Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bang! Bang, BANG!


PS- I'm going to add the link to my guild, in order to make it easier to inspect the characters.

The talent respec for the hunters made a noticeable difference. I've put all of their points towards strengthening the pets (for example, the first five points went to increasing the pet's stamina, instead of the talent that gives a chance to increase the hunter's attack speed). They have more health and armor, their damage and critical strike chance are increased, and their focus regeneration has been increased as well. I do have to make sure that I react quickly now, because if the hunters do not attack the mob within a few seconds of engagement, the pets will kill it before I get to do any damage to it. The group doesn't get credit for the kill if the pets do all of the damage.

An indication as to how effective the pets are, and how powerful a coordinated group of five is, at level 32 I easily completed the quest chain that ends when you kill a level 40 NPC and a level 40 Elite NPC. I will admit that the elite mob did not seem particularly tough, although it helped that he switched aggro from one pet to the other midway through the fight, and thus none of the pets ever got lower than 40% health. Still, taking out a +8 elite mob with 4,226 health (about four times the health of the mobs I typically deal with at this level) with such ease was a treat.

There is one annoying quirk that I've dealt with a few times now with escort-type quests. An example was the quest to escort two goblins and their small caravan through a short stretch of road in Desolace. All five characters interacted with the quest NPC, and all of them accepted the quest (ie, it was in their quest log and on the on-screen quest tracker). But at the end of the escort, only four of the five characters received credit for the completion! I haven't seen anything that indicates what causes it, and it seems to be random in terms of which character fails to get credit. I had to run it a second time (after a lengthy delay, since it doesn't reset quickly) in order to complete it for the last character.

The reason I decided to run it again, instead of just forgetting about it, is that the quest provided a nice upgrade to each hunter's ranged weapon. Since I run a group of five, I don't worry about gear (the group was using level 2 quest legs until their mid-20s, for example), with one exception. Since weapons provide a direct boost to DPS, I upgrade them just about any chance I get. Until now, they had all used bows, and they were using 15.9DPS bows, with the exception of one of them who was using a 19DPS bow that she'd gotten as a loot drop.

The guns are 21.2DPS, a nice upgrade all around. But since their gun skill was at 1/160, I would need to stagger their use while they all raised their skill. Initially I figured I would do it two at a time, but since I was just questing on outdoor mobs, and since the pets were now pumping out significant DPS, I went with another idea. The hunter with the 19DPS bow kept using it, while the other three used their new guns. Shortly thereafter they were at 130 skill, at which point I switched out the last hunter's bow. They're all in the 150-165 skill range now.

I can't say this definitively, but raising weapon skills seems quicker now. The hunters were getting steady skill increases (ie, an increase with each attack) until around 130-140 skill when their max was 160. And the skill increases did not slow down until they were within five points of their maximum. Maybe it always worked this way, or maybe it always worked this way at lower levels, I don't know. But it seemed a much smoother transition than I had anticipated. With Blizzard doing everything that they can to speed up the lower level grind, it wouldn't surprise me.

Speaking of which, the combination of less experience per level from 20-60, combined with the greatly increased experience that is rewarded upon quest completion, has made it so that my group has not had to grind for experience at any time. Although they've been doing mostly orange and red quests (due to skipping quests and lower exp-per-kill) they have not run out of quests that they can handle. And with more quest areas opening up in the low 30s, I'm now finding myself doing yellow (or level-appropriate) quests for the first time in a while. A level a night is pretty easy now. And I will be ready for the Dustwallow Marsh quests before I'm done with the quests in Arathi, Desolace, and Stranglethorn Vale. Not having to hunt around for quests will be a welcome change.

There are other game changes which are a big help as well. There is a new quest hub in Dustwallow Marsh, added a few patches ago. It fills a small gap in the level 35-40 range, but for my group the benefit is that there is already another quest hub in that zone. I should be able to move from one to the other and complete lots of quests (and a few levels) without a lot of travel. The addition of pet talents (also implemented some time ago) is already paying off, in that I have given the two DPS pets the talent that regenerates happiness during combat. I won't be able to provide a similar talent to the tank pets until level 44, and thus I'm thinking of finding two more DPS pets until that time. Not having to worry about feeding the pets is a minor convenience, but a convenience nonetheless. The ability to stack ammunition to 1000 instead of 200 is very convenient, as is the change to quivers/pouches. They no longer provide haste, which is instead "built into" the hunter. Previously, you needed a 10-slot quiver or pouch to hold 2000 ammo and give the hunter haste. Now all you need is two bag slots. It's awesome, especially if you find yourself switching weapon types, as will happen during the leveling process.

The group is about 3/5 of the way through level 33 and should hit level 34 shortly before I run out of quests in Desolace.

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