Friday, September 4, 2015

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together : City of Steam

Okay, it wasn't much of a plan and it certainly wasn't a new idea. Chez Bhagpuss we've been out-leveling content to make it easier to complete since somewhere around the turn of the century. Spending in-game money to pay to finish log-in dailies for xp to level up that is a new one.

What I see.
I'd estimated I'd need to hit 30 to kill the final boss in the stage of the main story quest I've been stuck on for, oh, about a year. At 27 I could get him under half health and at 28 I'd had a couple of close fights but he seemed to do something towards the end that finished me off fast.

No idea what it was. Combat in City of Steam only seems to have two modes: faceroll easy or so fast and chaotic I have no clue what's happening. It's not helped by the annoying tool-tips that float above every combat skill every time I click on them so I can't see what I'm trying to click. #clickerproblems, I know...

Add to that, everything in underground dungeons in CoS is so dark. There's some great design going on but it's almost impossible to appreciate because all the light settings are set to "dismal". It may be immersive; it may even be realistic. I wouldn't know; I just can't see any of it.

In the end I got impatient logging in to daily my way to fame and glory. I went in half-way through 29. It was rough. Really rough.

What's really there.
In City of Steam, most story arcs that happen in dungeons that come in three levels with a boss at the end of each, who has to be beaten to open the next. For this one the first level was completely empty.

I took this to mean I'd finished it at some point in the past and been credited with progress on that stage. What was I thinking?

There are those three bosses to kill and you don't save any progress as you go. If you can't kill all three in the same run you have to do it over. My only excuse for forgetting that is that I've been trying to get this thing done for a freaking year! I stopped paying attention to the detail long ago. When it comes to dungeons, it's just been my goblin vs That Guy for as long as I can remember.

The next level, which I was thinking of as the second, but which was actually the first, was straightforward enough to clear. I got to what I thought was the second (but was really the first) boss, who I'd beaten before and I beat him again. On to level three (level two).

By this point my best mercenary, the guy with the sabre who looks like a hussar who's lost his horse, was at about 10% health. Mercs don't regenerate any health in dungeons. If there's a way to heal them I have no idea what it is. The only option is to let them die and swap in another, which would in this case be a weaker one.

So that's what I did. We plowed through the trash to the next boss. The merc fell over. I summoned back-up, a gun-toting robot butler, who I much prefer aesthetically but who is sadly not up to the rigors of the job any more.

With his help we soon reached Tharik, the dreaded boss who'd introduced my face to the floor on every other occasion we'd met. I cleared a few of his minions and then fired an air-burst from my massive hand-cannon in his general direction. That got his attention.

Thirty seconds later I was dead. Same as every other time. Clearly I did need to hit 30 after all. But it was sooooo close! Maybe, just maybe....

Great view but not one I want to see right now

City of Steam, like just about every F2P MMO, has an "Is it inconvenient being dead? Well why don't you give us some money, then?" option that lets you revive on the spot instead of back in the city. I'd never pay real cash for that but, unlike most F2P MMOs, CoS lets you pay for just about everything with imaginary money that it hands out liberally and that's a different matter altogether.

Even so, I don't generally bother. When you die to a boss he resets to full health but your mercenary doesn't. Worse, unless you were canny and fought well away from the boss's spawn spot (or ran away when you knew you were on the losing end of the fight), if you take the option to pop up where you fell he'll be right there on top of you, hacking and blasting away before you can figure out which way is up. If you couldn't beat him when you had time to prepare you're not likely to take him with a sucker punch from the flagstones.

The red mist around the edges indicates I am almost done for.
But not quite! Why, I still have 13% of my health left!

But it was sooooo close! I rashly hit the "revive here" option and, miraculously, it paid off. It was another tough fight, naturally. Many health and steam potions were auto-consumed. In the end, though, this time I moved about a bit more, managed to avoid some of the big damage bursts and for once it was his face that hit the floor instead of mine.

And then...nothing happened.
Of course, if I'd bothered to read the quest I'd have realized he wasn't the final boss at all. It does actually name the guy you have to kill and this wasn't him. As I said, my only excuse is I've been trying to get this done for so long now I forgot what it was I was actually supposed to be doing. I had tunnel vision on this one guy who I couldn't beat and now I'd finally got the better of him I had to go fight his boss. Joy!

Down we went again to the climactic conclusion; or more likely, as I suspected, ignominious defeat and the chance to do it all again after a couple more rounds of dailies. And another problem: the back-up merc was banged up badly in the last fight. He was never even going to make it as far as the last boss let alone survive a fight with him and he duly expired in a corridor half way through the final level. Now what?

I don't mind dogs as a rule but there are limits.

Recruit another merc and force-level him, that's what. Yet again it occurs to me that I'm playing City of Steam too much like a normal MMO and not like the F2P creature it is. You can grab mercs on the fly and pay to level them using Merc XP points you earn from other activities and I have thousands of those points.

For some reason I chose a gigantic, slobbering hound. I have no idea why. It was late. I was tired. He looked at me with those puppy dog eyes. Like Cujo.

Together we tore up Kalinor, the final boss, the one whose name I'd failed to register going in. Either the dog was better than any of the other mercs or Kalinor was weaker than his hirelings or I played a little better. Whatever, he went down first time. The red mist was up when he died. I think I had about 2% health left but I can't be sure. It was all far too intense to be taking screenshots. Doesn't matter. He died. I didn't. End of.
That estuary tang.

The important part is it's over! At last! A quick run past the now-functioning final Myth Dock, whose repair this entire epic has all been about, and out into the open air, where radio reception works again. Here's good old Imraphel back on the airwaves, telling me what a great job I've done and asking me if I'm ready for the next part or if I wouldn't rather train a little more first.

On the basis of recent experience I think I could use all the extra training I can get. I'm a little vague on how being sent to kill thirteen level 20 mobs on a beach is going to help but, hey, it's a beach! And a new zone I've never seen before. That's the best reward of all.

And that's where I left things. Next up is a trip through The Spire, something the game constantly reminds me can be fatal. I feel we may be approaching the end. Of the story, that is. There are still twenty more levels after that and at least two, or is it three, more hub-zones with connected dungeons and outdoor areas.

Onwards and upwards! And remember, if in doubt, buy your way out!

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