Overwatch 2 – A Sequel to Reactivation

Despite leaks throughout all of last week, to the extent of Jeff Kaplan’s painful referencing during the opening of the panel last week, Overwatch 2 is indeed a very real thing. At Blizzcon 2019 we finally managed to get a look at the reclusive pseudo-sequel to Blizzard-Activision’s online team FPS. It’s presentation to the public, while informative, was quite a bit of sudden information and then speculative questions on its content. The very nature of the game seems to contradict the idea of a sequel, but nevertheless it is indeed very real.

Built on the bones of Overwatch the sequel launched at Blizzcon to a powerful trailer and incredible fanfare. Featuring an attack on Paris, France by the terrorist group Null Sector, a recently reactivated Overwatch leaps into action to defend the populace. Led by Winston, only Mei and Tracer seemed to have answered the call to aid. Battling the re-surging Omnic terrorists, they are joined at the last minute by a slew of heroes including Genji Himura, Mercy, Reinhardt and Brigitte. Working with newly reactivated robotic flier Echo, the team reunited and put down the Omnic threat, ready to face the encroaching forces.

Despite being a major story point that the entire Overwatch community has been waiting for years on, what does this trailer really do for it’s sequel? Game Director Jeff Kaplan used it, as well as the follow-up feature trailer to explain the main draw of Overwatch 2 in it’s fully integrated PvE mode. Absent from its predecessor, the sequel will feature a heavily story-focused campaign. This main mode, compromised of co-operative narrative driven missions, will see Overwatch heroes of past and future teaming up to combat the Null Sector. Kaplan continued onward from that point, discussing how they would, “uncover the motives behind the robotic armies’ attacks and come face-to-face with rising new threats around the globe,” indicating of potential content beyond the organization.


Incorporating RPG elements into gameplay progression, item pickups will be littered throughout both Story and Hero mode missions. These additions can slightly modify a particular hero’s playstyle, though the three on display were minimal to say the least. These included a HP generator, a corrosive grenade and a barrier shield similar to Winston’s. Sadly, these do not carry over between missions.

What does carry between games are rewards earned through Hero Mission content. These events, designed to be highly replayable, are separate from the main story mode. Performing well will net players experience they can use to level up individual heroes, unlocking customization and techniques that modify their standard abilities. In the gameplay trailer a Tracer develops a technique that chains her Pulse Bomb explosion across several enemies. While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, it’s likely that these modifiers will be exclusive to the game’s PvE portion and barred from PvP gameplay.

Speaking of, Kaplan demoed several new aspects to the core PvP gameplay of the Overwatch franchise that will emerge in the sequel. This included both a new Canadian hero in the mysterious Sojourn, as well as a map featuring Toronto, one of the country’s major urban centers (no shots of the CN Tower yet). The team also debuted a new standard game mode in ‘Push’, a mobile point control map. Both teams fight for control over a central Robot, “who really likes to Push!” in a tug of war style matchup. Whoever can push their barrier furthest into enemy territory wins. This mode will come as a standard map and will enter standard rotations.


What comes as more of a confusing point than a clarification one is Overwatch 2’s relationship with it’s predecessor. Despite the original’s not crossing the console gap (let alone the gambling gap), Overwatch 2 will carry progress from the original game into its sequel. Furthermore, people playing in either game’s PvP modes will be able to play with each other and will share queues together. Heroes and maps made available to either will be available for the other. “No one gets left behind,” cried Kaplan on stage to a mixture of confused applause, decreeing that everything except PvE content and some new customization options will be available to ANY owner of the franchise.

Here is where we reach the crux of the problem with Overwatch 2. Despite promises of charging full price for the game, despite calling it a sequel, despite painting this donkey like a horse, the game is very much little more than an over glorified expansion pack. While in an interview with Kotaku, Kaplan confessed that the team wants to, “Do what’s right by the players,” it’s hard to see what makes Overwatch 2 stand out from its previous counterpart. It’s hard to do right by the players in charging full price for what’s little more than an expansion pack or an addon to the main game. If everything is accessible from the new to the old, in heroes maps and events, then what is the point in upgrading to it?


Whereas Blizzard’s MMO titan, World of Warcraft, can realistically judge a full-priced expansion every two years it’s hard to see what sets Overwatch 2 into this category. While Warcraft can argue that it realistically generates enough new non-recurring content over two years to offset the cost, what we’ve seen at Blizzcon of Overwatch 2 says the opposite. Instead it seems the team is focusing more on repeatable content in the form of Hero missions, using it to set the pace for the Story missions much like Anthem did earlier this year. If so, then Overwatch 2 has far more to prove in itself than just whether it’s worth the cost of entry; we need to ask if it’s overall worth the time in comparison to the original’s clear focus on PvP.

That, sadly, will take time to find the answer to. The days are still apparently early in the sequel’s development cycle. With a promised media blackout in effect by Kaplan, there isn’t much we’ll be hearing about the new entry in the franchise for quite some time.

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WoW Wednesday: A Classic Community Debate

I find myself in a very odd and unique position this year.

I’m one of a few select players that has had the pleasure of playing both Vanilla, what we now call Classic World of Warcraft, and current live World of Warcraft. We covered the distinctions between the two in may of this year, as well as why I never really wish to return to it. Recently, however, I’ve seen particular discussions surrounding major differences between the two that I thought were interesting enough to share. While we briefly discussed this particular point in ‘A Classic Take,’ this week let’s discuss about the ties of community and how they impact both Classic as we knew it and Live as we know it now.

So what is a community, at least as it pertains to the World of Warcraft? For the purposes of our discussion, we’ll define it as a group of like-minded individuals. These days that term is used interchangeably between the Community Feature, your group of RealID friends, your guild, your faction, your server, or even your particular gameplay fashion. In Classic’s day it was often used to refer to one of three things.


First you would have your collection of friends. Due to Classic’s higher string of difficulty in comparison to modern, or Live, Warcraft, you would often be forced into socializing and cooperating with other players frequently. Playing alone was simply a slower, if not often unsuccessful, method of questing and playing Warcraft. Finding a few people to connect with and make memories made the experience more entertaining overall.

