Overwatch’s League of Gentlemen

Blizzard’s Overwatch League is about to begin it’s first ever pre-season, before the real competition kicks off in early 2018, and there is already controversy with teams missing the preliminaries and players suspended for cheating. Just like the real sports that Blizzard wants the OWL to be!

And just like traditional sports, there are city based teams with trainers and managers and owners. At first I was wondering how a game that sells for ~$50 could afford to support all this, but when you see the amount of OW merch available it all starts to make sense. Today they announced a new in game currency would be available to purchase OWL skins for your favourite teams. There’s plenty of cash in them thar hills.

It’s quite incredible the amount of money that is being poured into this endeavour, and shows just how important esports are becoming. The 12 members of each team are provided with “USD $50,000 minimum base salary, healthcare and retirement savings plans, and housing provided during the season”, there’s a Commissioner, and super high quality profiles of top players.

What they don’t have, however, is women.

There are 96 official players (8 teams of 12 players), and they are all men. Given the seriously good push for diversity and representation in the game itself, this is incredibly disappointing. This is a brand new sport, invented from scratch, with no rules and no historical precedent, and yet the inequalities of rusted on sporting tradition seem to have been applied.

There can be no argument about physical differentiation in esports, so not mandating some kind of gender balance or ratio seems like a huge missed opportunity. Imagine the positive change that could be made by Blizzard enforcing a 50/50 or 60/40 ratio of men to women. The competition for those spots would be intense and reveal a whole new tier of skilled players. But without the seeing the chance to play at the highest level, professional female players will surely struggle to be motivated.

The arguments would be made that viewers only want to watch the top 100 players, and if they all happen to be men then so be it. But that is of course a self perpetuating problem, and Blizzard could have made a huge and positive difference to how women view, play, and are encouraged to become professional sportspeople, in a way that is uniquely available to esports. Not to mention the incredibly positive press you would imagine this would generate for Blizzard – and they are one of the few companies powerful enough to shut down the inevitable haters.

It will still be fun to watch, but in the back of my mind will be the feeling that it could have been so much better.

EDIT 6 Dec: As if on cue (the marketing people are doing their work) there is a long profile of OWL in Wired. It addresses the gender issue, and predictably the answer from Blizzard is ‘it’s complicated’. Disappointing to read that “When asked what the Overwatch League was doing to attract more female players, nobody at Blizzard could point to any specific outreach or recruiting efforts.”. Perhaps most damning is this quote from Nate Nanzer (Blizzard’s global director of research and consumer insights):

“There was never a question that I was going to sit and play games with my son,” he said. “But then the other day my daughter asked me, ‘Can I play Overwatch too?’ and I was like, oh shit, I gotta be better about this. I gotta treat it equal.”

If the ‘director if insights’ has only just had this…insight…then it’s no wonder the league is a testosterone festival.

The Mighty Boost

With the announcement of BfA came the inevitable news that we would all be receiving a free level 110 boost along with the release. This is now expected with every increase of level cap, theoretically to allow a new player to jump in and start playing the new content immediately. Or maybe it’s for luring lapsed players, tempting them back with the offer of immediately playing with their still subbed friends.

Neither of which makes a lot of sense. If you’re a new player, than you would be much, much better off starting from the very start. MMOs have an overwhelming number of systems and mechanics to learn, and the idea that a brand new player could – or should – start close to level cap seems counter productive. The most likely result is feeling lost, confused, and unlikely to continue. Compare that to levelling from scratch, discovering the world and your class as you quest, and experiencing the wonder of the MMO genre. I can’t imagine playing GW2 or LotR or SWtoR, games I’m far less familiar with, and starting anywhere but at the beginning.

Similarly for lapsed players, the rust takes a while to shed, and chances are you would be better served rolling a fresh character and feeling your way back into the game. With levelling pathways so streamlined and rapid, even without heirlooms, there’s no reason not to. And if you are playing with friends, the recruit-a-friend mechanic should be tempting enough to get them to help you speed your way to the top.

