Wintry Dreams

My desire for player combat requires a campaign and a kingdom. I seek now at my middling age a slow burning fire that warms the room as the tales of empires past are sung by a honey-voiced bard whose lyrics thread themselves between the weighty breaths of sleeping children. The dance of forces on the battlefield spins the threads of a living tapestry that reveals a rich history of power plays, deceit, treachery, and glory.

World versus World works well enough for its intended purpose. Game of Thrones it is not.

The art of siege trolling is alive and well but really doesn’t hold a candle to the sorts of things that go on in a game like EVE. I’m not saying that I’m looking for world-class backstabbing in my campaigns – it’s nuance and in-character intrigue I’m after. Guilds hop from world to world, commanders make controversial decisions, and servers move up and down the tiers. Yak’s Bend was the reigning T1 champion for 24 weeks and is now headed down into T2 by popular demand – eventually – as the upper-crust servers blob their way to victory. The king is dead, long live the king.

King of what?

Nothing inside the Borderlands that I can see. It doesn’t seem to matter except to those who make idle conversation in the down time between golem rushes and the flirtations of scouts who put swords on the map and then run off into the hills giggling maniacally as hordes of battle-ready soldiers thunder down to the site of contention only to find the wind blowing over footsteps in the snow. Perhaps it’s true that the purveyors of Forum versus Forum also take an interest in such things but I have yet to find a variant of those that isn’t a cesspool of iniquity and therefore worth reading for more than twenty seconds. It doesn’t matter inside the game, really, because it’ll all be reset next week and we’ll be doing the same dance in different costumes.

It could just be the novice in me. Perhaps I don’t realize to what extent nuance is to be found as zergs move about the map and decisions are made as to defense, offense, scouting, roaming, back-capping, and ganking. In the two weeks I’ve been running with my current guild I’ve been on nearly every night as either a Mesmer or an Elementalist. The Mesmer’s niche role spreads its butterfly wings after two years of experience and floats off into the heady air of the alpine steppes. Swapping between wells for alacrity on siege, mobility for group fights, and utility for everything else as I improvise variations on the illusion-shatter dance for the thousandth time rivals the attunement tango of my Elementalist in terms of cognitive engagement. Only the flashy damage numbers are missing.

When it comes to the aquarium in which we swim, however, I’d like to go beyond the structural mechanics of tactics and strategy. There’s a layer that’s missing that we find in games like Civilization. Only problem is, I don’t like single-player or RTS campaigns that require the use of über micro to manage assorted groupings of resources and units. I play one person. Me.

Crowfall isn’t the second coming of Realm versus Realm in my estimation, my decision to back it at a very early stage of development notwithstanding. I like what I’m seeing conceptually, but that’s the part that’s bothering me: I liked WildStar in concept as well, and what we have on Nexus today is a shadowy apparition that haunts the mansion of what could have been. The animations and art style I’m seeing in Crowfall so far – most recently in the context of the mechanically attractive Druid class – smack of a brand of cartoonishness that eventually made WildStar aesthetically unpalatable and negatively influenced its potential for replayability in my post-WoW gaming adventures.

I don’t know that GW2 is going to be a long-term gap-filler when it comes to my desire for large-scale drama that plays out and resolves with satisfying conviction. Nobody does, really, because I’m about as volatile as they come. I may wake up tomorrow and find that all of the MMOs have been deleted from my computer and that my legs have been replaced with a mermaid’s tail. (Shrug.)

What I do know is that if my world doesn’t have an MMO bent to it with a gratifying measure of lyrical immersion it’s not likely to hold my interest. I’ll wander offer and reincarnate as a Fury in EverQuest 2 for a couple of days before almost drowning in hotbars and being rescued by a passing steamboat en route to Humble Bundle island. I’ll probably rest there for a while and doze lightly until the buzzing of my cell phone shakes me out of my mid-day dreams. It’s Bong Cha reminding me that it’s time to grind Skill Points again – this time a hundred of them for the last tier of “AEGIS efficiency” so I can return to Tokyo and remain alive long enough to experience the sort of life-ending drama you don’t get anywhere else.

Sure thing, Bong Cha. Right after I finish this nap.

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