Horizon Impressions

c5zpaqwxmaiucj5

c5zpaqwxmaiucj5

Yesterday morning I warned my friends that there was a 99.9% chance that I would end up hunting Zoids all night long, and not to expect me for anything else.  This was a completely accurate sentiment.  Sure I popped into Final Fantasy XIV long enough to do my Ixal crafting dailies…  which admittedly take way longer than any other set of quests…  but after that I had a date with Aloy.  Now Monday night I got in for about an hour as soon as the game unlocked, and spent at least a little bit of time getting myself adjusted to the world.  My goal this morning is to give you my spoiler free impressions… or at least as spoiler free as I possibly can while still talking about the game and showing things off.  When I logged in last night I descended into the valley for the first time on zip line to start my first off rails questing, and I have to say…  I was instantly hooked on the game.  Granted from the moment I booted it up and played through the first little bit… the hook was already setting pretty strongly.  One of the things we do as gamers is try and compare every game that comes along to something else that already exists.  The problem with doing this in regards to Horizon Zero Dawn is there is just a lot of things this game is drawing from.  In theory if you took Skyrim and blended it with Fallout…  then mixed in a huge dose of the modern Tomb Raider games with a little Mad Max and in truth a touch of Farcry…  and you end up with a pretty good explanation of this game.  More importantly than that… this game is what I wanted Turok Dinosaur hunter to always be…. stalking awesomely augmented dinosaurs with only my bow and my wits.

c5zo8m4waaozwe9

What is most impressive about this melange of different genres is just how damned good it feels.  Not only does the world have a high coolness factor but it also feels like it makes sense.  Things exist for a reason, and as the player and observer… it feels like you understand the whys of the world better than the characters that participate in it because you can theorize about what each and every little Easter Egg laid before you might mean.  In many ways you get the impression that this is an alternate version of Fallout… where instead of returning to the surface and finding the world a barren wasteland…  the first survivors found a world reclaimed by nature and populated by the machines they created run amok and self replicating.  Granted none of this is stuff that I know, just things that I have started turning around in my head.  What is absolutely true is you are existing in a world where the machine and the wildlife are equally at home on the grassy plains, and you as a hunter need components from both to survive.  So with your bow and your spear you set out to scavenge what you need from the landscape.  You play the role of an outcast, someone shunned by the tribe from birth…  and the key driving force of your actions is more than anything to find out why.  The shunning aspect feels a little odd, especially given how many of the tribe you end up helping out along your way as optional side missions.  I was originally wondering if these wound up effecting the flow of the story at all.. but so far having played through the first little segment it really doesn’t seem to other than offering items and leveling opportunites.

c5zo0fhwqaewq_w

One of my problems with games that put a bow in my hands is generally that bows have extremely limited ammunition.  I love bow weapons, but have always hated either trying to make sure I purchased enough arrows before I left town… or making a trip back to do so in the middle of doing something else.  Given that the world of Horizon is a world of scavengers…  they fix this issue with giving you the ability to craft most of your needs on the fly.  So at any point… even in the middle of a battle which seems a little awkward…  I can crack open my crafting pane and knock out a few arrows so that I can continue the fight.  The same is true with traps when you eventually get the ability to use those, and upgraded ammunition like fire arrows.  Similarly your gear can be modified to improve its stats and tweak its abilities…  but I question if this is going to be a key mechanic or if its just the equivalent of enchanting something and you will keep shifting bows and spears as you travel through the world and get exposure to better armor and weapons.  I wound up getting the digital deluxe edition and on top of the pre-order bonus… I wound up with a bunch of different options for gear that you would not normally start out with.  The only negative here is that there is a moment in the story where someone makes what is probably intended to be a significant upgrade for you…  and it ends up not being an upgrade at all.

c5zoorrxqaajrep

At this point I have finished playing through what could ultimately be referred to as the “starter zone”.  So many times in video games there is a closed off and protected area that you start the game in… and through a sequence of events you are pushed out into the much wider world.  I stopped playing at roughly 11 pm last night and I had just literally crossed this barrier, and figured that I really should call it a night otherwise I would literally be up for another two hours.  That means to complete this “intro” section it took me roughly five hours… one hour the first night and four hours last night, which all things considered seems to be like a fair amount of game play.  Granted I always stop and smell the roses and I attempted to do all of the side quests I could possibly do, as well as spending some time gathering resources to upgrade my quiver and various other inventory elements.  What I like the most about this game is that it feels like I truly am self sufficient.  I can live off of the things that I scavenge from the land… be it herbs to fill my medicine pouch, or upgrading my various pouches to be more effective at gathering.

c5zo4t_wuael5-2

The only thing that I don’t really like is that it feels like maybe the game sets you up a little bit to fail.  There are some items that you scavenge off of the bodies of the machines that are clearly marked as “crafting” materials.  So those make complete sense to hold into for long term use.  However there is another category that is marked as “trade to vendors, sell for shards” given that metal shards are the universal currency as well as a crafting material.  So my immediate thought was that these would be vendor trash and I could simply sell them with impunity.  That is absolutely not the case and as I found out from later vendors… certain items require certain scavenged components as well as shards to purchase.  So right now there is a set of armor that I would love to have…  but it requires me to collect two watcher eyes…  something that I have had plenty of in my inventory but had been selling them to vendors for shards up until that point.  Basically…  what I am telling you is to hold onto the various materials that you pick up off the machines unless you find out for certain that you are not going to need them.  The game at least in theory tries to teach you this… but the lesson was not as clearly outlined as it should have been when you trade a part you scavenge for an item.  I am used to bringing all sorts of random crap to NPCs for the sake of a quest… and did not realize that the game was attempting to teach me that this is a thing that could and does happen.

