Archives for 2012

Oceanic Soap Box: Rise Of The Hutt Cartel


This week it’s hard to go past the announcement of Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s first expansion, Rise Of The Hutt Cartel.
It’s big news for a game that’s had some struggles over the first year of its existence, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get your thoughts.

Are you excited by the announcement? Is it the story direction you expected the game to go and does it sound like an epic storyline? If you’re a lapsed SWTOR player, is this announcement enough to make you give it another try?

Let fly with the opinions!

Review: Batman #13 – Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman #13Ask any fan of Batman comics who they think the Dark Knight’s greatest nemesis is, and you’ll be sure to hear The Joker’s name more than once. The quintessential Batman villain, The Joker has always been the other side of the same coin, a product of similar tragedy that turned him into a murderous madman. So when it was announced that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were bringing a new story featuring The Joker, especially on the heels of his fantastic character study of Bruce Wayne in his previous arc “The Court of Owls”, it wasn’t hard to be intrigued.

The stage for Batman #13, which marks the beginning of his new story arc “Death of the Family”, takes place a year after the events of Detective Comics #1. The Joker had allowed his face to be removed by another villain known as The Dollmaker, and he returns a year later beginning a series of ‘greatest hits’ – previous crimes that were perpetrated in famous Batman stories of the past. As we soon learn though, his motives are much more sinister. These events don’t end up as Bruce expects, and it hurtles towards a fantastic cliff-hanger at the issue’s end.

Snyder creates a wonderfully dark entrance for the Clown Prince. The inner monologue of the Batman, combined with his uncanny ability to channel The Joker’s demented dialogue to a tee, helps create a truly dark and twisted story. Snyder manages to instil a true sense of dread and horror within the pages of Batman #13, especially in a chilling assault of the Gotham P.D. at the onset of the issue. The horror isn’t merely blood and gore either, as the Joker’s dialogue throughout the sequence is truly evil and terrifying. Without spoiling anything, you’re going to want to look under your bed. While many of the stunts resemble fairly “standard” (whatever that term may mean in this case) Joker crimes, it sets the mood for how the arc will play out, and still leaves the reader guessing where the action will end up next.

Synder also works in a subtle character moment for the Dark Knight in this issue. As he communicates with the rest of the Bat-family about The Joker’s return, you learn that he intends to keep details, and even the investigation itself, between him and his nemesis. It is a moment where you realise that Bruce either wants to protect the ones he loves, or is willing to bank on his own skills and hubris to bring The Joker down, which is an important theme tackled in the “The Court of Owls” arc. It’s interesting that Snyder chose to revisit this theme, considering that Bruce Wayne should have learned his lesson in “The Court of Owls”, and it will be interesting to see how it will play out.

Greg Capullo’s pencils combined with Jonathan Glapion’s colours gives the art in the issue a strong resemblance to the Batman: The Animated Series of the late 1990s. It’s suitably graphic without relying too much on gore, and when The Joker’s face is finally revealed, it will give you chills down your spine. Its dark and twisted, and it really works.

It should also be worth mentioning that picking up Batman #13 without any previous interaction with Snyder’s run will be of no real detriment to the story he is writing here. While it may drop in a couple of references to his previous encounters with The Joker, it only requires a base understanding of how the villain works.

When Scott Snyder’s run on Batman moved towards the event “Death of the Family”, and the inevitable return of the Clown Prince of Gotham,  the questions were asked regarding whether this new take on this villain would live up to the standard set by The Killing Joke, and other Joker tales of times gone by. After Batman #13 perhaps we should begin to ask a new question:

What if the “Death of the Family” is better?

The Secret World Issue #5 Is Live

I tell you what, I’m starting to wonder if the folks at Funcom ever sleep. The Issue #5 content update for The Secret World is now live.

