June 26, 2007

The Arena!

Giant sea sirens, scurrying brownie troublemakers, huge beasts of molten ore, and axe-wielding minotaurs who keep law and order — all of this can be found at the Arena, in Seawatch Cove. My guildmates and I spent some time here not too long ago, and it’s a fun, and rewarding, spot for anyone who is in their mid 30s.

Above: Finishing off the boss of a silver challenge ticket. He’d make a great plush doll.

Traditionally, when you hear the word Arena, images of PvP and free-for all battles come to mind. This arena is a bit different. It’s not a spot where you get flagged as PvP if you enter, rather, it’s a hunting spot for solo and group players who are looking for some experience and the chance at some great rewards.

The goal is simple in the arena — obtain zaraj arena coins and turn them in to the appropriate minotaur for your desired prize. It’s just like skeeball, only the tickets are really coins, and the person you give them to is a minotaur, and your prizes are things like armor, camel mounts, and legendary weapons, instead of hi-bounce balls and plush dolls.

Above: The Arena in Seawatch Cove.

There are several ways to obtain coins too. You can work on the quests given out by the minotaurs inside the arena, most of which ask you to kill the minos out at the camps and ruins nearby. You can also kill “suspicious spectators” who sit in the stands throughout the stadium. Lastly, you can kill nameds in the arena, who drop coins and also have a pretty good chance of dropping arena tickets.

Arena challenge tickets are a lot of fun, and the harder the challenge, the more coins you win. There are four types of tickets – bronze, silver, gold and platinum. You can divide up the coins any way you’d like, but remember that they are soulbound, so if someone is careless and clicks take all, the rest of the group is out of luck. To begin a challenge, just stand in the arena and click the ticket. Make sure that it’s clear though, and don’t start a challenge when another group is in the middle of one. It’s bad form, and could possibly bug stuff.

Above: One of the guards from a gold challenge ticket.

Bronze is a 6 coin ticket, and pretty easy. You have to kill 3 level 38 2 dot siren trash mobs, and then a level 39, 3 dot siren will spawn. Nothing tricky, just standard hack n slash.

Silver is similar. You kill the three level 38, 3 dot mobs, and a big, level 39, 4 dot cyclops will spawn. This ticket is worth 10 coins.

Gold is a little more interesting. When you start it, 4 big, level 39, 4 dot elementals spawn on the side of the arena, and come, one at a time to fight you. When you kill them all, a 5 dot level 39 rock boss appears. The fun part is that they have some kind of damage mitigation buff, so the fight can last a while, and bring flashbacks of Vex Thal. This is a 65 coin ticket.

Platinum is hard, but if you get it right it’s a fun fight and a great reward of 100 coins. This challenge summons a 6 dot, level 40 minotaur named Champion Traken, the boss of the arena. He’s hugely annoying because he has a big knockback and a stun. The trick is to get him pinned in the corner of one of the side passages, near the gates. It takes some finessing, but once you get him there, it’s a lot easier for the group to stay close enough to damge him. Obviously, casters and ranged attacks help a lot in this fight, just keep your back to a wall and you should be fine.

If you are interested in the specific rewards, seek out the minotaurs that guard the arena. They offer class specific armor for coins, as well as an Arena Master Weapon of your choice for 1,000 coins. There is some fun stuff too, offered by Dizzle, such as a camel mount, repair bots (limited charges) and some Zarajian Magic.

It’s a fun spot overall, and a nice change from the usual hunting and dungeon crawling. Even if you aren’t going for the big prizes, it’s easy enough to get some quick coins and walk away with something for a night’s work. The only thing missing is Russell Crowe organizing the slaves behind a broken chariot and yelling “Strength and Honor!”

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Vanguard Level 30-35,Vanguard Level 35-40 | Comments (3)

June 17, 2007

Tar Janashir

The Liath Desert has many remarkable spots. There is the Sunken Temple, with its towering minarets, half buried in the sand; the Jux Brownie Refuge, with it’s backward speaking denizens; and the Hidden Vault, tucked in one corner near the salt flats, veiled in sandy wind. But the most interesting spot (and most complete!) is Tar Janashir.

Above: Mongo!

If you took the shady patrons of the Star Wars Cantina, combined them with the flavor of an Indiana Jones archaelogical adventure, and added in a cool cave, you have Tar Janashir. It has a good storyline, many quests for mid-30s adventurers, and carries all the amenities of a large city (banker, broker, trainers, crafting stations, civic diplomacy).

Tar Janashir is a trading outpost that sprouted after the discovery of two prized resources – salt and pearls. Long ago, a giant white rock fell from the sky. No one knew what it was, but it caused the salt oysters to start producing beautiful pearls, which became a farmable resource and very prized.

Above: “Psst! Lady! That thing sitting next to you has a charm bracelet of heads that look like yours! Run!!!!

