A Storm of Blood

Due to various circumstances I’ve been very remiss in doing much in the way of writing for the past month, and what little I’ve been doing has largely been things that aren’t ready for public eyes just yet. I did have a chance to review two games over on GameSkinny: Tokyo 42, an interesting but frustrating cyberpunk action game in the vein of Syndicate; and a visual novel about dating girls in North Korea that was bought for me as a dare to review. Never let it be said that I won’t take on such a challenge.

In addition to not writing too much, I’ve not actually had much opportunity to chip away at the backlog over the past month. Instead, I played Final Fantasy 14. A lot of Final Fantasy 14. Talking about my time with that will be the brunt of this article.

There have been a few other games that I’ll quickly go over to acknowledge my playtime. First, my go to aside from FF14 remains Heroes of the Storm, which I’ve still been plugging away at in short intervals and downtime with or without friends. I made it back to Diamond this season after an uncharacteristically good run of placement games (8-2), which was a pleasant return after floating around Platinum for the last couple of seasons. In addition, the upcoming Starcraft hero Stukov is both a huge favourite of mine and is also of my most frequented support role, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on him.

Beyond those two games, I bought and completed Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on 3DS. Well, rather, I completed Chapter 5 which is where the plot ends, but I didn’t dabble in any of the post-game stuff. It was a reasonably enjoyable game and I intend to make a post dedicated to it soon.

I also picked up Ever Oasis for 3DS on its release, mostly on a whim. It’s an interesting little game with a mix of Zelda-lite exploration and combat combined with a basic Harvest Moon system of town management. Sadly, while it started out interesting, there’s a few little issues that serve to bog the game down in terms of enjoyment, and it ended up feeling quite shallow and more like busywork rather than fun gameplay. Not sure I’ll get back to that, but again, planning to talk more on that.

Oh yeah, and E3 happened. Naturally I was in no position to attend, being on the wrong hemisphere, but I did pay some attention to it. I was mostly uninteresting by the vast majority of games on offer, but just about broke my chair in excitement when they announced Metroid Prime 4. I’ll most definitely be getting a Switch at some point now, that’s clear enough. Overall though, the presentation was largely meh and didn’t really have many highlights, so I won’t speak too much on this just yet. If anything interesting does come from it, well, odds are I’ll be able to write about those games when I play them.

So with that out of the way, let’s get into Final Fantasy 14 and its newest expansion then. Continue reading “A Storm of Blood”

Scrolls, both new and Elder

A month out from Persona 5 and the funk persists, to the point where it’s unbelievable. I keep bouncing from game to game in search of something that’ll keep my attention for more than a day, and so far I’m coming up empty.

Rather than make any significant progress in parts of my backlog, I’ve just been resorting to comfort games that I’ve played through lots and make for good time sinks. Strategy games like Civilization VI and Master of Orion 2016 help me make a day disappear, and there’s been a frankly absurd amount of Heroes of the Storm played since the 2.0 update. But today I’m going to focus on one in particular that I’ve been returning to: Morrowind.

It’s said that a person’s first Elder Scrolls game is the one that they’ll consider their favourite, mostly because the concept and freedom their worlds offer is at this point completely new to a player. Later games may refine and streamline the process and generally be more “playable”, but their worlds and concepts aren’t original by that point, so it becomes a lot harder to completely lose yourself in it. Generally, those who played Morrowind first (like me) will still say that Morrowind is better to this day, even if most will grudgingly agree that it hasn’t aged gracefully.

Nonetheless, every attempt I’ve made at playing another Elder Scrolls game will at some point see me finally caving and reinstalling Morrowind. It’s been quite a while since that happened; the most recent time I played Skyrim, I went mildly insane on the modding front and found plenty of interesting content and updated mechanics to keep my attention. This time, the lures back to Vvardenfell were twofold: my playthrough of the Skyrim mod Enderal, and the impending release of Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind expansion.

In the interest of covering all these games equally, I’ll speak about those two before I go back into recounting my Morrowind adventures. Continue reading “Scrolls, both new and Elder”

Transistor, checking in

I’m typing this from a brand new PC that I only just properly got plugged in and running no more than half an hour ago, biding my time while the slew of standard programs is downloading and installing. Mostly just a small status update rather than any of my usual video game related ramblings.

