you can find with the skeleton in the middle of it. CR 45 bag of massive ‘smack me for minutes’. It’s even worse than the water temple (by a hair, but still). And for a chest with maybe an item and some materials. It was easier with my Arti since I could stand away from it and fire a massive barrage of bolts and rune arm fire into it (it doesn’t move) but it’s still pointless and tedious.

I could go down the list (but I’ll cover that well enough in part 3 of my TOEE review) but safe to say it wasn’t my most favorite end to an otherwise fruitful Weekend.

TOEE the beginning

TOEE part 2 (2 of 3)

I mentioned in my first post about TOEE that TOEE overall is a uniformed feel but with so many distinct zones of interest. And this becomes clear with part 2. The first – more or less 3 different areas was at least always a temple romp with mostly narrow corridors, a multitude of rooms and 4 more temples.

And while part 2 starts out in the temple, that imagery and feel doesn’t remain for very long. At first glance you’re still somewhere deep inside TOEE. With the first job of finding a sigil that opens a door to the inner sanctum/throne room and access to the elemental nodes. This quickly because an intense battle scene since these larger rooms – the the right and left have lots of mobs in them (and even possibly more red/orange named stuff). But the real battle and a lot more mobs spawn when you find the sigil and open the portal. Once you enter the throne room you’ll quickly end up staring down, and fighting a wide corridor to the spacious throne room.

Inner temple part 2

With my vanguard I simply charged in and started beating faces, but with my Arti I stood back in the long corridor and kept attacking everything that came around the corner and in front of me. And it was a lot.

But once you dispatch the many mobs and the orange named leaders (and loot the chest) you will now have access to the nodes, radiating from the center via narrow corridors like the legs on a spider. I’m not sure all of the corridors actually lead to ‘open’ portals, it seems like only one does, but most of them are either ‘dead’ or have force fields on them.

My understanding is that you start with air, it might be random, but the times I’ve done this part, the air one has always been the one that’s open.

Anyways – it is now the real fun starts.

Each node corresponds to its own element and with the type of creatures in it associated with that element. So with air that means invisible stalkers, Djinns, Air elementals, Mephits etc. The interesting part is that each node have its own distinct feel and mechanics. Almost all anyways because Fire and Earth is fairly similar due to the fact it’s hard to envision a unique mechanic for either of those elements.

All elements seem to have a number of random encounter ranging from large red named (giants and dragons and such) to people you ‘help’. All of these (or most of them should anyways) gives you ‘shrooms. Not Rusted as in part 1 (upgrade material to tier 1) but color coded corresponding to the element you’re upgrading. So Air will have upgrade ‘Shrooms for shocking type items and Earth for the acid based ones etc.

The NPC you rescue have the other type – yellow.

All the nodes function the same. You can either ‘find’ the stone that opens the next node (Air->Water->Earth->Fire) and take the teleporter to that element, or it also removes a force field to a red named Elemental guarding the Entrance to the Demon Fungi Queen. There doesn’t seem to be a functional reason to do all the nodes unless you need materials. You’re not going to make the end fight easier or ‘remove’ certain creatures. And that’s a pity since it would add an extra dimension to ‘lower’ the difficulty of the end fight by doing all the nodes. So if you’re ever interested in the Fire ‘shrooms you’re going to have to do ALL the nodes sequentially but if you’re interested in the air only you can do that one, find all the mats and go on to the end fight. It’s truly not a really good system (assuming air is the only one open in the start – I checked ones and that was the case and I haven’t checked since).

To me the better idea would be to allow people to enter any of the nodes to begin with and make the ‘stone’ generic – you have to find it to take down the force field in each node but you should be free to do any of the nodes whenever or however you want.

AIr

Air Node

Air consist of large spacious caves emerging (as you can see from the picture) into a larger central system with a high ‘hill’ in the middle. From there you have caves at ground level but also higher up. This is where Air adds the unique mechanic of ‘jumping’ higher taking advantage of verticality as suppose to ‘ground pounding’. This also includes vertical shafts within caves. Some where you ‘jump’ up through a hole in the ground to a higher level, or jump up ledges to reach a hidden area.

You’ll find that the water area ‘borrowed’ some of this idea about vertical climbs with the main difference that you’re ‘swimming’ inside it, instead of jumping.

