October 2018: Barrel Volcano

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Area of the Month for October 2018 is the Barrel Volcano!

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!



Player: You!(Class/Level)

Review Date(s):


Descriptions: X/10

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)


Attractions: X/10

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?


Connections: X/10

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?


Personal

Any comments you'd like to make that you don't feel apply to the other sections can go here!



Player, Vashka, lvl 100 Surgeon, 6th Remort. --Token'd

Descriptions. The descriptions at some points get a bit repetative, but given it's a maze of twisty, windy vulcanic passageways, this both makes sense, and actually adds to the atmosphere. The mobs themselves, could in some cases definetly use some color-coding to give them some pop, but their descriptions are functional and descriptive enough as it is. It's definetly one of the area where you most need to pay attention to extra-descs, which works, but makes it more glaring when you expect some bit of detail in the main-description to have an extra-desc, but there's no responding text. This could use some work, but then again, it would possibly detract from the functional extra-desc hints too.

Balance. Obviously, since I went in over-leveled, I can't judge how balanced they are or feel. But then again, going in at-lvl probably wouldnt help much there either in my case. That said, the enemies have the right level of health and power they should for their level range, and while their combat-progs are somewhat basic at times, there's a few genuinely enjoyable surprises they can pull off tucked away. Given it also has multiple sub-areas, there are quasi mini-bosses that stand out as More Difficult, which could lead to nasty surprises to people not used to such a broad area range, and un-used to Looking at enemies to gauge their level. Which is actually a good thing; it's instructional on the hazards of haphazard killing.

Attractions. Barrel Volcano, has a Ton of various Attractions, from exceptional Loot, to Mining spots, to varied strata's of Quest nearly across the whole spectrum of the level range. Well integrated, lots of variaty, plenty to recommend going there, including non-combat in the Mining. The Quests themselves are instructional, with multiple means of completing them in some cases, all educating would be explorers on valuable lessons, like looking at all them Extra Descs, or how to find hidden treasure. That said, they are quite challenging first-time tried, but I wouldnt see them changed a bit, since the Rewards are mostly proportionate to the hoops jumped through. Shops there are, sell pretty much what you'd expect, straight-forward, no fuss, get what you're there for. That said, it feels rather barren at times for Mob Density, it is not really a combat-heavy zone for its sheer size. Plenty of variaty, not a lot of quantity so one tends to go there for the Puzzles, more then the Experience, which is understandable, it's a Volcano, not a wild-life habitat, but it could use more monsters all the same.

Connections Its situated in a place that makes sense, a mountain range. Single Approach, also, sensible. Could use some inter-connectivity with the other nearby tunnel-sets maybe, but that's about it for Connectivity.

Personal Note Barrel is a place that grows on you. The first time you go in, most people are frustrated, and quickly leave. It is one of the most Mapped places, actual physical maps, just to make sense of the various lay-out puzzles and secret passage-ways it hides. It's frustrating, but beloved all the same, and you genuinely feel a sense of accomplishment the first time you finally figure out how it all is supposed to Work. Further, it's withstood the test of time pretty well. A few things need a tweak to make them more appealing, but they're not really necisary either. It's a Volcano, if you try to give a new paintjob, it'll likely just scorch it right off again.





Player: Abaril(Summoner/100/6th remort) - Token'd

Review Date(s): 10/16/18


Descriptions: 6/10

The room descriptions are, for the most part, very well-written and do a serviceable job of describing a volcano. The "In a Tube," "Further Down the Tube," "Another Branch of the Tube" type room names gets a little monotonous, but I think that's probably something that comes with the territory of being in a volcano. The bright and dark reds are used well throughout the area in the room names, but the rest of the area is definitely lacking in color. I would expect mobs named Magmus and Pyrosphere to have some reds, yellows and whites to give them some more character. The same would apply to the few items I've found in the area.


Balance: N/A

I went in at level 100, and as you can see in the personal below, I don't find the area compelling enough to level in.


Attractions: 5/10

I would give this a much lower rating from my own personal experience, but I'm bumping it up because I've heard that the area has some fantastic quest rewards. That being said, I haven't seen many of them. I've only seen the one "shop," and I have to say that the 2-hour light from the Pumpkinhead is puzzling and almost pointless.

It's definitely not a place to use for regular leveling, and I haven't seen any drops that I would consider notable.


