Travel Log: Postcards from Westfall

Here i am, having renewed my subscription to World of Warcraft. After some initial struggles, mostly deriving from the fact that i played through Elwynn Forest about 50 times, i found enjoyment in Azeroth. It’s not totally unexpected, as i always loved WoW for the zone design. What was new, however, was the impression that everything seems to be just so in this game. I guess this is going to change in later levels, but right now, there’s always something i can accomplish if i play just another five minutes. Be it traveling to the next location, leveling up, completing a quest or simply check out the crafting trainer. And i haven’t even set foot into one of the many, many dungeons.

Here i am, in a 12-year-old MMORPG, competing for mobs in a beginner zone.
Here i am, in a 12-year-old MMORPG, competing for mobs in a low level zone.

World of Warcraft is populated, at least on Argent Dawn (EU)- i’ve not once been very distant to fellow players. The design of the zones is finely crafted up to the details like interiors. I am not in a hurry, as i know i won’t be able to hit whatever the maxlevel right now is (100, i guess?!?) before Legion hits and also because that would suck the fun out of the game. Besides tracking quests, i also track achievements- namely the exploration-type of my current zone and the quest achievement. It’s probably impossible to do everything on one character, but i’d like to check them off in zones i begin.

Sentinel Hill in Westfall
Sentinel Hill in Westfall

Of course, having seen Westfall the last time before Cataclysm, the zone isn’t the same anymore. There’s more than a tower above Sentinel Hill, now- but i do feel WoW manages to keep the nostalgia in terms of a zone’s look and feel alive. Once i began following the storyline, i’ve found it to be interesting, as well.

The Rebirth of the Defias Brotherhood.
The Rebirth of the Defias Brotherhood.

As for Westfall, i didn’t like the zone when i played WoW the first time. It was difficult, quite big and took seemingly forever. Also, at that time there was no group finder, so you’d spend even more time in the zone looking for a group and entering the dungeon (Deadmines). Speaking of which, the “backflash”-quest was a stroke of genius, in my opinion.

WoWScrnShot_071216_100623
We were there

I’ve moved on to the Redridge Mountains, now, a zone where i don’t have many memories of, except fighting my way up to that castle billions of times, but i’m having fun and i’m looking forward to re-exploring World of Warcraft.

Travel Log: Cyrodiil fun

Yesterday evening marked the beginning of our guild-activity series. The poll decided that we’ll go with Cyrodiil PvE first- that means going in there, unlocking skyshards, finish delves and dolmen, explore places and so on. Questing might be part of it, but it’s a sidenote. As we aren’t into PvP, we’ll begin in Aldmeri Dominion territory and simply hope for the best. The best being no enemy players around, all the more as we couldn’t join the non-veteran campaign due to one of us being in their veteran ranks. I’d have thought they get scaled down, but apparently, this campaign is for <50 players, stat.

Suspense is other people

Of course, there’s still tension. After all, enemy players can be anywhere in the landscape, in delves and as you are able to see dolmen/anchors from far away, there’s enemies to be expected. First of all, i’ve got to say that i love this. I wouldn’t want it all the time, but when traveling through Cyrodiil (or mining in a 0.4 sec system in EVE), i’m always on the lookout for others and there are things to be considered as soon as you see enemy players.

So it happened when we met others- a small group of maybe two or three players in one of the delves we ventured in- the Pothole Caverns. I couldn’t make out how many there were, because they went into stealth as soon as they saw us. And that’s when it became really interesting- this group was in a delve, after all, so it was entirely possible that they didn’t want to seek out fights, but so aren’t we and we still fight enemy players when we see them (we don’t hunt them, though). They could also be hiding and sneaking around to attack us. We were hidden by that time, as well, and i don’t know enough about the stealth mechanics in pvp to know how we’d be able to see them. I sneaked around a bit, then i decided to come out of my cover- maybe lure the enemies into attacking us.

On the lookout
On the lookout

Nothing happened. Still, can’t be sure, right? So the next thing i considered was that they were waiting for us to get engaged in a fight with the mobs around- so i started a fight. Again, we were not attacked. We relaxed a bit, but when it came to the delve boss, i became cautious once again- they could be lurking out there, waiting for us to clear the way and then “steal” the bossfight from under our feet. But they weren’t. I don’t know where they went, but we never fought them- at least not in this place.

