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So. The Vaykor Hek.

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Vay Hek has been a thing for… a bit more than a week now, I think? I’m a huge fan of original-flavour Hek, so this one has been on my list for, oh, a little over a week. Now.

This is a syndicate version of a weapon that already had a syndicate mod. A really good syndicate mod. A syndicate mod that made Hek the only practical shottie before the recent shotgun rework, and which elevated it to the king and eternal overlord spot on a lot of people’s rosters once the buff had been accomplished. And a mod that’s getting a lot of flak for apparently instigating a crisis of faith in the multishot system.

Pictured: subjugation

Pictured: subjugation

See, multishot basically doubles your damage. Your total damage. Most mods only operate on the base damage*, or the damage modified by said base damage mods**. Multishot magics new bullets into existence, and each new round has the full plethora of mods applied. The mods are expensive points-wise, but once you have one or two pure damage mods applied, multishot is easily the biggest point-for-point damage increase in the game.

Vaykor Hek, naturally, can’t use its non-syndicate sibling’s syndicate mod. This lead to calls of uselessness, which has coincided with the dev team taking a good hard look at multishot’s mechanics. Which is generally accepted as “we’re gonna nerf this so hard you’ll never see 60 minutes in T4S again“.

Despite the reaction, the Vaykor isn’t without its selling points. For one thing, it’s the first shotgun in a very long time with a semi-decent crit chance, which means it gives one the opportunity to haul out the previously useless Primed Ravage, if you’re into ranking expensive mods that are only useful on a single weapon. This doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but critical hits actually have a similar total-damage-increase effect to multishot, making them less reliable but equally – or even more – devastating on a weapon that can effectively build for crit. This means that while the Vaykor may not hit as hard on every shot, on average it’ll match its little cousin, and its crits will hit much, much harder.

Vaykor also gets the syndicate radial blast effect without giving up a mod slot. Okay, so calling a straight 200% damage increase for a mere 7 points giving up a slot is a little of a stretch, but that also means you have space to slot more goodies, and you’ll have the syndicate proc from the start while levelling. For someone like me who likes making bars go up, that’s a fair deal. Not that you’ll need to spend as much time on Forma as with the standard Hek, since Vaykor comes with a bushel of free polarities. That’s three forma you won’t have to spend. Okay, two if you’re not as big a fan of the D as DE obviously are. Hur hur.

The Vaykor also has a faster fire rate and twice the ammo capacity. You want the old, pre-broken-reload Strun Wraith back? Yeah, V.Hek has basically the same feel, but with crit instead of status and damage instead of lightning reload. It even seems to have more of a chokk feel to its sound than the almighty thoom of the original.

Now, that’s a pretty big list. You might expect people to look at it and be somewhat impressed. If so, then you’d never have encountered the Warframe fanbase.

Immediate reaction to New Hek’s release was… yeah. Effectively a riot. Insistence that it did less damage, that it was a missed opportunity, that it required the expensive Primed Ravage. Even when theorycrafters proved that its sustained damage beat the Hek, the burst offered by Scattered Justice offered a fallback position for those determined to hold on to their outrage.

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This has had one pleasant side-effect: Vaykor Hek is dirt cheap compared to the other syndicate primaries. Whether because of the forum explosion or the fact that a lot of folks side with Steel Meridian as the obvious Good Guys™, you can pick up a V.Hek in trade for a third of the price of the Sancti Tigris at the moment. And that’s a great thing, because this gun kicks ass.

An 8-round magazine gives you the ability to take on great heaping crowds of enemies, and Warframe is all about the seething mobs. The handling difference is evolutionary. This is a Hek that you can be a little reckless with, because the follow-up is that little bit faster and you’ve got the ammo to spare. Yet it’s still capable of one-shotting anything on the map and most things in the Void.

Some folks are worried that spending time and forma on anything right now is going to be a waste, that the impending Doom of Multishot means they’re going to be left with a useless lump of pig iron. I say: Forma this. Rank it. Enjoy it, and savour the delicious fluids spilled forth by your enemies.

This gun is worth it, even here at the end of the world.

 

  • * Serration, Point Blank, Hornet Strike, Pressure Point – those mods that the wiki insists you put on before anything else. This is for a reason.
  • ** Elemental mods, I/P/S mods – basically anything that says +damage but isn’t in the above list.

valkboring

This is Valkyr. She…

Wait.

No.

This is Valkyr.

