Thursday, June 30, 2016

Two Months Until Legion

It has been a very long wait, but we are nearing the launch of World of Warcraft's sixth expansion, Legion.

We're seeing a pretty big overhaul of a lot of game systems. The pre-launch patch will be coming relatively soon (I'm really hoping for early July, as I'll be out of town for late July and early August,) bringing with it the system changes and, quite unprecedentedly, it will allow players who have pre-ordered the expansion to play their Demon Hunter characters.

So let's do a quick run-down of what to expect with the release of patch 7.0:

Class Changes:

Legion has seen a pretty radical redesign of several specs, made all the more notable thanks to new animations and spell effects. Melee classes in particular will notice that their strikes pop much more distinctively than they had in the past.

In general, the design has reduced the number of baseline abilities for each spec, but there are far more spec-specific talents that will adjust your rotation, either replacing/adjusting existing abilities or granting new ones. You can opt into a more crowded action bar, usually, but if you don't, you'll usually find some interesting twists to existing abilities.

Rogues will notice the most surprising change, which is that Combat has been replaced by Outlaw. While Outlaw retains Combat's defining feature - namely that they use swords/axes/maces/fist weapons instead of daggers - but also leans in a little more toward the swashbuckler theme, with plenty of pirate-themed abilities including Pistol Shot, which is a central part of the new rotation. It is still a melee dps spec that dual-wields.

Tri-Spec and Talent Changing:

Changing specs is now extraordinarily simple - you just switch outside of combat as you would if you were dual-specced. Yes, this means that class trainers are basically purposeless now, but oh well. Just like dual-spec, you'll retain your action bar arrangements for each different spec, so you won't need to spend five minutes looking through your spellbook every time you switch. You can apparently mark one spec as your "primary spec" though I don't know what that does.

However, if you had gotten used to carrying around a stack of Tomes of the Clear Mind to swap talents all the time, this is actually more restricted. You will be able to change talents any time you like if you're within a "well rested" area like a city or an inn, but elsewhere, you'll need a new reagent (whose name I don't remember) that will be significantly more costly than the current Tomes. Basically, you need to pick your talents well before heading out into the world.


Healer and Tank-specific stats are gone. You might find a trinket that has an effect better suited to one of these roles, but you will, for the most part, only need to keep one set of gear unless you're a serious min-maxer on both specs. The exception here is weapons, especially when the expansion proper launches and you get your artifact weapons.

Rings, Cloaks, Necklaces, and Trinkets (the last one I'm not 100% sure about) will no longer have primary stats on them at all, meaning that you'll be able to use them for any spec (and it also means that anyone in your raid will be able to roll on any of them.) Tier 19 does have cloaks as part of the set, but we're not up to that yet.

Armor Types for Paladins, Warriors, Shamans, and Hunters:

Paladins, Warriors, Shamans, and Hunters will no longer have to wait until level 40 to upgrade to a new level of armor. Instead, most items that used to be Mail before level 40 are now simply considered Plate, and Mail duplicates have been made of the various Leather pieces that Hunters and Shamans would have used.

Demon Hunters:

Though I'm not sure it will be exactly at the 7.0 launch or a week or two in, players who have pre-ordered Legion will be able to create their Demon Hunter characters, the game's newest Hero Class. Like the Death Knight, Demon Hunters start at a higher level and have a unique starting experience. They are limited to only Night Elves and Blood Elves, and they have entirely different voice emotes from other player characters of their races. There are several alternate character customization options, including tattoos, scales, horns, and blindfolds.

Demon Hunters have only two specs - Havoc is melee dps and Vengeance is a tanking spec. They combine demonic magic with vicious melee strikes to get their jobs done, and both specs have access to Metamorphosis, fully transforming into a demon temporarily to get a boost in combat.

Unlike Death Knights, who started significantly below the previous expansion's level cap, Demon Hunters will start at level 98, and over the course of their starting experience should hit level 100, allowing them to jump into Legion along with all the veteran characters.


With 7.0, each time you get a new piece of gear, its appearance will be added to a collection (the same window with mounts, pets, and heirlooms.) You can only gain the appearance of a piece of gear that gets soulbound to you and that you can/should use (so even though a Warrior can wear leather, you'll need to get the piece on a druid, rogue, or monk to attain the appearance.) From then on, that appearance is now unlocked for your entire account to use in transmogrification. Players will still only be able to transmog pieces they would be able to wear - so mages can't wear that tier 2 paladin set - but outside of class restrictions, anything your Shaman gets your Hunter will be able to wear too.

This will also retroactively give you the appearances for every quest reward for every quest you've ever completed, and I think this even includes defunct vanilla quests that were removed in Cataclysm.

Legion Invasion Event:

Over the course of the 7.0 patch, Azeroth will experience a forceful invasion by the Burning Legion. Doomsayers distributing pamphlets about the impending end of the world will walk the streets of Stormwind and Orgrimmar while both factions prepare for a joint assault against the main foothold of the invasion at the Broken Shore. Players will be able to participate in a massive joint-scenario (I believe it's forty players of each faction) that sets up a lot of the plot leading up to the expansion proper.

In addition, various zones throughout the old world will periodically experience Legion invasions (on the PTR it's Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad Foothills, Tanaris, Northern Barrens, and Azshara. These invasions will see massive swarms of demons attacking, eventually teleporting in huge structures that can be removed by fighting your way into them and either destroying the fel crystals supporting them or slaying their demonic commanders. Players will receive a currency and occasional treasure boxes during each phase of the invasion, culminating in a big fight against a raid-boss-like commander. The currency can be traded to members of the Illidari who reward gear, a battle-pet, and transmog appearances.

The gear is item level 700, which should be useful for most players. Additionally, it looks like you can on rare occasion get a weapon from these invasions, and trading a good portion of the currency to the Illidari will yield a crystal that can upgrade your weapon to 725 (though remember of course that one of the first things you'll do in Legion is get your artifact weapon.)

Launch on August 30th:

Two months from today, the expansion itself will launch, allowing us to travel to the Broken Isles, quest in new zones, establish our class orders, run new dungeons, and leave our garrisons behind.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Legion In Depth Analysis: Protection and Retribution Paladins

All three Paladin specs are undergoing some pretty significant changes, but as I've historically avoided Holy like the plague (granted, that's based on a Vanilla/BC era issue where non-Holy Paladins were mocked as "doing it wrong," which hasn't been an issue since Wrath) I can't comment so much on that.

This might not go into levels of depth, but now that I've had a good amount of time to play on the PTR, I'm getting a real sense of how these specs work.


The removal of Holy Power from Protection means that you're going to need to be a little more careful using your Shield of the Righteous. The ability now has three charges, and Judgment will now speed up its recovery time by a second or two if it crits. It hits pretty hard and of course gives you your main defensive buff, so you'll still want haste to increase its recovery speed and allow you to Judge more often, but the value of crit also goes up a bit thanks to Judgment.

Consecration on its own is still just an AoE damage ability (and sadly, the super-useful Glyph of the Consecrator is gone, so you'll need to be aware of where you're placing it.) However, many of your abilities now get buffed when you're standing within your Consecration, including Shield of the Righteous, which means it's a very high priority to make sure that this thing is down at all times. Thankfully, its duration no longer goes down with your haste, so as you stack haste, you'll get a grace period between when it goes off its cooldown and when your previous Consecration expires.

Hammer of the Righteous fully replaces Crusader Strike for us, but now it only does its AoE damage when you're in your Consecration. That said, there is a talent row that either gives all the Consecration-enhanced abilities their Consecration buffs at all time (and removes HotR's cooldown entirely) or another that replaces the ability with an always-AoE ability, so you really have to kind of opt in to this restriction unless you're below level 30.

Light of the Protector is the replacement for Word of Glory, but it's way less powerful, as it now only heals you for a portion of your missing health. So there's not much reason to use this when you're at 90% or even 75%. It is, however, a pretty nice emergency heal on a generously short cooldown, but currently it's not really working (hopefully fixed by the time the expansion goes live!) So don't expect a reliable almost Lay-on-Hands level heal from this.

Prot does lose a few abilities, like Holy Wrath and Hammer of Wrath, but with talents you should be able to replace Holy Wrath's snap AoE with things like Hammer of the Righteous.

The key to Prot I think is going to be proper placement of Consecration and judicious use of Shield of the Righteous. I haven't run a dungeon with it yet, but it seems perfectly functional.


While Ret is keeping Holy Power as a resource, the spec feels very different. You'll need to do a bit more planning with it and get used to a kind of ebb and flow to its damage.

The biggest change is Judgment and the new Mastery. Judgment no longer generates Holy Power. Instead, Judgment now buffs all Holy Power consumers on the target, with the buff increased by your Mastery. Judgment also chains to other targets, so you won't be totally screwed in AoE situations (that said, Ret's definitely not as super-AoE-y as it has been.)

The Judgment window will remain the same duration regardless of your stats, so as your gear improves, haste will allow you to keep the debuff on your targets up for more time, which might make the rotation simpler to pull off.

A few abilities are gone, like Exorcism and Hammer of Wrath. The big replacement is Blade of Justice, which hits pretty hard and generates two Holy Power. Also, Crusader Strike has, I believe, two charges baseline.

The flexibility in the rotation will help a bit in making sure that you have enough Holy Power to use your Judgment window effectively. My Paladin has about item level 710 at level 100 (both in Ret and Prot - a lot of it's the same gear) and I was able to get three or sometimes four finishers off within the window.

I think the real key is that Ret is going to be less about hitting whatever ability is available at the time and a bit more about planning ahead. You don't want to spend your Holy Power as soon as you can, and while I'm not sure what the perfect rotational execution would be, you might want to save Judgment until you have the full five Holy Power to fully take advantage of it.

Another really interesting quirk to Retribution is that it's basically the only spec that still has longterm buffs. You have a total of three Greater Blessings you can give out - any mix of three including Might, Wisdom, and Kings. Might now gives a chance to deal additional Holy damage on the target's attacks. Wisdom regenerates health and mana, and Kings periodically adds a damage absorption shield to the target.

