Friday, July 19, 2013

Opening Meluan's Gate: City of Steam

It's been a long, hard slog, a dozen or so half-hour, late-night sessions, some set-backs, some triumphs, some embarrassments, but last night my Goblin Channeler finally made it to Meluan's Gate, City of Steam's third quest hub. We both felt we'd passed quite an examination by the time she stumbled into the spectacularly gorgeous, somewhat down-at-heel dockside district of The Nexus.

In better days she'd have been able to wander up at will but the freedoms we once enjoyed have been taken away. Now, we work. To move from one area to the next it's necessary to complete all the steps of the Main Quest sequence and that takes a deal of soloing.

By and large it's been easy for both my characters to solo content up to three levels above them, but the final bosses of each Main Story chapter have clearly been tuned in the expectation you'll bring friends or at least compliant strangers with whom you've established a working relationship. Fine in theory; in practice I found it was rare even to see another player in Heartlands Road, unheard of for the LFG-Finder that comes as standard with the entrance to each dungeon to find anyone at all.

We'd done all bar the Corsair Captain but we weren't going anywhere without him and to have a chance we'd had to pootle around for a fair old while leveling and gearing up.Our first two or three attempts ended fairly disastrously even at parity and we were resigned to  over-leveling, when by luck my Goblin discovered the Captain might be a whizz with a tiller in his hand but was all at sea running through the rooms of his lair. Can't recall ever employing room-to-room kiting tactics before but we soon got the hang of it once the Goblin noticed that the Captain didn't regenerate health when he couldn't find her, while she could drink potions at leisure hiding in a room just down the corridor.

This cheesy tactic scored a pass grade on the Main Questline topic but that was but the first paper on the exam. It wouldn't have done any good whatsoever to get a group and finish the quests a couple or three levels earlier even if that had been a realistic option because Heartland Vale, the wilderness area that separates Heartland Road from Meluan's Gate, has an 18 certificate and the guard outside is much stricter on seeing I.D. than the average multiplex clerk.

We pass, though, don't we? The Goblin's eighteen like Alice and she killed the Captain. She can go through, right? Well, technically, yes. But then again, not really. Through to the Vale, sure. Out the other side to Meluan's Gate? Not so fast. The guard has a list of rogue clockworks blocking traffic and he needs a candidate for the job. She's like Alice you say? Well, good; she just got elected.

The Wilderness areas are shared space, proper open MMO zones that come in optional PvE and PvP flavors. Maybe the other one has hordes of players zapping each other between clonking clocks, my Goblin wouldn't know. She just wants to get to Meluan's Gate so PvE it is. Some fifty assorted but specific brass dismantlements later, back to the guard we go and finally, finally he stamps the transit papers and we're done.

Well, I thought we were done. After running the clockwork gauntlet and reeling back stunned by the sheer beauty of the long-desired but scarcely-imagined Meluan's Gate, we went exploring. Many photographs were taken, many oohs oohed and aahs aahed until eventually time came to see what there was for us to do. There was nothing.

Okay, not quite nothing. There was that one generic daily that always pops up to give you a free key or potion but other than that it appeared no-one in NPC-land had any pointless make-work on the go, no reckless self-endangerment to encourage, no tedious obligation to offload. We went everywhere, my goblin and I, through the leaf-blown streets, down to the rusted iron docks, to every portal in town. Still nothing. Two nights she slept in the Siren's Dive, wondering what to do.

At last I decided it must be the one thing we hadn't done back in Heartland Road. We'd killed the Corsair Captain in the questline but not in his "Raid" incarnation (a CoS Raid ideally being three people but entirely possible solo). Thought that was optional but hey, it was literally the only thing listed under "Completion" that we hadn't ticked and when you've waited this long, what's another ten-minute kite? Back we went.

Whereupon we discovered our mistake. On zoning back into Heartland Road something about the guard (mostly the two-foot high green exclamation point he'd balanced on his hat) suggested he hadn't quite finished with us after all. In our eagerness to get out of his jurisdiction we'd somehow missed his last, most urgent request. Would we deliver a letter to his dear old mum over at The Gate, since we were going that way in any case?

Well for heaven's sake! Of course we would! If it means we get to kill more creatures and take their stuff we'll write the bloody letter for you and not even tell your mother what an uptight little jobsworth she's got for a son! She probably knows, anyway.

So there my Goblin sits, back in the Siren's Dive, having a quick stiffener before the action begins and we do it all over again to get to the next hub. Despite the horrible design decisions, vicious content gating and serious lack of population, I still have plenty of time for City of Steam. It could be so much more but it is what it is and that'll do. Me and the Goblin aren't stopping till the end of the ride. It just might take a while.


  1. I've never played City of Steam up to now, but every time you talk about it, I feel that's something I should do. maybe I really will.

    also, that outfit you're wearing screams Kefka! :D

    1. I would still recommend it - I'm enjoying it. It's just very sad to see an MMO that really was something rich and strange take such a marked turn towards the bland. The city hubs are stunning, better than the screenshots suggest. The art design is top-notch all round, in fact. The audio used to be too, but that also seems to have succumbed to the blanding process.

  2. That's very funny how you missed the next task, I would guess it is a common occurrence in most MMOs anyway. :)

    1. I've often heard people complaining about not being able to find the next quest hub in various MMOs but it hasn't ever happened to me before. The way I play means I almost never follow the laid-down path and I almost always have quests started all over the map just about anywhere I can get to. Most MMOs let you take something at any hub even if you haven't done whatever's supposed to lead in to it and my problem tends to be leaving a ton of half-finished or untouched stuff behind me as I run all over the place.

      CoS might be the first online game I've ever played that actually requires you to complete each section in a strict order. It's a bit of a novelty for me right now but i wouldn't want to make a habit of it.


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