D3 Season 11 Starts Thursday!

Is anybody out there still excited about Diablo 3’s seasons? I mean I’m excited to really dig into a playthrough with a necromancer, and the new pet looks pretty great, but the season itself? Definitely lost a lot of its charm. It doesn’t help that I fully completed the season’s journey last time around, so there’s nothing much to aspire to. Many of my usual D3 buddies have stopped coming around for the season launch at all, although there’s still a few of us that still plan to team up on opening night.

Unlike previous seasons, S11 is starting on a Thursday. That’s bad news for trying to get to 70 or onto the leaderboards right away, but I’m not sure how much of a hurry I’ll be in this season anyway. I’ll be happy to get as far as I can in the few free hours I have, and then make the real push on Friday as usual. I don’t have any expectations for this season other than getting the cosmetic items. I also still have 3 barbarian set dungeons to master. I haven’t decided yet whether I want to go for the Masters of the Universe conquest again this season, and use it as an excuse to finish up the barbarian and necromancer dungeons. There are several conquests that are much easier this time, so it certainly isn’t necessary. I also already have most of the sets collected now on my non-seasonal barbarian, and I’m not sure I want to have to level and farm everything up again on a new one.

It actually feels pretty nice to go into the season with very low expectations. There’s no pressure, I can take things at my own pace, and once I get my cosmetic goodies I don’t have to feel bad if I get distracted by something shiny and wander away for a while. I’m especially glad that I can put the new necromancer through its paces without worrying about having to play it at a high enough level for the Conqueror or Guardian tiers. A nice chill D3 season is just what I need to distract me from the fact that we’re starting on Omega Savage this week in FFXIV.

Monk Set Mastery

Monk is probably the class I have played the least in D3. I mean I don’t love the barbarian, but I had at least leveled one to 70. Not so with Monk. That made a bit of extra challenge, since I had to spend a lot of time leveling and farming to get reasonable gear for this project. After having done these dungeons, I still don’t really enjoy monk, but I’m not as intimidated and annoyed at playing melee.

MonkBanner

The first monk dungeon I tried was the Inna’s Mantra one, entirely because that’s the first full set I found via my farming. That might have been a mistake. Inna’s is one of the dungeons where too much power is a terrible thing. The objectives are to avoid getting frozen, which is incredibly easy, and to unleash mystic allies on 10 enemies within 10 yards (x5). Unfortunately my allies were a bit too helpful and kept killing the enemies well before I could round up a group of 10. I had to play a game of stripping off my legendary gems and swapping out gear until I got to a point where I could meet this objective even once in the dungeon, much less 5 times. I finally got it thanks to a combination of moving gear around and getting extremely lucky with spawns of enemies. In the end I had to remove one of my rings entirely, which seems questionable. Definitely a frustrating start to this group of dungeons.

Next up was the Dungeon of the Raiment of a Thousand Storms. The two objectives are very straightforward, reach the golden chest in under 2 minutes and do not get hit by a single succubus projectile. This took a couple tries, since you have to find a good balance between clearing the early parts of the dungeon and getting to the middle of the maze to hit the chest in time. The first few times through I could either hit the chest or clear enough enemies but not both. Eventually I found that clearing most of the straight outside path, rushing to the chest, then backtracking through the maze seemed to work pretty well. Even though it took a few attempts, this one felt more like a fun challenge than an annoyance. I liked it!

Third on the list was Uliana’s Stratagem. The first time through I didn’t complete either of the objectives, I’m not sure whether that is the fault of the dungeon or my unfamiliarity with monk. The requirements are to simultaneously explode 15 enemies marked with exploding palm (x4), and to take no fire damage at all. Only the elites have fire attacks, but unfortunately the dungeon itself has various fire traps in the floor you have to watch out for. This dungeon is also quite large and sprawling, so it pays to either look up a map or run it a couple times to get used to the layout. On my second attempt I got both objectives but was still missing around 50 enemies, simply because I hadn’t cleared fast enough. I ended up “cheating” the fire damage with the Star of Azkaranth, and got it on my 4th try.