c5zotucxmaak1o_

Up until this point I have really only talked about the game play, which is generally a safe spoiler free den of information to dwell on.  Now I am going to attempt to talk about the story, which is a section where I am going to get a lot more vague and general.  For lack of better phrasing… as good as the game feels when you are fighting robotic dinosaurs… it also feels equally good when you are dealing with story elements.  The game has created a world that I instantly want to know more about, and populated it with a bunch of interesting characters that I have feelings about be they good feelings… or bad feelings.  I already care far more about this game than I do many others that I simply go through the paces because they are mechanically enjoyable.  I really like that the game allows me to tailor the Aloy I want to play through giving me a series of dialog choices that are reminiscent of the Bioware games.  There will generally be an option marked with a fist, an option marked with a heart, and an option marked with a brain.  So far I have not really chosen the fist that often, but I tend to alternate between the heart and the brain depending on how I feel about a given character.  These choices do at least somewhat effect how later interactions are going to work out…  based at least in one small part on how I interacted with someone when I was a tiny babby Aloy.  I chose to use the brain option… and sure enough the game remembered it and brought it up at a later time.  The game does a great job of giving you characters that you are going to hate… and other characters that you are either going to genuinely like… or at least begrudgingly respect.

c5zpe8iwqaelsgl

All in all this game has lived up to every expectation I had for it.  I wanted an awesome post-apoc game where I roamed around on an awesome bow lady and took down robotic dinosaurs.  This game has paid that off in spades, but also given me a really interesting world that I already deeply care about, as well as giving me just enough call to action to make me want to move forward in the quest chain.  This is where so many games fail for me when it comes to open world adventures.  In Fallout 4… I simply did not give a single fuck about the main story arc.  All I wanted to do was explore the world surrounding me and build up the settlement of Sanctuary.  I didn’t care about my baby being stolen, and I most certainly didn’t care about trying to track it down.  The game completely failed at giving me enough motivation to keep moving forward…  however already in Horizon I care… I want to know more about why this world is the way it is and how exactly all of these different pieces that it keeps exposing me to fits together.  Guerrilla games has somehow managed to create an open world with an infused sense of purpose behind everything you are doing…  and I like it… I like it a lot.  I am sure there will be some slow spots… as happens with literally every game but I feel both the desire to keep moving…  but also at the same time the freedom to wander about and explore whenever I want to.  At this point I am super hooked, and am fighting every desire to boot the game up and play some this morning because it would without a doubt make me super late to work.

Aloy and Horsebirbs

c5uhtb4uoaao2hx

c5uhtb4uoaao2hx

We live in trying times… and what I mean by that is right now there are entirely too damned many great games coming out in a very short period of time.  I was already woefully behind in my progress in literally everything, and when compounded by the fact that I am apparently bingeing the hell out of Final Fantasy XIV you end up with a lot of stuff simply not getting accomplished.  For example… this month the AggroChat game of the month is Final Fantasy XV.  It is in fact MY pick…  but I have been high center in the game for a long time and last night I attempted to fix that.  I kept telling myself that I would only do the main story quest, and that lasted for a little while but not long.  Firstly I wound up bumping into a bunch of ridiculously higher level mobs on the way to my next quest objective.  One of which was freaking Midgardsormr…  just hanging out chilling on the river bank.  When I made a tactical retreat and pushed forward into the cave…  I found that pretty much the mobs inside were also going to kick my ass.  So that means I have hit the wall that my gear and level seems to be able to get me to…  so as the evening went on my purpose seemed to disintegrate and I was once again wandering aimlessly and doing all of the side quests in a vague attempt to catch up level wise.

c5udjucuyaaffdz

Ultimately I am suffering from the exact same problem that I had when we were doing Fallout 4 as a game of the month.  For many of the folks in our podcast…  winning the game is the goal and seeing the story to its conclusion.  For me that really isn’t a thing… and instead I like doing all of the little objectives and inhabiting the world, participating in it.  So in many ways moving the story forward…  defeats that purpose because I keeps moving me past things that I kinda want to get out and roam around and explore.  When it comes to trying to push a game like this…  it ends up making me miserable.  Ultimately I am not going to be even closed to the end of the game when we record the podcast this weekend, and largely I think I am going to be okay with it.  Final Fantasy XV is still one of my favorite games from last night, and I really don’t much care about story spoilers in the first place.  That was never why I was playing the game, and never why it clicked with me.  It clicked because it was finally a Final Fantasy game that embraced my desire to roam around and get off the beaten path…  and then actually rewarded me for doing so.  Now I wish I had been playing the game all of this time, because last night I really enjoyed myself.  However I end up getting caught up in wanting to be around actual living breathing people… and for me that means MMOs.  Getting bit by the Final Fantasy XIV bug hasn’t helped lately either in my push to get everything to 50.  However this is still a game that I am enjoying moving through, albeit slowly.

c5wmnuou0aertxe

The game that is going to be the death of me right now however is Horizon Zero Dawn.  During the mishap with my account and a bunch of others getting compromised on PSN, I ended up getting $50 funded to my Playstation wallet.  They were unable or unwilling to reverse the charges on my credit card, so I had this pot of cash that was sitting there needing to be spent on something.  As a result I ended up pre-ordering Horizon and when I checked my PS4 yesterday morning it had already installed and was simply waiting on the magic moment to launch.  This is going to fall down into the “bel knows better” category… but by now I should have learned not to attempt to play a game at 11pm central when things generally officially launch for me.  However I did this thing… and as a result I wound up getting to bed significantly later than I would have liked.  Also as a result I am groggy as hell sitting down this morning to write this blog post.  That said I need you to marvel at how adorable babby Aloy is…  and that you end up playing as her for a bit and not just through a sequence of cut scenes.  I’ve barely scratched the surface and not even really made it through the tutorial section… and this game already has me hooked in both game play and its world.

