Exemplar Performance

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It’s been 16 months since NCSoft pulled the plug on the first and IMO best SuperHero/Villain themed MMO, there is barely a week that passes without me hearing a small reference to that game in one shape or another.
Admittedly it’s more often than not @FlyinPinkMunki or myself lamenting users on mumble about the fun we had or the bizarre costumes and builds that would spring from your imagination. But excluding us lifetime fans of the game, the recent TESO launch has fling City Of Heroes into people’s minds again as the age old MMO problem of out levelling creeps into the forefront.

The mentoring system in City Of Hereos/Villains is often held up as the gold standard in how to do this correctly. The earlier system was configured so that in a team someone could be sidekicked/lackeyed to a level 1 below or equal to the player who was the exemplar/malefactor.

Best of both worlds

This worked both ways, so a level 42 character could team with a level 16 character, the sidekick would have their level raised to 1 lower than the person exemplaring, so in this case level 41. But if the lower character needed help the higher character could be the sidekick and their level lowered to match the lower level player, loosing any powers selected beyond that level so that balanced was maintained.


This system worked very well, but had some limitations, for example if you had one high levelled character but 2 lower levelled characters, an uneven number of exemplar to sidekicks the system broke unless another player of a similar level was found or the higher levelled character became the sidekick to one of the lower characters.


In the later days of the game the system was altered, so that any mentoring was performed to the level of the group leader, thus you could have a high levelled leader at say 32 and up to 7 sidekicks that would be raised to fight at level 31 (or lowered down to 32 for higher levelled characters).

This allowed for more flexible team combinations as you didn’t need to worry about an odd number of players or having staggered levels. Although some power-leveling folks were annoyed as in the previous version you could trick the system into paying out huge benefits if you had a player 3 levels below the leader, and that player sidekicked another player who would get a hard fight but high XP.


No substitute for a good skill system

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TESO has avoided the traditional/historical MMO pit of 30 powers on your character toolbars, leaving you bewildered if you have been away for more than 3 days.
Infact much of the skill system centres around passive skills that are unlockable against armour, race, weapon or class. This allows you to gain bonus such as benefits from armour sets or increasing your max health.

There are 5 skill slots on the toolbar which initially reminded me of the action bar from the Chronicles of Spellborn, the limited number of slots means you have to plan your load-out for the tasks ahead.
For example those familiar with the Elder Scrolls game will be aware of Soul Gems and how you how the come empty and you have to fill them, well in TESO these are used to resurrect yourself or someone else, everyone has the ability to capture souls but to use the power you have to slot in, this takes up one of your 5 slots.

It’s worth mentioning that there is a 6th slot but it is restricted to Ultimate Abilities, these can be class or race based and build up during combat to then allow a buff to the player character either in the form of summoning pets, increased regen or harder hitting attacks.

Ok so the fact that you aren’t juggling 30 different skills that you have to remember the exact conditions for use is a big bonus, for me the next neat trick is that once you have used an active ability enough it levels up to a point that it can be transformed/morphed in some way.

Morphing an ability

When you Morph an ability it splits into 2 options, each has a new bonus that is highlighted in green when you mouse over.

This process takes the existing functionality and offers 2 advancement options of which you can only pick one, for example

  • Power A may do damage x to an enemy
    • Morph option 1 adds 7 meter to the existing 7 meter range
    • Morph option 2 add a stun to the power

FlyinPinkMunki and I have been playing sorcerers and I have found the way the same ability is altered depending on the type of staff used, for example:

  • Destructive Touch – Deals Magic Damage to target enemy
    • Fire Touch causes knockback
    • Frost Touch causes deep freeze
    • Shock Touch causes disorient

The passives are configured in a similar manner:

  • Tri Focus
    • Frost attack snares enemy 30% for 3.5 seconds
    • Shock attack deals 5% splash damage to 2 nearby foes
    • Fire attack increases critical strike rating with destruction spells against target by 5%

This is a nice touch as it allows the sorcerers to modify their attack strategy dependant on the enemy or the group composition.

