Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Shattering: Prelude to the Cataclysm Book Review

You know the game you have been playing for five plus years has hit the main stream when the newest book regarding it can be found for sale at my local super store in my poe dink town BEFORE it arrives via my special order from Amazon. (For those of you who think that Walmart came up with the idea of the Super Store you are wrong, they actually copied the idea from a local franchise we have in my neck of the woods.) WHY was it available early you ask? Because we ARE a poe dink town. They had NO clue what they had, so they put it OUT before its release date....however since I HAD special ordered it my loving spouse would not allow me to purchase it. (We have no need for multiple copies he said.) Then of course Amazon delivered it LATE....there is this WONDERFUL thing called irony.

The Shattering is Christie Golden's newest contribution to the canon of World of Warcraft. Unlike her previous works this addition doesn't take place primarily in the past but very much in the present day of the On Line Game. I would characterize this book as an introduction of the "changing of the guard" in the current political powers of Azeroth. Which is something that Ms. Golden  handles beautifully.  By that I mean the next generation of political leaders are coming into their own and making themselves known in this book. We are being introduced to each of them, learning who they are and what makes them tick. Even if you never read the book you will encounter every character at some point in the game, but reading it will give you a greater understanding of how they came to be there, WHY they are in the position they hold, as well as their relationship to the others. Lore mongers will HAVE to have this book, all others will certainly enjoy it.

One of the things I most enjoy about Golden's work is that she is able to make her characters understandable to the reader. That doesn't mean you will like or embrace them. There are MULTIPLE times I wanted to bash both Garrosh AND Varian's heads for being so fundamentally STUPID, but you can understand WHY they are making the decisions they are, even if you may not agree with WHY they are doing them. Yet she is able to make their motivations believable.  One of the problems with a GAME is that it tends to limit character development to two dimensions. Golden is finally able to give us a third demension to our characters again and restore individuals like Jaina Proudmoore BACK to something more than a sniveling hankie.

She really had her work cut out for her, especially in the area of character development for Garrosh. Here was an individual who AGAIN had to undergo RADICAL personality changes between expansions and she needed to tie it together. To explain to the reader HOW he was a whiny sniveling brat in Outland, an out of control hot head in Northrend and then SOMEHOW becomes a REASONABLE leader following the Cataclysm. She even manages to give a little more insight into why Varian is so unstable, that he is AWARE that he is unstable but also that he can't do much about it other than continue to muddle through TRYING to gain more control over his split personality problem. (It is a good thing the Horde still can't kill Anduin, otherwise his sole reason for attempting to remain sane would evaporate.)

*Spoilers to Follow*

There are TONS of reviews out about this book now that go into detail about the story so I won't even bother giving a run down of it. I just want to mention what I considered the high lights for me.

First, a remark made by Eitrigg to Thrall about Jaina Proudmoore. "To bad she isn't an orc." It is kinda a tweak at all the fans who have had this thing about Thrall and Jaina. I have never been one for the whole Jaina and Thrall romantic thing but I know that Chris Mentzen has been trying to get Thrall a romantic interest FOREVER, only to have fans pitch a FIT because they want him with Jaina. Well as Eitrigg says...."She ISN'T an Orc.." Thall needs a mate. He needs an heir. Part of the problem the Horde faces is as the direct result of the fact that Thrall DOESN'T have an heir and the only person he WOULD have chosen was killed at the Wrathgate. That whole scene was delicious. Thankfully Thrall FINALLY gets himself a girlfriend and I really like her, she is just as smart mouthed as his mother was. When I first encountered her in game not even knowing who she was I enjoyed thier interactions, so it will be nice to she her developed more.

Second, the meeting between Baine and Anduin at Jaina's. I don't think ANYONE would say this wasn't one of the BEST parts of the book. Golden herself has stated she had the most fun writing this and it shows. The conversation between these two fugitives just shows how much of an impact they will have on the future of Azeroth. Both of them questioning if they will be able to live up to the legends that are their Fathers, but at the same time knowing that even now they have a role to play in the greater scheme of things. Anduin and Baine both leave it embracing their vocations and baring gifts of very different types, one a physical item, the other the, words of power that will forever alter their factions.

