Killing Nidhogg

That moment you realize your whole life has been a lie...
That moment you realize your whole life has been a lie…

It was a night of revelations! And dragons! And cutscenes!

So, so many cutscenes…

We Scions of the Seventh Dawn had long known that primals are actually created by the thoughts and power of those that summon them. King Moogle Mog XIV, we’ve known for a long time, was just a fanciful story Moogles told themselves before he was given form by those stories (and killed repeatedly by me, a fact that hasn’t seemed to harm Nina/Moogle relationships). The entire Summoner job is based around summoning smaller versions of primals under the summoner’s command.

Hraesvelgr, the luck dragon, admitted to not knowing who the heck Iceheart was, but she sure wasn’t the reincarnation of his lost love, Shiva. He went on to relate the story of how his sister Ratatoskr was ambushed by a group of Elezen ages ago. They took from her her eyes, which they then ate, granting all the people who would become the Ishgard race some measure of power. The Ishgardians, then, are part dragon — and can awaken their dragon heritage by drinking some dragon blood, turning themselves into dragons. We saw this happening in Stone Vigil, hard mode, where there was no explanation given at the time.

Everyone was appropriately aghast that when we killed dragons, we were likely killing transformed Ishgardians. Though why that should be more terrible than just killing straight-up dragons, whom we now know to be an intelligent race, I don’t know.

Staggered by these revelations, we decided to check up on the Sultana Nanamo.

Sleeping Sultana
Sleeping Sultana

We’d also known for a long time that the Sultana had not been killed that night when the Crystal Braves and the Immortal Flames had joined forces to betray the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and their beloved Sultana and deposed her with a sip of poison. The Sultana had wanted to dissolve the ruling Syndicate, abdicate, and form a parliamentary government comprised both of the wealthy, the commoners, and the Ala Mhigan refugees they had taken in. The Syndicate had a problem with this.

The evil Lalafell (but, I repeat myself) Teledji Adeledji had masterminded this, but he himself was betrayed by the evil Lalafell (redundant!) Lolorito. Lolorito had no ill feelings toward the Sultana, but wanted Teledji and the Sultana’s right hand man, Raubahn, out of the way. He had the sultana’s handmaiden swap the poison out for a sleeping potion. Raubahn, thinking his empress dead, flew into a rage and killed Teledji, but was not in his turn killed, though he was forcibly disarmed by his ex-friend, Ilberd. Literally disarmed. What I’m trying to say is, he got his arm cut off.

Leaving Raubahn alive was not according to Lolorito’s plan. After we tracked down the Sultana’s handmaiden and gotten the true story from her, Lolorito showed and promised the antidote to the sleeping potion, and the Sultana’s current location, if Raubahn would not only not seek vengeance, but say nothing of all these plots, for the good of Ul’dah. Raubahn agreed, and was at long last reunited with his empress, who awoke, unharmed and well rested.

Expect there to be more repercussions down the line as the Sultana still intends to abdicate.

Staring down Nidhogg with his own eye!
Staring down Nidhogg with his own eye!

That pause had allowed Cid, Biggs and Wedge to finish development on single-person flying craft called Mana Cutters, the only craft capable of piercing the magical storm around Nidhogg’s lair, the Aery. Nidhogg could not be killed by mortals, unless Estinien the Azure Dragoon could contain the dragon’s power with one of the two eyes that were taken from him in ages past (another cutscene explains how he could lose two eyes yet still have one remaining).

The Aery was an enjoyable enough dungeon, lots of moving parts, massive encounters, yet not too difficult for a decent group. I’ve done it half a dozen times since doing it as part of the quest, and sometimes it’s been torture. DPS checks in dungeons shouldn’t be a surprise by now, and you would expect that people playing high level DPS jobs would know how to do damage. One run, we spent fifteen minutes on the first boss because the DPS weren’t DPSing, as near as I could tell (Bard and Black Mage). Bard had insisted she was no stranger to the instance, even though the game claimed she was, and she didn’t know not to stand in the fire. Anyway. We abandoned that instance because the Nidhogg fight is a DPS check. Even though I like staying in low DPS, high health tank stance in random groups, I have to go to my higher strength, less tanky jewelry and stance and DPS my catty heart out to get past the timer.

