November 2019: Phendrana Drifts
Area of the Month for November 2019 is Phendrana Drifts!
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?
Any comments you'd like to make that you don't feel apply to the other sections can go here!
Player: Abaril -Token'd!
Review Date(s): 11/30/19
Describing a barren, frozen white wasteland is difficult and has the potential to go two routes: either to really try to oversell the emptiness and overwhelm with walls of white text to match the walls of white ice or to keep it simple and convey the sparseness and solitude by making the rooms match. I feel that the builder has chosen the latter and that it's fairly effective. The rooms on the surface make the area feel cold and lonely--all the while being well-written and typo-free. The more important rooms, such as those focusing on the various quests in the area, tend to elaborate more and provide nice atmosphere.
The various mobs are very well-described. My favorite has to be: "Its organs can be seen pulsing gently under its transparent skin." That's a very vivid and slightly creepy way to give you a mental picture of the thing that's attacking the hell out of you, if you have time to read it before one or the other of you dies.
I have a feeling this will be a minority opinion, but I absolutely love the Sheegoths--how difficult they can be and how batshit crazy they are. I think the Cleft needs more of this type of mob, and that when you have BIG RED DANGER signs, they should absolutely mean it. There should be difficult areas that challenge you and make you want to get better. I know that my own first encounter with a Sheegoth led me to a quick trip to the necromancer and made me understand that sometimes the signs are in place for a reason. Aside from those and McNeils' goblins though, there hasn't been much of that type of experience. It's one of the reasons I do have a fondness for Phendrana that probably doesn't quite match the size and scope of the zone itself. The other mobs inside are obviously not as interesting or as challenging, but they aren't pushovers either. Being spammed with gigadrains when you are slightly underlevel for the area can be quite deadly in its own right. Since Phendrana is rather small overall though, the mob density is rather low, meaning it's probably not one of the most effective places to choose for leveling.
TL;DR Needs more Sheegoth
This is definitely where the Drifts are lacking. I'm not sure if Phendrana is one of the older zones of the Cleft, but it definitely has the feel of being so. The four different quests are interesting and, at times, cute, but they're not really worth repeating once you've seen them. I had fun doing "satiated the hungry hungry Saiyan" quest, and the "looted and then escaped the statue chamber" leading up to "defeated the rampaging earth elemental" was also fairly intuitive and had some enjoyable moments. None of them, however, had rewards that I would say makes them fall into the "must-do" category for every life. The drops in the zone are also fairly underwhelming. I do give Phendrana some credit for all of the quests and hidden spaces being fairly intuitive to find.
You can't really penalize Phendrana for having rather limited connections, because it's designed to be on the far reaches of the Cleft. Even with that being said though, it is a fairly high traffic area. It connects two of the most popular leveling zones, plus has a secret or two that make it worth revisiting even after players hit max level. It's a little bit of a hike from the nearest owlite statue or default housing portal, but that's to be expected with the type of zone it was designed to be.
Even with some of the criticisms in this review, I find myself quite liking Phendrana overall. I love the danger and resistance mechanic on the Sheegoths, and I think the world needs more crazy-ass aggro mobs like them. There really should be the feel for danger behind warning signs like the one leading to the zone, and I would support the addition of more of that type of aggression in higher level places! The area has a lot of potential to be a superstar, but for now, I think it's mostly used as a way to get from point A on one side of it to point B on the other. I would love to see its levels increased, along with mob density and possibly even mob aggression. There's so much competition in the level 61-70 areas, that it sadly cannot shine like it ought to. If it was bumped up to the 75-85 range though, and given a couple more mobs and maybe a nice rare drop or two, it could be a very relevant place and naturally progress into the zone that leads most people through the Drifts in the first place!
Player: Emouse (Dollmage, level 100, 35 remorts) -- SHELL'D
Review Date(s): 11/18/2019-12/1/2019 (with many diversions)
Room descriptions in Phendrana are mostly plain and dry: Hard to fault considering how the place is a barren wasteland tundra. Extra descs for things in the room are also sparse, which is a bit unfortunate: They'd be a good opportunity to spice things up with sass or low-relevance details. Generally low-detail, but functional.
On the other hand, there's quite a bit of life in the mob descriptions: A mix of sass, wordplay, and flavorful details are sprinkled among the mob descriptions to keep things interesting if you're focused on the creatures in the area. Unfortunately, most of them are only pretty to look at: Many mobs in the area that feel like they could have talk responses do not. Ice Beetle, flappity Zubat, brass statue, The Ripper, and The Ripper II all could be considered animate enough to respond (or at least, have an echo acknowleding that they don't) but... don't.