First off: new PC. It’s been five years since I’ve had a fresh rig, though naturally the computer that I just stashed in the corner a few minutes ago has had numerous upgrades and replacements in those years. Still, the motherboard was effectively fried and I was getting constant black screens as the display drivers died on a regular basis, and multiple attempts to fix it or isolate other parts showed that it was unlikely to be anything else. I could probably have repaired or rebuilt it for cheaper than what I got this new machine for, but after dealing with this problem for literal months, I just wanted peace of mind and for this tech support nightmare to end.

So, the machine that I named Bastion is no more. Moment of silence.

Now, this isn’t an absolutely massive upgrade due to all my tweaks over the years, but this new machine should definitely keep me from having to push or upgrade in order to get newer games running comfortably. I’m probably going to shame the 60 FPS enforcing PC Master Race, but it should be pretty clear that I play games for gameplay and story more than graphics and can usually deal with a few hiccups. Regardless, the specs should get me decently far.

Naturally, I shall name this machine Transistor, since it’s the successor to Bastion even if the systems are slightly different. I’d consider calling it Pyre, but any name that’s fire related for a PC is just asking for trouble.

So with the PC back, I’ll be reinstalling FF14 and then picking and choosing my games as I go from there. Torment will be first up on the list since I didn’t get all that far in it and really need to put some more time and devotion into it. Cosmic Star Heroine just dropped a couple of days ago after a lengthy development cycle, and I’m quite keen to sink my teeth into that. However, I’m not about to start a new JRPG until the big one is finished: Persona 5, which has been both my obsession and my sanity-preserver during this time of technical troubles.

Everything I said about Persona 5 in the previous post still holds true, and I’m now 90 hours in and pushing the final stages of the game at long last. After such a long marathon journey over a comparatively short timeframe, I am now looking forward to the ending and seeing how it all wraps up nicely (if it does), but I will definitely be sad to see it gone. It’s without a doubt the best Persona game to date, and I still think we’ll be talking about in years from now in the same way we do some of the JRPG greats.

That’s assuming the ending doesn’t let me down horribly… but at present that doesn’t seem quite likely. Currently I’m intending to a full and formal review of the game (probably for GameSkinny), and then do a more in-depth analysis about a few points in the narrative. I also want to talk about the soundtrack and compare it with that of NieR: Automata, plus I want to do a big pros and cons comparison of P5 vs. the Trails of Cold Steel games, which are my other favourite and recent JRPG series. That last one in particular I could talk a great deal about, so please look forward to it I guess.

Time to set up a few downloads over night and crash.

NieR-ly Amazing

Yesterday I finished my playthrough of NieR: Automata, completing all five of the primary endings and seeing the “true conclusion”. It was a really enjoyable experience and, overall, a great game. It’s receiving a lot of positive feedback from many sources, including a number of friends and other people I chat with about such things. Some people are quick to call it Game of the Year material, but personally I wouldn’t even call it the Game of the Month — that title rests with Horizon in my eyes. That doesn’t detract from its quality or the fact that I’m glad it exists, and I’d highly encourage most to play it.

So let’s talk about it. First: gameplay. It’s got a fairly enjoyable combat system which is drawn from the standard Platinum Games formula – flashy and dynamic action combat with an emphasis on timing evasions in order to execute retaliation combos. Unlike Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising, however, the combat is somewhat basic. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it generally gets the job done nicely, but ultimately it lacks a lot of the depth and complexity of those games.

Instead, it combines the top down shooter aspect that Yoko Taro is so known for to add bullet hell elements to the game, both for you and for enemies. That keeps you pressing the R1 button in addition to your combos, but said combos are relatively sparse and don’t require too much in order to maximise them, tapping the dodge button just in time from the well telegraphed attacks in order to dodge and retaliate.

The combat is further simplified by the fact that it’s not merely an action game, but also an action RPG. As such, with so much of your power and survivability derived from numerical stats, it’s pretty easy to outscale enemies in the process of exploration and side quests. This is further compounded by the ability to customise your “programming” (you are an android character, after all) to supplement it with extra buffs and effects. In my case, I just combined the ability to heal when my HP gets low, gain HP regen after not taking damage for a few seconds, and gaining HP based on % of damage I dealt, and from then on combat was a simple matter. I was only playing on Normal difficulty though; I hear it gets pretty brutal on the higher settings, but that’s normally not my focus and I was satisfied with the gameplay.

