An Exile’s Tale

A few weeks ago, I submitted this story to the Path of Exile Talent Competition 2018. Last night, the list of the winners of the contest was published on the forums and I made it to the top 15.

Path of Exile is an amazing game, probably the best Hack’n Slash ever made and I am very happy to know that the folks at Grinding Gear Games enjoyed my story.

All over Wraeclast, you can hear the tales of Kaom, Piety and Malachai, but you’ll never hear anything about the fate of the exiles. Their victories aren’t sung, their deaths aren’t mourned, they weren’t sent here to be remembered. But this story is different, I don’t want to forget it. This is why I’m leaving this for anyone to read at the board of Lioneye’s watch, for this tale belongs to this town.

The night had fallen over Lioneye’s watch and the few exiles who had made it back before the dark were scattered along the walls, hiding themselves from the wind and the rain. Exiles don’t sleep in cosy inns, the cold and wet stones of the sanctuaries are their only beds. Some gather in small groups but most stay alone, haunted by the horror of their memories. A few hours had passed since the light was gone and the place was silent, only the wind could be heard. Even the traders were falling asleep… As for me, I haven’t had a normal night’s rest since I was sent to this cursed place. Everyday, I manage to rest a few hours, dreaming with my eyes open. My instincts don’t let me drift too far and I suspect that they won’t until I have completed my journey.

A terrifying scream boomed through the place. It was coming from the beach and it was so loud that the ground trembled beneath us. At first, we all looked at each other in search for an answer: what kind of creature could make such a sound?

A small group of warriors ran to the beach but everyone else seemed undecided about whether they should go or stay behind the protection of the town’s heavy walls.
And me… I wanted to gather my gear, but I was just as panicked as the others. I had been fighting monsters and things that walked even though they shouldn’t but never had I heard such a scream. At that moment, amidst the chaos, came to me the certitude that if I didn’t go to help the warriors, the fate of this entire town would be sealed.

As another scream covered the sound of the storm, I broke out my stupor and started to motion toward the beach. That’s when I felt her hand on my shoulder. As I turned, Navali peered into my eyes and told me a prophecy, “Tonight you will make a friend. Tonight you will betray a friend”.
Puzzled, the only thing that came to me was “never, I don’t betray friends” but, before I could speak, she was back at her place, staring into emptiness, as if nothing happened.

Another scream and I began to run… The beach was covered with corpses, the warriors had passed before me and had cleared a path. I could see fire and movement ahead. Then, I tripped over a piece of armor covered in blood and pieces of flesh. I recognized the gear of one of the warriors. I looked around me and there they were, dismembered and scattered over the sand. What kind of monstrosity could have done that?

As I got closer, I saw it, towering over a horde of revenants. It was at least 5 times their height, a creature from the sea unlike any I had ever encountered. It had giant legs and tentacles were coming from under its shell. Its body was as large as half Lioneye’s Watch and two yellow eyes were staring angrily at the crowd surrounding it. It was cornered between two sides of a cliff and, at its feet, were laying the corpses of its children. Other smaller creatures were caged and kept captive by a few dark shamans. These evil summoners had been using reanimated corpses to capture the monster’s progeny. That’s probably how they forced it out of the sea. Now, they were trying to tame it. Against such a beast, Lioneye’s watch wouldn’t stand a chance. I wouldn’t last very long either… Maybe, if I could get rid of the summoners and release the babies, the giant monster would go back where it came from. It was worth taking the chance, not that I had many choices anyway…

I fired an arrow, then another and entered full motion, killing the five shamans one after another, the revenants were too busy trying to contain the raging creature, they didn’t pay attention to me. I quickly opened the cages but the toddlers were already dead.

Without the shamans to resurrect them, the revenants didn’t last long. The monster got free and walked in my direction, the ground was trembling under its weight. Only a few feet away from crushing me, it stopped and looked down at the cages, then it stared at me. The rage in its eyes made way for gratitude, probably because I had ended its torment. Then the sadness came back, it lifted up its giant head and moved toward the sea.

I had made a friend.