Recruit-a-friend

Which leaves us with existing players. Perhaps that’s who these boosts are targeted at? A bonus auction mule, or crafting specialist, or gathering bot. That’s the only reason I can think they might be tempting. If you’re already playing, you’ll have favourite characters and are unlikely to want to roll something brand new.


I’ve had boosts for the last few expansions, and used them eventually, but found that as soon as I boost a character I never play it again. During Warlords I developed a plan to level a couple of alts in order to have a full complement of crafters. The boost mechanic meant that if you were level 60, and had any level of profession, your profession level would be boosted to max along with your character. So I dutifully levelled a Herbalist/Alchemist Druid and a Mining/Blacksmithing Paladin, and boosted them to 90.

The problem was that once I logged on to them I didn’t recognise who they were. Weird armour, strange abilities, meaningless action bars.

I have a feeling we’ll meet again

I think the problem is I tend to invest in the story and mythology of each character I level, so skipping 30-40 levels of those experiences means the characters become strangers. I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. Compare that to all the many alts and several max level characters, who are all someone in my head, and who I can’t face deleting even though many are long parked. A level 10 Rogue who server transferred several times just to snatch some twink trinkets. Two stalled level 60 Paladins (hello, Hellfire Pennisula!), a Tauren and a Blood Elf, each seeking their own interpretation of using the Paladin’s light.

You could argue that these are pointless characters given they’re not playing endgame, nor ever likely to, but I agree with Bhagpuss: “Sometimes the sheer fun of doing something is all it takes to make something worth doing”.

Preparing for a cataclysm

Like Syp, I would often level tanks through dungeons, enjoying the low level leadership and fast pace of levelling. And it does give you some sense of story, even if it’s contained to instanced events. But I recently decided to take a Bear Druid via the same less travelled path, eschewing heirloom armour, choosing levelling zones to play and finish, and avoiding dungeons.

It’s slower, but not terribly much, and far more interesting. You meet characters of great lore and history (note Sylvanas and Deathwing above, both encountered through levelling), and many of the quests are extremely well designed – Garrosh Hellscream’s story in Stonetalon manages the nigh-impossible feat of making him seem like a reasonable fellow. Most of the zones are beautifully crafted, especially Northrend where I’m up to now. Bonus things like capturing unique battle pets as you travel and levelling gathering skills through each zone makes the whole exercise relaxing and entertaining. And I understand my character perfectly: the rotation, which gear to use, which skills to add to the hot bars and which to ignore.

One of these things is not like the others

Maybe the best use of a boost character is to park them near some old world rare spawns, or outside Karazhan to try for the horse each week, and treat them like the strangers they are.

Warcraft: Legion Highmountaineering

With a new expansion being announced, I decided it was finally time to play Legion. This appears to be my traditional approach now – not playing until it’s almost too late. I’ve realised that some of this is down to wanting to avoid the expansion level rush, and the pressure to ‘keep up’, but waiting 14 months was probably overdoing it. On the plus side, it has meant a very relaxed and meandering approach to getting to 110.

As a Tauren I headed straight to Highmountain, which turned out to be one of my favourite zones in the game. An entire region dedicated to moose horned Tauren was as good as it sounds (if you’re that way inclined). The Taunka zones in WotLK came close, but Highmountain was something special.


You’re tasked with reuniting the scattered tribes of Highmountain, with each having their own story and theme. The quests are wide and varied and there’s plenty of exploring to be done. The mountainous design of the zone led to some terrific viewpoints once you’d circuitously scaled your way to the top of a distant peak. Perfect for the snow loving brigade out there.


There are also many named mobs – aka Silver Dragons – scattered throughout the zones, and they’re all worth seeking out for both the loot and (minor) fight challenges. There are plenty of nooks and crannies that you stumble upon, with either small stories to tell or sometimes just flavour. And of course the Murlocs are plentiful.

I, murloc.

Draenor introduced the concept of treasures into Warcraft, and they are used in Legion to great effect as a tool to lead you to far and varied locales. Some are easy, some are tricky and may require add-on help to find, and it’s a fun addition and nice levelling boost to boot.


