Weekend Hibernation

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Booking Dungeons

Final Fantasy Roadtrip

This week the Tokyo Game show is happening and we are starting to get a trickle of goodies out like the long awaited updated Final Fantasy XV trailer.  After watching it, I have to say this looks like it might be a Final Fantasy quite unlike the others.  My friend Kodra mentioned how unusual it was to see an automobile in the Final Fantasy setting, and I had not really thought about it until then but he is right.  It has almost been as though they have denied the existence of Automobiles in pretty much every setting other than Final Fantasy VII.  Even in the super futuristic VIII they had the requisite flying airships in the form of giant aircraft…  but they still lacked anything even resembling an automobile.  Let alone a crazy sedan with suicide doors like they are touring the countryside in for this game.

From the video this seems like the game is going to be more like Final Fantasy XII was in the form of a more “Action Combat” approach to the JRPG.  This has its fans and its critics, but I have to say one of my favorite Final Fantasy “cousins” was Vagrant Story that featured a very action combat game play style.  I even liked Final Fantasy XII for what I played of it, at some point I want to go back and finish the game.   What intrigues me the most about the game is the way it feels like the monsters are almost part disaster movie, like they are taking a road trip to survey the countryside like some sort of awkward rubberneckers.  I just hope I can control which ever character I choose, because man I am all about the big dude with the beard and the knock-off buster sword.

Castlevania Dark Souls Edition

Another game I have been looking forward to on the PS4 since this years E3 is the game Bloodborne.  At TGS they released a new trailer with some more tasty bits about the gameplay featuring what looks to be multiple classes for the player to choose from.  I’ve somehow almost entirely missed the Dark Souls madness, but I am looking forward to this game as it feels more firmly in my wheelhouse.  I love Castlevania, and I love  the dire battle against the things that go bump in the night feeling that this game has.  I just hope that the gameplay is every bit as fun as it looks like in the trailer.  For a game like this to work for me, the moment to moment gameplay has to feel amazing… and from what I have played of Dark Souls my problem tends too be the wonky feeling control scheme.

This is probably going to to be a title that I end up trying before actually picking it up.  I am sure this is blasphemy here but I actually thought Dragon’s Dogma felt much better than Dark Souls as far as moment to moment gameplay.  As such I am really hoping that the control scheme is more similar to Dogma.  In any case it is a grim dark game about slaughtering the undead and such, and that along makes me a happy camper.  We need more games where we roam the country side slaughtering baddies for fun and profit.  The only negative that I can see from the trailer is that like Order 1886 it looks a little bit “on rails” for my tastes.  In any case I am watching both of those titles closely.

Booking Dungeons

ffxiv 2014-09-19 06-45-54-737 Wednesday night we had tried to run Pharo Sirius for my friend Waren to complete this first Animus book and wound up failing miserably.  In my infinite wisdom I attempted to bring along two of our lowest geared players, one of which was the healer… and quite simply he didn’t have the mana to heal the place at just barely ilevel 48 the bare minimum.  Last night however we changed up the mix and brought in a very seasoned healer and cleared the dungeon with minimal effort.  That really became the theme of the night, cleaning up dungeons both myself and Warenwolf needed for our Animus books.  So in total we ran Pharo Sirius, Lost City of Amdapor, Tam-Tara Deepcroft and Stone Vigil.  For the last of these we managed to grab one of our up and coming healers that still needed experience and got her roughly a level in doing the place.

Essentially what we learned through the failure that was Wednesday, and the success that was Thursday is that pretty much you can only afford to have a single player in the mix that is significantly undergeared for the content.  There were other issues Wednesday night, like the fact that the player had not completed the level 50 quest and was missing both the piece of armor from it and more importantly the critical ability you get that for white mages is your full heal.  I cannot impress upon new players enough that the moment you ding 50…  go complete your last Job quest.  It always gives your class something that you will desperately need from that point onwards.  The game assumes you have these abilities, and will throw things at you that often times require them.

As far as leveling goes I managed to get my Paladin to 39, which let me equip a sweet new Grand Company weapon.  Since I got Zantetsuken waiting on me in the bank, I thought I would take this opportunity to glamour my weapon to look like the Blazefire Saber.  This might literally be the only time I get to use my spiffy gunblade from the Lightning Returns event…  since seriously there is no weapon in the game nearly as cool as Zantetsuken.  Additionally I have been banking the Hunt Seals needed to buy my Paladin a full set of gear the moment I ding 50.  I am not sure what exactly happened, but at this point I have definitely changed focus from leveling the White Mage to pushing up the Paladin.  I think more than anything it was my realization that I lacked a class to easily grind additional Atma bits on, now that I screwed up and got my Warrior Atma weapon first.  Atma grinding does two useful things for me…  firstly I get the chance at atma bits, but more importantly the steady flow of company seals keeps my ventures running.  Hopefully at some point this weekend I will have a brand new paladin ready to go.

#FFXIV #FFXV #Bloodborne