Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Assassin's Hideout Podcast - ep.24

show notes:
- dreamworld engine
- new solo instance
- rewards in expansions

let me know in the comments whether the format of the podcast works for you

link fixed

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Refuge of the Apostate review

This is part review part bug report for the new Refuge of the Apostate solo instance. There will be SPOILERS so be advised (not to QQ about it). This is written from Assassin's perspective. I would consider my character as advanced in AA's (all the silver perks that I am using are maxed out, all the passive damage upgrades for combos are maxed out, and couple of others) with solo Brittle Blade set and pair of epic daggers.First of all this instance gives hard mode tokens. This will unlock solo pve progression for a lot a people that cannot or do not want to run hard mode instances. At current pace it will take AGES to get even 1 item, but nevertheless the option for that is there.

The story

The quests are a little cheesy for my taste. Pretty much I have no idea what the hell is going on. The story is "there is this guy and he does some stuff like rise golems so...go keal him for teh lootz". Khitai expansion brought great writing (especially in Kara Korum) and what is being served with this instance is just sub-par. What are they digging for? Whats with the golems? There are some JIAN SHI there? Why? Why is that HOX boss raising undead? Wait, this is catacombs or mine and uh, library at the same time? What is this place? And when you have finally found "the notes about the source of power" you just give them to NPC. There is no reveal or epilogue. I guess that part about Sa-kota (is that her name?) and the illusionist trapping her in nightmare is pretty good, but CLEARLY not enough. And where are the cut scenes you have been bragging about FC? Dreamworld engine was supposed to give you new tools and I see old stuff. OLD! There is nothing in this instance that we haven't already seen in Slaughterhouse.

Suggestions: work on lore and the story. You have to "bronze" up the instance, give it soul. Throw in some dialogue between NPCs, perhaps cut scene, some quest CHAIN for non-faction NPC? And that quest about "ring collector" *face palm* who wrote that? You have whole HYBORIA at your disposal and THAT is the best you can come up with? Go get the guy/gal who wrote quests text for Khitai and let him do his thing. This feels like a place holder story written by the code-writing guy. Don't you dare cutting corners on story!

Bugs: there might be no story :X

The visuals

Very diverse. I think it is pretty much strongest part of new instance. It is done right from the start to finish. Parts of this dungeon remind me of other games (and that GOOD) so the mine area feels a little like very beginning of good ol' Dead mines from World of Warcraft, then there are catacombs which remind me of Thief games, later on the stage area is back to old school Tomb Rider mechanics or DDO. The dream zone? Pretty much what we have seen in Max Payne 1. Great stuff. But wait, why are Scarlet Circle mages digging in the mines? This is a work for a peasants and not the very elite of Khitai!

Overall its very solid, yet too small instance. It FEELS much smaller than Slaughterhouse Cellar (by far the largest instance so far).

Suggestions: I would add some neutral NPC for the digging. The different areas of the instance are not tied with each other by story. It feels too much like you are in the mines and BAM, library! Why would there be library under ghost hill? You tell me. Either stick to one visual THEME or explain via the design why the visuals are changing and in the end there is library even thou you started in the mines :X

The mobs

There are about 4 kind of mobs in the instance. Casters, golems, some undead and even fewer Jian Shi. It is OK, but WAAAY too easy. You see there is but one type of mob that will always stay deadly for the players regardless of their gear and AAs - archers. I can PLOW through all the villa content (sometimes I do so for Beguiler Blood), but if I go to Slaughter house (which has archers) I have to watch my pulls because archers will eat my HP very fast.

Suggestions: add archers mobs to slow the progression down and enforce more careful pulls/stealth. Add more trash mobs. It feels like there is not enough fighting.

Bugs: - golems have no attack sound

         - golems bleed when fatalities

         - mobs lose aggro if you run away far enough. It is too easy to sprint to the first boss, kill few adds    (because majority of mobs lost aggro) and kill boss, repeat for main boss.