But then, I saw it. The shell that was covering its entire body had a weak spot in the back. That’s probably why it had been standing against the cliff, to remain protected. What was I to do? Let it go and take the risk that other evil creatures would come and would try to use it against us?
One more time, I fired an arrow, then another. Soon, arrows were storming in the direction of the crack in the shell. Little by little, the armor broke and my projectiles penetrated its flesh. As I was running around keep facing its its back, guts and blood were raining on me. It let another scream out, but this one wasn’t anger, only sadness. It knew that it had been betrayed and that it was going to die.

A few moments later, I was alone on the beach, covered in gore, walking back to the town. Not happy, nor triumphant. I had just killed a friend.

I was expecting Navili to look at me, her prophecy had been fullfilled, but she didn’t even see me as I entered Lioneye’s watch. She was already busy looking at the fate of hundreds of other exiles.

Bestel offered me a reward for my deeds, but I never collected it and I never will. The only reward I deserve for such a victory is this tale, the memory of the day when I betrayed an ally.

Such is my fate, such is the fate of the exiles.

The illustration above comes from Asahisuperdry. I also would like to thank Stijn “The Sharp Dressed Man” Vijverman for the (much needed) proofreading.

We did a thing

Last weekend, Gamrok and I pre-purchased “Battle for Azeroth”. Naturally, our first concern was which character to spend our 110 boost on. After “serious” thinking, we decided to both boost a Death Knight.

Saturday afternoon we spent the day leveling our DK’s to 60 before applying the boost. To my surprise there were a ton of people leveling in Hellfire Peninsula. It was fun seeing so many people enjoying the old content. The gameplay with the DK was very enjoyable as well. It felt like I was on a killing spree with an unstoppable juggernaut. Another thing I really love is the lore, it reminds me so much of the Dragonlance series. Hence why I named my character, Kittiara.

From the moment we dinged 60, we eagerly hit the boost button… everthing went fine, until we had to run a Legion dungeon. It was one of those speedruns again… like most dungeon runs these days, and that’s where it all went wrong. We both realized that we don’t like melee DPS in groups. Simply because we don’t like to run after the mobs before we can hit them. That was the moment when we missed our druids again, the shapeshifting, the ranged DPS and the healing for Gamrok.

TLDR, DK’s are fun, but I realized that I don’t like melee DPS in groups. I guess that we’ll be druids for life.

The Nightborne

When the allied races were first introduced at Blizzcon, I was unimpressed to say the least. They felt (and still feel) like a low effort attempt at creating new content. So, when we pre-purchased Battle for Azeroth, I wasn’t in a hurry to unlock those “new” races. Another reason behind my lack of enthusiasm is that the racials of the Highmountain Tauren don’t fit my herbalist druid as well as my original Tauren. So, out of curiosity, Sisqi and I went to the Orgrimar embassy and started the quest to unlock the Nightborne.

The quest was more entertaining than we suspected and it felt great to be included in the politics of the Horde. I was proud of Lor’themar Theron’s attitude and I was very happy to see Thalyssar joining the Horde. After all, she was probably my favourite character in the entire Legion story.

As for the Nightborne model, I could use it to compliment my future boosted toon. But I’m still undecided about which class I’ll choose. I still have a few tests to make…

Balance of Power

It took us nearly 4 weeks to complete the achievement. We now walk around Azeroth with the most awesome balance artifact appearance.

Our fisherfriends

During our last holidays, we worked hard to bring our druids up to date with the latest content. Among our goals was “Fisherfriends of the Isles”.

We’ve spent more or less two hours a day fishing in raids to become best friends with each of these guys…

Our favourites were Suramar (because it was incredibly fast) and Val’Shara (because the raid was gigantic – more than 40 horde players and 20 allys).

We’re so glad that Blizzard has implemented more fishing activities and I hope that they’ll continue in the next expansions.

Where were you at Midnight?

While the world was raging outdoors, we were celebrating New Year’s eve at home, in our PJs. Comfortably installed in front of our computers, we were participating to the mayhem that was taking place at Orgrimmar’s auction house.