c5uxygdvaaa2lgq

Admittedly this game did not really have to try terribly hard to hook me given its theme.  Awesome bow lady that fights zoids for fun and profit.  What I didn’t expect was just how damned good the controls feel and how responsive combat actually ends up being.  Things have happened already in the story line that I did not expect to happen… and I am super intrigued as to how they end up playing out in the long run.  I don’t want to get too much into my thoughts about story events, because literally the game just unlocked last night and I don’t want to spoil anything really.  What I do find interesting is that so far this game has confirmed my theory about something.  Several years ago I would have told you that I simply did not enjoy playing female characters in games.  I now know that is completely wrong… and I do absolutely enjoy female characters so long as they are the equivalent of the sort of male characters I enjoy.  I like warriors…  I like playing badasses that are armed to the teeth and more importantly armored.  Over the last few years there have been a long list of characters that I have really enjoyed from the modern reboot of Lara Croft, to Zarya in Overwatch, to Sonya in Heroes of the Storm.  Aloy is just another in a long line of these characters that I enjoy playing, and apparently it was never a gender thing…  and just a warrior thing.  I will be anxiously watching the clock today at work, so I can get home and play some more Horizon and see where the game takes me.  I know that Tam stayed up late last night to go ahead and start playing, and he seems to be enjoying it as well.

Chateau Belghast

fallout4-2017-02-12-20-36-18-64

fallout4-2017-02-12-20-36-18-64

This weekend was a bizarre one.  We are still very much under the gun of a release date, and I attempted to do whatever I could to further that goal.  However for all of Saturday our building was without power, and I was instead on call just in case something went wrong.  The building power went down at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time we started recording AggroChat we had not yet gotten the all clear.  I was just hoping that things would cycle off of the generators as successfully as they did cycling onto them, and that I would not end up getting interrupted during the podcast.  Sunday was a mixed bag of work and doing all of the other things that we ultimately put off until Sunday like laundry and various errands.  The weekend as a whole wound up being a very random mix of games as I played whatever I could during the brief moments of downtime.  As you can see by the Chateau Belghast image above, I started fiddling around with Fallout 4 once again, and scrapped my old house and built this one instead.  The inside is largely unfurnished but I am digging the outside quite a bit.  It took me far longer than it should have to sort out how best to attempt centering the neon text, but in the grand scheme it seems to look okay.  The frustrating bit with their neon font is that is is in no way monospaced with the characters all varying pretty wildly in width.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-02-13-06-27-26-52

In Final Fantasy XIV I am still very much getting back in the swing of things, and have fallen into the pattern of doing Beast Tribe dailies.  In theory I started down this path because I wanted a reliable source of ventures for my retainers, so that I could keep sending out my gatherers on field exploration.  However I also really like mounts, and over the course of the last week or so I have been pushing up the Sahagin, not necessarily because I love the mount, but more because it was the next closest faction.  For a long period of time, it was the faction I was spending the rest of my daily allowance on while working on the Sylph.  Yesterday however I managed to push Sahagin across the finish line and now have my truly bizarre Sapsa mount to ride around on.  I figured what better place to take a picture of it than in the waters of The Mists, where the Free Company house is located.  Next up should be the Kobolds as once again…  they are the next closest given that I had been spending my extra ventures on them while working on the Sahagin.  I mean I know there are lots of other things I SHOULD be doing… but I just can’t bring myself to pug dungeons yet.  After a string of bad experiences with Palace of the Dead… I don’t much feel like pugging that one either.  The problem there is as we talked about on the podcast, is that if you fail…  you lose all progress gained which seems deeply punitive for a random group activity.

eso64-2017-02-09-19-22-58-48

Finally I spent a good amount of time this weekend playing Elder Scrolls online.  I failed to take any screenshots so instead you get an interior shot of my home.  I pushed forward the story line in Malabal Tor a bit, but the big problem with ESO is that I tend to wander wildly.  I find it extremely hard to stay focused and instead I wind up going after the next object on the horizon that looks interesting, and as a result never seem to end up getting my objectives accomplished.  There is always a fallen log to harvest, or an outcropping of ore to mine.  Whatever the case I find myself continuing to move steadily towards 160 champion levels, which is the current item cap.  Unfortunately I have a feeling this is probably going to change with Morrowind, but for the time being getting there.. and being able to craft a set of gear that will last me for a bit tends to be my focus.  The other thing that I am realizing is that 160 champion levels is just a drop in the bucket given that quite literally every build I find expects you to have at least four or five times that amount.  There is a part of me that wishes I had never actually faded away from this game, because at this very moment I am so impossibly behind the curve.  Then again I think that overwhelming amount of content is what has been drawing me there much in the same way as it did for A Realm Reborn until we caught up.  I know there is more to do than I have time to do it… and in some way that is insurance from ever really getting bored.

Advanced Spellcraft

screenshotigf

screenshotigf

I’ve talked about quite a few things that I experienced at Pax South, and this mornings post is going to do some more of the same.  I feel like this year more than others I walked away with a treasure trove of things I wanted to talk about.  I guess in theory it is because I approached the convention significantly differently than I have in past years.  In the past I largely only stood in line to play the games that immediately seemed to be in my wheelhouse, and as a result I am sure I robbed myself of a whole slew of interesting things.  The game I want to talk about this morning is a prime example of not being able to rely on our instincts and tastes.  If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I do not handle “finger wigglers” that well… or to clarify my own personal slang…  spell casters.  So when I walked past a booth demonstrating a game where the main character is slinging spells left and right, my first instinct is to keep moving.  However as a group we stopped and listened to the intricate tale that CEO Louis-Félix Cauchon had to weave.  Admittedly what make this game so interesting is just how detailed the spell system is.  We got to watch a twenty minute demo covering nothing but how the spell system works, before even getting into the awesome pedigree of the storytelling.