I would quite happily have spent the entire levelling process in Highmountain if it were possible, but as it was I had run out of content by level 105. So I grumblingly bid farewell to my home away from home and headed off to Stormheim, picked mainly due to the name sounding good.

And it was quite good, with the grappling mechanic in particular being fun. Early on you’re equipped with a grapple, and throughout the zone there are vertiginous points to attach to. These allow you to scale crazy cliffs and scoot overhead through enemy Vrykul villages, which is all good fun. The story was less compelling, but I am biased, and the zone overall had a bit of a dreary tone to it – it seemed to be raining 75% of the time I was there. I’d love to see it in sunlight as some of the vistas and golden leaves look nice. It’s a pity the Vrykul aren’t one of the new BfA playable races, but I suspect their size would be a problem (they tower over Tauren), but the models for the Highmountain are all excellent which more than makes up for it.


Just as I was done with the main Stormheim storyline I dinged 110. So it only took two zones out of four, covering most treasure finding and mini bosses, which seems much quicker than other expansions. It was nice how each zone story culminated in a dungeon, though being so far behind the curve meant the dungeons were being cleared faster than I could loot, let alone fire off a few shots on a boss.


As usual once hitting cap, the game suddenly changes tack. Instead of venturing around helping shore up our forces, you’re suddenly invited to help save some ghostly Night Elves in Suramar (and spend the rest of your days there I assume). Can’t say that was very tempting, especially after the, er, highs of Highmountain, so I think it’s back to the other two zones for me. Or maybe some alts.

Having finally played the 10 levels, I tend to agree with those that find the Beastmaster Hunter class less satisfying to play now. You are now mainly about controlling your menagerie of pets more than anything else, which leads to the animation spending a fair amount of time showing you doing anything but firing your bow. That’s kind of disappointing, as is losing Kill Shot which allowed you to land those satisfying final blows on low health mobs. Time to try Marksmanship on another character, though running without a pet may be a step too far.


The other major Legion mechanic is of course the Artifact weapon. I enjoyed slowly powering up Titanstrike, though around level 109 it suddenly ground to a halt with thousands of points being required. Which made it even stranger hitting 110, when suddenly the meager 25 point boost items in by bags morphed into 25 million point boosts. Obviously a catch up mechanic, it did make the slow progress I had made to that point kind of redundant. May have well have waited to 110 and powered up the lot on one go.

110 levels to go, little one

Overall Legion feels like an excellent expansion, I feel kind of silly having missed most of it. Though with BfA probably a year off, there’s plenty of time to see more.

PAX Aus 2017: More of a good thing

After attending PAX Aus last year, I was keen to go again but pondering if maybe every second year was sensible. Then it was announced that Acquisitons Inc, Penny Arcade’s RPG spin-off, would be making its first trip to Australia which sealed the deal. Just like last year, it was time and money well spent.

Don’t be too proud of this technological…actually, do.

Because AI was on Friday, and my nephews could only go Saturday, I plumped for a two day pass this time. It was definitely worth it just due to Friday being far less crowded in vendor land. There was plenty of space to try things, even the (still) hot Playstation VR setup (which was impossible to try on Saturday). Microsoft had a fully fledged tall ship docked outside on to demo the very promising Sea of Thieves, Square Enix challenged players to run boss fights in FFXIV (complete with running commentary), and best of all was an oasis in the chaos created by two picnic chairs setup for some super relaxing fishing in Far Cry 5 – a minigame within the larger shooter that made buying the full game much more appealing.

In game: super annoying. At PAX: the best

Last year Overwatch dominated all, but this year it was clear that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was top dog. It was everywhere, on massive screens with pro players competing in demo world, and being played by the amateurs on the majority of the PC free play machines.


I played for a few hours, and came away pretty meh about it. The concept is fun, with the slowly ratcheting tension, but like most combat simulators it comes down to who has the better headshot, and that was definitely not me. There is a lot of hiding and waiting for the map to shrink, which was kind of boring after a while, but the other option – run and gun hunting – means certain death. The graphics and animation are incredibly janky and second rate for such a popular game. I think I’ll give Fortnite’s version a go – it looks a bit more graphically entertaining – and see if there’s more action/less toe-tapping on offer.


