Sunday, May 16, 2021

I Will Ascend

When I sat down at my desk this morning, the game I really wanted to play was Bless Unleashed but for the very sensible reasons I gave yesterday I managed to talk myself out of it. My second choice would probably have been to try and finish Broken Sword 5 but for some reason I only like to play that in the evenings.

Instead, I did all my usual dailies in all my usual games. Later in the afternoon I put in a couple of hours in the Mists. Guild Wars 2 is running a double-xp-and-other-goodies event in World vs World this week. It tends to get quite manic at the weekends anyway but just now it's completely rammed. There's plenty of action.

I managed to get over a hundred and thirty kills, taking my lifetime total on my main account close to forty thousand. That may sound like a lot but to get the Ultimate Dominator title you have to kill a quarter of a million people. At the rate I'm going I'd have to keep playing GW2 until I was over a hundred years old. I guess it could happen...

In between I played some more in Genshin Impact. Quite a bit more. I'd let it slip for a couple of days after I started messing around with Bless Unleashed, just like I stopped playing Dragon Nest Origins as soon as I got back into Genshin Impact. I'm not sure why but I seem to find it hard to concentrate on more than one imported mmorpg at a time. Not that Genshin Impact is an mmo but the principle stands.

I started off in the usual fashion with the four daily Adventure Guild commissions. Then I had a look in my Adventurer's Handbook to see if there was anything I ought to be working on. I just finished Chapter Four last week but like everything in GI you get backdated credit for anything you've already done, so I'm already part-way through some of the next set of goals.

One that looked eminently doable was leveling three characters to forty. I already had two at thirty-five and one at thirty. Character level doesn't go up when you adventure or quest like it would in pretty much any other game you ever heard of. It's the account-based Adventure level that does that. 

To increase character level you have to spend specific resources you've acquired along the way, all of which are represented as books or papers, plus some gold, or Mora as the currency is called. Since the main way you get hold of all of those things is by doing all the normal questing, combat and exploring activities, if you stop and think about it you are leveling the characters in the traditional way. You're just deferring the xp so you can allocate it to specific characters rather than having it go to whoever is out at the time. 

I stood outside the main gates of Monstadt and blew through my resources until the Traveler, Diluc and Barbara hit forty. I had almost exactly the right amount. I couldn't have pushed any further, even if I'd wanted to, anyway. There's a soft cap at level forty. To get past it you have to Ascend. 

It's always "Ascend", isn't it? I first came across the expression in the original Guild Wars, where it was a huge rite of passage but since then I've seen it used in umpteen games. All the magic's gone out of the word. Time someone came up with a new one.

There's a button to press to Ascend so of course I pressed it to see what it did. It told me what resources I needed and, because Genshin Impact is exceptionally well-documented in game, clicking on those resources told me where I could get them. 

I had some of the stuff but there was still a fair bit to collect so I shelved that for the time being and took another look at the handbook. Another goal was Enhancing three weapons to Level 40. That sounded simple enough but when I looked at the weapons the Traveler and Diluc were using I saw they were locked at Level 20. 

Apparently those needed to Ascend as well although Barbara, who holds a book rather than a sword, the Healer's lot in so many games, seemed somehow to have gotten hold of an item that already went to forty. 

Once again, a quick click told me what materials were needed and where to get them. And I had everything for both the swords except for the imaginatively-named "Weapon Ascension Material". This vital ingredient can only be obtained from a Domain of Forgery, of which there are two, each of which is only open on alternate days. I don't know why. Union rules, maybe.

Except on Sundays, that is, when they're both up. It seemed like a good time to go find out how tough it was going to be to get the mats. I consulted the map and ported as close as I could get then ran over to the entrance to the Hidden Palace of Lianshan Formula. Yes, it is a peculiar name. No I don't know why it's called that.

The door offers a wide selection of options, varying both in level and reward. I spent a while sifting through them, cross-referencing names and images until I was sure I had the right one for the Traveler's needs. I picked Level 15, the lowest available setting, then I opened the door and went inside. 

I was anticipating a lengthy slog through an annoying dungeon with lots of platforms, traps and mobs trying to kill me. Instead, I got one big room with a glowing red key in the middle. I clicked on the key and it started a timed event. I had to kill twenty mobs in six minutes. It took me about thirty seconds.