These Greater Blessings can only be applied outside of combat, but they will persist through death. While soloing, you'll just put all three on yourself. I'm not sure if you can only do one of each, but if not depending on the content you might spread Might blessings to DPS or if you're having a harder time with survival, you could toss Kings on a tank and Wisdom on a healer.

Of course, with all specs, getting your artifact weapon will add a new ability and modify a lot of the existing ones. For instance, Ret's Ashbringer will grant Wake of Ashes, which is an AoE attack that eventually generates a full five Holy Power on use, which will probably really help getting more finishers into the Judgment window. But this is what you'll get when you log onto the game after 7.0 drops.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Item Upgrades and Endgame Rewards

Blizzard has been developing an interesting new feature to keep Legion's launch content somewhat relevant for the duration of the expansion (an expansion that they now plan to keep going for longer, with more patches - hopefully meaning we'll continue to get some content for the full two years an expansion typically lasts, or even longer.)

Essentially, any level-cap activity that rewards gear - raids, dungeons, world quests, PvP - will have an potentially unlimited possibility to upgrade. Consider today how the Baleful gear, as of some minor patch after 6.2, that comes out of Tanaan Jungle now has a chance to upgrade from 655 to any multiple of 5 up to 695. In Legion, all top-level gear will be able to randomly upgrade multiple times, hitting a single global item level cap.

Each time a piece of gear drops, the game will roll to determine whether it upgrades. It repeats this roll until the roll fails or the item level of the gear hits the cap.

So, using totally made-up numbers, let's say there's a 50% chance to upgrade a piece by 5 item levels. Let's also say that Heroic dungeons drop 800 gear, Mythic Raids drop 850 gear, and the current cap is 865.

For a Mythic raider, when a piece of gear drops for her, it has a 50% chance not to upgrade at all and be 850. But if the coin flip favors her, it upgrades to 855. Then, the game flips the coin again. If she wins again, it goes to 860. And if she's really lucky, it upgrades again, becoming 865. At this point, the game stops checking to see if she gets another upgrade, because she's hit the global item level cap. Because only three coin-flips/dice-rolls get her to the cap, that gives her a 50%x50%x50% chance to get the maximum item level on the piece, so about 12.5% of a chance (again, these numbers are made up.

If someone's just running Heroic dungeons, he's far less likely to see gear at that level, but it is still a possibility. A typical piece would be merely level 800, and while getting upgraded to 805, 810, or 815 wouldn't be terribly rare, the chance that he's going to get a piece that's upgraded all the way to 865, while possible, is highly unlikely, as it would be 50% to the 13th power, or about .01% of a chance to hit that maximum item level (and that's with a generous 50% chance to upgrade, which is probably more than it will be.)

I actually think this is a pretty elegant feature. It incentivizes people to run content with lesser-geared friends because, while it's a low chance, they still might get an upgrade. But it also doesn't make the level of content you're running totally irrelevant. A Mythic Raider who has a raid on farm is probably going to put together a nice set of gear that's an average of one or two upgrades over the baseline for the raid. People working in lower-level content are going to get the occasional piece rivaling what the Mythic Raider has in the same slot, but they'd have to be absurdly lucky to have a better set of gear than one a dedicated Mythic Raider has.

Combine this as well with the Mythic Plus system, which will allow players to push dungeons to higher and higher difficulties and thus increase the baseline item quality of its rewards (presumably up to a global cap,) and you've got a lot of ways to keep content relevant.

Another fun fact - the terms Warforged and Titanforged will now be used to denote certain upgrade levels. I believe that one or two upgrades will count as Warforged while three or more will count as Titanforged. The names don't carry any separate mechanical meaning, but it'll be a quick guide to just how good that drop you got is.

Monday, June 27, 2016

D&D Out of the Abyss

I splurged and picked up another D&D adventure book the other day, this one being Out of the Abyss. Out of the Abyss is basically all set within the Underdark (for those unfamiliar, the Underdark is an iconic D&D setting that is basically a whole other lair of the world beneath the surface - a vast network of caverns in which several other races and monsters live.)

Unlike the Curse of Strahd, which is very focused on a single quest - to defeat the Vampire and save his intended victim - Out of the Abyss looks to be a little more free-form. It does start off your party imprisoned and gives them a task of getting out of the Underdark, but it looks as if the avenues to do so are more open to players choosing the direction they want to go. Not to say Curse of Strahd is linear - there are tons of side-quests in that one that you can do in varying orders - but at least so far Out of the Abyss feels more useful as a group of smaller episodes that I would feel comfortable cannibalizing for my own homebrew campaign.

For instance, my setting has "The Great Deep," which is my equivalent of the Underdark, and while the players might not encounter the Demon Demogorgon in a Kuo-toa village on the shore of the Darklake, they could easily encounter an avatar of Shaliud the Great Leviathan at a similar location, with similar NPCs doing their thing.

One thing that's quite nice about this book is that there are a lot more generally-applicable monsters, not to mention stat blocks for demon lords like the aforementioned Demogorgon, giving me some good ideas of what an end-of-the-adventure final boss might look like. (I still kind of want them to fight a Tarrasque, but we'll have to see about that.)

Anyway, even if I do cannibalize this stuff, I also think I'd really like to run these adventures straight as well. Take a bit of the pressure off the DM role.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Elune, the Titans, and the Naaru

One of the things I love about the Warcraft cosmos is that there isn't one monolithic group or pair of groups behind everything. The Burning Legion is possibly the most dangerous thing in the cosmos, but they don't hold a monopoly on world-ending evil, as they have to share that with the forces of the Void - primarily the Old Gods - and to an extent the Undead Scourge (who may be a distant third on the power scales, but are still my favorite of the big three bads.)

It's really nice, because there can be real mysteries about the source of some threat or at least plot development. Contrast this with Blizzard's other major fantasy series, Diablo. In Diablo, if something's evil, it's almost certainly the work of one of the Seven Evils, usually Diablo. I really liked that Reaper of Souls inverted things by making it one of the Angels behind the bad stuff happening (with bonus points for demonstrating the difference between the theory of evil as a substance versus that of evil as a quality) but that still retained the idea that everything in the universe was either Demonic, Angelic, or a mix of both (though I'm given to understand the dragon Trag'oul might be an exception there.)

In Warcraft, the various factions of "pure evil" might interact with one another, but they are fundamentally distinct. But we are left with certain ambiguities on which to theorize. For example, we know that Yogg-Saron's influence on Vordrassil in Grizzly Hills is what created the seed for the Emerald Nightmare, but why, then, is Xavius so closely associated with it, given that he's a demon and thus should, theoretically, be totally opposed to the Old Gods and their works.

It's not just the bad guys who are divided into different groups, but Legion is beginning to explore some of the surprising connections between them. Let's do a spoiler jump before we get into that.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

7.0 PTR Spec Impressions Part Two

I'm really glad to report that everything seems to be functioning decently. Many specs have been simplified, yes, but there are a ton of options in talents to complicate what you've got going on. So far I really haven't been able to find anything as horrible as 6.0 Arms - indeed, Arms itself has gotten back some of the things that made it compelling in 5.4 and earlier, such as a proc to look out for with Colossus Smash.

It looks like they'll need to implement or re-implement a lot of the in-game power auras, but mechanically I'm pretty satisfied with what we've got - and of course our Artifact Weapons will be adding some functionality to it all.

Unholy Death Knights:

Unholy's kit is pretty different now. You're going to be focused on popping the festering wounds on your targets with Scourge Strike. The unpredictability comes from the number of wounds your Festering Strike applies to the target. Obviously the rune changes make every DK spec feel simpler, but everything flows pretty easily for Unholy now. Also, you can get an abomination as well as an additional skeletal soldier through talents!

Arms Warriors:

This really feels like a bunch of common sense stuff they should have implemented during Warlords, but better late than never. Mortal Strike is your big Rage spender, but you can save your Rage for when you have Colossus Smash, which now get reset via the passive Tactician. Slam is your filler for when you are capping Rage but don't want to waste the cooldown on Mortal Strike. You still have Whirlwind instead of Thunderclap, which seems wrong, but at least the animation is way better now. Also, you can definitely talent in some more abilities, including Overpower.

Assassination Rogues:

This is really stripped down to the basics - you'll maintain Rupture and use Envenom while it's up, building combo points with Mutilate. Garrote's now your main opener, and there seems to be talents affecting its cooldown, so it might be that I'm missing something here. Still, a decent choice for basic Rogue stuff. I miss Dispatch, but you can find procs and such in the other specs.

Outlaw Rogues:

I was finding a few moments of being Energy-depleted, but overall you've got some cool stuff here. I imagine it will play a lot better with my custom gun sounds, because right now you can barely hear Pistol Shot. Some of the old Combat abilities are talents, like Killing Spree. Overall it shouldn't seem too alien to those who know Rogues.

Elemental Shamans:

Again, not too difficult to get used to. You build up Maelstrom with LB and LvB and pay them off with your Shocks. LvB still has a proc associated with it, so it should feel pretty familiar. One thing is that Earthquake is now Earthquake Totem and now costs Maelstrom, but works pretty much the same.

Balance Druids:

You'll feel far more in control now that Astral Power has replaced the Balance Meter. Keep up your DOTs and then build AP with Solar Wrath and Lunar Strike, then pay it off with either Starfire or Starfall (single target and AoE respectively.) Picking between Solar Wrath and Lunar Strike will, I think, be based on the buffs received from casting Starfire and, if those are not up and you can't cast it yet, I think SW is single-target while LS does splash damage.

Beast Mastery Hunters:

While different, it's not too hard to wrap your head around it. For one thing, Focus seems to regenerate at the same speed as Energy now (making it basically the same thing,) so you'll worry less about actively regenerating it. I'll admit I haven't spent as much time on Hunters, so I might revisit this.

Shadow Priests:

A lot of the same tools are here - Vampiric Touch, Shadow Word: Pain, Mind Blast and Mind Flay (which can be talented to be Mind Spike.) The main thing is that now you have Void Form to play with. I suspect Haste is going to be huge for Shadow, as you'll want to pump out as many Insanity-generating abilities as possible in that window.

