Jun 26 2011

Damne’d B’elfs!


Belmann’s pursuit of the BC heroics has continued, with a rampage through The Botanica and The Arcatraz and on to Magister’s Terrace. If I can remember to synchronize screen shots across computers, I can even put up some holiday snapshots.

I’d never seen The Botanica or The Arcatraz on any ‘toons, and remember them being held is some awe as tough instances. I can see why, they both would be challenging at level without some care, and both would be fairly slow going.

For me The Botanica felt a bit dull. The physical layout of the instance is nice enough, and definitely feels like a real space devoted to some sort of arcane gardening. Having most of the bosses on side spurs off a long, almost circular, passage would allow groups at level to pick and choose their fights, and there is plenty of opportunity for clever crowd control and line-of-sight pulls. On the other hand, it still feels like filler content, because there is little variety in the mobs, and little variety in the bosses and their behaviours.

The Arcatraz was a suprise, and a delight, after the bread-and-butter of The Botanica. The pacing is much better, and there’s not the same sense of slogging through the same mob again and again. This really comes out of the theme that drove the design – The Arcatraz is a prison stocked with the worst and most horrible of beasties and things that go bump in the night, and as you progress deeper into it’s core, you progress into deeper levels of secure lockup, with more ferocious beasties.

The final boss fight in The Arcatraz would be gruelling at level, consisting of three mini bosses before the main boss, with very little time between them and a wide variety of attacks and abilities to deal with. Wrapped around it though is this great and funny side-play with an irate gnome mage, Millhouse Manastorm, who I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere before. Their’s a fair bit of subtle humour elsewhere in the instance before here too, particularly with the two bickering husband-and-wife demons – whichever one you attack first, the other stands back egging you on.

As an aside, I can see that the first boss fight would have been a pug and guild killer. There’s a large room, stocked with about 6 floating beholders with way too many eyes, and about 4 dog-things with even more eyes and tongues, and the boss standing in the corner. And a few low level mobs. The boss stays where he is, but the others patrol on several quite wide ranging paths, and you really, really need to clear them one at a time without pulling the boss. There’s a convenient corridor to do LOS pulls, and enough room to pull them one at a time into a corner to burn them down, but still it would require a group at level to cooperate and do the right thing every time. A misplaced AOE or a rampant pet would definitely have wiped the group.

Belmann rocked up and knocked on the door of Magister’s Terrace – and was refused entry. There’s a breadcrumb quest leading from Shattrath to Quel’Danas, and thence into the normal instance to pick up Kael’Thas’ head. But I couldn’t pick up the quest. I made the long slow trip back to Shattrath – nope, no quest. Back to Quel’Danas. No quest. Into the normal instance and up to the body that was supposed to give you the next step. No quest. I quit the instance and gave up for the night, scratching my head. Some google-fu hinted at the answer – Belmann had probably finished the first three steps of the quest at some point, without getting to the next step.

I do have some vague memory of going into MT years ago, but I really cannot remember any details. Still, it was worth trying, so I slogged in, past the body, and on to the easily-overlooked magic orb in the garden after the second boss. Clicked on the orb, watched the cut-scene (oooh, spooky fore-shadowing of daring deeds to be done in the Sunwell), and a blue dragon flew down to give me the next step in the quest, “Hard To Kill”. I continued on, found Kael’Thas, and carted his head back. And that gave me the Outland Dungeonmaster achievement, as expected. I turned around and went back to attempt the Heroic version, and found that Belmann could now get in. He flattened about half the instance at heroic level, and didn’t particularly notice much difference other than more purple drops, then gave up again for the night.

It struck me that there’s an awful lot of green and low level blue and purple items that designers spent a lot of time on – giving them names, doing the art, balancing the stats – that never, ever get equipped. They drop in these low-level instances and just get disenchanted, or flogged off to vendors. This is one of the odd features of modern MMOS I suspect – if they live long enough and go through expansions, it’s probable that old pockets of content live on in the servers, unvisited and unloved. All of which gives me a good reason to go and beat up Kael’Thas again, for old time’s sake.

Jun 20 2011

Roflstomp Progress


I set out on Friday with Belmann to see if I could solo, or beat down with a small group, some more of the BC heroic instances. First cab off the rank was Hellfire Ramparts, which I started as holy while calling out in guild chat for a tank. The first few groups went down easily enough as I could shield and self-heal while beating them down one at a time. This was pretty slow going though, and Coldspine bought his mage in to tank. We knocked the whole thing over in about 10 minutes.

It was almost sad to see this instance torn down so easily, given how much time and pain I spent on it during the initial months of BC. I remember it as being the instance that told mid level ’60s that they actually needed to plan their pulls and use crowd control. Almost sad, but not quite.

I tackled Sethekk Halls next, which I’d done once or twice at level on normal mode. My vague memory of it was that it was annoying and full of birds. True enough, it was annoying and full of birds. I switched Belmann over to shadow so that I could DPS effectively, and spammed Mind Sear all over the place – this proved problematic at times, because there were a good number of mobs in there that not only have knock-back, but a silence and a stun. Even being ridiculously over geared for the instance, if there were enough mobs beating on me while I was silenced and stunned got my health dangerously low.