Blizzard had the awesome idea to open the disco AH for the occasion, we jumped in our most classy outfits and went to dance all night with our fellow hordies.

The party was already going strong…

But, once the clock struck Midnight, all Hell broke lose and the toys were popping from everywhere.

We went outside to see the fireworks, it was a bit too cold, so Dragondoe snuggled.

And we danced under the moonlight while New Year wishes were being yelled all over Orgrimmar.

It’s in those moments that we realize how amazing the WoW community is. We wish you all the best for 2018… FOR THE HORDE!

The day we saved Christmas

What better time to tell a story than Christmas? It’s cold outside and cozy inside, we’re celebrating with our loved ones… But do we think about those who, secretly, work hard to make the magic happen? Well, this story is all about them.

Dragondoe

Finally, the last week-end before Christmas, I can’t wait to celebrate. Unfortunately, all this fighting against the Burning Legion got me delayed on my preparations. There is still so much to do, gifts to buy, cards to send and a feast to cook. It’s going to take me all week-end but I can’t postpone it anymore, I must go shopping.

Normally, I love going shopping with Madstag, but only two days for an entire Christmas shopping is too short, I won’t have time to go chat at the fishing store or spend a half day around a bonfire, I must go alone. I’m sad for my man, he’s gonna have to spend an entire week-end alone, but this is not the time for romance, shopping is serious business.

I woke up early, took my breakfast and silently got out of Moonglade’s inn. Madstag is still sleeping, the poor thing is exhausted after weeks and weeks spent on that dreadful planet. This end of the year holiday will do him good…

First stop, Orgrimmar. Our ornaments got destroyed last year after our tree caught fire when I tried to make a flaming ice cream. It was totally not my fault, I just tripped over the cat. Anyway, I was tired of the white, it’s time to go multi-color! After an hour or two touring the shops, I’m already walking with more bags than I can carry, it’s time to go deposit all of this at the bank.

As I pass in front of the tavern, I can’t help but notice a sad Orc. He’s crying and no one seems to notice him. I walk to him and hand him a cinnamon roll, he accepts it and gives me a smile that means “thanks, but it won’t help much”. I ask him if I could do anything to help but he just shakes his head… Men and their pride, sigh.

I sit beside him and notice that his leg is in plaster. I ask him how it happened, but he burst in tears. After sobbing for a while, he finally explains me that he’s part of Greatfather Winter’s helpers and that he’s in charge of the distribution of the gifts this Winter Veil. He has spent an entire year collecting them but, as he was getting ready to place them under the trees all over Azeroth, he broke his leg and he won’t be able to do it.

What a dreadful situation! No gifts? We may as well cancel this year’s holiday, I won’t let it happen! I tell him that I’m more than willing to help, I’ll still have plenty of time for my shopping during the week.

He tells me that the gifts are hidden in a cave he rented. I ask him to draw me a map, but he obviously drowned his sorrows in more beer than he could hold, I’d better draw it myself. He tells me that the cave is located in Winterspring. The place is easy to find when you’re on the right path, which starts in Everlook.

No time to waste, I’m gonna take care of the gifts. I drop my bags at the bank, dreamwalk to Moonglade and fly to Winterspring. After a short flight, I finally land at Everlook. I take the path East, just as Arnok told me. I walk for about an hour when I finally see the entry of a cave.

I prepare a torch and walk in. The cave is pretty deep, which is weird for a storage place… As I reach the end of the path, I enter in a large circular room. The only light comes from a huge blue pearl on a pedestal located at the center. I can see a Night Elf lady screaming things in a language I don’t understand, then I hear a crack behind my head and everything gets blurred then black.

Madstag

An entire month spent healing troops on Argus (and rescuing Dragondoe from the perillous situations she got into), I think that I’ve deserved a week-end of rest in Moonglade. I wish I could spend it with my lady, but, let’s be honest, I hate going to town. All that noise, all these people, it’s definitely not my cup of tea.