Secondly, you would have your guild community. As Classic only had one major source of endgame at its launch, your guild was a major part of the experience. Often your group of friends would morph into a guild of its own. This was the vehicle for which to move through Warcraft’s higher-level challenges and, for some aspects like raiding, was necessary. That being said, Guilds were not mandatory aspects of the Classic community.

Instead that was relegated to your Server or Realm Community. This was an indelible part not just of your Warcraft experience, but the very identity of who you were as a player. More so than faction, more so than class, your Realm was your world. Word could quickly explode in your community if you were a competent tank or if you were a particularly dastardly player. Some stories, like those of Angwe or Leeroy Jenkins carry on long after their Realms have been reshuffled and forgotten. Here is where you went when, failing friends or a guild, you wanted to engage in content beyond what you could as a solo player.


Each part of this ‘community ladder’ that Classic had was an extension of its social hierarchy. As one couldn’t simply race change or server transfer you were, to an extent, inflicted with that Server Social hierarchy. As most players are often playing with good faith, very few had anything to fear from their server. Instead these self-contained communities were so closely tight knit due to gameplay progression. Classic’s high difficulty throughout forced players to cooperate or suffer, thus forging community bonds that reached throughout a realm and, in some cases, could last a lifetime.

These days, in Live Warcraft, the concept of community is different. While the concept and indeed the practices still exist throughout Azeroth things have changed. Server community, with the implementation of Cross-Realm Zones, had been significantly reduced to little more than a curse word for Frostmourne-US. While Roleplay Servers and communities self-identify still to this day, this practice is far more reduced than it has been.

In reality, the concept of community overall is indeed far more reduced in current Warcraft. That isn’t due to any failure on the part of the community, though there are certainly horror stories to share. There isn’t an organization digital or otherwise that could remain exactly the same over the course of fifteen years. People get older, change their lives, and eventually leave their communities behind.

From a gameplay perspective, there simply isn’t a reason for players to truly band together anymore on a wider scale. Content throughout Warcraft is now easily soloable. Group content can be forged quickly through in-game group finders and Pick-Up Groups. Only the absolute cutting edge of Warcaft’s challenges require a strong community base. But if you find your community not up to your standards, you can simply go elsewhere with no recompense or issue. It is now easier than ever to be a free agent in the raiding scene.


Ironically enough, there are really only two major gameplay elements that require a strong community base. Roleplaying and Rated Player vs. Player gameplay. Two communities of such vast difference in ideals that most would never expect them to be mentioned in the same sentence. However, they share much more in their common ideals than one would believe.

Roleplaying, by its nature, is a cooperative activity. In World of Warcraft roleplayers are often segregated by Classic’s social hierarchy. You may play with a handful of friends, just within a guild, or you may be a server figurehead. However, due to the nature of attaching an identity and proverbial face to your avatar, your name is far more easily identifiable. You can quickly make a good or bad name for yourself on a server, much like Classic in a sense.

Rated PvP, once more by its nature, is a cooperative activity. While this is magnified even more so in the Rated Battleground scene, players looking for any major sort of progression spend an unbelievable amount of time working with vast combinations of other players and classes. Your name can quickly get around for both poor performance and bad, certainly if you join one of several communities for casual RPvP. This is only exacerbated for those who are Gladiator level players; PvPers that have crossed the 2400 rating threshold and reaped elite rewards in either being the top 0.1% or claiming their Gladiator’s Mounts. Your name quickly gets around, and as such you get access for good playing, to all of the players in those brackets.


So, where does this leave us in the differentiation between Classic and Live? Community, frankly, no longer exists for the casual player. If you log only a handful of hours a week, you’ll never need to get to know anyone ever. In contrast community was such a vital part of Classic that its hard to think about questing or preparing for dungeons alone in the time. Elements of that still exist, to an extent, but even then those are communities and play-style you can easily opt out of.

The differences between Classic’s and Live’s communities are simple. The former’s exists purely by necessity, while the latter’s only exist when players see fit to make one. It makes the game as we know it today less social, but without that reliance on community other gameplay designs have flourished. Warcraft is more accessible to the casual player than ever without needing to pass arbitrary community bars. The experience, however, is far more detached and impersonal than it has ever been. After all, why would you want to try as hard as you can in a raid lest you face social backlash when one can simply PuG Heroic Azshara and sit in a corner?

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Rend Announces Two New Gameplay Modes

While the gameplay beats of regular Rend are fine enough, it’s nice to switch things up just a little bit. It’s this realization that has brought two new Rend gameplay modes to the multiplayer survival sandbox: Classic and Exploration.

rend gameplay modes

Classic will brings a factionless PvP experience, with players laying siege to bases, waging in-game wars, and chasing player bounties. Exploration, on the other hand, is more PvE focused, with player and base attacking disengaged. Players will be able to create Clans to band together in both modes. The original game mode will now be called Faction War.

Regardless of the mode you play, Ascension Points will now be a global character affair instead of per server. There will also be changes to the way players gather Research Sparks, with different families of creatures dropping one of the four Spark types. Mysticism, Invention, and Construction sparks will still be generated by their associated activities, though Sparks will no longer drop from any harvesting nodes.

The two new game modes and the tweaks to Sparks are due to come with Update 6, which is tentatively coming this month. For now, the game’s PTR is currently running tests for both modes. Information on how to partake in that test can be found here, and a dev blog regarding all of these changes can be read here.

Our Thoughts

Considering that the fortunes of Worlds Adrift changed the moment they decided to add PvE mode, we suspect that Rend’s new game modes will perhaps further entice people to hop into this early access title and take a look. Time will tell if this is indeed the case or if the devs are being spread a bit too thin.