Third, Garrosh's letter to Magatha. This single item lifted Garrosh in my eyes. If you have never read it...it is a sight to behold.
Unto Elder Crone Magatha of the Grimtotem, 
Acting Warchief of the Horde, Garrosh Hellscream,
Sends his most sincere wishes for a slow and painful death.
It goes on from there. The letter is a work of art. Filled with insults, death threats, torture descriptions and snide remarks. It shows that Garrosh MIGHT be worth something as Warchief. Granted he is still feeling rather sorry for himself and put upon for his own stupidity. But then Eitrigg isn't pulling any punches in pointing out that the whole reason he is IN this mess is because he WAS so arrogant and stupid that he GOT taken advantage of and as a result the Trolls think he murdered Cairne on PURPOSE. Baine at least recognizes he is an idiot (this is a good thing?) and isn't going to hold it against him no matter how much he may want to beat him to a bloody pulp. The Blood Elves and Forsaken haven't really weighed in on the matter since they were in  the Eastern Kingdoms at the time.

Fourth, Varian and The Council of the Three Hammers. Now this for me was HUGE but it is a lore thing that I don't know if many people will find nearly as big as I did. It is kinda of the case of something RIGHT being done for all the wrong reasons and in totally the wrong way. For the FIRST TIME SINCE BEFORE THE WAR OF THE THREE HAMMERS THE THREE CLANS ARE UNITED IN IRONFORGE!! And we have Varian and Moira to thank for it. The problem is that these two are TOTALLY crazy and it didn't happen because that was REALLY what they were going for.

As much as we keep calling King Varian "Varian" you discover in the book that really the "Varian" part of him got totally messed up after the incident with Lady Onyxia, so the personality that pretty much runs the show is Lo'Gosh. Not a good idea because that means he is going into a fury every time someone ticks him off. This means it is a "react first, think later" thing with King Varian, especially if it concerns his son Anduin. So when Varian decides that the best thing for the "Dwarven people" is to assassinated the new "Empress Moira". It has absolutely NOTHING to do with what is best for THEM and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that she DARED to hold Anduin hostage.

Moira on the other hand is dealing with unresolved issues of her own regarding her Father. Apparently ole Magni was a little disappointed she was born a girl and so she grew up with an inferiority complex. So she ran away and joined the Dark Iron's who fawned all over her, and told her how wonderful she was. Eventually falling in love and marrying Dagran Thaurissan their leader. Well that didn't go over well with Daddy who declared she MUST have been enchanted and sent a group of adventures off to "rescue her". Murdering her husband didn't do much to restore the Father Daughter relations, so the estrangement continued, but now Magni had an additional problem. Word had reached him that Moria had a child which meant that his Grandson would be the heir to both HIS throne as well as the Dark Iron. Magni had two choices, he could disown Moria or let things stand. He chose to let them stand in hopes that eventually he would be able to restore the relationship. But it was not to be.

There are a lot of feminist who are not happy with the treatment of the Moria character. They see her as EVIL. They are complaining that Blizzard keeps coming up with EVIL female characters. I think they need to re evaluate how Ms. Golden presented Moria. In my opinion she is very sheltered and limited in her world experience. She lived in Iron Forge under her Father and then in Black Rock with her Spouse. All she has known is the dwaves, YES she is manipulative. She IS a spoiled Princess, as much as she may or may not realize it. For the Dark Irons, especially the ruling classes, all you do is speak and everyone else rushes to do your bidding. She is entertained by Anduin, but not willing to trust him. She is understandably TERRIFIED when faced with an ENRAGED King Varian who shows up at her bedside, swords drawn declaring her a "pretender". Yet at the same time, Moria wants equality for her Dark Irons. She it tired of them being hidden away in Black Rock, reviled and rejected for no other reason than because they lost in a war of succession. (I think this shows her nievity, the Dark Irons ARE a rather bitter bunch even now about that, which didn't help her feelings towards Daddy.)

Over all it is going to be interesting to see how these play out in Cataclysm. Will there be tension between Ironforge and Stormwind because Varian has basically stated he will be closely monitoring the actions of Moira and the new council very closely? How will Garrosh deal with the distrust many of the leaders of the Horde now have towards HIM as the result of the murder of Cairne? Will we have Prince Anduin randomly showing up at Theramore taking a vacation from his Dad's temper fits? (Oh that would be HYSTERICAL!) At least Jaina is back to being a strong leader again, yeah she is still bummed she couldn't save Arthas...and Varian may rub her nose in it from time to time but she isn't balling about it every five minutes anymore either. Thank GOD!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

4.0.1's changes to the Glyph system for Rogues

Glyphs are PERSONAL enhancements that a player places on their character created within the profession called "Inscription". The practitioners of which are called "Scribes".With 4.0.1 the original design of the glyph system is getting a complete reworking. No longer will it be a simple two type style but will expand to encompass three distinct types of glyphs. (Originally I was going to post this yesterday but a surprise post by the blues made me question some items I had seen on the PTR so I held off.) Many of the original glyphs we had before are still in effect, and any of those you used for your previous specs you will find you already know when you log in. However there have been a couple of new ones added that you may want to pick up so lets review what the changes are, what new glyphs have been added how how this all translates into what we will need to do as we set up to play.