Brewmaster Monks:

If there's one thing I'm overjoyed about, it's that Breath of Fire is now a real part of your rotation, basically taking over for Blackout Strike in AoE situations. Without Chi, you'll be dealing with simple cooldowns, similar to Protection Paladins. As always, it's tricky to test a tank when not running challenging group content, but rotationally I think we've got something that could work.

Arcane Mages:

Beyond tracking Arcane Charges in the UI (finally,) Arcane plays very similarly, though the new Mastery could, I imagine, affect how one goes about burst damage.

Fire Mages:

Like Arcane, they took a "if not broke, don't fix" attitude to the spec (and given that they're giving Frost a replacement for Frostfire Bolt, it looks like they've got that attitude toward the whole class.)

One thing I'm definitely thinking about is that everyone's basically tri-specced now (Druids are quad-specced and Demon Hunters are dual-specced, but you get the idea.) Thankfully, it's going to be much less of a pain to gear, as outside of special trinkets and items with role-specific procs or activated abilities, it's really just weapons that you need to switch out between specs. Granted, it does kind of make Strength, Agility, and Intellect sort of meaningless, or at least makes them all equivalent, but perhaps that's a price we can pay to make switching specs less of a hassle. It certainly means that people are going to be able to use gear that drops in raids. Just means everyone really needs to be on top of what their best secondary stats are.

7.0 Spec Impressions:

I've been playing around on the 7.0 PTR to get a feel for how the new versions of all the old familiar specs are feeling. I don't know how thorough I'll be able to be on this, but I wanted to give my impressions on a few of them:

Protection Paladin:

This one's hard to test without mean things there to hit you, but at least rotationally the spec doesn't feel quite as alien as I expected it to. You basically have Shield of the Righteous ready whenever, but it's now on charges. Your offensive abilities will affect the charges - allowing you to recover some as you go - but with no resource system to watch for, you basically just need to make sure you're using your defensive abilities at the right time. Weak Auras is going to be a huge boon here, allowing you to track whether you've got the buff up and for how long.

Retribution Paladin:

The basic impression I got was that there are fewer HoPo generators to hit - no Hammer of Wrath, for example - but with Blade of Justice (or Blade of Wrath, if you take that talent) generating two HoPo, you'll be hitting Templar's Verdict more often now. Judgment has a new animation (think of Maraad in the Dark Portal cutscene at the very beginning of Warlords) and is now really your only ranged ability, though I think BoJ technically hits a little farther than melee range.

Frost Death Knight:

If you've played Two-Handed Frost, this will be a kind of simpler version of that. You only have the one disease now, which should be maintained easily with Rime procs, and Killing Machine only affects Obliterate, meaning you won't be "wasting" it. I might play around with more complicated talents to build on to the spec, but you still get the satisfying blast of a KM-buffed Obliterate. Also, Remorseless Winter has replaced Death and Decay for Frost, which is a little more foolproof as it moves with you.

Blood Death Knight:

This is actually very different, but I kind of like how it plays. Death Strike now costs RP, making it your main RP spender. Heart Strike returns, granting extra runic power when you hit it, so you'll want to use this as your main filler. Marrowrend builds up your Bone Shield, so you'll use it whenever that's fallen off. There's also Blood Boil, which is now free and on three charges with a cooldown, and automatically applies Blood Plague. There's also Death's Embrace, which is a single-target disease applicator (actually, maybe it's this one that applies the disease?) Moving Death Strike to Runic Power actually works out pretty well for the rotation, though once again, I'll have to see what it's like when I'm getting hit by something.

Frost Mages:

This is nearly identical, especially given that they're going to be adding a replacement for Frostfire Bolt in an upcoming build. (I kind of wish it was just Frostfire, which I thought was one of the coolest looking spells in the game.) Splitting Ice is now a talent (makes sense - as a glyph it was basically mandatory.)

Fury Warriors:

There's a lot that's new and different here, but so far I'm liking it. Bloodthirst is still a major Rage generator, but now Raging Blow also generates Rage. It looks like you've got a chance to activate Rampage on your attacks, which is a series of hits that also enrages you. Furious Strike is a filler when you don't have Rampage and aren't Enraged and Bloodthirst is on cooldown. All the animations here look pretty great.

Demonology Warlocks:

There's a ton to juggle here, between Demonic Empowerment and summoning Dreadstalkers as well as Hand of Gul'dan. I think you want to prioritize on getting the Dreadstalkers out every time you can, then using Empowerment on them, with HoGD and the accompanying Imps filling in. It's absolutely nothing like the old Demonology, but we knew that was going to happen.

Subtlety Rogues:

Shadow Dance feels a lot more like what I hoped it would be - less of a cooldown than a rotational thing that is refreshable over the course of your fight. You're still ultimately maintaining one finisher while filling in with Eviscerate, but it feels a bit more shadowy, ninja-themed now. Lots of purple!

Enhancement Shamans:

There's a bunch going on here, but as far as I can tell, you kind of balance Maelstrom generators (Rockbiter and Flametongue - maintain FT and fill with RB) and pay them off with Stormstrike and Lava Lash (SS on cooldown, LL to fill.) Lightning Bolt is also in there, though I don't know exactly how it fits in. Also, it's weird how few totems I have, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I'll try to get to other specs and give my impressions later on.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Shooting Through the End of Bloodborne

Well, on one hand, I did one-shot Mergo's Wet Nurse, Gehrman, and the Moon Presence.

On the other hand, I was leveled up tremendously - not only having leveled enough to take down Orphan of Kos (who yes, I'm prepared to say is the hardest boss in the game) but also taking advantage of the absurd number of echoes available from clearing everything from the Micolash lamp to MWN to level up quite a bit (50 Strength and 50 Vitality,) which made me very well prepared to take on these bosses.

MWN was certainly the easiest of the three potential final bosses. There are a few nasty combos in there, and getting to the sweet spot behind it to avoid its slashes requires some precision, but ultimately I wasn't seeing anything mind-blowingly difficult to dodge.

Gehrman, on the other hand. I'm sure that before the DLC was out this guy counted as the hardest boss. He's super-fast and can parry you (though the one time he managed to do it to me he seemed to fail at his follow-up.) He gets a buff halfway through that seems to make him even faster. I did get a parry/visceral off on him. I think my biggest regret about Gehrman is that his Burial Blade - purchasable after defeating him and getting his badge (which you need to either die or Bold Hunter's Mark on Moon Presence to buy anything with it) - is skill-based, as opposed to Strength. I've got the stats required to wield it, but it's not going to be the right choice on this character. Guess I've got to get my Skill character up (she's only just beaten Cleric Beast.)

The Moon Presence was probably not as hard as Gehrman, but certainly has some nasty moves, including quick combo-swipes, a charge that tramples you, and tail/tentacle lashes that can get you when you're watching its claws. It also has a nasty ability that puts you down to 1 health, but it then pauses for a good long while after doing so, so you can regain most if not all the missing health by beating on it afterwards.

Before I finished up, I made sure I got every important item I could get, which sadly involved killing some friendly NPCs like Djura for the Ashen Hunter set (which you actually get at the Insight shop after killing him,) Adella to get the Oedon Writhe rune (there's a better one you can get off of fake Iosefka if you confront her before beating Rom, but I waited to get her Third of the Umbilical Cord, which it turned out I didn't need, as I'd gotten Arianna's and the ones at the Hunter's Workshop and off of Mergo's Wet Nurse.) I also got the Eye rune off of Willem. I know that some of the other characters (mainly the Chapel Dweller) drop runes, but they seem to be lower-level versions of ones I already have. I felt bad enough killing the psycho nun and the brain-dead professor (not to mention the noble Djura) so there was no way I was going to take out the Chapel Dweller, possibly the most benevolent character in the game (you know, barring some weird interpretation of his character.)

As far as I can tell, the only important items I'm missing are the ones gotten out of the Chalice Dungeons (which... is it worth it?) and the whistle you get from doing the League quest chain, which I believe requires co-op play.

Anyway, beating the Moon Presence leaves you a whopping 230,000 or something blood echoes. You need to visit the Hunter's Dream twice (unless you intend to, you're probably not going to die on the way to the Central Yharnam lamp this time, and you will of course have plenty of Insight to see the doll - she's just inactive the first time you get there even with Insight.)

I have to say, I've had a super fun time playing this game. New Game+ awaits me now, and I'm sure I'll play a bit of it, but I think that it'll be a good time to take a break from Bloodborne, probably go back to the Witcher III. And I'll want to do characters based on other main stats as well. I've got my Skill character, but I think next I'll do an Arcane one. Eventually I figure I'll try a Bloodtinge character (wonder how that will be before I can get the Chikage...)

And at some point I'll either have to go back and try to finish Dark Souls or maybe just skip ahead and play Dark Souls III (I've been advised to avoid DSII.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why Are You Attacking Me With a Saw? 'Kos You're a Nightmare!

If you've been following my Bloodborne posts you'll notice that it's been a while since I triumphantly posted about beating a boss. That's because the Orphan of Kos is freaking HARD. But I have defeated it!

Oddly, I actually found his phase 2, when he starts doing more damage with his attacks and has a larger range on many of his abilities, to be the easier one. It's kind of a damage race. My kill had me actually get the last little bits of damage as he was summoning his massive lightning attack, and while I did die to it (out of Blood Vials and at like 25% when I got the kill,) thankfully there aren't any enemies between the elevator and the boss, so I was able to recover without any problems.

I did brute-force the fight a bit, grinding until I had something like 45 strength and vitality. But I took him down, and that's what counts.

The reason I found phase two easier is that he does less comboing - his attacks are harder, sure, but they're easier to dodge and there's less follow-up. Phase one has you dodge one attack only to be combo'd by the next three.

Anyway, at this point I believe I have everything out of the Old Hunters content, meaning that I can go back to the main game. I suspect that the levels I've gained working on The Old Hunters will make the rest of the game significantly easier, but that's fine.