BLOOD AND DEATH

BLOOD AND DEATH

She was, as I’ve mentioned, one of the first frames that I built, and for a very long time she sat unloved and underappreciated at the bottom of my inventory.

In terms of playstyle and abilities, she reads like Joss Whedon’s wet dreams. Originally a different design, the original Valkyr was captured by a society of scientists who literally worship profit. She was experimented upon – hence the restraints and semi-exposed internals of her frame – and, when she was freed, came out of it with a bloodthirst second to none and the melee skills to tear apart enemies much larger than her slight, if athletic, build.

Tell me that somewhere Whedon didn’t just feel a tingle in his special place.

There’s been some discussion over whether professional genital-stabbing* was the “original” River Tam Valkyr’s skillset as well, or if the experience twisted her sufficiently to alter her void imprint and thus her powerset. It’s the sort of lively debate that can never really be settled and will flare up forever through the community, so naturally the developers have no pressing desire to answer either way. At least it keeps the little bastards from crying for more buffs, right?

The thing about Valkyr, though, is that she’s fairly mod-heavy if you want to squeeze the best out of her. Here’s my build – it’s not perfect, but it works pretty well.

It's distracting how they watch you operate. Or however the hell it is you install these things.

It’s distracting how they watch you operate. Or however the hell it is you install these things.

I go with Armored Agility rather than fan favourite Steel Fiber, because while the extra armour is nice to have, more speed on a melee fighter is its own reward. She’s also the only character that I build without a shred of power efficiency, despite the abominably high cost of Warcry. Rage feeds back energy whenever anything’s dangerous enough to do significant damage, and that energy fuels Hysteria, which gives healing along with its plethora of other effects. Warcry’s aforementioned cost becomes moot with a little added duration and Eternal War. I do wish that the added duration came in the form of Primed Continuity, but I wasn’t around for that one, so Narrow Minded is the order of the day and my group (if any) can take their chances at being in my initial Warcry radius.

The biggest thing on there, though, is power. Not quite all of the power, because Transient Fortitude has, shamefully, yet to be fully ranked, and that Blind Rage really should be rank 6, but I have to fit these mods on other frames as well and re-formas go slow when you rank up all over the starchart instead of leeching on Draco.

Anyway… power turns Warcry into the difference between a turbocharger and a JATO rocket. With a Berserker build melee weapon, you’ll be slotting Spoiled Strike just to get the speed down to where you’re capable of clicking fast enough. It is glorious. Hysteria can compete with a flying Scindo, of course… but only just. Cleaving Whirlwind is particularly rewarding, because the spin2win combo hits really easily at high speed and the stagger when you screw up and spin too far is hilarious. Oh, also damage or something. Probably important to someone.

I don’t see very many Valkyrs out there. Might have something to do with how they’re supposedly not very good at endgame – defined nebulously as Defense wave 40 or 60 minutes in Survival – but my theory is that, like me, a lot of people built this slightly odd-looking**, mechanically unusual, mod-heavy “edgy” frame, then discarded it as unsupportable. Turns out that going back with a fresh eye, a better idea of the game’s synergies and a whole pile of rares makes her a completely different animal.

 

  • * Link is work-safe, I swear
  • ** This is the only frame on which I use a purely cosmetic helm, because her default helm is an atrocity. And I use Kara rather than Bastet, because ew, you got your catgirls in my techno-organic sci-fi dystopia.

…and quietly regards the menu up behind the counter. After a few thoughtful moments, the philosopher inquires: “What is Good”?*

Previous whining aside, quite a few of the games that I’ve dabbled in lately have been enjoyable. Warframe, for instance, didn’t chase me away through poor gameplay, but through frustration with the systems. And maybe a little bit because of repetitiveness. Still, after my last post I resolved to update the beast and peer once more into its depths, and my conclusion so far is that the refreshed beginner experience is a massive improvement. Plus the new diegetic menus look fantastic, and it’s all based around a ship of my own with its very own slightly unhinged AI. That last point is actually a bit of an achilles heel… I do so love an AI on the edge; cf. Shodan, Helios, GLadOS, et al.

damn that Braton Prime...

Much improved over the original grey wastes.