I’m now way near maxing out on the skill side of things, however each choice hasn’t left me leaving underpowered or at a disadvantage as I mentioned in my last post.


Ability void

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Secret World is a tough beast to wrestle, its open and welcoming skill system doesn’t hinder you or your progress when you start the game but as you progress the underlying system becomes apparent and your choices are almost funnelled towards a cookie cutter skills and builds.

This is frustrating as the skill system is a big selling point of the game and it does offer a lot of tweaking that can extend your powers in additional ways, such as more splash damage, extended chain attacks, healing boosts, inflicting conditions on enemies.

AbilityWheelIn our weekly group everyone has more or less finished the Blue Mountain area and has a build that they find comfortable playing in the group, even my healing build has a little damage output now as the team’s gear and skills are working well together.
However last night we took the plunge and pushed into the 3rd dungeon, this is where the choices made months ago at the start of your character really can hinder your options as the trinity role are needed and if you’re fun build isn’t quite right you’ll know about it.

The hike in trash mob toughness was the first thing that was noticeable. In the other 2 dungeons the trash mobs were nothing to write home about. In The Darkness War we soon found that we all needed to tweak our builds to counter the new threats. For me this was still well within normal operational parameters of a dungeon run.

  • We falter on the first hurdle as on the first wave hitting us @VanHemlock discovers his taunt isn’t in the ability bar, regardless of this we manage to reduce Batab Crusher’s health down before getting swamped with adds
  • A quick amendment to skill bars and we are off to the 2nd boss, only a “trash” mob aggros from the side of the path and the team take a nasty beating as we were very unprepared
  • We proceed to the next boss, Xibalban Bloodhound, a new mechanic is experienced but we find that a lack of DPS means that boss consumes more Mayans than we’d like. We defeat the boss on the second attempt, by this time it’s very clear that the dungeon isn’t very forgiving on the tank and by proxy the healers.
  • A quick respite and we are onto the 3rd boss Dark House Sorcerer, he hits hard but also has a lot of attacks that need the players to move a lot. We complete this first time with only the faint sound of the magic roundabout in our ears
  • Then we hit the wall with the Unbound Ak’ab boss, we took 1 run to learn the mechanics and adjust our builds.
    The 2nd run we attempted to draw the Ak’ab Hatchlings towards the edges but this didn’t end well.
    The Final runs we attempted to keep the boss and Ak’ab Hatchlings taunted in a group to one side, this wasn’t too bad other than keeping up the tanks health up, we didn’t lucky with some of the Ak’ab Hatchlings and they exploded near the support group and started chasing them.
  • At this point the set toppled and we wiped for the final time.

The biggest issue is that in TSW there is no respec, you can just earn more points, however that takes time and doesn’t undo the fact you spent 40 points on Chaos Magic only to never use it again.

This is fine for players who want to spend extra time grinding more ability points but for a static group with players that pop on 1 or 2 times a week this isn’t really a good place to be in.

In the future we shall run it again, with everyone in the right gear and with the skills needed to win, then we shall wonder why last time it hurt so much.

here is the final deck build that I was using on the last attempt [TSW Builder]


A Week in meh

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After my brief weekend adventures in TESO last weekend I was pretty much bedridden for the rest of last week with an infection. Thankfully my antibiotics kicked in quick enough for me to enjoy some of the World of Tanks 3rd Anniversary content.

Aside from the 5 times XP for first victory, one of the biggest bonuses for me was the half price consumables that I tend to use on each vehicle, so I picked up 100 repairs, medkit & extinguishers. Which I think will save me some money over future matches and make saving for some bigger purchases in tier 7.

This weekend Rachy and I have been running a sorcerer duo in Elder Scrolls Online, which initially could have been a little unpowered on the melee front but the powersets are design to have some survivablility with stuns, snares & knockbacks/downs. The weapons powers are rather cool as they alter functionality depending on the type of attack damage that a staff is focused on. This allows similar characters to have a different feel and approach depending on the tactics that work well for you.

You wait - time passes