Sunday, December 2, 2007

BMP Grand Prix: Togo and the Tengu Accords

Before we begin, again, I should point out that this series is being done "live bloggy" style. Which means that I did most of the stuff I'm talking about some time in the past and, while I was doing it, I jotted down some thoughts and comments in the form of a running journal (Or, to those who would denigrate my sanity, an ongoing conversation with myself. We are inclined to believe these people are more than likely right about us.). And, now, some time later, I've taken those notes and spun them into a post legible for those who haven't suffered the unique form of head trauma responsible for someone like me. I try to refrain from editing or altering my thoughts and, instead, to keep things as true to my opinions and insights at the time. It's like getting a peak inside the diary I write in my head, basically, and while it might not be one-hundred percent live, it's as close as I can get to replicating the emotion, the excitement, of exploring something new. But, y'all don't want to hear me, you just came here to read, so without further ado, it's...

Togo time!

Togo's story is about how he ended the Tengu Wars and something about an ambush or betrayal of something (If I were a generous armchair critic I'd say that the writers were engaged in what we, in the biz, call "foreshadowing". Alluding to Togo's eventual fate in Factions with events of his past. But, then, these are the same people who thought up the Undead Lich so....yeah, I don't know if I can give them that benefit of doubt.). I'm too busy looking at the pretty psuedo-Japanese (style?) in his book to care about the backstory, honestly. Mmmm....pretty.

I guess all the narration is going to ominously repeat the last line in the book, huh?

Anyhow, Togo's staff is a channeling one and his bar does not disappoint with Essence Strike, Spirit Burn, and Spirit Rift. Those are ronded out with Disenchantment, Mend Body and Soul, and Offering of Spirit. Like, Saul (I'm sensing a pattern here.), he also has a few outrageously awesome new skills.

Call to the Spirit Realm. Binding Ritual. 25en, 3cast, 30recharge. Create three level 7 Spirits. These Spirits deal 30 damage with atttacks. These Spirits die after 60 seconds.
Dragon Empire Rage. Enchantment Spell. 15en, 1cast, 30recharge. Unleash the rage of the Dragon Empire bloodline., dealing 300 damge to all nearby enemies. For 15 seconds you gain 200 maximum health.

The first, telephone, lets you summon your own private army of spirits (Called Anger, suffering, and Hate. Hee!). This is a good thing.

The second, although it doesn't say, requires rage. It's grayed out and I'm guessing it's like adrenaline, it'll build as you go along, but there's also a little bar down there for you as well.

In case you can't tell, Togo's a spirit spammer and one who's bar depends on getting a lot of spirits out and supercharging his skills. Not a lot of healing which worries me but what can you do?

For stats he's got Channeling of 14, Communing of 11, and Restoration of 10. If he has any Spawning Power, I can't tell at all and I'm not about to sit there and try to figure it out. 550 Health and 40 energy, plus the 10 from your staff again. Might as well be bolted on to you because you can't swap to something else and you don't have an item skills.

Togo looks like, well, himself. But younger and clad in drabber attire. It's brown instead of his normal resplendent purple. He's accompanied by a pair of royal guards with him and his mission is to track down some peace delegations, talk to them, talk to the lord of the huge mountainside estate I'm wandering into (Map says it's somewhere to the east of the Kurzick territory), get betrayed, kick ass, and find some bubble gum to chew.

Oh, hey, there's Talon acting all NPC like. Hey Talon! He even has an exclamation point over his head, how cute.

As expected the minister is evil and tries to pull a Braveheart on you. He sets all the guards in the room on you. They're lv10 Warriors and all I have to say about that is that Spirit Rift is fun.

Weird. Once your rage meter is filled up you can use the Dragon Empire Rage skill normally. You don't have to refill it by killing more stuff it just recharges for you. Well, that's more high damage AoE nuking for me, then.

For the fight, you get the named Tengu as allies. There's a Necro, a Ranger, and Talon on the tank.

After the guards are mopped up some Sins pop out of the woodwork. They're lv15 and a bit harder but die all the same.

After that, looks like it's time to hunt down the minister and kick his lying and no doubt bony arse up and down the mountains. I lose two of the Tengu since they're going to stay behind and have a tea party or whatever but I get to keep Talon with me. He will, what's the word? Ah, yes, tank while I Rift off the enemies near him. This should be fun.

The Sins are annoying. They like to head straight for my spirits and that can wreck my energy curve. I find that camping in the middle of them and letting loose a rage blast tends to work wonders, though.

Ahahahahahah! Big huge group of guards. All lv10. Caught them all with a Rage Blast. Oh man, I wish I had a screenshot of them as they all pitched over and planted their faces in the dirt in unison while a swarm of gigantic yellow numbers float to the heavens like their newly released souls.

Now this is totally Kung Fu movie time. I get a cutscene introducing my opponent, Yuri the Hand. And then it's time for a man to man fight. Well, okay, a man and tengu on man fight. So cool.