And that was it. I couldn't believe it. I thought I must have missed something but nope, that was all there was. I clicked on the big statue at the end of the room and collected my reward, which included enough materials to Ascend the Traveler's claymore. Then I went outside, swapped to Diluc, and went back in again.

I did one more after that for luck and then I portaled back to town and Ascended the two weapons. That seemed to take fewer mats than I was expecting so the whole thing was a lot easier than I thought it would be. 

It occured to me then that three-quarters of my team were a lot more powerful than they had been back when I stopped playing in November last year. At that time I'd hit a point in the main storyline where I felt I was getting out of my depth. I'd driven Stormterror the dragon to his lair and I'd taken down the wards so I could follow him inside but it had been hard work. I'd decided the fight would be more than I could handle so I'd put the whole thing on hold and by the time I came back I'd pretty much forgotten about it.

Until now. Oh, what the heck. We can only die! So off I went to give it a go.

And again it was nothing like I was expecting. When I arrived all the crew were there, patiently wating for me to get on with the story: Amber, Venti and Diluc. It was a bit weird, having two Dilucs, but I tried to ignore that. After a bit of chat I clicked on the door and...

...found myself in some kind of on-rails shooting game. It was, in fact, the exact same scenario I remember from GW2's Path of Fire storyline, specifically that bit where you ride Aurene and fly behind Kralkatorik, shooting at him. 

It took me three goes and a YouTube video to get it right. The first time it made me feel nauseous and I couldn't figure out what to do. The second time I'd seen the video and I knew what to do - I just couldn't do it. The third time it was fine.

The next part, which once again reminded me very strongly of a similar set piece in GW2, that one where Mordremoth sticks his head through the wall in the Pale Tree's house, took me a couple of goes. The first time I was confused by a couple of things. Firstly, I was suddenly playing Venti, none of whose abilities I knew how to use. Secondly, despite everything looking normal, I was only able to move in some kind of half-assed, 2.5D perspective.

In spite of all of that, the whole thing was much less awful than I was expecting. I wouldn't say it was in any way fun but even with the failures it only took me about twenty minutes to get it done. Of course, I didn't know what was coming next.

That makes it sound like it was something bad. It wasn't. It was something rather enjoyable but, yet again, very unexpected. I carried on following the main questline and from that point on it was like watching a movie. I had to do some traveling, first back to Monstadt and then on to Liyue and I had to talk to quite a few people to keep the dialog moving but for what must have been at least half an hour, maybe longer, all I was really doing was watching and listening.

I have to say Genshin Impact has a pretty good storyline. Obviously it's the same storyline as nearly every other mmorpg (yes, it's not an mmorpg, I know...), particularly those from the East, but as these things go it's one of the better ones. 

The dialog is well-written with an unusually academic bent. I'd be willing to bet that if you put it through one of those reading comprehension filters it would come out as "university level". Lots and lots of long words and abstruse concepts, always used correctly and appropriately. I'd love to see a few of the folks who bang on about the damaging effects of video games on the developing mind get a look at this questline. Of course some players probably skip through it all barely reading or listening but that's not really thdevelopers' problem. Certainly no-one can accuse them of dumbing down.

By the time I had to stop for lunch the Traveler was on the run from a sinister military force, having just witnessed and been implicated in the spectacular death of a god. I said "Bloody hell!" out loud when that happened. I'm very keen to find out what happens next.

As for the nominal reason I was there, raising my Adventure level, it's now close to twenty-five, which is where it will stall until I can bring myself to complete the AR25 Ascension quest. I've watched that on YouTube and this time it really is one of those long, difficult dungeons. It has several mobs I already know from experience I have huge difficulty beating and one of the fights is on a timer. I am not looking forward to it, to put it mildly.

I have a plan, of sorts. If I can get the mats to Ascend my characters I can level them up to fifty. I'm hoping that that will be enough to give me the edge I need to offset my very considerable lack of skill. It's going to take some time but I'm not in any kind of hurry and at least now I can go back to following the plot.

All in all a good day's work. The only thing I really did wrong was to forget to take any screenshots. Or, rather, I thought I was taking plenty but I was using the screenshot keys from a different game so in actuality I was doing nothing of the kind. That's why all the pictures in the post as so generic.

Next time I'll remember to take my Kamera.

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