Wherein Old Friends Are Treated Ruthlessly

October 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

For many reasons, I am in the midst of a tidy.

If I’m not careful, my packrat tendencies will take over, and suddenly I’ll have floor-ceiling stacks of Huge Amounts Of Stuff™ occupying every room of the house just in case.  Which leads to then being known as Crazy Hoarder Man, and that won’t end well.

So every so often (more every so than often, unfortunately, but life is like that) there is a tidy.  I get all ruthless, and everything and anything that does not have a purpose marked out for it, or has outlived its purpose, finds itself on the fast-track to rubbish-tip doom.

Some things, however, tend to be exempt.  Games, for one.  Those handy-dandy dvd cases are easy to store, don’t take up much space, and every so often it’s fun to put the disc in and have a blast.

Today, though, I am looking at a pile of MMO boxes.  They’re not the single-player games; I’m looking at World of Warcraft and expansions, Lord of the Rings Online and expansion, Warhammer Online, Aion Online, and a few others.  They’re games I’m not going to play again, and even if I was, the clients are so far beyond the version on the discs that I’m better off… downloading the client from the publisher anyway.

To add to their woes, I’m not even playing these games anymore: not only do I not have the time to play them in any meaningful fashion, but I don’t even want to.  They have outstayed their welcome.  They have gone from being the sort of friends that were erudite, fun and exciting to the sort of house-guests that smell, use up all the toilet paper without replacing it, and use up far too much shelf-space.

Ruthless time; they are more than surplus to requirements.

And here I am, mourning their fate.  They *were* all old friends (well, except you Aion.  Least said soonest mended, and all that), and those boxes are the only physical non-sentient thing that reminds me of the fun I had in those games.

Now they are gone.  I shall wallow in nostalgia for a while.  With a lovely cup of tea.




Wherein there is No Particular Order

September 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

A recent jaunt across the Irish Sea meant No MMOs For Hawley For A Week, which is a harsh period of cold turkey for an addict such as myself.  For reference purposes, it’s worse than No Pizza, but nowhere near as bad as [shudder] No Tea.

Slight tangent: In Ballina, Mayo, there is a restaurant called Padraic’s Restaurant.  It looks like the sort of greasy-spoon diner that was last decorated during the 1970s.  It doesn’t have the ambience of the cooler sort of contemporary eateries, and the menu wasn’t designed and produced on a Mac by someone who is very creative.  Yet the late lunch we had there was my favourite meal of the entire holiday.  You see, at Padraic’s, the service is friendly and welcoming, the food is high quality, the portions are large, and the menu itself is wide-ranging and universally good.  And for what you get, the prices are more than right.

It’s a good job it’s another country away; if there was one in my home town, I’d be twice the size I am.  And I’m big enough already.

Heading slightly back on track: Not being able to play MMOs doesn’t mean I didn’t think about them, and being Multi-Game at the moment, about what makes me *want* to spend time in three different MMOs.

So, in no particular order:

Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The gameplay doesn’t just make The Old Republic some sort of warm woolly blanket every time I need a comfy and welcoming gaming fix.  It’s all those lovely storylines; for the first time I’ve had moments where I’ve sat and thought a decision through before making it.  And once this went so far that I was forced to go and make a brew, and then ponder through the decision before settling on my choice.  I’ve not been forced to do that since Fallout 2, and that’s a long time ago.

I’m also a huge fan of the combat and related class skills.  Playing a trooper makes me feel like I’m playing through my own personal war film, whilst consular felt like an old-school hermit-based wizard.  The skills just support that, and the pin-sharp animations really bring it home.  Yes, every time Hawley picks a droid out of the ground and lobs it at some monsty, I grin like a loon.

The Secret World.  The thing that amazes me about this game is the level of detail that Funcom have brought into this game.  Every time I play, I’m surprised by how deeply immersed I get, how many smart references there are, and how well gauged the atmosphere is.  Just the thought of seeing more of the game world is enough to keep me wanting to play, never mind the sheer joy of the classless character system.

