Level 30 and Resumed Diplomacy

Ardwulf reached level 30 this evening, a major milestone. For the record, I’ve put in 135 hours played. But then, I like slow progression, am okay with taking my time and appreciate games that encourage me to do so. Vanguard is one such. I did pick up his ability upgrades and added a piece or two of new gear from the Broker, although I didn’t have enough cash left over for the mount upgrade. Which is only an extra +10% land speed anyway, so it’ll keep for another level or so.

I am taking a break from the unicorn line for the moment until I have the leisure time to get a small group together for the next stage. Meanwhile, having decided to focus on a single character with the possible exception of crafting I have (re)taken up Diplomacy. Ardwulf managed, somehow, to reach level 6 as a Diplomat without having done the Halgarad starter diplomat line; I’m not sure how, but I seem to recall some quests being bugged way, way back. In any event they appear to be bugged no longer, and I finished that bit and got to the part where I am shipped off to either Vault of Heroes or Veskal’s Exchange. I left off at the latter, as the next stage of the particular chain I’m on is a timed quest that sends me to Three Rivers, and I didn’t want to start it at this godforsaken hour. I’m also short on Noble Presence for one quest I have, so I need to rustle up a point of that somewhere.

Subscription renewal time is coming up as well, next week. I’m already renewed and if things keep going as they are, with me having a great time playing Vanguard again, I intend to stay for at least the next few months, assuming we don’t get a big surprise and Guild Wars 2 launches in May or something, a prospect I deem very unlikely. There is, of course, the Guild Wars 2 Beta next weekend, and I fully intend to participate in that, but for the time being Vanguard is my game. It has its warts, but Vanguard offers things that comparable MMOs simply don’t. And I may even get to build that boat one day; I plan to pick up crafting again some time this week as opportunity allows.

What I would like to see happen in for Guild Wars 2 to launch in, say, June, and Vanguard to launch Free to Play around August. Or the opposite would be fine by me, really. I have no information to that effect, of course, but that’s what fits with my personal schedule and plans; I intend to play Guild Wars 2 more or less exclusively for a month or two, then split my time between the two games once Vanguard goes f2p. BUt I’m good with however it turns out.

This is going to be a big MMO summer in any event. I predict TERA will have limited longevity in the western marketplace but it’ll make some kind of splash at launch. I’m also pessimistic about how well The Secret World will do; I even opted out of signing up for the beta given that you have to jump through hoops on Facebook to do so. I am not particularly interested in either game. But this year will see both the biggest release of a new MMO in some time (I think GW2 will outsell SWTOR) and the one game that I wanted to see go freemium and that I think most deserves another chance is doing so as well.

More Questing For Unicorns

The quest chains for Vanguard’s unicorn and shadowhound mounts are among a fairly large number of major quest chains in the game for the middle levels. Many of these revolve around particular dungeons, although some, like the United Races of Thestra or Hunter’s League quests, take you all over the place. The mount chains are longer than most, taking optimally something like 15-25 hours of play to complete, over 30+ quests and all three continents of Telon.

The unicorn chain starts out in Thestra, then send you back and forth between all three continents before you have to run some major errands for the lead Qalian unicorn. One of these involves killing a fairly hefty number of Skrilien Lizardmen in a large and heavily populated area in the Strand of the Ancients. Like much of the rest of the chain it is possible to solo at level, but not easy. There are 4-dot mobs roaming about as well as packs of 3-dot mobs, and a double pull or an add even of the weaker ones (the 2-dot mobs in parts of the camp don’t count toward the quest,) and the outcome is by no means guaranteed.

At my goofball play hours, there weren’t a whole lot of people on, and only a half dozen or so guildies. But on the outskirts of the camp I came across a tombstone. So I sent its player a tell, and it turned out he was a guildie working the same quest. He was a Rogue, stealthing everywhere, and I never would have spotted him unless I had noticed that he was in the same chunk in the guild panel. This made things a lot easier, but by no means foolproof — we both died a couple of times but in the end I more than came out ahead on XP.

Ardwulf is now about 80% of the way to level 30. Making it will be a big deal — faster mounts and a whole passel of new and upgraded abilities become available. The unicorn questline is proceeding — not quickly, but I wanted something I could take my time with, and this one has an interesting story and a lot of depth. I’m enjoying it tremendously.

Questing For Unicorns

More or less arbitrarily I’ve decided that Ardwulf is pursuing the questline to get a unicorn mount. The whole line is said to take about 24 hours of play by itself, and I think that may be optimistic. It’s mostly soloable with caution, but there are times in the chain when a partner or two really helps.

The quest begins in Silverlake, where some Zar cultists are holed up on an island out in the middle of the lake. Killing a few particular cultists (Zar Ritualists) will eventually drop a unicorn horn that grants a quest to kill Zar himself. To do this, you collect 100 flowers in three different colors from around the island or from an outpost on the lakeshore. These are level 22, 3-dot mobs, so killing them is fairly time-consuming even at level 28, which I was — the point at which they also fail to grant experience. There are also a lot of roamers, so even overleveling the place, if you’re by yourself you can die fairly easily.

Once you have enough flowers you can sacrifice them up at the altar on the island to summon Zar. Unfortunately, I couldn’t kill him the first time and had to get help from Quert — which means that to summon him again I had to collect another 100 flowers. Thankfully, with help this goes a lot faster, and two Rangers knocked the 4-dot Zar down fairly easily.

Once you’ve turned that in you get an escort quest which involves traveling several chunks away, then returning to Unicorn Rock overlooking Silverlake with the escort. This is easy but it takes a bit of time. Then it’s off to Qalia, near Lomshir, to kill a large number of Dark Elves who are exploiting the unicorns. These are also 3-dot mobs, at level 24, but they are considerably less tough than the Zar cultists.

Next up is contacting several different scattered unicorns for your unicorn buddy. One is on an island well west of Qalia, and the other two are on isles up in Kojan. I’m in the middle of this part now. It’s a lot of running around, but in the process I’m seeing new parts of Telon that I haven’t seen before, and that’s fun.

I’m about halfway through level 29 at this point, and not gaining XP at a spectacular rate because the actual quests are pretty much at the lowest level that I still get XP for them. But that’s okay — later quests in the chain are higher-level and Vanguard is a “take my time” game anyway.