Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mathemagics

Before you turn away because of the title, wait!

I know many of you hate maths with a passion, but that's mostly because it's taught to you without passion.

In a lot of real life situations, maths can actually be helpful. Architecture, computer sciences, finances,... loads of stuff. For most people, maths only start shining in high school. It becomes interesting when it's applied to your field of expertise.

But there's the second reason maths doesn't get all the praise it deserves. It's hard to make it look attractive with all the weird symbols and such.
I could plaster an image here as an example, but I don't want to give you all a headache.

Anyway, one neat website I "discovered" is:

http://www.khanacademy.org/

The great galaxy of Maths
I may seem a little too enthusiastic here (and no I'm not paid by them), but this site has been a great resource for formula's (with very decent explanations) or as a practising tool to keep my skills sharp.

Here's some of the features I like
-Badges: Gamification is all the rage. It serves as a system to track your progress as well as giving you an incentive to keep going.
-Videos: Almost each of the subjects has a guiding video attached to it. Having it explained a different way helps to learn new stuff.
-Applied: There's not just the base theory. There's several applied courses available as well. Ranging from biology to art history.
-Free: It's free to use the site. It's also not necessary to make an account, though then your progress won't be saved.


This website looks like it might save many people from sacking for maths.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quest Pack Review: Riders of Rohan

Turbine's long-awaited expansion which finally takes us into the Mark. Flamed at, cursed at, loved and cherished. The Riders of Rohan expansion caused a lot of emotions to stir up. Forth Eorlingas!





As I've already said in my pre-review, there're 2 ways to approach Rohan. The epic has you go to the East Wall region first, then to the Wold. The intro quest does it the other way around. Either way is fine so do it as you see fit.







Mounted combat won't play a role in this review as it is free (only one trait-line though, I'd recommend people to unlock the others). I'll just say that I love mounted combat on my cappy (light steed) but it seems this depends from class to class. It also plays a pivotal role in some content, though it can be done without.

Quests in Rohan are varied. You'll get the usual kill and collect quests, but these are broken up by a lot of instances and some good old dungeon crawls. Phasing is used extensively and you'll see the world change around you because of the things you (or the Enemy) do.

One thing I can advise you is to complete each exploration deed before you leave an area, as some dungeons are hidden and never pointed to by quests.

The storyline is great. This is epic story (quest type) material here and some stories overlap the entirety of the Eastemnet. Be prepared to curse the enemy and be part of some of the most awesome moments in lotro (The 4 riders chain comes to mind). Nice is that (unlike some epic quests) you're almost never taking forced stupid choices or walking into obvious traps.

Thanks to the graphical update to the game, the game looks better than ever. Riders of Rohan uses all of Turbine's new technology in this department and it's noticeable. The grass waves in the wind and storms come rolling over the plains more realistically.






The areas are varied. Instead of the boring fields of grass you'd expect, the landscape is broken up by ridges, swift currents and mountains. To the north you have Fangorn with all its oldness and eeriness. Thanks to the new excellent soundtrack, the world comes alive like never before.

Warbands (solo->raid)

Roving bands of enemies roam the plains of the Eastemnet. These warbands offer additional challenges to those who wish to take a break from the usual questing. These quests range from solo all the way to the raid warband Bugud.
While the warbands are a cool feature, they suffer from 2 problems:
-Mounted characters are overpowered. This means you'll most likely be able to solo small fellowship and fellowship encounters. Either the mounted mobs should be stronger or the characters should be nerfed.
-Too much people do the raid warband at the same time. Which means you'll maybe get in a hit or 2 and then he'll be dead. Maybe this isn't the case in low population servers.

Aside from those flaws, it's a system that is well implemented and could be a very good addition to the game.

Hytbold (solo)

Once you reach lvl 84, you'll get a mail directing you to the destroyed town of Hytbold. This is the current endgame content until the instance pack is released. Hytbold is a way for solo characters to get raid-ready armour.

Each day (once you accept the Aiding the Eastemnet quest in Hytbold), you'll be able to do 5 quests all over East-Rohan which grant tokens that allow you to rebuild parts and barter for the armour parts. There are  4 quests per city available at a time, but these are taken from a pool of several quests. There's always 1 mounted combat instance, 2 quests that happen in another instance and 1 quest that's (usually) different from the rest (eg: fishing, playing with kids, races,...).

Seeing Hytbold getting revitalized is nice and the armour is decent, but as the only endgame it is somewhat meagre. But combined with the Instance pack from later this year, it could be a nice pastime for in between raids and other group runs.

Price/Value: 3/5 (No instances hurts. It's still a must-have.)
Storyline: 4/5 (Epic storylines. Love, treason, courage,... it's all there.)
Quest Progression: 4/5 (Loads of phasing, less linearity than some other packs. Sometimes you'll need to explore to find some missed quests.)
Atmosphere: 4.5/5 (Variation, awesome locations and some of the best music in the game.)