The salt and pearls are so important that it’s the driving goal of the questline for the Starspark Armor, which rewards you with a belt, gloves, legs, and chest piece, as well as the title “Starspark Adept.”

You start by visiting Ava Diba, who asks you to bring her pearls and salt, which you can find off the oysters and nethod that roam the salt flat nearby. Save the empty nethod salt glands, by the way, because those can be turned in at the outpost for a little coin. This quest is repeatable, but you only have to do it once (not positive on this, you might need to repeat it a second time before being able to get the other quests).

Next, you visit Kaaras Sejeh, who asks you to retrieve raw starspark salt from the Rhajiri Raiders nearby. I think the drop rate has been improved since the early start of Vanguard, because we got the required salts pretty quickly. When you complete this step, you are rewarded with a belt, and asked to retrieve starspark extract, which can drop from the raiders or from the humans in nearby Dazer Cave. When finished, you get some ale and gloves.

Above: Dazer Cave in Tar Janashir.

Next, you visit Darab Marad, who has you bring back pure starspark salt. He directs you to go to the Broken Spine, but I recommend going back to the minotaur camps over near the Jathred’s Twist Rift Stones. We picked up lots of salt by killing the minos there, plus if you are also working on Arena quests, you can get coins and challenge tickets at the same time.

Meanwhile, Tar Janashir is also the location of two interesting archaeological sites that have been uncovered. One is a vault, where the undead inside asks you to bring darkspark crystals. These drop from the mobs in the other structure, the Tomb of Aanak Vor’dan. Collect four darksparks and you can trigger an event in the vault by clicking on the stones in the first room, killing the undead that becomes aggro, and then rushing downstairs to kill another undead named who comes to life.

Above: Vault in Tar Janashir.

There are also several quests involving the tomb, and recently they added in two more, one from Janashir Jones and one from Bellzoc. Sound familiar? Janashir asks you to retrieve a long lost Idol and Bellzoc wants you to bring back an ark from the tomb. Both are found at the throne of Aanak Vor’dan, who resembles Anubis. You can reach the spot either by working your way down from the top, or jumping into the pit and going in through the entrance on the side of the tomb at the bottom.

Above: The throne room in the Tomb of Aanak Vor’dan.

I’ll admit, I clicked the ark after I found it, even though I knew I was supposed to keep it closed.
This dusty outpost is a great stop as you travel through your 30s, and if you are a diplomat with 700+ soldier presence, they recently added in a lot of civic diplomacy content. Personally, I can’t wait to level up in diplomacy just so I can hear some of the storylines in this area. I just hope I don’t get my head torn off in the process.

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Vanguard Level 30-35,Vanguard Level 35-40 | Comments (1)

June 8, 2007

Pantheon of the Ancients

Pantheon of the Ancients is one of my favorite dungeons in Vanguard. It’s a challenging dungeon that pits your group against the trials of the gods. It brought back memories of Everquest’s Plane of Time, although the Pantheon’s avatars aren’t quite as epic as the legendary EQ gods themselves.

Above: The trial of Haelifur.

The Pantheon itself is located in Strand of the Ancients, underneath the temple of Ssrevessk, which is itself a great hunting spot, and has its own quest line that is found back at Upside Garrison. When you get to the temple, you need to speak the password in order to open the stone doors that seal the temple. The password is part of a quest line in Upside Garrison (or if you want to get the spoiler word I inserted it in my previous entry here) As you enter the main room in the temple, you’ll see a large throne surrounded by trolls and lizardmen. To the right is a pillar, with a grey stone sticking out around the back. Press that stone and it will cause the throne to open up, revealing a set of stairs that leads to the Pantheon of the Ancients.

As you head down the stairs, you’ll see dozens and dozens of scarabs, but don’t worry, they aren’t aggro, so you don’t have to fight them. In fact, it’s important that you not attack them at all, especially when you get to the central room at the bottom of the stairs, because you will aggro every scarab around and most certainly die.

Along with the scarabs, you will also run across a limping, rotting, undead guy who is the “custodian” of the dungeon. Again, do not attack him, but take note of him because he plays an important role in the final event of the dungeon.

From that central room, you will see a hall to the north, stairs to the east (referred to as the “evil side”) and stairs to the west (referred to as the “good side”). Each “side” room contains 6 avatars from the Pantheon, each of whom gives a trial. When you complete 6 trials from a side, you get a part of a cloak. Complete all 12, and the two cloak parts can be combined to make the Cloak of the Pantheon. As an aside, the “turn in” NPCs are found down the north hall, which takes you to the second floor of the dungeon. If memory serves me right, you have to go left to talk to the “evil” NPC and right to talk to the “good” NPC.

Above: Fighting a golem in the Pantheon of the Ancients.

