Saturday, April 28, 2018

7th Dragon

I just finished the original 7th Dragon on DS and I wanted to get my thoughts in order about it. Prior to the fan translation coming out, I badly wanted to play this game - it looked gorgeous, was from the makers of both the original Phantasy Star games and the Etrian Odyssey series, and had a compelling hook: a counter at the beginning of the game that you want to bring down to zero from 666, which is the total number of dragons in the entire game.

So, I imported a Japanese copy of the DS game at first and tried to learn some rudimentary Japanese to bumble my way through it. I gave up pretty quickly; like most RPGs, 7th Dragon is pretty text-heavy, and there are plenty of plot flags that you have to find to be able to advance the story. I gave up, sad that it seemed no company was looking to localize it, then out of the blue (seriously, no one knew he was working on it until it dropped) in 2014 a random guy who goes by Pokeytax released a full English translation. He did a great job on it, too, with everything working and only a few minor issues, usually related to some text overlaying parts of maps, because obviously in Japanese the name of the area was listed vertically rather than horizontally in English, but that's no big deal. I bought a DS flashcart explicitly for 7th Dragon, downloaded the patch, and started playing. That first playthrough was rough; I had expected Etrian Odyssey, but honestly 7th Dragon is much more like old school Dragon Quest, not just in the way the dungeons are laid out, but also how often you leave and come back after healing. You do that in Etrian Odyssey, too, but not quite this much. There's also the matter of the Bloom, the flowers that litter both the overworld and the dungeons - each time you step on them, they sap 2% of the HP of everyone in your party, and they come back when you leave the screen. The flowers only disappear if you kill all the dragons in the area (or if you kill the boss of the dungeon, it varies from dungeon to dungeon). Running in, killing a dragon or two, and running out to heal started to grate, especially with the extremely high encounter rate, which killed my first playthrough about 10 hours in.

I gave it another shot a few weeks ago, and it clicked finally. I'm not sure why... maybe it's because I'd just played through several Dragon Quest games just prior (finished VII after a break and played through the entirety of VIII and IX). I was determined to get the counter down to zero - I haven't, yet, and I'm not sure if I will, though I want to try. The remaining dragons, I'm pretty sure, are buried in special quests, which is a problem for me because the quest system is garbage in 7th Dragon. You can't check your quests in the menu, you have to go back to towns to even see which ones you have active, and you can only have three active at once. You also have to find the questgiver, go to the quest building, accept the quest, then go back to the questgiver to get started. It is tedious and awful, especially because you often forget where the questgiver is so finding them after you've completed it can be a pain. Many don't give very good clues as to what to do, either - there is a NPC that will give you better clues, but that's in one town in the whole game so you'd have to fly around if you have the airship or warp around just to get to her and get a clue and I'm just sick of it by then. It doesn't help that many of the quests are collecting drops from non-dragon random battles, all of which give negligible EXP, so you're grinding for basically only the drops since you get so little EXP from the random battles.

Anyway, there's a lot to like about the game - as I said above, the soundtrack is great, both in regular and chiptune versions (I prefer the chiptunes by far, but both are great). It's unfortunate that you have to get through like half the game to get the quest to unlock the chiptune soundtrack, but at least it's not in the postgame like I thought it was until I found it.

The dragon fights are repetitive, but managing your HP and MP while trying to take out as many as you can is pretty fun. Party synergy isn't quite as good as the later Etrian Odyssey games - 7th Dragon came out before EO3, the best one, IMO - but my party still worked pretty well. My Fighter chased elemental attacks from my Mage, my Samurai basically spent the entire game spamming an attack that blocks enemies from using skills (and it activated more often than I thought it would, so it actually was pretty useful), and of course I had a Healer to keep everybody topped up. When you level up, you get 1 or 2 SP to spend on abilities, just like in Etrian Odyssey. Each class has a couple different routes you can take; my Fighter was a sword user rather than axe, each of which has different abilities. Same thing with my Samurai, who specialized in speed rather than power or defense. My Mage was able to almost max out all three elemental types by the end of the game, but I didn't touch the non-elemental spells with him. My healer healed (there are some attack abilities for the Healer but I didn't bother).

The story isn't super original or groundbreaking, but it's entertaining. It's basically Dragon Quest but with a lot more dragons, mixed with just a touch of Shin Megami Tensei (just a touch, and most of it comes late in the game).

It's a shame this was never released in English - while I don't think it would have been universally loved (the encounter rate and quest system would have probably pissed off lots of players), it was still worth releasing over such garbage as Sands of Destruction or Izuna the Unemployed Ninja or My World My Way, etc. I can't believe The Dark Spire came out when that game is punishing as hell and 7th Dragon... isn't. That's the reason given by many publishers at the time- that 7th Dragon was "too hard," which isn't true at all, and I didn't even use the hack the translator made that lowers the encounter rate and ups EXP gain! The game is just a very methodical push through top down dungeons and feels very old school. I could even see myself playing through it again someday, whereas I have no desire to push through the above games even once.

Luckily, Pokeytax has already released a translation patch for 7th Dragon 2020 for the PSP, which I just started, and supposedly later this year he'll have released a patch for the sequel to that game, which means once that comes out the whole series will be playable in English now that they released the 3DS game, which is the last in the series. I intend to play them in order - the 45 minutes of the PSP game I've already played has references to the DS game, so I'd imagine stuff like that carries through the series, so my playthrough of the 3DS game will be all the better when it references the old games that were never officially released. Thank god for fan translators!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Neverending Final Fantasy Posts

At least this one isn't about XIV!

I beat FFXIII-2 a few days ago, and thought I'd put my thoughts down. First off - it was incredibly easy. It may have been the easiest Final Fantasy game I have ever played. It reuses the battle system from the first XIII, which I adore, so I knew what I was doing going in, which I suppose lessons the difficulty somewhat (but then who would be playing XIII-2 before playing XIII, anyway?). This time around, you have two permanent characters, Serah and Noel, and the ability to recruit monsters. You do this by defeating them in battle, and doing better in battle makes it more likely that you'll recruit them afterwards. It honestly didn't seem too hard to recruit them, when I wanted one it would only take a few battles, typically.