Titled ‘The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn’, this update has a number of new bits and pieces for you. Lots of new story content, a new weapon and some nice interface improvements. It’s all showcased pretty nicely by a preview vid that Funcom have released:

I love the look of the new Quantum Brace weapon, and am hanging to start the new story arc. That said, the highlight for me is a simple one: hotkeys for inventory items. I’d argue it’s well overdue and I know it’ll help me improve my gameplay considerably.

The casual player in me hopes that the TSW crew are taking a little break so I have time to catch up with all the new content!

What about you – what catches your eye the most with this update?

SWTOR: Rise of the Hutt Cartel Announced

SWTOR - ROTHCWe should have expected a big announcement to coincide with SWTOR’s first anniversary, and BioWare have delivered it in spades with the announcement of the game’s first expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

Slated for ‘Spring 2013’ (gee I love the US-centric language), which means between March and May 2013, the expansion includes:

1. An increase in the level cap to 55

2. The long touted new planet, Makeb, makes its debut

3. More missions (as you’d expect with a level cap rise)

Subscribers can pre-order for US$9.99, which includes 5-days early access – everyone else can buy it for US$19.99.

The FAQ is already up to answer any other questions you might have.

‘End Of Days’ In-Game Event for TSW

End of DaysFuncom have just posted a developer blog post detailing the in-game events for the ‘End Of Days‘ fun occurring at the moment.

There are going to be three Harbingers spawning in-game that will require some teamwork to bring down:

The Mayans called this Age’s Harbinger Bolon Yokte’ K’uh. The Mayans envisioned this as an anthropomorphic “God of Nine Destructions”. This may have simply been a way to cope with the incomprehensible. We’ve gone all the way with the “big dude with attitude” interpretation, and he’ll be a boss fight available for a limited time at two different difficulties in a corrupted El Dorado, run amok with blood sacrifices and dark storms.

Sounds like a bit of fun! There’s a contest running for players who knock over a bunch of Harbingers alongside El Dorado and the odd zombie, with the prizes being a unique pet and title.

Will you be going for the prize?

WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 4: Arathi, Hillsbrad, Silverpine and The Hinterlands

WoW Zone By Zone Achievement GuideWelcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here. The printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

This week’s ZAGGARAT covers Arathi Highlands, Hillsbrad Foothills, Silverpine Forest & Shadowfang Keep and The Hinterlands.

Shadowfang Keep presents some of the easier Cataclysm dungeon achievements to be had at level and they’ll be cake at 90 if you take a friend or two with you. I’m sure there are some Hunters and DKs that have already soloed these, but for most of us mere mortals Cataclysm Heroics are still cause to cash in a few favours with your guildies.

Pet Battle achievements are also starting to mount up now. If you’ve been monitoring some of the meta achievements along the way, you’ve probably already collected: An Uncommon Find, A Rare Catch and High Quality for capturing uncommon and rare quality pets; That was Close for capturing a battle pet at less than 5% health; Master Pet Battler for winning 250 pet battles and Win Streak for winning 25 in a row.

I’ve taken to capturing a pet as soon as I see it and then continuing to battle as I quest throughout the zone until I get a rare. I’ve added a new note to the guide [zone exclusive!] if you won’t come across this pet in any other zone. So if you’re going for Quality & Quantity catch your rares while you’re there!

Arathi Highlands features the Tiny Twister, Silverpine is home to the Blighted Squirrel and The Hinterlands gives you Jade Oozelings. Hillsbrad Foothills, however, is one of the meccas of battle pets. Where Red-Tailed Chipmunks frolick with Infested Bear Cubs, Lofty Librams float through the crater of Dalaran and where Plants vs Zombies meets WoW in Lawn of the Dead at the Brazie Farmstead. It’s a fun quest and mini-game all rolled in one with Brazie the Singing Sunflower as your final reward. Best news is, it’s repeatable – worst news is you can’t play it on the train on your way to work.

Next week we visit The Plaguelands and the first of our Pandaria Dungeons in Scholomance, Ghostlands, Eversong Woods, Silvermoon City and the first of our Rep Guides with the Agent Dawn & Argent Crusade.