Water

Water Node

Water is perhaps the ‘coolest’ visually. There was something really emotionally immersing about swimming around in these underground cave systems while the serene scores sucked me in and then lead to heart pumping action music as I swam through holes and up on ‘land’ in narrow spaces lit up by water reflecting across the walls.

Earth

Earth Node

Earth is a lot more mundane and straight forward compared to the jump or swim mechanics of Air and Water. Most of it is large cave systems trickling out to more narrow confines but there’s little verticality to it. Most of it is quivering rumbling brown cave walls with dust falling down every time the innards of the node growls. But it does come with it’s own unique score – more of a menacing tone, then the serene specious as you hear it in Air and Water.

Fire

Fire Node

Fire is similar to Earth – you’re not going to climb vertical shafts or swim in Lava, but it’s a lot more bright with rivers of magma and fire dancing around glowing crystals. In that respect it is similar to Earth, but with more jagged rocks and narrow passages.

The End fight

Fungi Queen

Any of the nodes can take you to the end fight and as I mentioned earlier – you don’t need to finish all nodes to get there, nor does it add anything to the end fight as far as I can tell. In a way I wish it did. Either remove some of her power or buff some of your DPS.

The artwork is stunning tho. You walk in from the unique feel of a node into a world with giant fungi everywhere. Unlike any fungi you’ve seen in other quests or milieus.

The end fight however only take place in 1 small spot, compared to the spacious and vacant areas in several rooms before you get to it. I don’t know if there was meant to be several encounters before the end battle but it seems really strange to add so much visual and specious areas and then confine everything to a tiny speck of it.

The end fight is ‘simple’. The Queen will throw a bunch of nasty stuff at you and you will beat her up. There are toxic mushrooms that release spores that stacks up (quickly) so you need to keep them down. She also does this wave attack (like in MoD) where if you don’t get to a sheltering Mushroom on time, you will just die.

There are also cleansing Mushrooms to remove toxic stack but I do believe they drain SP and a lot of it (on EN it took almost 1k). Which is stupid. I hate dumb mechanics and Turbine will never learn from this fiasco of a feature. That only works when you can replenish Mana slowly forcing you to circle the wagons while you regain it. But when it’s perma drained like that it only creates a temporary issue until you hit a potion. Again – a loathsome stupid feature. But it doesn’t seem to happen often and I guess you can simply stay away.

Now and then a force field pops up and several creatures are spawned, after killing those, the force field comes down and you can hit her again.

Once she’s killed it’s all over, the force fields over the doorways comes down and you get your end loot.

Without mixing in a premature gripe (part 3) I will only state that the end fight is not all that fun but intense.  If you solo with hirelings you’ll hate how dumb hirelings are. They’ll die in the waves since they’re scripted to stick to bad guys, traps and all manor of destructive stuff like glue. And this is no difference. It was easier on my Vanguard since he used the Divine Crusader destiny for self healing plus he comes with a healthy chunk of HP, PRR and MRR.

My Arti didn’t fair that well. Less HP and PRR and while the rune arm hurts the repeater is not as effective, especially against the Gorista that spawns – an encounter that took way too long and waste way to many resources.  And I did have to eat a few cakes before I got the hang of it.

All in all the entire second part can take as long as the first, but will take you through a multitude of different environments and a diverse bunch of enemy creatures.

And as I mentioned in part one it is really a uniform, high quality experience with many emotional dimensions. Even if you decide to return after completing it all and just do 1 part over the other it’s still a mini adventure into a complete experience. One unique to TOEE and something you can’t really experience in any other quest.

 

TOEE the beginning

Temple of Elemental Evil (part 1)

I’ve spent many hours playing it – both on Lam and live. Most of the times I get 2 hours deep and give up (time constraint) and on Lam I tried not to spoil to much by at least get some early romps in, try out the basic mechanics – get a feel for the quest and what it did. Again – I didn’t go in to solve the entire quest and get to the end.

My desire was strictly to get an early look and provide feedback (if needed) on bugs and overall balance.

My first play through – a 4 hour session that had me do almost the entire first part (every nook and cranny), a good portion of the second part with the Air and Water nodes (I have since done all 4 on a different character). Plus of course the end fight.