I don't really like leveling the monsters, though. You have to use consumables to level them up, which are either found or can eventually be bought. This makes leveling them really weird, because when they "rank up," they need to use different consumables, so you'll usually blow them through the first rank then they sit at that level until you've collected some of the next ranks items, which might be hours later in the game. I only ended up using like 5 monsters the whole game, though I think my final team ended up pretty good. I had a level 30s-ish Flanitor who was a MED (with an AWESOME healing "Feral Link," which is basically a Limit Break), a level 20 goblin thing that I can't remember the name of who was a RAV, and a level 63 Chocobo who was an (unbelievably strong) level 63 COM. Notice the level disparities there? The goblin thing couldn't level up past 20 because it had the "Early Peaker" trait, though it was useful through the endgame. I could have leveled the Flanitor more but didn't really see the need, as he helped me get through the tougher fights including the last boss with his awesome Feral Link. The Chocobo probably didn't need to be leveled up as much as it was, but I had the mats and decided to blow all the gil I had before the last boss fight, because why not? Just playing through the game, I completed the RAV and COM Crystariums for both Serah and Noel, and a bunch of levels in the other jobs. This was more than enough to get me through the main story (I only collected 38 of the 160 fragments, so I didn't do too many sidequests). I've heard the last boss can be tough, but I didn't think he was too bad, just took a while (and had Noel not had the HP he had, I wouldn't have beat him).

Unlike the first FFXIII, which I think had a perfect difficulty curve, XIII-2 was a piece of cake right out of the gate. Even though you're wandering around, figuring out where to go based on the clues you get from the nonsense story (even more nonsensical than the first XIII, if you can believe that!), you never really run into anything you can't handle, so long as you don't run from fights. And with a battle system as fun as this one, I never did (except a Behemoth that randomly spawns in the last effing dungeon, which is absolute BS as he basically one shots your party).

My playtime was about 25 hours, which is a great length, I thought. Someday, I'll come back to this and the first XIII and try some of the harder fights, because the battle system is so good, I want to see how good I can get with it.

I've also, as of last night, unlocked all the characters in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. This is crazy for me, because I never thought I'd get as addicted as I am to that game. I play it mostly while travelling, and over the holiday break it's all I did when I wasn't hanging out with people in my hometown. I went from like 47,000 Rhythmia in mid-December to over 150,000 as of last night (Rhythmia is what you get as you play the game, which gradually gives you stuff like shards if you're still unlocking characters or various profile sounds and things. You usually get anywhere from 80 to 200 Rhythmia per song, to give you an idea of how much I've played). I've put about 55 hours into it total which is about 45 more than I ever thought I would. I've been leveling up a party and resetting their levels when they hit 99 to increase their CP (ability points), which for my current party of Locke, Terra, Edgar, and Chaos has happened 5 times. I've been leveling up Terra's magic stat and Locke's agility stat in the Collectacard Crystarium, which is where you use cards you've been collecting while playing to boost their stats. At this point, I've almost gotten Terra's magic to 999, which is ridiculous, as she already blows through like four enemies every time she casts Ultima.

I don't know how long I'll play Curtain Call, but the music is so good and the game is so fun to play, that maybe one day I'll try to get all the trophies in it. That would involve me mastering Ultimate mode, though, which might be too tall an order for me, because some of those songs are just nonsense that I can't make heads or tails of. The FMS stages tend to be beatable, though (the levels where it's one character running are easier to stay on top of, because there's fewer notes coming at you at once).

I've also been playing more in button mode, which is kind of nice since I can play longer without killing my wrists while playing touch mode. Buttons are great for the really fast notes and the slide notes on FMS stages, but a lot of arrow notes coming at once can be difficult for me to hit fast enough. Touch mode tends to be easier for those things. I think I'm going to try to get good at button mode, hopefully enough to attempt to beat all the Ultimate songs (shudder).

tl;dr I like Final Fantasy games

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Maturity and Videogames

Last year, a bunch of sexist assholes started harassing women and journalists in the video game industry. For better or worse, I never became involved in it - I don't post much on Twitter and am too nervous about doxxing or whatever to do that anyway - but I watched with increasing horror from the sidelines the horrible shit these "men" did to people who did nothing but make or criticize games. Aside from feeling ashamed that I did nothing, it was the start of a major change for me in my relationship with video games.

