Thursday, October 7, 2021

Simon Says "Now Stay Down!" - How To Beat The Amrine Excavation Expedition Without Really Knowing How.

Today, I played New World for six hours. That's the longest I've played in one day since launch. I think the game's beginning to sink its hooks into me. 

It wasn't one unbroken six-hour session. It's been years since I played anything for that long; probably well over a decade. It was two lengthy sessions, though, about two an a half hours in the morning, three and a half after lunch. That's more than I've played any game in one day since Valheim

I spent most of those six hours questing. I did do quite a bit of gathering and a little crafting too but I was trying to focus on quests because I'd found myself on the wrong side of not one but two progression roadblocks. I wanted to get past both of them and I'm very pleased to say I did. Eventually.

The first was Destiny Unearthed, a stage in the main story quest and also the point at which New World pulls a Final Fantasy XIV and plays the ever-popular forced grouping card. At least, that's what I suspected was going to happen, although in New World you never quite know what to expect.

Despite having had a lot more issues with queues than I have, Belghast is much further ahead than me. He posted details of his experience recently when, having gathered some friends to help him with a quest that looked like it was going to send him into what he believed would be a higher-level area, flagged for parties of five, it turned out the mobs he actually needed were on the far side of all that and readily soloable.

I had a similar experience a few levels back. I was working on another step in the Azoth Staff sequence. The item I needed was deep in a ruined temple infested with mobs several levels higher than me. The area was flagged as suitable for mid-20s and I was sill in my teens. 

I was very skeptical about being able to fight my way to where the quest marker was telling me I needed to go but it tuned out I was being over-cautious. In the event, all I needed to do was put my head down, barrel past everything at a dead run, click on a glowy object deep inside a crypt, get an instant update and leg it out again with a dozen angry undead lurching after me.

The update I needed today was in much the same place on the map but by the way the quest was worded I felt fairly sure I wouldn't be able to get away with the same ruse twice. It looked like I was going to have to go into an "Expedition", which is what Amazon have decided to call dungeons in their game. 

I'd rather they hadn't done that. Expeditions are something I associate with EverQuest's infamous Gates of Discord expansion. I still have nightmares.

Following the map marker took me to the shimmering blue curtain that delineates the entrance to an instance. It wasn't looking good but even then I thought there was an outside chance it might be something I could solo. I'd gone through a similar curtain around level eight or nine and that one had led to a solo instance. 

I clicked on the zone-in to see if the same thing would happen again. No such luck. 

The Amrine Excavation is an instanced dungeon intended for a minimum of three players of Level 25 or above. You can go in with more people than that, up to five, but not with fewer. The door won't open unless you have a) an Azoth Staff b) a key and c) at least three people.

I had the staff and I had the key. The questline gives you both of those. What I didn't have were the people and I wasn't at all sure I wanted them. There were a couple of people hanging out by the entrance but I had chat switched off so if they were trying to put a group together I wouldn't have known about it.

I wandered away for a bit to have a think about it. I'm by no means unwilling to PUG things like this but if I'm going to go down that road I like to be decently equipped, have a basic idea what my class does in a group and be at or above the recommended level for the content. In this case I had, knew and was none of those things. 

When devs throw you this kind of irritating curveball there are only a couple of ways you can go, assuming you still want to carry on at all: buckle down and join a group, even if you don't feel ready or go away and do other stuff until you do. The other options are quit following the storyline (entirely possible in New World as far as I can see) or quit playing altogether.

Since I neither wanted to quit the game nor to cut myself off from the narrative (It's quite interesting) it was going to have to be one of the first two. And since I had, at that moment, not the slightest clue how people were going about forming groups (there's no automated matchmaking and no dedicated LFG channel) it seemed like as good a time as any to find out.

I switched my chat on and went back to the entrance to see if anyone was trying to put a group together. Someone was. It was about as old school an experience as you could hope for. Or hope never to see again, depending on how you feel about these things.

One player asked in area chat if anyone wanted to do the dungeon. Someone else said yes, they did. Then I said "I'll join if you have room" and after about thirty seconds an invite appeared on my screen.

We had three people, enough to start, but thankfully the leader said "Let's get some more. It's better with five". As the lowest level and the least sure of what I was doing, I felt the more people I could hide behind the better. 