Source: press release

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WoW Wednesday: Reaping the Rewards from Island Expeditions

Island Expeditions are the newest feature added to the World of Warcraft with its latest expansion, Battle For Azeroth. With a party of three, you can venture onto the open seas in search of the valuable Azerite, the latest tool of war in the Horde and Alliance War Machine, to empower your Heart of Azeroth. In doing so, you’ll level the strange artifact to new and greater heights, empowering your Azerite gear to unlock further effects and abilities for your character. However, despite our best efforts, players have simply not been playing Island Expeditions in the manner that they were originally intended. This week we’ll be bringing you some advice on how to make the most of your Island Expedition experience and how to claim the most prolific rewards for your time.

As most players will already be aware, you can begin your Island Expeditions at Captain Flynn Fairweather for the Alliance, or Captain Rez’okun for the Horde. The popular majority of players simply focus on their weekly quest to gather six thousand Azerite in order to maximize their Heart of Azeroth level. Most participants will pursue the quickest and most linear method of gathering Azerite as to beat the opposing faction and maximize their Azerite rewards, often ignoring rare creatures and other explorative aspects of the Expeditions. In doing this, it’s been discovered that we as a player-base have been unintentionally ignoring the most vital aspects of Expeditions since launch.

Rewards from Island Expeditions

The Island Expedition Map, showing you what zones and creature themes you’ll encounter for the week.

Some adventurers may be aware that Island Expeditions also award a slew of bonus items for players. While WoWhead has them listed in detail in their Expedition Reward Guide, to best summarize the list, Island Expeditions can reward:

  • 5x Mounts
  • 5x Toys
  • 28x Battle Pets
  • 85x Plundered Weapons (14 models that have never been made available)
  • 3x Plundered Hats
  • 4x Plundered Shoulders
  • 23x Item Sets (3 unreleased sets, 5 Cloth, 6 Leather, 6 Mail, 6 Plate)

 

These have been public information since the open Beta for Battle for Azeroth, however, drop rates for these items have been seemingly low for most players. Performing the quickest methods for completing these scenarios, as it turns out, most players will never see any of these rewards. Instead, killing the rares that populate the islands rewards these items, including quest item turn-ins that produce a vast amount of Azerite. We can get so specific with these items, in fact, that in knowing what to do you can specifically target items, mounts, and collectibles with little difficulty.

Each rare creature on an Island Expedition gives a chance for a player that kills it to obtain an item directly related to the theme of the creature; Twilight Dragons can reward the Dragonrider Armor and the Twilight Harbinger Mount, Pirates can reward the Squawks mount or Captain Nibs pet, etc. However, unlike typical loot systems we see in PvE content where loot is calculated after a creature is slain, these loot rolls are created at the end of each Expedition. While each creature does indeed have its own loot table, these tables remain hidden and are hypothesized to be linked to each other based on the theme of the creature.

This means that there is indeed a manner in which to grind out these rare rewards across the southern isles of Azeroth. By specifically targeting named NPCs that spawn throughout the island, you can potentially trigger their loot table and generate rewards. There are two different creature theme types that will generate over the course of your expeditions to best help you to target the loot you want:

A Demon Hunter takes on one of the island’s Rare Treants.

Island Creature Themes are predetermined from week to week and are shown on the Expedition Map alongside the Azerite you’ve collected for the week. The creatures shown on your map will be the three from which your main enemies will be drawn from for the week and will be the predominant enemy type across your adventure. Invasions occur after a certain amount of Azerite has been gathered by both teams, and can occur in multiple stages (up to three). Higher difficulty ratings will require more Azerite to progress into subsequent stages. Stage 1 begins when players make landfall, with named rares and bonus objectives dotted across the Island. Stage 2 then sees Azerite elementals and massive deposits spawning in key points around the island.

Stage 3 is the most radical change to the island; invasions of additional expeditioners will see any possible enemy type make landfall on your island, laying waste to the weekly creatures and situating themselves near large Azerite deposits. As such, you could begin an expedition on your Island fighting Vrykul, and then later transitioning to battling Fire Elementals, allowing you to potentially farm specific creature themes outside of their weekly rotation.

For The Alliance!

While lower difficulties will allow you to trigger Stage 3 Invasions quicker, there does not appear to be any difference in loot drop chances between difficulties, meaning that enemies killed in Normal Difficulty Expeditions have the same chance to drop items as those killed in Mythic Difficulty. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any particular cap to how many items can be rewarded after the end of an expedition, with several players reporting numbers in the double digits while Wowhead itself reports up to 5 items at one time.

However, these methods in which to farm particular creature themes are not in and of themselves the manner to successfully complete island expeditions; from killing the Unleashed Monstrosity and high-yield Azerite drops, the enemy faction can quickly pull ahead in your expeditions and claim victory. With this in mind, the choice is ultimately up to you in how you want to explore Blizzard’s latest scenario system. Do you prefer the one evening per week where you can quickly cap out your Azerite, or do you want to explore what the South Seas of Azeroth have to discover, and claim the rich plunder that the various races of the world have left for the wary adventurer?

 

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WoW Wednesday: The Dark Halls of Uldir

The Endgame has begun! With the update finally hitting worldwide, Raiding, Mythic +, Warfronts and the 26th Season of Rated PvP have finally landed in Battle for Azeroth. As with our Zones of… series we’ll be introducing you to each section week by week of the newest end-game content for World of Warcraft. This week we’ll be talking about the expansion’s first major Raid Encounter; intended for max-level players in groups of ten or more, the twisted halls of Uldir have opened to the world.

Uldir

What is Uldir? After an ancient war on Azeroth against the god-like Titans, the Old Gods, ancient creatures of the Void, were all but exterminated and imprisoned beneath the planet’s surface. After the death of the Old God Y’shaarj and the destructive corruption its dying breath caused to the planet, the Titans endeavored to find a cure to the Old Gods and their threat across the universe. Thus Uldir was created as both a research and quarantine facility, dissecting and experimenting on the remains and minions of the Old Gods’ Black Empire. With their plans laid out, the Titans departed Azeroth and would never have the chance to return.

Uldir, however, was not an idle fortress. For centuries the agents of the Old Gods were experimented on until finally, the facility systems stumbled across an anomaly. Further experimentation on this anomaly only empowered it, until it created a terrifying monstrosity. Built from the ancient corpse of an Old God, the creature was reanimated into Undeath and began to spread a toxic decay across the Titan facility. G’huun, as it came to be known, sought to work on escaping its prison as its ancient brothers did but unlike the corrupting void it sought only one thing; to bring death and ruin to all life on the infant Titan of Azeroth.