Guild Wars 2.  PvP.  Just WvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvW me up please, because I loves me some WvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvW.  Fighting over a dedicated PvP conquest zone is just loads of fun, and something that makes me giggle.  No, I’m not a hardcore PvPer.  I’m not even good at it.  I am, however, enthusiastic and willing.

I had a wonderful time on holiday, but just as it’s always nice to come home after, it’s nice to be able to log on and play an MMO that will give me something that’s whole and hearty.

Oh, and don’t forget to go for a meal in Padraic’s some time.



Wherein A Certain Game Is Mentioned

August 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

It is the rainy end of a bank holiday Monday, I’ve got a sausage sandwich-shaped hole in my tum, and tomorrow is A Certain Game’s official launch day.

Aye, the beast that is Guild Wars 2 is upon us.  I have not been involved in the head-start launch as anything other than a spectator, but I still got to hear about issues with accounts, logging in, and general server evil.  All in all, an MMO launch.

My sole participation in the head-start was to Not Help Very Much by installing the game.  My game box arrived on Saturday morning from the Shop of the Amazon, so I installed it and created a game account.  It took a few attempts to get an account created, but that’s both understandable, and no means rare for a new game launch.  It was then a short while the game patched itself.

In a way, it’s been a bit of a strange feeling.  This is the first MMO in a long time where I’ve not been in any way before launch.  Nowadays a game pre-order comes with head-start access at the very least, and quite often some open-beta.  And as the sort of gamer that enjoys an MMO launch, I tend to pre-order.

This time, not.  ArenaNet’s choice of Pre-*Purchase* rather than Pre-*Order* came at a time when I just couldn’t afford to hand over the funds for something that I might not enjoy that much.  At best, I’m a beta scratcher; I can’t invest in a beta so all I do is log on, check out the character creation, the combat, and maybe a bit of hunter-gathering, and then call it quits.  Paying for a few hour’s testing seems counter-intuitive, when there are so many cool toys that I *need*.

But I’m really glad for all those people who did go on; it’s because of their blogging and tweeting that I shall be having a go at Guild Wars 2.  You are all too numerous to mention, but Scarybooster gets a nod for the most in-depth analysis of the game so far, which did in fact prove to be the tipping point between indecision and life-long fandom.

A hearty congratulation to ArenaNet on the launch of their new game.




April 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

You might have noticed that posting here has all but dried up recently.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, far from it, but the time in which I’ve been able to say it has somewhat disappeared into a haze of working, socialising, and gaming.

As a result, some activities have suffered, and me rambling into the abyss that is the internets is one of them.  So, rather than just post with something half-arsed and a bit rubbish when I notice my poor neglected blog, I’m going to put the dust-covers over the place, close the doors, and when I can devote some proper time to rambling about MMOs, I’ll come back and open the place up again.

Thanks for visiting, I’ve really appreciated you stopping by.



Setting Off

March 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

All MMOs have them.  For some players they define the nature of any given chosen race, whilst for others they’re a just a speedbump before getting to the meat of the game.  There can be one of them, or many of them.  Quite often, they’re all a player will see of a particular game, and all MMOs have them.

But I suppose the biggest question for me is:

What is a starter zone *for*?

Now, I freely admit to being somewhat oblivious when it comes to official forums.  I recently, in my role of guild officer, posted a recruiting message thingy on Rift’s official forums, and that left me feeling rather strange in my tummy.

Part of me felt a little brave and excited, having entered the lion’s den.  Another part of me felt a little soiled; instead of lurking rarely (and laughing at all the misguided fools and their patently ridiculous wittering on) I was choosing to actively participate in proceedings.  But I digress.

I’ve been aware of some consternation and complaint that there is only one starter zone per faction in Rift, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t care.  In fact, I quite welcome it.

I remember Warhammer Online’s multiple starting zones.  One for each race in each faction.  They were lovely zones, oozing with character, and part of a very strong game concept.  Which, of course, fell apart when players got involved; pretty soon, the dwarf and elf zones were abandoned after the initial surge of players, and everyone just moved to the Empire for levelling purposes because that’s where everyone else was.