screenshotspellbookleft

Functionally your character has four spells, which in itself doesn’t seem like a lot.  However each spell can be modified with what I have been generically calling “mutators” to change the way it responds.  So you might have a spell that at face value is a small point blank spark, however by equipping a a behavior you can make it fire out like a fireball…  or by equipping an augment you can make it veer to the right after firing it.  If you suddenly decide that you don’t want to throw fireballs… but instead iceballs, you can simply go in and change the base element of the attack.  Over the course of this demo of the system we got to see personal shields turn into charge attacks, and glorious cascades of rock from the ceiling in place of a traditional blizzard spell.  Now you might ask yourself why on each you would need this level of detail for a spell system apart from the simple “wouldn’t it be cool” aspect.  Functionally the magic not only serves as a weapon, but also as a complex puzzle system.  So there might be switches that you cannot reach unless you modify your fireball to arc in a certain way in order to hit the trigger.  The spellbook also allows you to save off several different configurations of a spell, and in the final version you will be able to give them unique names allowing you to quickly recognize which version of a given spell is your avalanche and which is your frost barrier.  The only immediate limit to building insane combination spells is your imagination, and of course your mana bar.  Each trait that you give a spell increases its cost, and while it was described that this matters less and less as you go through the game… it does limit your early tinkering.  Additionally as you play through the game you find modifiers along the way, meaning your palette of abilities starts small and grows as you progress.

skytemple

Up to this point we have literally just talked about the technical spell casting system, which in itself is a pretty amazing game.  On top of this however they have added what is sure to be a pretty great story.  Ed Greenwood of Forgotten Realms fame has penned the story for this game about epic spellcasters, which only makes sense given that he gave us the character of Elminster.  Functionally I heard the game described as Harry Potter meets Zelda and that seems fitting, with a huge alteration in that there seems to be a lot more physical puzzle solving with your spells.  I find it so bizarre though that I am looking forward to the release of a game about magic users, and that includes absolutely zero armor clad characters for me to bash baddies in the head with.  At face value this game is traditionally far out of my wheelhouse, but it was also quite possibly the freshest feeling game concept I saw on the Pax floor.  We’ve done so much for martial combat and making it feel interesting and nuanced, but have done so little to bring that same level of nuance to weaving complex spells.  Most games give us the option of push button throw fireball, or push button create bubble…  but this is the first that I have seen that lets you take that bubble and then project it outwards or trigger another spell after the bubble casts.  I have this feeling that in many ways it will have an almost metroidvania feel in that each time you unlock a new ability to give you spells it is also going to open up new ways to solve puzzles and allow you to move deeper into the content.

treant

The game right now is targetted for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One and does not have a firm launch date… but we heard March or April mentioned which I largely translated into a “Spring” launch window that might be plus or minus a month.  They are doing something extremely interesting to get us into the world ahead of the launch by releasing a comic that updates Tuesdays and  Thursdays and explains the world and setting.  I love it when I experience a game like this, not necessarily because “woo spellcasters” or anything of the sort, but because this is clearly the love child of a bunch of folks who care deeply about it.  Talking to Louis-Félix Cauchon within second it was clear to see just how passionate he was about this game, and the work and imagination that went into creating it.  That in truth is what makes the convention experience special.  You get to meet the creators face to face and see just how much they love what they are doing.  In many ways it feels like Pax South recharges the spark inside of me each year, and gives me fuel to keep going throughout the year.  We spend so much time on the negatives, the little details that bother us about this game or that.  However seeing a game like Mages of Mystralia shows me instantly that there very much still is magic out there…  pun only slightly intended.  I would definitely add this to your watch list and check it out when it ultimately releases.  I find it so bizarre that of all of the games I have experienced, this one ranks insanely high on the list of “wish I had early access” titles, if for no reason other than to play with the spell crafting system.  This is the first release from Borealys Games, but if they can pour this much passion into every project they are going to be a studio we see lots of amazing things from in the future.

Weekend Hibernation

ffxv_carboysgroup

wow-64-2016-12-02-21-07-14-92

It was a truly bizarre weekend for a whole lot of reasons.  Primarily because whatever illness my wife had seemed to strike with a vengeance during the tail end of last week.  As I said before I was originally planning on going to RiffTrax with work friends on Thursday night but by the time I left work I realized there was no way I could make it through an entire evening.  Instead I begged off and went home and crashed on the sofa in my fuzzy blanket cocoon.  By the time Friday came around I was really doing considerably worse and took a sick day…  which in turn screwed up  our evening plans.  We were originally slotted to do this monthly family dinner thing, but we rescheduled it for next weekend because I was not sure how well I would be to drive.  Instead I returned to the blanket cocoon once more and was as a result available for our normal Friday night Emerald Nightmare clear run.  I wound up tanking it, with the stipulation being that I was not going to talk at all.  In fact to  prevent myself from doing this I muted my microphone…. which lead to a weird run since I am fairly vocal as we make it through the content.  To make it even more odd, we were without the OTHER vocal leader Kylana which meant a whole slew of people had to step up to the plate and help make sure the run went smoothly.  So seriously huge thanks to Mort, Phy, Beist, Bledd, and I am sure a whole slew of other people who also were chatty and helpful but I am not remembering at this very moment.  It was once again a super clean run, and in the end I wound up swapping off for Erry for the final encounter since it generally requires a bit more vocal tank coordination.

