It may be the shortest month of the year, but February seems to have been full of events and new content releases in the world of massively multiplayer online games that I play.
There’s been an anniversary in Star Trek Online, player housing introduced in The Elder Scrolls Online, new Valentine’s themed store items and a limited-time challenge in The Secret World, the continuation of the Living World story in Guild Wars 2, and most surprisingly… revamped misbehaving cowboy robots in Champions Online.
The month began with a trip back to Star Trek Online for its 7th year anniversary event. As I mentioned back in January when the event was just beginning, that’s quite an impressive feat for an MMO to last that long and still be going strong in today’s saturated landscape of free to play games.
My main focus for the anniversary event was collecting the unique party horn for this year from Q. Each anniversary event, Q has given out a special party horn gadget that launches random stuff like balloon ships, a spray of tribbles and confetti. It doesn’t really have much of a use, but being an obsessive collector, I was determined not to miss this one or I’d ruin my collection!
There was also the usual anniversary ship reputation grind event, where you run a daily mission for Q and get awarded anniversary tokens. Collect 1000 tokens and you get to claim a special starship – this year being a delta shaped Lukari vessel picked by the community. I logged in for a couple of days and earned some tokens, but then got bored and gave up. I didn’t really have any desire to get the new ship and the daily Omega particle scanning mission required to earn tokens was really boring after having done it several times over the last few years. I no longer had the patience to tediously travel to three different locations across the galaxy and scan for particles, despite having the ability to transwarp from my diplomatic rank and an advanced quantum slipstream drive on my Odyssey-class starship.
While I was in-game, I decided to check out a few of the new time-travel episodes that came out in the Agents of Yesterday expansion and also took a trip to Bajor in the Mirror Universe as part of the revamped Cardassian sector storyline. It felt really good to be back on my starship, the U.S.S Legendary, and running missions with my trusty NPC crew. I even tried the new featured episode, but had no idea what was going on because it was like being on season four of watching Star Trek and then suddenly skipping ahead to season seven and being lost on what the current plot involved.
Then, on 6 February 2017, the Homestead update hit The Elder Scrolls Online and gave everybody player housing. I really liked the idea of buying a modest home with the gold I’d been saving up, and then discovering new furnishings to decorate it. Furnishing my home with rewards from achievements and items crafted by my character feels very satisfying.
Now having access to all of the content available in the game through my ESO Plus subscription, I’ve explored some of the DLC areas such as Hew’s Bane, The Gold Coast and the Imperial City, finding new missions and stories to experience. I really want to try some more of the Imperial City storyline, but being inside an active PvP zone, it makes it quite hazardous and puts me off travelling there.
I managed to complete the veteran versions of the Imperial City Prison and White Gold Tower dungeons, which were challenging, but in a good way. The final battle with the Lord Warden in the Imperial City Prison is one of my favourite new boss battles, with portals that make for hilarious deaths if a group member accidentally gets sucked into one at the wrong time. It was fun to learn the new dungeons and try to work out the mechanics of the fights. It feels like I’ve made a lot of progress improving my character from where it was at a month ago, barely able to output an acceptable amount of damage, to now being able to reach the final boss in the veteran Maelstrom Arena.
The Secret World launched a new limited-time challenge on Valentine’s Day, giving players the chance to earn a cool new sprint animation in the form of gravity skates. Responding to player feedback from their previous challenge event, the game developers gave everyone more than a month to complete 35 challenges, which made it very reasonable for me to obtain the gravity skates within a week, by running content which I’d be doing in my regular gameplay such as raids, dungeons and missions.
The new Living World episode in Guild Wars 2, The Head of the Snake, released on 8 February 2017. It was an amazing story to play through on my human character, as it brought him back to his homeland of Kryta and had a lot of connections calling back to the human personal story, the Order of Whispers story and even the events that happened in the Caudecus Manor dungeon.