I've loved them my entire life, and still do, but instead of being this cool thing where I felt like I was a part of a community who understood me and what I liked, this insane, stupid sexist "movement" made me realize that anyone - even gamers - are capable of some truly reprehensible, evil shit. Aside from the occasional new game, I've barely bought a game in over a year, not even retro ones. It's been mostly Final Fantasy XIV and the occasional RPG, not the hundreds of dollars on SNES games or whatever I'd spent in previous years. It's not as though there aren't still games I want, either! I just became so sick of the toxicity surrounding my favorite hobby, that I wanted nothing to do with it. Because I'm still a nerd, I dove headfirst into a different obsession, Doctor Who, and started buying up all kinds of crap related to that - comics, audio plays, novels, etc. - and just tried to ignore the whole video games thing, at least on the internet. I became disengaged with video game news to the point that I'd see a post on the only forum I still frequent, Talking Time, and be surprised that a game that I was interested in was already out and people were already playing it, when I hadn't even heard of it. That hadn't happened to me since I was a little kid! I really enjoyed that feeling, where this hobby just surprises me with good games out of the blue, as opposed to years of anticipation just for a game to fail to meet my expectations. I liked not feeling that sense of "community" any more, forcing my fondness of videogames into a sort of internal exile, for lack of a non-pretentious way to put it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've gone from being proud of being a "gamer," someone who openly wears his "gamer" persona in public, to being a closeted nerd about it again because I'm ashamed of it, mostly from the GG shit from last year. I also had a roommate from 2012-2014 who, as far as I know, is not one of those GG assholes, but is definitely the guy who AAA games are made for these days. You know, your Call of Duties, Assassin's Creeds, etc. There's nothing wrong with those games, or fans of those games, but talking to him about videogames made me realize that there is a line that I don't want to cross, where liking games can be a fun hobby, to an obsession. This guy could talk about the ergonomics of a controller for 45 minutes - I am not exaggerating - and while that can be charming in a sort of dorky way, I felt kind of embarrassed for him. I mean it's not like he's antisocial or anything, in fact he just got married, but I had no interest beyond maybe 5 minutes of that controller discussion, and he could not pick up on my social cues to maybe move the topic of conversation on. This happened multiple times, and because I didn't want to make him feel bad, I didn't ever say anything about it, so it's kind of my fault too. The only reason I bring it up is because I don't want to be that guy to anyone. I don't discuss Final Fantasy XIV with my fiancée, because she doesn't care. I don't discuss it with my boss because he doesn't care. I text a buddy of mine about it because he plays it too, but I hope that if he wanted me to stop texting him about it, he'd tell me (I don't think he does, though, as we had an amusing text exchange about the existence of "ice mages" in Final Fantasy XIV yesterday. I still maintain they are a myth.). He just started dating a girl who, as far as I can tell, isn't much of a "gamer," so he hasn't been online much. While I would like him to play the game when he can, it makes me happy that he has his priorities straight. If he was playing FF14 constantly and the relationship with that girl didn't work out because of it, it'd be very, very sad. There's a fine line, and I have to be careful about it too, because if my fiancée got to the point where she felt I wasn't paying attention to her, I'd drop my FF14 subscription immediately with no hesitation. I love the game, but I need her more than I need videogames, any of them.

Which gets back to being slightly ashamed of videogames. I bought some videogame t-shirts at PAX a few years back, and now I only wear them around the house for the most part. They're not ugly or anything, they just seem... childish. In fact, I have absolutely no desire to go back to PAX, not just because the Penny Arcade guys seem more and more like GG supporters, but because I just don't want to be around other people who are obsessed with this stuff. Audience Q&As are some of the most painful things for me to watch, be it in person or on Youtube or whatever, because the people who get up and ask questions are such goddamn insufferable nerds, that until they shit their fourteen minute-long question out, I am squirming and uncomfortable until the person on stage starts talking, and even then, sometimes the question is so fucking awkward, I'm still struggling because the person on stage has to be polite when trying to respond to whatever insane fucking question the neckbeard asked them. "Where did you get the idea for Sephiroth because I love his long flowing silver hair and dark clothes and giant sword but he has motivation for what he did, you know? How hard was Nibelheim to design?" and then the hyperventilating nerd sits down and the poor bastard on stage has to deal with that shit. Someone could point a gun at me at that exact moment and I would genuinely welcome death.

So you've got these assholes who are ruining women's lives because they deign to say things like "hey I don't like all these games with tits hanging out, could we maybe have games that I could play that don't have rape in them?" or even just making the games they'd like to see themselves. If a game has a feminism bent to it, the creator of that game has to face some danger, which is the most fucking insane thing I've ever seen with regards to this dumb hobby. WHO FUCKING CARES if someone likes, wants, or makes something you don't? Isn't that the point of being a nerd anyway? Liking something other people don't and feeling smug about it? God forbid when that shit gets turned around on nerds, because then it's doxxing and SWATing time. Nerds have become the jocks in high school who used to torture them. They're worse, actually, because eventually high school ends. These fuckers will be harassing women forever. While I'd like to believe people will grow up and learn to empathize, I'm too cynical for that. That's why I'll likely be hiding my videogame fandom to most people for the rest of my life - I don't want to be associated with those assholes.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

FFXIV and Fallout 4

After taking a month or so off playing FFXIV, with the release of patch 3.1, I jumped back in and have been playing somewhat regularly. I find myself unmotivated, so far, to play the new raid, Void Ark, mostly because I don't like 24 man raids, as my stupid brain cannot wrap itself around healing 8 people among 24. I hear it's kind of easy, though, so I'll probably run it this weekend.

I've run one of the new dungeons, St. Mocianne's Arboretum, and I kind of don't see the point? It's a nice dungeon and pretty fun, and apparently drops i185 gear which is slightly better than upgraded Law gear, but what's the point? There are so many easier ways to get better gear, and unless you're JUST getting to level 60, none of that will be current. I suppose the point is to let people play something besides Neverreap and Fractal Continuum, both of which I've played probably more than any dungeon in the game for the Esoterics tomestones. Those dungeons are the reason I took a break from FFXIV, actually.

The nice thing is, hunting is viable again! I'm surprised I missed it, to be honest, but I've had fun the past few days creating a party in PF and looking around for A and S ranks. Yesterday I was able to find 2 A ranks myself, which is always fun because you can share it with your active party first, let everybody get there or at least get close, before calling it in /shout and your hunt linkshells. That way no one in the party misses it, and your PF usually fills up really fast if it's not full since yours is the only one up when you announce the coordinates. I was able to make about 1500 seals last night, which netted me 3 Clan Mark Logs, which are items you can trade to upgrade your i200 eso gear to i210. I think I'm going to go for 6 first, to upgrade my chest piece on my WHM, so then I can dye it.

I also spent $7.50 of real world money to buy 10 pots of virtual red metallic dye. *ahem* Moving on...