As Dragondoe is getting ready for her shopping trip, I pretend to still be sleeping. She’d probably look at me with her soft eyes and, as usual, I’d change my mind and go with her. I can’t take that risk, I’ve bought a ton of fishing bait and I can’t let it go to waste…

As I hear her leaving, I open an eye and inspect the room, it seems empty. I stay in bed a bit longer, to make sure that she didn’t forget anything. The coast is clear, I jump out of bed, get dressed and pick up my bag.

It’s gonna be a good one, I can feel it. I make my way to the border of the lake, install my fishing chair, make sure that no one is around and finally take off my boots. You see, people may think that I’m an adventurer, but where I belong is here, in the middle of the forest, with the squirrels and my slippers.

I ready my first cast, that’s usually when some catastrophe happens and I have to leave everything behind. The bobber is bobbing and nothing happens… Could this be real? Could this be THE week-end where I finally get to enjoy the calm and the peace of the nature. But it would be too easy… As I ready my second cast, an orc comes out of the bushes and asks me if I’m Dragondoe’s husband.

I loose it and start yelling “Let me guess, she tried to help someone and ended up in trouble? What is it this time? A sad dragon? An ancient warlord? A long forgotten prophecy? A devilsaur with a toothache? WON’T I EVER BE ABLE TO CATCH A BREAK?”

The Orc looks at me, half puzzled, half terrified… After a few minutes, I calm down and ask him what happened.

He tells me that his name is Arnok and he explains me that he’s one of Greatfather Winter’s helpers. He tells me how he has met my wife and how good a person she is, he also tells me that she’s gone to save the presents but that she might be on her way to the wrong cave. He was, apparently, a bit drunk when he gave her the directions and the zone where the gifts are hidden is also know to host many cultists and pirates lairs.

Afraid that such a good hearted person would end up in danger because of him, he asked around to see if anyone knew Dragondoe. Finally, it’s the owner of Orgrimmar’s fishing shop who told him that I was gone fishing and where he could find me…

After making sure that I have the correct location, I leave the Orc behind and fly to the rescue. From far, I can see Arnok taking my place in my fishing chair… At least someone will enjoy it. I fly straight to the right cave. It is indeed filled with presents, but, as we feared, Dragondoe is nowhere to be found.

I fly the to next cave on the right, it’s full of bandits and there’s no sign of my wife. I decide to check a third cave, this time on the left.

After walking down a long dark path, I can see a huge round room with a gigantic blue pearl in the middle. I shapeshift to cat and prowl to see what’s going on. A Night Elf lady is yelling things in a language I don’t understand to a crowd that seems to be worshiping the pearl.

Far, in a corner, I notice a few cages and Dragondoe is in one of them. Unnoticed, I make my way to her. She tells me that the cultists, led by that mad druid, are about to sacrifice her to the pearl.

There are too many cultists in here, we can’t risk getting both caught, I need a diversion.

I can see a few hay stacks on the other side of the room, I get closer and set them on fire. A thick white smoke quickly fills in the room. The druid and her followers try to put the fire out and, meanwhile, I get the pearl and run out of the cave.

The last time I felt this nervous, I was carrying the flag in Warsong Gulch…
I make my way to the other cave where the bandits are. I leave the pearl at the entry of their hiddeout and let out a huge growl. When the cultists finally arrive, decided to get their pearl back, the bandits already took possession of the oversized jewel.

I discretely make my way back to the cave where Dragondoe was kept prisoner.
As I enter the main room, I notice the evil Night Elf lady, she lays on the floor, where the pearl was before. She’s in tears and my wife is trying to cheer her up “don’t worry, there are plenty of other pearls in the ocean”.

The cult leader makes her best to talk in our language. We don’t understand everything but we get a few words “my precious”, “will not stop swimming”,… Then, she gets up, tidies up her robes and leaves the cave as if nothing happened.

We spent the rest of the week-end flying over Azeroth, dropping gifts at the foot of each Christmas Tree. Winter Veil was saved and I could finally enjoy the rest of my holiday in Moonglade.

As for the cult leader, we can sometimes hear the tale of a crazy druid lady who never stopped searching the seas for her beloved pearl…

The Brutes have gone hippie

Where the hell have we been? Well, we’ve been chasing butterflies and enjoying the change of seasons. We had a great Halloween, filled with good (and less good) horror movies.