There’s also been some flirtation with Mass Effect, which I really appreciate in terms of being able to play a character who has… social issues, is ruthless, generally unpleasant, yet is still on the side of the angels. People who don’t take shit will get stuff done. Yes, they can be overbearing, and will often be disliked, but they’re effective. And the morality system isn’t either/or… a character can have shades of the upstanding do-right crusader without having to sacrifice their ability to intimidate the contents of their enemies’ bladders straight into said enemies’ breeches.

I mentioned the issues with the starting experience, though, and it’s odd… you’d expect the light-armoured Vanguard class, for instance, to be less effective early on than the tougher Soldier. However, since the Soldier is the Mass Effect equivalent of a straight fighter, he’s tremendously reliant on gear… and while early pistols are pretty good, the same cannot be said of the assault rifles, even should you find one. Same with the early armour – both characters found an excellent suit of light armour early on, and while that’s great news for the Vanguard, it means that said warrior/biotic hybrid is just as tough as my supposed tank. If the game takes the standard approach of linear strength gain for warrior types and exponential gain for mages, this start doesn’t really bode well for a pure gunner.

Torchlight II made its much-belated way onto my roster thanks to the Steam sale, and it’s been a rollicking Diablo-flavoured pile-up-the-corpses ride. It’s also a prime example of how to do early levels right – even with the basic attack and one skill, the characters feel fun and competent. Particularly the Engineer. It’s always great to have a nice, simple “kill all the monsters until they die” game to fall back on.

My real fallback, though, has been the incredibly fun Super Hexagon. I first heard of this game in connection with the Hexos encounter in Brawlers’ guild, and eventually picked it up during the same Steam sale. I’d play this game just for the music, but there’s also something almost hypnotically entertaining about navigating the mazes in this game. And even when I do incredibly poorly – which, let’s face it, is often – it’s still easy to jump back in. But before endorsing the game unequivocally, allow me to quote a few one-line Steam reviews…

30 minutes of playing this and I can no longer recognize any colours. 11/10

Dark Souls on drugs.

I now understand why the number of the beast only consists of the number 6.

This game enjoys the pain of others, and feeds off of their misery.

The game I play when I feel like I should cry myself to sleep.

Do you want your friends to hate you? Get them this game. 10/10

Now bear in mind, each and every one of those reviewers recommended the game.

Oh delightful geometry, tell me your secrets...

Oh delightful geometry, tell me your secrets…

It really is great to just fire up for a few minutes at a time, in between other, meatier titles or simply whenever you require a mental reset. I’m honestly pretty terrible at twitch games, but that music…

Between these titles and the ongoing wrestling with Disciples and (sort of) Fallout 3 – whose worst deficiencies I’ve managed to fix, through some hacking around in the config – it’s been a good couple of months here behind the desk. That’s discounting a brief flirtation with Wildstar, which looks brilliant but as an MMO comes off as toxic, and a couple of others like Bastion and Space Hulk that didn’t really capture the imagination, but weren’t really bad. Plus there’s Human Revolution: Director’s Cut waiting on the desktop, where I can finally take on the game as it was intended… with a goddamned silenced sniper rifle. Going to wait a bit on that one, though. Savour the anticipation. Also, distance the experience from the base version that I played earlier in the year, which was astoundingly good.

Yeah, everything’s looking pretty good on this side of the fence.

 

* This would be more funny if you were a moral relativist.

I wrote a very different post, but I’m not going to publish it. It would have been petty, complaining about RNG yet again. It would have said very little that is new, actually. And it would have been entirely out of place.

See, this tier has actually been really good to me. Our team hasn’t raided consistently, but I’ve been getting upgrades pretty steadily when we do. Hell, just this week I picked up a sweet pair of pants off Horridon.

That pair of pants is this week’s upgrade project, after which I’m actually out of things to spend valour on, and I’ll probably end up upgrading my remaining 502s. Upgrading has been amazing for my sense of progression. Back when it was first available I wasn’t earning enough valour to make use of the feature, but at the current much more affordable rates, it’s a nice way to push my gear just a little further. I spent around 3k valour upgrading the better parts of my gear last week, and it feels good, bro.

Complaining in the face of this just seems frivolous. It’d come off like complaining that I hate my superbike because it’s got a couple of scratches in the paint. At the end of the day, I’m still going to climb on that boney and thrash it ’til hot pepper sauce dribbles out of your sister’s most special places.

Heroic scenarios have proven more fun than a backseat full of stoned nursing students, especially since the queue isn’t a groundhog day loop of Moar Domination Point. The new goblin scenario is short, sweet, to the point, and lets me kablooie all of the buttons on some nice tough mobs and sub-bosses. Not to mention goblin paladin + avenging wrath = hilarity.