Download the screen-friendly version here

Download the printer-friendly version here

(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)


Review: All New X-Men #1 – Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

X-Men #1I’m a sucker for a good time travel story. Most of my favourite works of fiction deal with the concept of time travel, and I can’t seem to get enough of it. So when Marvel announced as part of their Marvel NOW! relaunch that All New X-Men would find the original five X-Men; Beast, Angel, Iceman, Jean Grey and Cyclops, taken from the past and brought to the future to help talk down one of their own from committing mutant genocide, my interest piqued. Fortunately for everyone,  Brian Michael Bendis sets the stage for what will be one of the most interesting titles in coming months.

All New X-Men #1 picks up right after the events of the Avengers vs. X-Men event earlier this year. Professor Xavier is dead, murdered by a Phoenix-possessed Cyclops. This leaves the school renamed as the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning under the leadership of Wolverine. New mutants have been popping up all over the globe, as Cyclops’ X-Men move to start the “mutant revolution”, leaving a trail of regular human-beings in their wake. Wolverine’s X-Men soon discover that desperate times call for desperate measures, as they are forced to retrieve the original X-Men in hopes they would be able to save the mutant race from once again being caught under the prejudices that the series was built on.

Bendis brings the feelings of prejudice and fear for the mutant race back on to the table easily. While not allowing humans to be outright  assaulting the new mutants, the sense of fear and dread, even to one mutant who can save lives with his touch, is palpable throughout the book. This title may say New X-Men, but these are classic X-Men themes.

The characterisation takes a back seat for the first issue, as Bendis first seeks to set up the world post AvX. The only character who is given any real spotlight  is Beast. With his opening monologue, we learn that the idea of travelling the space-time continuum was not something he has taken lightly. The rest of the characters take a back seat to action and story – with the notable exclusion of Wolverine, this initial outing seeks to set up events to come rather than showing the characters who will take part.

Stuart Immomen’s art, coupled with Marte Garcia’s colouring, gives the entire issue an animated feel. The action panels have a sense of momentum, and his art in the more talking moments gives each event their proper due. While his work may not necessarily stand out, it still looks fantastic, and suits the tone of the book well.

All New X-Men #1 succeeds fully in introducing the new status-quo for our favourite mutant family. While the first issue is light on character, its heavy themes, and the set up for the time travelling X-Men gives the coming months much promise for the title.

Plus did I mention that it has time travel?

Flash Point 48: Lawnmowers Farting Snow

flashpoint-podcastSimon, Kristy and myself are back to take a bit of a look back at the first year of SWTOR plus a closer look at The Secret World’s F2P move.

Points of discussion:

– 1.6 live
– Grade 7 spaceship upgrades
– Review of the first year of SWTOR

sudden move to F2P
– one of our most dedicated listeners views on TSW
– ARG game: ‘End of Days

– Simon’s love for Firefall
– Kristy’s love for A Walk In The Dark indie game

– Shout outs for our forums, Facebook page, Twitter account, Simon’s Twitter account and Kristy’s Blog.

Please review or rate the podcast on iTunes if you can – it makes a huge difference!

Listen via iTunes or right here:

Start Your End of World Missions

TSW End of WorldAs we reported last week, The Secret World’s Alternate Reality ‘End of Days’ game is coming on December 21st. In the lead-up the fun’s already started, with two missions released to date. It doesn’t matter if you own TSW or not, although if you don’t own it you won’t be able to claim your in-game prizes.

Having done both missions so far I have to say it’s a lot of fun and the atmosphere of things syncs beautifully with the game. One shameful admission though, for Mission 2 I had to resort to spoilers to solve the investigation mission (and I’m so rubbish at maths morse code I gave up on those routes as well). Shame on me.

If you want to jump in and check it out, here’s where you go.

Now it’s over to you: have you enjoyed the missions so far? With mission two, which route did you choose and did you try to do them all?