ffxv_carboysgroup

Past that night I spent a lot of time piddling around in stuff by myself.  Namely this meant an awful lot of Final Fantasy XV, and I think maybe just maybe I am finally to the point where I am willing to move on past “world 1”.  As I said before there is a point where the game warns you that if you continue on you might not be able to return for awhile.  I took this warning to heart given that I just came from playing Final Fantasy XIV where this sometimes means that a two and a half hour long cut scene is about to happen.  Instead over the weekend I found out from some of the other folks playing it that at least in this case… the game is talking about a ten minute process and not a thirty hour long one.  In past games these warnings often times meant that you would not be able to return until you found the airship, and I am pleased to find out that this is not the case.  At this point though I am running out of things I can actually do in the starter world, and all of the hunts are of a significant level difference from my current level so I think the game is not so subtly telling me to move the hell on.

destinyxbone

Another thing that took up some time this weekend is that I tore down a chunk of my office and set up my new Xbox One.  For awhile now I have been interested in owning an Xbox One to be able to play the titles that don’t exist on the PS4.  Similarly there is an entire group of friends that I have that are on the Xbox path, and I have not been able to play with them.  Unfortunately there were really no titles that supported Xbox 360 crossplay with Xbox One, so as each of them has upgraded…  my options similarly narrowed.  While I have had this latent desire… I also just could not justify the street price for the console given that I am primarily a PC gamer first… and a Console gamer second.  However on Black Friday I actually partook of a deal on Dell.com for an Xbox One, Extra Controller, Headset, and Five Games:  Halo 5 Limited Edition, Farcry 4, Ryze Legendary Edition, Sunset Overdrive, and Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes all for right at $200.  For this I was willing to jump on it and the box arrived at my house Saturday during the day… and I wound up setting it up after editing the podcast on Sunday morning.  There was another deal on Cyber Monday to pick up a copy of the Destiny Collection for the Xbox One for I believe $25 and I jumped on that too, so while I was installing other things…  I ported over my Xbox 360 copy of Destiny.  Firstly since I am largely a digital only gamer on PS4… I did not realize the whole download after installation was as much of a tedious chore as it actually was.  Halo 5 took a good three hours worth of download time, which I found insane and shocking.  Is this what disc copy gamers on the PS4 have to deal with as well? or is this largely just an Xbox One thing?  In any case… I was kinda happy to see that my PS4 clan tag ported over to the Xbox One, and while I will still primarily be playing Destiny on PS4, I want to level something to hang with my friends playing on the Xbone.

I’ve decided to start linking the podcast on Monday mornings in what generally ends up being a weekend rundown post.  Not that I think there is anyone who doesn’t have access to it… but just in case the youtube version embeds nicely.  The other big take away from the weekend was all of the food that we cooked.  We wound up having a weekend full of comfort food, cooked in the crock pot.  So Friday night before going to bed I threw our breakfast casserole on to cook so that when we woke up Saturday morning it was ready.  This dish consists of egg, cheese, potato, ham and sausage and it amazing.  We wound up eating on it for breakfast and lunch on Sunday as well…  and still have a bunch left over.  My wife had the bright idea to turn it into a breakfast burrito with a little salsa.  We also cooked our Chicken and Cheese Tortilla soup, which we only got two meals out of…  well and an extra helping or two.  Finally on Sunday we tried out this Orange Chicken thing…  that is close but not quite there.  It was good enough but it needs something to make it work properly…  and I think I screwed it up by putting the rice directly in the sauce and letting it cook.  I should have simply made a couple cups of rice and then ladled the sauce over it instead.  In any case…  my wife and I are both largely on the mend but we pretty much spent the entire weekend hibernating.  We started taking some OTC meds when it initially hit and I think it helped out quite a bit.

Darth Scrapheap

darthscrapheap

darthscrapheap

If appearance systems are the “true” endgame… them I am woefully losing right now.  Last night I managed to push my Deathknight across the line and ding 110, to which I immediately abandoned all attempts at questing and instead focused on World Quests.  For those who do not know when you hit 110 all you need do is walk over to Khadgar and you can start up the madness on your alts without needing to do the faction grind.  Now I look like a random assemblage of crap…  or very much like a raiding dps warrior did in vanilla.  I know that helm is supposed to be menacing and Deathknighty… but it just keeps reminding me of a lizard or turtle… or something similar.  After a round of “complete the gear quests” I am sitting at 795 and I absolutely plan on exploiting the hell out of the Timewalking dungeons this weekend to help push that higher.  As much as I wanted to like the Paladin… it was mostly just a choice to push up so that I could have a miner to feed my engineering.  Similarly I started the Rogue with the thought of pushing up a Herbalist/Alchemist but stalled out because Rogues are squishy and annoying.  Instead I started working on my Deathknight because deep down inside I still have a lot of love for the character… the fringe benefit however is that now I have a reasonable Herbalist as well to at the very least feed my Seed-Battered Fish Plate habit.

In other news we had a pretty good night of raiding with us coming in and killing Odyn once again after a weird off week thanks in large part to Thanksgiving.  It still took a few tries and there are a lot of fiddly bits we can improve on to make it less horrible at the end.  From there we had a crazy pull that never ended because we did not learn our lesson properly and or they said they patched something they didn’t actually patch.  From there we set up and changed a few things on Guarm and had an amazingly smooth one shot…  which is pretty damned awesome considering this was only our second night of attempts.  We then continued on to Helya and by the end of the we were pushing her into phase three and phase two was seeming less suicidal.  All in all I will count that as significant progress, the only negative being there just aren’t that many gearing options yet from this raid.  I am super bummed that I am going to have to miss our now “a thing” Friday night Emerald Nightmare clear this week.  I have a family thing that happens once a month, and this just happens to be that Friday.  Thankfully I think we have more than enough reasonable tanking options to make something work in my absence.  I am just bummed at losing a shot at maybe just maybe getting those last three corrupted essences.

