January 2020: Bubbly Clouds
Area of the Month for January 2020 is Bubbly Clouds!
A template format for your review is below; click 'edit' at the top of the page, copy-pasta from the ---- to the next ----, and fill in the gaps!
(Yes, a wiki account is required to edit the page and therefore post your review, but take heart: The wiki is hosted by the Cleft itself, not a third party!
How does the area's room descriptions(descs) work for you? Do they give you a good idea of the area? Do things that stand out in the desc and NEED explanation GET that, either from flavor text(extra-descs) or NPCs in the room or anything?
What about mobiles(mobs) and their descriptions? Can you get a decent mental image of who or what this NPC/monster is? Do they respond when you talk or interact with them?
Some areas have interact-able objects like fountains. Do they stack up well also?
Balance: X/10 (OR N/A)
(NOTE: combat will be most accurately gauged when your character is in the area's suggested level range.)
If this area has combat, how does it feel? Does anything jump as horribly overpowered and impossible to deal with? What about the flipside, anything far too easy to beat?
Are purchased or rewarded items at the appropriate strength levels? Is the effort required to obtain rewarded items reflected in their usefulness (or uniqueness and fancifulness)
Why would you suggest someone come to this area? Is it just a good place to grind experience(lots of mobs)? Does the area provide a chunk of good gold and loot?
What about the quests? Does this area's quests feel properly done, or is there some part of it that you feel needs work?
For towns, are the shops good? Any other non-combative attraction for the area?
How easily and well does this area connect to its nearby areas? Does it make sense thematically to be connected to the areas it is?
Player: Abaril(Class: Highly custom/Level: 100) --Shell'd!
Review Date(s): 1/30/20
Bubbly is honestly one of those special case scenario areas that I think justifies having the personal section come first. Having a preamble will help give some perspective on the reason for the scores. I typically do not do well with MTS areas. My first AotM review here was for Barrel Volcano, at a time in my playing career where I had not found any of the secrets or solved any of the quests. And to be honest, I absolutely hated Barrel then. Today, even after finding all of the secrets and some of the very nice things there, I'm still not a fan overall. It's not a bad area by any means; it's just not my style. I think the main factor in that, and what will probably come from talking about Bubbly, is that MTS and I think very differently from one another. He's obviously super-smart, and although I don't consider myself a dummy by any means,
his areas are generally smarter than I am his areas do not feel intuitive to me. I get exceptionally lost in the questlines and typically have to ask for hints. That doesn't make the areas bad; just not typically the type of area that I enjoy. The major exception to this is Monotoli. I absolutely loathed it for ages because it was extremely difficult to play and fairly obtuse to figure out. After actually figuring it mostly(?) out with minimal hints though, I absolutely love and respect the challenge aspect of it and find the quests to be well-designed, well-rewarding and fun.
So, how does all of that apply to Bubbly itself? Well, it's more in the Barrel line than the Monotoli one, with the exception that it lacks the good rewards that Barrel has. I respect it for what it is, but I don't enjoy it myself. There's one room, "Stratocumulus," that randomly sometimes has an exit and sometimes doesn't. I think it's weather-related, but it could be time of day or day of week. I honestly haven't bothered trying to figure it out or even asking for hints, because when it's inaccessible, I just leave. There's no point in wasting time there. And, as the below will hopefully be able to sensibly justify, I don't see much incentive for players to actually spend time there either.
The descriptions are easily the best part of Bubbly--extremely well done, with a gentle sense of humor. Even if you were unfamiliar with the various sources for the mobs, just looking at them gives a great impression of what they're supposed to be. The Skiploom's description, for example, is vibrant and colorful and lets you get a great mental image of what it's supposed to be. The room names themselves are a real treat with excellent alliteration--"Altidunious Amanita," "Slimy Skyscraper," and "Prodigious Portabella" are all standouts. Nearly every room has at least one extra description, with many having multiple. The special characters who are involved in many of the quests are exceptionally well-done, with a playful whimsy that suits the theme of the area well. If you can sleuth and slog your way through the navigational difficulties, the descriptions can be a real treat and make a once-a-cleft-career trip worth it.
If you ignore the aforementioned navigational difficulties, the combat in Bubbly is actually pretty good. There isn't an overwhelming number of mobs, but the variety is nice, which makes for varied and interesting combat. Although I honestly don't recommend it normal situations, I did actually use Bubbly to help supplement levels during the really high tnl portion of my career. But if you don't require 8,000+ to level, there's honestly zero reason to use Bubbly as a regular leveling zone. And, to the best of my knowledge, players don't really use it to level. Almost everyone uses Expellian and Mist Cave over due to the relative ease of access and superior mob density compared to the other areas in a similar level range.
As for the rewards... How do I put this delicately? I'm not sure that I should, honestly. They are seriously just awful. There are no useful drops that I know of in the zone, and the quest rewards are seriously lacking, especially when compared to the other areas in the 86-100 range. "recovered the Wind Waker?" was a fun and cute quest, but the reward can probably best be summed up as "meh." And I honestly don't know if it's intended or not for there to be ZERO reward for "beaten Kracko... both times?" But that was an incredible disappointment, especially considering the navigational difficulties in completing that quest. Kracko does have two random weapon steals if you know what to target. They are mediocre at best, and possibly unintended to be player accessible at all since they are steal only and both rot_death and melt_drop. At the very minimum, that quest should give a minimedal and some trains. It'd be even better if it gave something special like a nice piece of gear or a pretitle token. "Kracko Whacker" has a nice ring to it.
Even though I find myself going to Bubbly at least once a day for non-Bubbly specific reasons, I honestly don't recommend it as anything beyond a one-time experience for the players who are interested in seeing all that the Cleft has to offer. If they can make it past the navigational challenges and the nonintuitive quests, it's worth seeing. For the player who is interested solely in experience for leveling up or gear for progression, Bubbly is easily one of the most skippable areas in the game. I have completed 4 of the 5 listed quests, and I could probably finish up "gone grocery shopping for a Wiggler?" I just haven't bothered since fetch quests are annoying and the rest of the rewards in the zone have been lackluster at best. And then there's the apparent red herring of the potting soil and pots. Even the resident Cleft Encyclopedia Emouse hasn't figured out whether there's actually something there or not...
To the best of my knowledge there are no areas that you have to use Bubbly to access, nor can you actually use it as any type of shortcut. That would lead to a very low connection rating in most situations. Yet in this one very particular situation, it makes perfect sense thematically. Combining that with the fact that you can get to Bubbly from a wide range of Cannon Travel Centers leads me to give it a reasonably high score. Getting there isn't the problem, getting yourself through it is the really painful part.
The level of rewards and opportunities are absolutely not in line with the navigational difficulties. There's little reason to recommend Bubbly to anyone beyond having them check out an exceptionally well-described zone. When you look at other areas in the same level range, Expellian, Mist, and especially Goa, there's such a wide discrepancy of reward vs. time invested. The concept for Bubbly is fantastic, as is the design. It just needs something to make the painful exploration worthwhile--be it gear, trains, a universal class quest skill or spell, or your very own personal cloud to float around on. The area is not irredeemable, but as it stands now, people really aren't going to visit after the initial foray.