Estinien shows up for the Nidhogg fight. It’s going to take him some time to get the eye ready to seal Nidhogg’s power, so we have to DPS the dragon down, then finally fight off the waves of attackers sent straight for the dragoon. This is the DPS part. If we don’t kill the adds before Nidhogg does his ultimate attack, Estinien won’t be able to use the eye to shield us from it.

But, all went well for us, if not so well for the dragon. Nidhogg was defeated, and Estinien removed his remaining eye and handed it to me. I then returned it to its rightful owner.

Lahabrea returns!
Lahabrea returns!

Meanwhile, back at Ishgard, Iceheart’s heretics attacked the city, but the Ishgardian defenders, already mustered to repel Nidhogg’s Dravanian army, expect them to be no challenge. The Archbishop believed the heretic attack will allow the Ishgard rank and file to look every more for help from the Holy See, and dismissed the council. Only then did the Ascian Lahabrea, the otherworlder responsible for the Garlemand invasion that formed much of the Main Scenario, reveal himself. The Archbishop had claimed that he had been just drawing out the Ascians for more information, but it becomes clear that, like Saruman before him, he had been co-opted by the enemy.

Since Lahabrea doesn’t seem too well-loved by the other Ascians, we don’t yet know if this is something he is doing on his own, or is a first step toward some larger plot. I imagine it eventually involves a primal.

Iceheart and the rest of the surviving Scions arrived in Ishgard just in time to stop the heretic attack before anyone died, with the news that Nidhogg was dead, and the war over.

There’s worse problems on the horizon. Lolorito had earlier shared that the Garleans had just completed work on a new super-dreadnought to replace the one that died in mutual destruction with the dragon Midgardsomr. All of Eorzea will need to work together or be overrun.

EQ Next Landmark still exists apparently

Tell me can I be your honey be, be strong...
Tell me can I be your honey be, be strong…

Every few years, I wonder whatever became of EQ Next. It was going to change the face of MMO gaming. Mobs that reacted to over-hunting or being left alone to become a bigger problem. Emergent events. A fully destructible world. All the old lore tossed away for bright shiny new lore. Simple control scheme for console play, but depth for PC players.

You know, the game with everything.

Landmark was the tech demo, a construction set where the developers could try out new stuff before putting it in the game. A place where the players could use the same tools the developer used to create anything they could imagine. If it was good enough, it could be sold to other players, or even find its way into the main game.

The last Producer’s Letter from June said they were shifting focus from Landmark to EQ Next, but it’s been radio silence since then.

To find out more about how EQ Next might be coming along… I headed into Landmark. I paid over a hundred bucks for beta access back in the day. Not the best money I ever spent.

I’d heard combat had been added. Itching for a fight, I ran around the ruined world looking for monsters. Ruined in the sense that all I came across were old, lifeless structures. The last time I’d checked into Landmark, there were still people running around, actively building things. This time it was just the odd castle here and there, occasionally a sculpture. My old builds had been stored as blueprints when my plot inevitably got repossessed, but I felt no real need to haul them out again. I hadn’t ever mastered the weird stuff you have to do to get intricate detail in builds, so everything I ever made was essentially Minecraft, smoothed out a bit.

I jumped down a hill and got the message that my armor was now ruined. Darn it! Fortunately, I had a bunch of other outfits in my inventory. I would have to be more careful, going forward. A couple joyful leaps off a ridge and I could be down to my undies. Not cool.

With nothing dangerous around in the overworld, the only direction remaining was straight down. I couldn’t find the building tools so I couldn’t build UP, you see. They used to be in the inventory but they must have moved and I could not find them. However, the PICK was right where I left it. I targeted the ground at my feet and started swinging.

After about twenty minutes I broke into a little fairy garden (video above). The map said, though, that I was still in the overworld level, and would have to dig even deeper to see the mysterious lower layers of Neo-Norrath.

So, I kept digging. Eventually I did reach the second layer, an ice realm, but continued digging failed to break through the ceiling into this second world. I wondered if the teleport spires could make this transition a little easier. Abandoning my journey to the center of Norrath, I returned to the spire and chose a local teleport to the second layer, and then the third.