I need to consult a checklist or something to ensure that I'm not leaving anything behind, but I think I'm ready to start the endgame. I have only Mergo's Wet Nurse, Gehrman, and the Moon Presence to go. I guess I should consume those umbilical cords? Maybe after Mergo.

Orphan of Kos definitely takes the prize for hardest boss so far, and while I've heard Gehrman is pretty tough, I'm going to guess he'll probably take it over all. I've heard that MWN and TMP are rather easy in comparison.

I'm also curious to see how much more difficult New Game+ is tuned. On one hand, I'm sure it's designed with the assumption that you're pretty well-geared and leveled, but I also bet that I'm a bit beyond that, given the DLC stuff.

I also wonder about gems. I've run through Hemwick several times grinding echoes, and I often get low-ranked gems I'll never use in there. I wonder if in a new game there will be higher-level gems dropping everywhere. I don't know if it's been luck or what, but I've been stuck with a fairly low-ranking triangular gem in my Whirligig Saw for a while now (it is a +9% to all attacks, so not terrible.)

Anyway, once I've got everything checked off, I'll head into the endgame.

The Pre-Patch Demon Invasions

For the first time since really Cataclysm, there's actually a world-spanning launch event for the Legion expansion. Given that this is a massive invasion of the Burning Legion, it wouldn't make sense for all the action to be stuck in the Broken Isles, so once 7.0 hits, we're going to start seeing some demonic insanity raining from the sky over several old, familiar zones.

The world map will show which zones are being invaded, and you'll be able to head there to help deal with the problem. So far, I've defended Westfall and Hillsbrad Foothills, both on Alliance characters. It would seem that while the invasions are going on, the faction guards of the various settlements are happy to have whatever help they can get, even if you are from the opposing faction.

The invasion goes in multiple phases. First, the major town (in these cases Sentinel Hill and Tarren Mill) will be bombarded by a Legion vessel - basically a Star Destroyer. You can actually fly up to these things, but getting too close will knock you back and deal a bunch of damage to you.

Once you and other players have defeated enough of the invaders coming with the bombardment, the zone's full invasion will begin.

Throughout the zone, boss-like enemies will spawn, along with tons of soloable demons and several demonic structures will embed themselves in the ground. It's actually pretty amazing to see - they pretty seamlessly get integrated into the environment. You'll need to down these bosses and take out the fel crystals that support these buildings. Once enough of the invasion forces have been turned away in this manner, the invasion's boss will spawn in the main town, and you'll be able to defeat them to end the invasion.

You'll get Nether Crystals as a currency reward for these events, along with occasional loot boxes at the various stages of the invasion that seem to drop 700-level loot. There's a group of Illidari stationed near the town (at least Tarren Mill - I didn't see the one for Sentinel Hill, but I may have just missed that,) who can sell you a number of things including a battle pet, some transmog armor sets, some gear, and an item that will upgrade the gear you get in the invasions.

The New Transmog System

Playing a bit on the PTR, I've been able to try out some of the new Transmog system. Here's what I've discovered:

You still need to go to a Transmog NPC in order to actually change your appearance, and this will still cost gold. Also, hiding helmets, shoulders, and cloaks will now be handled by your transmogrifier, rather than as an option in the interface preferences.

You'll immediately have access to anything you can and should equip in your inventory, bank, and void storage (should meaning if you're a warrior, it's plate,) as well as any quest rewards you may have gotten over the years. I was actually a little surprised at how few, say, helmets I'd gotten, but you also have to remember that vanilla quest rewards were far less frequent and regular than they are now. You couldn't always expect to get a full set of gear from doing all the quests in a zone.

Weapon enchantments can also now be transmogrified, similar to the weapon illusions you could get with a follower in the enchanting hut in the garrison.

It appears that getting these enchantment appearances requires you to get a tome of enchantment appearances, which are made by enchanters.

While you can only change your appearance at the usual NPCs, you can look at the appearances you've collected and set favorites, as well as even specifying which exact item you're transmogging - like if you want it to be clear that this is a Hammer of the Naaru and not the Sunsoul Warmaul, even though the two are identical in looks.

You can also save appearances for specific specs, which I think means that switching specs will also change the look of your armor, even though, given how the new stats work, you'll basically never have to change armor between specs. This needs a bit more testing on my part.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WoW 7.0 On the PTR

Legion's pre-patch is going onto the PTR, which is a pretty good sign of progress. The expansion is coming out at the end of August, meaning that this patch should probably be coming out in July.

As far as I know, while those who have pre-purchased Legion will be able to create their Demon Hunter characters during this patch, the PTR tests don't appear to allow you to take them out for a spin.

You will, however, be able to try out all the existing classes' new talents and spec designs. I'm definitely most interested in trying Prot Paladins and Frost Death Knights (for obvious reasons,) but I also want to get my hands on Outlaw Rogues, Survival Hunters, and other specs undergoing serious redesigns.

The new transmog system will also be available for testing, and I would assume the pre-expansion event.

I'll probably update this post when I get my impressions.


So I've now done a bit of light testing, and while I've tried out several classes, I've focused primarily on DK Frost and Prot/Ret Paladins.

Frost feels similar, especially if you played Two-Handed, given that Obliterate is the big strike. Killing Machine will now only affect Obliterate, so it's hard to waste it. You'll probably still want to keep two runes available for it. Remorseless Winter is basically the new Death and Decay for the spec, which is centered on you and moves with you. For the most part, however, the spec feels the same.

Protection Paladins I'll obviously have to wait to actually tank something on, but rotationally even though so much has changed, it doesn't feel completely alien. You no longer have Holy Power, so instead you just pepper in your Shield of the Righteous when you have stacks. Having my addons back will help a lot, as they let me track if SotR is up and for how long.

Hammer of the Righteous is quasi-merged with Crusader Strike, and you'll technically have to be standing in Consecration to get it to AoE. However, two of the three talents related to the ability negate this problem - one replaces it with Blessed Hammer (see Diablo III,) and the other removes the cooldown and makes it always AoE, so it's really more of a choice to have that issue than a choice not to.

Holy Wrath is gone, but I think that the HotR talents will give you some snap threat options, but obviously it all depends on how our threat compares to the DPS.

Retribution feels pretty different, though not in a terrible way. Exorcism has been replaced with Blade of Justice, a long-ish cooldown strike that hits hard and gives two Holy Power. Judgment I don't think gives HoPo anymore (but BoJ's two HoPo generation makes up for this) and looks a lot different but plays a similar role in the rotation. Judgment can be talented to do a little splash damage, but I think the main source of AoE you're going to get is Divine Storm - but you'll be able to do it often enough that I expect it will still let you pump out a decent amount of damage.

I tried to do the Broken Shore scenario, but it seems to be bugged - you can do the quest that leads up to it, but you never get put in the instance.

Oh, and the Stormwind Park has been rebuilt, and it looks very different than the old one (read: better.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Medivh Live, Heavy, Heavy Hints That Gul'Dan Is Next

Medivh is now live. He's a ranged specialist with a lot of powerful group-support abilities (honestly, I think they could have labeled him support.)

But what's interesting here is that they've also basically told us who's coming to the Nexus next, and it's Gul'dan.

Other than Azmodan's "Azgul'dan" skin, we haven't seen Warcraft's worst mortal (Arthas gives him good competition, but he's already the Lich King in his Heroes of the Storm version and frankly, even at his worst, he might still lose out to Gul'dan.)

Given Gul'dan's prominence in both the recent Warcraft movie and the upcoming Legion expansion, I'm not surprised to see that Gul'dan's coming to Heroes of the Storm. I'm eager to find out what abilities he has, because we actually haven't really ever seen Gul'dan in combat except in cutscenes, and even only rarely then.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

That right there is the new trailer for Breath of the Wild, the upcoming Zelda game that might wind up being a joint title between the Wii U and NX. And I think it looks amazing.

It looks like Breath of the Wild is going to see a serious reconceptualization of the Zelda series. We already knew that they were talking about making it more of an open-world game, without a strict progression of dungeons (and to be fair, there have been Zelda games in the past where you could do dungeons in different orders,) but from what they've announced, there's going to be more RPG elements in this one than what we've seen in the past.

For one thing, gear is going to have actual stats on it. So you'll get a bow at some point with an attack power of 3 and later on maybe find one with 5. They also said that weapons will have durability that degrades from use, and so you'll be taking the weapons of enemies you slay (actually, this one I'm not crazy about. I have to imagine that the Master Sword either never degrades or there will be a way to repair it.)

You'll also recover health by finding fruits and mushrooms out in the wild, which Link can cook.

The game looks absolutely gorgeous, and while the purist in me is nervous about these new elements being introduced to the series, fearing it might make the game feel like just another open-world RPG, I also think allowing the Zelda formula to change for the first time since Ocarina of Time is not a terrible idea.

Obviously I was going to get this game already, but I'm pretty damn excited about it now.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Orphan of Kos-icking My Ass

Well, I made it to the final boss of the DLC, who I believe is generally considered the hardest boss in the game (and given how higher-tuned the DLC has been, I'd imagine that I'm going to have an easier time than typical for the last three main-game bosses I have.)

I have only the Rakuyo to retrieve at this point - I had a decent shot at it using the Shaman Bone Blade to charm one of the shark giants, but it hadn't occurred to me that that would wear off eventually. Not sure if this gets broken if you do damage to the enemy (I'd guess so,) but I'll probably try again now that I've restocked on the item (need to check the Messenger Shop to see if one of my badges lets me buy it.)

Anyway, beyond that I think I might have every last item out of the DLC. I certainly have the Blood Rock, though still no idea of which weapon to use it on. I've gotten a ton of armor sets and unusual gems.

I recommend the DLC if you're on the fence about getting it. I'd say it's definitely harder than the main game. Partially that's just tuning - they're expecting you to go in with a heavily upgraded weapon and a lot of levels under your belt. But the fights also involve some very fast-moving enemies. I'd say that Living Failures is the only "easy boss." Laurence is mid-range, and Maria's arguably upper-mid-range. Ludwig and Orphan of Kos are definitely in contention for toughest boss in the game.

