ALBION ONLINE BRINGS ITS SUMMER TEST TO A CLOSE WITH A WAR

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in reviews |

Bad news for Albion Online fans who have been enjoying this summer test phase: It ends tonight. The bright side is that if you’re on the servers today, you can take part in the closing event starting at 11:00 a.m. EDT. It’s a three-way war to capture as many developers as possible, and the winners get… well, bragging rights, mostly. You don’t get to bring a developer home with you; owning a developer is a big responsibility.

All players taking part in the event will be divided up between three alliances randomly. Each alliance has a castle, each castle has a developer, and each player will be coordinating with the rest of the alliance to storm the castles and capture as many developers as possible within a three-hour period. It’s as fine a way to cap off an alpha test as any we’ve heard.

 

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Guide to the Panther Medium Tank in World of Tanks

Posted by on Jul 18, 2015 in reviews |

In this guide I review the underrated Panther, the tier 7 German medium tank in the E50M line in World of Tanks (WoT).

I decided to grind the E50M line, as I want to play a tier 10 medium tank with good gun handling and functional armor, and these are two of the E-50M’s strengths. In addition, I was swayed by Oneeechan’s advocacy of the E50M line on the WoTLabs forums.

To get to the E50M, you have to play the Panther, which by reputation is a craptastic tank. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Panther is a solid tank, if you respect its capabilities and limitations.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ high silver penetration (198)
+ accurate gun
+ good HP pool (1300)
– very low alpha damage (135)
– risk of fire when penetrated through the soft lower front glacis (LFG)

The thing that really sticks out is the alpha damage; it’s so low that you can’t brawl effectively. Therefore, you want to snipe with this tank, but as a general Unicum philosophy, you don’t want to hang back so far that your gun is inactive in early-game and mid-game.

Upgrade Path

The Panther is a bit unusual in that you can equal the top gun (7.5 cm L/100) with the stock turret. Your priority is getting that gun because you’ll need it when facing tier 8 and 9 tanks.

Here’s my recommended path for researching modules and slotting equipment:

Purchase the following equipment: Enhanced Torsion Bars 5+ t Class (so you can research high-priority modules first), Coated Optics (for vision control), and Gun Rammer (faster reload)
Research the 7.5cm L/100 gun (16,100 XP). If you can afford to do so, use Free XP. The gun makes the tank and you will struggle without it. You should already have the top radio and 2nd engine unlocked from the VK 30.02 M tank
Research the 2nd turret
Research the suspension, and replace the Enhanced Torsion Bars equipment with Enhanced Gun Laying Drive (faster aim)
Crew Skills

Given that this is a medium tank and that you’ll often be sniping, follow the medium philosophy of maxing vision control and fire control:

Commander: Sixth Sense > Recon > Camo
Gunner: Snap Shot > Camo > Repairs
Driver: Smooth Ride > Camo > Repairs
Radio Operator: Situational Awareness > Camo > Repairs
Loader: Safe Stowage > Preventative Maintenance > Camo
I do not recommend Brothers in Arms (BIA) unless you have a 450% crew (i.e. 3.5 skills). Preventative Maintenance is optional, but if you take PM and slot a premium fire extinguisher, the risk of fire is significantly reduced by the two stacking passive bonuses, and you’ll rarely have to pay for a new fire extinguisher.

Narrated Gameplay

The easiest way to explain how to play the tank is show illustrative footage. Here is a tier 7 battle in which I earned the “Ace Tanker” mastery and Top Gun badges:
Let me know your questions and feedback.

For more info on angling and weak spots, check out my guides:

Weak Spots Guide
Angling Guide
For more advanced videos, check out my “Road to Unicum” tank reviews in which I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 1%). I talk through how I’m reading each battle as it unfolds and discuss key decisions and mistakes. My hope is that these videos meaningfully help other players improve their gameplay.

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Sometimes Games Do Evolve For The Better (Guild Wars 2)

Posted by on Jul 18, 2015 in guides |

In February, I was pretty burned out from World of Tanks (WoT) and decided to take a look at Guild Wars 2 (GW2), which I hadn’t meaningfully played since 2013. Most of my 2014 gaming time was spent on WildStar (WS) and WoT.