Whispering its maddened promises of power to the world, it would not be until the treacherous Prophet Zul set his plans into motion that G’huun would have a chance to escape. With Horde players directly engaging his armies in Nazmir, Princess Talanji would later come across Zul’s dark bargain and endeavor to stop them. However, she and her heroes were much too late. Breaking the three great seals of Uldir in Atul’aman, Nazwatha and Dazar’alor, G’huun now prepares its army of Blood Trolls to make its great escape and purge the world of life itself.

G’huun’s necrotic decay, seeping into the halls of Uldir.

Players first stepping into raiding this expansion will have multiple difficulties available to them. If you aren’t a member of a regular raiding guild or aren’t interested in pick-up groups, the Looking for Raid Finder difficulties are available up to the second wing as of the time of publishing, which requires item level 320 equipment to queue. For regular raiders (or brave PUGers) both flexible Normal and Heroic difficulties are fully available, rewarding item level 355 and 370 gear respectively. Last week the Mythic difficulty opened and now rewards item level 385+ equipment for the top tier raiders. As a retired cutting-edge raider, I recommend for first time raiders that you seriously consider a relaxed progression guild if you intend to raid any level of Uldir. While the first boss is quite forgiving, mechanics for later bosses can be incredibly punishing and can take some time to learn and progress through as a group, especially for players used to Heroic and Mythic 0 level dungeons.

Uldir opens up ominously enough, with a deep descent into the facility as you face Taloc, the titanic guardian of Uldir. Despite being originally constructed as a jailer of the facility, its systems have fallen into disrepair and its protocols have been overridden; now it serves to keep anyone who might challenge G’huun out until its master can emerge. In terms of design philosophy, Taloc is an incredibly similar fight to Nythendra from Legion’s Emerald Nightmare raid. Focusing primarily on minor add-control and area awareness, most players will be preoccupied in safely depositing puddles of damage-dealing plasma around the room for Tanks to clean up. While it has a soft-enrage mechanic after stage two, most raid teams will more than likely clear it without difficulty.

M.O.T.H.E.R. or Matron of Tenacity, Herald of Endless Research, is a titanic watcher located in Uldir. The chief artificial intelligence and researcher of the facility, she has ceaselessly researched solutions for both G’huun and the Old Gods. With the arrival of the corrupted races of Azeroth, she will not permit them entrance into her facility lest they enable further corruption. Much like the previous encounter, M.O.T.H.E.R’s encounter focuses on area awareness and mechanic management. Unique to this encounter are three rooms which will build energy over time while both players and M.O.T.H.E.R. are standing in it, emitting massive damage once they reach maximum energy. This encounter is a Healer Check, intended to test your healers as each member passing between rooms will cause massive raid-wide damage.

Zek’voz, attempting its dramatic escape…

Zek’voz is a servant of the Old God N’zoth and was sent to the shores of Zandalar after the Sundering of the world. Intent on bringing the isolated kingdom to heel, the creature was prepared to succeed by any means necessary. It did not, however, anticipate Uldir and its defenses and was quickly captured. Over the eons, it has been ruthlessly dissembled and studied and now awaits its chance to escape. Zek’voz is the most difficult boss in the first wing of Uldir, featuring punishing tank-swap mechanics, raid wide area of effect damage abilities and varied abilities which can jump from player to player. Additional adds will spawn during several abilities with the potential to cause a raid wipe and end your encounter suddenly. There are also several abilities that will require players to constantly be aware of their positioning, either avoiding certain areas or purposefully engaging Zek’voz’s abilities.

The Fetid Devourer is a horrific abomination; ancient loa caught in Uldir’s gaze were experimented upon for untold years until they finally took a lethal turn. With their remains disposed of improperly, it didn’t take long for the dark consciousness in Uldir to take notice and begin to twist them to a newer, darker purpose. For old hat raiders, the Fetid Devourer is a standard Patchwerk-style fight with the potential to spread damage over time abilities to select members in the raid. Add control is a must throughout the fight, as those which spawn can be consumed by the devourer for an incredible amount of health.

Long ago a terrible Blood Plague struck the trolls of Zandalar, twisting them painfully before their horrific death. In desperate search of a cure, the Uldir facility collected samples in an effort to relieve the affliction. However, it found that only containment and destruction would stop the plague. As the facility began to fail, the plague found itself tainted by G’huun’s twisted blood and Vectis was born. The only major mechanic for players to deal with is the Omega Vector, similar in effect to the Lich King’s Necrotic Plague, which will jump around the raid as it expires. Raid awareness is tantamount in the second phase for personal survivability.

The Prophet Zul, reborn by his master’s blood.

Zul, the traitorous prophet of the Zandalari. Thought dead by the combined might of King Rastakhan and Bwonsamdi, Zul has been reborn under the powers of G’huun, necromantic and sanguimantic magic now animating his twisted form. Zul is a DPS Check encounter more than anything and shouldn’t take long for an appropriately prepared team. Adds will spawn throughout the room during the first phase, where some can fear players they touch while others can deliver punishing raid-wide damage. The second phase features a soft-enrage much akin to Taloc’s, where Zul must be killed before the room can kill the raid.

Mythrax the Unraveller, imprisoned beneath Vol’dun for centuries. Finally freed and with its master’s shackles broken, he returns to G’huun’s side to prepare for its dark awakening. Mythrax is an incredibly unforgiving encounter, rivaling the Lich King and even Prince Kael’Thas Sunstrider in my opinion. Situational awareness is the highest priority, as multiple abilities can afflict players with a debuff that reduces their maximum health. Working as a soft enrage this debuff can easily reduce players to little health, resulting in an entire raid being one shot by its basic mechanics. Players must focus on avoiding abilities that generate this debuff and rescuing team-mates throughout the encounter.

