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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.
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Press X to dedicate your life to farming Neurodes

Press X to dedicate your life to farming Neurodes

Sometime before the most recent Great Disappearance, I tried getting into Warframe for a bit again. That… didn’t really work out, and I quit. Again. But since a couple of months back, I’ve resumed playing.

Again.

Or perhaps Once More, if you’re as bothered by the overuse of the term as I am.

Anyway, yeah. My biggest barrier to jumping back in last time was the fact that a lot of the cool new stuff was locked away in Clan research. That was resolved by the developers spending some time adding gear to the market instead. Sure, there were still some new shinies in the Dojo, and my beloved* sword and shield were locked in the Tenno Research terminal, but at least there was some stuff that I could invest in to get started.

Also helped that, on the second day of logging in, I got my first ever 75% discount offer. Totally not a transparent attempt to encourage investment, but hey, it worked. That plat got sunk straight into a new frame because I didn’t feel like kicking off with a grind, and what a grind I did bypass… by buying Mesa.

To be honest, I bought her because she looked cool and her theme was “gunslinger”, and at first I thought she was a bit mediocre because I didn’t know how Peacemaker worked. Bear in mind that at this point I was still avoiding the forums – step 1 in any plan for maintaining satisfaction with a game.

Also to avoid things like this when... questioning the wisdom of the game's creators

Also to avoid things like this when… questioning the wisdom of the game’s creators

So yeah, it turned out that I’d bought the current faceroll frame of killing everything, bypassing a grind that’s kept people farming her parts for some months now, depending on their fortune**. And of course I was Doing It Wrong. She’s actually some sort of super-godmode priestess of death, praying for war and decimating the enemy before her party members can have any fun with righteous fury.

What I’m saying is, she’s pretty fun to play – less so in her aspect as a turret of instant aimbot death, but equally capable as a self-buffing nigh-invincible mobile destroyer.

That got me involved, and sort-of solved the other issue I had – how to get at those shiny weapons without being a free-riding leech. The clan that I’m with at the moment has most of it’s research done, but I’ve been quietly contributing to clan decorations and new research so as not to feel like a leech.

It’s the new research that has me worried, though. We’ve just come off one item for a niche playstyle that required pretty heavy resource investment, and now the clan is faced with another utterly ludicrous resource grind for the same niche. Usually donations don’t take all that long, but for this one, well…

Clan chat has gone quiet. I’m not sure if people are waiting for a nerf on the resource price, or just waiting it out, and maybe I’m projecting, but that big Tellurium sink in the Dojo just feels like it’s making people guilty. That’s killing the social aspect of the clan, and it is piss-poor design – especially as it seems to be a punitive measure to counter some exploit that a few people used to get large amounts of resources. Most players didn’t know about the exploit until it was patched, and fewer still used it, yet DE is comfortable punishing the entire playerbase with this bullshit? Yeah, seems fucking sensible to me.

Apart from DE’s slow drift out of touch with their playerbase, though, it’s still pretty fun. And there are compensations to be found when running out of bars to fill as well. I’ve rediscovered Valkyr, and my beloved Excalibur has been turned from a fairly solid frame into a water-walking, feed-the-masses, table-flipping avatar of the divine.

Here's to magic ninjas in space

Life’s pretty good out among the stars

I’d say I’ll talk more about those later, but let’s be honest – Odin alone knows when the next update will be.

 

  • * Beloved until I discovered that the stats are absolute ass, at least…
  • ** The RNG on Mesa’s parts is three layers deep – and that’s after completing the quest that even gets you the blueprint to make the boss key. Good luck, have fun.

 

It must have been a month back or so, I reckon. Stranger said he was ready, that he’d carry on the line. That he was going to play it… that it was time for Mass Effect 2.

Sometimes us folk wonder whatever happened to that poor deluded soul.

Okay, elaborate dramatics aside, I actually did run into a little trouble starting up with ME 2. From the start, it’s pretty clear that the game is very different from the first, at least in terms of its combat systems. As an example: I actually played a Vanguard up for the sole purpose of importing the save into ME2, and then promptly turned her into a Soldier, simply because Soldier was a literally nigh-invincible battering ram in the first game.

Didn’t take too long to realise that Bioware, in what was probably an eminently foreseeable move, had excised the skill that had resulted in said capability. Oops. Shepard is also a lot more fragile – shields fold in around a second of sustained fire, and the character has become some sort of concrete-based vampire or perhaps an exotic slime mold, attaching to cover in order to rapidly regenerate a health pool that otherwise lasts approximately as long as a puddle of piss in the Sahara.

A cross-section of your average fight.

A cross-section of your average fight.

So, being the intrepid and self-reliant challenge gamer that I am, I gave up.