After some time, we travelled to Vlastarus for a skyshard. Vlastarus is in Aldmeri Dominion territory, if the map is in its initial state. Yesterday, it was at the border to the Daggerfall Covenant, so all kinds of stuff happened- there were DC guards and three enemy players. This time, we got into a fight. While we were first just looking at one enemy and still considering whether and how to attack them, they took their chances when a guard attacked us. And there were some friend, as well. It was a very interesting, not too short fight with some players and npcs- and it was a lot of fun. Made even sweeter by our victory.

When we went to tackle an anchor, i advised our group to avoid standing too close to each other, because i didn’t want enemy players to hit all of us with one AoE attack. Surprisingly, nothing pvp-related happened there, though.

Then, we called it a night. But “calling it a night” in Cyrodiil means trying something new and exciting. So we decided to attack a mine owned by the Covenant close to one of our castles or towers- to teleport to the southwest and then use the wayshrine to get out of Cyrodiil. This was a very difficult fight. I’m not sure if we would have been able to defeat the NPCs- probably not, but it would have been a close call, but they weren’t alone, as some players came by to defend the mine. Then it was over quickly.

Cyrodiil fun

This suspense- or tension, coupled with the open and vast zone design of Cyrodiil, really good loot, resource nodes and so on, are what i love about Cyrodiil. Of course, it wouldn’t have been half as much fun without the company, so there’s that. The funny thing is, the way the players in our guild are, we’re new to many of the things we do together. Many of us play Elder Scrolls Online because they like the IP. They played solo mostly and kept to themselves. So while we have veteran rank players in our midst, many of them haven’t seen a dungeon from the inside, and Cyrodiil, with its pvp nature? It’s new to all of us. So we’re basically noobs, but we’re having some great times together.

 

Travel Log: Space is vast, empty and beautiful

So, EVE. I’m totally lost and reckon that, maybe, my ship (a Bantam) isn’t really the right one for going mining. I guess i’ll need to research for a better one. You know, when returning to an MMO, normally i don’t have to find out how to move again.

Anyways, seeing the player driven economy put a smile on my face already. I don’t know, though- with EVE, half the job is figuring out what you want to do – i’d like to start with mining and maybe some production later and then find out how to do that, exactly.

Getting to an asteroid belt, then back to station to find out where noob ore is most expensive in the area, then doing 4 jumps for 50k ISK isn’t worth it- even for me. After all, i already have 8 million ISK, the equivalent of roughly 0.20$ (hahaha). To play EVE, you have to read about EVE. Still, beautiful it is.

 

Travel Log: China (overview)

Yesterday we’ve returned from our annual trip to China. This year was good for a lot of reasons: everybody was doing quite ok, nobody was in hospital and we have actually done some interesting things like seeing a “Venice-like” village, visiting a bamboo forest, taking a boat trip on the West Lake, Hangzhou and went to Shanghai for a night. The downsides were the air quality- Hangzhou is preparing for the G20 summit that happens in september and i think they’re quite literally rebuilding the whole city for that event, so there were a lot- and i do mean a lot- construction sites that, aided the usual traffic chaos in terms of dusty air. But that was all, really- everything else was great.

In fact, it was so interesting that i decided to do more than one post on the subject- but i wanted to get something quick out while recovering from the jetlag. As an appetizer, here are a few pictures i took while being in China. I’ll get to everything in more detail soon ™.

Travel Log: Reaching Velia

I have switched to the Valkyrie and have arrived in Velia. And i have to confess, since then, i’m in love with Black Desert Online. The Valkyrie proved to be so much fun that i simply cut my way through the Beetles, Weasels, Foxes, Wolves and Imps surrounding Olvia- reaching level 10 was a matter of 20 minutes. I decided to claim my preorder goodies for her, but they haven’t arrived yet. With the preorder pack i chose, i could select a whole set of furniture (i went with fleece) and a pet. Normally, i am a cat person- but there was no cat resembling our RL cat, and i think it’s not really in cats’ nature to follow people around wherever they go, i went with a dog. I chose the “Naughty Dog”, because i thought it’s a basset hound (not convinced anymore but there’s some similarity, at least) and i’m a huge fan of the tv series “Columbo”. I might call him “dog”, too- but i won’t carry him around like Columbo did.