Besides, the gameplay is largely the side dishes and condiments to the plot and narrative in NieR: Automata compared to the reverse being true in the average game. I’ve dabbled in Yoko Taro’s writing before with the first game and he’s been held in well regard before, but this was the first time I dove headfirst into it. It’s a fairly common theme in a lot of Japanese fiction to experiment with concepts of existentialism, but Taro clearly enjoys taking it even further, combining this with general weird situations and questions that you likely won’t encounter in your average video game.

Let me give you an example: I witnessed a constantly spawning pile of machines pouring into the arena with me, screaming “THIS CANNOT CONTINUE” repeatedly until they all suddenly stopped, started moving to combine into a strange egg-shaped structure… which then cracked open like an egg, spitting out strange fluid within which was a naked genital-less man that looked like Sephiroth from FF7. To say that scene was expected and typical to things I have encountered before would be a blatant lie.

There are a lot of strange and unexpected scenes like this, with a large number of interesting set pieces and encounters that are both enjoyable to play through and fun to contemplate. Much contemplation is had, too, since the writing asks all kinds of philosophical, existential questions. After all, you’re playing as androids fighting as machines, both of which have aspects and responses that you wouldn’t expect of them. It asks questions about what makes you guys so different, what makes humanity so different, and how one can define a life or many lives in certain contexts.

Perhaps the biggest complaint I have with the game is that while many of these philosophical questions are presented, it quite rarely takes the time to explore them fully. If I were being disingenuous, I’d say that it’s more or less setting up a dart board of philosophical concepts and throwing darts at them until it sticks, but I don’t think that’s the case. Rather, I feel like these could have been explored but there simply wasn’t the time or budget in order to make it so. Or, perhaps, NieR chooses instead to handwave those with the comment “Not all questions need to be answered”, which appears as a direct quote in the game; I’d like to think that the quote was merely used in the present context at the time, however, rather than applying to the whole game.

Instead, a number of cool ideas are brought up, and a number of plot twists or events occur that both intrigue the player, but only a few are properly dove in to or expanded on. This means that a number of interesting side characters (and even some bosses!) get lots of exploration, but others are just left by the wayside almost as soon as they’re brought up.

Still, you could say that it’s a credit to the quality of the writing that I wanted more of it by the end, but ultimately I did enjoy what I experienced. There were some logical inconsistencies between character reactions in between events — lead characters such as 2B and 9S will take turns considering the machines as more than enemies while the other reminds them that they’re just soulless foes, only to swap stances a few minutes later. In addition, some of the characters were kind of flat, with the lead character 2B coming off as aloof and standoffish with little in the way of personality. While there are definitely plot reasons for that which are elaborated on, it still ends up meaning that you have less direct attachment to her (and instead people on the internet are relying on the physical aspects instead).

By contrast, 9S is an extremely interesting and believable character, even if he occasionally comes across as whiny… but when he does, it makes perfect sense, and you really feel for the guy by the end of the tale. I’d say that the game focuses on him more so than even 2B, and a lot of people underrate 9S in the process.

Nonetheless, the game presents a lot of interesting and emotional scenes, and touches on or elaborates a lot of elements from the first NieR that returning fans will be extremely pleased to see. I wasn’t always sold on what was happening, but I did get quite invested and want to push on to the end, and the ending left me quite satisfied. In fact, the final “true” ending culminated in one of the better conclusions to a video game I remember in recent times. So many games are kind of abrupt or half-hearted with their endings, but NieR: Automata goes out of its way to touch at the player’s heart strings, even reaching out to them through the fourth wall and drawing them into the process. If you decide to play the game, it is absolutely worth pushing on to the E path ending, just for the combination of satisfying conclusion, excellent music, and other elements that would be spoiled to elaborate on.

So overall, it should be clear that I quite liked the game and enjoyed it greatly. It’s not perfect in any sense, but I’m glad it exists and I’m really glad I played it.