I've been playing on PS4, now, too, which is interesting for a few reasons. The PS3, it will come as a surprise to no one, is missing quite a bit of incidental detail. Every area in the game, be it ARR or HW, looks WAY different, to the degree where I sometimes get a bit lost. I'm not complaining, as the draw distance and resolution make the game even more gorgeous than it was. And even without a SSD on the PS4, giant groups of people killing a hunt don't seem to hurt the framerate (or make the hunt completely disappear, which was the most infuriating thing in the game when it used to happen to me on PS3). I did have a hunt in which the framerate dropped a bit - an S Rank had spawned in La Noscea somewhere - but I was still able to target the hunt and got full credit and all that, and it's not like the framerate was TOO bad, just noticeable.

The reason I bought the PS4 was for Fallout 4, which just came out, so I've been playing that too. I'm enjoying it so far, but it is 100% a sequel to Fallout 3, not New Vegas, which are both good games, though I vastly prefer New Vegas. Fallout 4, as fun as it is, just feels so much less like a cohesive world than NV did. Yes, there's a story and yes, there are questlines, but they seem so barebones compared to NV that it makes me kind of sad. The fact that it's much harder to talk your way out of problems because of the changes they made to the stats and leveling up system doesn't help. I used to try to talk my way through NV, which was fun, because I'd charm people into doing what I wanted them to, rather than have to fight every single person I come across. Thus far, across 15 hours or so of Fallout 4, there have been very few non hostile characters, though I have not made it to Boston yet, so that could change. It's just been "oh, there's a person, I bet they're hostile," and then, inevitably, they are.

All that said, however, Fallout 4 plays a lot better in terms of combat than 3 or even NV. I suck at shooters, though I'm able to aim a bit better in this one and have actually used VATS less than I thought I would (though I still use it often enough that I would consider not playing these games if Bethesda took VATS out entirely). I love the base building and gear modding stuff, and have really only scratched the surface of both. I'm starting to run into a bit of an ammo problem, but as soon as I hit level 13, I've decided to take the perk that makes you find more ammo, as I've heard it's pretty effective. Hopefully that helps.

The game is gorgeous, and so far, runs extremely well. I've run into very few buggy situations so far, which is unusual for a Bethesda Fallout, though I'm sure the closer I get to Boston, the more bugs I'm sure to encounter. As long as my save files and questlines don't get screwed, I'll be fine with them, I think.

I have to complain about the main story so far, though. Spoilers start in the next sentence for those of you who care. You start the game before the war, married with a child, with a live in butler robot who helps around the house. You talk to your wife, play with your kid a little bit, then the sirens go off and you have to sprint to the vault where you're cryogenically frozen. Before that, though, you get to see the world before the bombs fell, and it's really nice! I would have liked to explore outside just a little bit before having to jump into the vault, but the game doesn't let you leave the house until the sirens go off. I get why they did this - they didn't want me wandering off outside of the starting town - but the house you're in is pretty unimpressive. You run past some nice looking homes and lots of people who will surely die, then into the vault, where you're frozen. You unfreeze at one point, watch your wife, who's in the cryogenic chamber across from you, get shot and your child stolen, then refrozen. You're thawed an unknown period of time later and then the game proper starts.

I have issues with this. First off - how convenient that I was unthawed to watch my wife get killed and my baby stolen! I think it would have been more effective to be unthawed someday and THEN find out my wife is dead, and my kid is nowhere to be found. Maybe leave some notes in the computer terminal that hints to my kids fate or something. It's a small point, I suppose, but it's poor storytelling, something I don't think Obsidian, the writers of New Vegas, would have done.

Aside from all that, too, why does Bethesda keep giving the player character in Fallout a family? I did not give a shit about my dad in Fallout 3, nor do I care about my wife or kid, both of whom I've spent five minutes (and just an hour or two in game time) with in Fallout 4! If ever there was a series where the player character should be a cipher, it's the frickin Fallout games, yet now my character even has a voice actor. Why?! Unlike most other RPGs I play, I play Fallout to actually roleplay, and having some douchey voice come out of my character takes me out of that big time. Doesn't help that the voice acting seems very flat, too. "Streamlining" the dialogue trees, too, seems like a huge misstep to me, as now it's very difficult to talk your way out of situations like you could before. Now, when you level up, you get to select a new perk - which are attainable based on how many SPECIAL points you have, rather than individual stats like "Lockpicking" or "Persuasion" or whatever. I could be wrong as I'm only level 12 now, but the system as it is now seems to really encourage minmaxing, which I'd also rather not do in a Fallout game.

Where Bethesda has improved, though, is in world design. For all the fun I had in Fallout 3, I frickin hated exploring in that game, which was a huge problem. You had to go through all kinds of tunnels and subways to get anywhere, and the map didn't do you any favors when it came to figuring out which subway went where. Even when you were in the overworld, there were piles of rubble EVERYWHERE, nearly right off the bat, which limited where you could go. New Vegas blew 3 out of the water for many reasons, but this was the biggie for me. Fallout 4 continues the trend in New Vegas, and actually has a much more interesting and less annoying world to explore.

I just wish there was more personality to it. Again, I'm not yet to Boston, but New Vegas had all kinds of people working to different ends in nearly every inch of its world. There are still questlines I've never seen in that game, despite at least five playthroughs! Don't get me wrong, all of this might be moot and I might find myself with a great bunch of settlements soon, but that would be a bit surprising outside of Boston proper, I'd think.

All of this sounds like I hate Fallout 4 - I don't! It's a great game, but it just makes me really want the guys from Obsidian to make another Fallout, as I prefer their stuff.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Oh, how things have changed since I wrote my last few posts about Final Fantasy XIV.

On June 23rd, the first expansion to the game came out, though since I had it preordered, I got to play early access starting on June 19th. I finished the main story of A Realm Reborn that day, and made it into Ishgard, the setting of the expansion.

First, though, I want to write about the endgame of ARR, as it was prior to HW. I still main WHM, and spent most of my time leveling that class, and two gatherer classes, primarily Miner. I still haven't done any end game mining, so I don't have much to say about that, really.