We’ve also been reflecting on a way to enjoy WoW without being constantly burned out. Spending our entire WoW time hunting achievements was easily getting tedious. We needed to enjoy more of what the game has to offer, and we really didn’t enjoy instancing with our hunters. So we went back to our druids. Don’t worry, we’re still brutal, only a bit softer (probably because of all the feathers).

Gamrok

My first character in WoW was a druid… It was the time when only Taurens or Night-elves could be druids. I remember that morning, Sisqi was about to join me at the office for lunch and we were going to buy games for our Easter holidays… Instead of working, I had spent my time reading the descriptions of all the classes and races, trying to choose which character I would create. I rolled a druid for a few reasons:

  • I wanted to be Alliance (I know, silly choice);
  • I didn’t want to be a human (already enough of it IRL);
  • I wanted a class that could fill all roles.

So, for a year or two, until The Burning Crusade, I healed in raids and I was pretty happy. Until the day I decided to see what the other classes had to offer. From that moment on, I’ve only been switching characters: rogue, warlock, mage, shaman and, finally, hunter.

I kept playing with my hunter through Cataclysm, Pandaria, Draenor and almost all Legion, but I’ve never been really happy with my class. I thought that the strong ability of the hunter to solo almost everything would open all doors to me. Unfortunately, it did quite the opposite, I didn’t have fun in dungeons, raids or PvP anymore, so I kept hunting achievements.

Most of the time, I would play for a few months, then get tired of doing the same things all the time, quit the game, then come back for a few more months… This has been my WoW pattern for the last 6 years.

During my recent break, I thought that the day I would come back, I would change radically, I would go back to a class that would give me fun in raids and dungeons: the Druid. So, without further delay, I present you Madstag, my Tauren druid:

It’s been a few weeks that I’m trying to catch back on the expansion, mixing instances and quests, and I’m having an absolute blast! Not only have I found back the pleasure to heal in raids and dungeons but I’ve also found back the drive to gear my character, to perform as good as I can. My game time is more balanced which greatly helps preventing the burn-out.

Sisqi

When Gamrok told me that he wanted to main back his druid, I thought about leveling mine to keep him company. But, as I was playing with my moonkin, I realized how much more fun I had than with my beast master.

Eventhough the DPS of my balance druid isn’t as big as my hunters’, I just have more fun casting spells and shapeshifting. Also, I’ve missed my Tauren and I’m glad to find her back, meet Dragondoe.

I’ve practically caught up on on almost all Legion content, I’ve even started “Balance of power” which I didn’t with my hunter. I ran an heroic, a normal raid, a few mythic dungeons and had fun doing these! Now that’s something I thought I’d never say!

Until a week ago, I always thought that LFR and LFG were more than enough for me. I guess that playing the wrong class never motivated me to get out of my comfort zone. I dreaded running dungeons and raids, grouping up in general was like a stressful nightmare. This made me feel left out in the game for years. My moonkin, on the other hand, made me realize that all these things are actually fun and make me look forward to my next gaming session.

At the moment, Gamrok and I are in the middle of our 3 week Christmas holidays, which means that we have more time to game! Here’s a list of all the things that I wish to accomplish in WoW before the end of the most wonderful time of the year:

  • Getting exalted with Ravenhold so, I finally get the title “The Insane” (nothing new, but like that it will be official :p);
  • Finishing all quests in Suramar to get the “Insurrection” achievement;
  • Getting the fishing artifact
  • Leveling my Legion reputations, including the fisherfriends;
  • Getting my classmount;
  • Progress in “Balance of power”;
  • Getting a cool transmog because Dragondoe looks like a homeless gypsy.

There’s a lot more that I would like to do, but what would be the fun in completing all at once, right?

Leveling in Morrowind (2/2)

As you may have already noticed, the background image of the blog has changed back to World of Warcraft. Our great Elder Scrolls Online adventure has come and gone…

What’s behind such a radical change? Well, it all happened around level 20, when we both got confronted with the clunky gameplay of the dual action bars. It broke the deal for Sisqi and I.