ffxv_ignisbattle

I also played a significant amount of Final Fantasy XV, and I have decided it is far less a boy band simulator and more Final Fantasy Entourage.  All of that said… I still like it quite a bit and it is absolutely priceless when Prompto sometimes hums the class FF battle victory theme after you finish a combat engagement.  Right now I am heavily engaged in a life of murder-hobo-ry as I am roaming the country side looking for baddies to vanquish and looting interesting cooking materials.  The key take away from yesterday however is that I gave the official Sony PS4 Remote Play a shot and man…  have they seemingly improved it greatly.  Sure there are still moments when it wigs the hell out and you are best to simply hold still until it stops struggling.  Those however are few and far between and for the most part the end result is an extremely smooth play experience.  For reference my PS4 is hard wired into my router, and I was connecting into it from my laptop over the wireless network.  I did some tests in Destiny to see if this was simply a “good enough for an RPG” thing or if it really was reasonable for playing other games.  I could notice a little bit of controller lag while running and doing some patrols… but it was more than reasonable enough for me to play.  I am not sure if I would be willing to go into the Crucible or something extremely difficult, but I had a good enough time killing random splicers in the Plaguelands remotely.  In truth it is “good enough” for 90% of the stuff I do in Destiny and I would absolutely be willing to try something like farming Archon’s Forge while remoted in through the laptop.  It is definitely good enough for Final Fantasy XV which greatly increase the range of play options I have…  and I am going to want to test this theory out on the Vita pretty soon.  I still think the performance of the unofficial “Twisted” Remote Play was better… but he has just been unable to keep it updated to function on the latest version of the PS4 firmware… and the bonus features of playing with a keyboard, mouse and xbox 360 controller simply are not worth being behind in the firmware version especially given that it will bar you from accessing the PSN store.  I am super happy though to see that Sony seems to continue to improve performance.

Final Fantasy XV Impressions

ffxv_battlescene

ffxv_titlecard

Firstly let me start off by saying that I am going to try and be as spoiler free as possible this morning.  Last night I began Final Fantasy XV properly… or at least what I mean by that is I actually created a new game.  It had been quite a long time since I last played one of the demos that were available through PlayStation Plus so I spent the first thirty minutes or so working through the tutorial room.  Firstly I have to say how much I appreciate that the Tutorial Room is completely out of the game and something you can venture into by option.  In truth all I really wanted to do was familiarize myself with the combat a bit before setting off on the adventure, and I managed to do that through a series of guided encounters.  I feel like this tutorial could have been tightened up a bit, and a lot of the text removed because really…  I got what warp strike did without the need for ten panels of text explaining it.  However like I said this is entirely an optional experience and it allows you to escape out at any time and start the actual game.  What I was pleasantly surprised by is that I am pretty sure… the intro to Final Fantasy V is twice as long as the intro to this game, in that it gets you out and into the action pretty quickly, far more quickly than I was expecting.  The game does an excellent job of setting up quickly why you are going on the roadtrip and essentially who these people are that are assisting you along the way.  The game also gives you this interesting flashforward…  to set up that some bad shit is going to happen eventually.  While I originally called this a boy band roadtrip simulator… it actually does an amazing job of making you care about the characters… because from the first dialog the game is fleshing them out for you.

ffxv_cargroupshot

  • Ignis – Tactician and Master Chef
  • Prompto – The runt of the litter, but also the romantic… constantly snapping photos
  • Gladiolus – The strong loyal type, but also ends up feeling almost big brotherly
  • Noctis – our prince… that ends up not being nearly as angsty as I expected.

We are given some insight to the relationships between Noctis and his father Regis in the intro, and some explanation as to why this road trip is happening… and that it might not be nearly as political in nature as it might seem.  The real gem however is the constant banter between your companions that much in the same way as the Dragon Age gives you little vignettes into each of them, and feels like more than just a simple looping soundtrack of quips.  It all seems purposeful and helps to flesh out the feeling of this group and explain the character motivations a little bit at a time.  I am honestly shocked that only two hours into the game I already care about this team, and for the most part like each of them for their own thing.  Hell I thought Prompto would be the new Snow…  the character that I wanted to punt off a cliff but even he has grown on me.  There are a lot of charming mini-games…  the one that endears me to Prompto is the fact that he takes random photos as you go through your daily activities between camping for the night.  While you are sitting around the camp fire or your inn room… you can sift through the photos and determine which ones are “keepers”.  In fact most of the images for this mornings post come from these.  The only complaint is that I wish when I clicked “save” in game that it actually saved it to the PS4 screenshot folder… and not some in game system that never actually goes full screen.  I had to drop these in photoshop to crop out the black border before actually using them in a blog post which was annoying.

ffxv_battlescene

Another big surprise for me was just how fluid and good combat feels.  I might be imagining things but it feels like they have tightened up the system considerably from the time I played Episode Duscae to now.  It could also simply be that I sat through thirty minutes of combat tutorial, and I didn’t exactly do that in the demo.  Whatever the case I feel like I can navigate combat without really thinking about it… which is honestly the way I like to play combat in most games.  I want to push my abilities to the realm of muscle memory, and just simply react instinctively to what is happening on the ground… and this game seems to let me do just that.  The only thing that seemed like it might be a little cludgy is the magic system, but thankfully I am not exactly the finger wiggler type.  So at least for the case of Noctis I will likely never equip a magical ability… other than maybe Cure.  As far as my team goes, they seem to have their own special abilities that more or less take the place of magic that unlock special team up style attacks.  There is an interesting mini-game where Ignis being the tactician… suggests an attack combo that will work especially well on your opponent.  This is less the Libra command from previous games… and more like a challenge mode to see if you can beat the mob while doing this one special attack.  If you succeed you gain additional ability points to spend on top of the normal ones you would receive for simply defeating the encounter.