G’huun, the Old God of Death. While the Titan experiments delved deep into the anatomy of the Old Gods, they dove too deep into G’huun. As they picked apart the ravenous, hungering need to corrupt that the void possesses, they created the ultimate contagion and gave it life. G’huun is the God of Parasites, and its pestilent undeath will plague the world if it can escape. G’huun is the biggest multi-phase encounter in Uldir, and the boss itself cannot be directly attacked until players can activate the facility’s Reorigination Machines while the raid manages vastly varied adds. The majority of the fight will revolve around area awareness, add management and debuff management while activating the Reorigination machines again.

The last seal of Uldir, all that holds G’huun back from its conquest of Azeroth.

Uldir overall is a fantastic instance, but its shortcomings are far from unnoticeable. Unlike the newly revealed Crucible of Storms raid due in Patch 8.1, it feels as if the Horde’s Zandalar storylines were sacrificed solely to build up Uldir as an instance. Bosses, while wonderfully varied, suffer too much from similar mechanical themings with somehow less mechanical variety than Legion’s Emerald Nightmare. Add management and area awareness are incredibly basic and do not deviate from the basic building blocks of encounter rules. While the sheer quantity of mechanics makes fights like G’huun feel as epic as both C’thun and Yogg-Saron of raids past, the shared similarities with other bosses simply make the encounter feel tired at the end of it all. While Uldir is a fun and challenging raid, the taste of G’huun, much like the expansion so far, has been bittersweet.

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WoW Wednesday: The Wide World of Warfronts

The end-game has begun! With the update today finally hitting worldwide servers, Raiding, Mythic +, Warfronts and the 26th Season of Rated PvP have finally landed in Battle for Azeroth. As with our Zones of… series, we’ll be introducing you to each section week by week of the newest end-game content for World of Warcraft, this week starting with Warfronts.

One of the most anticipated parts of Battle for Azeroth, Warfronts are the latest addition to bring the feeling of war to the home-front for both the Horde and the Alliance. Warfronts, while emulating the factional aggression found in PvP combat, are entirely PvE content. These are instanced 20-man cooperative engagements which will focus on taking enemy territory and killing their leaders much akin to Alterac Valley or Isle of Conquest. In doing so you’ll create outposts, set up supply routes, secure resources and train militia members to make the final push.

Warfronts

Horde and Alliance Forces engage in the Highlands!

While more have been promised to release as the expansion develops, the first one now available worldwide is the Battle for Stromgarde, a promising point of naval control for the Alliance and a desperate last stand for occupying Horde forces. A loss here for the Horde could see the Alliance moving north and potentially threatening Quel’Thalas, while Gilnean resettlement efforts could see the nation once more in peril should the Alliance fall.

Before beginning your assault in the Battle for Stromgarde, there are seven prerequisites you must meet to engage in Warfronts. Firstly, Warfronts are end-game content and as such are restricted to those who are level 120. You must also have unlocked World Quests through either Uniting Kul Tiras or Uniting Zandalar respectively for the Alliance and the Horde. You’ll then receive a quest from a faction recruiter to travel to the Arathi Highlands and get a lay of the land before unlocking Warfront instances. While the Alliance will begin with control of the Warfront, the Horde must begin contributing resources to invade the Highlands. These contribution periods are regionally locked and progressed, meaning that your server or battlegroup must reach the contribution point collectively before the Warfront can begin.

Stromgarde Keep, the Alliance Base of Operations in Arathi.

For both factions, launching an assault on the Warfront is the same process; after the enemy faction has wrested control of the Warfront, contributions will be taken from a new War Table in Boralus Harbor for the Alliance and the Port of Zandalar for the Horde. Around these tables, NPCs will have eleven total daily quests to take contributions: 9 for all available professions, one for 100 gold and the last for 100 War Resources. These quests can only be completed once per contribution cycle, meaning your faction will need to lose control of the Warfront before they can be engaged again. Each quest, however, rewards 500 Azerite Power for your Heart of Azeroth and 150 Reputation for your respective War Campaign reputation, making these incredibly rewarding to complete.

Once your faction has finished their contribution period, you’ll be able to queue for your Warfront. These Warfronts will remain open for several days without contest and once the faction has taken control of the region after those days the opposite faction’s contribution period will begin.

Ar’gorok, the Horde Base of Operations in Arathi.

Warfronts cannot be lost by players, and much like scenarios have varying phases of completion. The first phase will see players parachuting into their own base, having been lost in the previous exchange of regional control. Therein players will battle an occupying Lieutenant to retake their keep before moving out into the Warzone, defeating further Elite creatures to capture the local Mines and Lumber Mill. From here waves of various enemy attacks will begin to advance across the battlefield. While players cannot lose and have their keep recaptured, these enemy platoons can interrupt player attacks and greatly hamper progress.

From here, Phase 2 begins which culminates in the construction of your siege engines thus allowing you to safely advance on the enemy fortress. To do so you’ll need to harvest Iron from the Mine and invading Kobolds, as well as Wood from the Lumber Mill and Angry Treants dotting the landscape. Your landmarks must be defended as the enemy attacks, lest you lose buildings in the process. You can also go on the offensive and begin taking local bases to augment your base construction. While each building has a specific purpose, such as the Barracks creating a constant stream of troops for the Alliance, the Workshop is the most important as that will enable the construction of siege engines.

Horde forces besiege Stromgarde Keep!

After siege engines have been constructed and a sizeable force has been amassed you can begin Phase 3 of the Warfront. Advancing across the battlefield, your team must take the remaining bases to allow safe passage for your siege engines. As they approach the gates of the enemy fortress, they will begin to fire on the gate and towers, damaging them in a similar manner to siege weaponry in Isle of Conquest. Players must defend their engines during this time as enemy forces will stream from their fortress to defend it.

After the gate has been destroyed, the Enemy Commander arrives for combat. Being a famous character in WoW lore for that faction, they will naturally be incredibly powerful. Killing the Commander will take the Warfront for your faction and unlock a wide series of events and rare creatures to battle.