For the hell of it, here's a ranking of bosses by difficulty in the main game, from easiest to hardest. This is totally subjective and maybe skewed by flukes like my one-shot of the Shadows of Yharnam.

1. Witch of Hemwick:

If you know what you're doing, this fight could not be simpler. Just don't get in front of her and make sure to split your damage between the two. Just run from the stalkers if you have any up.

2. Amygdala:

There are scary parts of this fight, and it's not immediately obvious that its arms are the weak spots. Be sure to run away when the eyes come out and you get lasers.

3. Shadows of Yharnam:

This might be a lot higher on the list, but I figure if I one-shot it, I have to put it before any that I died to. Summoning an NPC helps immeasurably. Kill Katana guy first, then the caster who shoots multiple fireballs, and then the leftover guy.

4. Cleric Beast:

Appropriately easy for the first boss (sort of) of the game. Just stay behind him and if you're having trouble, use fire!

5. Celestial Emissary:

I honestly forgot about this guy. If you can figure out the trick and avoid the little guys, he goes down relatively fast.

6. Father Gascoigne:

Definitely a wake-up call boss, but if you get good at parries he's not too bad.

7. Blood Starved Beast:

A "no-really-wake-up" call boss, BSB is actually not too bad when you figure out how to dodge it and the threat of the poison is more psychological than real.

8. Rom, the Vacuous Spider:

This is a dance boss. I know there's an "ignore the spiders" method, but the best way it worked for me was to stay un-targeted so I could see what Rom was doing at all times and just take out the spiders until they were gone and then get some nice time to focus the boss.

9. Vicar Amelia:

A serious challenge, and much like Rom, an appropriately daunting gateway boss. I suspect I might have a significantly easier time on my second character, but Amelia is definitely punishing and tricky.

10. Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos:

Ok, I actually had a much easier time on this one, but that's because I'm leveled up far more than I think I'd be expected to, given how I've been doing the DLC. I'd expect this fight is more on the aneurysm-inducing side if you're lower-level, with a nasty charge and some unpredictable tentacles and apparently some magic attacks that I never saw?

11: Micolash, Host of the Nightmare:

The main difficulty is not getting frustrated here. Phases one, two, and three are not too difficult, but they take a long time, and it's phase four where he's most likely to kill you, meaning you'll have to go through all that labyrinthine chase over and over.

Not Yet Fought:

Mergo's Wet Nurse, Gehrman, and the Moon Presence.

I'd expect to place Laurence at 8.5, Maria at 9.5, Living Failures at 5.5, Ludwig at 11.5 and Orphan of Kos at like 15 or something.

Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos, Tuned for A Less-Geared Player

Having acquired a Cursed Kinhunter Blood Gem - which raises damage against the Kin by 26.something% but reduces damage done to Beasts by like 9%, I figured it was a good time to make another attempt on Ebrietas.

Boy, was I overpowered for that fight.

I didn't one-shot her (well, I had attempted her earlier, so obviously I didn't,) but I was definitely pouring out so much damage that she didn't stand much of a chance. I did enough damage to her body at one point that she dropped her head, allowing for a visceral attack.

But otherwise, the aforementioned gem, plus some rather powerful Bolt damage gems spelled doom for the daughter of the cosmos.

So now I have the Isz Chalice and I guess I can revive the Vileblood Queen (apparently I never picked up her bits after letting Alfred smoosh her, so I wasn't able to use the altar.)

I don't have the Rakuyo or the Gattling Gun (the latter I just need to backtrack for, the former I need to kill those freaking whale/shark/monster giants at the bottom of the well for, I think.) But I have an elevator shortcut that will take me, I believe, directly to Orphan of Kos, so I think I'm almost done with the DLC content.

The DLC stuff is definitely tuned to be very difficult, but the result seems to be that I may have made what remains of the main game a lot easier, thanks to the levels I've gained.

I do want to make sure I have more or less everything I can possibly get out of the game before starting a New Game +. I figure I should also research some weapons to upgrade - I love the Whirligig Saw and will probably continue using it as my main weapon, but it might be good to change it up a bit.

I found a second Blood Rock, but I'm holding off before I use it to upgrade a weapon until I figure what weapon I want to use next.

I'm pretty sure there's stuff I've missed in the Nightmare Frontier and I still have a bit left in the Nightmare of Mensis. I might comb through Yahar'gul some more (though I did go through the other day and found that things were dying quite quickly to the Old Hunters-buffed monster I've become.) I'll probably look up some checklist to make sure I've got everything. I also want to get everything out of the Messenger Shop too, even though I would assume the badges carry over when you start your new game.

That said, when I beat the game, I expect I'll take a break from it and go back to the Witcher III, where I had only just reached Skellige.

It's a little sad to see that I'm so close to finishing Bloodborne - it's that feeling you get when you're in the last season of a TV show or reading the last book in a long series. I know FromSoft is looking to do new IPs in the future, and while I totally understand wanting to put Dark Souls to rest after three entries, I'd love to see more Bloodborne.

Two things though:

Give us a freaking pause button when we're playing offline. Seriously, you can prevent us from switching out gear and items if you want, but this is just humane game design. Sometimes we get phone calls or other real-world distractions.

Give us 20 Blood Vials and 20 Quicksilver Bullets when we die. It's great that we can find more in the world, but it sucks when you're on attempt number four of a boss and suddenly have to take a break and massacre Hemwick again to stock up.

Lady Maria and the Shadow Over Innsmouth

Having beaten the Living Failures, I was already at Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower, but I went back for Laurence and of course needed to work for quite a bit to get her down.

Maria's tough, though it's very nice that there's essentially no runback to get to her - you just use the lantern you lit after beating the Living Failures and walk like twenty feet.

I found that I had the best success when I went with a transformed Whirligig Saw and went aggressive as I could. She has some very fast dashes and strikes that are so quick, the timing will be difficult to pull off. There's essentially three phases, though I managed to push through the final phase without letting her do much. Basically, phase one is pure physical. Phase two she'll get longer swords (harder to dodge) that spray highly damaging blood at you. Phase three, the blood ignites, and her attacks will leave a trail of fire.

So here's the interesting lore on Maria: When you beat her, the next time you talk to the Doll, she talks about feeling as if some weight has lifted from her. Given Maria's appearance (very tall blonde woman,) I strongly suspect that the Doll was made as a recreation of Maria, and that perhaps Maria's soul is partially attached or living within the Doll. Thus, by killing her in the Nightmare, the cursed afterlife for Hunters, we may have set her free.

Then again, there's also evidence that the Doll is really an Old One, so who knows?

I'm definitely getting a sense of what the Nightmare is, and much of that is coming from Innsmouth... I mean the Fishing Hamlet.

For those of you unfamiliar, The Shadow Over Innsmouth is a story by HP Lovecraft (who more or less created the Cosmic Horror genre - too bad he was super, super racist, even by 1920s standards,) where a man goes to a seaside town called Innsmouth (somewhere in New England. Lovecraft was from Rhode Island, and so most of his stories take place there or in Massachusetts, which is where I'm from!) Basically, the townsfolk worship a horrific underwater deity named Dagon and locals start to turn into fish-men around age 30. The man realizes at the end of the story that some of his family traces its roots back to Innsmouth, and that he's starting to get to that age...

Anyway, it seems that the people of the Fishing Hamlet worshipped Kos (or some say Kosm,) and thus were transformed into weird fish-people. The Hunters coming out of Byrgenwerth came by and either killed Kos or somehow massacred the village. Indeed, it might be one specific Hunter named Brador, who is locked in a cell back near where we fought Ludwig. Brador invades periodically when you get farther into the Fishing Hamlet. You can kill him in his cell to stop doing this, but you have to fight him at each of his invasion points to get his full armor set.

So Brador or maybe multiple Hunters did something horrible (at least in the eyes of the villagers,) possibly killing Kos, and the people of the Hamlet set a curse on the Hunters, presumably damning them to this Hunter's Nightmare afterlife.

One thing I wonder about is the connection to Byrgenwerth. The Beast Hunt didn't start until the Church had started spreading the Blood around, but this seems to imply that Byrgenwerth had its own order of Hunters. We know that Ludwig was among the first Church Hunters, but Gehrman is clearly the first capital-H Hunter - it says so right in his health bar. So presumably Gehrman was working for Byrgenwerth.

Perhaps the werewolf-like Curse of the Beast was not the first thing that the Hunters were created to deal with. Maybe the Hunters were originally dispatched to deal with any kind of eldritch situation, and in the case of the Fishing Hamlet, they decided to slay what they saw as a terrible beast (and for all we know, Kos might have been doing super-horrific things.)

One thing that's intriguing is that when you get to the first Fishing Hamlet lantern (making three lanterns in a row that have no enemies between them,) there's a human corpse hanging upside-down with no head. Its arms hang in such a way that it makes the Hunter rune - the same thing on your Bold Hunters Marks, the symbol for your Blood Echoes, and the Hunter of Hunters Oath Rune.

Anyway, tons of interesting lore here.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Laurence the First Vicar and a New Character!

Definitely not a one-shot boss, Laurence, the First Vicar, is fairly challenging - not Ludwig levels, mind you, but definitely not easy. This might be the only boss in which I've literally run out of Blood Vials fighting him, making that victory all the more pulse-pounding.

You fight Laurence by acquiring his human skull (it's a Nightmare, go with the logic) in the hidden area below the Surgery Altar elevator. You then just return to the nightmare version of the Grand Cathedral and now he'll wake up and fight you.

Phase one is literally a fire-buffed version of the Cleric Beast (trust me,) where his swipes and such are granted some additional splash damage thanks to his fiery nature. He gets a few new attacks around 70% - I recommend being conservative and dodging backward to heal when you need to.

At 40 or 30%, the bottom half of his body falls away and he begins to leak lava everywhere - this stuff does not persist forever, but you'll want to watch your step regardless. He will frequently do a very nasty crawl/slash attack that goes on for quite a while. I found that dodging to his right (your left) tended to allow you to get in some hits without getting hit (too hard at least,) but you want to be both careful and also aggressive, as he'll keep doing this, moving pretty fast.