As for the WHM stuff, I worked on getting better gear by running low level and main scenario roulettes to get Allegan tomestones of soldiery and poetics, as outlined in my last post. Using those, I upgraded my gear to about item level 108, at which point HW came out and I started getting new gear very quickly (as of this post, I am iLvl 146). There was a ton of level 50 content (50 being the old level cap, prior to HW). New primal battles, new dungeons, remixed hard versions of old dungeons, and to this day I still haven't completed all of it (I have yet to beat Syrcus Tower and the World of Darkness, which are raids, and Ultima Hard Mode, just because I haven't bothered to queue up for it yet).

With regards to raids (giant 24 man dungeons, basically) - I want to get my thoughts on them down now, because I can see my opinion of them changing in the future. I think I've just had some bad experiences so far, some of which is my fault, and some of which is the fault of some assholes who don't have an ounce of patience. What I mean is, I like to go into new content fresh, and try to learn it as I go. Raiders take issue with this, since they want to blow through the content, get their item, and run it again or whatever. I sympathize with this! But when they get players who are new, they either drop right away, or do not take a second - can't even spare a single sentence - about the mechanics of a fight, even after a wipe. That's all I ask - if I can't learn a fight after an explanation AND a wipe, then get pissed at me, and drop or kick me or whatever. I'd be fine with that. But instead, we wipe, I ask a question, no one answers, and then we wipe again, and someone in my party will say (and I quote!) "why healers no heal." Because healers no know how fight works, idiot! Again, I understand someone doesn't want to jump into a raid, and then spend five minutes typing a novel about how to beat a fight just for the new guy not to really read it and wipe anyway, but come ON.

However - and here's why I think my opinion on them might change - a new raid is coming out in a week or two. It is against Alexander, another legacy Final Fantasy boss/summon. I am working on getting my ilvl up to around 170-180 so I am ready for it, so I can challenge it on day one. This way, no one can get mad at me for not knowing the fight, since no one knows the fight then. I'm sure by the time I queue up after work that day, several Free Companies on my server will have already farmed it to death, but at least it's still day damn one and I can /shout that all I want and not feel guilty at all. So, I'm looking forward to that.

Early this week, I bought a solid state hard drive for my PS3. This has improved the run quality of the game by a TON. Teleports now take single digit seconds, instead of taking more than 30 or 45, as was normal once HW launched and the servers got hammered harder. Hunts now load a LOT better - there are still issues when there are a TON of player characters around, where the hunt, when pulled, will disappear for a second or two, even if you've Focus Targeted them. This sucks because since everyone is doing hunts now, they all die in less than 10 seconds once pulled, typically, even the new HW hunts. I also take issue with people pulling the hunt early, but there's not much I can do about that, really. Being able to teleport somewhere quickly and get to the hunt as quick as I can is my only chance at getting those sweet, sweet Centurio Seals (the new hunt currency that is used to upgrade i170 gear, of which I only have bracelets as of this post).

The nice part is, once you hit level 60, you can get 100 seals per day doing your own personal hunts, which consist of finding regular enemies and killing 2-4 of them. So while it would be INSANELY slower, you could still make progress with seals this way, if you're, say, playing on a PS3 with the stock HDD, or a crappy PC or whatever.

I don't know when I'll get around to it, but I plan on leveling Dragoon as my second class (and primary DPS class, I think). I already have a lot of gear in the level 50 range for it, since some of the sidequests I took as WHM only gave Disciples of War gear (non-magic user gear, basically), so I took the DRG stuff for future use.

But I still love WHM. The new spells in HW are pretty useful, and while I'm still figuring out the best times to use them, they add a lot of utility, and I miss them when I'm running low level content (Assize specifically - does AoE damage around me and gives me 10% of my MP back instantly - quick cooldown, too. Love that spell).

No need to get into the main story or anything here, other than to say I really, really enjoy it. It's nothing super deep or anything, but I like the characters, and really enjoy the world of FFXIV. I actually care about what is going on in an MMO! Fancy that.

One last thing for this post - Tam Tara Deepcroft Hard Mode is an incredible dungeon. The fights aren't anything too special, but the scenario surrounding it is probably my favorite in the game. Early (very early!) on in the main story of ARR, you meet a party of adventurers who are just getting started, having been inspired by you. You wish them luck, and they take off. You run into them again later, and find out that their tank died before the healer - the tank's lover - could save him. The party is dismayed, blame the healer (which rings true to me, since I main a healer!), and disband. The healer is, as you can imagine, absolutely devastated. Then, hours and hours and hours of gametime later, you see the mage from that party. He received a wedding invitation from his former teammate, the healer - who apparently is marrying the dead tank! You go off to investigate, and it turns out she is trying to resurrect him or something, but as you'd expect, he comes back as a demon or whatever. The whole dungeon is really creepy and you're fighting ghosts pretty much the whole time, and one fight, you have to prevent the aforementioned mage from being possessed. The final boss is the summoned tank, who is basically a giant skull thing. The healer is there, ostensibly aiding him. When you win, the depressed, insane healer, in despair, inches away from you, and purposely falls to her death. You then leave the dungeon with the mage, who, shaken, is remorseful about how he treated his former comrade, only for him to see her in spectral form, glowering at him with an evil smirk on her face, pretty quickly after exiting the dungeon. He runs off, terrified, screaming apologies, while your player character looks around and sees nothing.


My favorite part of the whole thing, though, is that some nights, in New Gridania, her ghost has like a 1% chance of appearing in a creepy corner of the town. I haven't seen it in game yet, but have seen screenshots online. It's little touches like this that show how much the FFXIV team love the game they made.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV - Coming to Terms with Endgame Content

I had a bad first taste of what I thought the endgame would be like when I first ran Castrum Meritorium and the Praetorium, two level 50 dungeons that serve as the capstone to the main story of the FFXIV: ARR base game. They are very cutscene heavy, and the groups I was with both times just "carried" me through the dungeons, basically killing all the bosses without me and just letting me watch all the cutscenes. By the time I was done watching them all, I was the only one left in the instance, along with a Free Company member named Zant, who I appreciated because he helped guide me through when everyone else was several rooms ahead of me (Meritorium in particular is really confusing on your first playthrough, because the party spends a decent amount of time backtracking through areas they've already been to, so you're going in loops thinking "I've already been here. This can't be right!).