Last but not least was the Sunwuko (Monkey King) set dungeon. The objectives are to maintain sweeping wind for the duration of the dungeon, and use decoys to hit 20 different enemies in 6 seconds (x5). On my first try of the dungeon, I both failed to keep up sweeping wind and also died because I was dumb. I got the mastery on the second attempt. I’d say this was definitely one of the easier dungeons to master. The map is big but manageable with dashing strike, and there were plenty of enemy groups to hit for the decoy objective. I think there’s a legendary belt that might have helped me keep up sweeping wind more easily, but I didn’t have it and I managed fine without it.

This group of set dungeons was a very mixed bag. They ranged from incredibly annoying (Inna’s), to very easy (Sunwuko’s). They also included one with a gimmick that I suspect some people probably hate but I thought was actually pretty fun (the golden chest in Thousand Storms). I was afraid at the outset that I was going to struggle more than usual with these since I had never played monk before, but it turned out not to be much worse than any of my other set dungeon struggles. Now only the barbarian stands between me and two pairs of awesome wings!

Witch Doctor Set Mastery

I’m still slowly moving forward with the goal of mastering all of the set dungeons in Diablo 3. So far I’ve finished the Demon Hunter, Wizard, and Crusader ones. Next I decided to work on the Witch Doctor mastery, since I play that class fairly often and had all of the sets laying around. Sadly even with all of the time I spent with the class, I had only mastered one dungeon so I still had plenty of work to do. At least the pennant reward for this mastery looks neat!

WDPen

The set dungeon I had already completed was the Jade Harvester’s. I decided to try it again for this project just to remind myself what it was like so I could record it here. The objectives are to harvest 15 enemies (x10) and kill a total of 100 enemies while they’re affected by both haunt and locust swarm. I got it on my first attempt. It definitely helped that this is the set I’m most comfortable with and I had plenty of choices for legendaries to make it work. I suspect the biggest issue with this one would normally be clearing everything within the timer since the map is fairly large and convoluted.  I used Shukrani’s Triumph in the cube which let me spirit walk until I attacked or found an enemy, which made for a speedy, easy run.

Next up was the Helltooth Harness set dungeon. The first objective here is easy. “Do not take any poison damage” can be utterly trivialized by cubing Mara’s Kaleidoscope. I’m sure it is possible to do without this item but why bother if you have one available? The second objective is to kill 20 enemies with a single wall of death (x4). This was the sort of objective that gives me trouble. First, you have to be able to 1-shot the small enemies with your wall, which hopefully shouldn’t be too hard. I used a Jeram’s Bracers to increase damage to make sure of this. More importantly though, you actually have to find or make groups of 20 enemies. It was tricky to do since the dungeon has a lot of little pockets and pillars that make it hard to find and group up the mobs. I had no trouble running through and killing everything in time, but it took me 5 or 6 tries to meet this objective. If RNG is kind and you get good pack placement this one should be easy.

After that I worked on the Arachyr’s Mantle dungeon. The easier objective here was to let your hex toad lick 30 enemies. On my first attempt I was so eager to get this done that I botched the other objective. Killing all of the elites while they are both webbed and piranha’d was tricky simply because they got accidentally killed by other things first. On the plus side there aren’t that many enemies and the layout is fairly straightforward so eventually I just ran through to find the elites first and then let the toad mop up for my 30 licks. The other good thing about this one is it didn’t require much in the way of specialized legendaries other than the set itself. It took a few tries to get the hang of what I needed to do but was definitely easier than the Helltooth dungeon.

The last of the Witch Doctor dungeons was Zunimassa’s. This one asks  you to grip 150 enemies in grasp of the dead, and to avoid getting into melee range with anything. That second requirement really slows you down, because you can never risk running ahead and getting too close to an enemy. With reasonable gear things should die quickly to your swarm of pets before they get to you though. I managed to 1-shot this one without even looking at the map ahead of time, so I’d call this one very easy.

Overall these were way easier than I expected them to be. Since I already had all the gear I needed I managed to knock all of them out in a single evening. I’m getting close to my goal but the next two classes are ones I’ve never played so there will be some down time while I level and farm gear for them. Still, I’m getting close enough that those awesome wings look like an achievable goal now!