Why I stopped playing GW2 back in 2013

The following things collectively made GW2 unattractive to me:

I believed Ascended gear was not aligned with pre-launch expectations from ArenaNet (AN) regarding progression
To make matters worse, the acquisition of Ascended gear was extremely grindy. I despised the random daily quests – they were a tedious waste of 30 minutes of my valuable time – and each gear piece was for a particular stats mix for a particular character (soulbound). The Ascended gear system was a disincentive for me to commit time to alts, and alts are fun
There were aspects of the UI that I found irritating, e.g. how small the boon and buff icons are
The combat mechanics in WS looked much more attractive to me. I love aim-based action combat, because it’s engaging and requires skill
Upon picking up GW2 again in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of the things I disliked had been meaningfully addressed, and that other quality-of-life improvements had been implemented. It’s worth mentioning the value of the GW2’s B2P monetization system – it cost me nothing aside from disk space to patch up to the current version of GW2 and play again.

Improvement #1: Ascended and Legendary gear changed from soulbound to account bound

Legendary / Ascended gear account bound
Account bound > Soulbound
This was outlined in the March 2014 news article on the GW2 site.

The implications of course are massive. E.g. instead of having to farm Berserker Ascended gear for each of your characters, you could farm 1 set of Berserker jewelry and share them across characters, and to the extent your characters share the same weapons and armor, they can share those too.

Soulbound systems create a context where you have to do the same amount of work for each character, and this makes playing alts less attractive, which in turn I believe makes a game less sticky. Players love their alts.

Also, players who have more characters have more protection from class-specific nerfs and changes to the meta, and they are therefore less likely to leave a game when a particular class is nerfed. So I believe that for high-end endgame gear, having that gear be account bound makes a game more sticky for players.

Improvement #2: Daily laurel quests changed to login quests

This was a brilliant move by AN and synergizes with the previous improvement. You just need to login each day to get your daily credit, and I think AN has realized that if you login you might actually play that day. It certainly worked on me.

I utterly despised the previous system of random and completely unchallenging daily quests to earn laurels. Some gamers have the mentality that you should just have to do your dailies and suck it up, but that’s so not-fun for someone like me and is a perspective of the older gaming crowd (I’m looking at you, hard-working Gen X’ers).

Improvement #3: Dyes and skins changed from soulbound to account bound

Some folks don’t care about cosmetics, but I enjoying dialing in the look of each character. E.g. here is my 80 Guardian, with skins that were unlocked from my Warrior:

80 Guardian with badass-looking gear
My Guardian sporting a classic plate armor look, a la the movie Excalibur
Improvement #4: Megaserver

There’s nothing more depressing than playing in sparsely-populated zones. AN implemented megaserver technology, and the level 80 world zones consistently have the critical mass for events.

Karka Queen zerg
Events such as the Karka Queen draw mass participation
Improvement #5: Structured PVP contributes to progression

This one is self-explanatory. I actually stopped sPvP pretty much cold turkey after the first 6 weeks of launch, because I wasn’t leveling my characters to 80. Oddly, I haven’t gone back, but I think I got burned out by the PVP.

Improvement #6: New level 80 zones are fun

Dry Top and The Silverwastes provide popular farming zones. I like the design of The Silverwastes, which is a PVE version of WvW.

All these improvements aside, after two months of playing GW2, in which I geared my 80 Elementalist with some Celestial Exotic gear, leveled a Guardian to 80, and geared my Guardian with a mix of Exotic and Ascended Berserker gear, I’ve decided to put GW2 back on the shelf. I want a different combat experience than what GW2 offers – that is, issues #3 and #4 listed above are still issues. Beyond that, the game continues to be very pigeon-holed in terms of the meta. For multiple classes, Berserker is still the way to go, and that limits functional choice.

Nonetheless, I may come back to GW2 for the Heart of Thorns (HoT) paid expansion, given that once you pay, it’s free to play.

Beyond GW2, in the MMORPG landscape I’ve heard encouraging things about Camelot Unchained, and I look forward to trying it out.

In the meanwhile, I’ve picked WoT back up again and really enjoying it, and I just paid for early access for Armored Warfare, a game is a mashup of WoT’s tank-based combat and the smaller battles common in MOBAs.

What are you playing these days, and what do you think of the evolution of GW2?

I forgot to mention that I also gave SMITE a try in February. Many of you had recommended it to me as a MOBA that I might like, given that it has aim-based mechanics.

SMITE was more engaging than League of Legends (LoL), but I’ve come to realize that the whole meta of selecting heroes and upgrades as counterplay isn’t something that I’m particularly interested in, because in many cases there is a right upgrade path or two and a lot of suboptimal ones, in which case there effectively isn’t a choice to be made. I shelved SMITE after trying it for a couple nights and haven’t been sufficiently interested enough to play it again.

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