I was upset because the game had done such a good job of teaming me up with other players who were around the same level as me for all my Duty Finder situations to that point. I felt like I contributed to every dungeon and boss fight (and as the sole healer for those fights, it'd be hard to argue that I didn't). Then I get to those final dungeons, all the cutscenes are treating me as a member of the fabled Heroes of Light, and in between cutscenes, I'm just running past piles of dead bodies to trigger the next one. It was just this weird anticlimax because everyone else was overgeared and could steamroll everything.

But, having done both dungeons a few times each again through Duty Finder roulette, I'm okay with the game in general. I do like the dungeons, but it's pretty easy to tell that if everyone that were playing them were all fresh level 50s, they'd be a bit of a slog (easily 50 minutes plus each run, if I had to guess, assuming no party wipes). Which would be fine if you could still gain levels there - gaining experience and leveling up is fun, but since you've hit the cap by the time you reach them, it'd be kind of pointless. So I'm actually kind of happy that I'm able to quickly fly through those dungeons now.

The rest of the endgame content is pretty weird, though. The game doesn't do a very good job of telling you what you can do and where to do it. Mor Dhona is obviously the current end of game area for now, which you can tell is the case as soon as you arrive there. When you start running endgame dungeons after you've beaten the main story, you start getting Allagan Tomestones, which are an endgame currency that you spend in Mor Dhona to buy very high level gear for your level 50 class(es). Outside of the Duty Finder roulette, though, the game doesn't tell you where to find these (and the Poetry stones, I still don't know where to reliably get them, as I get 5 of them per roulette, and I need like 375 of them to buy even a ring. I have 45 of them currently). There are treasure maps you can find that will net you some stones, but those seem pretty rare and have to be found using a gathering class. Running the endgame dungeons, which you unlock as you find various NPCs, will yield those stones, but I'm hesitant to run them because they yield like 20 stones, whereas the daily roulettes yield 100 for low level and 120 for "main scenario."

The game also clearly wants you to level crafting/gathering classes, as upgrading your class's ultimate weapon forces you to meld materia during the first endgame quest. You can have someone else do it, of course, but I kind of want to do it myself, so I haven't really upgraded my weapon yet.

I also haven't even run the Crystal Tower yet, though I have unlocked it. I'm waiting for my friend to get to the endgame content for that, though I'm sure he'll get pissed off just like I did about how you have to unlock it. There are two specific FATEs that you have to beat when you get the quest to unlock it, but what sucks is you have to wait for them to spawn and they are deep in high level enemy territory, so it's not really safe to do alone, though I suppose since he's a BLM, he would have an easier time just doing tons of damage to the bosses of those FATEs. It just sucks having to wait for the FATEs to spawn just to advance in endgame content. I'm told there's more of that while upgrading your final weapon, too, which I'm not looking forward to.

Though I have to say, what exposure I have to new endgame dungeons has made me pretty happy. There's a neat dungeon involving Tonberries, those classic Final Fantasy enemies, that I ran for the first time last weekend that was pretty neat (and kind of scary, which is not something that's common for FFXIV, though if you know what a Tonberry is, you know why that dungeon is scary).

There does seem to be a lot of content, though. And with the expansion coming out in a little more than a month, that will continue. Good god, I love this game.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV Part 3


The game has got its hooks in me deep. I have played nothing else in weeks and am still loving the game. A lot has changed since my last post, as well - chief among them being I now consider myself a White Mage first and foremost. It is even my highest leveled class, at level 44, and will likely be the class I complete the main story with.

I still like Archer/Bard, mind you, and that will likely be the second class I get to 50, but I will be going for endgame gear for my WHM first. I cannot stop gushing about how much I like to play WHM to people, and I'm sure my Free Company (basically FFXIV's version of guilds - collection of players that play together and have a private chatbox, basically) is sick of hearing me talk about it.

I've never felt the way I do while playing a videogame like I do when playing a WHM. When running a dungeon, I have a lot of responsibility - and since I'm playing with other players, I feel the social pressure of trying to keep everyone alive rather than thinking "eh, if the CPU dies, I'll just try again, who cares." I have to keep the tank healed, but if a DPS wanders into damage I have to heal them, too. And if the tank sucks? My job gets even harder. If the tank cannot keep aggro, I will be healing everyone a lot, running out of MP, then frantically casting Cure on whoever needs the heal the most when I have the MP - which gets pretty tense because when a battle goes belly up, people tend to forget their jobs, and DPS players start taking damage they shouldn't. All while dodging area of effect attacks!

Most of my dungeon runs have been good. I get a lot of player commendations, which I like (only 465 more until a golden Magitek Armor!), and feel pretty good getting through a dungeon without any deaths. When things go sour, though, I feel pretty bad. My first (and as of this post, only) run of Cutter's Cry was a nightmare. The tank died to a random mob early on, and though he said it was his fault, I don't think it was. I was running from an AoE attack, and since he had only a sliver of damage, I thought it was safe to do so. Once I got out of range and queued up a Cure, he was dead! Then it was up to the DPSs and I to finish off the enemies. Embarrassing! A DPS also died on the final boss, though he said it was because he was using a Limit Break and couldn't escape the AoE. I just assume they were being nice - I got zero player commendations for that run. I suppose it doesn't help that I had to be told I had Cleric Stance on when the dungeon started (this switches your INT and MIND stats, which allows you to do more damage which is great for soloing, but since it lowers your healing capability, is terrible for dungeons)!

