A Learning Curve

I learnt several things yesterday. The first of those things is that I’m a terrible Mistweaver Monk.

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I hadn’t really played her since the pre-patch which brought so many changes but either I haven’t properly looked through her spell book and am missing half a dozen useful spells or I’m doing something very wrong. I got my artifact and am only level 99 but it felt way harder than doing any of the three Priest artifact weapon chains.

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Secondly I discovered there is a real dust problem in Dalaran. Having acquired the weapon, I felt my Monk needed a change of hair colour to match her outfit so wandered off to the Barbers. Having accidentally clicked on the rug, I came out to discover an infestation of bunnies running around.
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Then when sitting down to take a screenshot of said bunny, I noticed a floating Pepe hanging around next to me.

All in all, a rather lucky day made perhaps even more important by the fact that it was World Suicide Prevention Day yesterday and that it’s nothing short of a miracle that I’m still here to write about the joy of something so insignificant as finding a little orange bird in a video game. I know I’ve talked about depression before but one thing I haven’t admitted is that my postnatal depression almost killed me. I remember those feelings of emptiness, of believing that my son wasn’t real and the despair… I could have drowned whole continents. Yet whenever I tried to seek help I was dismissed, patronised or told that there was something fundamentally wrong with me because of the “unnatural” feelings I had. In the end, I reached a point where I felt not only was my life pointless but that I was already blighting my son’s. Killing myself before I did him any more harm seemed the only logical solution.

My life was saved by the kindness of a passing stranger* and so I’d like to pass that on, please if you’re feeling depressed and that you don’t see any point going on, talk to someone. The one lesson I’ve learned in all this madness is that the way we see ourselves is very often warped and twisted like a fairground mirror and that to get a true picture, we need to see ourselves through someone else’s eyes.

*(and also the amazing support of Mr Harpy who never gave up on me)

A Weapon for All Seasons – The Three Priest Artifacts

I’m now level 105 and possessor of all three Artifact weapons available to Priests. My experiences of the quests might be slightly different to most Priests as I did all three quest chains as Holy but if I had to rate them, it would be as follows.

The easiest by far was Shadow. No annoying NPCs standing in burning floors, demon goop or anything else dangerous to their health. I also liked the outdoors element of the chain, where you could group up with other Priests if you wanted/needed. In fact, I think this was my favourite over all quest, even the dreadful “Scottish” accent of the Dwarf couldn’t ruin it. I love the snarky evil talking blade, it’s a shame it’s not a staff though or that it can’t be transmogrified into one as I’d love to use the Anathema skin.

Priest Specific spells needed: 1 – mass dispel although Holy Nova worked just as well at killing them.
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Next on my list would be the Discipline artifact. Again I liked the fact that I could group up with another Priest on the outdoor elements and that it wasn’t all purely instanced. I’m possibly also slightly biased by the fact that my experience with the Beta was a lot harder (Thanks Azuregos…who clearly hadn’t forgiven me for killing him once a week for 18 months in vanilla and did nothing to help me during the middle part of the quest) than it was on live. I’m guessing if you are actually playing Discipline, you do the end part of the quest with a bit more finesse than my Holy Priest did but if it works, it works right?

Priest Specific spells used: 2 – levitate and mind control
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Finally Holy, the first quest I completed and my least favourite of the lot. I hate Jace Darkweaver with a passion and sincerely hope if I ever have to group up with him again, he’s learnt to stay out of the fire by then. I think that’s a big part of my issue with the chain, how I can I be a hero if I need a motley bunch of minions to carry me to my artifact quest. Yes, I’m a healer and group part of play is a huge part of that but the Protection Warrior artifact weapon doesn’t exactly have you tanking for a party, the way that the Holy Priest quest has you healing people. I think that made it a bit bland compared to some of the other artifact quests I’ve done, for example the Assassination Rogue one.

Priest Specific spells used: 2 – levitate (because I could) and resurrection
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All in all a lot of fun and provided a good break from questing/doing profession based things.

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Totally Unnecessary Picture of Snow hanging with Azuregos

A Whole New World

Last night was a revelation. A launch night without as far as I could see a hitch, no getting ported to your doom, no getting stuck in or outside your garrison, no servers falling over repeatedly…instead everything worked first time. Latency was great, no six second delays between spell rotates and no speedups/slow downs.

All the problem areas I anticipated worked brilliantly, the moving of Dalaran, the class hall and artifact weapons had no hiccups at all. Even when about 100 hunters landed on me during the start of my weapon quest the server held up.

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It took us approximately an hour to get to level 101 and that included getting the weapons, picking up a couple of pets/drops off rare spawns and finding the time for a bit of a picnic.

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All in all, a great start for what I hope will be a great expansion.

Post Patch Positives

And perhaps the odd negative.

