Backlog Battle Report (16th Oct 2017)

Proving once more that I am fickle and need to work harder on maintaining a schedule, here is Monday’s post ahead of the late Right Click to Zoom article. It’s coming soon, really. Also proving my lack of attention span is another slew of newly started games and not a lot of continuation on previous stuff. Well, at least I’ve got some things to say.

Final Fantasy 14 (PC) — Patched up

As I said last week, the major 4.1 update for Final Fantasy 14 dropped a few days ago and I jumped right back into it. What surprises me the most about this, however, is that I actually haven’t played much of it all despite expectations.

This is nothing to do with the lack of content, or lack of options and new things to do. That’s all there, with a new bunch of side content, further expansion on the Stormblood plot, a new four man dungeon, a new high difficulty trial, and a new raid that heavily ties Final Fantasy 12 and Tactics together into an interesting worldbuilding exercise. What I’ve played of it is all very well done and genuinely pretty high quality. The precursor quests to that raid had me geeking out pretty hard, and it was a joy to go through.

Thing is, I’ve still only done the precursors. The actual raid? Haven’t jumped into yet. The new main quest? That jumps into the new dungeon fairly quickly, and that’s where I’ve stopped. At the moment, I’m in no particular hurry to jump into the group content without a group to play with, and I have no real desire to queue up with random people. And even if I did have that desire, I don’t have the item level required; I played so little after reaching the level cap on both my characters that I didn’t spend much time gearing them up, so I’d have to do that for a couple of runs before I could tackle the new stuff.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (16th Oct 2017)”

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Backlog Battle Report (9th Oct 2017)

Last week’s Right Click to Zoom went up mere hours ago, which is a little less late than the previous but still not really acceptable to me. That said, it was a hell of a lot more difficult to get to a state that I considered good enough to post, and even once it was done I was given feedback that made me realise some missed opportunities I could have used. Alas. Hopefully this week’s article will come along more smoothly. If you’re reading this and didn’t know about that new post, do consider checking that one on the way out.

With that said, here’s this week’s status update.

The Elder Scrolls Online (PC) — Can’t see the forest for the trees

This was still the majority of my game time this week, though I suspect it’ll start to slow down now. The next content patch for Final Fantasy 14 is finally around the corner, so I’ll likely be focusing on that instead. Doubly so since most of my ESO playing friends will be busy with that, so there’ll be even less interaction and discussion on the subject with them.

Nonetheless, I’m still chipping away at the mountains of quest content at my disposal. My Templar is now in the early 40s and, surprise surprise, I’m still in Valenwood. There are so very many quests here, and while each of the zones within that region are different story and encounter wise, I’m honestly sick of forested area this, Green Pact that… my forays into the Thieves Guild quests and the desert city those take place in are welcome opportunities to break it up.

As always, I could go and do other stuff, but I like to be thorough and want to finish zones. It hasn’t reached levels of intolerable similarity, but the moment it does I’ll probably go and party Daggerfall somewhere.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (9th Oct 2017)”

Backlog Battle Report (25th Sept 2017)

I was a little less diverse in my gameplay time this week and instead was more focused on just a couple of titles. Some decent progress made in what I did play, but nothing to cross off the list since Samus Returns last weekend. With my new job and potentially a second one in the wings, game time might be slightly reduced, but that shouldn’t stop me from still having some opinions to share as I go. So here’s what I’ve been up to.

Elder Scrolls Online (PC) — The current MMORPG of choice

As stated last week, I ended up attempting this one again and getting far more invested than I had previously. Couple a number of friends playing alongside me, and it has remained compelling enough throughout the week to quickly become the game I gravitate towards most when I have a few spare minutes. Again, that will probably change once the next Final Fantasy 14 patch drops in about a fortnight, but the subscription-free system of ESO means I can comfortably drop in and out without issue.

Regardless, I’m fully wrapped up in this one now. The game has continued to provide me with a good mix of content and variety, with even the more basic and genre-standard stuff still proving entertaining to keep me focused. I’ve healed dungeons with friends, gone exploring solo in the public dungeons, tried out the opening zones of all three factions (the Dominion still seems my best fit), and otherwise just gone wandering and questing through the world. My internet and general game lag makes me disinclined to try PvP, but I might end up doing that eventually.

I wasn’t here for the launch of the game, but what I initially saw following ESO’s announcement and from beta footage left me completely disinterested. It’s really impressive to hear and see how much it’s turned itself around. With the removal of level and faction restrictions on so much of the content, it really does provide a huge world to go exploring in, with all sorts of compelling and interesting quest chains that I literally just stumble into.

There’s also a lot of versatility in how one builds a character. Effectively, every character has a variety of skill lines that they can choose to invest points in, ranging from armour and weapon types to guild or faction specific abilities to class skills. You gain skill points every time you level up, by completing certain quest chains, or finding collectables in the world. The actual skill lines level up through use as they do in regular Elder Scrolls games, which unlocks more of their abilities and passive bonuses.

So as well as all the universal skill lines based on quests and weapon types, each of the four classes has three unique trees that you can go into. You also gain a single stat point when you level up which you can drop into Health, Magicka or Stamina and upgrade relevant abilities that way. What’s really interesting is that there’s no set ways to build these classes; a Dragonknight might typically be a heavy armour wearing tank, but I’m building mine as a full magic damage type.

At the moment, I’m juggling three characters but primarily sticking with my Wood Elf Templar tank. Currently I’m in the late 20s for level with them (level cap is 50 but with further progression afterwards) and looking to push ahead, but there’s no real rush. Absolutely everything in the game gives experience, so I’m just exploring, crafting, doing quests or faction objectives as I see fit and having a good time.

It’s been a while since I’ve just been able to completely lose myself in a world like this. Plus, for all its pros and strengths, Final Fantasy 14 doesn’t really make much use of its actual world after you finish the main questlines. There’s less to discover and accomplish just by wandering as this game incentivises, and it’s wonderful. Definitely will be chipping away at this for some time to come.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (25th Sept 2017)”

Backlog Battle Report (18th Sept 2017)

This week saw very little in the way of console activity, instead seeing long stretches of me glued to my 3DS or else tinkering with settings on my PC to get specific old games working. Monster Hunter Stories, Witcher 3 and Yakuza Kiwami are all surprisingly absent from this week’s report, but that’s almost certain to change in the coming days. I’ve also got the new Prey, the first Warhammer Total War, and a number of recent RPGs I never played through properly on my agenda. Let’s go through it, shall we?

Pokemon Shuffle (3DS) — A puzzling time filler

Match 3 games have been a guilty pleasure of mine forever, usually filling the void when I wasn’t regularly playing Tetris. It’s a simple and addictive concept, though some games take the concept and run with it in interesting ways. Puzzle Quest turned it into an RPG, 10000000 and its sequel You Must Build A Boat merged the genre with endless runners, and HuniePop had dating sim aspects.

Pokemon Shuffle does none of these things, really. The idea is that you have a limited number of turns to inflict damage on the target Pokemon, then get a chance to catch them. You can level up the Pokemon caught through these puzzle battles and make them stronger. It’s RPG-esque, but it’s pretty basic. Still, it’s an addictive way to fill in time when in game queues or some other situation.

It’s also free to play, meaning small time brackets are the only ones you’ll get anyway without tossing money at Nintendo. I have other products to give money to however, so for now it’s just something to do.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (18th Sept 2017)”

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”

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.