Overall: 15.5/20
A must-have. East-Rohan has a lot speaking for it. The lack of an instance pack and new stuff to do at endgame hurts the content but it won't be included in the quest pack anyway. (It is included in the expansion.) The content is too easy so far and could use some (optional) difficult content.
Still, Riders of Rohan is one of the best quest packs out there, and the only reason to deter from buying it would be the fact that it's only for those at a high level.

(In hindsight it seems my Isengard quests review was slightly optimistic and I'd give it a 14.5. I'm not gonna go back and change that though.)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Halls of Night review

The second of the separate instances you can buy. The halls of night is a 3-man for lvls 40-75.


The hillmen of Angmar have found a mysterious cave where it is rumoured great riches lie waiting.
Once you go inside and touch the remains lying there, a surprise awaits you!

First thing you'll notice is that you got a color. These are used mainly in one of the boss-fights but otherwise just make you look fancy.

There's a few different trash mobs here, namely one that saps your strength/speed, one normal mob and one spirit-spawning tomb.
Once you get past the initial mobs, you'll get to the arena for the final boss, though you don't have to fight him yet. First you have to kill the other 2 bosses and you get to choose which one to take down first.

Bosses

Both bosses, unlike being named quite fear-like don't really use fear at all so no pots are really needed.
The first boss is tank-and-spank, he'll make some weird damaging puddles, so try to keep him out of those.
The other one is more interesting, calling out a color that can damage him. The others who can't get to pound on spirits at the edge to get a damage bonus buff for the boss (once it's their turn to beat on him).

The final boss (back in the throne room) gets a rather large amount of adds so if you have trouble you'll want  to get rid of those tombs (mob-spawners) first.

On tier 2, he's just a bit stronger and you get the challenge not to kill some mobs, which is easy since they dont' aggro unless you go to them.


Price/Value: 1/5 (395 is quite a lot for a single instance. Again i'd wait until I had a way to cap.)
Storyline: 3.5/5 (A fun storyline though it feels a little disjointed at times.)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (Quite unlike other areas in the game. The downside is that there don't seem to be stars under you.)
Tactical: 3.5/5 (Not much in the way of tactics, it seems more could've been done with the colors.)

Overall score: 12/20

Again get this after you got everything else you want and at the least try and get a way to lvl cap first.
The biggest downside to these instances is they're rarely being run.



Friday, November 2, 2012

Inn of the Forsaken instance review

(You'll find that instead of quest progression, I'm using the tactical score which measures how interesting the instance is.)
Recently, I managed to get my hands on the 2 instances that are to be purchased separately and got to run them a few times. First up is the Inn of the Forsaken, a 3-man for lvls 20-75.



Inn of the Forsaken (20-75)

This lvl 20-75 scaling instance takes place in, but mostly under, the Forsaken Inn. The inn is the perfect lodging for anyone travelling east, but lately those sleeping there have been plagued with strange noises coming from the basement. It features an (imo) interesting story which can be pieced together by finding journal pieces.

This instance is quite different from the others, featuring more puzzle-like gameplay than normal combats.
There's a lot of different objects you'll find here, some of which can only be used by certain classes.


Gimmicks

The single non-boss mob is spawned by destroyable bone-piles, so be sure to go after those first.
There are 2 types of traps in this instance as well. Spike-traps that trigger when you (or any other creature) walk over them and the spinning blade-traps use tile-triggers on the ground.
It's time to use your emotes when you want to get past the riddle-doors, which can have one of over to 80 different riddles!
There are also (as mentioned earlier) some objects that can only be used by some classes (they're divided in different groups: lore, aware and brawn). There're trap mechanisms (temporarily stop traps), incantation stones (a magical effect happens) and runetablets (which give info) and suspicious walls (can be broken).

One other fun thing to mention is the water slide which leads to an awesome arena for the end fights.

The bosses

The tier 1 boss requires a bit of strategy as you'll need to use the traps to your advantage as they can break his shield and stop his skills.

If you're running tier 2, you'll get to fight an additional boss, who turns the tables and uses the traps against you!

Price/Value: 1/5 (395 is quite a lot for a single instance. I'd wait on getting this until you have at the least a way of getting to cap.)
Storyline: 4/5 (Quite a nice storyline. A good amount of details and interesting bosses. Only downside is that it doesn't really tie in to the lore or any other story.)
Atmosphere: 3.5/5 (Going down you'll notice the gradual change from masonry and tomb-like structure to natural caverns. The riddle-doors look awesome as does the end-area. Downside is that you've seen tombs a lot already.)
Tactical: 5/5 (Though you don't need it, there's a lot of stuff that'll make you want a varied group. The traps are unique and the bosses are interesting.)

Overall score: 13.5/20

Get this after you got everything else you want and at the least try and get a way to lvl cap first.
The biggest downside to these instances is they're rarely being run.