First up, I’m “Fabulous”. Who knew I was hoarding that many items of clothing. With the exception of my Shaman, everyone else is hiding shoulders and is likely to be doing so for the foreseeable future. I’ve also found so many things I didn’t know I had like the scythe off Ahune and the Blessed Leggings of Undead Slaying.

The changes to the Toybox have given me lots more bag spaces as well as the Robo-Gnomebulator.

Gnome Hunters…every baby Gnome I encountered at the start zone had a mechanical Bunny in tow.

Snow has decided to go back to her roots. The achievement for Benediction has made her very happy, even to the point that she let Sprout transmogrify Anathema.

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Playing a Holy Priest today though felt a lot less fun than yesterday. Now part of that is definitely the content I’ve been doing, we did heroic UBRS as a Protection Warrior/Holy Priest duo and then did a couple of the Pandaria raids with the same combination. Mana really wasn’t really an issue even when someone pulled all the first packs of UBRS at once (glares in Warrior’s direction) so I had the talent which lets your single target heals refresh renew. That meant for virtually all of it, I had to cast renew once per fight, then flash heals interlaced with smite spam, holy fire off cooldown and loot.

No inept Shadowfiend, no mind sear, no shadow word pain, no power word shield, no fear and no mind vision. I didn’t think I’d miss them but I do. Obviously raid/pvp healing will need more than those 3 spells to sustain a fight but I liked having a tool box bursting at the seams with spells.

The removal of Basil the inept Shadowfiend probably hurts the most. Not because he was needed for damage or mana but because I have fond memories of his ineptness during raids. In an ideal world, we’d get a cosmetic glyph which lets Holy Priests summon an “inept shadowfiend” which would bounce around being useless for 10 seconds on a minute cooldown.

On the plus side, getting Mind Control back gave me a big smile. I never felt I could justify the talent point on something so specific but it’s fun for duoing five mans at the appropriate level and it’s a great source of amusement in PvP.

Finally no more gold missions at the Garrison makes me very happy, okay it essentially paid for my mobile Transmogrification Yak but feeling I’ve escaped them even if it’s temporarily is a wonderful feeling.

Garrisons: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

When I first started playing the Beta, I was almost determined to dislike Garrisons because they weren’t player housing. I started out critical because on the back of playing Wildstar, the biggest thing I felt WoW was missing was my own little corner of Azeroth. I wanted to be able to decorate, to hide out and grow huge possibly man eating plants in solitude.

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However as with most things, my feelings towards them have softened the more exposed I am. Sure there are still things which bug me, for example I’d love a shared Guild area attached to our own private space, perhaps with some of the functionality of Stormshield, i.e an Inn minus the quests for drunken parties or a banking facilities where you could hang out but on the whole, the positives outweigh the negatives for me.

The Good

Familiar NPCs as Followers

Having for example the Firebeards spending their extended honeymoon tending the Alliance Stables is a lovely touch for those of us who helped them get married back in Cataclysm. It’s always good to be able to tie the current incarnation of the game to what came before, giving that sense of a real world in which it’s not just us the players who change but the NPCs too. They grow up, form relationships and decide to explore new frontiers as well.WoWScrnShot_121214_133959

Your Battle Pets strolling around and following you

Okay, it’s a bit disconcerting when your buildings are besieged by your creepy crawlies but it adds a personal feel to the whole place. The only thing I’d suggest to make it better would be if it worked the same as the Stables, picking favourites rather than at random but really that’s a minor change.

The choice of Buildings

I’ve visited garrisons belonging to others as well as having seen screenshots and it’s interesting just how diverse they are. Mr Harpy and I have almost the same buildings but managed to lay them completely differently which means I keep getting confused and annoyed whether I’m visiting. I also liked the fact that I wanted more buildings than the game allows which gives you motivation to push alts if you have them although I can imagine this being exceedingly annoying if your not an Alt person.

The Weekly Garrison Campaign

It’s just not the extra 800 apexis crystals you get for completing the bonus objective but the rewards and storyline I love about these. So far I have a mole machine outside my Garrison which takes me to Gorgrond, a bundle of garrison resources and the title of Blood Champion not to mention this rather attractive disguise:

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I also like the potential this has as the game progresses, each patch can add more of these campaign missions to explore lore, hand out followers and fancy toys. According to the Followers list for example, we should be able to recruit Thisalee Crow or Choluna depending on your Faction at some point in the future through these.

Missions: The Rewards

On the face of it, I do question whether 645 loot should be obtainable by sending your minions out to fight whilst you sleep, work or watch tv but given that it does happen, it’s a great way of gearing up especially if you’re slowly leveling alts in the background. Whilst RNG hasn’t been that kind to me, Mr Harpy is currently working on his 4th or 5th piece. My little Shadowpriest already has 615 gear waiting for her despite being level 92 because her followers are already lv 100 and it will be interesting to see if once those followers have geared up, she can start stockpiling 630 and then 645 pieces. I also like the fact that you get toys, tokens for old mounts and followers from the missions because you never know what will show up next in your list.

