Sunday, December 2, 2007

BMP Grand Prix: Turai and the Battle of Jahai

Now for Turai. Or, as he's better known, the Ghostly Hero. This mission reaches back into the past to when he took on my old buddy Palawa Joko and his undead hordes.

Turai gets a sword and shield so, yes, it's a sword Warrior's bar. And, as expected, he gets a few unique skills to play around with as well. He's a D-Slash warrior with For Great Justice so, again, at least the devs have passed build making 101. He also gets Endure Pain and Healsig which means the devs have yet to take buildmaking 201, I guess. And he also has Distracting Blow. I used to love Distracting Blow. I still do, it's like an old friend I've outgrown. He also has Whirlwind Attack, one of the PvE only skills. As well as a Turai only skills, For Elona! and the monster skill Giant Stomp. Well, not really the monster skill since it works slightly different but it's nothing fantastically new, either. I am well acquainted with that one from long hours of farming Riverside and look forward to using it to good effect.

Giant Stomp. Skill. 5en, 3/4cast, 30recharge. Knocks down foes in earshot and deals 100 damage.
For Elona!. Shout. 4adren, 4recharge. Shout. Allies within earshot gain +25 armor and attack 33% faster for 10 seconds.

Both are solid and I have no real complaints about the bar. Like to see a run buff of some sort but as I imagine this is a zombie stomping mission that would make Romero proud, I don't think I'm gong to have to run down many foes.

For stats it looks like Turai has only 11 in his primary attribute, Strength, and 14 in both Tactics and Swordsmanship. He's also a tower of power with 700 hit points. I wouldn't disbelieve that he's also got some boosted armor as well. Only 25 en and a Warrior's regen, though, but it shouldn't matter too much.

Turai looks just like he does in the HA. Just not so...ghostly. Armor is nice and bronze looking and, yes, his sword is massive. Really, really massive and phallic.

He starts off on a hill with 9 lv20 allies. Three Elite Kournan Troopers who are Warriors. A Paragon, two Rangers, and three Elementalists (One's a water snarer which is nice, the others are lightning zappers. I'd have liked some Fire for the AoE but, hey, what can you do?). They overlook a frozen tableau of soldiers readied for battle. There are hundreds of them and that's, perhaps, why the game doesn't actuall render them as individual characters, instead keeping them as background pieces.

Oh, yeah, baby! I feel like Dicky V on Tobacco Road here. First encounter is a bunch of low level undead soldiers who rush the party. Giant Stomp works beautifully. Caught them all. Never seen so many 100s flash across the screen at once in my life nor so many helpless foes waiting for me to deliver the coup de grace, either.

As we round a bend there's a scripted scene, complete with trumpet sounds, where my characters spout off about the army on the move and then a ton of green triangles start herding across the screen. It's a nice touch. Makes it seem like those soldiers in the opening scene have come to life and are charging at the undead horde. They haven't, really, it's just that old trick of spawning them right out of sight, marching them across the screen and getting rid of them once they cross the horizon that makes a few animated characters look like thousands. I've taken film classes, game, I'm wise to your tricks.

I'm finding that I don't have much use for Distracting Blow - although I'm probably going to regret saying that - for its intended purpose. Instead, I'm using it for the Prot-Strike effect of increasing my swing rate. My Joyfulness is through the roof but it lets me get to the D-Slash/Whirlwind spam just a little sooner.

The encounters are toughening up, plenty of lv24s sprinkled in. My bette noir now are the Awakened Defilers who'll summon minions from the corpses I'm strewing across the countryside.

Huh, I just realized his profession is listed as the same as the character I went in with, who happened to be my Monk. That's pretty weird.

Okay, so I like to rambo or, as the kids of yesterday were calling it, go balls deep. Just charge into the enemy lines, pausing to smack them with hardened steel as the spirit takes me, and then beat a hasty retreat once I catch enough heat. Struggling back to my own lins where my waiting healers can pump health back into me. It's, you know, establish Warrior tactics. But, here, I lack a run buff when bugging out so I head back to safety with all the grace of a druken water buffalo. More importantly, there is no safety to head back to since there are no Monks in the party. None. No one to heal me and I'm forced to rely on HealSig and Endure and kiting around to survive. Not saying I can't do it just that I'm not used to it and I'm rusty and it's going to get me in trouble sooner rathre than later.

We come across a Corsair camp. My aide asks me how I want to procede? How do I want to procede? I want to slaughter them, drive them before me, and hear the lamentations of the their womenfolk. I want none left alive to tell the stories of the carnage of this day! This. IS. ELONA!!!

Yes, a 300 joke. Yes, I went there. Yes, this isn't exactly a proud moment. I went through the whole Togo mission without making one Kill Bill reference but I couldn't resist here.

Hee. They have a boss named Admiral Jakman.

The next encounter is a tough one. The big new foe are awakened Clay Giants. Not only do they use Roaring Winds - the anti-shout ritual that's deviously clever to throw against me although it doesn't exactly hurt since I'm mostly adrenal - as Giants, they're immune to knockdown. Giant Stomp still causes damage and it acts as a nice AoE interrupt which helps when they try to Troll up but these buggers annoy me.