And it’s kind of surprising that it DOES exist, when you think about it. Yoko Taro’s games have largely been mediocre affairs developed by a B-team of Square Enix devs and carried by left of centre writing and dark, philosophically driven plots. NieR was generally received with less than stellar responses, but developed a cult classic following based on the stories it offered. Yet somehow, it was given a sequel in a collaboration of the well-loved but “in a slump” Platinum Games and built on not a huge budget provided from the dregs of Final Fantasy XV development, released in the wake of that massive launch. And despite all these strange and unlikely circumstances, a really surprisingly good, enjoyable, and thoughtful experience has emerged.

It might not be the best game of the year/month, but it’s nonetheless a real surprise and I’m truly glad it exists. More games like it need to be made; games from well known and not-indie developers that are willing to break the mould and try something experimental or touch on different and interesting narratives.

So, with NieR finished, I’m more or less just dabbling in other games and filling time with Final Fantasy 14 until Persona 5 is released. Less than a week left, and then that’ll be my primary focus for a while I’d imagine. It’s finally starting to sink in that it’s almost here, and hype is beginning despite my best efforts to the contrary. Exciting. Soon!~

Torment vs. the March Gauntlet

It’s already been a pretty busy year for video games, but today was the kickoff of the real gauntlet of key titles that I’ll be acquiring and (hopefully) playing a satisfactory amount of.

First and foremost, today saw the release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, the spiritual successor to the classic and massively revered Planescape: Torment. There was quite a bit of buzz generated by this Kickstarter, and after throwing a hell of a lot of money at Pillars of Eternity, I wisely chose to back at a more reasonable figure. It’s finally out, and it’s actually really good! More on this momentarily.

Despite the full length of time a very text heavy western RPG is likely to take, I unfortunately don’t have all that much offered to it before it’ll be contested. Tomorrow sees the release of Horizon: Zero Dawn on PS4, and I’ll be going to bed and retrieving it first thing in the morning once this blog post is done.

In keeping with past trends, I suspect I’ll get this, put it in the console, and then leave it to download the Day 1 patch at a ridiculously slow rate while I put some more time into Torment. Once it’s ready to go, however, I am very much looking forward to roaming around an open world and fighting Zoids- excuse me, robot dinosaurs. Early signs and feedback from gaming sites suggest that it’s quite good, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s… ahem, over the Horizon.

The biggest issue Horizon is going to have isn’t with itself, however – it’s the fact that it’ll have some seriously hard hitting competition in just two days. Big open world adventure game with RPG elements that has a lot of gathering and crafting? Yeah, that’s going to fill the exact same niche The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I do hope for Horizon’s sake that it’s able to stand out and succeed even with that kind of heavyweight competition, because by all accounts it’s worthy of it… but then, so is the new Zelda, apparently.

Zelda drops on March 3rd here, same as the Nintendo Switch – a brand new console that I am most interested in but have no intention of buying it until late this year if not 2018. With only Zelda in its immediate future to really interest me,. I can hold off on purchasing a full price console on launch, and instead plan to scoop up the Wii U version of Zelda as a last hurrah for my underutilised and sadly abandoned console.

So those three games will be fighting with everything else for the bulk of my time in the coming days, but even they’ll be joined by new additions in only a week: NieR Automata released on March 10th in Australia. Now by a number of accounts, this is perhaps the weakest of the games on offer – it had a strong demo but doesn’t quite hold up to it as a full game from what I’ve heard, but my sources aren’t the greatest on this and mileage may vary. I still intend to pick it up and give it a whirl, because it looks like a bunch of fun to be had.

Four games in two weeks, most of which are quite large affairs. Surely I won’t have anything else to lure me in though, right? Well… technically, Mass Effect: Andromeda comes out in late March, but as it stands I have little real interest in that series after the conclusion of ME3, or in dealing with BioWare’s shenanigans again. That’s very much a case of “wait and see” like Dragon Age Inquisition was. But hey, here’s hoping it ends up good, right?

Finally, to crown it all off, Persona 5 is FINALLY out on April 4th. As soon as that comes out, all bets are off and all other priorities shelves in favour of putting a good chunk of time into that. So I really have a month to focus on these other games and hit them as hard as I can.