The walrus hunter and his prey are pretty good, though: The prey using an item as part of its mobprog is an interesting way to change the display, but may have unintended side effects.
There's also a chest squirreled away in a somewhat hidden room that I'm not sure has a key: If it's supposed to be a pick lock reward, should the look description mention something suggesting that the key may not be available?
The quest progression here is a little oblique but makes decent sense; I wish I understood what the hidden console was trying to say a little better, and there's a remote door unlock that might deserve a ptuna "unlock" SFX code... The real weakness is after you grab the item guarded beyond the console (not sure if you can skip the boss fight or not): Nothing indicates that there's more to do after obtaining it, until you decide to hold onto it and wander into the right room. Maybe updating the lookdesc for something there to have a matching symbol or something would be good?
Balance: approx 7/10 for combat; 4/10 for equipment/rewards
Gamplay-wise, Phendrana feels a like it was designed with thieves in mind: The lockpick-only (I think?) hidden chest, a quest that can be done with stolen items, the Sheegoths rewarding Hide/Sneak/Invis, and a boss that might be possible to skip with Palm... unfortunately, the nature of sheegoths make the enforcement feel harsh, and the (logically) limited payoff doesn't make it very tempting to deal with.
Yes, ambushing a Sheegoth does leave you at an advantage... until another Sheegoth shows up during the fight and attacks. It'd be fair to double-down on "then flee and reengage" as Thief encouragement, but that doesn't help when Sheegoths' frozen touch breath also leaves you unable to flee while getting pummeled - meaning they're scary even if you try to avoid them entirely to pick on the beetles nearby.
- Multi-sheegoth ambushes can be legitimately threatening even at high level, especially at lower remorts and/or with outdated gear. In a way this is appropriate considering the high-level content accessible through Phendrana, but it means levelling here is super dangerous. I don't know if the sheegoths have an XP multiplier to counter this... but that may be too generous for someone in a position to take advantage of it.
As obstacles, sheegoths are a neat and solidly flavorful threat, but they're not enemies you want to actually fight. And since you can't avoid sheegoths entirely, you probably don't want to fight much else here, either.
The combat here is moderately but not overwhelmingly harsh - for a zone intended to be dangerous, it's fitting. The problem is that it's not really worth it.
Which leads into how I feel the items here are a weak point: There's gear here that has stats, some for obscure slots or with obscure traits... but for the level and danger they're either underwhelming or have substantial downsides. The shield and projectile weapon are exceptionally heavy (though the stats are OK), the combat stats on the accessories are unimpressive (but have some uncommon niche uses), and the consumables aren't really powerful or reusable enough to warrant keeping around.
- The easiest comparison is to the Gold City equipment: The stuff you can get in Phendrana is roughly scaled to match based on level and weight... but I'm under the impression that equipment you have you hunt for is normally supposed to be better than storebought. Then again, the Gold City stuff is marked up tremendously, so... it's tough to say.
There is one sort-of exception: The item you get for completing the main quest in the area has poor equip stats for wearing, but its use as an event is fairly unique and the cooldown makes it available pretty often. But... the two effects I've seen from it cover very different niches, making it unreliable. It's interesting and definitely has *A* use, but it's not especially impressive.
- However, it does feel like it has...'plot' or story importance beyond Phendrana alone. I could see it being a prerequisite for things elsewhere (which would be VERY interesting) but either I've never found it or it hasn't been implemented. I remember a conversation with Ageatii about there being more intended for it, but I'm not sure what that is/should be. Something for broader lore to prioritize, maybe?
The equipment here isn't useless, just... underwhelming for how intimidating sheegoths' ambushes, resists, and freeze breath are to discover any of it, and don't really resell well enough to warrant carrying off. It's usable if it's what you find, but it's not worth going out of the way for.
Phendrana is not an attractive place to visit. Both the drops and quest rewards are generally underwhelming, the cash rewards are weak, and the mob population/variety don't really counteract the relative danger of the area. In particular, the reduced regen makes life difficult for most classes (especially at low remorts) and while the cash drops of Always 0 make logical sense, they do make the place less attractive.
The equipment drops are in an awkward position: Access to Phendrana is less restrictive than a lot of other areas in the level range so it makes sense for the selection to be less impressive... but it's also fairly dangerous to fight through. I don't know if they're in the right place as "eh, filler" for the range in light of that, or deserve boosts to account for the danger.
Still, the process of the main quest sequence is decent: The brass statue encounter, Rippers, and the endboss are all neat setpeices and flow well enough, but the architecture around them is weak. It's fun to experience once after combat in the area is no longer an issue, but there's not much reason to revisit.