Okay, so there are two times when you want to use Endure. Remember that the health it gives you is temporary, it disappears when the skill is over and will come off the bottom, not the top of your health bar - that means if that extra health was all that was keeping you alive, you will find yourself with 1 hp and less if you don't act fast. You cannot rely on it for healing, it's purpose is to act as a buffer, like throwing on an extra bit of armor for a short while. The first is when you're charging into the enemy and you know you're going to take damage. You want it up so you can weather the storm of arrows and lightning bolts that ranged attackers are going to throw at you before you can get into clobbering time range. The second is as an emergency brake when your health is getting low. It buys you enough time to get out of danger, pop off a few HealSigs and get back to the fighting before it fades away. The second is really important to master when trying to survive this mission. Basically, you want to save Endure for when you're getting spiked out then use it to run away like a little baby in order to heal. It might seem cowardly, it might unman you in front of your soldiers but if you die the mission's over. But what you want to avoid, more than anything, is flashing it up in the middle of the fray and then Sigging off right where you were standing. That's a surefire recipe to attract focus fire that's going to wipe away both the bonus health and the healing you're summoning from the ether. You want to be behind a rock or your immortal allies (If they're killed, they'll come back, eventually. You? Not so much.) and in relative safety before you try and push your red bar back up.

That's me talking advice to myself by the way. Stupid Rex, have to keep in mind I don't have a healer monkey.

Our next encounter is a bunch of Paragons on a bridge backed by yet more Giants and a Defiler. Sigh, it's like this game knows what gives me problems.

Past that it's a huge group with our first Effigies and Acolytes. Those are the Elonian undead Eles and Monks, respectively. I can see some of Joko's minions lurking around the back, too, so I must be making progress here.

My mistake, those were Acolytes of Joko who turn out to be lv15 Necromancers. I had a bit of a tense moment with the Thought Leaches surrounding them, though. Hit with massive degen, my health was bottoming out. I threw up Endure and raced away from danger, then Phantom Pain expired and I got slammed with a Deep Wound. I couldn't sig up fast enough to keep my health from bottoming out as Endure was wearing off. Fortunately, neither Endure or degen can kill you by themselves. I was stuck at 1 health with four pips of degen and desperately hoping no enemy noticed to wand me off. But, whew, I survived.

Then, there's a choice between three bridges to cross. Each is guarded by a group of undead. It looks like if you take the rightmost one guarded by the largest group including some Clay Giants, you can skip some fights beyond them. The middle route is a medium sized encounter with some Paragons. And the leftmost one is the smallest group but, afterwards, you have to dispatch several more smaller groups to procede which might take a while. Since I'm not in a rush, I went left and mopped up the small groups one by one.

After that, we arrive at the fateful bridge where I and Palawa are to have our duel. I wave off my helpers because I'm an idiot, apparently, and stride forward to meet Mr. Joko alone.

It's a tough fight, he's a life stealing Necro, and there's no retreat and no way to run him around. I'm pretty much going Korean here and Sigging it as soon as I'm even breathed on. But I manage to land a clutch D-Blow on a Vamp Gaze and stomp off a Life Siphon which sets me up for one last adrenal spike to finish him off.

Cutscene time! We're totally redoing 300 now and... Holy crap! Clong to the head with the shield! I am totally flipping out now!

Er, not really. Kinda trying too hard to be cool to be cool for me. But definitely a nice use of the game's cinematic engine.

Hey, look it's up on YouTube now:

Reverse the order of D-Blow and Stomp and that's pretty much how my fight went, too. Although I got a little more degened at first as I was trying to spy out his bar and his casting patterns. Generally, when I have the choice, I like to cast skills with longer recharges (Like Giant Stomp's 30 as opposed to Distracting Blow's 10.) first because that means you're more likely to be able to use them again in the space of the battle. That's just me, though.

Whew. Finished just before I had another brief internet outage. But I got it done.

And I feel good about that because this is the most difficult mission. For me, at least. Comes down to playstyle. But it's not completely brainless. You can't win this mission while you're eating a sandwich, checking your e-mail, talking on the phone, and trying to catch up on your TiVo. You actually have to pay attention to what you're doing. Which is, you know, a good thing. It's the lack of a healer, more than anything else, that prevents this from being a C+Space button masher. And I like that. and I think that there should be a range of difficulty represented here. I don't mind that one mission is harder to get through than the rest (Even though the rewards are the same, apparently.) and I wouldn't mind if one one them even had the Master's tag. Because just like you need easy missions to keep the bottom half of the player skill level entertained you need some harder ones for the people out for a challenge. I'd put myself in the latter group. The absolute bottom percentile of it but, still, I'm someone who's seen and done it all when it comes to Guild Wars and I don't scare easily. You have to throw some pretty nasty stuff my way before I start getting worried about completion. This mission doesn't go that far, exactly, but it's closer to the direction I would want while still retaining the fun factor.

That said, this is a fun little mission. You roam around in an armored tower of hitpoints with massive AoE damage, slaughtering everyone in your path. Not at all hard if you're a little careful and remember to heal up every now and then. I still prefer Togo's but definitely well done.

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