It was somewhat annoying that I could not get assistance with Anzu, but got guilted into assisting with some rated BG runs. Let it be said that I find the experience of PVE battlegrounds with my optimised-for-healing priest about as much fun as rubbing pepper in my eyes. Belmann may as well have been carrying a big sign saying “nuke me”, as every time he stood still to heal our opponents would all pile onto him. A couple of hours of die… wait… resurrect… run… heal… die… and I was done for the night.

Returning to Setthekk Halls the next day I finally got Anzu down by the skin of my teeth after wiping twice. The big problem I found with him was not only did he have a stun and a magic shield, and a silence, the non-elite flocks of birds he summoned also had a stun. It became a roll of the dice whether I could keep up my own health and chunk out enough DPS and not go out of mana, and in the end got him down when I was at about 2% health and just about OOM. The big boss in that instance, Talon King Ikiss, was trivial, and went down in a few seconds.

Escape from Durnholde proved a little tricky as well. I’m really fond of this instance, and it’s the one that people forget when they talk about outdoor instances. For those who’ve not done it, it’s a trip back in time to an early version of Hillsbrad, and if you take the time to hang around in some of the buildings and listen in on the NPCs, there is a huge amount of interesting lore to be picked up. Particularly cool is to see little Sally Whitemane and Renault Morgaine as children role-playing heroics with a frog.

The instance was reasonably simple, for the most part. The initial part where you wander around the orc internment camp setting fire to buildings was trivial but time consuming, as was the slog up the hill to the keep proper. I mistakenly thought that if I killed all the mobs, there would be none for Thrall to deal with when he escaped, but no, he gets fresh spawns irrespective of how many you slaughter. And what’s the deal with Thrall? He knocks out the armourer and steals weapons and armour from the armoury… and chooses to take cheap leather junk and chintzy axe. Couldn’t he have taken some plate, or at least mail, so that he wasn’t so soft? It took me four attempts to escort him out of the keep, and I only succeeeded on the fourth attempt by realising that I should not attempt to heal him, but concentrate on doing enough DPS to keep the aggro off him altogether. Once I figured that out, the rest was a push over.

Opening the Dark Portal was equally a push over. I think I did the instance once or twice on Giladris, and had virtually no memory of it, so I trotted off to Wowhead to read up on the strategy. This definitely refreshed my memory, as I recall it being somewhere that caused great angst and many wipes, and there were dire warnings about rounding up the non-elite mobs and killing them before starting the encounter proper. I started to do this, then accidentally started the encounter by getting too close to Medivh, and decided it was a waste of time anyway. Each time the portals opened I jumped straight on the elite that spawned and mostly blew it away before any of the non-elites came through. Any that did get through I dotted and they came after me – at the end Medivh’s shield was at 97% because a single little dragon had gotten to him and breathed fire.

I really enjoyed The Mechanar, possibly because I’d never seen it. The visual design is quite lovely, blending the feel of Exodar with the feel of the The Consortium and a dash of Sunwell. The interior has a nice logic to it, and it felt like a working space, and not just a dungeon crawl. One thing I found particularly interesting was that the way that mobs were linked was subtle, and there were subtleties about the crowd control – a lot of mobs you expect to be able to be mind controlled were immune, but that didn’t stop me MCing the casters and letting the melee tear them to shreds. Another unusual aspect was that there were two long corridors that the mobs ran the length of to beat on me – they seemed to be linked somehow to either entering the corridor or nuking the two guards at the start of the corridor. Either way it must have been… exciting… to see those groups charging down if you ran the instance at level.

Next off will be The Botanica I guess. Let’s see how I go.

Jun 17 2011

Belmann’s Roflstomp Adventure


Here’s how it is folks. I’ve got pretty limited time to play at the moment, and am mostly popping on for an hour here, a half hour there. As a result I’ve been pursuing various achievements that can be achieved with that sort of committment, and doing way too much fishing. And slaughtering furbies in Winterspring. But they love me in that tunnel now.

Anyway. There are a number of Burning Cusade instances and heroics I never did with Belmann. As part of chasing the relevant achievements, I intend to spend time over the next few weeks knocking over these dungeons. Pretty well a matter of knocking on the door, offering the people who answer a religous tract, and then slaughtering them all with no particular strategy or plan. Once the instances are done, I propose to do the same thing with the raids.

So! I will try to give guild people a few days warning when I’m going to make an attempt on something, and get it listed in the group calendar, and pester them in guild chat to make up a party. I anticpate that most of them can be 2- or 3-manned, and there’s no reason we can’t carry low-level toons through for experience and rep.
At the moment the list looks like this (all heroics, of course)

  • Hellfire Ramparts
  • Mechanar
  • The Botanica
  • The Arcatraz
  • Opening of the Dark Portal
  • Sethekk Halls
  • Escape from Durnholde
  • Magister’s Terrace
  • Sunwell Plateau