The three types of glyphs are Prime glyphs which deal with our damage output, Major glyphs which augment abilities and spells to granting greater utility, and Minor glyphs which grant minor conveniences.  We are granted three of each at specific level sets, the first set is at level 25, the second at level 50 and the third at level 75 for a grand total of 9. There is also a regent you will need to know about that the first time I saw it I had a major blast from the past. It is called "Vanish Powder" (Now the blue post called it "Dust of Disappearance" but this isn't accurate.) This powder allows you to change out glyphs. Once you have learned a glyph they go into a side panel (They will be lit up to show that you know them, shaded to indicate that you can learn them but don't yet have access to them.) Now I don't foresee us as being a class that frequently changes out our glyphs but some having a stack of 5 on you should get you by. This powder can either be purchased from a scribe or at an Inscription vendor, as a stack of five will only run you 32s this is no hardship.

Minor Glyphs are located in the center of the new glyph interface. They are the smallest of the glyph have circle with no decorative feature around the edge. They are located at the bottom of the glyph list, only one specifically has changed for us this patch. Now I have my personal preferences on these so I will start with those as I go over each.

Safe Fall - This glyph allows you to fall further without taking as much damage. Now there is some debate as to how MUCH further the distance is but I know that several of the event bosses we will be facing for Cata have "tossing" mechanics and this was a nice feature to have as I took NO fall damage while using this glyph.

Distract - Increases the range of distract by 5 yards. With Cata CC is going to be coming back in a big way (basically because we are not all going to be over geared for the instances for a while). So having the extra range to get in and place saps can come in handy.

Poisons - This allows you to apply your poisons 50% faster. Really just for all those impatient us out there. (You know that describes that vast majority of us.) This one may catch some people by surprise because it is actually a new/old glyph. Originally this was the Glyph of Vanish but it was converted into this so you may already know it even though it is new.

Pick Pocket - Increases the range of picking pockets by 5 yards. Now I personally use this one rather than Poisons but that is because I have a MAJOR problem with sticky fingers. What can I say I like presents? Though I am still rather bitter that Arthas doesn't have any pockets.....

Blurred Speed - Allows you to walk on water when you cast Sprint. With Sprint's cool down now reduced to 1 minute from 3 minutes this may increase in popularity with a great many Rogues. I know quite a few who enjoyed playing "Jesus" all the time.

Pick Lock - Allows you to instantly open a locked box. Now this is nice if you are a rogue who does nothing more than open all your guild's locked boxes or stands on the local mail box hawking your skills. However since frankly the amount of those lovely things has greatly diminished in recent years *cry* so has the usefulness of this glyph.

Major Glyphs are located in the middle section of the glyph interface, they are the same size as the minors but have a decorative border similar to a gem socket. Choices in this area are really going to depend on what you are doing with your character. Are you raiding? Pvping? Leveling? Along with this will be what spec you decide to go with as your primary. Only one major change here the others are all glyphs we are already familiar with. So I will start with the change then give the others in no particular order.

If you look in the list of glyphs it will list "Vanish" as a learnable glyph Major Glyph but this is in fact an error. As was stated in the Minors "Vanish" as been converted into the Minor glyph "Poisons" so while it is listed as a learn able glyph it is in fact unavailable.

Ambush - Increases the range of  Ambush by 5 yards. With the resurgence of Subtlety as a viable spec this glyph may actually see some use.

Blade Furry - Reduced the energy regeneration penalty by 50% while Blade Furry is active. For Combat Rogues this is a very good glyph to have.

Blind - Removes all damage over time effects from the target. It is basically our version of Polymorph, minus all the cute, cuddly shapes. This is a new glyph added this patch. For Pvp there is no doubt this is a very useful one to consider.

Cloak of Shadows - When Cloak of Shadows if active you take 40% less physical damage. Again another nice Pvp glyph.

Crippling Poison - Increases the chance to inflict your target with Crippling Poison by 20%. Ok, something nice to say about this glyph....um....yeah...coming up empty here. It helps fill your low level glyph slot? Honestly I can't think of a single reason to use this glyph, EVER.

Deadly Throw - Increases the slowing effect of your Deadly Throw by 20%. Pvpers MAY like this but to be honest I can think of better ways to use a Major slot. Ever since they removed the interrupt ability from Deadly Throw the usefulness of it has been limited.