 

 

 

 

Crusader set dungeons

I guess I’m following through on this nonsense mission to try to master all of the set dungeons in Diablo 3, because cosmetics are the true endgame and the wings you get as a reward are so very sweet. Having finished off the Demon Hunter and the Wizard dungeons for Season 10’s conquest waay back in April, I decided to step out of my comfort zone for the next one. So I leveled a crusader, a class which I’ve never really played any farther than leveling to 70. I don’t really love playing melee in Diablo games, I’m not sure why. Mostly I suspect that it is far outside of my “player fantasy” idea. I want to be smart and precise and out of harm’s way, not wading into the thick of things. Even so, the crusader is survivable and has enough shiny tricks to be entertaining.

crusaderMasteryI did the dungeons in order of what gear I happened to collect, so the Invoker dungeon was up first. This might have been the easiest set dungeon out of any of the ones I’ve tried. The objectives are to get hit by the goatmen’s spears, and to kill the elites while both consecration and iron skin are active. The enemies are easy and the dungeon layout is very straightforward without a lot of twists or dead ends. I looked up the map before I started, and I completed the mastery on my first try with almost 30 seconds to spare. My weapons and armor (other than the Invoker set) were a random collection of whatever I had laying around, including some yellows. Seriously easy. If you’re struggling with mastering a set dungeon for the season journey, I would highly recommend this one.

Next up was the Light’s set dungeon. The objectives are to use falling sword 3 times within 15 seconds (x3) and to not get hit by any of the enemies’ mortar attacks. You’ll want the weapon Cam’s Rebuttal for this one, since it will let you cast falling sword more often. The layout of the dungeon is a very simple series of T intersections, and wasn’t bad at all to finish. The main thing holding me back on this one was my time to kill the elites, since that both made it harder to kill everything in the time limit and made me have to dodge more mortar attacks. With some slightly better gear this one would be a breeze.

The third crusader set dungeon I attempted was Roland’s. I struggled with this one until I got the exact right gear for it. Namely, the Flail of the Charge/Shield of the Steed combo for faster movement, and Golden Flense (2H flail) for wrath restoration. Without the steed charge boost I couldn’t clear fast enough, and without the Flense I couldn’t meet one of the objectives at all. The first objective is to hit 12 enemies with a single sweep attack (x7). There are multiple points on the map with big groups of enemies so this wasn’t too bad, especially with Illusory Boots in the cube to allow easy positioning. Like many similar set dungeon objectives this one is a matter of holding off until you have a promising pack and being prepared to restart if you get bad RNG on group spawns. The other objective is to spend 300 wrath within 10 seconds (x5). That is what I really struggled with until I could cube a Flense. It was still difficult to spam enough within 10 seconds but I got it done. This dungeon was not as bad as some of the RNG-heavy ones from other classes but it was incredibly gear-dependent.

The last crusader dungeon I completed was Akkhan’s. This one’s objectives were to use condemn on 10 different enemies (x10), and to kill 150 enemies while under the effect of Akarat’s Champion. The steed charge weapon/shield combo I farmed for the Roland’s dungeon also worked great here. In fact it felt almost mandatory, because my biggest challenge with this set dungeon was clearing all the required enemies in time. Raw power also seemed to matter again in this one, and like in the Light’s set dungeon, much of the time I wasted was spent trying to take down the elites. Rounding up tons of enemies with steed charge + illusory boots was simple and the small enemies died quick enough from condemn at least. Of all the crusader dungeons this one took me the most tries. My failures were all either by dying like an idiot, or to the timer running out with a handful of enemies left.

Overall these weren’t too bad. The Invoker’s is by far the easiest, not just of the crusader dungeons but including the wizard and demon hunter ones as well. Considering I had never really played a crusader much before attempting these, I was pretty pleased at my success. Even without really knowing what I was doing this series was easier than the wizard ones. Now to figure out which class to work on next!