The AI session was great, despite it not being D&D as I’d hoped. Instead the team ran Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, which turned out to be great fun with an intriguing dice system. Instead of one dice hit/miss rolls, multiple dice are rolled to decide the outcome of the action as well as other things like advantage or special heroic actions. It meant that sometimes an attack would miss completely but the player nevertheless earned some advantage actions, that would allow fun things like reflected laser fire or setting off fire suppressant systems.

Role playing has come a long way

The success of watching 5 people doing live role play in a massive theatre is very dependent on the players and GM, and lucky for us these guys were all great. Hearing an audience of thousands draw breath as a dice roll went wrong – or cheering when it went right – is pretty entertaining. As is rules-lawyering from the crowd! It was especially impressive to watch Penny-Arcade’s Gabe in the GM role, given he was suffering from a major anxiety attack at the time. Much appreciated that he not only hung in there but GM’d with aplomb (and it was super nice seeing Tycho, his long term sparring partner, subtly supporting him during the game).


As with last year, the cosplay was amazing, the tabletop section a highlight, and the enthusiasm and acceptance of the crowd was inspiring. The sign out front says ‘Welcome Home’, and that seems a perfect description of PAX – it’s a home for the people who want to dress up as elves, wear man-skirts, paint miniatures for hours, argue about the intricacies of role playing systems, and play all of the games.

Where else but PAX?

Blizzcon 2017: Everything old is new again

It was pretty great to sit through a replay of the Opening Ceremony and get an actual surprise. The idea of vanilla servers had gone of the boil, so much that even the super obvious ice cream jokes didn’t alert me, so watching the short teaser for Warcraft Classic was jaw dropping. I still get a thrill watching the original cinematic, so finishing on the Dwarf Hunter setting off on his journey was perfect.

It will be interesting to follow how this pans out. There is very little detail, and obviously a lot of questions to be answered, but it is exciting to consider officially starting afresh. I hope they follow Everquest’s lead and take the approach of polling the community for decisions for some things (like expansions timetables or unlocks of features). It sounds like this won’t exist for some time yet – I’d guess late 2018 at best – but the fact Blizzard announced it on their biggest stage makes it seem pretty likely to actually happen:

“One of the things we do know is that by announcing this, we’re in the WoW Classic business forever. Once that starts, there’s a commitment on our end that we’re going to continue maintaining those servers for as long as there is a World of Warcraft.”

Sylvanas is a compelling Warchief
Meanwhile in the current Warcraft timeline the new Battle for Azeroth expansion was announced. This was more predictable, though the pitting of Alliance vs Horde perhaps took some by surprise. Legion has seen the factions work together, and the opening ceremony boasted of the togetherness of the Blizzard community, so renting them asunder in Warcraft was perhaps unexpected. Some clearly hate the idea, while others seem tentatively supportive of a reset to the basic ‘red v blue’ idea of Warcraft.
Looks familiar

I have a strong Horde bias, and don’t mind the idea of there being an ongoing struggle for superiority. Hints of a raid vs the other faction (“shouldn’t we be raiding a member of the opposite faction? he said this slyly!”) sounds very interesting – if they can pull off something like the Broken Shore climax where the two factions are fighting in a single raid toward an ultimate boss, that could be very nice. Overall though the excitement of a new expansion announce seemed quite subdued, so there is work to be done by Blizzard to convince the fans this is the right direction for Warcraft to take.

The main thing I liked about the announcement was the ability to play Highmountain Tauren as a new race.

Moose horns ftw

Also, and maybe it was just me, but was it super weird seeing Anduin dressed as Mordred from John Boorman’s brilliant Excalibur?

“He’s no good, mother”
She’s no good, Greymane

Meanwhile over in Overwatch land, the announcement of a new hero, new map, and new cinematic came as no surprise. Moira looks like a great addition, and it sounds like she plays well too. A channeled heal powered by channeled damage draining is a great mechanic, and her ultimate sounds lethal – or opaf as Jeff Kaplan (who was the best by far of the Blizzard presenters) put it.