So if you don’t want any spoilers I suggest you stop now – take your time to experience TOEE first hand and come back and see if you agree. This first part (out of 3) will deal with the first portion of the temple only since TOEE is huge. The second will deal with part two and give more importantly get a better understanding of the ‘negatives’ (for part 3) beyond the obvious itemization and size of quest issues.

But first – lets deal with 2 significant portions of TOEE and which goes beyond visuals, mechanics, mobs and features.

Guest Narration

I’m not a fan or for that matter dislike Wil Wheaton or anything he have done. I know he is from Star Trek the next generation fame – often either reviled or liked. I’m entirely neutral to that and can enjoy reruns of STTNG without cringing or suffering from his character. I know also that he’s a professed ‘nerd’ like me – outspoken about the medium of PnP and games in average. I saw him in a documentary about games and I’ve seen him briefly in the Big Bang Theory – in the very few episodes I’ve watched.

So when it comes to his addition I’m entire ambivalent and neutral, because I’m not ‘into what he does’ nor know that much about it any more than I’m into ‘known people’ in dancing with the stars (another show I refuse to watch). I simply don’t care. I think I have to state this since sometimes people take ‘positions’ on features that are barely important (to me anyways). To me he adds a ‘dimension’ of nerdiness that feels cool. Not because I’m interested in his work, but because it adds a flavor from a person that is very into the genre. And that has a fan base.

It’s also thematic considering the work on haunted halls with the narration of Ed Greenwood, the originator of that classic module. So having a ‘guest’, be it the creator or in this case, someone very much into the genre is interesting and it seems appropriate. Then there are the auditory commentary. It’s interesting to hear portions of the interview with him – which is a step up from say how haunted halls was done with a separate interview released around the update and recently a full version.

I’m somewhat torn about this; It’s interesting to find these nuggets while you explore but I do agree somewhat with someone I read on the forum that said it ‘takes you out of immersion’ (roughly). And it’s true. It’s a break in immersion – as the scores hammers or sooth, the area is overwhelmed by mobs, you’re pulled out by Will talking about his experience with the module or just PnP in average. In a way the suggestion of providing back ground to the module would have been nicer – sort of like the narration in wilderness areas such as Epic gianthold with either the giant or The truthful one providing the back story.

Or simply it could have been something you collect and can listen too or watch later on. Like they do it in some console games where you unlock features you can read later. Sure, that would mean figuring out a new mechanic for your account, but it would keep you immersed while adding a bonus for later. Either way; it’s not a big deal and it’s interesting to hear his thoughts – and you can always skip these things on subsequent play troughs (they do provide some XP but you won’t be running this for XP anyways).

The Score

I want to point out the score because it is a very important part of an overall experience. In fact it is what adds the emotional vibrations to a visual medium. You can have a mediocre film getting an extra emotional lift from a great score or an otherwise okay film can be downgraded with terrible sound. That is also true with games. Luckily in games you can most often turn off bad scores, but then you also remove an integral part of the total experience. Plus the worst part with some game music is how looped and repetitive it can get. But if you have a good sound system and some suitable tracks of your own you can easily add whatever emotional punch you want yourself. If there’s one gripe that I’ve had about DDO is that the sounds and the score was often mediocre at best. That changed with the release of MOTU. For the first them Turbine added high fantasy scores, getting away from what sounded like bad industrial annoying sounds for the Eberron world (I’m sure it was meant to sounds stream punk but it never hooked me), to the scores that conveyed a dense dimly lit forest, the spacious caverns of the underdark and the menacing presence of Drow. It was also the first time Turbine added action music, for all fights – adding energy to the visceral.

It’s been up and down mostly until this release. Some okay, some annoying (I didn’t care for wheelon and the mountain area. Both didn’t convey the settings very well). With TOEE it’s back to menacing, nerve wracking and high fantasy. From the serene while swimming underground in massive underwater caverns, to the ‘what’s behind that corner’ in the fire cave, to the malice of a temple full of brooding evil. All areas have it’s own feel and it’s own tempo conveying areas as unique and their own and an imagery and art that is bolstered with a temperament that goes from the intense around combat, creeping doom in dimly lit corridors and wondrous in spacious areas.