Age of Conan went for the complete opposite, with one multi-layered, highly engineered zone that had both multiplayer and solo elements, with the solo side a fantastic story that would have worked well in many single player games.  Of course, it was a shame that the rest of the game was nowhere nearly as well detailed in terms of quests and story, and that the fantastic solo quest line just seemed to make players think in solo rather than group terms.

Now we have Rift.  Most of my play has been on the Defiant side, but I did complete the Guardian side during one of the later Beta events, and to be perfectly honest, I have no problem with there being just one starter zone.

The Defiant starter zone is cool.  There’s a part of me that loves an “escape from an apocalyptic future by using time-travel to change the past” storyline, and it made me all squiffy and special.  Due to the nature of the story line, I’m not surprised there’s just the one.  Sorry Kelari and Bahmi players, your racial starter zones were gobbled up by the big narsties on their way here.  Yes, I’m being all Eth-ist and assuming they’d hold out longest.  Or something.

Ultimately, I don’t care whose homeland it is.  Because the important thing is what that starter zone is *for*.

To my mind, starter zones are there for three main reasons (in no particular order);

  • To teach the basics of the game
  • To try and turn interested tourists into long-term residents
  • To establish the background story for the game

Anything after that is pure gravy because, ultimately, it’s the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in.  Even counting the repetition required by the judicious and willful addition of alts, it’s *still* the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in.

All that I care about is that the starter zone fulfils the above three objectives.  I want to have the game grab my attention, I want the game world to intrigue me, and I want to know how to play the game by the time I get out of that starter zone a few short hours later.

Ultimately, I’d much rather game developers didn’t spend time creating six or so starting zones when two will do, because that’s time that could have been spent on later level zones, or instances, or PvP zones; not something that will be completed and forgotten about in a couple of hours.


Could Try Harder

March 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Some, and now heading towards Many, players have levelled characters up to level 50 in Rift.

I am not one of them.

There are many reasons for this, but I think the first and foremost reason is that I really haven’t been looking to level at speed.  Having learned my lesson with ‘Clysm, I’m desperately doing my best not to burn myself out during the levelling process.

I am also sharing my time between four alts.  Oh yes, I have one of each of the four major food groups thoughtfully provided by Trion.

And right now, I’m finding that I’m really enjoying one or more aspect to each of the classes.

What I like most is that all of the souls I’ve encountered seem cool.  Bear in mind that this is largely due to the way *I* play, but I’ve yet to come across one and have “Bah humbug!” thoughts.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that I’m the sort of player who gets pathetically grateful when in groups, so always goes for utility over the personal satisfaction of damage.  That and it’s hard to see when someone’s slacking with a utility role.  Sue me.

These are the classes and soul constructs I’ve been using most:

Cleric: Mostly Sentinal, some Warden, less Inquisitor.

I am DOT boy.  See me DOT.  It’s surprisingly survivable having two healing souls, and having three instant DOTs and a two-second cast on the fourth DOT means taking on multiple mobs is easier than I imagined.  There are also a plethora of heals, with a scarily expensive group heal, a few single hit heals, and a few HOTs.  The Inquisitor also brings a few extra punchy options, for the times when I need a mob dead *soon as*.

It’s a good instance healing build.  There is only one fight so far where I’ve found mana an issue, and that’s the end of Deepstrike Mine which is long and almost raid-like.  For straight healing output it’s fine, but sometimes a backup healer really helps with those damage-spike moments; lacking shields makes it difficult to deal with a nasty crit.

Rifts are also fun.  I can heal when it’s a small group, switching to damage when there’s enough people there, and it’s all fun.  I’ve heard that healing contributions are much less than damage contributions, but to be perfectly honest I don’t care; I have more fun healing rifts with my cleric than chucking damage, and fun is what I play for.

Mage:  Mostly Dominator, some Archon, some Chloromancer

I set out to create a Loremaster from Lord of the Rings Online, just without the annoying animal slaves, and I’m pretty happy with this combination.  The Dominator soul means I can turn things into a squirrel (and being threatened by a squirrel makes me girly-giggle every time it happens) but not much else because the character is going through that difficult teen period, but it should soon open out.  Archon has some useful buff-debuff action, and I like the fact that most of them will debuff a mob *and* buff the party as part of the same spell.  Nice.