 

Stormblood for the Holiday

I had a very long weekend for the holiday and spent most of my gaming time with FFXIV. Our Free Company is still very active and it feels so great to have tons of people around and looking to group. I spent a good share of time helping folks knock out story dungeons or just getting faster queues for roulettes. Yes, even as a healer my roulette queues are almost instant right now, while the poor DPS are waiting and waiting. I would love to see the data on the effect adding 2 new DPS classes had on queue times. I suspect it isn’t as drastic a change as we might think since many folks are happy with their chosen role, but I’m sure it did make things at least a bit worse. There’s so very many red mages now.

One of the goals I had for the holiday was to complete the two EX primals that are available. I got halfway there. It only took a couple attempts to get a Lakshmi clear, but I’ve been trying Susano over and over and over to no avail. I am hoping that once I clear it I’ll be able to get into the farm groups that actually know what they’re doing, because I’m so sick of watching the other healer (it’s almost always the healer) stand in the group with the lightning and kill us all. I’d really like to get the weapon from him, since it will be at least 6 more weeks before I can get a weapon upgrade anywhere else.

The big excitement really came yesterday when the first wing of the Omega raid opened up. As is now standard in FFXIV, it had 4 bosses with the token loot system used in Heavensward’s Alexander raids. I got pretty lucky and won items off the first 3 bosses on the first try, so I only had to run V4.0 a couple extra times to get all my gear for the week. I ended up with a belt, a pair of gloves, and 1/2 of a hat. Not bad. I’m hoping to farm Lakshmi a bit so I don’t have to depend on jewelry from Omega as much and can focus on “left side” tokens. Loot aside, the raid was super fun and I’m quite happy with it. I’m curious to see where the story takes us, but I think I already like it better than Alex. I loved the music and a lot of the fights from the Alexander raid, but the story left a lot to be desired. Omega seems to fit in much better with the overall plot of the expansion.

Stormblood has definitely been keeping me busy so far. I am hoping now that most of our raid group is at 70 that we’ll set up a regular raid night again and work on clearing the EX primals and Omega. I’ve been flirting with burnout a bit, mostly because I’ve been running a lot of things on my own and pugging is bad for my mental health. If I can do fun things on the regular with my friends I’ll be a much happier Grace.

July 2017 Gaming Goals

A belated post for my July goals since I was too busy playing games over the holiday weekend to blog about playing games!

Review of June Goals:

WoW: Level one more class to 110. Done! I ended my temporary return to WoW with only the Shaman, DK, and Warrior below the level cap.

Subnautica: Rebuild my sweet sea base empire. Done? I’m going to call this a win. I didn’t build quite as fancy a base as I did in my earlier playthroughs, but I did build two of them and that should count for something.

FFXIV: Play Stormblood. Done! Yes this goal was a gimme but I don’t care. I didn’t want to stress myself out with goals I just wanted to enjoy the expansion for a couple weeks.

I actually completed all my June goals! I guess the secret to success is having really easy goals.


July Goals:

FFXIV: Clear both EX primals. I got Lakshmi this weekend but Susano still eludes me. I want a fancy weapon and maybe a doggo.

Advance at least one of my Anima weapons at least one step. Hopefully an easy goal but I’m being intentionally vague with it. My SCH weapon is on the light farming step, while my AST weapon is on the “do a bunch of dungeons in order” step. I should be able to finish at least one of these, especially with a certain friend who has been encouraging me to do these silly things.

Level my AST. After leveling roulette last night I’m at 65, so this should be easy. I am very curious to see how different the healing feels compared to SCH. It will be easier to compare the two when they’re both 70 and equally geared.

Figure out how to buy a house. My FC is moving to the new housing district when it opens, and I would like to continue living in the Mist. That means I’ve got to buy my own place. I’ve been saving up, so hopefully I can afford it when everyone abandons their property to move to the new zone.

Diablo 3: Complete the basic season 11 journey with a necromancer. This will be a somewhat short timer since the season doesn’t start until near the end of the month, but completing the 4 chapters should be easy.

Complete the challenge rift every week. I’ve done the first 2 so far and they’ve been quite fun and not too punishing so hopefully I can continue.