The mechanics

First of all: the entrance. Please either change where the entrance is located OR give some hint in the quest text about the entrance. I have spent 1 hour looking for it and I had to resort to asking on TL forums. Frustrating as HELL. Second thing is getting to the ghost hill. On my way there I have pulled probably every single arachnoid and canine  in the bloody Hyboria. So you have to either fight through BILLIONS of mobs OR pull them all and die near the respad OR pull them out and bug them out on the rocks. Just remove couple of the mobs near the respawn pad so its easier to shake off aggro :X

Now the stage area with the puzzle. It was fun doing it the first time, BUT what the hell? It is same puzzle every time? Are you serious? After beating it for the first time there is ZERO challenge in that content.

And what's with those thingies breathing fire and ice? It slows you down, but you will still beat the clock :P And the fire damage is mediocre at best - why even bother avoiding it?


- relocate the entrance or give hints in the quest text about it (this one is IMPORTANT)

- remove few spiders and hyenas near the spawn pad

- make the puzzle different every time

- make the fire and ice traps deal MASSIVE damage and MAJOR slow debuff. It should be the part of the skill to avoid them. Traps should be DEADLY.

- add extra chest that can only be looted when a person runs through traps flawlessly. If you are too slow the exit will close down. There should be an extra reward for people performing very well

- add extra challenge to the puzzle area. Knock back traps?

- use emotes for the puzzle area. Emotes are big part of Khitai content so why not use them here too?


- some times the traps (those with sticks) will be active but there will be no visual representation of it.

- you can re-enter the instance and finish it as many times you want until you have returned the quest. No cooldown on the instance (perhaps its just for TL?)


The first boss looks like a Hox (because of the armor). Not really in line with the undead theme. The fight is ridiculously easy. Its about tank & spawn. And who the hell is Corpse Walker? Give the poor lass some persona! Add her to the story.

The main boss is pretty great as character and fighting him is interesting -  no questions asked here.Well done!

There is a great NEED for the third boss as a rare spawn. The villa in the commons district has those. Those bosses will spawn only from time to time and can drop rare root (like kittens!). This would make runs more interesting.

Some suggestions for the rare boss:

1. Some super golem (perhaps a general?)

2. Jiang Shi assassin boss (there are some Jiang Shi assassins in the instance already)


- rework the first boss. Too easy. His garments are not fitting his role. Give him some PERSONA!

- add rare spawn boss to the mix to keep players interested. Give him some special loot.

- add hard mode (is there a hard mode already?)

- give the main boss a fatality that he can use on our character (that dream fatality he does with skeleton hand is rad! more like that!)

Bug: You can fatality the first boss

The loot:

Ah the loot... It will be the main reason for people to keep coming back. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for you do have it done the right way (TM). Yes, the hard mode tokens are great, but it should be possible to eventually get enough of tokens to buy some epic gear (assumed you have grinded your moas and gold too :X). Even simple ring like death's ward will cost you 490 moas/98 hardmode/25g

Lets assume that each run gives you 1,3 hard mode tokens (because you will get 2 from time to time):

It will then take about 75 days and 75 runs. This is insanity! You might as well NOT give us those tokens.

Want some epic armor? 196 tokens! I will show us some mercy and not do the math of that price.

I am reasonable and I am willing to put in some effort to get the most shiny things, but lets keep things in perspective. I am sure that you don't want to over-reward the players, but so far you have grossly UNDER REWARDED the player base and this is why you basically had to rework faction progression system, give us more moas for KK and Paikang and reduce lvl1 and lvl2 blue's moa prices. Do not make the same mistake twice. Get the rewards RIGHT the first time and in six months from now.