To that end, I’ve obviously started with Torment, and I have to say that I’m quite enjoying my five hours of game time so far. Numenera as a tabletop RPG setting quite interested me, as it had the potential to be utterly bizarre and alien, and so far that has translated tremendously well to video game format. There are so many little stories and occurrences that are quite weird, strange, or otherwise convoluted and kind of crazy already, but it’s just been a fascinating experience.

It’s a really text heavy game – perhaps even more so than Planescape: Torment – but I’ve been happy to talk to everyone, learn more about the world and the setting, listen to the various stories, talk my way through some puzzles or encounters… really, I’ve just been soaking up as much of the setting as I can. The story has a compelling start, and I’m very curious to see how it pans out.

Perhaps my biggest gripe so far is that I’m not hugely invested in any of the companions I’ve discovered so far. The Last Castoff (the MC) is potentially interesting just because of how s/he ties into the narrative and how many strange events and old memories s/he can trigger, but the other characters so far I haven’t really developed much attachment for. Maybe that will change in time, we’ll see.

Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to getting back into it and pushing through tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes… and if the other games on my agenda will have any hope of pulling my attention away from it for long.

Last things to mention: I sat down and forced myself to play Gravity Rush 2 until I couldn’t do so anymore, and that sadly didn’t take as long as I was hoping. The game just has too many frustrations for me to stay attached, and I actually got so mad at it that I had to pause and walk away for a while just because of the terrible camera in one particular encounter. Really interesting and cool set pieces have been completely ruined by the unwieldy camera and jarring controls, and the new gravity styles feel way too gimmicky to really do much to change that. A proper article will be forthcoming.

And speaking of articles, I just had a new one promoted on GameSkinny, this one about why I think that Square Enix’s JRPG offerings are lackluster and other companies are getting much less credit for doing much more work for the genre. Give it a read if you’re interested.

All Across the Hydaelyn

Previously I spoke about my thoughts and feelings on WoW, and how they had ultimately lead me to a sense of detachment to the game, whereupon I unsubscribed. Many of the thoughts of disenfranchisement with Warcraft and the world of Azeroth as a whole that I wrote two posts ago are relevant to today’s discussion.

You see, as my feelings for WoW waned, it was FF14 that they started drifting towards.

Now, I didn’t maintain both MMO subscriptions side by side – not because of money, but largely because of time and disinterest. I picked up FF14 on a whim a couple of years ago during one of the periods where WoW was suffering a content drought, and I was remaining on it only to roleplay with friends. Since I wanted something else to fill that void, I went to FF14, and I was quickly swept up in the world that it offered.

I guess my thoughts started to mirror that previous time. It was almost on a whim that I started feeling the urge to load up a month of game time into FF14 and take a spin through it, playing through the patches I missed. I wanted to remake my favourite character from WoW into FF14 so that they’d have a chance to “live on”, so to speak. At first I fought the urge, but after chatting with a close friend about it, we decided to jump back in and check out the game together.

That was a little over a month ago, and she has since absolutely eclipsed my progress and raced ahead at a prodigious rate, eager to devour up every bit of story and worldbuilding the game as offered. And it was that realisation of what we’d been missing during our time in WoW – that sense of world, characters, and connection to the plot and setting that we were finding in FF14 – to finally make the plunge and unsubscribe from WoW without a second thought.

Since then, we’ve been exploring the world of Eorzea, plumbing its locales, and meeting its denizens with a fascination that was quite unexpected. I didn’t even return to the max level character I played on the first time I signed up to FF14; I instead started a new character from scratch and have been proceeding through the entirety of the plot again. Many friends who play the game thought I was mad for doing such a thing, considering the older content unenjoyable and a slog, but I’ve absolutely felt no such thing and have largely enjoyed the experience.

So let’s talk about the gameplay first, then. For this playthrough, I decided I would play an Au Ra lancer/dragoon – not the character I salvaged from WoW, mind you, who is around but not really my focus. This is an entirely new one that I fell in love with.