Left: Tier 2 Warfront Exclusive Plate Armor Coloration. Right: Tier 2 Dread Gladiator PvP Plate

The first and most obvious will be the Azerite powered Siege Engine to battle in the Highlands. Each item that drops from these World Bosses are calibrated to be on the same level as Heroic Uldir and will be extremely coveted. Rares across the zone will also drop incredibly rare mounts for players to retrieve. There is also a unique coloration of Warfront Gear for players to collect, different than both the Aspirant sets that several Professions can make, and the Dread Gladiators set rewarded during Season 26. There are also hosts of pets, toys, and achievements, several of which are exclusive to your faction.

Warfronts are a much needed and welcome breath of fresh air to faction warfare in World of Warcraft. Not only a smart nod to the RTS roots of the Warcraft franchise, they also take familiar systems players have actively engaged in for the last two expansions while incorporating them in brand new manners. Playing in Warfronts themselves is incredibly fun and engaging, putting a new spin on several battleground playstyles and strategies while inspiring true faction pride.

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Hearthstone Talks about Puzzle Labs

The Boomsday Project is already underway in Hearthstone, but that doesn’t mean the experiments are going to stop. In Puzzle Labs, players will have to work through increasingly devious situations laid out by Dr. Boom and his team in the CCG’s unique new PvE mode.

puzzle labs

Puzzle Labs are broken up into four different types, each challenging you to complete a specific objective in one turn:

  • Lethal is pretty cut-and-dry: take out the opposing Hero face in one go.
  • Survival is the same but in reverse, challenging your Hero to survive a strike from the opponent.
  • Board Clear requires you to wipe out everything on the board in one shot, including your own minions.
  • Mirror will ask you to copy your opponent’s minion layout precisely, including placement and even health and defense scores.

As one would expect, each type of puzzle starts off simple enough to teach you the basics and then ramps up from there. According to the video posted by the devs, solutions to these puzzles can be numerous and so you’ll perhaps want to consider thinking outside of the box.

Naturally, muddling through these Puzzle Labs will involve some manner of reward. Once you complete every challenge in the Puzzle Labs, you’ll unlock a unique new card back styled after Boom Labs.

Puzzle Labs will be added to The Boomsday Project next week. Until then, the latest Hearthside Chat video offers some more details.

Our Thoughts

Who would have thought that a competitive CCG would be transformed into some form of puzzle game? Certainly not us! We’re definitely on board with such unique PvE experiences in Hearthstone and want to wish those who take on this new challenge the best of luck.

Source: official site

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Worlds Adrift Confirms Work on a PvE Server

While Worlds Adrift has talked about survival and PvP being one of the sandbox MMO’s core pillars, that pie-in-the-sky thinking and the actual implementation haven’t exactly lined up. To that point, a Worlds Adrift PvE server has been confirmed in an AMA stream held by the devs.

worlds adrift pve server

“We had people who loved the PvP content, and people who loved the PvE content, but it’s very challenging to make everything play nice and everyone be cohesive,” admitted one of the game’s devs. So, in order to open up the game to more types of players, a PvE server was confirmed.

This server will have certain features like player damage turned off, allowing those who want a more tranquil, exploratory experience an option. The devs are also considering having a hybrid server, but are as of yet undecided.

The announcement is a marked about-face for Worlds Adrift, which seemed adamant that PvP was going to be the only way to play. So what changed? According to the devs, the feedback was impossible to ignore and the game’s early access build means that they could more directly respond to that feedback.

Almost immediately at the reveal, the stream’s chat was apparently aflame with opinion. “I know some of you identify as a specific type of player, and you’re concerned about protecting that part of the experience for yourself,” explained one dev. “We’re aware of this as well, please give us feedback and we are listening.”

“The goal of this is not to take the player base and split it up,” said another dev. “The goal is to bring in people who would love the game, and do love the game when they watch a video of it, but when they learn about how hardcore the game can be at times they’re just not interested.”

As of this writing, Worlds Adrift’s roadmap doesn’t offer any hint on when this PvE server is due.

Our Thoughts

Man, it’s almost like actually designing systems that enforce and encourage cooperative play instead of opening a rules-free wasteland and hoping the players figure it out is a better idea. Funny, that.

Source: official site

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Guild Wars 2 Preview: A Bug in the System

I recently got a press preview of the newest episode of the Guild Wars 2 living story; A Bug in the System. If you don’t want any spoilers then you shouldn’t be reading this. But, if you want a little taste of what you’re about to dive into. keep reading. Yes, there are spoilers ahead.

Charr players rejoice! There’s finally some love for the master race. Out of my 28 characters, only 3 are Charr. This is partly because they don’t get a lot of love from the devs, so I was really surprised to find out that Charr would play an important part in A Bug in the System. In fact, they play a huge role in the new zone, Sandswept Isles. There we find a new branch of the Charr family, a peace-loving branch. These peaceful island dwellers have a problem though. Their home is being taken over by the Inquest.

A Bug in the System

In fact, it is in this episode that we learn the Inquest are a lot bigger than they originally appeared to be back in the old world. They have their very own floating city. Is it fully populated? I wasn’t able to get inside to find out because it is heavily guarded, but in the area around the city, they did have some very interesting experiments going on that seem to play with gravity. I was venturing into these areas on my own and the Inquest presence on the island is quite substantial so I never really stuck around in one place for very long.

For the guided tour, we were lead through part of the story in an Inquest lab where experiments are being performed on all sorts of different creatures. Because I prefer to have the whole story all in one go and roleplay it I purposefully ignored the plot as much as possible. but one thing I did catch was that the Charr used the word “tribe” to describe their people. It raises a lot of questions. How long have these Charr been cut off from the rest of Charr society? Why are they so far away from the Charr homelands? I hope we get to know these new Charr throughout the events of the story.

It was in this story instance that we saw two new things that ArenaNet pointed out. The first was that these Inquest golems have been given a bit of a visual upgrade from their older brethren on the main continent. I asked if they would be expanding this visual update across the game to all golems and they said that there aren’t any plans for it at the moment. So no, but they have left themselves an opening so they can change their mind in the future if they want to. If I’m honest, I didn’t really see much of a difference, I was busy shooting them with fireballs.