Naughty-Dog

columbo

It seems i can’t take quests with an Alt that are currently “active” on another character- besides the main storyline, of course. The Valkyrie didn’t do the same quests as the Witch did before her, for whatever reason. In the end, it made her progress much quicker. Arriving in Velia, i realized that everything before was more or less a tutorial. Velia was the first place where my quest log rose above five available quests. It was also the first village where i got a fishing quest and a trading quest. I got more contribution points while spending half an hour there than in all that time leading up to it. Now i actually have some left to spend.

And it was sprawling with people. Unfortunately i didn’t take a screen of it, but the coastline with all these players fishing was a sight to be seen. The roads are busier, too. Not only with players- there are men transporting…something. They’re NPCs and i’ve seen them before, but now? The roads are full of them- so i guess this is player-influenced. These guys either transport trade goods or materials- or are someone’s workers- or they transport players’ stuff from town to town when they move. It’s the first time i think the game is “opening up”, and it’s great to see. As is the general art design- these villages actually seem like villages, beaches look just like they’re supposed to look and the water…well, jumping in you can almost feel the refreshment in provides in the heat of a mediterranean afternoon.

I’m still not far along and don’t understand much, and until i do, i’ll reserve judgement. But for now…BDO remains very immersive and interesting- as BDO does so many things different than other MMOs, it’s a joy to feel lost and explore (land and mechanics) again.

Travel Log: Entering Greenshade

Last week i started venturing into Greenshade, but only entered Marbruk and did some guild quests there. Then Black Desert Online happened, so i gave it two nights to play around a bit. Yesterday and today, i wanted to venture out in Greenshade. It turned out that i didn’t get to quest at all yesterday because of a very active guild chat (we have two new recruits, raising our count to 9), so it had to be today. I did a main quest and then set forth to explore Greenshade a bit. After the amazing wood-zone of Grahtwood, the more open design in the beginning of Greenshade is a welcome change. Just like all the other zones, Greenshade seems to be beautifully designed. I like how the zones in Elder Scrolls Online are open and “realistic” while still being breathtaking almost all-around.

I have the task to bring these Bosmer clans here under the umbrella of the Aldmeri Dominion, so i went out to the first village and see what they wanted. They wanted me to drive an orc clan away. Difficulty is ramping up here- i wasn’t in any trouble, not by any means, but that orc clan area was quite full of orcs- don’t pay attention and you just might pull too many of them. I think it’s funny that Belghast did the same thing a few days ago and wrote about it yesterday, although i think he’s doing it in Veteran Ranks. Then i went and talked to that Wilderking of theirs. He’s strangely curious about someone who’s coming to kill him.

So for today i’ll leave you with a few screenshots of the area.

Travel Log: wrapping up Grahtwood

Yesterday i finally had/took the time to wrap up Grahtwood, the level 16-24 area for Aldmeri Dominion in Elder Scrolls Online. Nuria has been in Grahtwood, well, for almost 2 years, i suppose, as it was one of the characters i created back when the game launched. I can’t tell you how many hours of /played it took to finish it, but what i am able to tell you is that it was a memorable experience.

I do remember when i first got there. Not in too much detail, but i remember how difficult i found it to be. It’s not often that you’ll find standard open-world content difficult in MMORPGs- here, coming to Grahtwood with a fresh level 16 character, it was as much an unwelcoming place as the quest lore made it out to be. It was grim, and i’ve found some quest very confusing- i can’t remember which one, anymore, but somehow, something put me to a stop in the game. I know i loathed the inventory minigame even more back then, because ESO was still asking for a subscription at that time and i felt it was one of those time-wasters designed to make you sub longer. Around that time, i decided to discontinue playing the game.

When i returned a couple of times to check the game out again, i did what i always do: create a new character to play because i had forgotten about the old one. So i didn’t see the Grahtwood anymore, until our guild decided to side with the Aldmeri Dominion and i was looking at either continuing Nuria or create another new character. As i have been playing the game in our premade group up to level 8, i felt i could tackle a level 19 character of the same class- after all, there had been a skill reset in the meantime and i had a general idea on what to do with the character.

Laeloria

It wasn’t easy, though. I still had to struggle through getting to know the character and the situation she found herself in. And, after all that time and despite really liking the Daggerfall Covenant zones and quest-related stories, it’s Grahtwood where i fell in love with the game again. And it was a quest.