He rewards yet another Oath rune, this one turning you into a beast, which I assume works well with Beast Blood Pellets and weapons/items that work with Beasthood.

Having downed another boss (I think I have only Maria and the Orphan of Kos left in the DLC, and then Ebrietas, Mergo's Wet Nurse, Gehrman, and the Moon Presence in the main game,) I decided it was time to start my new character.

Alice Canwick is a Professional, and she'll be focusing on Skill (and possibly Bloodtinge - since Rackham is Strength and a bit of Arcane.)

Obviously, playing for a few weeks and being a bit more familiar with the area made my trip through Central Yharnam way easier this time. The only time I died was because I didn't realize the Yharnamite at the beginning could climb the ladder to the Central Yharnam lamp, so I was talking with Gilbert when all of a sudden I started getting slashed to death.

One very interesting thing I realized is that you can find at least two Madman's Knowledge before fighting the Cleric Beast or Gascoigne, so I was able to return to the Dream and level up. I also managed to upgrade the Threaded Cane twice before duking it out with the Cleric Beast.

So far I'm wearing the Hunter set (I see the Yharnam Hunter set is available in the Messenger shop - I had forgotten that was where I got it) and I've got the Hunter's Pistol, a +2 Threaded Cane, a Saw Spear and a Torch.

The Cleric Beast went down quite easily - there was maybe one moment where my health dropped to dangerous levels - and I've talked to Eileen as well as Gascoigne's daughter. Man, I wonder if there's any way for her not to die. Probably not.

At some point I do think I should make a true Arcane-focused character as well. I guess lots of Elemental gems? Honestly I'm not entirely sure how Arcane builds work. Also there's Bloodtinge, but I think that basically just works with the Chikage.

Anyway, I think I'll probably still focus on getting everything down on Rackham. I want to get every item I can and upgrade as many weapons as possible before starting New Game+. Lady Maria is definitely a challenge, but I have gotten her below 50%, so I think this is probably going to be more Laurence-level challenge than Ludwig.

The Living Failures - Bosses of the Creepy Hospital

Given that it's a staple of both gothic and cosmic horror stories, it's kind of shocking that Bloodborne's main game didn't have a creepy hospital. Well, guess what! The Old Hunters certainly does! The Research Laboratory is a very large area with a massive central staircase-hub where patients who typically have had their heads transformed into large, shapeless masses roam the balconies and rooms.

Definitely not as tough as the areas before Ludwig, this area is much more about navigation than combat, as you'll need to figure out which stairs to climb and which ledges to drop off of to get around, not to mention that it all shifts a bit when you raise the entire stair-structure.

There's a quest in here that I will have to do a bit more work on involving the collection of Brain Fluid (yep, gross.)

The boss of the area is, collectively, the Living Failures.

This is a group of misshapen, headless beings who stand around what looks like an enormous collection of sunflowers. To start with, you'll only have one. Each individual Failure isn't actually that tough - one its own it would feel pretty reasonable for a "trash mob," to borrow terminology from WoW.

I believe that these guys are divided between melee Failures, who hit relatively hard but can be dodged without much trouble, and caster Failures, who will shoot arcane stuff at you.

Over the course of the fight, the number of Failures up climbs to 5. If you kill one, another will rise until their entire shared health pool is exhausted. I believe that you'll effectively do double damage if you hit two of them with a melee attack because of this, but you'll probably want to keep on the move and avoid letting them hit you.

They have one big attack you need to look out for, where they all raise their hands and begin to channel a kind of meteor storm. But at least in my experience, all the meteors were coming from one direction and could be outrun, out-rolled, or you could just hide behind the giant flower.

I didn't one-shot this boss, but it only took me three tries, which in a game like Bloodborne feels pretty close (after like 20 attempts on Ludwig.)

I've also got two more bosses to fight pretty much immediately. First, I got Laurence's skull from the Surgery Altar (which serves as an elevator between Ludwig's area and the hospital, and has some of your typical Soulsborne elevator shenanigans going on - hidden compartments and all.) Bringing this into the cathedral where the previously inactive flaming Cleric Beast, who is in fact Laurence, founder of the Healing Church (or at least a Nightmare recollection of him,) was reclining at his altar will activate the boss. I've only made two attempts on this guy, but he's got a similar moveset to the Cleric Beast but these attacks also do area-effect fire damage.

I think Laurence is "optional," but obviously I want to down every boss, and technically the whole Old Hunters DLC is "optional" if your only goal is to beat the main game. Haven't looked up what he drops.

Of course, having beaten the Living Failures, I'm also immediately at the subsequent boss, Lady Maria, who guards the Astral Clocktower. I've made a couple attempts on her as well. She's basically a really strong Hunter who uses the Old Hunter Bone to flash-step around a lot and has some nasty charges and combos. At 50% she impales herself with her own swords, giving them much farther reach and some ranged attacks. She can be shot and staggered, but the timing is tricky.

Anyway, I've got bosses to work on and I definitely have a few items to go back for, like the Brain Fluid quest and the Gattling Gun. I've gotten a lot of the hidden items, though, like the Church Cannon and the Church Pick.

I'm loving the Whirligig Saw, but I'm also wondering if my next character should be more Skill-based (probably sensible) or more Arcane (partially just to wield the Holy Moonlight Sword and maybe play around a lot with elemental gems.) The Whirligig is fantastic and totally versatile, but as a result, all the other weapons I'm getting are sort of superfluous.

Friday, June 10, 2016

PS4.5 aka Neo and The New Console "Generations"

Well, figures that I'd get a PS4 about a month before the announcement of a new Sony system. However, this new "generation" isn't exactly that. It looks like Sony and Microsoft will be releasing new, more powerful versions of their current consoles, but as far as I understand it, this won't create a totally new game library. The new systems will be more powerful, but - and this is an assumption on my part - they probably won't be fundamentally different in such a way to prevent compatibility with the generation's earlier games.

Obviously, it's way too early to see a new console generation. The Xbox One/PS4 generation was launched in fall of 2013 - less than three years ago. Compare that with the previous generation of consoles, which launched in 2005 and continued to be relevant for eight years.

I made a fairly dire and frustrated post when I learned about the Nintendo NX (possibly just a codename,) given how I didn't feel like the Wii U got a chance to thrive. But you could imagine a new model for video game consoles that allow them to release new hardware without requiring everyone to keep up.

Obviously, in the PC world, new computers come out every year. Operating systems get updates, but software either simply remains compatible or gets a little patch to allow the program to keep running.

I've been playing World of Warcraft just under ten years now, and my current 2014 Mac Mini is a very different piece of hardware than my 2004-era Macbook.

So what I wonder is if we might see consoles start to go in a similar direction - you might get a PS4 Neo next year and play Bloodborne and Fallout 4 on it, and then maybe in three or four years they'll release the PS5, but it'll still be able to play those old games. Eventually, your old console might not be able to handle the newest games, and perhaps some older, less popular games will not get updated, but the general rule will be backwards compatibility.

I think E3 officially starts tomorrow, and we'll almost certainly get more details on the "new" console.

Legion Details

A big round of interviews went about the other day, and we've got more specifics about the upcoming expansion.

Some of this stuff is self-contradictory, but I think it's just a matter of different people being willing to announce different things.

The most important/exciting news is that they are both modeling the patch cycle of Legion on Mists of Pandaria's structure - having lots of patches with story development and a real progression of the expansion. As part of that, they've also said that there will be multiple post-launch raid tiers. I think we can all agree that Warlords' two-tier expansion was a failure - we're not even getting the following expansion any quicker than we would have typically.

They've also said that there will be a new dungeon in patch 7.1, but because of the new Mythic + system, this dungeon might not inherently have better gear drop out of it, as any dungeon can now have a difficulty mode where there will be relevant drops.

Other details: They're going to do a stat squish in the subsequent expansion. I know that on the Beta people have millions of health, which is pretty crazy. Ultimately, even with the stat squish, we're inevitably going to hit these big numbers now that the level cap is almost twice as much as it was originally.

Apparently the pre-patch is going to go through a couple weeks before the Legion invasion and Demon Hunters are unlocked, but that stuff will still be happening before the expansion (really hope they release that pre-patch soon!)

There's a lot more details. MMO-Champion, as usual, has a lot of summaries.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ludwig the Accursed/Ludwig the Holy Blade

So I finally beat the ugliest boss in Bloodborne. Ironically, while he's the ugliest, he's also one of the most sympathetic - he's the first of the church hunters (and given that Gehrman is The First Hunter, I guess that means the Hunters were originally independent of the church?) and thus has been really horribly mutated by the Curse of the Beast, resembling a mix of human, horse, and buer (who I think inspired the "Roving Mauler," which has been on a number of lists of "dumbest D&D monsters.") Ludwig is somewhat famous in-game, given the popular Ludwig's Holy Blade and mentions in a lot of item lore.

The fight itself is very challenging, and to be perfectly honest, I did grind some to get my Strength and Vitality a little higher to beat this guy. He's kind of two bosses back to back, even with different names (though the same health bar.)

Ludwig the Accursed is when his mind is in total beast mode. He attacks viciously and fast, and while you can't exactly get in close all the time, you can cripple his legs to slow him down and if you do enough damage to his head, you can get a visceral on it. A lot of his moves are tough to dodge, and he'll move both forward and backward with some attacks. The absolute worst is that he'll sometimes jump into the air and land on you, doing absurd, often one-shotting damage. I learned to dodge this by simply rolling constantly in a line until he landed.

I got lucky sometimes by backing him into a corner and getting a few hits on his head. I don't know if it's my weapon or just the frequency of his attacks, but I seemed to be getting a lot of regain healing.

Oh, also, fire will deal extra damage to him, so I recommend getting some Fire Paper or, if you're going Arcane, definitely plugging a fire gem into your weapon.

Phase two starts when you get him to 50%. There's a maybe ten-second cutscene that will play every time. His Holy Moonlight Sword will drop out of its scabbard and he'll begin to regain his human mind.

Phase two is a completely different fight from phase one. He's now on his hind legs and wields the sword. This thing hits very hard, and he can often combo you to just wipe you out if you aren't very good at dodging.