Also continuing the current events storyline in Guild Wars 2, a new quest was added on 22 February that sends your character on a mission to restore the broken sword, Caladbolg, which was damaged during the events of Heart of Thorns. It was great to play this on my sylvari character, as it had connections back to the personal story and Sylvari lore. The reward is your very own ascended version of Caladbolg, personalised in one of five different forms – either as a greatsword, one-handed sword, scepter, shield or dagger.
What surprised me most this month was returning to Champions Online. I received an email about their new High Noon at Snake Gulch event, and was intrigued at the revelation that they are still adding new content to that game, which is even older than its sibling MMO, Star Trek Online.
For this event, they’ve added a new open world mission in the Snake Gulch area of The Desert zone, a theme park filled with robots corrupted by the rogue AI, Mechanon. It involves all of the players participating to split into four coordinated groups – with three groups disabling transmitter towers and a fourth group defeating a world boss within twenty minutes. If the players around the towers fail to keep them inactive, the world boss gains some very nasty resistances and damage buffs, making it harder for the group fighting it.
It has been interesting to take part and see if the players in Champions Online can work together and successfully complete the event. In a lot of cases, they’ve managed this quite well. But at some times of the day, when there are fewer players around it hasn’t gone so well. Having experienced the community organising itself and working together as a whole in The Secret World, it was intriguing to see if this was also possible in another MMO, with a very different community.
Personally, I’ve found it fun to get to know my superhero character again and relearn his powers and abilities. I died a lot of times on the world boss, before I learnt that staying fully healed at all times and blocking very specific attacks from the boss was essential for not being instantly killed.
I’ve also seen that they’ve added a few nice features to the game since my last visit over two and a half years ago, including a free item of the month for subscribers. For February 2017, this was a new emote. It’s nice to see that there’s still some life left in Champions Online and it’s back on my radar for planning more return visits in the future.
After a winter hiatus, I picked up Fallout Shelter again to check out a new quest line which sends a solo vault dweller out on missions of espionage. I’m getting to a point where a lot of my vault dwellers are now max level and max skilled, so I’m wondering if the developers, Bethesda, have any more plans to expand the gameplay in the same way that quests vastly improved the game.
At the beginning of the month, there was some fun involving controversial “dong sliders” in Conan Exiles, the new survival game from Funcom, which launched as an early access title. Various streamers I follow on Twitch (including DarkInsanities and JennetTSW) are playing the game, which features the option for full nudity on both players and non-player characters with gloriously appropriate jiggle physics. It adds a certain level of realism not seen in other games, but as it isn’t the focus of core gameplay, after the first day all you see now are fully clothed characters who’ve learnt to craft armour.
There were a few more streams of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE at the beginning of this month from HeathHimselfStreams, but then things dried up in the latter half of February. It seems like he’s moved on to more artistic pursuits in the form of digital painting and 360 degree photography. Come March, I’m sure he’ll be obsessed with the release of the Nintendo Switch, so for now it looks like I’ll never get to see the ending of Tokyo Mirage Sessions. I did manage to have some fun making Twitch Clips and animated GIFs from my favourite parts of the streams, though.
I also enjoy watching official developer streams from the games I play, specifically, Guild Chat from Guild Wars 2. Their stream about the new Living World episode had some very interesting tidbits about the development behind the episode and elaborated on some of the new directions they are taking in terms of personalised content, such as thief class players being able to pick locks and engineers fixing turrets during the new episode.
What was noticeably absent this month was a developer stream from Funcom giving us any new updates about The Secret World. It was revealed in a financial report to investors that Funcom is planning to “relaunch” The Secret World, beginning some time in March. Hopefully, the developers will be returning to Twitch soon to elaborate on the details.
Beware idling in March
So, that’s the review of February done. I don’t really have much speculation about what will be on my agenda in March other than the fact that Mass Effect: Andromeda will be launching in the latter half of the month. I am definitely interested in playing this sequel to the franchise.
I wonder if the MMOs I play will take a break from running events during March and give me some quiet time to explore Andromeda?