Evasion - Increases the duration of Evasion by 5 seconds. Again another Pvp, or Rogue Tank glyph. Leveling rogues may also like this one, at least ones who have a difficult time understanding the choose your fight play style of rogues.

Expose Armor - Increase the duration of Expose Armor by 12 seconds. Now this glyph can be very useful if you tend to run 10 man raids without a warrior. While it may not increase your PERSONAL dps it can certainly impact your groups over all dps. It may not be a bad idea to consider keeping a little Vanish Powder just for this glyph and those situations.

Fan of Knives - Increases the radius of your Fan of Knives by 50%. Ah, FoK our AoE loveliness....use this farming, use this for trash, use this to get in trouble with tanks, no wait forget I mentioned that last part....

Feint - Reduces the energy cost of Feint by 20. This glyph's significance has changed due to the change to feint itself with this patch. Before Feint scaled as you leveled up really being a pretty useless ability until you got to higher levels and granted not only the treat reduction but damage reduction from AOE. Now that ability is granted at even lower levels making it a tasty

Garrote - Increases the duration of Garrote's silencing ability by 2 seconds. This glyph has undergone some changes. Originally it increased the damage dealt over the duration of the effect now it only effect the silencing ability, as a result this glyph as really been significantly nerfed. Some Pvpers may like it but I can think of other openers which could be more beneficial.

Gouge - Reduces the energy cost of Gouge by 15. This is a glyph that has undergone some change. Originally it allowed you to use the ability without target needing to be facing you, as that requirement has now been removed the glyph was changed to be a reduction in energy cost for the move itself. As this can also be used as in interrupt it is another major which individuals may find themselves using for specific situations, however not one I see many using regularly unless perhaps as a Subtlety Pvp rogue.

Kick - Increases the cool down of Kick by 4 sec, but this cool down is reduced by 6 second when your kick successfully interrupts a spell. Another glyph that has undergone a great many changes, going from a Vigor/Assassination energy rewarding form to its present wild card. If you time it right you can reduce your kick cool down by 2 seconds, if not, you could be increasing it by 4.  So just how much confidence do you have in yourself? Are you feeling lucky?

Preparation - Your Preparation ability also instantly resets the cool down of Kick, Dismantle and Smoke Bomb. A must have for Subtlety Rogues.

Sap - Increases the duration of Sap against non-player targets by 80 seconds. So if you get this glyph you can sap a non-player target for about 2 minutes and 20 seconds. This is NOT a Pvp glyph obviously but again as we are going into Cata and will be dealing again with the need for CC, this may be a glyph you should look at depending on the situation.

Sprint - Increases the movement speed of Sprint by 30%. About the only time I see this get used is in Pvp. Specifically in Warsong Gulch or Eye of the Storm. If you want wings on your feet, this is the way to go.

Tricks of the Trade - Removes the energy cost of Tricks of the Trade but reduces the recipient's damage bonus by 5%. This is another glyph that was modified. Originally it would extend the duration of ToT by four seconds. Now depending on what you used ToT for you will either consider this a blessing or a curse. Personally I used it more often as a way to offset my threat so I welcome this change with open arms. Those who traded ToT with others will miss the damage exchanges though.

Prime Glyphs are the newest addition and are located on the outer most section of the glyph interface. The largest and most decorative of the sockets, these Glyphs contain both old favorites as well as some new additions with interesting results. I will begin with the newest additions and then go on to the others.

Revealing Strike - Increases the Revealing Strike's bonus effectiveness to your finishing moves by 10%. Revealing Strike use to be called "Ghostly Strike" and was a staple for Subtlety rogues. It has now been granted to ALL rogues, but does that make it useful to us all? It all depends on the situation. Some Combat Rogues are finding it useful to throw it into their rotations, breaking up the constant SS spam before their finishers, add this glyph as well and it could equal a dps increase but I see it as more of a Subtlety glyph than anything else.

Vendetta - Increase the duration of Vendetta ability by 20%. This is another one that is based on a new ability (and if you also have a Death Knight might cause you a little frustration as they used the same name for two COMPLETELY different things). This glyph and ability are basically replacing the unlamented "Hunger for Blood" VERY yummy for the Assassination rogues...your going to want this.

Adrenaline Rush - Increase the duration of Adrenaline Rush by 5 seconds. No change here. Same glyph as before just a Prime rather than a Major. Combat Rogues may find it useful as they level.

Backstab - Backstab critical strikes grant 5 energy. Ok, another not really very useful glyph here. MAYBE a Subltey rogue could use it but I can think of a whole bunch of much better ones.