I really need to level some other classes though, because I am using precisely zero skills/abilities from classes besides WHM. I suppose I should level Thaumaturge, but I'm spoiled by quick wait times in the Duty Finder, so I don't want to go back to DPS! I began leveling Gladiator yesterday, to speed Duty Finder times up even more when I get around to doing dungeons as a Tank, I suppose.

This game, though. I can't remember the last time, if ever, I've been addicted to a game so much. I think about it constantly. Work is just about to start as I type this post, and I cannot wait for stupid work to be over so I can go home and play it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV Part 2

I basically played this all weekend. I probably put 15 hours into it, if I had to guess. Maybe one or two less. I'm at level 17 right now, still Archer. I've made it to the second major hub in the game, which is a pirate area. It's a bit confusing to navigate, and certain areas being referred to by characters as one name while the map refers to them as others made me want to throw my controller at the wall, but I eventually figured it out and it's not too bad.

Anyway, the main point of this post was to discuss Sastasha Seagrot, my first instanced dungeon in an MMO. I received the mission, put the word out that I was looking for a party, and then went and did other single player quests while a party formed. This one took twenty minutes to form, despite the game telling me it might take thirty, so that's good.

Sastasha Seagrot requires a "tank," two "DPSs," and a healer. Healer being self-explanatory, I'll explain the other two: a "tank" gets the enemies' attention and attacks and defends and basically acts as a damage sponge, and a DPS is a damage dealer - which is the category I fall into since I'm an archer. So once the game found me a party of people to play with, I delved into a dungeon with three other humans and played for roughly an hour.

It was a blast, I have to say. The dungeon was pretty straightforward, but like everywhere else in the game, was gorgeous. It was a sea cavern, with rivers and rivulets flowing through it, and I fought mostly clams, their weird magic casting spawn, and pirates. The boss of the area was a Sahagin, one of those classic Final Fantasy water enemies. My favorite touch of the dungeon was the classic victory battle music playing when the boss went down, followed by the four of us doing a sort of victory pose all lined up like a regular Final Fantasy game. Good stuff!

But it was pretty fun seeing the other classes at work. The healer buffed us, healed, and occasionally attacked, while the tank got all the enemies to focus on him, while the melee guy and I threw everything we had at the enemies. Archer fits me well; I sometimes find myself surprised when my HP gets low when soloing, so not having to worry about it for the most part was fun, while I really got to stretch all my abilities. They mesh pretty well, and being able to poison or bind the enemies occasionally helped the other guys quite a bit.

As we progressed through the dungeon, there were a few minor bosses who would drop stuff we could grab. The game puts up a pop up and lets people say if they want it - and as near as I can tell, you get it, so long as A. no one else wants it or B. if they do want it, they don't roll higher than you. The first four items were all useless to me, so I passed on all of them, but the armor the boss dropped was really good so I grabbed it. I don't think anyone else tried for it, so it didn't really matter what I rolled, but I got it and my character is wearing it as of this post.

I was thinking about Monster Hunter while I played today, though, and how that game doesn't scratch the itch I'm looking for. I want to get cool new gear that makes my character look different when I equip it (which FFXIV does) and level up my character, too, while customizing some skills and stats and such (FFXIV does this too, while MH does not). I have been wanting to play a game like this for a long time now, and it really does seem like the MMO for me. I don't want to play WoW and be damned to have to play with people at certain times - I want to initiate a quest, wait for other people to join, and go off and play a dungeon, then be done. This works so well because I'm pretty sure the game gives bonuses to higher level players who help out low level people like myself, so there's always a reason to run old dungeons.

Depending on how burnt out I get on the game (and how tolerant my fiancee is of me hogging the TV), I could see myself paying a few monthly fees. Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the quality of FFXIV.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV

I don't know why, but I bought and started playing an MMO. I haven't played one since the Matrix Online, almost ten years ago. That one had issues, and it didn't help that my laptop at the time could barely run it. God forbid anyone else appeared on screen, because the game would slow to a crawl.

Anyway, I'm playing Final Fantasy XIV on PS3. It looks pretty nice and seems to run pretty well. I've been around plenty of other people and even had a battle involving some enemies and maybe ten other people or so, with no noticeable lag (though it did get a bit hectic, UI wise, though I can probably fix that in the settings). It's a very pretty game, which I wasn't expecting so much because the PS3 is the "least powerful" choice to play the game on. The music, so far, hasn't made much of an impression on me, though it isn't bad, just pretty generic.

...Which is a word I'd use to describe the story, so far. Other than the idea that the world was torn almost completely apart five years ago, it's been pretty generic Final Fantasy so far. Find the Crystals! Defeat whoever stands in your way! Etc.

I have to say I really like exploring and fighting stuff so far, though. It's an MMO - meaning you use abilities, and when a timer cools down, you can use them again. Run around, rinse, repeat, level up. I'm playing as an Archer and have leveled up that job to 9. What I like is that I'm not limited to that class - if I buy equipment another class uses and start killing stuff with it, I'll gain levels in that class. I'm thinking I might play as a Mage of some sort as well as the Archer. I like the powers I have as an archer so far, too, which are kind of a combo. If you use them in the right order, you get an attack boost and once the enemy's HP drops below 20%, you can use a finishing move. I like ranged attacks in these types of games.

I don't know why it's called Fate, but I really like the system. There will be special enemies that spawn here and there, and you go in and kill as many as you can. The more you help out (because everyone else will make a beeline for them) the more experience you get. The enemies tend to be a little stronger than the other enemies in the area, but with tons of people helping out they aren't too bad, from the 3 or so I've been in so far.

I'm not sure how hardcore the multiplayer gets (I'd imagine pretty hardcore) and I don't know how long I'll play. I have a 30 day free trial, and have enjoyed my four or five hours I've played so far. No idea if I'll end up paying the monthly fee or anything. I do intend to make the most out of my trial.

I'm enjoying an MMO. God help me...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Persona 1 PSP: I'm Calling it Beaten, I Don't Even Care

I'm at the true final boss of Persona 1, the SEBEC route, anyway, and I just can't take this game anymore. I did something I've never done before, for any game of any type - I just watched the ending on Youtube.