Chloromancer was added as I wanted more utility over straight damage potential, but it’s combination of damage-to-heal abilities means it’s quite nice and punchy.

I’m looking forward to getting to higher levels with the mage; whilst breaky, it does have a rather splendid “toolkit” set up, rather than just spamming three or so buttons to win fights.

Warrior:  Mostly Warlord and Reaver, some Paladin.

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying the Reaver.  I took it as “the third soul”, but it’s now a joint primary with Warlord.  It reminds me of World of Warcraft’s Death Knight, but with an understandable mechanic as opposed to something that seemed wilfully obtuse and unworkable (yes, I just clicked on skills as they became available, rather than actually intending to do anything).  Warlord’s group utility should mean some fun off-tanking as well as tanking support, and that seems like fun enough for me.

Rogue:  Mostly Saboteur, some Riftstalker, some Marksman.

Now this *has* surprised me most.  I started the Rogue because I had one of everything else, so decided to go for a full set.  I’d spent a little time with one or two ideas in the beta, but without thinking much of it.  I’d spent all of half an hour with Saboteur, and decided it was bobbins.  Utter, unadulterated bobbins (for those unaware of the terminology, “Bobbins” is not a positive term.  Guess who’s trying to swear less?).

Yet for some reason, I decided to give it another go; after all, as the unwanted runt of the litter, who was to care if Rogue-boy was better known as Limpy the Rogue?The surprise was on me.  Charges are hilarious fun.  The fact that they do nothing but add combo points until detonated means that a fight goes something like this:

No damage.  No damage.  No damage.  Still no damage.  No damage.  BOOM!  You’re dead!

Add in charges that do other things than *just* damage, and it’s hilarious fun.  I’ve even found that you can get all five charges on a Squirrel’d enemy, and it won’t break the Squirrel until detonated.  Now *that* is a lovely synergy.  It makes me feel all Mad Harry, really it does.

Riftstalker just gives a little tankiness, and marksman gives me an immediate-damage ranged ability, for those times when a little preparation isn’t necessary.

All in all, I’m more than happy with my character options.  The ability to go and get the other souls has meant I can collect them at my leisure, and when I fancy a change just set up my alternate spec and have a lookee.  Yes, I am poor as a result, but I like that freedom.

Of course, it also means that I’m not levelling as fast as I could be.  I should try harder.


The Joy of Hat

March 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Hat! Hat! HAT!

Wotcha everyone,

In every game I play, I wonder how bad the hats will get.  It’s not an obsession, but I do think that sometimes, games developers just can’t get the design of a hat right.

Proper headgear is very important.  I read somewhere that the scalp is, largely, one big heatsink.  And the heatsinkiest part are the ears.  When attempting to stave off hypothermia it’s not enough to put on lots of lovely warm layers; lack of appropriate headgear will see you end up as a meat popsicle anyway.

It’s also good for keeping the rain off.  I spent many years in what felt like permanent rain, before moving to another place where it rains *most* of the time instead of *all* the time.  At one stage I owned twice as many hats as I did pairs of shoes.

It’s safe to say that I like hats, and find them woefully underrated by modern society.

Being somewhat hat-minded, I’m regularly disappointed by the designs on offer in MMOs.  Fantastic suits of armour? Check.  Shoulder-pads you can balance a full-grown rhinoceros on?  Check.

Woolly hat?  No!

I wonder if the ability to turn headgear off in the settings is one of the factors that has contributed to the sort of nasty, badly designed hats that appear in our MMO games.

Some of the hats in Lord of the Rings Online were shocking.  Truly shocking.  Before the joys of the cosmetic overlay system, it was the Minstrel’s lot to look like a refugee from Glastonbury.  No, I do not want hats with three cloth “horns” coming out of it.  I wanted to look like a badarse banjo-twanger who took no prisoners, not a hippy who’s looking to score.