His sword is magical, and there are a few really nasty abilities to watch out for. At range, he'll sometimes do a horizontal slash that sends a wave of energy toward you, but you can dodge this without too much trouble - dodging to the side worked for me, even if it looked like I should have still gotten hit. Sometimes he'll do a diagonal slash followed by another one which is sort of the opposite diagonal. You'll want to dodge one way and then the other to avoid these.

Occasionally, he'll get ready to plunge his sword into the ground. This signals an AoE that is relatively easy to dodge back from.

The absolute worst thing he does in this phase is that he will (if I recall correctly) raise his sword up and begin to cast a massive energy wave in front of him. If you're in this, even if you dodge the first blast of it, the subsequent ones will kill you. I honestly think I just got lucky that I was close enough to him on my last attempt when he did this that I could dodge around behind him and get a bunch of nasty hits in instead of, you know, dying.

Being in melee range doesn't mean you're safe either. Not only does he have his magical AoE, but his sword slashes hit really hard, require very precise timing to dodge, and will combo you if you get hit once.

Overall, while I found this boss very, very difficult and even frustrating at times, I still think that it's good and memorable. The cutscene in the middle of the fight maybe goes on too long for a fight you're probably going to be doing many times, but the music that swells in phase two is very epic.

Anyway, having beaten him (and already wearing the Executioner set with the Golden Areo,) I actually got to talk to his severed head. He asked me if the Church Hunters were still the noble spartans he had envisioned, and I lied to him, saying yes. I figure this guy has it hard enough being the severed head of the most disgusting monster in a game full of disgusting monsters without knowing that everything he fought for just led to insanity and evil.

For talking to him, I got his Holy Moonlight Sword, which appears to have very good Arcane scaling. I haven't attacked the head, just in case, but I'll look up what happens if you do. I also got a new rune, but I honestly don't remember what it was.

So that's 1/5 in the DLC and I think 10/14 in the main game.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Problem With Chalice Dungeons

So Ludwig's still beating me pretty hard. I've nearly gotten him down to 50%, and I think using Fire Paper will make that a good possibility soon - I've been farming echoes and buying it at the Messenger store, so it's not too bad getting a supply.

I've decided to go through some of the Chalice Dungeons. So far I've only done Pthumeru ones (I think I need to re-run the first one to get 2nd tier Ritual Blood so I can do an Ailing Loran, or maybe Hintertomb one.)

Unfortunately, I can see why these dungeons are not terribly popular. Having procedurally generated content is always a double-edge sword (and I realize that the ones I've been running are actually fixed, but made out of the pieces that the procedurally-made ones would have.) On one hand, you can create content where no matter how many playthroughs, you'll still have to do some exploration.

But what you lose is clever level design - something that the Soulsborne series is known for. There's very little story to the various Pthumeru dungeons I've been through, and I've even beaten the same bosses multiple times.

I'm hoping that starting other varieties of chalice dungeons will give me new environments, but I suspect that each type will get pretty dull.

Still, I get that it's a kind of experiment, and I wonder if playing online with a friend would make the repetitive environments less of an issue, as you could instead just enjoy slaying your way through them with a friend.

Returning to Ludwig, I mostly like him as a boss, even though I haven't beaten him. There's one attack that doesn't feel fair, when he jumps up and then lands a couple seconds later, basically one-shotting you if he lands on you. But everything else, even his charge that does massive damage and gives you a really brief telegraph, feels pretty fair.

Of course, I'm given to understand that his phase two is a totally different fight (and I'm really hoping it starts at 50% and isn't like he heals back up to full after you go through his whole health bar.)

I think once I get through my first game I'll go back to the Witcher III, and I've only done a small bit of GTA V.

So I'm pretty covered on vidja games. I think I'll have plenty to tide me over until Legion launches at the end of August.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Whirligig, Whirligig! Also, Ludwig's Kicking My Everything

Well, I've got my Whirligig Saw, and I'm just two blood chunks from getting it to +9, not to mention that I've gotten the Blood Rock from the Nightmare of Mensis, so it can go to +10 pretty soon.

I dunked the Brain of Mensis and made contact, then slew it for its item. Now that I'm very near the end of the main game, I've decided to start pushing into the Hunter's Nightmare. I've hit its first boss, Ludwig the Accursed, who so far is difficult, but doesn't seem insurmountable (I know he has a phase two that is very different though.) One of the biggest tricks is that getting behind him is no safe option, because of his horse-like back legs that will kick you if you're directly behind him.

Ludwig also wins the award for grossest boss, and that's including the Brain of Mensis (who isn't strictly a boss) and The One Reborn. Anyway, I expect to be working on this boss for a while, but there's an NPC I can summon to help (and thus get rid of some of my Insight, which might make facing the Winter Lanterns in Nightmare of Mensis less of a pain.)

While the Logarius Wheel looks really cool, I think I preferred the moveset of the Kirkhammer, which is why the Whirligig Saw is feeling pretty good. It's not quite the same - the Kirkhammer has its stabs - but I like that there's a fast option for the hammer.

I suspect that what I need to do to get the other Chalice materials is simply run more Chalice Dungeons or farm the one I've opened up. I'm given to understand that more Bloodstone Rocks can be found in those, albeit probably not for a while.

I figure I'd like to upgrade my Whirligig Saw to +10 first, then possibly go for the Kirkhammer, then the Logarius Wheel - I know that doing a third weapon will require me to go into the Chalice Dungeons or start a new playthrough. Anyway, I want to be buffed up crazy when I start a new game plus.

Plus, I really need to get a better triangular gem for my Whirligig, and I think the Chalice Dungeons seem to be a good source for those.

Micolash Cage Down

Well, I finally got Micolash down. Honestly, he might be my least favorite boss so far. I don't mind the puzzle-like nature of the chase through his library - in fact, that's probably the cleverest part of the fight. But the two phases in which you actually fight him are flawed in different ways. In the first (essentially phase two if one and three are the chase parts) he just stands there and won't even do anything unless you get close, at which point he'll only do Augur of Ebrietas. So you bait it out, side-step him, and smash him.

Phase four, though, felt kind of cheap. His attacks feel random, and A Call Beyond tends to stun you long enough that he'll cast another Call Beyond. It may have something to do with distance - I was able to stay close and get his melee attacks instead, which aren't too hard-hitting - but the feeling when I got the boss down was more relief than triumph.

Still, I've got my cool head cage thing, and I've got only four bosses left in the main game.

Now that I have a +9 weapon and 30s in both Strength and Vitality, I think it's time to head into the Hunter's Nightmare. I don't want to set the gamestate to "endgame" just yet, so I'm holding off on Mergo's Wetnurse.

Despite not being crazy about Micolash, I have really enjoyed the game so far. It feels like Dark Souls stripped down to something a bit more manageable, particularly with the simpler weapon upgrade path (maybe it was a mistake to make the Black Knight's Sword my main weapon in Dark Souls, but it feels like I've gone far enough that it would be hard to swap.)

Monday, June 6, 2016

The One Reborn Re-Deadified, but Micolash Evades Me

Returning to Yahar'gul and figuring out the quickest shortcut back to the boss, I downed The One Reborn after a couple of attempts tonight. Obviously you've got to take care of the bell-ringers before you face the boss itself - an Empty Phantasm Shell-buffed Kirkhammer and a stab to the gut took care of each with no problem. The boss itself, which so far is the grossest I've encountered (I have not done Ludwig yet,) took a couple of attempts to figure out. Three or four smashes to the... foot thing? with the Logarius Wheel was enough to stun him, and then I slid out (actually, you sort of have to figure out how to do this, as it mostly feels as if you're stuck) and bashed him on the head a few times.

Getting away from any area-attacks including his rain of corpses, I'd duck under the cloisters and skirt around him, attacking that foot-thing from the side to repeat the process. Two or three of these cycles was enough to take him down.

So then I went into the Lecture Hall floor 2, met up with Patches the Spider before proceeding on to the Nightmare of Mensis.

The Nightmare is appropriately nightmarish. The beast-like monsters, similar to the ones in the Nightmare Frontier, spawn some hard-to-hit and hard-hitting little worms (similar to some found in Cainhurst... reminds me, I have some treasure to collect there.) Then there's the frenzy you get just from looking at the bridge (though thankfully, perhaps because I only have 15 Insight at the moment, it wasn't enough to cause me any real trouble.)

Anyway, I soon found out that my best bet was to run the hell through that area, dodging beasts and boulder-throwing giants. I would have run past a room with some massive spiders, but the next contains a rather tough Church Hunter who demands a lack of distraction.

Thankfully, I was able to unlock a shortcut that takes you right to a lantern, from which you have a clear shot to Micolash, Host of the Nightmare.

What a weird fight. What a weird and infuriating fight.

I haven't yet gotten him down, though I did have one of those painfully-close attempts where I think a single additional strike would have defeated him. You can kind of describe the fight as having four phases. Phase one, you have a rather small area to chase him around, though there might be a set path to force him into phase two. You need to chase him into a dead-end room to get him to stand and fight you.

Inside, there are two puppets that I think either don't respawn or at least take a long time to do so. During this phase he literally just does Augur of Ebrietas, so the best thing I've found is to try to bait it out and sidestep, then punish him with a few smacks before backing away.

Once he hits 50%, he disappears, and a larger part of his boss arena opens up. This one is far more labyrinthine, and I came across a ton of different treasures just trying to find him. Eventually, you can get him to hop down from a balcony, and if you circle around to the opposite side of the room from which you enter, you can force him into a room that will lock.

Going upstairs after this, you can find another room with a smaller balcony-overlook, and hop down to fight him again. This time, however, he has melee attacks and, most annoyingly, A Call Beyond, which hits very hard, is nearly impossible to dodge, and stuns you long enough to keep you from stopping his next cast.

I found that hitting him before he could cast it tended to be a good way to survive, but between Augur of Ebrietas forcing you to keep your distance and his melee attacks, it's not terribly easy to do. I'm hoping there's an angle where you can always get a falling attack, but for now I'm going to be equipping the full Choir set, as it appears to have the highest Arcane defense among my gear.