The next part really brought back some memories. We all stood about for ten or fifteen minutes. One guy decided he needed arrows so he ran back to town. Someone else wanted to join but realized he was flagged for PvP. That meant he had to run back to town too, because you can only take the flag off in safe zones and you can't join a PvE group with it on.

I had to afk for a while but I felt pretty safe doing it. Nothing was going to happen any time soon. By the time I got back there was a discussion going on about whether someone's friend would come and join us to make up the full five but before that got very far another player arrived and asked if we were going in, so we took him instead. Then we had to wait for the guy who'd gone to get arrows to finish up whatever he was doing...

We got there in the end. Someone opened the instance and everyone went inside. My PC took forever to load the zone and by the time I got there the rest of them were in the second room, fighting. I caught them up and joined in and my PC decided it really didn't want to have anything to do with all the spell effects and suchlike so I had to open options mid-battle and drop my graphics to Low. 

After that everything played smoothly enough. The game looks good even at low fidelity so I was happy. 

Well, I was until we got to the first boss. My inventory had been close to full when we zoned in. I found myself Encumbered on the very first chest we looted.

I spent the entire run shuffling through my packs, discarding anything I could bear to ditch (Wave bye bye to 400 fibres.) and salvaging everything I looted that I didn't equip on the spot. I still couldn't pick up even half the stuff that dropped.

I'm working on a "Things I like/Things I don't like" list for a future post. The sheer quantity of loot is definitely going in the "Don't Like" column. You very definitely can have too much of a good thing, particularly when you have to lug it all around with you.

The five of us plowed through room after room. If you're interested to know what was there, there's a reasonably exhaustive walkthrough here. I certainly didn't get much chance to take any screenshots. I'd also have to say I didn't see an awful lot of the detailed mechanics until we got to the final Boss, the bathetically-named Simon Gray

Before we did the Poltergeist boss, Foreman Nakashima, our healer said "Worst boss next" but if he was any different to any of the others, or even some of the regular mobs, I didn't notice. I did get stunned a couple of times but it didn't seem to matter. 

At this level New World seems fairly forgiving of group make-up. We didn't have a tank at all. We had a a main healer and someone else was putting down some back-up heals when they weren't DPSing. The rest of us were just gung-ho, in there, hacking away. It was only on Simon that it all fell apart.

I had read the strats on him before going in so I knew he was going to call a lot of adds and throw up on us and that the adds would eat his vomit to heal themselves. I had a dog like that, once. 

There was some discussion before we started about tactics. As PUGs go, this one was chill, friendly and chatty. I didn't say much but only because I was fighting the UI. The chat interface is another mark in the Bad column for me. It was a pleasant experience socially, anyway, even they all probably went away thinking I must be the shy, retiring type.

It's always a good sign when no-one leaves after a wipe. We wiped with Simon at about 60% on our first try. There was talk of kiting him and using ranged attacks but since at least two of us had no ranged attacks, me being one of them, that didn't really happen.  

I did learn how to dodge effectively, though. In the two dozen levels up until then I'd never needed to bother. It's a nasty, inelegant, unsatisfying sort of dodge compared to the balletic leaps and rolls I'm used to in Guild Wars 2 but it's effective enough if you get the timing right. 

For all my successful dodging, I still got killed and so did everyone else. We wiped with Simon at about 50% that time. Getting better. And again no-one quit. Or even complained.

Third time's the charm, they say, although in my experience of PUGs like this sometimes it's more like tenth time. Not today, though. On the third try we did indeed manage to kite the Boss around fairly effectively, deal with most of the adds and slowly whittle down his health until finally he exploded.

The game was quick to congratulate us on having finished the instance but luckily I'd read ahead so I knew I wasn't finished just yet. I still had to find the item I'd come in for in the first place, loot it and update my quest. If I'd missed that I'd have had to do the whole thing over again with another pick-up group and it almost certainly would not have gone so well. And don't think I haven't done that before, either... 

As an introduction to dungeoneering in New World I'd have to say it was a decent one. I'm still strongly against mandatory group stages in mainly soloable quest lines but at least I can now complain about it from a position of authority. 