Eviscerate - Increase the critical strike chance of Eviscerate by 10%. As attractive as this glyph looks for Combat rogues there really are better glyphs out there to use over it.

Hemorrhage- Your Hemorrhage ability also causes the target to bleed, dealing 40% of the direct strike's damage over 24 seconds. This is another Subltey Rogue glyph, however it really only preforms well in a raid setting. Now with the changing we are seeing in Cata Subltey Rogues in Raids may NOT be a thing of the past so this glyph may see some use again, only time will tell.

Killing Spree - Increases the bonus to your damage while Killing Spree is active by 10%. Sigh, have I mentioned recently I LOVE this move? Ok, I LOVE this move. It is just FUN, there is such an element of danger when you use it. Yeah, Combat Rogues, this is a glyph you are going to want to have.

Mutilate - Reduces the cost of Mutilate by 5 energy. The bread and butter of the Assassination Tree, no question you want to pick up this glyph to increase your efficiency.

Rupture - Increases the duration of Rupture by 4 seconds. At one point this glyph was very beneficial and a must have for Combat Rogues as Rupture was a staple of our rotation. At this point I think it is still to early to call if we will get Rupture back as a major feature or not.

Shadow Dance - Increases the duration of Shadow Dance by 2 seconds. This is another FUN move found at the Top of the Subtlety Tree. If you have never taken the time to play around with it DO. It has undergone a great deal of reworking over the past few years since it was first introduced. Some swear by this glyph while others pass it by in favor of others it really comes down to personal play style.

Sinister Strike - Your Sinister Strike has a 20% chance to add an additional combo point. For Combat this is a bread and butter Glyph...lets be honest, why is the tree even CALLED Combat? We should just call it "Sinister Strike Spam" or SSS for short. But then we would just sound like a bunch of snakes and the Hunters would be trying to tame us like they do the Druids...

Slice and Dice - Increase the duration of Slice and Dice by 3 seconds. Now I personally like this one and find it very useful, I have used it for a long time and so far haven't found a replacement as it allows me to extend my dps time before I have to worry about refreshing Slice and Dice as Combat or Subtlety.

So there you have it, the new changes and the glyphs we currently have available to us. If see anything updated about the Vanish glyph bug I will try to report it but so far it just seems to be there taunting us with its yumminess.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Of Release Dates and Memorials

So yesterday Blizzard officially announced that December 7th, Azeroth as we know it will be changed forever. Well that isn't really accurate. It will all happen a few weeks BEFORE when Patch 4.0.1 is implemented. The expansion pack is really just when we gain access to the new level cap, races and zones. Those who have been paying attention to their Blizzard down loaders or have messed around on the PTR will have noticed that this patch is about the size of three disks or a full game. Why? Because we are getting an entirely NEW game wither we like it or not. Even if you DON'T purchase the expansion pack or any of them for that matter your gaming experience will be forever altered.

It has been kind of interesting to see how some reacted to the December 7th release date. To those of you who may not be aware December 7th was the day that the American Naval Base in Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese bringing the United States into the Second World War. It is considered a day of memorial for may just as the more modern September 11th. There are some who feel that Blizzard is being insensitive to release a game called "Cataclysm" on such a date.

I find some of their arguments amusing. Apparently they have forgotten that a "memorial" is for the LIVING not the DEAD. The idea behind it is to remember, honor and celebrate those who have gone before and what they have done. It is NOT to for the rest of us to cease to LIVE. Great tragedy should not be used as an excuse to prevent others from choosing to, in the words of Walt Disney "Keep Moving Forward".

Some will chose to be insulted no matter what you do. Just as some are upset at the incoming changes that will being going on within the game itself.  Change can be difficult for individuals, even change that NEEDS to happen. World of Warcraft is over 5 years old. The original game is showing its age, we have all made note of it. While some of us may wax eloquent about "the good ole days" when only "true gamers" graced its glorious landscape, the truth is many of our avatars need upgrading, we as gamers have advanced beyond the "kill so many of this" and "wander all over kingdom come looking for random items". We WANT story line, we want challenge, otherwise we would be happy playing Farmville. *shutter* As much as we may whine and complain think about that. Just as we have all evolved as gamers so has this game evolved with us. Sure there have been misses along the way, the good thing is, Blizzard seems to learn from their mistakes.

One wonders if people would be happier if we took the time to have a moment of silence for the all times past in Azeroth. The memories, the world as we once knew it before it is swept away. Granted it is nothing more than a virtual world, but we sure do seem to be spending a lot of time getting all bent out of shape, dedicating hours and hours of our time to this world and the people we meet there. Frankly I think we may be more knowledgeable of Azeroth's history than our own.