It didn’t help that the best hat in the game was only available to those who had 11 good friends capable of taking down one of the nastiest raid bosses in the game.  Needless to say, I am eternally grateful to the rest of that raid team, and that once that hat was on Minstrel Hawley’s head, *it never came off*.

And that’s without mentioning some of the disturbingly bad helmets that appeared in the same game.

Now, I have not trained to be a games developer, thus am unsure of the exact curriculum at Games Developer School.  I am, however, willing to bet that Fashion Design In Fictional Cultures is neither a major nor a minor course requirement, even for the art department.

So it’s hardly surprising when I state that I generally wander from game to game, character to character, too much of a min-maxer to stop wearing hats (whatever they’re made of) yet vaguely embarrassed at having to hide my head-based shame by using the “No, don’t show my hat!” option in the settings.

Until, that is, my first run through of Deepstrike Mine, when there was a hat drop.  And such a hat.  Lucky me; only cleric in the party.

It’s got a touch of steampunk gasmask about it, yet there’s also a hefty dose of bespoke Uruk Hai tailoring in there too.  It’s not just a hat; in the scale of these things, it’s at very least attained Hat! level.  It doesn’t just look like it would protect the wearer from incidental bumps and scrapes, but also non-random acts of violence, and incidental all-out thermonuclear war.

That pre-1970s Ice Hockey Goalie facemask look (you know; the ones that made it look like there was a lurking serial killer at the back of the ice) doesn’t just say; “Hello, I’m dressed appropriately for martial prowess”, it positively shouts; “Wotcha chap.  Do us both a favour and put all of your trez in the one pocket, because I hate having to get my hands all wet and messy searching what’s going to be left of you”.

And the best thing is, the same model is available as a quest reward at the end, so you don’t even have to hope to get a lucky drop!

As ever, the chicken of depression has accompanied the blue bird of happiness (thanks, Mr Larson).  It’s not a level 50 hat; I know I’ll level out of it soon enough.  But right now, I grin every time I see it on Cleric Hawley, and there’s also the hope that, with lightning having struck once already, perhaps it can strike again.



March 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Last night I was out soloing in Stonefields.  It’s a fun place, and I’ve progressed through about half of it.

For a while last night, during the late afternoon/early evening, it was buzzing.  A major Death invasion popped, so there were plenty of rifts as well as invasion forces buzzing about.

Fantastic, thinks I.  A bit of rifting, a lovely chunk of xp to take me towards level 26, and with luck some people to sit and heal.

After a short while, I had one of those moments in gaming that sticks.  And by sticks, I mean something that I can bore my grandchildren with when I’m old(er), senile, and think they’re munchkins come to steal my socks.

To the west of Granite falls, there is a wardstone that is precious close to a rift-pop, and they were close enough that I could stand between them, and heal the group fighting against the rift, and the group fighting to defend the wardstone.  Both groups were luckily a part of the same raid, but it was a small raid with just a couple of groups in it, and as such I was the only healer.

That’s right.  Two small groups, a dump-truck full of monsters, and one Hawley.

And for a full five minutes I was, to use the Elite ranking system, more than my usual Deadly and all the way into Elite.  I kept that raid upright, chucking heals, using cooldowns, and generally having a ball.

I had hit one of those Moments, one where the rest of the world seems to be hanging on *my* actions, and mine alone.  It was through my actions that every member of the raid stayed upright, it was through my actions that our desperate struggle continued, and it was through my actions that we held out long enough for another group to arrive; this swayed things enough in our favour that we won both fights.

What makes me remember a game is Moments such as this.  Those times where suddenly, I feel like the most important person on the server.  A great game will give the opportunity for everyone to have these Moments, because it’s from these moments that great war stories come.

It’s also what makes me want to log on and play again.  Well done, Rift.  Keep it up.


The Joy of Artifacts

March 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

When I first encountered Artifacts in Rift I was, in all truthfulness, a little south of skeptical.

And no, Skeptical is not a town in Essex.  (It’s in Dorset.  And just south of there is Decidedly Antagonistic).