No really, I went and played some Disciples III instead, since I still haven’t finished the blasted game, what with having no motivation to get past the self-righteous elves and their campaign. The mission that’s been holding me up was literally going to a human fortress and kicking them out of the homes they’d built over generations. This because some pointy-eared bint insisted that it would help mitigate the approach of some nebulous evil.

Anyway, after finishing that scenario and experiencing the joys of playing an elf slumlord, not to mention being teased a fight against a dragon but having no such fight materialise*, I went back to the stars. Via the Mass Effect wikia.

It feels a bit like cheating. See, I’m not terribly comfortable with walking in incompetent. I’m especially unhappy with the idea of missing out on upgrades, or rather of achieving a less-than-ideal result at all, both of which are a serious possibility in this game. Gone is the random loot – instead, the upgrade or resources that you miss in a mission may be lost forever. So yeah, I went and looked at some build strategies, and I look for upgrades in the missions before the shuttle even leaves the docking bay.

Thing is, I’m enjoying the game. There’s something that sits on the back of my neck and whispers “efficiency, you missed it, you’re doing it wrong” otherwise – but with the aid of these outside resources, much progress has been made. And hell, it isn’t like the game’s design is actually such that it’s really necessary to look this stuff up – being much more action-based and linear than its exploration-minded elder sibling, simply being thorough would net everything in the game so far. So it’s just a peculiar mental crutch.

Which doesn’t make it feel any less like cheating.

On the plus side, the combat in ME2 is much more entertaining… which it would really have to be, given how much more of it there is. Where ME felt like a story-based game that let the player largely take their own direction, the sequel is very character-focussed, and has dropped planetary exploration entirely in favour of mission-based gameplay – the dreaded corridor shooter disease. Ah, but these corridors are so very pretty, and can be even prettier. See, Soldier Shepard has access to an ability called Adrenaline Rush. Personally, I’m not convinced that’s adrenaline…

PCHOOO

PCHOOO

See, to me that just looks like Commander Shepard has access to the very best drugs. And it just keeps getting better as the game goes on…

Bow before me, puny miscreants!

Bow before me, puny miscreants!

…until it’s getting so stylised that you’re not even sure that anyone’s occupying a reality congruent to that of the good Commander.

VTec just kicked in, yo.

VTec just kicked in, yo.

Fortunately, I adore bright colours and delightfully warped environments. Very fortunately, as it turns out, since the active nature of combat means that you’re hitting this Dreamtime-device promptly every ten seconds or so. This is the Soldier’s new gamebreaker, the ability to slow time and do extra damage. So yeah, I probably would have been just fine that first time around, before I pussied out. I just didn’t know it yet.

 

* Dragon blue-balls are the worst blue-balls. Ask any DnD player.

A previous edition of Attention Deficit Gaming established that the new interface for Warframe was pretty awesome, everything looked good, and running and gunning against comically outmatched opponents was still hilarious. And thus it was that I resolved to play for a while longer. How’d that work out? Not really as well as expected.

See, one of Warframe’s selling points for one such as myself is the crafting and levelling of a myriad of strange and fantastical weapons. And also a bunch of very generic ones, which tend to be fairly reliable and effective. New toys are released on a very nearly weekly basis, so there’s always bars that need to go up. But here’s the thing; while I’ve been away, a bushel of shiny new items have been released. That’s good. Predictably enough, I’ve also been booted from my clan due to inactivity. That’s bad. Very bad.

See, with the exception of a couple of sidearms and a poisoned dagger, all of the new releases are locked up in the clan tech tree. Not a bad thing, if you’re playing regularly; not a bad thing if you’re working toward them as a newbie. On the other hand, this arrangement is an atrocity to a returning player. What this means is finding a group of players that will let the returning player copy their hard-earned blueprints while occupying one of their limited clan slots.

Excalibur can't believe this shit either.

Just offscreen: a flipped table, spinning end-over-end into the infinite void of space

If leeching off the work of the players who’ve spent the time and mats on unlocking sounds like scumbag behaviour, congratulations on possession of an only mildly tarnished soul. Sure, it’d be possible to set up a personal clan, farm up the mats and unlock the weapons that way – if one felt like spending months doing so. This is not the sort of goal in which one heartily engages when casually playing while evaluating a possible return, and it seems a poor design to encourage the thought.

The choice then is rather bald-faced: take advantage of others, grind for months or spend real cash. Unfortunately, weapons are a poor value prospect; the same enormous variety means that the inordinately high price of items in the cash shop looks like a bit of a joke. Naturally, this is intentional; it encourages running content to acquire shiny rewards rather than buying one’s way to boredom. So, then, there’s the implicit fourth option: quit once again. Find something else and play that instead. There’s no lack of ‘else’ on my desktop, and so for now Warframe takes its place back in Limbo once more. Which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to trying out that flame-blade and shield combo they’d just introduced.