That is an achievement. It is clear that Turbine set out to produce a very ambitious and worthy experience. It’s capped off with soaring heroic tones as you defeat the Fungi Demon Queen and Wheaton declaring that you managed to defeat her. And it genuinely made me feel like I had accomplished something. A journey that began 4 hours earlier and ended with a fast paced end battle.

TOEE temple corridor

The Temple

There’s not much building up to the temple itself. You start not far from the gates, with one area to the left and another to the right of the temple doors. You might find a random encounter of a guy wanting spider eggs for his giant frog but that one can be found inside as well. There might also be a few bandits around with a bunch of NPC bandits by some tents getting drunk. I don’t know if those NPC are for lore only or if it triggers an event that you complete inside.

Once you open the gates (a nice creaking sounds would be atmospheric here, maybe with some foul air escaping as the portals open) you click and go inside to the first area. This is where you meet the guy next to the ‘workbench’ where you can upgrade stuff. He gives you some lore and if you explore this area you might end up fighting a few more bandits. To the left and right of the entrance there are doors that lead to the actual temple are.

The first part is really 3 separate areas with their own feel. First you have the ‘upper’ part – a large structure with corridors and such and one central earth Temple. Here you come across your first key out of 4 and there are two ways to beat it. One – you go there, you beat 4 HP bloated Earth Elementals and then a cleric. The Cleric is easy compared to many other red named, perhaps a little bit too easy. But the earth Elemental with their natural high fortification and DR are a bunch of lumbering sacks of ‘beat me forever’.

The second way is to explore 2 areas in particular where there’s a ‘club’ that can charm and control earth elementals. It’s either in a prison area or in the priests quarter – both located to the west or east of the temple itself. Using it you can hit the earth elemental and charm them (for a long time too). They can then be used to beat up the priest (altho they’re charmed and not dominated so the best thing is to round them up, get their agro and take them to the force field protecting the priest and charm them there.

Getting the club takes a little longer but it allows you to avoid wasting time beating up the earth elementals, even if the priest fight itself is trivial. Plus the club is useful in the end battle towards the end.

The second section gets unlocked after you get the earth key. This allows you to take down a force field that leads you to a ‘lower’ (different) portion of the temple. Here it gets roomier and more about the 3 other elemental temples.

TOEE Fire temple

Seen here is the fire temple. But there’s also a larger but devastated air temple and a more condenses and less spacious water temple. I’m going to touch on the negatives a lot more in part 3, but I can tell you that 2 of these temples have a couple of terribly boring HP bloated encounters and the fire temple happens to be the best one of them all (more intense, not as bloated and where you can at least move around).

The fire and water temples are straight forward. There’s a slight puzzle element (nothing special) to the water where you take water from a fountain, add it to the shrine, which takes down a barrier and fight a water pool guardian that is a water version of your average HP bloated Jelly cube. But it doesn’t stop there. In order to take down the barrier that comes up when you take the key, you also afterwards need to kill two water elementals with tons more HP. That makes the water temple fairly dreadful, dependent on what type of class you use and with what weapon.

For the air you first need to find the priest for the temple (the water temple priest is trivial and he and the other people worshiping the waterpool ends up sacrificing their HP to the guardian), the fire priest is a red named character with a reasonable amount of HP and far better encounter compared the air priest. The air priest has 78k HP on Normal and twice that on hard. And after a few spawns of mephits you spend the rest of the time smacking HPs out of him.

Once you’re done with him, you turn of the force field over the key (located in the air temple and as soon as you take the key you end up fighting a HP bloated Goristo.

And once you have all 4 keys you can take down 4 different force fields to enter the end battle – one for each element.

 

TOEE end battle bug

 

Seen here is the end part with 4 zones – 1 for each element. Note the charmed earth elemental to the right. If you have the club you can charm this elemental too, which helps as you have to fight a red named fire, water, earth and air elemental.  The tactical battle is simple; you drag the elemental you’re fighting to the corresponding opposite element (so water to fire) and it becomes easier to beat. In it’s element it’s stronger.

After a bit the casters pet drops down – first it’s a wolf and then it turns into this nasty red named bug. And once you start beating that up the caster drops and you fight him.