There’s even been some interest in challenge modes again, and they’re still hair-raisingly entertaining. This is a pretty good patch, everything considered. Hell, all I can really complain about is the bad luck streaks in pet battles and the fact that my line’s still acting up, and the latter isn’t even vaguely the game’s fault.

Well, that and the seriously creepy NPCs.

Gee, furry AND midget? Pa'Chek has seen some shit.

Gee, furry AND midget? Pa’chek has seen some shit.

After a couple of nights characterised by waiting for people to be ready to raid, we managed to get all the way through to Tortos again. So we’ve got all of tuesday to work on him and his bats. Um, yay?

Tried a couple of new things on Horridon, and they worked out pretty well – having a boomkin and shaman combo works out magnificently, since Symbiosis means you get two Solar Beams for the price of one on the second door, and we had our fresh paladin tank handling the adds exclusively while the death knight took care of the boss. Avenger’s Shield: interrupting all the things since 2008. With our surplus of paladins we could always just HoP puncture stacks off the boss tank.

Council went smoothly, with us making the damage requirement despite not being crazy enough to solo-tank it. Loot happened. And lo, didst a choir of angels descend from on high.

"Where's dat wascawwy twicewatops?"

“Where’s dat wascawwy twicewatops?”

For anyone not understanding the flowery prose, that’s my paladin wielding Zerat, Malakk’s Soulburning Greatsword. Thunderforged edition.

This is one of the few weapons so far this xpac that looks better in its normal incarnation than in raid finder. Plus the colour scheme fits neatly with my existing transmog, which is always nice. And then there’s the fact that it is an ilvl 528 weapon OMG you guys. I’m going to have to perform to justify having been awarded the thing, and there’s so much hit on melee gear at the moment that I’m having a hard time making the most of its itemisation, but WORDS WORDS WORDS the master wants MURDER

Seriously, I can hardly wait to go hit something with this thing. It also means the out-of-place whining from my last post is moot, since my best character now has an almost distressingly phat weapon.

I said whadup

I said whadup

And now, a couple of touching, personal moments from the raid. Because it’s all about the touchy feelies. We’ll start with Giac, no longer bringing shame upon our fine guild with his half-transmog. Now he can bring shame upon us while looking entirely fabulous!

"I like the way it makes my nosehairs stand on end"

“I like the way it makes my nosehairs stand on end”

Next: does your shaman have a Chain Lightning addiction? Is he winding up for that delicious multi-target release even while waiting for a pull, explaining tactics, eating or mounted? Call 0-800-BUFF-NAO for help! Always remember: you and your gigantic pile of smouldering corpses are not alone.

(This is a pretty persistent graphical glitch that seems to show up constantly for shammies. At least it makes them look pretty badass. Perma-casting for the win.)

And now to prepare for the Entortening.

A couple of days ago I was asked what I’m going to be doing first when 5.2 drops. The answer was surprisingly quick in coming: scenarios.

Now, with the new LFRs, yet more new dailies to grind, pet raids, moar valour to grind and the like – and no new scenarios – this probably seems like a bit of an odd choice. I mean, the only enhancement scenarios are seeing is the ability to champion rep, and that’s going in for dungeons as well.

That said, though, scenarios have a few very important benefits that have had me enjoying them thoroughly:

  • The queue time is effectively instant. Quick payoff can’t be underestimated.
  • Taking responsibility for one’s own survival is satisfying.
  • Personal performance generates more feedback compared to being one of the guys hiding behind the tank, or one of those 20 or so lesser souls beating on a giant insect/statue/troll/whatever.
  • No gear requirement.
  • No grinding.
  • The ability to use some of those cool but impractical buttons that sort of languish on your bars as soon as you hit instancing level.
  • As an altoholic, every spec feels different and can bring things other than their straight rotation to the table that matter.
  • They’re quick to complete. Probably the longest scenario is Theramore, and even that is around 15 minutes long.
  • It’s very difficult for bad players to ruin the experience.
Shouldn't be nearly as vicariously thrilling as it is.

Of course, it could always just be my DBM screwing around.

That last point deserves a bit of elaboration. Since starting to play I’ve seen people mass-pull mobs and leave, refuse to perform their roles, need on all gear whether they need it or not, abuse fight mechanics to try and wipe the raid/party and generally do their level best to irritate and discommodate the members of their group.