The third looked promising. Reminded me a little of the fairy cave. I ran around and some fungus exploded at me and dropped a little loot. I saw movement in the distance, and ran over to see what it was…

Combat, in Landmark, is a swing attack and a dash attack. I guess my armor wasn’t up to snuff (maybe it had been destroyed somehow). I didn’t use any health potions because where would I get more? So I swung and dashed and died. I doubt I’ll go looking for any more combat in Landmark.

Landmark is a very beautiful, if empty, game. The animations are great. The creative tools very much reward those who spend the time to learn to use them in the unconventional ways that have become standard.

But… it doesn’t feel like EverQuest at all. Not one bit. No moss snake has ever kicked someone to death in THIS world. And half elves are not 49.99999% elves now, they don’t even exist. You are human, or you are a LARGE human….

I’ll check in again in another few months. See if the plots that had castles on them now are still there.

Desecrated Cathedral

Kickin' back with Raven
Kickin’ back with Raven

We’ve been working on the T7 DCUO alert, Desecrated Cathedral, for a few weeks. The basic plot is that the demon Trigon’s miscreant sons are fighting over the scraps of their father’s power. Trigon’s not that interest in giving them any of it. HE wants to share his power with his daughter, Raven. SHE keeps waffling between being evil and good. When she’s good, she’s a member of the Teen Titans and stops robbers and stuff. When she’s evil, she is a psychic juggernaut who infects your dreams and is totally awesome.

Unfortunately, in Desecrated Cathedral, we end up helping the good version of Raven. The perils of being a hero, I guess.

We’ve had issues with this alert because our DPS is too low, and I am a non-contributer. Not because controllers can’t contribute in general, it’s just because I, personally, don’t contribute. Hold on, lemme show you.

Go, me
Go, me

That’s me, at the bottom, just above the people who joined our three person group, saw my CR, and quit. Well, there was a guy who stuck around until we failed on the first boss, and then quit. That guy is just ahead of me. He quit before killing the first boss and still did five times the damage I did on the entire instance.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t let my cruddy DPS get to me. It’s my own fault. I could play a lot more, get all the mods, get a couple hundred more skill points, and be effective. And after the first boss, I didn’t die as much. The REAL surprise is that we did this all without a HEALER. Without a controller (after I died on the first boss), the DPS and Spode as tank could not really do their jobs. But they got along pretty well without a healer.

Yay, "Good" Raven wins!
Yay, “Good” Raven wins!

The achievement is for helping the “best” Raven win… but isn’t being really evil being the “best” at being evil? Maybe the White Raven is the “worst” Raven at being evil…. I dunno.

Completing the alert got me a huge foot slot upgrade that boosted my combat rating to 127. That’s only a few CR from being able to go to the latest content. One of the really nice things about higher CR is that I can go back and try to accomplish things I couldn’t do before, such as dailies in previous adventure zones, or particularly vexing solo instances.

With that in mind, I headed to New Genesis to earn some marks. I need a high CR dual wield weapon so I can get away from the pistols. They are thematically appropriate for a munitions controller, I guess, but they fire too slowly to build up the combos I need to regain power in a fight. If I don’t have power, I can’t give power to others. It’s a weird sort of mathematics, there. I use to use blasters (which was thematically appropriate back when I was a Green Lantern), but moved to dual wield for their speed and ranged prowess. They can shift into a secondary bow attack very easily with weapon mastery, making them a fantastic pick for both range and melee. And they are super fast.

The basic daily in New Genesis involves killing a lot of parademons, clicking on the things they are guarding, and killing whichever boss shows up to see what’s going down. I don’t know what New Genesis does with player villains who show up. I don’t think Darkseid cares much about anyone from Earth, hero, villain, or otherwise.

I started with the killing. Munitions is an AE power set focused on keeping the bad people away where they can’t hurt anyone. Fine by me. I have never been able to take a punch. It really concerns me that superheroes have usually one ability — they can fly, they are strong, they can run fast, whatever. They get knocked around, thrown through walls, dropped-kicked into space, and only rarely are there any repercussions. Usually they must be thrown through several walls before they show any after effects. Regular people, first wall would kill us dead, and running fast would just make it hurt more.