I’m not sure where it leaves Mercy though – the constant nerfing of her signature rez may mean she’s relegated to a very secondary role with Moira on the scene. Mind you, watching the Overwatch World Cup finals, it does seem like Mercy changes the small one on one victories and pace of the matches a little too much even with the nerfs, so perhaps the rez rethink really is required. The finals were good to watch, Blizzard has improved the spectator experience a lot with team colours and permanent x-ray, though there is still work to be done to direct the camera work to the right place at the right time.

Meta meta

The new map, Blizzard World, looks like fun in a super meta way, and I guess they’ll sneak it into the lore as it actually appears: a theme park in a fantasy world where Blizzard and their games is a thing. Kind of like the X-Men comics that appeared in Logan. The Reinhardt cinematic was gorgeous and interesting, as it painted him as a bit of a jerk, which took some of the oomph out of the live crowd’s reaction to the unveil. Having the voice actor on the spot was a win though – very discombobulating hearing Reinhardt’s voice coming out of a dapper fellow in a suit.

Overall it was a fun series of reveals and teasers, with the Classic server being the most intriguing, and unfortunately the one we’ll have to wait longest for. Major props to the Wowhead, Blizzard Watch, and Massively OP teams for the coverage – no need for a virtual ticket with those teams on the case.

Destiny 2: Maybe

Tyler F.M. Edwards over at Superior Realities wasn’t impressed by the Destiny 2 PC beta:

It proved to be a deeply disappointing experience. Not because of anything wrong with the game, but because the beta offered such a small sliver of it as to be entirely pointless.

Having also played the beta I can see where he’s coming from. For someone who never played the console original, there was no tutorial or explanation of what was going on, you are more or less just thrown in and told ‘go’. And there was only really the intro run and a single PvE mission to try out (unless you like PVP).

In fairness to Bungie it was meant to be a beta, not a free ‘check this out’ weekend, or an introduction to the game. However unfortunately for Bungie that’s exactly how a lot of PC players treated it, especially those that always wanted to play Destiny but never owned a console. For those players, it was a bit of a mystery how everything worked, but like any shooter it’s pretty quick to pick up the basics. And I assume the full release will offer a much better paced introduction to the concepts.

I had played Destiny, on PS4, and admired how the game looked and felt, but as usual found a controller hopeless for FPS shooters. So I was super pleased to hear D2 would come out on PC. It seemed to play pretty much exactly the same as the original, though apparently there have been (controversial) changes to loadouts and how you can equip certain weapons. It’s a fast paced, in your face gun shooter, with hordes of faceless aliens and the occasional boss.

After playing the intro I didn’t feel particularly compelled to keep going, but I queued up for The Inverted Spire, the only ‘Strike’ (aka dungeon) available, and I’m glad I did. It was a great showcase of what I assume is D2’s best content (other than raids), a three player fight against the environment and some nasty bosses. It was surprisingly lengthy, and surprisingly challenging in parts. My pug was silent but helpful, rezzing when you were down and even sticking around to retry the boss when we wiped.

It often looks spectacular, particularly some of the set pieces. Massive – really massive – mining equipment grinding a pit into the ground was a highlight, as was coming up against the final boss who drops you through floors and takes a lot of shooting and agility to take down.

My main disappointment is not being able to convince any of my gaming friends to even try the beta. As usual, the social/schedule boss is the hardest to defeat. It seems like the kind of game that would be excellent for a three person team to challenge, particularly if the dungeon quality is maintained throughout. Bungie are spending a lot of time emphasising that D2 missions and raids should require planning before attempting, so a good team and good comms seems like being essential.

So it’s a solid ‘maybe’ – with three like minded players I can imagine it being a compelling challenge, but as a solo player it probably doesn’t offer enough gameplay variation.