Master all the crusader set dungeons. I have been slowly working on this since season 10. I just finished Roland’s set dungeon last night so all I have left is Akkhan’s. I just need to finish farming the set.


I have some actual goals this month for a change! Hopefully keeping them focused on just 2 games will help me meet them. Wish me luck!

Rise of the Necromancer

Yesterday saw the launch of the new Necromancer class in Diablo 3. If you’ve been around this blog a while you know I’m a huge D3 fan, so it was a no-brainer for me to spend $14.99 to pick up the new goodies. I spent most of my evening yesterday checking out the class and some of the other offerings that came along with the newest patch, and came away very pleased.

The first thing I tried when I booted up D3 last night was the new Challenge Rift system. Okay I lied the first thing I did was run to my stash and rearrange things to take advantage of the 2 new stash tabs I got with my necromancer purchase. But after that the next thing I did was try a challenge rift! The system took me a minute to figure out. Namely, to get to the challenge rift, you have to select a character, but before you log into a new game you must go to the game settings. Challenge rift will be a new option for your game type (beside the old story and adventure modes). Selecting this will assign you the character for the randomly-selected greater rift run of the week. When you zone in you’re in a new mini-area where you can learn about challenge rifts, check out your assigned skills and gear, and practice on some demons they keep laying around for that purpose. It was fun to see someone else’s build and try to make it work. This week’s rift was a demon hunter with an impale build. The fact that it was randomly selected means sometimes you end up with strange choices, for instance this person had a cubed ability that boosted fan of knives…but they were not using that skill. In any case I managed to get through the rift in about half the time of the original run so I made it work just fine. I really enjoyed this concept and my main hope is that they either make it more rewarding (the crafting mats were nice but not exciting), or update the offerings more frequently. I can see myself trying it out once every week but I’m not that interested in trying to climb the leaderboards or anything. The real joy of it is just seeing what random build they give you and making the most of it.

Anyway after the challenge rift was conquered I finally made my brand new necromancer. I decided to level via the story since it has been quite a while since I played all the way through it. Like I sometimes do with single-player games, I made things super easy for myself so I could play around and focus on the narrative instead of the gameplay. That meant normal mode and a gem of ease, so enemies just fell over when they so much as looked at me until I got above level 60. I ended up setting on a build that I’m sure will not be remotely functional at endgame but has been keeping me very entertained. I’ve got 1 generator, 1 movement ability, and the rest of my abilities all summon minions of one flavor or other. I had a blast running around and turning the corpses of my enemies into part of my rolling death swarm. By the end of the night I had made it into Act V so tonight I’ll finish up and switch to adventure mode. Hopefully I can get some set pieces and start figuring out a viable build for running rifts.

I expect I’ll be heading back to FFXIV before the end of the weekend, both because all my friends are still deeply entrenched there and because I don’t want to burn out on D3 before the start of the new season next month. Still, I’d say I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of this content pack. The cosmetic stuff is nice, the stash space is amazing for this pack rat, and the new class has been great fun. I am already looking forward to playing as a necromancer next season!

Stormblood: Roll Credits

I “finished” FFXIV Stormblood this morning. By that I mean I got far enough through the MSQ to see the credits. This is a pretty leisurely leveling time for me, clocking in at 9 days to 70 and 10 days ’til the credits rolled. Part of that was due to the launch difficulties and part was simply being willing to take my time more than I usually do in a new MMO expansion. Now that I’m 70 and through the main story, there are expert dungeons and primal fights to tackle, along with the sacred ancient rite of grinding bookrocks for gear upgrades.

The story, for the most part, has been some of their best so far. There is one villain whose writing I really disliked, but otherwise I’ve been impressed. They even got away with sticking me with Alphinaud again after letting me enjoy hanging out with his much cooler sister. They also managed to make me care about the fight for independence from the empire on two fronts. I know that “fighting the evil empire” is a solid FF mainstay but in FFXIV I’ve never cared about them that much. To be honest they’re still my least favorite type of enemy in the game, but at least this time around they’ve been a clear and constant threat instead of just popping in for inopportune plot points. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the aftermath of the 4.0 MSQ and how all the still-loose ends get woven together over the life of the expansion.