As for the mechanics of the group experience, it felt more like a GW2 dungeon than anything: frenzied, chaotic, messy, freeform. I think much of that might be down to our not having had a proper tank. The classic trinity does seem to be in place but on the flimsy evidence of one run in a low-level dungeon, it looks like there's quite a lot of flexibility.

I was just glad to get it done. I'll bet there are more compulsory group stages to come but for now I can forget about having to look competent. I think I got away with it this time but I don't want to push my luck.

The other significant quest I wanted to get done today was much more straightforward. I'd topped out on reputation for my chosen faction a couple of levels back, when I'd hit the point where you have to do a trial to get promoted to the next rank. The problem was, the NPC who gives the quest didn't believe I could do it. I was Level 23 when I went to talk to her but she wanted to see my Level 25 papers before she'd let me risk my neck.

That's going in the "Don't Like" column, too: all these arbitrary caps and gates. For a supposed sandpark there are a lot of rules and regulations. It seems to me that if I can do the stuff that leads up to a quest I ought to be given the chance to attempt the quest itself. If I get my head handed to me, so what? We fall down, we get back up. That's Aeternum.

When I did get the quest at last, having dinged twenty-five on the hand in for the Azoth staff one, it was something of a doddle. By far the hardest part was getting across the annoying planking onto the ship where the Captain I had to kill was waiting. I fell off three times. Died once because I got stuck in a box. There was swearing.

Killing the captain, when I finally got to him, was no problem. I could easily have done it a level earlier, when I first asked for the assignment. I'd say I told you so but none of the meatheads in the Marauders is going to listen. Maybe I should have joined the Syndicate after all.

With those two roadblocks cleared, tomorrow I can get on with something much more important. I have the money to buy a house. Now I just have to decide which town I want to live in. I have the standing to become a householder in Monarch's Bluff but I think I might prefer the etrnal autumn of Everfall.

I guess that means more questing. It never ends, does it?


  1. I can't remember the acronym to use to say "Great post, nothing to add."


  2. Good read. I completed the Amrine Excavation on the second try. First attempt was just three of us refugees from my WoW guild - we were about level 25, and had a tank, a healer and one DPS (myself). You can't actually do the expedition with less - quite apart from the game not letting you enter, there's a puzzle door that requires three people to operate. Having said that, the three of us were able to handle everything quite handily up to the final encounter, where Simon Grey stomped us into the floor repeatedly.
    We came back a couple of nights later with a couple of levels under our belts, picked up two more DPS from the mass of job centre applicants at the door, and completed it with no problem. Well, when I say no problem, none of the Lost inhabiting the dungeon were a problem, but I spent ages stuck on a loading screen, then found myself paralysed with "LAG DETECTED" at the entrance, had to relog and go through loading screens again, and didn't actually get into the fight until shortly before the group reached the Foreman. Fortunately the group (even the two pick up adds) were very understanding.
    One touch I did like was the existence of the endless add-spawning bone piles, like the monster generators from Gauntlet. Not a problem as long as I went to take out the generator first and trusted the tank and healer to keep the existing adds occupied, and there may have been a few cries of "red warrior needs food badly!" on Discord as we did them...

    1. Oh that's what those bone piles were! It was too chaotic for me to work it out. The one thing I missed out on was the quest to get five bones to give to Barkimedes outside the dungeon. At least five dropped, probably more, but with my bags being full all the time I must have missed one. I ended up with four out of five and the quest unfinished. I didn't much want the dog house pet you get for it anyway. Certainly not enough to go back in for the missing bone.

  3. I did Amrine (sp?) on Saturday. People just randomly group up from the local chat from people standing around the entrance. We had a tank, but no healer. One guy had a life staff that he tried equipping, but with no Focus stat on his gear it didn't really do much, so he swapped back to being full dps. We all seemed to be well equipped with food and potions and the tank was in heavy armor and used an ice gauntlet for the "ice tomb" when his health got low. Everyone else just spammed potions and food as needed. I died once on the 2nd boss, and someone else died on the last boss when he was at about 5% health, so we just killed the boss before reviving the guy.

    I also remembered to click the quest item, but wasn't paying attention to the bone drops so also finished with 4/5 and don't really care to re-run the dungeon, so... eh.


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