Lights out.

Lights out.

We’ve made solid progress over the past two weeks. Norushen and Pride last week, followed by a repeat this week and downing of Galakras, Juggernaut, Shaman, Nazgrim and Malkorok. Oh, and a couple of decent pulls at Spoils.

Norushen stomping all over the Amalgam

Norushen stomping all over the Amalgam

Vintage last week. Picked a pic with Norushen included, despite the fact that he doesn’t bother to take part in the encounter that’s named for him. Well, unless he’s the one spawning those golden spheres, but that sounds a bit proactive.

"Draw me like one of your French girls!"

“Draw me like one of your French girls!”

Pride’s been a pretty simple kill. Wish we’d had the option of choosing between Pride and Norushen. Thought SoO was meant to have branching options, but apparently that went out of the window sometime in development.

There was going to be a pic of our Galakras kill here, but I’m totes lame and awful, so just imagine it. Or flash back to the end of your most recent LFR Galakras, after half of the raid’s left because they only wanted loot off the first boss. Derp.

Juggernaut fall down, go boom.

Juggernaut fall down, go boom.

Biggest problem for Juggernaut was raid members assuming that they could soak bombs as though this were Flex. Kids, do not try this at home. Leave it to trained professionals, like tanks.

Only one of the pair. Like socks through the tumbledryer, so are the Days of our Shammies.

Only one of the pair. Like socks through the tumbledryer, so are the Days of our Shammies.

Our strategy for downing Dark Shaman actually involved three tanks tanking them separately – two at the top with Dottsy McTankSwap, one at the bottom with the DPS and Oozetastica the Poisonlicious. Works really well – you get deathwalls at the sparsely-populated top where they’re less likely to cause huge issues, and oozes and ashfalls at the bottom where there’s plenty of room to maneuver.

One poor decision too far.

One poor decision too far.

A lot of people seem to be attached to Nazgrim. I don’t get it. Since Cataclysm we’ve been following this tool who spouts off about how the Horde is all too magnificent, and who then tends to go right ahead and fuck already-bad situations up even worse. he tried hard, he was loyal, and he was way out of his goddamned depth. Maybe it’s because of that – the fact that he wasn’t some unstoppable Marty Stu – but his self-righteous jingoistic prattle got on my nerves.

I swiped his mace from the DK tank, purely on the basis that it’s a hefty base damage upgrade and mastery’s a pretty good stat for AoE-heavy encounters like around 80% of Siege. This also means that the warrior and I won’t be competing when something heavy on crit drops. We were both at the top of the SK list… I don’t know if Siege just has poor item placement for plate DPS, or if we’re just really unlucky.

The club can't handle us.

The club can’t handle us.

Malkorok really came out of nowhere. I get that he was important in the books, and he was some sort of kitten-stomping baby-eating Bad Guy in the backstory, but seriously… it would have been nice to have some insight into what his deal was within the game. Also, this encounter makes no bloody sense at all.

Downing the boss wasn’t the hard part – the hard part was getting everyone online at the same time to do so. At one point the raid leader’s machine crashed and completely lost all of his addon settings. Given that he was a healer, that was rather inconvenient. In the end we did manage the kill.

And now for some arbitrary nonsense.

Behold the holy bug-zapper!

Behold the holy bug-zapper!

Our main tank got his Tabard of the Lightbringer this week, something that he’s been working towards for quite some time now. Quite nifty.

If you recognise the room, yes it is indeed Garrosh’s secret underground no-cooties clubhouse. We were running it in Flex. If you recognise the second tank, I’ll be a little surprised. That’s Drythorn, making his return behind the board after a long period of smitey smiting. We didn’t get Garrosh down in the end… not enough DPS, and the tanks kept exploding violently due to adds and Warsong. Tips appreciated, since we don’t actually know how to prevent mobs getting the buff and stomping us obscenely.

Ended up tanking most of Flex and some of 10N with Dry this week. One of our tanks has come over all unreliable, so we’re making do with anything that can equip a shield, and in the case of a certain bear, the shield’s optional. Raid tanking beats the hell out of PuG tanking, at least.

"Hey, where do you think you're putting that thing?"

“Hey, where do you think you’re putting that thing?”

Ah, pet battles. Such light-hearted family fun.

It awaits you under your bed

It awaits you under your bed

And finally, in case you ever wondered why anyone would ever play an orc as a clothie: this. This is why.

That’s pretty much it for the week. Still no image editor, so the screenshots look a little like they came from the inside of a Soviet mining gulag, which I suppose is actually fairly accurate. Deepholm flashbacks ahoy.