I'm putting this game in the beat column, and I'm not putting an asterisk next to it. The final boss is bullshit, I grinded a TON on BEGINNER to get to around level 60, and I'm not going to waste countless hours hoping she doesn't use her stupid ice attack twice in one turn which will kill my whole party guaranteed. She switches between two different forms at random - at any time, even in the middle of your turn - which changes her weaknesses. Which wouldn't be so bad if she DIDN'T ABSORB AND HEAL MY MAGIC ATTACKS (that I cast while she's in one form, because she's weak to magic in that form)! So yeah, hit her with physical attacks, you say? Well, it just so happens that my high level Personae that got me through the game are weak to ice, so I switch to lower level Personae that aren't and I plink her for single digit damage. She supposedly has several thousand hit points. Did I mention she can randomly just wipe your whole party if she happens to cast her ultimate attack twice in one turn? Fuck that, I'm not risking being wiped out after an hour, it'd give me a heart attack. And the first Persona is not worth dying over.

This game is quite possibly the most frustrating RPG I've ever played. I'm sure there are worse ones out there, but this game has parts that have merit - I even enjoyed myself a bit! But when the game sucks, it sucks hard. I've tried to get through the game several times since it came out in 2009, and just couldn't get over its problems. I decided to finally force myself to play through it. After roughly thirty hours... I'm glad I did it, but I doubt I will ever play the thing again.

The game is just flawed on a fundamental level. The thing that bugged me right away when I first played it five years ago still sucks - your characters gain experience proportionate to their participation in battle. This is a terrible, terrible idea. If you happen to wipe out the enemies before, say,  your slowest character goes, they don't get any experience (or hardly any so as to not matter at all). So you have to spend time paying close attention to who is at what level and basically have some characters skip turns so the low level ones can get a chance to level up. You have to fight poorly, basically, to level up, which sucks because you're then more vulnerable because you're not killing the enemies as efficiently as you could etc. etc. etc.

Oh, and each of your five characters has an Experience Level and a Persona Level. Experience Level dictates your stats and which Personae you can negotiate with, while Persona Level dictates what level Personae you can equip once fused. Why they separated these levels I have no idea, but it's insane because I believe you get less Persona Level experience if you finish battles without using your Persona - so don't just use physical attacks, because that number will fall behind! Or something. I'm not clear how it works, quite frankly.

Since this game came out in 2009, I've played a few more SMT titles that have demon negotiation in them, and I go back and forth on whether I like it or not. It's still pretty random, but because the enemy mobs are so frickin' dangerous in Persona 1, it's way more risky than usual. Your five party members all have different approaches to negotiation, and figuring out which demon likes which approach can be a pain, especially when the closer you are to a full moon, the more likely you are to just piss the demon off and give it a free turn. The upside to negotiation, though, is that when you've successfully convinced a demon to give you their "Spell Card," you can convince the same demon later on to leave the battle if you haven't used the card in fusion yet. This is pretty handy, especially when you come across some asshole demon way in the back row who absorbs all magic attacks and is weak only to physical attacks (which becomes more common the farther you get in the game). Get that guy's card and tell him to piss off every time you come across him going forward.

Another huge problem I have with the battle system is the stupid grid you fight on. You and your enemies are all arranged on two sides of a grid, and depending on where each character or demon is on that grid determines which attacks or spells can reach the other side. So it is possible to be unable to attack without wasting a turn shuffling your people around because for some reason, Maki's bow can't target people right in front of her so you have to move Mark over to hit somebody with an axe, but moving those two costs them both a turn. My most hated thing, though - like I sometimes would reset the game when I came across it while grinding - was when some shithead would be in the back row, reflecting magic attacks and being weak to only physical attacks. I can't reach him until I've wiped all the other demons out at which point the game moves him forward so I can finally reach him. The problem is, the other demons in the front row absorb physical attacks, so I have to spam my multi-target magic attacks to kill them, while the assholes in the back reflect some damage back to me! So freaking annoying. I have no regrets choosing "Beginner," either, at the beginning of the game, because it reduces enemy damage by 20% - nothing else. The story doesn't change or anything, just that. I barely got to the end of the game as it is on Beginner, I can't imagine playing this stupid game on Normal.

All of that said, though, I do quite like the story in Persona. Until you get near the end, it doesn't seem very "Persona-like," at least to me, as someone who played Persona 3 and 4 first. The story seems more like Final Fantasy or something, where some dude figures out a way to summon demons or something and tries to take over the world. The way in which he does it, though, which you don't find out until three quarters of the way through the game, is very definitely a Persona story. Persona 4, specifically, takes several of its main story cues from the first Persona (it's not a repeat, or anything, it just reinforces the very nature of what a Persona even is, something Persona 3 doesn't spend as much time on). Having not seen most of the story of the first Persona until this playthrough, I didn't see why Persona 3 and 4 should even be in the same series as the first game, but it is very clear now they should be.

Luckily, to enjoy Persona 3 and 4, you don't have to play Persona 1. That's the weird thing about the game - I respect it, it lays the narrative structure foundation for future games in the series, and you can certainly see the seeds of where Persona 3 and 4 would go (especially near the end). Playing it is an exercise in frustration, and I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone but the hardest of hardcore Persona/SMT fans. Like I said, I'd be very surprised if I ever came back to it, even to play through the Snow Queen alternate quest. I just can't stand actually playing it.

So yeah, I'm calling it beat. I'm not going to throw myself at grinding for another ten plus hours to beat a boss that is just stupid and cheap to begin with. Persona 3's final boss could be cheap, but not unfair like this game.  I've heard Persona 2 is better. I'm going to give it a try next, though if it's basically Persona 1 all over again, I'm not sure if I'll be able to stomach it now. I've heard Hitler is in it, though... I want to see that!