Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tier 4 thoughts

Czarnal is now at rank 35 and has had a fair bit of time in tier 4. My experience here has been a mix of the good and the not so good, so I thought I'd share a little recap of how tier 4 is playing out for me.

City Siege

The good: I've participated in both sides: defense of the IC and the assault on Altdorf, and I've seen plenty of back and forth going on in the various zones. It gives the game a very live feeling. Having the various scenarios lock or unlock based on the status of the various zones connects you to the status of the war, even if you're ignoring it. On Volkmar, it seems like we're approaching the sweet spot: back and forth with both sides having opportunities to pin the other back and to put their capital under pressure.

The Altdorf city siege that I participated in, seemed particularly effective. It really felt like a city under assault. There was lots of skirmish action in the streets as well as organized bands assaulting the 2 capture points. It felt genuinely cinematic and like a really well-wrought combination of PvE and PvP elements working to further the central narrative.

The Bad: I can't really get all that into PvP in Tier 4. I hope it will be better post-patch, and/or as I get a little closer to the level cap. Right now I feel like I'm making up the numbers. In scenarios I get consistently crushed, and in the 2nd stage of the City defense PQ (or either stage of the assualt of altdorf) I felt basically useless. I guess I gave order some renown, so there's that.

RvR is less casual in T4. Sure you can hop in and out, but you're not going to do much or earn much unless you're willing to really commit to the process. So far, I'm not.

The Ugly: Lag. It's really absurd how laggy some of this can get. While order was pushing into the maw, I was trying to do a PQ in Praag and had around 3 seconds of lag ... 3 seconds between the receipt of any given action is really unbearable. And I know it's even worse in the fortress fights. So yeah, put those bad boys in discrete instances on an instance server plx ... and keeps too.

Questing and PQs:

The Good: So everytime I change tiers I start questing again, and then about halfway through I abandon it for PQ influence grinds, dungeons, and RvR. In Tier 4, I've been very pleased with the quality of quest narratives. In particular I've done a lot of Chaos ch.15 and 3 of the epic quests. These are great fun ... very appealing story arcs (spoiler: your character is awesome) and force you to visit the various zones of parts of zones. The PQs have been a bit mixed, but some of them are fantastic. Interesting mechanics, interesting stories, good visuals.

I've also been enjoying exploring the Tome. My current obsession is jewelry unlocks. They're perfect for my level and there's a lot of them. They tend to be defensive in nature but seem pretty good at that. So far I've unlocked about 6 or 7 of these and there's at least another 5 or 6 if not more. They're in sets too, btw, which increases the collectibility for me.

The Bad: Basically poor and inconsistent rewards. More of the same kvetching I know, but let me explain. PQs throughout the previous tiers have had evenly scaling rewards. Ch.11 elite rewards are level 22 blues, ch.12 are level 24 blues, ch.13 level 26. But in T4, not so much:

Ch. 15: level 28 (ch.14 at the end of t3 gives level 27 blues)
Ch. 16: level 30 (okay so far so good)
ch. 17: ...also level 30
ch. 18: level 31.

and so on. Now to be fair, there are more chapters in tier 4 (8 vs. 5) but the rewards rapidly drop below the scale of the mobs you have to fight. (ch.20 for example gives level 33 blues for it's elite rewards. The mobs you fight are level 38+)

Not a big deal for grouping, I imagine, but it makes soloing yourself decent gear from PvE a bit of a non-starter.

Epic quests are as I've said, very cool, but the rewards are a bit inconsistent and seem to trend a little low. The chaos Ch.15 epic quest yields a level 28 blue weapon, the chaos ch. 17 epic quest yields a level 30 blue weapon. But for this one you're looking at level 37+ mobs. The ch.15 greenskin epic quest yields green level 30 boots. It's all a bit slapdash.

The Ugly: Broken PQs. This is a bad thing. Gaarawarr's epic PQ crawl puts this into stark perspective. Look at all the busted PQs in that recap, particularly in Tier 4. A real shame. My personal bane has been the Lonely Tower (ch. 15 chaos) which has like 3 or 4 different broken bits:

1. final boss may completely reset at any point in the fight.
2. PQ refuses to leave stage one, even when completed.
3. PQ refuses to start stage three, after all the skeles in stage 2 (that are above the ground and visible) are slain.
4. Random junk.

Here's a couple screenies from lonely tower to illustrate my point:

t4 Art & ambience

The Good: It's all good. T4 really is quite gorgeous. Altdorf is gorgeous, Praag is fantastic, the Chaos Wastes are brooding and crazy, Thunder Mountain is brilliant, even the elf zones, in particular I love Dragonwake, are great ... all yawning chasms and elegant, absurd bridges and lonely, graceful towers. Just really lovely.

So there you have it. Gorgeous zones, a bit of bugginess and lag, brutal PvP ... tier 4 is a different thing to be sure. I think I may just have to forget RvR altogether. Or alternately, give in to it completely. The old standby of queuing for scenarios while I'm grinding PQ influence doesn't seem to translate.

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