Generally the gameplay is pretty fun in FF14. There’s sometimes a shortage of quests, but the presence of a main story quest to guide your path and give much more impetus and attachment to your progress and the world helps immensely. If you need to pad that out, there’s a whole slew of activities, such as the Fate world events, the dungeons and trials, the repeatable leve quests, the Palace of the Dead… and even if any of that seems sparse, it continues to open up and give even more options upon hitting Level 50 and reaching all the patch content.

That said, it’s impossible to talk about the game without bringing up the fact that the global cooldown really is quite slow. The average MMORPG will have a base GCD of 1.5 seconds, and usually has classes or stats that can speed that up and make it much faster. By contrast, FF14 has 2.5 seconds. While most classes have an array of abilities that are used off the GCD and are woven into a rotation, it can definitely feel sluggish.

It’s by no means simple for this delay in actions, however. The rotation and spell management of FF14 is utterly absurd (in a good way) with how complex and intricate it can be to play at times. You could combine all the key active abilities of both my active Warrior specs from WoW and assign them to hotkeys, and they’d probably only just rival the BASIC ROTATION I have as a Dragoon… and I’m still not at the level cap yet.

Add in to that the many mechanics and targeting circles of doom that you’ll inevitably run into during dungeons and advanced content, and it can often feel like you’re doing an intricate dance from safe floor space to safe floor space all while spinning plates to maintain a relatively optimal damage rotation (or else survive/ensure survival for tanks and healers). The patterns of bosses can be a little more rigid than they are in WoW at times, but it’s definitely not a pushover of a system to bend to your will.

With all that said, it’s definitely my love of the world and the characters that have drawn me back and held me to FF14. If anything, it’s reminding me that WoW has been missing the character factor for multiple expansions now, save for a couple of exceptions. Too much has become about the player characters being more and more badass, more accomplished in the story, and beating increasingly unrealistic levels of foes in WoW. It’s gotten stale, honestly, and it only gets worse when the characters I used to love are basically window dressing on the story of the player character, lacking any real semblance of depth.

Again, there are exceptions. I felt sad when Varian died in Legion, for example, because I’d grown to respect him over the years. However, that’s also tempered by the fact that I hated him and considered him an awful character upon his first introduction, and it took many years to get to that point. He’s one of the better examples, however.

Most of the other named characters have been presented or written so poorly that I’ve come to hate them – Malfurion and Tyrande spring to mind, as does the path Illidan is treading in Legion. Characters that I do like are either extremely minor and often forgotten, or else are shoved aside because the writers decide to focus on something else. Remember Wrathion? I do, but it seems Blizzard doesn’t.

It’s handled slightly differently in FF14. See, it places the player character in the main spot of the story as the fabled Warrior of Light, certainly. But it doesn’t do so at the expense of the rest of the cast. They all have their skills, strengths, and abilities that you don’t, and will often appear to aid you when you need it. They have defined personalities that grow and expand as the story progresses.

And the story does progress. Things happen, characters are hurt or killed, and the world must adapt and carry on. Regardless of what you save the world from as the Warrior of Light, you can’t save everyone in it from everything all the time, and FF14 isn’t afraid to remind you of that. But if you’re willing to let yourself experience the narrative, it really is quite an enjoyable undertaking.

My friend and I have had a lot of fun just swapping tales and recounting our adventures to each other, adapting them to our characters both new and old. We’ve got our favourites among the NPCs and joke about them all. We’ve found ways to thread our own narrative through the existing one to expand on it and gives our characters purpose that isn’t just “fabled hero”, just for our own amusement.

But more than that, all this effort has helped us feel connected to the world of Hydaelyn and the realm of Eorzea more than I expected to from my whim of returning. Just a month ago I was bored of WoW and contemplating being done with MMORPGs for a good long stretch. Now, I’m focusing much of my gaming time into FF14 and following information about the upcoming Stormblood expansion with renewed vigor that I really didn’t expect.

It’s that attachment to a world and its characters that, as much if not more so than gameplay, has drawn me to video games. It was what kept me playing WoW long after the game stopped interesting me, this feeling of investment and attachment to my characters.

That investment need not just be repeatedly being told of how I am the hero, I am the conqueror, I am the general of the garrison, I am the strongest living warrior on Azeroth and eschewing all likeable character traits in the supporting cast because of this. I think that’s something the WoW writers have forgotten after Mists of Pandaria, but it’s been an increasing issue even throughout and before that.