My idea is: 2 hard mode tokens for run, a chance for extra 1 (3 total) and if the rare boss spawns it has also a chance of dropping extra 1. So if you get super lucky you might get 4 tokens and if not then you will have to "work" about +30 days and +30 runs for 1 basic epic item. Even most picky players will have at least 6 items from 6 factions on their wish list and 1 item will take about 30 or 60 days to obtain. Even if you up' the hard mode tokens count you WILL keep the MOST HARDCORE busy for over a year...on

one toon ;p

Give us some carrot!

On the other hand I like the high chance of bag drops from mobs. They always might be holding something extra.


- more hard mode tokens (at least 2 per run)

- add chest spawn to second room in library (there is no reason to go there now and you can skip it)

- add a low low chance of epic drop from one of the bosses (is it already in?)

- new recipes, social wear and pets Low low looooooooooooow drop rate.


Before I round up this post here is a quick vid of Fass of Exalted speed running the instance. A lot of spoilers and a proof that it is way too easy right now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lotus Assassin

Recently I have been extremely frustrated with my Assassin experience in Age of Conan. In solo pve I have maxed out all factions (well I still need 300k for Hyrkanians, but I could use veteran tokens to max out). No zone is offering any challenge whatsoever: avatar and DWW + Gravy to overcome all!

Same thing is happening in pvp: I am getting kills, but then again I am dieing to ridiculous stuff like pvp lvl 1 ranger CCing my ass back to oblivion. That and the problem that every single assassin feeds off same stuff: some variation of hybrid build with avatar, DWW, FTD and Explosion. I have to agree to the bad rap assassins are getting: it IS all about avatar-->FTD-->Snap kick-->Explo-->DWW. This combination just works, so I don't blame anyone for using it. If anything you SHOULD specc in  the "best specc" and hybrid is indeed a VERY POWERFUL combination: all the best toys with only downside being lack of anti cc.

Enter the Lotus state

I have decided to go back to my 1.4/1.5 roots by speccing in Lotus/General and stick with it (at least before I will go completely mad). I am still putting 5/5 into Corrupted Blades feat from corruption trees. I don't think speccing 56/5/18 really counts as being hybrid and massive passive damage from CB is too good to pass up..

So why speccing this "inferior" combination? I need something different - badly. I am willing to put up with a lot just to have an opportunity to "mix it up" with a class I have been playing non stop since may 2008.

My lotus philosophy
I am not ready to "show and tell" my build yet because the last 10 point are so hard to distribute. I just LOVE this feeling of creative anxiety when you are "dead locked" deciding your build. Lets be honest: there is not much to decide about hybrid ;p I have, however, found a major flaw in my previous tests which made me shy away from lotus. Shards management. Having access to Necrotic and Crystallized hybrid build almost makes you forget about shards because you can get them back easily and often. Lotus/General specc has to rely on Crystallized Lotus which gives back 3 shards. That's just not enough and I have found myself either not using grave blossom at all (huge lose in DPS) or skipping Lotus Overdose (exactly as bad). The solution seems to be using castration perk. I know that its a bad upgrade to a horrible combo, but capturing that 2 shards is live saving. I will miss my beloved choking powder, BUT if anything having choking powder instead of castration is making shard management for lotus assassin that much worse (or you won't be using CP at all with is also bad). Another rule to follow is anti cc: I am getting every single one. I have decided to magnify lotus strong points (anti cc and anti magic) instead of trying to plug the holes in the build (lack of healing and armor).

Solo PVE

It almost feels like playing different class. You cannot go with guns blazing and plow trough legions of mobs (yes, that is what hybrid DOES). The problem lies in NOT having the healing factor - the dps is till quite amazing. So it does down to not being able to out last the mobs (avatar makes it possible) because you will never ever out DPS Khitaian mobs. Out DPS mobs? Yeah, Khitai mobs have both constitution and dps of a freaking demon. Hell, some of them ARE demons. While 1v1 or 2v1 with mobs is manageable (for hybrid: laughable) 3v1 is hard as nails and 4v1 is a death wish. If you want to test how good is your lotus build (and lets face it gear and AAs) go to Paikang and try fighting:

1. Gray Ape boss (85 lvl mob, fight the WHITE ones, not the black ones) for 1v1

2. Outlaws for 2v1, 3v1 and 4v1

The ultimate test for any assassin build (and assassination capabilities in general) is taking down Dark Legion's general - solo. I haven't attempted this as Lotus yet, but its hard even for hybrid.