The other cool new feature they showed off were elevators that would take you up to the next floor. The moving platforms were a fun new addition to Inquest labs and I actually find myself wondering now how we’ve managed to go this long in the game without them, and not really missing them either. Either way, yay for new tech! I can’t wait to see how it gets implemented in the future. It would be really fun to see the elevator technology added to the main cities of Tyria in the future. The seed elevator in the Grove is fun, but ultimately it’s just teleporting you with a cutscene. This would allow you to get around seamlessly. It would also be great in Divinity’s Reach where there are stairs that teleport you up and down. It’s unlikely that this will happen however as most MMO developers prefer to focus attention on moving forward rather than going back to older content.

If you’re a big fan of large-scale events then you’re in luck as the Sandswept Isles have one for you, and its mechanics will drive you mad. You’re fighting massive earth elementals while howling winds from a tornado pull you around and around. Every encounter has a few of the elementals and you’ll end up aggroing all of them. Eventually, I managed to find a sweet spot in the geography where the wind couldn’t push me around anymore, but all it took was getting knocked around once before that sweet spot was lost and you were stuck in the twister again. Will people enjoy it? Maybe, once everyone has the hang of it and knows what to do. But personally, I found it to be a really annoying mechanic. It’s especially bad if you’re playing melee. Range is a must as you’re stuck on this merry-go-round of irritation.

There was another feature on the island that I quite enjoyed. When you’re standing in some of the tall grass on the island you become stealthed. It seems like a feature that works best when you’re there alone or when you’re trying to get aggro off of you. From a roleplaying perspective this was a really cool feature, and again I could see it being used elsewhere. Gendarran Fields is the first place that comes to mind. It would give a bit of a tactical advantage in the Bandit bounty events, many of which fail due to a lack of participation. What actual purpose it serves on the isles I’m not entirely clear on, but this may be one of those things that will become clear once I have the rest of the context for the zone.

If you haven’t already watched it I highly recommend you watch the teaser trailer for this episode, if only for the new version of Fear Not This Night which is haunting and beautiful. I really hope that a full version of it gets released in the future. Next week I’ll be writing my thoughts on the full episode after I’ve had time to play the story and play around on the island with the new Charr. A Bug in the System is available to play right now if you own Path of Fire, so what are you waiting for? Stop reading this and log in!

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ESO Fang Lair Dungeon Guide

Fang Lair is one of two new dungeons included in Elder Scrolls Online’s latest DLC, Dragon Bones. The dungeon is found in the northeastern part of Bangkorai, but can also be reached through fast travel, traveling to a group member, or the dungeon group finder.

fang lair mobs ESO Fang Lair Dungeon Guide

Plenty of undead mobs and necromancers fill Fang Lair.

The Basics

Like other dungeons in ESO, you can choose to play through Fang Lair in either normal or veteran mode, with a hard mode option in the veteran dungeon. On your first trip to either Fang Lair or the second new dungeon, Scalecaller Peak, you will earn the Renegade Dragon Priest Mask, a collectible hat.

Fang Lair is a Dwarven Ruin where a necromancer is performing a ritual to reanimate a skeletal dragon. Travel through the dungeon and stop these threats before it’s too late.

Casting the Bones

find yisareh

Find the NPC, Yisareh just inside the entrance to Fang Lair to begin the quest.

You can pick up this quest in the dungeon from Yisareh. You can’t miss her as she’s just inside the entrance. She asks for your help with the necromancers who are bringing corpses into the ruins and making other ominous preparations. The way forward is barred to her by magic but with a group, you could probably force your way inside.

If you finish the conversation with Yisareh, she’ll tell you that a necromancer named Lizabet is the one conjuring the magical barrier, but is probably not the one in charge. When you ask about the ruins, she will reveal that the Dwarves were driven from the place by a dragon, but that the monster must be long gone.

Navigating the Dungeon

fang lair map

Follow the path in a clockwise direction through Fang Lair.

Fang Lair is all on a single map level and is easy to navigate. Your group starts in the lower left corner and has to work your way around in a clockwise direction. The mobs are mostly undead and necromancers, and you will have to work your way through groups of them between five main boss fights. Bring your AOE attacks to help make quick work of these enemies and watch out for the Bone Colossus’, as these guys have a particularly deadly attack.

You will see scattered round balls on the ground – these release poison spores if you stand near them for too long. If you keep moving through the dungeon quickly, they won’t bother you much. Also – keep an eye out for chests, like in any dungeon.

spore

This ball will release poison if you stand near it for too long.

The First Boss – Lizabet

Your first encounter with a boss is actually one of the easiest. Lizabet appears, taunts the group, and then summons some mobs to attack the party. You won’t even engage her directly – simply dispatch the mobs she summons and you can move on. There isn’t any particular strategy needed here.

The Second Boss – Cadaverous Bear

This is one of the more challenging fights in Fang Lair. When you arrive at this area, you will see a collection of animal statues. These come to life and you’ll have to fight them, but the Cadaverous Bear is the main boss that has to be killed. It’s essential to understand the mechanics of this fight, though, or you won’t make it through.

cadaverous bosses

Starting position of the bosses. The wolves keep respawning from their position on the far left.

Each of the monsters here has a different attack. The group of three wolves will run up to players and then explode. They respawn quickly and keep coming back throughout the fight so keep moving to avoid this damage or be ready to shield yourself and block their attack. The senche has a special attack where it will pin one player and cause damage. This attack has to be interrupted by another player, so keep an eye out for the message that pops up on the bottom of your screen to inform you of this.

The guar will spout poison fields, so just watch out for AOE and again, keep moving. Both the senche and the guar will respawn after a little time, so your main focus should be on the bear. However, have your tank taunt the mobs to all stay near the bear and use your AOE attacks to kill the senche and guar while DPSing the bear. If you defeat all the bear’s minions, his shield will come up until they respawn. Once you defeat the bear, the fight is over.

cadaverous bear

Focus on the Cadaverous Bear, but use AOE attacks to damage the bear’s minions.