Despite what he says it's not a quick fight. Although not exactly a challenging one either. Basically, it's spam all the skills I can on him while pausing to throw a Mend Body at Talon every now and then. But he uses a bunch of Sin healing enchantments and my Disenchantment just can't get rid of them fast enough so it takes a while to spike him out.

Round two! It's Riyo Tamaguchi time! This is totally Enter the Dragon stuff. I'm loving it. I hope there's a giant black man with a vision problem up ahead.

He's surrounded by a bunch of "students". I figure I'm going to have to fight my way through them but, no, they back off and let me have my duel with him. Riyo's also a spirit spammer so this could get messy.

Talon doesn't seem very interested in fighting. Then I realize I've bodyblocked him in. Whoops. I've been spiked out. Ouch. Riyo'S tough. He uses several of th skills I have along with Boon of Creation and more for healing. I got a bit careless and stood in the middle of a forming Spirit Rift tring to peg him with my DDs while my health was low. Oh well, time to restart.

You know, the scenery here is really nicely done. On this second trip through I really have the time to appreciate it. Because it's not like the fights are challenging. Mostly because Dragon Rage Blast one hits almost everything.

Oh, and I fogot to mention the Skeletor mask on Yuri. Looks like something out of a Jim Balent book. I so want that for my own Sin. I managed to time my Disenchantment spirit much better with this rematch, though, so the fight went much faster.

On to Riyo again! My strategy this time? Stick and move, stick and move.

Also to use the time he spends speech making to walk up and lay my spirits. Then, once he uses his, Dragon Rage them out of existence so his skills don't meet their conditions. The mega nuke on his own health bar doesn't hurt, either - thing is affected by armor but it still hits him for 200+.

Surprisingly, the students don't turn hostile and try to gangpile on me for revenge. Maybe the are learning.

The guards in the next room where my next two opponents are waiting, though, do. Some well timed Dragon blasts and Spirit Rifts - basically, if you have trouble here just wait for them to ball up to swarm you and, then, take them out - take them out and it's time for the main event.

We're definitely playing by Kung Fu movie rules since the bosses play nice and take me on one at a time. Saddly, there's no NBA stars moonlighting as silver screen badasses. Instead, first up it's the big bad's lovely bodyguard. The comely Captain Sunpu. She's a hammer Warrior (With Forecful Blow?) who gets into a duel with Talon which lets me Rift and Rage in her face. Yeah, her strategy needs a little work.

After that blah blah blah, Wona, you killed my brother's peace accords prepare to die. The evil minister what did you wrong is an Earth ele, by the way. He's got huge range and some AoE spells making for a tough fight. You have Rage of the Dragon Empire making for not such a tough one. It's just hard to keep your spirits up if he gets them and since he uses Ebon Hawk/Stoning, you'll need to keep Talon clean with MB&S or else he's in for some hurt. While he's got a lot of armor, it's still not hard to chip him down.

After that, it's cutscene time wherein we learn why some Tengu are green and why others are red in Factions.

As for Discovery Mode, I've heard from various sources that the reward for finding the bonus objectives is something like a few plat each. So, in total, you can earn something like 8~10k (I'm getting conflicting reports.) gold. That's money in the bank and good to know but doesn't exactly encourage me to replay and figure this stuff out. Instead, it's more like I'll wait a week or two until the diligent explorative types comb through and figure out what they are, the best ways to accomplish them, and then post them up on some forum or wiki for me to grab and run with because I'm not interested in the mental challenge of figuring them out, not so enamored with the content as to want to replay it over and over again, and I don't really need the money at the moment, if at all. So, we'll just be skipping those entirely for the time being.

Before we move on, a one word review: Awesome.

This mission is pure awesome and I only wish it went on for 36 more chambers of rumble-esque boss fights. It's fun, it's fast paced, and it's got some great humorous touches while still taking itself seriously. Could be a little tougher, if you ask me. That Dragon Rage skill turns everything into a laugher. But it would also be hard to finish the mission, as constructed, without it.

I'm probably in the minority on this (I am, after all, a complete Johnny on these things.) but in a preplanned mission, like this, with a preset bar, I'd rather have been given something lousy like Nightmare Weapon and struggle to make it work, somehow, rather than be handed ungodly powers right out of the gate. It's nice to watch the big numbers and everything but it's not actually satisfying. A fleeting pleasure because it lacks a sense of challenge. And if I'm not pushed to some sort of limits then there's no adrenaline rush, there's no enjoyment, and it's just not fun. Hand me a bag full of crap and let me make the most out of it and, while I'd be groaning and making fun of the designer's skills at build construction (Like all players, I can always find something to complain about and cheerfully will.), I'd feel much better about myself when I actually did finish things off.

It's the difference between getting a T-Ball trophy and winning the Little League division championship. One's an accomplishment, the other is just an inevitability. And, yeah, yeah, general audience and bottom half versus top half of the playerbase and all that. I'm not saying the developers were wrong to make these fun little missions as easy as they reasonably could I'm just saying that, for me, that doesn't work as well as it could.

But, for this mission, the design, and the script make up for it. We'll find out if that holds up, so join us again next time when we slip into Turai's skin and see what a Warrior's life is like.

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