Admittedly, maybe some of it is multiple years spent within Azeroth. But throughout that time, I spent so long investing myself in aspects of the lore and story while chasing up all the little details, only to end up feeling horribly disappointed and frustrated. There’s none of that disappointment in FF14 so far – simply delight, and a keen interest in seeing more.

In case you’re wondering, the reason I unsubbed from FF14 the first time was actually because I ran out of additional story to pursue. I was active after the Heavensward launch and played all of the available content in 3.0 save some higher difficulty things. In addition, my Free Company that I was RPing in started to experience drama and split apart, which further drove me away from guild politics and open RP on my return to WoW. So, ultimately, while I wanted to return eventually I simply never got around to it, with most of my interest leaning towards other games.

Perhaps it’s for the best that I didn’t come back sooner, because now I have plenty to occupy me with, and the promise of even more just in the horizon. It’s a good time to be back in Eorzea… truly, I missed it.

Mid-February Activity Dump

I usually do my best to consolidate the number of games I’m focusing on playing at any given time, hence the Current Projects list on the sidebar. That said, my attention span is the exact opposite of my backlog, and tends to falter quite a bit. The last couple of weeks have seen me jumping between a number of games in relatively quick succession, so rather than write a number of articles focusing on them individually, this article is going to be a rapid fire synopsis of my feelings and experiences on them.

There will be more focused articles, of course, but that’s for another day. Let’s begin.

Gravity Rush 2 (PS4)

I really enjoyed the first game as my post on that indicates, and hearing good things about the sequel saw me anticipating playing it quite a bit. Sadly, I don’t like it nearly as much. The primary reason for this is that, well… there are large stretches of the game where I’m not playing Gravity Rush. Instead, the new features and attempts to expand the game feel like a mix of things like Assassin’s Creed or Beyond Good and Evil, just… not nearly as good.

Stealth missions where you can’t use your gravity powers, or missions where you have to comb through crowds and ask people about X or Y… it’s an attempt to expand on the core of the game, but it’s so far removed that it ends up pulling me out of it. When Gravity Rush lets me play Gravity Rush, it’s great! But that is actually rarer than it should be. Lots of points I could make on this one that deserves its own post or GameSkinny article; I’ll just move on for now.

Digimon World: Next Order (PS4)

I haven’t played a Digimon game in a while, but there were immediately enough elements that this felt very much like revisiting a childhood memory. Sadly, that feeling didn’t last long. This game isn’t bad at all, but it’s not really what I expected. I planned on it being more like a JRPG, but it’s true to its roots as a monster raising game through and through.

Now while that’s not a bad thing, it immediately sets itself up for one BIG problem. See, training your Digimon back at the base city gives considerable stats and improvements as you’d expect. But going out and actually fighting? The rewards and stat gains are so negligible as to actively discourage fighting to keep from wasting time. So you’re effectively choosing between power or progression, and it feels like a very strange dichotomy that could’ve been woven together better.

And when you’re not really interested in fighting in a monster raising game, well… I’m sure you can see why this sapped my interest. I owe this game more time and attention, I really do, but it’s on the backburner for now.

Nioh (PS4)

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now, letting myself get hyped by videos and trailers despite my normal caution. That said, it’s met my expectations nicely. The game is a lot of fun to play, and I’m greatly enjoying my time with it. I’m dying LOTS, mind you, but that’s to be expected when I don’t have much experience with the SoulsBorne games to prep me for it.

At one point, I spectated my friend and brother playing the game, and they were much better at it than I was due to their familiarity with Dark Souls – they died considerably less and made progress much faster than I did. I have much to learn in my quest to git gud. Despite this, I must reiterate that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting my ass kicked by this one and look forward to playing more in the coming days.

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star (PS4)

Purchasing this on a whim after a friend’s recommendation, I’ve been playing this over the last day or two. It’s a Musou/Warriors game ala Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors style games, set in the Type Moon universe made famous by Fate/Stay Night.

Now those who know anything about Dynasty Warriors or any relevant spinoff will know what the gameplay of this boils down to, and little really changes here. But I’ve long been a fan of that style of play, and mowing down thousands of enemies while clashing with the tougher figures is quite therapeutic even if it gets repetitive quickly. There’s a lot of context and nuance to the plot that I don’t fully understand, since it’s a sequel to a PSP game I never played… but I’m filling in the blanks as I go and it’s reasonably enjoyable.