(Images borrowed from the Internet, as I forgot to screenshot before it was all over)

Dishonored 2: Mechanical marvels

Dishonored 2 follows in the esteemed footsteps of the first game – both great, involving, story based FPSs. As with the first installment, it wastes no time putting you straight into the game, only this time you have a choice between Corvo (protagonist of the first game) and Emily, the (now) Empress. The choice seems to make a fairly substantial difference to how the game plays out, or at least the reactions to your presence, so it’s not simply window dressing to allow a male or female lead.

You’re introduced to your powers in short order, and spend the game tweaking them via runes and bone charms that are hidden throughout the world. It’s designed to allow you to craft how you want to play: run and gun, hide and sneak, or some combination of both. As in the first game, the vertical movement allowed by your powers opens up the game to great creative ways to progress through levels. There were several levels where I barely touched the ground, instead bampfing around ledges, rooftops and sentry poles with the patrolling guards none the wiser.

The real strength of D2 comes in the level design. Two in particular – the Clockwork Mansion and Aramis Stilton’s Mansion – are stunning pieces of work. The first is, as the label says, made of Clockwork, and you have to learn its mechanical secrets to get through the puzzles and guards. And the the second opens up an entire new time based system that is ingenious and brain stretching to decipher, but the rewards are great when you do.

It’s worth mentioning and applauding how the game treats women: no differently to men. The developers don’t make a fuss about it or single women out, it’s just entirely normal that there are an equal number of female guards and NPCs as there are men. Similarly with the heroes and villains, people are just people rather than being defined by their sex. It’s refreshing and shows how (relatively) easy it is to accomplish balance in a genre that often suffers the reverse.

Entirely worth playing, especially if you play the first one, um, first, as some of the background and echoes of the past come through very strongly in the sequel. Added bonus: if you start now, there’s just enough time to play through before the next expansion – Death of the Outsider – which is due soon.

GW2: Guardian Rangering

Having decided on a Ranger, I suddenly decided I’d better give a Guardian a proper go instead of basing my decision on a single weapon experience (the starter club no less). Leveling the Ranger, I’d seen the Greatsword wielding Guardian’s and decided that looked too fun not to try. Reading too that Rangers with Bears (aka Bearbows – groan) are somewhat mocked made me want to check my decision before going too far.

Sorry, but I like Bears.

And indeed it is way more fun once you have a weapon that suits your playstyle – in my case relentless melee for a melee class. I merrily leveled through Wayfarer Hills again, this time swinging bright arcs of destruction and jumping about with great dexterity. It was markedly harder – though ‘hard’ isn’t quite the right word for the starter zones – than playing a Ranged class. Several times I got overwhelmed by the combat dynamics and on-screen tells, enough to need reviving once. So I can imagine that at higher levels melee would indeed makes things significantly more difficult.

Definitely a great sword

I enjoyed the Guardian, but didn’t enjoy it as much as the Ranger, who felt much more flowing and perpetually moving – the old trick of siccing your pet onto a mob while you quickly mine a node before returning attention to the fight never gets old. And being able to initiate from range speeds things up dramatically, as does moving toward your next target as you fling arrows at the current.

The other thing that swung me back was noticing how many Ranger’s were running around also wielding Greatswords1. It’s taken me this long to realise that you really can have completely different ways of playing a single class based on your kit. It’s quite an innovation when compared to Warcraft, and makes the class choice easier as you don’t feel like you’re missing out. The dramatic changes weapon choice makes means it’s all but impossible for newbie like me to work out what class someone is – which I think is a compliment to the game design.

Yes, it’s a Bear. Kind of.

So back I went to a Ranger, and I leveled a third time2, with a Bear, Longbow, and Greatsword. As in Warcraft, there’s something about starter zones that really work. I also finally dug out a straightforward video by LordWafflez on stats and talents and builds to use for fun Ranger leveling, which helps immensely with the feeling of being inundated with sometimes baffling options. Plus the tips on weapons swapping – I thought that was just for when an enemy got in your face and you were forced to switch to melee, so understanding it could be used proactively was an eye opener.

I’m guessing this is a Thief.

I played through the first Personal Storyline, and it was quite interesting. Some of the plot points resolved very abruptly, and the voice acting was a bit gung ho for my head canon version of me, but the Jotun storyline was effective. I felt sorry for the big oafs.