Garrison Attacks

Attempting to get better and better scores makes these attacks fun in my book. I also like the little details, rescue civilians caught in the open, catch snipers or saboteurs before they can wreck havoc.

The Bad

Missions: The Timesink

Feels a bit like those free to play games you get on your phone where they want you to check back every 30 minutes to 12 hours to start off a new project. In order to maximize the rewards you get, there is that feeling that you need to check regularly and make as much use of your minions time as possible.

The choice of Buildings.

Ignoring aesthetics and personal favourites, if you are a completionist the easiest way to tick off everything available from Garrisons will be to have multiple alts each working on different things.

 The lack of Festive decorations

I’ve mentioned this once or twice before, but I feel our Garrisons need that tie with the old world more than anywhere else in Draenor. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Winter Veil tree and some candy canes next week.

The Ugly

Garrison resources

To be fair, this is mostly the fault of RNG as Mr Harpy got two followers with the scavenger trait straight out of the gate and has been capped on Garrison resources for a while now, whereas I wasn’t quite so lucky and am hanging in there at around the thousand mark because every time I get more, I need to upgrade something. However having listened to guild mates complain about their lack of resources I suspect it’s a problem for a lot of people.

Herbing and Mining

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Don’t get me wrong, I love my herb garden but I do question why I who has neither profession should have a bank full of mats without having to use the Auction House or trade them from a friend or alt. This is the first incarnation of the game in which I haven’t had to spend any money whatsoever on leveling Engineering and it does seem a little unfair to those who were hoping to make some money from their professions.

Finally these are a few of my hopes for my Garrison going forward.

Seasonal decorations: When it comes to the various Festivals in WoW surely these will be mirrored in our Garrisons as what better way to show our troops exactly what we’re fighting for and also to make a tiny corner of a foreign planet feel a bit more homely. I mean we don’t want them deserting in droves do we.

The Druid Tree in the corner of the Alliance Garrison which is currently a little quiet, a little reserved: I hope that at some point, perhaps tied to the Garrison Campaign mission concerning Thisalee Crow which appears not yet implemented will make a better use of this tranquil space.

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Some sort of building which makes reference to your either your class/race or both: Obviously as a Nightelf Priest, a Moonwell would be the obvious choice but coming up with something for everyone shouldn’t be too hard. For Human, Dwarf and Forsaken Priests it could be a chapel, although the Forsaken version would look like the chapel you begin your Forsaken career in. Rogues might have a trapdoor leading to a secret lair and Warriors something reminiscent of Fray Island with their followers stacking the stands.

What if anything would you like to see added to your garrison?

A lonely impulse of delight: On Flight in Draenor

They say honesty is the best policy so before I start, I thought I’d nail my colours to the mast. As a girl flight fascinated me. The Wright Brothers were heroes of mine and the first Latin I learnt was the motto embroidered on my Father’s uniform so that it lay across his heart, Per Ardua ad Astra or Through Adversity (or Hardship) to the Stars. I loved the angry roar of his squadron’s fighter planes as they powered down the runaway and shot upwards into the sky. Like Icarus I wanted to soar amongst the clouds on wings of my own, seeing the world below as if it were nothing more than a patchwork quilt spread on a old bed. Even now, I get a physical kick from flying, the harder the take-off the more that jolt of burning flame hits my stomach so when Flying was first introduced into WoW whilst I had major misgivings for World PvP over all, I was secretly excited. After all the world looks so different from up there, you’d get a whole new perspective and so many more screenshot opportunities and I couldn’t quite shake my feelings for the Irish Airman who W.B Yeats had utter these words:

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

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Somewhere over Canada

As it turned out, Flying did kill off World PvP but that tide was turning anyway, so many battlegrounds and arenas meant that fighting over tiny strips of non instanced land didn’t interest the majority anymore and like many things it became a convenient habit especially with mounts like the Headless Horseman’s available.

Fast forward to Draenor and when I first read about the lack of flight, my gut reaction was one of a backwards step. Blizzard had given us something and now they were taking it away which whilst always within their rights to do so was frustrating. I thought about the various Flying Mounts other’s had purchased from the Blizzard store for cold hard cash and that only added to my annoyance. Surely selling things and effectively making them obsolete in the current version of the game was a tad unscrupulous. I went on a tour of all the little secret hidden places I love so much, the borderlands, the gap between the hedgerows where anything and everything seems possible and thought how much I’d miss finding places like this in Draenor. The thought of no flying built itself up and up becoming almost a deal breaker for me.