The watcher in the Treehouse, again.
The watcher in the Treehouse, again.

Laeloria. I don’t know what it was about this quest- i guess it was all a happy coincidence. First, i saw the building you can see in the background of the screenshot above. I made a mental note to take a look later. While travelling around, at some point i saw a Treehouse and decided to climb it, as i knew it would offer some kind of view. Arriving there, i received the quest- freeing some captured soul from Coldharbour- and the Watcher told me more. How someone already ventured in to free that soul, how she told him to watch the beacon and pay attention if/when it turned to a red light. I was enthralled, because i wondered if it would, indeed, turn red and thereby ending the century-long wait for that Watcher. So now Laeloria was more than a building i wanted to explore at some point- it was encased in the lore of the Watcher and the liberation of not one, but two individuals and finally even in the mystery of the beacon. That’s a normal side-quest, mind you. It’s not even a very uncommon theme here- freeing people from a dangerous place often is the motivation for the player character to venture in, after all. But for some reason, all these elements clicked for me. Better yet, that wasn’t even all there is to Laeloria.

Statue of Azura in Laeloria.
Statue of Azura in Laeloria.

Azura, a Daedra that’s not even viewed as being as evil as the others, is in this whole scheme, as well. As is a demon, but i didn’t like that one very much. It’s this quest that will me- or my character, at least- have a “special” connection to Azura from then on. Now, i don’t know anything much about the lore of Elder Scrolls games and Elder Scrolls Online in particular- it’s a gap i plan to fill at some point, also because of this quest and Azura.

Exploring Laeloria was very satisfying and i wasn’t disappointed, of course. After all that tension building up around this place it did deliver on it, after all. Did the beacon turn red? Well, you’ll have to take a look yourself.

Grahtwood

The zone has to offer much more and it’s actually quite diverse, even though the theme never changes from being a wood. There are Bosmer villages made of trees and acorns, i guess. There are Altmer villages, ruins and embassies, there are open spaces as well as dark woods/rough terrain. It’s not easy to navigate while still being open enough to not make it an annoyance.

There’s a dungeon, of course- Elder Hollows, and it is nice to look at, indeed. The main storyline in Grahtwood revolves around preventing a revolution in Bosmer ranks and getting Ayrenn to do some kind of ceremony to prove she truly is a fitting leader for the Dominion. There’s a bit of betrayal, drama and magic mystery involved, as well as a funny twist on vegetarism- Bosmer don’t eat plants and you’ll be reminded of that several times – i really liked getting through the questing in Grahtwood.

I’ve seen strange places like that “Garden of Flesh” in the Reliquary of Stars and followed gruesome tales of unreturned love. Memorable, i guess, is the right word. In the end, after getting that quest achievement, there were 2 delves, 3 Skyshards and one “eye” left to explore- that’s what i did last night.

In retrospective, with a zone as large as the Grahtwood is, the slow leveling in Elder Scrolls Online and all the real-time involved here- even if i were only counting the time since i returned to that character- it truly feels like an epic experience, a journey. So now, i’m off to Greenshade- looking forward to explore that place. I’ll leave you with some shots i took during my travels.

 

Travel Log: Rkindaleft

We’ve finished Rkindaleft tonight. All in all it was a nice, if not very challenging, experience. But i have to say- i love public dungeons. The whole experience reminded me a lot of public dungeons in Everquest 2, a part of that game i really like. Granted, you won’t get lost in there- its design is too linear for that- but it’s big, it took us about 90 minutes to finish, it’s beautiful, offers an interesting storyline and a few boss fights. Here are a few impressions of the dungeon.

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Travel log: Orsinium sights

Tonight, our guild group has been to Wrothgar, again. I have to say, i love how we can simply set off out of the city and go exploring. We tried to follow quests, but were soon distracted by stuff we saw in the landscape- and also, because Edu is one difficult boss to kill.

On our travels we saw a museum, fought and were killed by Edu, maybe a Goblin boss, i don’t know, because we didn’t see him for all the ogres he sent our way, an arena where Orc clans settled their war, a giant statue of Malacath and Coldperch Cavern, a delve in Wrothgar. And also, a lot of beautiful sights.

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