Update 24 offers 4 quests, 3 part of Heart of Madness – all Xoriat based ML 18/26 and P2P for 450 TP and The Mask of Deception a ML 30 Eveningstar based quest and F2P. The Xoriat based quests are all located out of 12 and outside the Guild ship portal – intermixed with several others. 1 quest entrance is located in Lordmarch plaza (Fashion Madness), one will teleport you to Khyber (Palace of Stone) and the last will take you to familiar battle grounds, the inn located across from the guild portal – a entrance that has seen 2 other Xoriat based quests before (Terminal Delirium).
Lets start with the 3 Xoriat one. When I first heard about this ‘chain’ (and I use chain very loosely in this case) and that it was to continue from the other 2 in the ‘series’, Harbinger of Madness and Reign of Madness I almost envisioned some kind of ‘end’ to the story line. Just as Fall of Truth was the end of a long running story line spanning from heroic to Epic. At least that is what I imagined and looked forward too.
I also envisioned Epic items, similar to the ones from the other previous chains and with some kind of thematic heritage linking them together – possibly a similar and simple upgrading system but instead we got very ‘normal’ items including new Mythical that drops in these quests. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but with the previous chains and its plethora of interesting ‘madness’ flavored items, that even linked into things like Hound of Xoriat, where during the previous named item update they also added several new Xoriat flavored items that also linked bank to these chains.
The stage was set for some new interesting versions of either old Xoriat items (see Necro 4 and E Necro and the new Epic version of old items) but instead we get what can mostly be described as plain and vanilla. None of the items have a hint of ‘Xoriat flavor’. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but it does feel a little disappointing since the quests always begged for more than simple loot – it begged for that combination interesting permutations and typical small but interesting negative.
And it’s not that the items are bad or that they don’t have a niche to fill, it’s just that I half expected something cool followed by a simple upgrade system that added additional flavor.
But that’s not the worst part; the worst part are the quests. Not because they’re bad or because they lack flavor; all of them have that little bit extra that gives them a hint of madness and typical Xoriat flair. No the worst part is that it threads in familiar territory and reuses some of the good oldies. It’s not new and great – it’s more like a compilation of greatest hits with familiar themes. So while some of the mechanics are new, the environments and the themes are not. Perhaps worse of all is that this ‘chain’ is more like 3 separate unrelated quests outside a general thematic lore with Lord of Stone, Lord of Eyes and a certain familiar Squid face, but they’re not linked in any way or continues or end any type of story arch.
And worst of all (of all worseness) is that the squid face is back, even tho he was terminally taken care of in Harbinger of Madness. Not that old enemies can’t come back, but it wasn’t like he was banished back to his realm of existance or fell of a cliff into a torrent ocean or whatever. He was killed. And you stood there in the end over his corpse. And to me that was kind of finite.
That’s really one of my main beef with Fashion Madness. It re-treads familiar grounds. With a fashion show, as if it was taken directly from the end quest. You’re hired as a body guard and you can guess what happens. Squid face comes back and you have to fight off wave after wave and then enter the sewers, break a bunch of cocoons with madened creatures and then finally fight an end guy. All in very familiar locales and against familiar portions from the old story arch. It’s not bad or anything. It’s just very similar. And having to once more deal with someone you already dealt with feels – anti climactic. And it leaves you with a cliff hanger of sort and you half expect to have to deal with him again, but the other 2 in the ‘chain’ are completely unrelated to this one. In fact there’s no mentioning of the squid face at all.
Simple put, I felt very disappointing when all was said and done since it threw me into the clutches of mr squid face again and left me hanging. Again – the quest itself is not bad. Just very familiar since all has been done again.
Speaking of done again, Terminal Delirium is boldly going where it has gone before. Twice already. This time Lord of Stone and Lord of Eyes have managed to get together in alliance through some rule shinenigans and you’ll become ‘slave’ to one of them through the course of some interaction as you’re hired by the inn keeper to ask them to leave.
I must say this; this is by far the most unique of the quest and the most Xoriat flavored. Without going into too many details, you will become a mirror, become a balloon and become a piece of floor puzzle. Doing so however you’ll be getting in touch with some very familiar themes in this inn and rekindle yourself with its greatest hits. But, unlike Fashion Madness this at least feels very unique. And the finale is classic Xoriat, with you doing a variant of the drinking game – which includes a dance off against a beholder where you need to stun the dancing creature and use the dance emote in order to win. Failure means you die and the beholder gets a few of its better features back (such as anti magic which makes it harder for caster types to stun, since you stun by taking the creatures HP down to zero).
Granted, these are all love or hate type quests and I’m all for special flavored quests and this fills the bill in so many ways. The dance off btw is hosted by a Mimic with commentary. Very fun.
The one that ‘feels’ the newest is Palace of Stone. Sure, it shares the same ‘stony’ look of a previous quest in the realm of Khyber, but this one is more like a tour of the Lord of Stone’s new home. But it lacks a lot of the silliness of the previous two, altho it has a lot of voice over which adds atmosphere. It is fairly rudimentary and straight forward. You enter 3 separate areas, listens to Lord of Eyes giving you a run down of what stone means to the world, fight stone monsters, Medusas and such and in the end fight 3 version of Lord of Stone. It seems you were invited for one single reason; to ‘housewarm’ his new digs with your blood splattered all over the wall, as is only proper when making a new palace.
The final quest, and free to play is The Mask of Deception. Your job is to infiltrade the Cult of the Dragon, steal a mask and leave. It is exactly as simple and rudimentary as it sounds. You can either do it (the way I did it) the brutal way by entering and destroying everything. Or you can pick up a mask in the beginning and walk around pretending to be one of them. In that case you’ll play the whole thing in reverse – once you pick up the mask an alarm is set off and you fight yourself out, unlike in the brutal version you fight yourself in.
Either way you’ll end up fighting a red named wizard armed with nasty breath attacks that hit for about 600+ – enought to one shoot my Arti. But it’s not something it’ll set off constantly so once you have handled the henchmen you’re safe to deal with the wiz (at range).
All in all, these are not bad quests per say. Just nothing spectacular. Some of them are Xoriat flavored, but it re-treads very familiar grounds. That takes away from the otherwise unique flavor. And perhaps worsest of all, the squid face is apparently still alive and you won’t deal with him personally this time around. And the other ones dealing with Lord of Eyes and Stone, leaves you hanging too. And it’s a pity – this could have been a completely separate chain setting you up for a nice end of the lore either in this pack or another. But it doesn’t. It leaves you hanging. And the items are nice but disappointing since they fail to live up to that ‘mad’ standard we’ve come to expect. Nice is good, but flavor is better. Perhaps Turbine decided that it’s a little bit too late for flavor since there are so many other good items out there, making flavor niche at best. Or that they didn’t have time and resources to figure out a good system for these new items. But in the end we get one of the least interesting rune arms and a bunch of items that fills mostly niche gear slots without the flavor.
I’m currently using the docent because to me that was perfect for my Bladeforged Arti, with it’s Con and Int, but I don’t see much else that really speaks to me. Granted, not everything is about items, but it is one of the reasons why we play MMOs.