Will see how it lasts in the long run, but again, it’s therapeutic and a good game to wind down with since (at least in regular difficulties) I can mow things down without a thought.

Final Fantasy 14 (PC)

As my interest in WoW wavered, my interest in revisiting the world of Eorzea grew. It was kind of a whim at first, since I hadn’t played the game for around a year after unsubbing before any Heavensward patch content was released. That said, after dragging a good friend in for the ride, I got back into it. And, well, this has absolutely been where all my time has gone since.

I’m back in the game with a passion and vigor that I sincerely didn’t expect, even replaying old content that I’ve done while leveling up a fresh character instead of returning to my main. In between playing with my friend and leveling solo, I’ve almost reached Heavensward content a second time and I’ve been having a blast doing so. I really do love the world they’ve made here, and it’s remarkably refreshing to be pulled back into a fictional universe that I feel like I can relate and invest myself in without fear of harsh disappointment. There’s even been fanfiction! What can I say, I love developing on my characters even in video games.

I tend to play a little of this every day and am pushing on ahead to endgame where I can visit all the patch content I missed and hopefully be ready to tackle the Stormblood expansion when it’s fresh. I really did miss this, though.

Heroes of the Storm (PC)

Anyone who knows me knows that this game is a constant, and nothing has changed. I’m still picking this game up and playing a couple of games every so often, usually in QMs with friends but occasionally attempting to climb the ranks back up into Diamond. My frequent run ins with angry and abusive assholes as well as people intentionally ruining ranked games is stifling any attempt to get seriously back into that one, though.

Lucio is due out soon, though, and he looks fun to play. That should be interesting.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS)

Strangely, while enjoying this game a reasonable amount, I quickly put it down once I reached almost the same point as I put down the PS2 version and have yet to really pick it back up. It’s not bad – it’s quite good, honestly, and I’m having more fun than I remember from the first attempt at beating this years ago. I just… can’t seem to stick to it? I don’t know. I’ll give it another shot in the coming days.

Fire Emblem Heroes (Mobile)

The first of many impending Fire Emblem games, and the one I was looking at with the most skepticism, as mobile games are rarely anything but quick cash-ins. Nintendo’s offering has more quality and gameplay than the vast majority, and it was a pleasant surprise to find myself quite enjoying it.

That didn’t last long, though. Eventually, I reached the end of the current content save for repeated arenas or grinding ceaselessly to beat the highest difficulties, and then the veneer starts to wear off and… surprise! It’s your standard mobile Gacha game designed to draw in whales! For all the negativity in this statement, though, I did enjoy myself. But I’m already at the point where I don’t even bother to log in and play it now. Feel like I’m done with it already, especially when I could be playing

Dandy Dungeon (Mobile)

The last game on today’s list is also the biggest surprise, because up until I saw it reviewed on GameSkinny, I’d never heard a damn thing about it. That said, it’s easily the best game I recall playing on mobile since You Must Build A Boat, and I’ve sunk a considerable amount of time over the past few days into it.

The general plot and style of the game is completely wacky, zany Japanese humour that is amusing and delightful to behold. The gameplay sees you plot the path of the main character through a dungeon and then use items at the right time to make sure you get through it, as well as equipping and upgrading the right gear before tackling those dungeons. There’s a lot of farming and grinding involved to get the item drops you need to make progress, but honestly? The game’s so entertaining that I don’t even mind just playing a dungeon or two when I get a spare minute and my energy’s full.

Yes, it has the standard free to play mobile game energy system. In this case, however, a small purchase will completely negate that akin to just purchasing the game outright, and I’m starting to think it might be worth it to do so. Nonetheless, even with the free to play elements, the game is well executed and entirely too endearing. Highly recommended!

 

Barring a few minor dabblings, that largely covers my gaming over the past few days. With any luck I’ll settle in on knocking over set projects and making headway in the backlog… though with the impending release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and NieR: Automata in a matter of weeks, I can only foresee the list growing rather than shrinking. Oh well!