Anyway, I play it legit. First time any enemy touches me, I crumple to the ground, close my eyes, and wish for the bad guy to go away and hope that Kaptain KY is nearby to rez me.

No wait, anyone BUT Kaptain KY. Nope nope nopenopenope.

There’s a group there already, and they invite me in. There’s a controller, so there’s power and I can stay in my damage role. Everyone is AEing. The quest objectives are being completed. Steppenwolf shows up, we kill him. Five marks, BAM.

It was over so quickly that I forgot that I was supposed to be recording it, so I went back and killed a few more parademons for posterity. And nowhere was there a report card to tell me how ineffectual I was.


Shroud of the Avatar: Choosing Fate

Outside of space, outside of time
Outside of space, outside of time

Peaked into Shroud of the Avatar again yesterday. This is Richard “Lord British” Garriott’s MMO-in-development that brings the morality-based gameplay of his Ultima RPG into a more modern incarnation. I backed this on Kickstarter about two and a half years ago, and have been checking into the alpha and beta releases on a regular basis since they started becoming available. Not EVERY one… but often enough.

The last time I played, they didn’t have any of the single-player options active. There’s two ways to play this MMO alone. You can play offline for the true solitary experience. You will be able to decorate homes and so on to your tastes; you will be the lone Avatar wandering the world. Or, you can choose an online, single-player mode where everyone except for you, or you and your friends, is merely removed from your sight. You’ll still see them by their traces. They’ll have already bought up every single home, city, palace and everything else before you even logged in. But you’ll still be able to take advantage of their ephemera, such as crafted goods. If you feel up to interacting with the wider player population, you can bring them back into phase.

I would have LOVED THIS in EverQuest. I chose the single player, online mode just to see what adventure in a world of ghosts might bring.

Choosing my path
Choosing my path

Before I could be set upon my destined path, I would have to have my morality checked. I answered as honestly as I could. The game decided that I would be an Avatar of Truth, an arcane mage. A firestarter. Not what I would have chosen, but…

Combat has changed quite a lot since the last time I played, OR, I may have just chosen the wrong options this time around. Last time seemed to be a Spellborn-like roulette of abilities that would pop up and be used or discarded. This time, the game gave me a more standard interface. Certain spells took material components. That was definitely unusual. EverQuest required material components for some spells of real power, but here, seemingly workaday spells like Fireball and Ignite Weapon drew from a fairly limited starting pool of spell components.

The initial tutorial warned that looting bodies would reflect poorly on your clean spiritual record, but then encouraged you to go ahead and loot. The gods would surely turn a blind eye to such behavior after this calamity, where a band of humans swept through and destroyed an elven village for no reason anyone could remember. All that were left alive were a ghoulish Thenardier-like corpse looter and an aloof bard who guarded passage beyond until a dagger was brought to him, a dagger in the possession of the looter, who would only trade it for a certain treasure which (spoiler alert) is NOT on any of the bodies. So no need to loot them unless you are short of salmon, worms, scrap wood, or gold.

On the other side of the gate is a short introduction to combat, some exploration, and a boat to the Real World, where quest givers will assign you quests, chief of which was to find an unclaimed plot of land on which to build the home I got via the Kickstarter.

Hah. That ain’t happening.

(Note: I double checked, and the Kickstarter tier I backed did not include a home. Not sure why I thought I had one.)

In town! Finally.
In town! Finally.

It had taken me longer than I’d hoped to find the single item in the ruined village to give to the looter, and longer than I expected to explore the far side of the gate and find the boat that would sail me out of the tutorial. I’d run out of time for the night and had no time left to actually play the game. I had wanted to see if the overworld random encounters were still around; those were a lot of fun, the last time I played.

I look forward to playing it again. I’m not incredibly sure how much time I will put into the game when it goes live. It really wears its niche appeal proudly. Those who are looking for a setting in which to set their own stories for themselves and their friends will likely find a home here. Those looking for curated and scripted dungeons and raids will likely find it too slow for their liking.