None of these tactics work in scenarios. Mobs are spaced so that pulling too many is quite difficult, gear is per-player if you’re lucky enough to get something in your chest, fight mechanics are generally designed to punish the person who screws up rather than anyone in the screw-up’s general vicinity, and refusal to perform just means looking foolish when there are no roles and most scenarios can be soloed anyway.

Seriously, about the closest I’ve seen to an effective party-wipe tactic is to pull all four of the end-waves of Domination Point at once, and if you’ve seen that done once then it’s easy enough to survive. Scenarios are, so far, proof against the greatest barrier to enjoyment of every other instance type: other players.

As such, the people in them tend to be less arrogant and more inclined to be friendly in general. Where there’s no payoff to troll, there aren’t any trolls. The worst someone can do is try to express themselves negatively through party chat, and that’s what ignore is for.

About the only thing to complain about in scenarios is that they’re not worth very much valour… which is a bloody stupid complaint in an expansion where valour comes in as a pittance from pretty much every content type, most of which require either grinding repetitive bullshit quests for the millionth time running or wasting time in a queue. During which, of course, you could always queue for a scenario…

One of the things I like least about living in Africa is the unholy mess that is our telecoms infrastructure. My local landline exchange is so useless that, when I had a terrestrial ADSL line, I spent more time in downtime than actually using the thing. So a while back I switched to 3g.

This was all well and good, except that lately the line’s been less and less reliable. In the past week I haven’t been able to raid – hell, I haven’t been able to run old raids for the pets. Getting the opportunity to hit one or two abilities in between 5 second lag spikes is not kosher.

Neat thing about pet battles – being turn-based, they’re much less latency-sensitive than the rest of the game. Sure, it’s irritating when you hit an ability and have to wait forever for it to actually go off, but it doesn’t completely break your game.

So yeah. It’s been quiet this week, and it’ll be quiet until I can get some sort of connection that actually wants to connect. In the meantime, some QQ!

  • One of the recent patches seems to have affected miss chance in pet battles. I seem to be missing a lot more than previously, especially with lower level pets attacking higher levels. Sure, lower pets would miss more often against higher before, but the current chance is just punitive when trying to level pets.
  • Dodge chance also seems to be up.
  • I want to know how dodge and hit chances are calculated for pets of different quality. The legendary pets used by the elemental tamers appear to have an exceedingly high chance to dodge and they effectively never miss – Expunge, an attack with a fair miss chance, has missed me only once in several dozen fights against the Thundering elemental master.
  • Family seems to have some bearing on dodge as well. All of this is anecdotal, but Flying and cat-type pets in particular seem to dodge much more often than others.
  • Burrow, Dive, Lift-off etc aren’t marked as having a high miss chance, and while they do have defensive utility I don’t believe their damage combined with the 4 round cooldown justifies a high miss chance. Compare for instance Shock and Awe, a 3-round cooldown which deals approximately similar damage to a dive-type move and adds a stun chance. This move doesn’t seem to miss nearly as often.
  • Darkmoon Tonk in general is the wrecker of dreams and destroyer of all that is good and right in pet battles. It is an absolute delight to use, especially in Hellfire Peninsula where the entire place is chock-full of Beast types.
  • By contrast I’ve seen a couple of posts on the forums* about how the Blighthawk is an absolute wrecking ball of a pet. My levelling experience so far is that while Ghostly Bite is quite nice, the pet is extremely weak until lvl 15 and its vulnerability to Critter-type attacks is, as with most Undead types, virtually crippling.
  • Fluxfire Feline. This is the third pet that I’ve had to try and track down that spawns in a goddamned Alliance base, the other two being the mechanical raptor in Toshley’s station and the Irradiated Roach that spawns in the same area as the Feline**. What the actual fuck are these people thinking?
  • Battle-stone drop rate also seems to have been heavily nerfed. I haven’t seen one in the past week, which has been around six hundred battles plus a good number of dailies. That doesn’t seem right.

* While trying to find documentation on the Miss issue. I generally avoid the forums, being that they’re a good way to completely ruin your mood.

** I actually switched to an alliance toon to tame a Wildhammer Gryphon Hatchling, making four rather than three, but have since seen enough of these as secondary pets that it seems pointless to mention them in this section. Still, if you’re looking for a specific spawn of one and you can’t just land in Kirthaven, you’re SoL.