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Battle for Lordaeron

Warning, slight spoilers ahead! In fact, this entire blog is probably full of spoilers for World of Warcraft content. If you haven't played through the Battle for Lordaeron scenario yet and want to avoid spoiling it, you might want to skip this post.

Last night I logged onto Scruff, my worgen druid, and reported to Mathias Shaw immediately. Anduin may be a complete wet blanket, but he's still the leader of the Alliance, and when the Alliance goes to war, Scruff answers the call. Especially because Genn Graymane would be in attendance; as a proud Gilnean, he's Scruff's true king. 

Wow, that was a brilliant scenario, and peppered with fantastic cut scenes. And it finally gave me, as an Alliance player, something to be excited about for the future. Sure, the ending wasn't exactly what the Alliance was aiming for, but we still made some progress, more than we've managed for a while. Allies have rallied, and Jaina arrives in style and fury. Best of all, Saurfang, a great hero and symbol of honor and hope for the Horde, is now sharing a bunk with Hogger in the Stormwind Stockades. And yes; Lordaeron is now scorched earth, destroyed by Blight. That's less good, but look at this way -- the Alliance didn't lose anything (this week), and the Horde sacrificed a city.

While it was great fun, and firmly cemented my desire to continue playing for the Alliance, it did highlight the inherant issues with storytelling in a setting where your playerbase is split between the two factions. Neither side is allowed a true victory; one city is swapped for another; Slyvanas escapes with her life; no matter what happens, the balance will be maintained. Honestly, the best time to do away with the faction divides would have been during Legion, as that would have fitted very nicely into the theme of the expansion. I can't see it happening now. 

So instead, let's double down on some faction pride. I'm shelving my Horde alts for the forseeable future, and I've pretty much decided on the characters I'll be taking into Battle for Azeroth first.  

For Gilneas! For the Alliance!

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Arr, shiver me free-to-play timbers!

I've only been playing Maplestory M a few days and already I've got it bad. After levelling a dark knight to 50 (I believe the level cap is 120, or maybe 150) I decided to try a Corsair, which is a pirate themed ranged/pet class. She's now level 40, and has a better weapon -- potentially -- than the dark knight who is ten levels her senior.

You see, Maplestory M has a fairly traditional grind-tastic mechanic for levelling your equipment as well as your character. By consuming unwanted items and special "powders", you can rank up your equipment, boosting its stats. Then, by using an incredibly rare and expensive reagent, you can boost the overall quality of an item, and thus begin the ranking up process all over again. I managed to pick up a base gun with perfect stats quite cheaply from the player market place, so she's all set. Getting a perfect base item is very, very important, as while the difference between perfect and suboptimal items stats starts out very small, by the time an item is fully upgraded the deviance can be huge.

I learned all of this by watching a variety of YouTube videos, every single one of them hosted by the kind of person who insists on starting every video with a prolonged heyyyy guyyyyys, so I'll spare you all by not linking to them.

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Here's a picture of a moonkin

This is Scruff, my worgen druid, who has served as my main since the events of Mists of Pandaria. As you can see, he spends some of his time as a moonkin, but I mainly enjoy playing him as restoration, and since patch 8.0, I've been dabbling with feral, too. 

Last night I teamed him up with the Rogue, who wanted a run through the Cathedral of Eternal Night. so I threw on my new Darkshore WQ staff and queued up as a healer. It's been a while since I did any healing on him, and patch 8.0 has brought some changes, and the group was a little unsure of themselves -- but we crushed the run in the end. Afterward, the Rogue and I headed out to Argus and and did some world quests together and I remembered why I love my druid so much again. 

Aside: I've spent weeks agonising over picking a new main, and of course -- and I've said this all along -- I'm going to end up continuing to play Scruff, aren't I? He's got all the professions levelled, and all those nice Exhalted Legion reputations, and and and...

Tonight the last part of the War of Thorns should unlock on the US servers, so I'll be back on the druid and paying Lordaeron a visit. I'm really hoping this gives me, as an Alliance player, something to get excited about. The Horde have had such a lot of drama over the last few weeks, and the Old Solider cinematic was fantastic. By contrast King Anduin continues to be an ineffectual drip and Tyrande / Malfurion have always, always been supremely dull. Honestly, I really hoped Malfurion would finally meet his end last week. If the tree had been saved and the elf killed I would have been much happier with that outcome, but alas. 

Anonymously quoting a guild-mate, because I think she's echoing what a lot of people are feeling:

I legit don’t know what, story wise, would make me feel good to play any of my toons again. Alliance side, we’re victims of a brutal slaughter with no real hope for any kind of meaningful retribution, and horde side we’re the perpetrators of that. Ugh. Just. Yeah. Bad feels.
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Kill 10,000 mushrooms, then another 10,000 more

Here's a post I didn't expect to be making on my primarily World of Warcraft blog: I've started playing Maplestory M, the recently launched mobile version of the venerable (and ridiculous) Korean grind-fest MMO. 

I have a little bit of history with the Maplestory franchise, as it embodies two things I enjoy about the MMO genre: endless, mindless grinding, and overly-complicated interconnected systems thinly disguising a Skinner Box. Most people hate when an MMO gets grindy; instead I think that's when they really start. I like that endless loop of small incremental improvements, and wow does Maplestory keep those increments tiny. So I've played Maplestory before, many years ago, both on the official live servers and on some ridiculously hyped-up unofficial servers with modded XP and item drop rates boosted through the roof.

The thing is, I always felt like Maplestory would make an excellent mobile game; and here it is. It's... about what I expected it would be. It looks like Maplestory. It even plays mostly like Maplestory. It's even got the same weird jittery rubber-band lag when maps start exploding with effects and showers of XP and the local currency, Mesos. But because it's a new version specifically for mobile, it also has some new features:

  • Daily, weekly, monthly log-in rewards and rewards for playing for X many minutes when you log in! 
  • A cash shop literally stuffed with P2W items, cosmetics, boosts, and absurdly over-priced bundles!
  • An auto-quest and auto-battle system to have the game grind itself for you!
  • Endless loot cooldowns, loot boxes, loot chests, loot mails, so much to click on and be disappointed by!

In short, it's both crass and fantastic. I know that bullet point list of "features" is probably entirely unsavory to the vast majority of players, but it's all things I kind of love in a complex game. I won't be spending any much money in the cash shop, but what I do love is figuring out how best to utilise the daily rewards to circumvent the need for it. I'll use use up my daily allotment of auto-battling time in my daily allowance of mini-dungeons. I'll  grind out mesos to upgrade my equipment and squirrel away every scrap of premium currency to spend on the items that'll have the most impact. That's all part of the fun of the game for me.

I'll probably even make a spreadsheet at some point, if I stick with it for long enough.

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