So, just as in my previous post, keep in mind that these are the thoughts of someone who has spent more than a decade playing World of Warcraft:

  • Forcing people into using more than one weapon set, just to be able to use more than 5 slots on the action bar is a bad idea. I don’t see any reason behind this choice other than wanting to be different from other MMOs. The result is that you have a first weapon equipped, with a set of 5 actions on your bar, and a second weapon with another set of 5 actions. During the fight, you have to switch between these weapons to be able to access all your actions. It feels horrible, especially coming from someone who is used to the extreme fluidity of the combats in WoW;
  • The builds don’t feel natural for a fantasy game. Casters with plate armor, melee with light armor and staves,… It reminds me Torchlight II, where the best ranger (bow & gun) had to use a wand to be optimal, it breaks the class fantasy;
  • The landscape feels too much the same. While it is beautiful and more realistic than WoW, there isn’t enough difference between the zones;
  • LFG is a joke. Our last attempt left us in the queue for more than 3 hours, we even forgot that we were queued, until we finally gave up;
  • The lag is real. High latency, endless loading screens, such is the daily life of an ESO player;
  • The combats feels chaotic. One opponent is easy, two and even three is manageable, beyond that, you don’t even know who you’re trageting, the combat is a total mess.

The lack of optimization of both combats and connection make it difficult for us to enjoy ESO. We have cancelled our plus membership and re-subscribed to World of Warcraft, where we were happy to find back a fluid gameplay.

Each time I try a new MMO, I come to the same conclusion: before creating a gorgeous environment or a complex crafting system, the developpers should focus on the gameplay, an area where Blizzard, to this day, reigns supreme.

Leveling in Morrowind (1/2)

We both were in Elder Scrolls Online on the day of its release, but it didn’t work for us. I can’t remember the reason for not falling in love with it, all I can say is that, at that time, we didn’t go further than level 6 on any of our characters.

Time passed and a Youtube video by Fextralife triggered my curiosity. The timing couldn’t be better, the Blizzcon was extremely disappointing, leaving no perspective of a great future for a World of Warcraft that had already nothing to do anymore with the game we once loved. Before we had the time to say Quidditch, ESO was bought and installed on both our PCs, and we were proud ESO plus members.

Since then, we’ve been roaming Morrowind, avenging mages, freeing slaves and dancing with spiders. Every aspect of the game has been a blast. The game is gorgeous, many places are breathtaking, exploring such a fantastic landscape and all the caves and dungeons it holds feels like a true adventure. I could go on to talk about it, using superlatives but it couldn’t come close to how ESO is a fantastic experience for both Sisqi and me.

A few of the screenshots we took during our leveling from 1 to 20 in Vvardenfell:

Here is what two players who have spent more than a decade in Azeroth especially appreciate in ESO:

  • Venturing in such a detailed world, with a compass instead of an overlapping map, forces you to look where you’re going and to recognize the landscape. It greatly contributes to the feeling of exploration;
  • The game is more “classic fantasy” flavored. It feels good not to play in a world where orcs ride pink ponies and rainbow dragons;
  • The chat options and the NPCs make you feel like you’re a part of the story. Many quest lines only open if you’ve completed a prerequisite. That way, you can’t rush into a hub, pick all the quests, follow the yellow dots, kill the mobs (eyes closed), hand back the quests and receive useless loot without even having a clue of what the whole adventure was about;
  • Crafting is more elaborated and doesn’t become useless as just as you hit max level;
  • There’s a real sense of danger. Most of the time, the boss at the end of a quest line will kill you if you’re alone. It makes you wanna be good at your class, use the best gear you can find, use potions and, more importantly, group with people. In ESO, no heirlooms that make rewards obsolete and mobs that couldn’t kill you even if they’d really try;
  • A Day & Night cycle where the night is really dark (without the help of a potion);
  • Instant mount for everyone (not only druids).

Voilà, I’m going back to Vvardenfell now, I have caves to explore. Also, they have Skooma…