Oceanic Soapbox: Highlights and Lowlights


This week’s topic is one that may generate some debate. It’s been a huge year for MMOs and gaming more broadly, so I’m interested in what has been the highlight and lowlight for you this year gaming-wise.

For me the highlight was my first few hours playing The Secret World and seeing MMOs from a totally different perspective. A lowlight is a little more difficult but I’d have to say it’d be the struggles SWTOR has had this year – like a lot of people who’ve followed the game for years I was relatively confident of huge success. That may still occur though but at the very least here’s hoping we have SWTOR on the playing field for a lot more years to come.

So what about you: what’s taken you to the most highs and lows during 2012?

The Secret World Goes Free To Play

TSW F2PWell knock me over with a feather. After recently saying how I doubted TSW was about to go F2P, that’s just what it’s done*.

Funcom have announced that as of now, a TSW subscription is optional. All you have to do is buy the game up-front and that is your last cost if you so choose. A subscription is still an option, at the same price as it currently stands, which nets you:

  • Time Accelerator (Clickable item which increases experience gain for defeating monsters by 100% for 1 hour, 16 hour cool-down – only usable by Members and Grand Masters)
  • $10 worth of Bonus Points (given out every month)
  • Item-of-the-month gift (given out every month)
  • 10% discount to everything in the in-game store

As a lifetime subscriber I was worried how things would work, but apparently lifetimers get the bonus points etc each month, which is more than is needed to be able to purchase the downloadable content. Game Director Joel Bylos has confirmed this:

You get points which will more than cover the DLC. The reason that we give you points rather than giving the DLC is because the DLC will cost *less* than the points you get.

Which means instead of getting nothing as a lifetimer except free content, you get the content and whatever you want to spend the points.

Also consider if we were to slip in delivery by a month – you still get real tangible value that can be spent.

There’s an FAQ for the changes, and I expect there’ll be lots of further clarifications in coming days. Funcom have also released a 2-minute trailer to coincide with the F2P launch:

So it’s over to you – What’s your take: is this a good move for TSW?

*Yes I know that the model isn’t strictly F2P as you need to buy the game up front, but I take a broader interpretation and it’s also a more commonly used term than Buy To Play.

SWTOR 1.6 Full Patch Notes


The SWTOR servers are now back up – early even – and SWTOR 1.6 is there in its shiny glory. While you’re downloading the patch, why not browse the goodies that 1.6 contains right here:

Game Update 1.6: Ancient Hypergate



  • Ancient Hypergate, a new Warzone, is available for play! Travel to an ancient ruin built around a Gree Hypergate and battle to control the precious technology for your faction.
  • New incredibly challenging Weekly [HEROIC] Space Combat Missions are now available!
  • All-new Grade 7 Artifact Quality Starship Upgrades are now available from the Fleet and Mission Support vendors!

Cartel Market

New Items

      • A new collection of rare goods, freshly smuggled in by the Hutt Cartel is now available! The Blockade Runner Cartel Pack can contain Rare bonus items not found in any other Cartel Market Pack! Cost: 360 Cartel Coins.
      • The Grade 7 Starship Defensive Bundle contains defensive upgrades that will protect your ship during the most difficult missions! Cost: 400 Cartel Coins.
      • Purchase the Grade 7 Starship Offensive Bundle to give your ship enhanced firepower! Cost: 550 Cartel Coins.
      • The Grade 7 Starship Tactical Bundle contains powerful upgrades for your personal starship. Cost: 350 Cartel Coins.