As for the Avatars and their trials, you can move around pretty much untouched if you have invis. The only mobs that see through it are the golems, so be on your toes. Another heads up, though, is that on each side is a huge roaming mob – a giant snake on the evil side, and a huge bug on the good side. They are non aggro, but if you are fighting one of the little trash mobs near them, they will assist and aggro your group.

The 12 trials themselves are terrific. Each one tests a certain moral or personal quality that each god stresses. For example, the trial of Ghalnn, who relishes brutal war and bloodshed, has you run over to the “good side” to find and kill 100 innocent victims. You would know his name well if you did any work on the shadowhound quest (which I hear is long enough to make you want to kill 1,000 innocents by the time you are done!) My favorite trial was the trial of Vol Anari, god of light and purity, who has you endure a purification ritual involving pummeling rocks and intense fire. If you survive, you win, just don’t be a dink like me and accidentally attack him while you are in the trial.

For a full walkthrough on the trials, look no further than Silky Venom. I used this and a nicely done map from Map Vanguard, both of which made things a lot easier. The map doesn’t show the second floor, where the NPCs are for turning in your trial flags and getting your cloak, but it’s easy to figure out if you just keep in mind that the second floor is right above the trial rooms.

If you are interested in lore, you will find a lot here, since the Pantheon Avatars give you insight into the beliefs of the gods themselves. To find out more about the gods of the Pantheon, I suggest checking out Vanguard Roleplayers, which has two nice threads, here and more detailed here.

One tip for anyone heading to the Pantheon – the trials can be buggy at times. If you ever run into any trouble, like not getting a trial from an NPC (busy message), not getting updates while doing the trial, or no luck getting the trial script to begin, abandon the active trial if you have one, and then camp out fully and re-enter the game. Basically, when in doubt, camp out. It seems to be the fall back fix to any issues in the dungeon.

Once you have passed all the trials and received your new Cloak of the Pantheon, you have an important choice to make. You can keep it, or you can head to the Immortal Sanctum, which you can reach from either trial side by taking a passageway at the northern end of either room. There, you will speak to the Custodian, who gives you one final test – defeat the Sisters.

The Sisters are actually one deity that has become split – Mara represents the violent qualities of death, while Caia represents the more serene and natural aspects. Their balance of power is always in flux, although Mara definitely wins the “cooler looking Sister” title. Sadly, I never got a screenshot of her, but she’s one of the best looking boss mobs in Vanguard.

This is a fun event, where the two Sisters, Caia and Mara, take turns doing their best to kill your group. When one is fighting, the other becomes non-aggro, so you have to make sure to change targets every 20% of their health. Along the way, you have to deal with some unexpected twists, like rounds of undead adds that must be burned down. But the real challenge is dealing with the AEs they give off, and the only thing that can counter it is your cloak, so make sure to have it on your hotbar. Some of the AE spells are relatively harmless, like a root or stun, but others are much more dangerous, such as a silence and even a nasty dot that Mara tends to cast when she is at about 50% health. The cloak does have a refresh timer, but as long as you activate it any time one of the Sisters AEs, you should be fine. At the very end, both Sisters become aggro, so it’s best to go all out and get one dead fast or you risk defeat just before the finish line.

When you defeat both Sisters, the Custodian reveals to your group that he is actually…the Avatar of Alurad, god of skill and the one who tries to bring order to the Pantheon. He gives you the chance to turn in the cloak to him, and in return you can receive another reward. The items vary, but the one that everyone hopes for is one of the weapons that reflects the skill and craftsmanship that Alurad personifies.

Above: The Avatar of Alurad reveals himself.

Here are the weapons: Gift of the Prince, Solrahn, Twin of Joh’drol, Insirion, Edge of Flame, Staff of the Old World, Ancient Ksaravi Ulak, and The Righteous Gavel.

Even if you don’t get what you hope for, the good news is that the weapons are tradable and can be equipped by anyone who has defeated the Sisters. You can also repeat the trials as many times as you want, so you can always go back to try for a weapon or get the cloak.

Another tip about the loot, when you sacrifice your cloak, you get a clicky thing that you use at the orb in the Sanctum. Click that, and your reward will go right to your inventory (so make sure you have a spot open). You also get a chest next to Alurad, which contains several soulbound items, and you get that whether you turn in your cloak or not. Make sure you get all your loot, and be careful when looting the chest, because that stuff is soulbound.

I had a great time in the Pantheon of the Ancients. It has a great layout, interesting trials, some nice lore, and a terrific final boss encounter. It’s also set up nicely, so that you can progress through it at your own pace. Those who have the time can grind it out all at once, or you can tackle a few trials a night if you have more limited playtime. If you are level 27-34, this is a dungeon you don’t want to miss!

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Vanguard Level 25-30,Vanguard Level 30-35 | Comments (2)

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