Backlog Battle Report (5th Feb 2018)

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

I hadn’t been intending to skip over the last couple of reports, but with the focus being on keeping up with the Delfies I didn’t get the chance to write it. Clearly, I didn’t really keep up with the Delfies either. After having to put Right Click to Zoom to an intermittent release schedule due to not meeting my regular plans, you’d think I’d know better, but alas! I’m still working to get those written and out as quickly as possible, so do stay tuned.

Given that I was trying to write a lot during the skipped weeks, I didn’t play all that many different games at first. After three weeks though? Well, I’ve accrued quite a bit of playtime in various games and sampled a few titles, so I’m going to hit as many as I can. Let’s go.

Super Robot Wars J (GBA)

At some point a few weeks ago, I got to talking about mecha in a Discord chat. Very soon a handful of us were nerding out about our favourite giant robot anime or games, our favourite robot designs, and other such discussions. I love this stuff, but this knowledge tends to lie dormant for extended periods up until something reminds me about that love.

In this case, the discussion was enough for me to immediately go out and order a couple of giant robot games to fill the void. Problem is, good games that utilise good series and designs don’t tend to be all that common of late. I wanted to go to the heart of it, but in order to do so I would have to order a couple of games that don’t get western releases.

Rather than have to muddle through Japanese menus and incomprehensible plots, however, I nowadays have the option of ordering games from Southeast Asia that have cheaply done but perfectly functional English translations. The only catch is that those usually take a few weeks to ship. So I ordered my mecha fix, and then immediately was left waiting for it to arrive… meaning I had to take stopgap measures in between.

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The Delfies 2017 #8

Among the many strong titles of 2017 vying for a gamer’s time, there’s always the allure of the persistent games from yesteryear further muddying that choice. It’s not even a case of going and cleaning your backlog of The Witcher 3; I’m referring to the multiplayer games that remain a constant time sink in the gaming landscape. The MOBAs like Dota 2, the shooters like Counterstrike, the card games like Hearthstone, and, of course, the MMORPGs.

While the genre has retreated to more of a niche in the past few years, the behemoths of the MMOs still lurk… and one of them put out an expansion pack in 2017 that I thought was pretty damn good.

Delfies 2017 #8: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Genre: MMORPG

Played on: PC, also available on PS4

Final Fantasy 14 has a development history unlike any other title in video games. If a bad game is released, it will usually remain bad, and even if the developers are somehow able to improve the situation it is unlikely to receive the attention of gamers a second time. It doesn’t matter what company you are or the size of your budget; releasing an awful game to abysmal scores and catastrophic results should not ever see the game rise above it to become great.

Still, most developers don’t have the budget or pedigree of Square Enix in order to make their second attempt. Even then, that pedigree isn’t exactly saying much when a trilogy of Final Fantasy 13 titles produced only one good game between them, and there’s a lot I could say negatively about their last ten years of JRPGs. Nonetheless, when the release of FF14 proved disastrous on all fronts, Square Enix decided to double down on the project and do their best to fix it, to the point of remaking the entire game from scratch as a sequel.

By all accounts, Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn should not have been possible. Even reusing assets and concepts from the original release, they effectively built an entire MMORPG from the ground up in just two and a half years. And somehow, that newly released title managed to recapture the goodwill of players who had written off the first, continuing to grow and improve into one of the largest and most successful MMORPGs in history.

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Backlog Battle Report (8th Jan 2018)

Aaaand I’m immediately back dating the first article. Figures, right? Well, in my defence, it was half finished on Monday evening and then continued to prove larger and more unwieldy as the week progressed. There was also nearly a month of material to go back through, a lot of which I’ve cherry picked for the sake of preserving briefly played games for Right Click to Zoom related articles. This isn’t a comprehensive list, far from it… and reasons for that will quickly become evident.

Anyway, with that said, here’s the bulk of what’s gotten my playtime in the new year.

Heroes of the Storm (PC)

(Addendum: This was the first game I covered for the article, and since it’s been a while since writing, there’s been an update patch and the Firebat hero Blaze has been released. That wasn’t the case when this was written though, as it was still a day before the patch. Thoughts and feelings of the patch and new hero next week!

…The Hanzo buffs, though. Oh god, the unnecessary and powerful Hanzo buffs…)

The inevitable constant and semi-dependable comfort game in my library, Heroes of the Storm was a given to be listed in any recent playtime. It might shock people to know just how damn much I’ve been pouring into this game over the last few weeks, however. I’d normally play a couple of games to in a week, usually in one or two sessions with friends.

By contrast, I began December as account level 830, and I am now 885 at the very least.

To those who don’t play, it’s worth explaining that account level is derived from the total level of all heroes. Those levels start out fairly swift, and you’ll probably get level 2 with a new character on all but the fastest, worst games imaginable, but it becomes increasingly tougher. Once a character is level 12, the experience needed remains constant, and will usually take about four or five games (provided you have an experience boost, which I do).

There were two characters in this patch I played from 1 upwards, that being Hanzo and Alexstrasza, but everything else was about level 6 or higher all the way up. You can do the math there if you’re really interested, but we can sum it up as “Delfeir played a ton of Heroes of the Storm to close out the year”.

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Backlog Battle Report (6th Nov 2017)

Couple of things before we go into this week’s update. Firstly, you might notice that there’s been a new Right Click to Zoom at long last in the post below this one, so if you didn’t know about that I’d strongly suggest checking it out. I spoke at length about Morrowind, one of my favourite games, not to mention one of the most influential on me when growing up.

Second, I’m giving a quick plug to a new website called Switch Indie Reviews which, well… is a website for Nintendo Switch indie reviews. Go figure, right? It’s brand new, it looks really shiny, and I just so happen to have applied for and been accepted to be a staff writer for it. So if you like my work and want to see more of it, there’ll be articles there in the coming days. I’ll be sure to link all those reviews back to this blog for conciseness, so please look forward to that.

On to the games, then!

DOOM 2016 (PC) — I’m a man of my word

Last week I was in the mood to play some DOOM and listening to the soundtrack, so this week I followed suit with that and played a bit more. I rarely invest a lot of time into it, but it’s fantastic for just picking up and playing another level or two of the campaign every so often. Shouldn’t take me much longer to finish it I’d imagine, but no big if it does; it’s just a very satisfying and visceral experience that’s great to just pick up, play, and put down without commitment.

The game does occasionally get a little bit of criticism that it just falls into the pattern of “find an obvious arena, trigger it filling with demons, kill the demons to proceed”. Personally, while this is obviously a big part of it, I haven’t found it nearly as obnoxious or as one-dimensional as some claim. There is a small chunk of downtime in between each of these encounters, where you’re given a chance to explore, find secrets, and wind the tempo down a little before building back up explosively.

Perhaps this changes as the levels get later, but regardless, I find that I’m often in a fairly good rhythm with it. All that said, I did immediately dump my upgrades into having secrets and collectables appear on my map so I can hunt them all down and get back to the shooting quickly. My completionist tendencies are likely to get the better of me if I keep wandering too long.

Damn, even thinking about this game makes me want to play some more. What a great shooter DOOM is.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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