Life Day Items

      • The following items are available for a limited time only!
        • Purchase the Life Day Robes, an adaptive armor set containing Life Day Vestments, Lower Robe, and Boots, to show your Life Day spirit! Cost: 960 Cartel Coins.
        • The Czerka LD-1 Celebrator, an adaptive speeder, combines the convenience of travel with the joy of the Life Day celebration! Cost: 1800 Cartel Coins.
        • Use the Life Day Tinsel Bomb to spread cheer to anyone it hits with a blast of shiny tinsel. Cost: 300 Cartel Coins.
        • The Life Day Orb is a commemorative orb used to celebrate Life Day. Cost: 60 Cartel Coins.
        • The Life Day Holo-Tree brings the joy of Life Day anywhere in the galaxy! Cost: 600 Cartel Coins.
        • Get the most Life Day cheer with the Life Day Bundle, which includes the Life Day Orb, Life Day Holo-Tree, Life Day Tinsel Bomb, Czerka LD-1 Celebrator, and the Life Day Vestments, Lower Robe, and Boots for the discounted price of 2400 Cartel Coins.


      • The following items are available for a limited time only!
        • Celebrate the conquests of the Empire with Imperial Fireworks! Each box contains 10 Fireworks. Cost: 125 Cartel Coins.
        • Celebrate the victories of the Republic with Republic Fireworks! Each box contains 10 Fireworks. Cost: 125 Cartel Coins.
        • Create a dazzling display of colorful sparks with Fountain Fireworks. Each box contains 10 Fountain Fireworks. Cost: 75 Cartel Coins.
        • Complete your Fireworks display with impressive Finale Fireworks and send a series of large, colorful explosions high into the air! Each box contains 10 Finale Fireworks. Cost: 50 Cartel Coins.
        • Celebrate in style with the Fireworks Bundle! This bundle contains all four Fireworks boxes with an additional 2 Fireworks per box at a discounted price! Cost: 300 Cartel Coins.


    • One-handed blasters and Lightsabers found in Cartel Packs can now be used in both the main hand and off-hand equipment slots.

Crew Skills

  • Players who previously unlearned a Crew Skill no longer lose schematics when learning new schematics from reverse engineering.

Group Finder

  • A new “Introduction to Group Finder” mission has been added to the Daily Mission Terminal on the Republic and Imperial Fleets. This mission is granted when players complete the Advanced Gear mission.
  • Group Finder categories have been updated with tooltips that provide a recommended gear rating and an outline of the rewards available from the content.
  • 10 Black Hole Commendations are now awarded by Story Mode Operations in Group Finder (up from 5).


  • Elite War Hero Items are now available on the new Elite War Hero vendor. These items can be purchased using Ranked Commendations.
  • War Hero Items can now be purchased with Warzone Commendations.
  • Battlemaster Items are no longer available for purchase.
  • Ancient Artifact Storage Boxes can now be purchased for 25 Tionese Crystals from all Tionese vendors.
  • Tionese items available from the Tionese vendor no longer require Tionese Crystals, and most of their commendation costs have been reduced.
  • Companion gear no longer alters player character stats when modified.
  • A tooltip issue that caused identical items in the inventory to appear to count towards a set bonus (even when not equipped) has been corrected.

Missions and NPCs

  • A new “Advanced Gear” mission for each class has been added to the Daily Mission Terminal on the Imperial and Republic Fleets.


  • The requirements for offense and defense bronze medals have been lowered. Players now receive each medal the first time they receive associated objective points, regardless of the value.
  • New Rated bracers and belts are now available on the War Hero vendor. These items are unmodded items similar to other Rated items. The old bracers and belt are no longer available.
  • Bolster now appears as a positive effect that cannot be removed by the player (instead of as a negative effect).

Space Combat

  • The ammo count for missiles and proton torpedoes now includes the missile or torpedo in the chamber.
  • Imperial Agents, Sith Inquisitors, and Jedi Consulars can now swap Power Conversion Modules by right-clicking them.


  • The tooltips for several currencies now explain how they can be acquired and what they can be used to purchase. These currencies include: Tionese Commendations, Columi Commendations, Black Hole Commendations, Daily Commendations, and Tionese Crystals.
  • The Flashpoint Commendations category in the currency window is now named “Elder Game Commendations.” Daily commendations now appear in this category.
  • The friends list no longer occasionally shows some friends as always offline.

Miscellaneous Bug Fixes

  • Players no longer occasionally see other players on their personal starship.