ffxv_noctisbird

As far as the game world goes… it feels amazing.  This is a Final Fantasy game that has learned what works in Skyrim, the Far Cry series, and Dragon Age… and then re-branded all of that to work and fit perfectly in the Final Fantasy world.  The end result is this huge seamless world that lets you roam freely… with honestly very few constraints that I have found.  Unlike Final Fantasy XIV for example… you absolutely can walk off the edge of cliffs… or at least you can in some places that I found out while tracking down some mining resources.  The world is full of little details… like the ability to sit down beside this strange weather worn mascot for a diner.  As you would expect the act of you doing this causes Prompto to want to take a photo, so it feels very much like a bunch of friends out doing goofy shit and exploring the world…  free for possibly the first time from the shackles of having to live in Crown City under the watch of responsible adults.  Hell there are times the commentary running between the four of them reminds me of some of the random shit my friends and I talked about when we were off on our own road trips in High School.  This is easily the most “real” feeling Final Fantasy world I have experienced, and in a strange way it feels almost “American” in the way the various pieces fit together.  So the biggest surprise of the game came when I happened to touch what looked like a pinball machine in this same diner, and was thrown into a minigame.  Now generally speaking I don’t like Final Fantasy minigames that much, but this was actually really fun.  It was a weird amalgam of bullet hell shooter, pachinko and pinball machine…  with a strange multi character combat system.

ffxv_warpstrike

I reached the first point in the story when the game warns you… that if you continue on you won’t be able to return for a long time.  I could have simply said yes and moved the story along, but instead I decided to spend a bit more time and try and mine as much interesting bits from the area as I could before I moved the story forward.  In the past this always paid off in Final Fantasy games… and I am hoping it will here as well.  I decided to use that as a stopping point for the night however, and decided I wanted to go hang out on the sofa with my wife instead of play the PS4 which is hooked up in my office.  I really need to give this game a shot over remote play and see how reasonable it is to play that way.  The combat is active, but not so active that it would not be fairly forgiving of a little input lag.  Menu driven combat is definitely a sweet spot for remote play, but this might just work as well.  In any case…  the game is good.  I am extremely happy that I preordered through the PSN store… so that it preloaded in its entirety.  I am hearing otherwise popping the disc into the system causes a 45 minute install process to start, which has to be frustrating.  I was half expecting this to be the case with a digital download as well, but instead I was pleasantly surprised that I could just hit play and pop right into game without any fuss or mess.  This only serves to cement my decision that digital is always the correct way to go on these things.  I would be curious to hear your own thoughts of the game, but please for the time being keep your comments in the spoiler free variety.

Space Diablo

Last night was a good night.  It was a fairly crappy day at work because we were still dealing with the ramifications of events that happened over the break.  Nothing says excitement like an 8 am conference call.  That said I had an amazing bowl of chicken noodle soup waiting on me when I got home.  Sunday during the day we made a batch of soup in the crock pot, and for whatever reason soup is all the more amazing on day two.  This time around I added a little shredded cheese to it and it was insanely good and the perfect thing to at least in part make me forget the day that lead up to it.  As far as my evening the bulk of it was spent hanging out with Grace and Mor in Destiny.  While I consider myself still very much a fledgling player, they are more so… and as a result it was kinda fun just to ride along as Mor experienced all of the content for the very first time.  The big take away from the night however is that the year one strike bosses are still insane bullet sponges.  I kinda find it sad that they never went back and updates these strikes, when much better year two versions exist.  The walker in the Devil’s Lair normal difficulty strike… is quite possibly the hardest strike boss ever… or at the very least the one that takes the most time to bring down.  I solo walkers out in the patrol zones for fun…  and this one just would not die.

Mor calls the game “Space Diablo” and it is fitting because really in the end we are all after tasty loot.  Since I had already done most of this content before a bunch of times, I opted to play my Warlock which is generally my least progressed character.  On the Stormcaller spec for example I only had the base abilities unlocked that you exit the mission with.   By the end of the night however I had a significant amount unlocked, and gear wise my Warlock has suddenly pulled out ahead of my Hunter.  The thing with Warlock is that I like literally everything about it… except the jump.  Squirrel will probably fight me on this one, but it just feels wrong.  It doesn’t work the way I want it to work… and in truth if I could just give my Warlock the Titan jump… everything would be peachy.  Then again I would give literally every class the Titan jump, and part of me hopes that they introduce a second round of artifacts that do just this… allow you to customize each character by giving them a different class jump.  I don’t think that is likely ever going to happen, so in the meantime I will have to console myself with having permatracking thanks to Memory of Gheleon on every character.  If nothing else that artifact is amazing for finding chests… which considering just how many there are in the plaguelands greatly increase how much glimmer I am getting.

wow-64-2016-11-29-06-32-32-86

Once things wound down in Destiny, I disappeared downstairs and worked on my Deathknight for awhile.  Sunday with the start and stop nature of work, I didn’t get terribly far in knocking out some of my dungeon quests.  In fact there was a point where I had queued for a dungeon, and shortly after the second boss had to drop group to hop on a work conference call.  Were it a guild group this probably would not have been a show stopper given that I could alt tab back and forth as needed, however I excused myself from the PUG and became resigned to not actually finishing up Stormheim.  So last night I started off by running Halls of Valor, which went extremely quickly and allowed me to move on in good conscience to Highmountain.  Right now I am largely just focusing on the main story of the zone and ignoring any offshoots for the moment, because it already seems like I am going to ding 110 well before wrapping everything up.  At the moment I am sitting at 60% into 108, and have just started the quests in High Mountain meaning I have most of an entire zone to level through.  I will absolutely ding before leaving this zone, and then I can begin the slow process of gearing through World Quests.  I have to say that I love Frost Deathknight for both a leveling and dungeon running spec, and it is going to dethrone my Paladin as my primary alt.