Looking forward to getting a shot at further and better bosses this week. I’m pretty happy with the raid as a whole… particularly in the second half, it certainly feels more dynamic than Throne of Thunder, while moving far away from Throne’s tendency to determine encounters on the strength of random people executing cheap gimmicks.

Go Team Siege.

WoWScrnShot_102713_151145

This character model actually looks pretty good without the hover-weapon on its back. The tone of the cinematic suited hiding my polearm, and now I sort of wish there was a way to hide it in general. Other than unequipping, of course.

In coincidental news, the three celestials appearing in that image also happen to be the same three whose pet-versions I’ve acquired from the tournament so far. Just three short weeks until this chapter closes behind me. I won’t say that I’ll never take part in the tourney again – that seems short-sighted. But given the frustrating nature of the RNG that determines success or failure, it’ll be severely unlikely that I do.

The whole mess makes me sort of wonder what’s next for pet battles. We haven’t heard anything about epic-quality pets in a long while, and that seems like a good thing. As for the tournament itself, it seems to have been generally well received, though that’s probably more to do with the novelty and rewards than anything else – which means that it’s sunk as soon as most battlers have familiarised themselves with all of the trainers and acquired the full set of pets. Blizzard does have a tendency to iterate, so maybe we’ll see something with a bit of a different format next. At the very least I can thank the tournament for giving me a reason to level some very interesting pets.

Meanwhile, back on the raiding front… we’d been stuck on Norushen 10N for a while. Week before last we powered through to the kill. Downed Sha of Pride in one pull, had a few decent attempts at Galakras but no down. Last week didn’t see any progression at all; the wifelet and I were out scampering around the bushveldt getting sunburn, and the run just never came together regardless.

One of the issues might be Flex… we’re running two nights a week for Flex, and then one night N prog. That doesn’t give us a lot of time working on normal, and worse yet, the normal run is on a week-night when people need to get to bed earlier. Extending hours is pretty much out of the question. It’d work out if we could down the Flex bosses faster, but there seems to be a frustrating tendency for people to be completely unable to rein in their off-topic rambling. Sure, we’re a guild not an army, blah – it’s a waste of people’s goddamn time. Mumble’s running outside of raid time as well, and that would seem to be a better time to talk about arbitrary miscellanea than when we need to focus. This isn’t Dragon Soul – there are 14 bloody bosses in this raid, and they’re all long-ass fights, apart from Norushen.

No, I’m not the most polite or social guildie in the world. Grr.

Either way, we’re trying for prog on friday this week. See how that goes. Won’t have the boost from Flex gear for the week yet, but that’s fairly low-importance. We’re not hitting enrages… it’s just refinement that we need.

The first week that SoO Flex part 3 was available, we stomped all over Malkorok within 3 pulls. This was without our main tank, with one of our best healers taking his place, and without a couple of our best DPS. Think it was a test week at uni or something.

The next week we went back with our full complement of heavy hitters, confident in our experience and with high spirits.

And we wiped on the fight for almost two hours before calling it.

What changed? Well… we brought two more people. Those two people pushed us over the threshold to four exploding swirls of doom rather than three. We tried dropping our lowest DPS, as vile as that may seem in a Flex group, but still couldn’t get it down again. It looks like the damage from the swirls doesn’t scale – just the number of them present.

Now, this might look like a bit of an edge case. We’re few enough that one extra swirl is 33% more burst damage. A bigger group might have less of a problem soaking that extra swirl. Still… it’s dispiriting rolling over a boss one week and then being completely unable to make progress the next. You’d think that someone would have thought this through.

But no. Blizzard has severe difficulty with scaling, and even more difficulty accepting that fact. Every time anyone mentions scaling it’s shot down by a blue with “we don’t like talking about scaling because the community uses it in a broader sense than we do” or the like… which basically translates (to me) as “you guys complain about scaling everywhere, so we don’t want to talk about it”.

Thing is, those scaling arguments everywhere are relevant. With Challenge Modes and Proving Grounds, the fact that some specs are utterly godawful until they’re in raid gear – a regular fixture of class balance, to the point where being weak in poor gear is even considered part of the warrior identity – is no longer just a minor concern that will be fixed by natural gear progression. Watching Fire catch nerfs in the last patch three expansions running because of their scaling isn’t a joke any more. Seeing everyone and their little sister play Frost because it’s the only mage spec that does well in challenge mode level gear and yet still manages good DPS at high end should be a red flag for a design team that goes on and on ad nauseam about wanting players to have choices.

There are other manifestations of blizzard’s trouble with math – low level PvP is rife with them, and heirlooms scale abyssmally at some points, for instance – but this rant would take forever if we went through every example in the file, as it were. For now, it’d just be nice if we weren’t punished for bringing more guildies along. That was the whole promise of Flex, after all.