Connections: 7/10

The volcano is easily accessible and on a standard path for newbies. I am unaware of any connections beyond the main entrance to it at this time.


Personal

I have never really done a lot in Barrel Volcano for two reasons: the level range (21-45) spans 25 levels. At higher levels, that might be ok, but for someone looking for a place to level right after Moogle Village, it doesn't really work for me. You just wouldn't take a fresh level 21 character in there and hope to accomplish very much. Second, the mob density is extremely low. As a place to level, I would not recommend it at all. And as a place for questing and exploring, I have found it to be boring and frustrating at the same time. Maybe I will give it another shot one day, especially if I see multiple rave reviews from other players!




Player: Emouse (Dollmage, L100, ~10 remorts) - Token'd

Review Date(s): 10/16/2018-10/20/2018

Descriptions: 7/10

Barrel's descriptions are generally detailed and functional, with lots of little details to serve as hints for what can be done in a room when there's something hidden going on. The only problem is that it's virtually all very dry and descriptive, with very few colors and little thematic 'personality' for the tone of the area. Compared to a lot of other areas, the ability to wade through magma here seems... understated. I mean, yeah, videogames, but still.

There's a lot of details and they all work quite well, but a little more spice and color would be nice. For example, most mobs and items have no coloration in their shortdesc at all.

That said... there's an argument to be made for leaving Barrel relatively plain for the sake of emphasizing its main attraction and value as a player-teaching tool. Such a thing as too much color turning quests into skimming descriptions instead of paying attention! Whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing for this particular location, I don't know.

Balance: 6-8/10 - combat approximated with single level 40 charmie with autoassist disabled

Combat balance is one of Barrel's weaker points. I've had level 23 and 32 mobs in the same room, which is a substantial level gap, and both were wandering one room down from a mining location that can spawn a level 45 enemy with a burst damage elemental attack that can be an Innate-inherent weakness. Wrong innate kirby exploring at low levels without wanting to pick a fight? RIP. Come in unprepared and combat runs the gamut from tame to dangerous to getting nearly one-shot when at a serious disadvantage. The combat progs all feel servicable for the level range of the associated mob, but the level range you can encounter in even a single room is a little severe.

The mazey tunnels of the central volcano are the main offender here, where you can end up attacking a level 32 Magmar when hoping to fight a level 23 Magmus. It would be nice to have a better way of cordoning off the mob level ranges into clearer sub-regions (like the Quor Nest and Blargg fire lake) but I also worry that making the area even more sprawling and/or more densely populated would make Barrel even more painful to figure out.

Item balance for Barrel is kind of... bipolar? The easy-to-get items are somewhere between garbage to small-level-niche in value, but the hard-to-get questy items are really good and fit special niches useful at any level range. Even at level 100 I like to have two or three of the main Barrel rewards on me; more when preparing heavily-armed minions. Which is... probably good? The main attraction of Barrel is the challenging-but-rewarding navigation and quest puzzling: Quest rewards that have a niche use even if you go back well after the level range is a great way to make them worthwhile. Does that mean they're TOO good? I don't know.

Barrel doesn't offer much in the way of partial rewards for making it partway through the main quest sequence without completing it, or for fighting around while trying to figure out what's going on. Some hidden rupees or other sellable treasures in questy locations and other hidden rooms may help entice people to keep going and see what's at the end of the line. (It's worth it.)

Attractions: 8/10

Barrel volcano is a horrifying maze of hidden passages with no obvious direction, limited clues, few available supplies, and serious noncombat demands to receive its valuable rewards.

What's crazy is that that's exactly what's good about it. Barrel Volcano is an excellent introduction to a quest-heavy zone where combat and levelling aren't the main attraction, and the goal is to solve puzzles for exceptionally good equipment or other perks to otherwise improve your abilities and add to your bag of tricks for major fights. It's one of the most accessible locations where the game takes off the kid gloves for quest hints and providing supplies, insists you prove your navigation and puzzle abilities, and rewards you well for doing so. More monsters in the area would be a diversion and possible threat while trying to figure the place out, and more hints could weaken its value as training for other intensely questy areas further down the line. While those are obvious options for making Barrel less frustrating to learn, I'm not sure it's necessarily wise.