Friend or foe?

All of which means I’m finally, for the first time since buying GW2 back when it launched, ready to try a second zone. As a Ranger. Definitely a Ranger…

All Bears all the time

(And wow is this is a screenshot worthy game)


  1. And of course I realised later the reverse is also true – ranged Guardians] 
  2. Slightly embarassingly, I didn’t like my name choice and hair for the original character, so ‘had’ to start over. Ahem. 

GW2: This time for sure?

My experiment with TSWL has come to a shuddering halt. While the stories and quests were on the whole quite strong, the relentless dark and gloomy environment in Kingsmouth eventually got to me (especially as it seemed that would be default atmosphere for the entire game).

The combat being so lightweight bugged me, as did all the extra hammer blows I’d throw for no good reason after a mob was downed. I tried Polaris with my friend, which was kind of fun but also weird. Being used to Warcraft dungeons, an empty instance with only a few mobs felt a bit half baked. We got stuck on one boss fight that was quite fun, but after zoning out I didn’t feel compelled to gear up and go back.

Different strokes for different folks though: that same friend is completely addicted and absorbed, the world building being right up his alley. It’s also his first MMO, so he’s probably gone for good – the first one gets hooks in deep.


Next I toyed with Warcraft again, going as far as making a solo guild on my old realm of Nagrand and reuniting all my higher level toons (all still level 100). This involved a few realm transfers, name changes, inventory shuffling, and bank reorganisation.

After all of which I couldn’t get motivated enough to head to Dalaran and start questing. I know better now than to question why Warcraft has this effect, so I logged off and searched for the next thing.


Luckily, the MMO air has been full of excitement about the impending GW2 expansion, Path of Fire. And GW2 has always been a game I’ve wanted to sink into, but never succeeded in getting past level ~10. A new expansion, hype, enthusiasm: if not now, when?

So I patched, researched professions, and decided to give a Guardian a go. First attempt was as a Charr, and much as I like the non human races in MMOs, their movement and hunched over stature just doesn’t work for me. Especially given how glorious some of the late armour models are, I feared the Charr would be a bit like the Tauren where the models don’t quite make the most of the epic design.

Next I tried an Asura, with similar problems, though this time it was more to do with their mechanical infatuation. I’ve always disliked the incursion of machinery and industry into a fantasy world – the Goblin race in Warcraft being a prime example. Their environmental destruction with smoke bellowing engines is hard to forgive, and the introduction of motorised vehicles is an abomination.

So, as usual in GW2, I fell back on the Norn. Don’t like the Elves, and humans are, well, human. So are the Norn I guess, but at least there’s something slightly different about them.


I tried a Guardian in the starter area, but was quickly put off by the fact that the 2nd and 3rd weapon skills aren’t weapons skills at all, but rather area-of-effect protective spells. It’s a bit dull having only one weapon animation and waiting while you place two zoned effects. I’d previously enjoyed the Warrior’s gung ho attitude, but also felt a bit like they didn’t offer anything special.

So I settled on a Ranger. My Warcraft main is/was a Hunter, so I’m comfortable with the style, and was quickly sold on the Rapid Fire skill – great animation and sound, and much more satisfying than a circle on the ground. Plus the option of a pet makes solo exploring more companionable.

One way to hide the unavoidable lipstick

(Of course as soon as I saw my first Charr and Asura I questioned my choice. Same when seeing the Warriors charging in with their insanely huge swords, or Guardians with that great armour and buffing everyone with glee).

I’ve finished up Wayfarer Hills, levelling to 16 on the way. One odd thing I’ve found is you rarely get gear upgrades. I was rocking my starter bow for a long time, and even now half my gear is white quality and ~10 levels lower than I am. I’ve purchased a few pieces from Karma vendors, but suspect that I’ll need to start crafting to make sure I’m staying up to speed. It was taking quite a while for on-level mobs to drop, which was strange after the OP combat of TSWL and Warcraft.

