Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Digging Deeper Into Noah's Heart

I'm sure what everyone wants to know is how I'm getting on with Noah's Heart. Thank you for asking. I'm doing very nicely, as it happens. I haven't missed a single day since launch, exactly two months ago.

I have one character, Califa. She's Level 78, Adventurer Level 18, Career Level 34. Her house is Level 8. She's a Level 3 Craftsman and Level 2 in both Masterchef and Tailor.

My Valhalla is Level 69 with ten unlocked slots, three of them still unused. My current team is Charlie, Philo, Ave and Euclid. They are Level 2*, 4*,1* and 6* respectively. 

Califa is Diamond III in Fantasy Arena but only Silver I in Honor Arena. At 5222 points she's still a thousand shy of making the top fifty rankings in FA.

I've completed 100% of the first three Seasons - Light and Shadow, Scarlet Mark Mystery and Soul Inspired Art. 

There are seven people on my friends list, which can hold 60 names. I'm in a guild called ΛΣĞΙΩΝ, which is Level 3, has 89 members and a guild hall.

That's probably enough raw data to be going on with, although it's barely scraping the surface. Let me flesh it out a little, starting with the guild.

I joined my guild entirely by accident. I was coming out of an instance when a pop-up appeared as I zoned back into the open world. I clicked on it reflexively, thinking it was a reward for the instance I'd just done. It turned out to be a drive-by guild invite. 

Having joined, I thought I might as well see what a guild could do for me. Plenty, it seems. I was able to finish a mission I'd had hanging around for ages that was asking me to buy something from the Guild Store, for a start. Being a member of a guild also opened up several new dailies. 

The guild appears to be Greek in origin or at least the name, MOTD and all guild notices are in that language. You might think it would be awkward but so far I've never heard anyone speak. The language issue hasn't arisen.

Until today I was very happy in my silent guild. I've been making guild donations, receiving guild payments and occasionally joining in with guild events. Only yesterday I discovered we had a guild hall, which made me oddly happy for some reason, as if I'd somehow had something to do with it.

It's been all the fun of a guild without any of the stress so I was more than a little miffed to receive a message after today's update telling me the guild will be disbanded in 24 hours due to "Low Health".

I can't deny the guild is clearly in steep decline. Of the 89 members, only nine have registered any form of Guild Contribution this week. Mine was the second-highest and I've barely done anything. 

Even so, I can't see the rationale for forcibly disbanding us unless inactive guilds somehow place unacceptable stress on the server infrastructure, which seems highly unlikely. It seems like a commercially shortsighted move. You don't usually want to give people a reason to leave your game but kicking them out of their guild is likely to do just that.

I won't be leaving Noah's Heart just because my guild went pfutt. I'm enjoying myself far too much for that. I will look for another, though, which makes this the first time in years I've done that. I just hope I can find another guild where no-one speaks, only this time one where they do actually contribute.

Friendship is a similar story. I've had the usual smattering of drive-by friend invites but for once I've been accepting them. So far, none of my "friends" has attempted to communicate with me in any way other than to send me Friendship Points. There's a daily and a reward for doing that so I click the button every day and so, I guess, does everyone else. The points keep piling up.

Friendship Points are useful because you can buy extra Summons with them at a rate of ten points a spin. There are probably other things you can do with them, too, but what those might be I haven't discovered yet.

Speaking of summoning Phantoms, I was fortunate enough to get my third SSR yesterday. She's called Gretel Alexander, a name I can't place in any historical context... oh, wait a moment... I just got it! She's Alexander the Great, isn't she? OMG! that is brilliant! Seriously, that's just genius, isn't it? If someone at Archosaur can craft such excellent English puns, how come the rest of the translation is so bad?

Ahem, sorry, back to the post...

The problem with getting new SSRs is they're very slow to level up without spending money. I can shove them in Valhalla to raise their numerical level but to upgrade their star rating I have to find shards of the same character, which is a tough proposition. All my Rs and SRs are ranking up quite nicely but I've been working on getting Ave her second star for what seems like weeks and I probably still have seven to ten days to go.

Meanwhile, I've been playing around with the team lineup. You can store a number of team builds. Currently I have room for six. I found it made quite a difference when I swapped them around, especially in PvP. There seem to be some synergies I don't quite understand so it's very much a work in progress but it's a fun little game-within-a-game.

The main reason I was doing it was to try and win more matches in the Fantasy Arena. That's the one where your phantoms fight someone else's phantoms while you watch. For a while there I was steamrolling everyone by the simple trick of paying attention to the numbers. 

You can refresh the screen as often as you want to get a new slate of potential opponents. You can see their team's Strength rating, which phantoms they're playing and what their levels and stars are. It's fairly easy to work out who you can and can't beat that way... or it was.

Unfortunately, I have become something of a victim of my own success. By cherry-picking opponents I successfully raised my own standing until my Rank far outpaced my Strength. At Diamond III the average Strength looks to be somewhere around 175-250k. Mine's 114k.

For a long time I was able to find suitable matches by being patient and refreshing the options but now I'm lucky to find anyone even close to my Strength level. Finding anyone weaker than me is like Hannibal Lecter bobbing for apples.

I do have the option of downgrading. Every time you win a match you gain points but every time you lose it's the opposite. In original EverQuest you could lose your level; here you can lose your rank. I've already dropped back to Diamond IV once.

Rather than intentionally de-level, my plan is to work on improving my Strength rating but first I have to determine exactly what factors affect it. I know the level and star rating of your phantoms makes a big difference but I'm not sure if things like the level of their weapons has any effect.

In fact, I still have only the sketchiest idea how most of the systems in Noah's Heart work. There are so many of them and they all have so many levels and ranks and stats. It wouldn't be a bad idea to sit down and start changing things one at a time while making notes but do I really want to invest that much mental energy in what was supposed to be a light, fluffy, amuse-bouche of a game?

Probably a bit late to start worrying about that. I'm already playing two or three hours most days and barely doing any open world exploration at all, let alone working on upgrading and decorating my house. Even though I'm not spending any money, I still seem somehow to have managed to get myself tangled up in its myriad progression systems, most of which can be operated and maintained from the UI. It's not so much playing a game as tinkering with a construction set.

This would be a good time to start doing some proper exploring. We're on hiatus as we wait for Season Three to begin. When I finished Season Two there was an ominous prequel to the next, all black background and flowery language. I'm looking forward to it already. Today's update notes suggest it's already here but I can't see it in game. Maybe tomorrow?

Until it arrives, I have an opening of opportunity. Seasons have been occupying most of my time and I got into a routine for doing them that I have yet to break. I'm still doing all the dailies I need to get 200 Active Points every day, even though I no longer need those points to open the next tranche of Seasonal content.

Of course, those dailies also give me a ton of rewards, almost all of which I need for other things. Every activity seems to give you something you need for something else. You can find yourself in a closed loop that can be hard to break out of just to go exploring. It's worth it when you do, though. There's so much to see.

In fact, I think I'll go see some of it right now. Deeper into the Heart we go!

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