Stormblood’s group content has set a very high bar. FFXIV has some of the most interesting, beautiful, and complex dungeons and raids I’ve ever seen and this expansion does not disappoint on that front. The dungeons start off fairly simple but ramp up very quickly in complexity.  There are 6 total that unlock while leveling, and only one of them is not tied directly to the MSQ. The theme of the first dungeon is my favorite, a haunted shipyard. The second dungeon is the optional one, and is the most beautiful in my opinion. I’d love to live there once we clear out all the creatures who are trying to kill us. The third dungeon has the most flimsy story premise (“go face this challenge before we’ll let you get to the real fight”),  but it has my absolute favorite boss fight in any of the Stormblood dungeons so far. This game is absolutely making sure that by the time you get through the story, you’re also prepared for the challenges you’ll face at endgame. Dungeons 4, 5, and 6 are so deeply tied to the MSQ that I’m afraid to talk about them much for fear of massive spoilers. Of those three I think dungeon 5 is my favorite, but I haven’t run them as many times as I have the early dungeons, so I’ll reserve judgement a bit.

There are also three trials in the Stormblood MSQ. They are each very distinct and challenging in their own way, but the final trial is the most difficult by far. It took me 4 different pug groups to finally clear it. The start of the expansion is probably making this more difficult than it should be, since many folks (like me) are still in leveling gear and don’t know the fight yet. It is also a very long fight, with a truly ridiculous number of moving parts to keep track of. This is the one I’m most looking forward to the EX version of, when I’m safely in a group full of my friends and we can take the time to learn whatever nonsense amount of dancing will be required to win.

If you’re playing Stormblood, I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am, and if you’re not, now’s a great time to hop in and try FFXIV for yourself!

Stormblood Stuff

Stormblood is finally upon us and boy did the early access weekend have an extremely rough start. On Friday I woke up at butts-o’clock so I could log in and get a head start on things before I had to go to work. I did as much as I could of the main story quest until I ran into the roadblock of the first instanced solo duty. Being an optimistic sort, I ran to work and figured that I’d pick up where I left off when I got home. I spent all day at work worrying that my friends who had taken the day off were going to race past me and I’d be playing catch-up all weekend. By the end of the day I discovered that was not true. The instance servers were still overloaded and after a lengthy queue to get in my reward was being disconnected immediately when I tried to start my story quest.

All of Friday evening and Saturday I smashed my face against that quest, along with the thousands of other people milling around the questgiver and giving “insightful” commentary in the zone chat. In some other games this road block wouldn’t be quite so bad, but FFXIV gates their content heavily with their story. That means that all the new group content and zones were locked until we could get past this quest. On the plus side, I got some IRL crafting done, finished off my dad’s fathers’ day gift, and got to watch a movie. On the down side, I was so frustrated and angry I was about to just go play WoW and swear off FFXIV for a few weeks until I could calm down and they could fix the game.

Luckily, on Sunday morning when I got up the quest let me through on the first try. After that was a full day spent catching up on all the questing and dungeons and things I had wanted to do earlier in the weekend. I’ve seen the first dungeon and the first trial, and as much of the story as I can through level 64. The next step of the MSQ requires another level, and I’ve unlocked the second dungeon so I suspect I’ll be running that a few times until I can progress again. Some of my friends are doing all the side quests, but I prefer to level through group content if I can, so that those side quests are still around when my other classes need to be leveled. I greatly enjoyed the first dungeon, and ran it quite a few times as my friends got to that point in the story.

The story has been good so far. It is far too early to be posting spoilers, but I will say I am enjoying myself more than I thought. It is no secret that I didn’t care much about where the initial Stormblood story was taking us, but the MSQ is doing a good job of making me care. Also getting to travel around with Alisaie and Lyse has been one of the highlights of questing in any game I have ever played. The story leading up to the first trial was a joy, and if they swap out Alaisaie and make me go back to traveling with Alphanaud again I might never forgive them.