Then with drums and crashing servers, the expansion arrived and somehow my opinion suffered a sea change. I found myself tightrope walking in the Spires of Arak desperately seeking archaeology fragments because no bit of purple rope was going to get the better of me. I spent time figuring out how to scale giant mushrooms to win myself battle pets in the shape of pretty spores and I fell both up and down cliffs in pursuit of trifles wrapped in sparkly boxes. For the first time in a long time, I had to engage my brain and think about the best path to places, levitate and goblin gliders have both been invaluable I admit but more than that, it’s been fun. I haven’t been knocked off my mount and forced to fight to the death against a horde of pesky mobs as I feared which given that I’m a Holy Priest who hits like a wet noodle is a very good thing but more than that I feel engaged in the world around me. The sight of something glittering amongst the trees, well that’s the beginning of a puzzle. Yes some are way harder than others and at times Mr Harpy has a distinct advantage as a cheating, leaping warrior but the sense of satisfaction seems so much greater than just swooping down out of the sky would do.

At no point so far have I felt let down by being grounded. Most cliffs are climbable somehow, the trick is figuring out where. I don’t feel particularly slowed down by having to ride across country either and having a level 3 Stables takes some of the potential bite out of that anyway. We no longer need to physically get to raids so that’s another potential issue removed entirely. I don’t even miss the convenience of being to go straight from A to Z without having to stop off along the way. Of course, when I return to the old world, I still fly but we accept that there are different ways of doing things in the real world so why not in Azeroth. Perhaps when the last patch brings the shadow of Draenor’s final curtain then flying would be appropriate but in the meantime, I think we’ll survive.

Seven Days In – Thoughts on Warlords

So seven days have gone flying by since we passed beneath the portal…  Despite all the server “issues”, Mr Harpy and I arrived at the level cap on Sunday which I must admit surprised us both, especially since he was working Thursday and Friday. We’ve got level 3 Garrisons, ticked off the Silver Proving Grounds achievements for our respective specs and are planning to head into dungeons in pursuit of gold, gear and toys courtesy of the Garrison Inn quests at the weekend. In the meantime though I’d thought I’d talk about my over all feelings towards the expansion as a whole.

The Good

The whole leveling experience itself. At least from the Alliance perspective, the quest chains were powerful, interesting and used cut scenes to convey emotions and show things which wouldn’t have worked in cold hard quest text. Compared to say Uldum and it’s cutscenes where I found myself reaching for the ESC button the second Harrison Jones appeared, this time around, it’s a completely different story.

Yrel as a character also surprised me. I don’t think Blizzard fell into any of the myriad traps they could have with her. Yes, she starts out unsure of herself as a leader, but everyone has to start somewhere and as you progress through the zones, she’s not the weak annoying character she could have become. Her voice does grate slightly though.

The sheer quantity of pets and toy items to be discovered hiding around the world.

Garrisons (when they choose to work). On paper at least, I wasn’t a fan but now I have this quiet corner of Shadowmoon Valley which is mine and mine alone, my feelings have changed. Already I have my own little hideaway where I can sit, watching guildchat go scrolling by.

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The Bad

We hit 100 and were left looking at each other. We have five dungeons on normal if you could Skyreach which we’d already run for the legendary ring quest and the proving grounds quest in our Garrisons but there didn’t seem to be a clear path towards better gear. Yes, there are level 100 elites who have a chance of dropping something, you can buy things with Apexis crystals and of course make things if you have the relevant profession but we essentially stumbled our way into these things. Perhaps a bill board in the Garrison suggesting where to look would have helped, instead of pushing people to search the internet themselves.

The Ugly

Ashran. From everything I’ve read on the forums, every Ashran seems horribly unbalanced. On our server, there is around 100-150 Horde plus a large rock guy sitting in the Alliance base slaughtering the 15 or so Alliance brave enough to enter. I don’t understand why they didn’t follow on from the Tol Barad method where numbers are capped, for example if there are 20 of one faction, the other faction can only have 30 players to at least give tactical play a chance. If Mr Harpy and I had any intent of PvPing seriously this expansion we would have to server transfer to ensure we weren’t miles behind when the area season starts and that to me is just wrong.

 

All in all, I’m having the most fun I’ve had in WoW in a long time. Yes, the launch wasn’t brilliant and I admit I had a minor rant to Mr Harpy who develops software for a living, pointing out that if his work went live so prone to falling over, he’d be out of a job by now. His rational and reasonable response was simple, 10 million people aren’t all trying to use his software at once and should they do so, no doubt it would be a disaster. Plus, apart from the odd queue last weekend and one or two sticky episodes where my Garrison’s gravity trapped me for an hour or two, we didn’t have many issues.