After his defeat you will find a few items and some background lore in his chamber. You end up reading about the fragments and assemble some orb that can open a door to the entrance to part 2. Note, once you get here you will unlock part 2 and you can go directly to part 2 from the portal in the Hall of Heroes, rather then doing part 1 first. I’m guessing however that the end reward is tied to completing both as it is with all quest chains.

Final Note:

I’m going to tie everything together in part 3 – but the conclusion for anyone reading this is that TOEE is well worth the cost and the experience. It is by far the best module in my humble opinion for the one single unified experience you can get. If you’ve played them all you know that there are plenty of different quests out there with many different levels of quality. From the mediocre to the superb, but few offers that high quality from minute 1 to the end. Some chains have those 1 or 2 quests that are brilliant and rewarding and those others that range from poor to okay. Vale comes to mind with 5 quest of varied quality.

For most part you can get 2-3 hours out of running an entire quest chain (dependent on familiarity and also what difficulty). Usually you end up zerging a specific rout. Some, like the High Road Harper chain are nothing more than a bunch of rail shooters. You go from A to Z, more or less lead by the nose.

Or you can play some chains where there is exploration and side options but it’s so much more efficient to skip all that and go to the end.

TOEE rewards flower sniffing and side questing. It’s integral to the system of upgrading. That’s how you find the named stuff and the upgrade material.  You can certainly find the most efficient rout to the end, but you’ll end up missing out on so much else in between. And because of the random placement of mobs and red named enemies no setting is entirely the same.

TOEE has a uniform feel, but with so many levels of different emotional impacts. Despite some of the dreadful stuff (HP bloat on red names) you get many distinct experiences. And that’s important. And while the complete experience seems to be a perfect ride despite offering narrow corridors, large and lofty temples and finally the splendor of the elemental node, there are so many distinct flavors and yet they all seems to harmonize.

If you haven’t bought TOEE yet, do it. While there’s a question about itemization right now and you certainly won’t run it for xp/minute – it’s an experience that gives you that feeling of dungeon crawling.

broken-chain

Precient

What was meant to be a 8AM to 12 Eastern have turned into ‘tonight’ as far as patching goes. Granted, nothing is ever awesome (unlike Lego movie). And DDO is notoriously ‘bad’ in that respect. But it’s funny that I lamented an April 6th release and now something ‘went wrong’.

I really don’t care why that is, nor does it bother me that much that I have to wait a little bit – but it does give me some pause. For whatever that reason is.

Now I can state one thing that have made me somewhat disappointed. For the first time I found something I wanted to get for fragments. A level 21 cloak with MRR and Heal Amp. BTA – adds augments and such for a great ER cloak (also comes in a level 7, 14 and 21 pair of bracers/cloak).

At that point I had managed to collect close to 4k. And I figure that given a weeks head start with the weekend in the end of March through April 5th. But as it turned out Turbine adjusted the drop rate and for most part I’ve received 1, 2 or 3 almost all the time. From drops and from chests. With the odd above 10. But the average is more like 2.

That’s different from before where the norm was more lower from drops and higher from chests. As an experiment I ran my then level 26 Arti (now 28) through haunted halls and I was appalled to see that most chests had really low numbers in them. This was all on EH, but doing a few EEs the drop amount didn’t change much.

At a minimum I thought I’d be able to hit 4k doing all those quests, but as it turns out the drop rate from actual champions on EH is abysmal and if something drops the amount is low. It’s almost like Token fragments at this point.

I don’t know why the amount was changed but it feels stupid at this point. Especially when you have a small spider taking 1 third of the HP and at the most I get 1 fragment in return, mostly nothing. It makes me think the champions is a non rewarding challenge trivialized by silly randomization where one room can have 3 benign critters with burger king crowns and all orange without it.

It reminds me of when Turbine decided to redo materials like Glittering dust and ‘change’ what you could use them for and then totally screwed up the amounts needed. It was clear that it was a shard scheme since you could use shards to get the specific augment you wanted OR use a silly high amount of rare materials to get a random chance.

I was so turned off by the stupidity that I quit even bothering with it.

The only thing missing from this fiasco would some kind of payment scheme to get the items without worrying about drop – or maybe a fragment increase potion. Hey why not. There’s always more ways to destroy a good thing.