If you’re having trouble getting through this fight, focus on the senche first then take out the bear. Keep moving and kiting to avoid the wolves’ explosive attacks.

The Third Boss – Caluurion

Caluurion AOE

Stay alert and avoid Caluurion’s AOE attacks.

Caluurion is another necromancer boss, but your strategy here is fairly simple. He stays in the center of the room on top of a small hill. From there, Caluurion throws out a lot of AOE attacks, so pay particular attention not to get caught in overlapping circles from his attacks. Otherwise, at certain levels of health, he will activate one of several relics found on the periphery of the room. A message will show up on the bottom of your screen to inform you of this. Run to the correct relic and kill it as quickly as possible. While the relic is active, Caluurion is more resistant to damage.

Caluurion relic

When a relic is active, kill it as quickly as possible.

When you are attacking a relic, each one will generate different defenses (shock, poison, etc.). If a red ring forms around you, make sure not to overlap with a group member or you will accumulate extra damage. Once the relic is down, return to Caluurion. Alternatively, if your group has high DPS you may be able to ignore the totems and just take down Caluurion directly.

The Fourth Boss – Ulfnor

This boss is a mostly straight-forward fight. The only tricky part here is that he is accompanied by a ghost who will chain a random player. When you are chained, you won’t be able to free yourself or do anything. The ghost pulls you closer, and if you end up next to her, then Ulfnor runs up and one-shot kills you. Your group members will need to kill the ghost before she pulls you in if you want to avoid certain death.

chained

I’m chained by the ghost here and can’t do anything until my group frees me.

When fighting Ulfnor directly, watch out for his heavy attacks. He also uses a lot of fire – both a series of small circle AOEs that radiate out from him, as well as a collection of fireballs that shoot out and then bounce around the battlefield.

The Fifth Boss – Thurvokun

When you finally arrive at the end of Fang Lair, you’ll discover that the necromancer Orryn the Black has managed to resurrect the dragon, Thurvokun. Your main fight here will be with Thurvokun, but Orryn triggers other aspects of the battle.

Thurvokun fight

The dragon produces a large poison field (green).

To start with, have your tank keep Thurvokun in the middle of the room. Throw your attacks at him and avoid his large poison AOE and ice attack that radiates from his tail. As his health decreases, crystals at the periphery of the room will become active and spawn additional mobs. Destroy the crystals quickly – there are four of them. Be careful if your group is doing massive damage to Thurvokun – you can inadvertently trigger multiple crystals at once and get overwhelmed by mobs.

The most deadly aspect of this boss fight happens next. Orryn will summon a line of ghosts that will run across the room. If they touch you, you will die. In order to avoid this, look for the friendly NPC who has been following you through the entire dungeon. He will create a yellow glowing barrier. Hide behind the barrier to stay safe from the ghosts. The wave of ghosts will keep repeating itself. If you’re using a voice chat option, have someone call out when the ghosts appear to make sure everyone has time to shelter behind the barrier.

Thurvokun fight

He throws skulls at you too.

Once Thurvokun is down to zero health, guess what? Orryn will resurrect him and he’ll be back at around 50% of his health. He’ll continue his attacks while more mobs spawn from where the crystals had once been. Thurvokun will scream and cause fear. Break free from this, but pay attention. After the fear attack, the dragon will shoot poison balls that can kill with one shot. To avoid this damage, look for a gold circle on the floor. Run through the circle (one per player) and you’ll be safe.

Hard Mode

If this all hasn’t been enough of a challenge for you, try it again on Hard Mode. More mobs will spawn and Thurvokun will have more health. The crystals will spawn a bone colossus. Kill the crystal quickly, or a second colossus will join you. The wave of ghosts will change so that it no longer covers the entire width of the hall. However, you won’t get the glowing yellow shield so you’ll have to find the gap between the ghosts and make sure you get through that part.

Rewards

On completion of the battle, make sure you speak with Yisareh again to finish the quest and earn a skill point. You’ll also win the Fang Lair Vanquisher achievement and the Thurvokun trophy.

quest complete

Speak to Yisareh for some well-earned rewards.

As you’ve made your way through Fang Lair you will certainly have picked up some of the new set items. If you’re working on a particular build, here are the stats on the four sets:

Thurvokun Set (monster set)

  • 1 item: Adds XXXX maximum health
  • 2 items: When a nearby enemy damages you, summon a growing pool of desecrated bile for 8 seconds. Enemies in the bile receive XXX Disease Damage every 1 second and are afflicted with Minor Main and Minor Defile, reducing their damage done and healing received by 15%. This effect can occur every 8 seconds.

Caluurion’s Legacy Set (light armor)

  • 2 items: Adds XXX Spell Critical
  • 3 items: Adds XXX Spell Damage
  • 4 items: Adds XXX Spell Critical
  • 5 items: When you deal Critical Damage with a single target Magicka ability, you launch a Fire, Ice, Shock, or Disease ball at your target that deals XXXXX damage and applies a status effect. This effect can occur once every 10 seconds.

Trappings of Invigoration Set (medium armor)

  • 2 items: Adds XXX Stamina Recovery
  • 3 items: Adds XXXX Maximum Stamina
  • 4 items: Adds XXX Stamina Recovery
  • 5 items: When you cast an ability while under 33% Stamina, you restore XXXX Stamina. This effect can occur once every 1 minute.

Ulfnor’s Favor Set (heavy armor)

  • 2 items: Adds XXXX Maximum Health
  • 3 items: Adds XXX Magicka Recovery
  • 3 items: Adds XXX Stamina Recovery
  • 4 items: Adds 4% Healing Taken
  • 5 items: Increases the Magicka or Stamina your Heavy Attacks restore by 30%

You may notice that the Ulfnor’s Favor set lists two separate bonuses for 3 items. I suspect this may be a bug, but since I play a lightly armored DPS sorcerer, I haven’t tried out this set.

Overall, the Fang Lair dungeon seems to be more popular than the other new content – Scalecaller Peak. The boss battles are doable but challenging, depending on the abilities of the group you go in with.

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