I’d first encountered the concept of right clicking on a non-specific glowy/sparkly thing in Everquest 2, and I think that’s what coloured me regarding it.

I only played Everquest 2 for a couple of months, and got a character to around level 20.  I’ll limit myself to a quick gripe here, because I know that Everquest 2 has a dedicated and loyal following, but it felt to me that there were loads of great ideas that had been badly implemented.  Or implemented in such a way as to make them Not Fun.  In some cases, Really Not Fun.

One of the memories I have is of running around, right-clicking on anything that didn’t move, and the non-specific glowy/sparklies came up with things like flowers, and butterflies.  I then put them in a small collection.  Small collections then were added together to make large collections.  And then you got some sort of reward.

But the reward seemed so pointless, because I just couldn’t get a red butterfly.  I had so many yellow butterflies that I could have ground up plenty of yellow butterflies and used their blood to paint a further few butterflies red, but it seems that there wasn’t to be any forgery on that scale.

Pretty soon I just stopped bothering.  All my bags were filled with random butterflies and flowers, and so for the sake of my own sanity, I just stopped.  It was Not Fun.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered myself just north of Pleasantly Surprised (it’s near the Yorkshire Moors) with regard to the Artifacts and Collections of Rift.  The items are entertaining, and strange, and reference a surprising amount of lore without ramming it down my throat.  Some are small, such as the two item collection found within one part of Meridian, others have a good few items, whilst some artifacts can go in more than one collection.

Artifacts can come from a variety of sources.  Most pop up as non-specific glowy/sparklies dotted around the landscape.  Others appear as part of the random tat to be found on a freshly lootable corpse.  Others have appeared as part of the reward for closing a rift.

Some of them are zone-specific, others more generalised.  And some are decidedly weird.  No, I’m not sure why I felt the need to collect troll toe-nails, but luckily it’s only a three artifact set, and that’s handed in now.

I’m not sure why I’m enjoying them so much.  The largest part of it is that Trion have managed to trigger my largely dormant collector gene, most probably due to using it as a way of bringing a little more of the character and lore of a zone to light.

It’s a little bit of flair, and Trion seem pretty good at not just polish, but adding flair.


Busy Little Bees

March 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

No, not much posting this week.  I blame, in no particular order:

  • A busy social life.  Being sociable is a good thing, so I don’t complain about things like that.
  • A busy working week.  Which means I am tired when I get home, so less likely to want to put my strange rambling on the internets.
  • A slacker.  That would be me.
  • A lot of Rift.  Well, not compared to most, but I have been using most of my available Geek Time to play.

Yes, I’m really enjoying it.  I love the varied game-play; the appearance of an invasion or a rift changes my gaming priority, and I like that.  I like that I rarely have the opportunity to get bored, and despite the fact that questing is pretty much the same as most other games, and that PvP is still a case of me heading off to get dedded repeatedly, and that leveling is still just leveling, I’m having a ball.

I think it’s safe to say that I have thrown myself into the game, to the exclusion of others.  I’m not even chasing down levels that fast; Cleric Hawley is only level 24, and I have much lower level alts as well, but that’s good.  I’ve not been racing through the game with that level 50 goal in mind (to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even bother finding out what maximum level actually was.  I’ve sort of picked that number up by osmosis, I think), and it will probably be a good month before Cleric Hawley has run out of levels.

Instancing is also fun.  It’s nice to see that of the two levelling instances I’ve been in (Iron Tomb, and an unfortunate lag-hurty visit to Deepstrike Mine that had to be abandoned because of said lag) progression and survival seems to be more about co-operation and forethought, rather than one person messing up *their job* and the group wiping as a result.

Trash mobs are a challenge, bosses are good fights rather than grinding to a formula, and the rewards good.  It’s worth doing the instances for the xp and trez alone; the fact that they’re also fun is pure gravy.

It’s strange, because I wasn’t expecting to get into Rift this much or this quickly.  Right now I’m glad I got the 6 month subscription, especially since it is (with the founder’s pricing) so cheap.  I haven’t even accidentally blown up the guild yet.  Bonus!


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