There are... other experiences that send you to Phendrana, but more often you're passing through the place in search of something else, rather than visiting Phendrana for Phendrana. Depending on whether Phendrana is supposed to be an obstacle for reaching that content or an area worth visiting on its own merits, that may be worth addressing.
Another awkward segment: Physically, Phendrana is an isolated dead-end, connected to Frosty Forest by a single obvious, marked exit - makes sense geographically, so no problem there. No hidden exits or special movement is required to reach it from the main cities, so it's relatively easy to find and/or stumble upon... but you can't really get anywhere from it. When you visit Phendrana it's for something in Phendrana, rather than to reach somewhere else. There's one important place inside of Phendrana to unlock after visiting another high-level area, but that's about it. In the far north Phendrana does end up reaching the northern shore of the continent... but it's not really a launching point to go seafaring. Yet, perhaps?
In terms of integration to the broader Cleft, Phendrana is in okay shape considering its status as barren wasteland: Most of the area is based on the series of origin, but there's also a walrus from Todo hunting, two types of pokemon that are suitable for the environment, a stray Saiyan on an unwitting adventure, and a Reploid-series item relevant in the main quest. Integration references are sparse, but probably about as good as you'll get for a barren wasteland.
The "the freezing water" mob for water areas isn't flagged 'passive' - its HP still displays, though it can't be fought or given items.
Spheals can fail to use their ice ball item: I'm not sure if this is intentional, incidental, or desired. It's an interesting way to change up the text for the attack and make skill% modifiers relevant, though - I like the idea.
Probably me being overly thorough, but: The Walrus Hunter doesn't react if you give him a Spheal corpse, which is a little weird considering that he picks them up as part of the WALRUS POWER event. Not sure this is realistic to identify and react accordingly or just an excuse to purge the corpse so there isn't a mountain them in the room.
The way Zubats initiate combat in the caverns is weird: An echo appears about them attacking, but they don't actually fight immediately - the next pulse(?) they cast Giga Drain and initiate combat with that. I don't know if they should attempt to bite normally first or if this is part of some special handling, but it feels weird. Working as intended?
Something I tried to take advantage of but didn't find worthwhile: The Missile Rack drop has a wear level of 0, but casts level 70 Magic Missile as a staff. Between the low charges and the relative weakness of Magic Missile, it didn't overly impress or feel overpowered for remorting alongside Recharge, but I can definitely see it being unintentional. Worth a look.
It's very easy to get locked on the 'wrong' side of the door in the west of Phendrana: The item that acts as a key for it only responds from the exterior side of the door, and can be melt_dropped... and I think its upgrade makes it into a different vnum as well. Very possible to get trapped, but at least you can recall or drown yourself in the water (unless you're a Kirby).
Phendrana is a "servicable, but not impressive" sort of area: Things are generally functional and usable, but nothing's outstanding enough to warrant spending too much time here relative to other options. It has a few nice moments and high-level players will be passing through for Reasons, but Phendrana itself has a hard time earning attention. Aside from the universal bond of learning about Sheegoths the hard way.
Extra descs for rooms in Phendrana are sparse: Adding more would liven the place up a little.
Several animate mobs don't respond to being talked to: Worth updating to standards, even if it's with something generic?
I've never found any hints for how to open the western door near the entrance. Updating the extra desc about the iris/door with something hinting to try bringing something from the people involved in the technology here would help: Maybe a scanner that the extra desc mentions doesn't react to your character but raises the suggestion of bringing something from the area that the door's designers would acknowledge?
The hidden chest is unclear about whether a key for it is/would be realistically available: In other places, I've seen descriptions of the condition or style of the lock to accomplish this. Maybe update the lookdesc to indicate "yeah, you're gonna have to force this" if it's picklock only?
The main quest reward here has a utility function and a situational combat function: Having some way to better control which happens would make it more reliable. Options: whether the user is in combat? What kind of target is selected? Both all the time?
- It also has some promise for plot relevance as a prerequisite for more Interesting things down the line or in other zones/circumstances: Implementation and/or hints at where to look for these (and whatever they may lead to) would also be cool, but probably beyond the scope of what reviews are looking for.
Consider revisiting equipment stats for the region: The hidden shoes probably have an okay niche, but the drops and quest rewards don't impress. Improvements for the bracelet and ring are probably worth considering; smaller boosts may be warranted for the Ice Shield and Spazer Rifle's high weight; the eastern boss' drops end up of limited use.
The far side of the western door has functional puzzles/combat, but ineffective escape routes: Make sure the unlock from 'inside' is operating correctly?