To sum it up: lacking the healing factor makes you focus more on pulling and being a lot less reckless.


Very mixed feelings. There have been times where I was like "shiiiiiiiiiiiit if I was hybrid specced I would melt that guy's face off" but also times where I have broken every single CC from barbarian and killed him off easily ("CC denied, bitch!"). Getting kills Lotus specc makes me smile, especially when people are very surprised with you breaking their ccs. I have even got a whisper from a conq that tried to KB me sever times to no use: "Why aren't you KBed? You don't have that burning thingy going" (burning thingy must be avatar ;p). I guess excellent balance usage is pretty rare nowadays.

I have also enjoyed sneaking up on TOS with 3 other people and slaughtering him while having Lotus Overdose and Excellent Balance going. There was nothing they could have really done to stop me.

Curse of the lotus (or lotus bomb) is also delicious to use, especially since AOE ccs are not very common.

There are downsides, of course. It is hard to chase down people (even with maxed out nibble which gives +5% speed bonus) and my accelerated/FTDs are sorely missed. Also soldiers are a lot harder to deal with now: no more GC/Avatar/DWW/Grave Blossom "Bam Bam, thank you Ma'm". This is especially evident with Conquerors which are, historically, bane of Lotus Assassins (ever since 1.4).

I think that over all Hybrid is favored with it comes to rough killing (mainly because dreadful, skipped DWW)

but then again Lotus can get those kills that hybrid could not (because hybrid assassin would be cced back to stone age while his pray would get away).

Anti CC

The very first games I was extremely clumsy with my anti cc arsenal. Being hybrid for so long I was using the time I was CCed to sip my coffee. Now I am like "oh shit! I gotta use my anti cc!". Lucky after couple of games I am back into anticipating CC and using anti cc the very second you get stuned/feared/snared/rooted etc. You really have to put your mind into it, otherwise you are not taking the advantage of anti cc and it just might be the only one you have got.

Is it for everyone?

Hell NO! And I must state that its not matter of skill, but sheer stats. Lotus requires gear and AA. While Hybrid might still perform well while under geared it is where Lotus fails miserably. I am even taking advantage of my costly Lotus pets (check them here) to overcome some of this build's shortcomings (and to further it's breathtaking damage).

I will update my findings as get more experienced with post 1.6 Lotus.

And before I end this post here is a little bit of lore I have "written" for my character:

"Bewildered by the corruption slowly taking over his mind he traveled far to the east. There, deep in the Paikang jungle, he has found the temple of Yun who's priest cultivated lotus for generations.

Slith sat under a blossom with his eyes open and dilated with the fumes of the yellow lotus, far-staring, as if fixed on gulfs and nighted abysses beyond human ken. In this unearthly garden of Yun he was contemplating the errors of his ways. There, in his dream-haunted slumber, he has reached the taint that has been sending chills down his very soul. As he was descending into the black abyss he has heard  a a single word being spoken, in a rich vibrant tone that was like the golden chimes that ring in the jungle-lost temples of Khitai. It was an unknown tongue, forgotten before the kingdoms of man arose, but he knew that it meant, “Come!”

He turned quickly away and saw great black blossoms nodding at him. One of
these had touched him. They seemed to beckon him, to arch their pliant stems toward him. His is eyes cleared instantly and became cold and cruel as a vulture's. He got up and offered this gratitude to the blossoms which rustled, though no wind blew".

This short text is really made up from several Conan stories by REH (with very little of my own invention). Can YOU name the stories which I have used?