I'm getting pretty close to the end of the main game. I think I'm going to stop after Micolash and save Mergo's Wet Nurse until I've taken down Ebrietas and the Old Hunters content. I also still need to (well, should) do more Chalice dungeons, though I'm not entirely sure where to get the appropriate Ritual Blood to do so. I also need to collect items including Umbilical Cord Thirds from fake Iosefka and Arianna, though I'll need to check and see if those are available yet.

But for now, I need to farm Blood Vials. Man, I had like 70 of them.

A Celestial Emissary and then NOPE

I really should have been able to add the Celestial Emissary to the ranks of Witch of Hemwick, Shadows of Yharnam, and Amygdala as my one-shot bosses, but I got greedy on my first attempt, wailing on the boss without checking my six (or three or nine) and getting swarmed by the other guys. The second go, though, I was a little more careful and made quick work of him, only getting one scary moment when he hit me twice with his melee attacks once he enlarged.

From there, I went into the top of the Cathedral, only to discover that I couldn't go back unless I killed Ebrietas and got her lamp or just, you know, died. Thankfully, the daughter of the cosmos was well-equipped to grant me the latter scenario. I think I'll come back here after the Nightmare of Mensis.

So I went off to Yahar'gul and dashed my way to The One Reborn. I suspect that there's a lot in Yahar'gul that I've missed, and I'll have to make another pass at it eventually.

I made one attempt on the One Reborn, but I barely got up to the stairs alive and managed to kill one bell-ringer (I hope - she fell off the edge after I hit her) and then the boss melee'd me a couple times up on the balcony to take me out.

I hope I can figure out a quicker corpse run, maybe using the elevator near the first lamp instead of going from the chapel. Anyway, I'm excited to go to the Nightmare of Mensis, primarily because I want that big skull cage helmet! (Also, you know, to progress through the game.)

I've got to say, Upper Cathedral Ward and Yahar'gul are feeling tough enough that I might actually go back and try progressing through the Hunter's Nightmare a bit more. I'm close to getting my strength and vitality to 30. What I'd really like is to see more Bloodstone Chunks drop, which I expect will start happening more in the Nightmare of Mensis. Luckily, with the Cosmic Eye Watcher Badge I can now purchase Twin Bloodstone Shards, which, while expensive, are at least now farmable. At some point I might go back and basically upgrade every weapon I might consider using to +6 now that it's just a matter of farming. The Hemwick route is certainly lagging behind on leveling me up, but it's still about 15000 echoes per run (with runes that can improve that) and I don't think the prices at the messenger shop are going to go up anymore (at least until New Game+.)

I'm also thinking about what my next character should be. Given that I've got a decent amount of Arcane on this guy, I don't know if a pure Arcane build would be the next thing (though I did just pick up A Call Beyond, which requires a whopping 40 Arcane to use.) I think I'll probably do a Skill-based character, given that my current one basically has the bare minimum skill to use his various weapons.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

First a Martyr, then a God

Apparently a good night's sleep and some strategizing does wonders for a boss attempt. Today I was able to go into Castle Cainhurst and take out Logarius in a single bout.

The key, I think, was being aggressive in phase one. If you can get into melee range and hit him with a couple attacks you'll prevent him from casting some of his spells. It's still not safe - he has some moves that you can't prevent - but it'll push him to the next phase a lot sooner.

The absolute key to making the next phase easier is interrupting him when he starts casting his buff. Luckily he'll be in melee range when he starts, as your damage is what gets him to start casting, and then you just have to hope that he doesn't have his back against a wall. A single charged R2 will break him out of it and you can get off a visceral attack to boot. Then, you can just parry his melee attacks (some are really fast, so you might need to back off and heal occasionally) and dodge when he flies up into the air.

With Logarius down, I finished (maybe I have one more step - I left him in Cainhurst) Alfred's questline and then grinded a bit in Hemwick to get the echoes required for the Gold Areo and the Logarius Wheel (well, I spent my boss echoes on the latter.)

The Wheel takes some getting used to after primarily using the Kirkhammer's rather fast sword. But I'm finding that I can slam the wheel pretty darn hard and even take out multiple enemies.

Next I headed for the Nightmare Frontier. I got thrown off a cliff by Patches (who I seemed to miss when playing Dark Souls) and eventually got through the appropriately nightmarish landscape to face down Amygdala.

And I one-shot him. That's three one-shot bosses on the first playthrough!

Amygdala (pronounced at least by Patches with an emphasis on "Dal" instead of "Myg," as you'd use when talking about the part of the brain) wasn't too hard, mainly because his attacks were relatively easy to predict and dodge. I had maybe one really scary moment when I got stunlocked by his cosmic-fist attack, but basically, testing out my new Logarius Wheel on his arms and head (his legs take like no damage) with a visceral attack in there as well, I was glad to be able to put the Frontier behind me (though there were some treasures I missed.)

So now I think what's left to me is Yahar'gul and the Hunter's Nightmare. I know I can get the key to Upper Cathedral Ward early in the former, and might shoot on over there when I can. I think I'm probably going to save the Hunter's Nightmare for last, just before Gerhman and the Moon Presence (yes, I fully intend to get the "best" ending.)

And I figure I'll get some Chalice Dungeons in there at some point.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Spider, and the Veil, are Gone, but Logarius Refuses to be Martyred

I had one of those moments where you just had to step away and take a break from the game. Logarius, the boss of Forsaken Castle Cainhurst, is one of those bosses that is easy to understand, but difficult to execute on. The main frustration for me was getting him to a point where I could actually get in melee range. I think I've figured that part out - just being super-aggressive in phase two, making use of the interruption your melee attacks inflict on a lot of his spells and just getting the hell out of there when he summons a big red skull of doom.

I actually got him down to about 10% in one run, which was not coincidentally the attempt when I managed to interrupt his buff that he casts on himself in phase 2. Logarius has been going to walls a lot lately, making it impossible for me to get behind him to the narrow enough degree that my charged R2 will stun him. Anyway, maybe tomorrow I'll come at it feeling fresh and ready. For now, though, I'll have to farm some blood vials. My Hemwick route still provides a decent number of echoes, but I'm getting to a point in leveling where it's not really providing enough to bump up anymore. Luckily, though, I can wail on the executioners, no interrupt needed, and take them down in three hits, so it goes faster and more reliably (and saves me bullets, which I also need to farm.)

But lest the day seem bereft of progress, I've beaten Rom the Vacuous Spider. The real key that I discovered was simply not locking on to the little spiders and making sure I could always see what Rom was doing. Mostly I would draw the spiders out so that the upward-comets and arcane aoe were never a threat, and I'd just look out for when she started perking up to make sure that I could run from the standard comets.

Additionally, i used some bolt paper, which increased my damage significantly. Obviously, I saved this for once the spiders were cleared so that I could ensure that I was using as much of its duration as possible on the boss itself.

So in addition to the DLC area (which I'm going to hold off on for a bit) I've got Yahar'gul (the extra-creepy portion) as well as Nightmare Frontier. I suspect that a little longer working on Logarius will see him down, and then I'll probably get and upgrade the Logarius Wheel. I figure by the time I have to choose which weapon goes to +10 I'll have the Whirligig Saw and plenty of chunks to get a couple of +9s.

The Old Hunters.... Are Really Freaking Strong

So I decided what the hey and got The Old Hunters, the DLC for Bloodborne. I went into the Hunter's Nightmare and... holy crap do these guys hit hard!

I realize that this is a piece of content intended for players who are probably already on a New Game+ or are seasoned veterans of the game. I expect that I'll come back here when I'm really at the endgame, at least after getting Rom down. Partially, I want to get the Whirligig Saw and upgrade it to +7 for use on Rom and Martyr Logarius (oh yeah, I'm at Martyr Logarius in Cainhurst Castle.)

But given how spine-shatteringly difficult the Hunter's Nightmare is at this point, I suspect I might be better served playing through a bit of the main game and ensuring that I have a better weapon and a few more levels on me (with that lovely free physical defense that comes with every level no matter which stat you choose.)

I think I actually have the Chunks to get my Kirkhammer to +7, and it's probably silly to hoard them because I imagine that they'll start coming with greater frequency once I get past Rom and start working on places like the Nightmare Frontier and other late-game sections.

I think once I'm actually level/gear-appropriate to the Hunters' Nightmare it should be pretty enjoyable. Through brute force parrying and chugging blood vials I've managed to unlock the first shortcut and even get a couple pieces of gear (Beast Cutter, Boom Hammer, a bunch of the Old Hunter set.) There's a guy who looks like a beast but is actually a player-like NPC using beast-themed items and I think if I can beat him without too much trauma I'll consider myself ready to continue through the DLC area.

I certainly don't expect to get past the Nightmare's first boss Ludwig until I'm quite buffed up (I'm given to understand that he's the hardest boss in the game) but I figured I might be able to grab some of the stuff from earlier parts of the area.

Still, if there's any moral to these From Soft games it's that there's always technically a way to succeed. Still, I'll happily get a little boost from higher stats if it means making it a bit easier.

Thankfully, I have a pretty good farming path laid out - I basically run Hemwick Charnel Lane, using the gate shortcut. Killing all the witches, the brick troll, the insight-induced stalker, and the three executioners on the way to the Witch's Abode lamp nets you a pretty solid number of blood vials and something like 15000 echoes, which at this point is still enough to level me up (or at least close to it.)

When I'm low on vials or bullets, one of these runs can net you about thirty-some-odd per run (if you spend your echoes at the item shop in the Dream,) so it's a neat little spot. Especially with the Kirkhammer's R2 stab, the witches go down very easily. The brick troll is of course very easy to parry and the executioners are not as easy, but still not bad, and with all the echoes I get, it's not hard to restock on bullets.

But yeah, no new boss down today. But I think I'll just blow my chunks (that sounds... exactly like vomiting) on the Kirkhammer in the faith that there will be more once I get past Rom. For the hell of it, I might also upgrade the Boom Hammer or Beast Cutter to see what they're like.