All of this said… I am not likely to work on my Deathknight tonight because I have a date with Final Fantasy.  I am too old to stay up and play at the official launch of a game but instead have it sitting waiting for me on my PS4 for when I get home.

Anubisath and Whiterun

skyrimse-2016-11-01-23-52-33-24

In all honesty, my world lately has been a sequence of fairly shit days.  Yesterday was no difference, so by the time I got home I just wanted to chill out quietly for the evening.  I started off over in World of Warcraft, completing the daily emmisary quest, capturing a new falcosaur orphan… and then on a strange whim I decided to poke my head into AQ40.  The original goal was simple, for me to attempt getting an Anubisath Idol for the purpose of doing some actual pet battles.  I had both Sol and Grace suggest Xu-Fu’s pet battle strategy guides, because at some point I would actually like to learn how to do pet battles in World of Warcraft.  Unfortunately this is like the advanced guide… because I need something far more dumbed down to ease me into the process.  Of note while I play Pokemon games… I never really “play them” properly because for me it becomes entirely about capturing new and interesting critters.  In Warcraft battle pets are largely the same thing for me… I simply want to catch one of every pet.  However to get very far at all…  it feels like the game is expecting me to properly do the content as expected.  As a result I really should spend some time to figure out exactly what the hell I am doing.  I watched a few videos yesterday on pet battles, but most of them were very centered around “exploit this weakness to power level”, which is all well and good but I still feel like I am flailing helplessly.  I like knowing WHY I am doing something, rather than simply knowing a gimmick that works.  This is a big part of why I have never been a fan of exploiting glitches in boss fights… because once said gimmick gets fixed you are back at square one.

skyrimse-2016-10-27-22-22-10-69

So while I set foot in AQ40 with a very clear purpose… I went a little nuts while inside collecting scarab coffer keys and by the time I finished a single run I was able to purchase all but one piece of gear from the raid.  So I can look like the unmade bed that everyone looked like during AQ40, wearing some really bizarre looking bug themed gear.  From there while I was nearby I also stomped AQ20, but didn’t get much of anything to right home about.  After a bunch of false starts in Division and Destiny… I finally settled into playing some more Skyrim Enhanced Edition.  This is the point where I left the path once more and am officially in “ineligible for achievement” territory because I installed a slew of mods through the official interface.  I am not a big achievement hunter, but it does frustrate me a bit when doing the thing that a game is well known for… shuts off achievement tracking entirely.  The achievements that I am running are largely quality of life changes, like the unofficial bug patch and the additional of lamps and sign posts to trails making it easier to navigate the world without having to constantly pop your map up.  Last night I finally made my way to Whiterun to start the game in its proper, defeating my first dragon and getting the summon to High Hrothgar to hang with the Greybeards.

skyrimse-2016-10-27-22-23-14-03

The interesting thing about this game is that while I have beaten various elements of it countless times… it feels no less fresh than the day I first played it…  especially with this fresh coat of paint.  The only problem with playing Skyrim and starting it relatively late in the evening… is that you pretty much lose the entire night.  The next thing I realized is that it was after midnight and I really should be going to bed.  I am honestly probably going to be playing quite a bit more of Skyrim, largely because it feels like right now I need an offline game without other people in it.  Right now my job is filling my threshold of human interaction, and while I want to be doing stuff…  I also need to distance myself from people to try and empty out my buffers.  I mean I am looking forward to Karazhan on Sunday, and hopefully getting a Xavius kill tonight in Emerald Nightmare…  but I also need some quiet time and few games handle that better than Skyrim.

 

Wandering Skyrim

skyrimse-2016-10-27-22-23-14-03

skyrimse-2016-10-27-22-23-14-03

Last night was a bit of a strange night for me.  Originally I had plans to get together with some of my friends and work on Karazhan attunements…  of which I have not even started running the dungeons.  However I had apparently forgotten that last night was the RiffTrax live show.  By “live” I mean streamed to theaters around the country as the original show is going on in Nashville.  This time around we got to see two shorts and the really bizarre feature film “Carnival of Souls”(which is apparently up on youtube in its entirety).  The film is apparently by the same guy that did another RiffTrax classic… the “Shake Hands with Danger” PSA from Caterpillar.  This literally is probably one of the more bizarre movies I have watched because really from the entire moment it started… it felt like this strange meandering film about nothing.  The RiffTrax send-up however was great, the movie itself just ended with what was supposed to be a shocking reveal…  but largely felt like maybe the director was the only one not in on the secret?  In any case by the time I got out of there, and drove home I was a little out of it.  I existed in that state of too tired to do anything serious, but not tired enough to actually head on to bed.

skyrimse-2016-10-27-22-32-36-04

Instead I decided to install the Skyrim Special Edition and check it out.  I have to give Bethesda a lot of credit for giving it out for free to anyone who already owned the original game and all of the expansions.  The install was roughly 9 gig so I am guessing that the improvements were more or on the processing side of the equation rather than just pushing a lot of upgraded textures.  Whatever the case the game looks gorgeous, if I had been thinking I would have installed the base game on this newer machine and done some side by side comparisons.  It is enough of an upgrade to make me happy, and I am always willing to have a new excuse to roam around Skyrim being a murder hobo.  Once again however I am torn between sword and shield and bow… ending up mixing between the two quite a bit based on the fight.  As is always the case I had trouble staying to the actual missing and instead have already cleared out the first barrow while retrieving the golden claw.  In theory I think I probably should have gone to Whiterun, but whatever the case I am wandering down my own path once again.  The game doesn’t really feel that changed, more like you installed a graphical upgrade mod.  Whatever the case it looks pretty, and runs well so that pretty much ticks off the boxes I needed.  At some point I might check out the mods available, but for the time being I am largely running vanilla.

skyrimse-2016-10-27-22-52-45-78