Barrel's main problems are more about its context than its contents. Its accessibility is a double-edged sword: The good part is that it's easy to find and reach to get started or try and pick up again after taking a break for supplies or thinking; The bad part is that it's easy to arrive in when you don't know what you're getting into and getting frustrated by the lack of monsters and direction compared to the surrounding areas. Its level is also in an awkward spot where someone new could think "Hey, I only need to figure out this one location for a full 20 levels!" only to be caught off guard by the intense quest and navigation requirements... several levels after the tutorial describing/reminding about general quest hints becomes unavailable, with no warning that this zone is Different.

Considering the qinfo content deep in Barrel Volcano and how abandoned it's supposed to be, I'm not too keen on adding a infodump greeter to give you a shiny overarching quest that guides you to figre out the area, but the place could use some sort of extra warning that the place is for learning and equipping, not for growing stronger through combat. I'd also like to see some sort of more permanent resource for general quest tips, and as one of the first places a player is likely to encounter them being so strongly required, Barrel could be a good location... hmmm. I have a more elaborate idea in mind on this front, but I think I'll just run it by Cooper for now.

Connections: 5/10

Within the zone itself, Barrel Volcano has about the right mix of wild enemies from its source material and sensible 'immigrants' from other games that would be in the area after the development there was abandoned, so the stuff inside the volcano is probably about as well-connected to other areas as it's going to get.

Outside, however, is more mixed. Volcano by a mountain range? Works. Level range starting not far above adjacent areas? Alright. References to it in other locations? Mostly for quests instead of nearby room/area descriptions, which isn't ideal. The lead-in from Sulfataska feels a little lacking, since the sharp rise to enter the volcano peak is done entirely in room descs with no actual "up" movement. As for other nearby areas, Melchior and Mabe Village don't blink at or acknowledge being near a semi-active volcano... it might be fair to revisit the surrounding areas and the rooms leading up to Barrel Volcano to fill in the implications of having a volcano right there and show the impact of that. But that's probably beyond the scope of this kind of review...

Bugs/Exploits:

Not sure it really fits the category, but... what's up with 'gem'-type items? I assume it's functionally hardcoded and can't be removed, but I'm not sure whether it's worth keeping around the way it is. If nothing else, there's no helpfile for the itemtype at the moment. Unless there's something special about wanting the gem-types that can be dug up here to be only (easily) sold at the pumpkinhead geologist at the 100% he offers or a larger revamp of other locations to cause another distinction, it doesn't seem necessary...

Hinopio's talkprog mentions bambino bombs working when you drop them in a room, which seems to be outdated information from before they were turned into Event-type items. Certainly doesn't seem to work for the bombable wall near his store. Oops?

Quor don't seem to have talkprogs, though everything else in the area seems to.

The rooms by the front doors of the powerplant have... odd movement rules. While on the outside south end, I've had charmed followers leave the room on their own (which normally doesn't happen) and once inside, the exit north has no door but when you go north into that battery room the exit back south now has a closed door. There's a switch to re-open the main door right there, but you can go South without opening it anyway, stranding the koopa engineer inside. Both of these exits can be used by minions even when they shouldn't be wandering off. Something isn't working right here, but I'm not sure what it is.

A few damage affects are missing damage numbers in the area. Most of these were from testing with a level 40 charmie in combat, and so seen from 3rd person:

Oerlikon spiky ball roll

Stumpet Va Va Voom/Fireball launch

Rocks falling on your head when you enter certain rooms

The heat scorches you! (vertical shaft of "Open Chasm" rooms, western vents)

Scorching magma fills your lungs! (quest location)

Overall: B

Barrel really does grow on you. It's real easy to hate when you first try to do it because it demands so much with few immediate rewards, but once you manage to pull it off, in hindsight it turns out to be a harsh but effective teacher for navigational game mechanics, what quests demand, and ways of hiding and providing hints in the game. Its position as an early (second, even?) requirement for one of the larger overaching quests in the game means you're going to end up needing to get over this hurdle sooner or later: And when you do, it'll help you handle the rest.

What holds it back is the fact that it's specialized toward this purpose, and the 'school of hard knocks' philosophy makes it a very tough early hurdle with not much to fall back on. Increasing mob density with better player control over what to pick fights with would make it more usable for levelling, but could be a distraction from the quest expectations. Supplying clearer hints like colored commands or un-hiding objects and exits would make navigation easier, but could reduce value as a learning tool. I'm largely fine with Barrel as it is, all things considered, but some sort of... supplementary information or support that doesn't interfere with its current setup could help provide more warning about its frustrations and requirements. What sort of efforts should be put into that?