I can’t join in the big debate about difficulty quite yet, as it seems the starter zone is as non-threatening as possible. The only fight that gave pause was an Elite boss that game at the end of a zone. The dynamic quest text suggested this was a group fight, and so it turned out to be. Two of us were attempting it, but it seemed we needed at least a couple more. The NPCs with us kept going down, and there was a new shield health bar on the boss that seemed to need some kind of interrupt to reduce. I found Jeromai’s description of trying to ‘solve’ mechanics in the PoF demo fascinating, but trying to work it out on the fly I couldn’t see any skill I had that might help. We eventually had to abandon when after 20 minutes or so the mob wiped everyone but me, and promptly healed up to full again. Still, the fight didn’t seem unbalanced, more just a little over our heads (I came back later and a group of four managed to take it down with few problems).

I think my bear would look good in that Charr armour

It was also interesting to find that despite GW2’s reputation of ‘play how you want’, I felt more or less led along a fairly predictable path. Follow the Hearts, seek out the Viewpoints and Points of Interest, find the Hero Challenges and Waypoints. It didn’t feel that different to a traditional quest hub style of game. Maybe that changes after the starter zones?

I also found it impossible to resist trying to get 100% zone completion. I read Bhagpuss’s warning that completionist gameplayers may suffer in GW2, but I found that collecting all the exploration goals was a good way of enjoying the zone. It really is a beautiful game to behold, and I was amazed by some of the underground architecture in particular, places I suspect 90% of the player base never ventures as they are slightly off the beaten track. So too the heights, though the Vista seeking means they are probably more commonly enjoyed.

Next up seems to be starting the Living Story, which people seem to rate pretty lowly. But who can resist a sparkling green map marker for long? Certainly not a (semi) completionist like me.

Secret World Legends: Massively single player

Having read a lot about The Secret World, I managed to miss out playing it completely by adding it to my Steam queue about 1 day before it was withdrawn for the rebirth as Legends.

So I’ve come to the ‘new’ game completely blind, and untainted by expectation (other than the much lauded storyline) or experience. Which helps a lot when it comes to enjoying it without having to rue/farewell the good/bad old days.

I’ve levelled up to 10, and the most striking thing about it so far is how it plays like a single player game. While there have been other players, occasionally, for the most part it feels like a solo RPG. Mysteries, quests, power-ups, and a lot of (excellent) NPC dialogue. But not a lot of interaction with other players, nor seemingly any compelling reason to group up.

Admittedly that feeling of solo play started to change in Kingsmouth, but mainly due to world chat suddenly exploding into action. There’s too much chat to really pay attention, especially because the bulk of it is comparison talk – what’s better, what’s worse – but at least it proved there are other players out there. It does sound like group content is approaching – teams for ‘Polaris’ keep being advertised, so that’s promising.

And I think at level 10 something flashed past on the screen about PVP? The UI leaves something to be desired – often I was being awarded something or other but couldn’t see it behind the quest completion or inventory UI. I also have no clue what I’m doing with skill upgrades or talent builds – so far I’ve ignored them and it hasn’t mattered at all.

The combat is also pretty average, as advertised. I chose to roll Demolisher, liking the idea of a hammer-smashing sword-slashing tank, but there is zero ‘feel’ to the melee combat. It has no weight whatsoever, the hits don’t connect with any heft, and it seems that just mashing right and left mouse will do the job. Even with the world bosses, the only minor challenge has been to dodge the action telegraphs. The airiness, more than the clumsiness, of the combat is disappointing, even with low expectations.

As for the story, it’s certainly far more involved than Warcraft or GW2, approaching SWtoR in terms of craft and depth. SWtoR still wins hands down for the feeling of heroism, that you matter and your character is shaping epic events, but TSWL is proving to be a refreshing change to the fantasy and sci-fi tropes. Wry humour and well written NPCs, and an omnipresent tone of everything in the world being slightly – but not totally – off kilter.

A friend is also playing, and it’s his first ever MMO. Which is kind of unfortunate as it’s hardly that thus far, but we’re going to team up and see what eventuates. More zombies, I’m guessing.