Regularly Playing: May Edition

ffxiv_dx11-2017-03-12-13-30-19-05

I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

ffxiv_dx11-2017-03-12-13-30-19-05

I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

c9fjrlmuqae7nh4

This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

star-wars-the-old-republic-04-24-2017-19-17-58-05

There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

c5zo8m4waaozwe9

I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

c8fcr9ruaauylso

This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.

 

 

 

 

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

TheSecretWorld 2013-08-20 23-32-51-84

Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through.  A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot.  In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water.  At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops.  However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep.  This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today.  It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now.  So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into…  I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time.  Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative.  I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

TheSecretWorld 2013-08-20 23-32-51-84

I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it.  I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly.  This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one.  Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences…  the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world…  and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling.  The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once.  The later…  is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time.  However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom…  until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart.  I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

ffxiv_dx11-2017-02-13-20-15-18-82

The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable.  Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about.  More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next.  This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself.  From August onwards in 2013…  my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing.  However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

RemotePlay 2016-05-13 06-08-29-84

This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in.  Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons.  Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played.  From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation.  I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept.  Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with…  but just keep nibbling on.  I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King.  From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One…  and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2.  The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

Fallout4 2015-11-10 18-58-40-01

I love Fallout as a franchise.  I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked.  I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre.  So while I am listing this as my game for 2015…  it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after.  This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood.  Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession.  This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay…  than I really do about the main narrative in a game.  In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015.  I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head….  which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game.  Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up…  right now…  which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

wow-64-2017-01-18-06-25-49-07

I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion.  They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played.  I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold…  which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor.  I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored.  They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh.  Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles.  They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content.  I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into.  Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion…  toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours?  Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll.  I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Pretentious Magitek

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-17-2017-21-06-31-06

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-17-2017-21-48-06-08

This morning my cats are being little butts.  The normally sweet one is prancing back and forth on the keyboard… and the one that is normally a butt just wants me to keep flinging a rubber band for her to chase.  None of this is really conducive to sitting down and writing a proper blog post.  The sweet one has now taken to sitting on the cabinet to the left of the computer and staring…  occasionally meowing.  She is likely afraid that she will waste away to nothingness in the time it takes me to write a post, and believes that I really should stop doing whatever it is humans do and go feed her.  On top of this I am having some hardware issues…  with a box that is not connected to this one but it is frustrating me to the point where I am constantly reaching over to the other keyboard and fiddling with stuff.  This also is not super great for writing a fully functional blog post.  However I still need to somehow push forward and come up with some form of brilliance…  even if that is dollar store brilliance that is on clearance for only 50 cents.

Last night I did not really do much in the way of gaming.  I finally finished watching the last episode of Iron Fist, and while doing so I worked on my baby machinist.  I managed to get back over the 60 barrier and turned my weapon red in the Palace of the Dead…  which makes no difference when it comes to the speed of leveling but feels like it does significantly for your ability to burn things down quickly.  I hit a string of parties with a tank and three dps…. and all things considered they tend to go pretty smoothly.  The only rough spots are when the group decides to fan out and split down different pathways.  In theory this is not a horrible way to approach the dungeon as a whole, but if anyone ends up pulling a mimic it is a certainty that someone will get pox.  As I have spent more time in the dungeon, my focus has shifted to trying to avoid pox at all costs…  at least until we have a pomander of purity waiting to be used.  Most of my wipes in Palace of the Dead have revolved around a bad pull combined with folks having pox.  The absolute worst moments are when a tank attempts to tank….  without having a healer.  I mean I get it… as a tank our instinct is to run in and gather everything up.  However that is just not really a viable option for running Palace of the Dead unless you have a pocket healer going in there with you.

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-17-2017-21-06-31-06

Another thing that has happened that I have not really talked about is that I crossed the 500 commendation barrier and now have my giant pretentious golden magitek armor.  I admit I was a little disappointed when I found out that the tune it plays is exactly the same as the normal magitek armor.  The weird thing about the commendation system is that it pushes me to be friendly even if I am not really feeling like doing so.  I tend to open every dungeon with a “hey folks” and close every dungeon with something along the lines of “thanks for the run, have a good one”.  I am not sure if this matters but I usually can at least steal a single commendation from each run.  Now my friends who random queue more often have been at the 500 mark for a very long time…  I largely pushed through the last 150 or so while dungeon the deep dungeon.  It feels like “strategic niceness” is a thing, and I feel sorta dirty admitting that sometimes I am just doing it for the sweet sweet comms.  The only problem is… even after having gotten the mount I am still keeping up the practice.  I think at some point it just began to feel normal to greet people when you join a dungeon and thank them when you finish…  so while this largely started out as a way to leech commendations from folks it has apparently become a ritual now for me.  This in part is why I wish other games would implement something like the commendations system.  I’ve noticed that while a lot of groups are completely silent…  that practice of the greeting at the beginning breaks the ice enough to get people discussing things if we run into problems.  Folks seem far less likely to sit on a mimic chest and try and solo it down for example, when they have talked at the start of a run.  It is like the act of a simple greeting makes it perfectly okay to say other things later, and while I tend to zone out…  it is nice to have the occasional line of dialog flying by in party.

Chasing Aloy

c9kmq5qvoaahki

c9kmq5qvoaahki

It feels odd that it is Wednesday and I am just now getting around to writing one of my traditional “mixed bag” sort of posts.  Those are generally a Monday thing given that I have a bunch of gaming time to talk about in general, and almost always it is a shotgun blast across a bunch of different games.  However Monday was the anniversary post, and yesterday I wanted to write up my final thoughts upon beating Andromeda… so finally we are where we are writing about the assorted debris of the weekend.  If you had talked to me last week, you would have seen someone who was excited to be finishing up Andromeda so I could move back to Horizon Zero Dawn as my primary game.  While I have played it a few times…  that hasn’t really been what happened because for whatever reason I am having a bit of trouble easing back into the game.  Essentially it feels like the skills I had developed early on are painfully rusty, and the section of the game I am in doesn’t have nearly as much call to purpose so I feel a little bit like I am either stuck in “roam around aimlessly and kill zoids” mode, or trying to force my way through the few story quests I have.  The last town I reached gave me a slew of side quests, so in theory I will probably spend some time doing those to try and get myself reacquainted with the game.  The frustrating part about this is I do not want to be bouncing off of it… but for whatever case it just hasn’t quite fit my mood.  Maybe coming off Mass Effect Andromeda… I just sort of need to play a vastly different kind of game.

c9fjrlmuqae7nh4

The game I am playing a truly shocking amount of instead is Skyforge.  Pretty much every night I am at least getting in long enough to run a few missions.  Right now I find the bite sized gameplay appealing because there is no massive overarching commitment.  I can pop in for a few minutes and play a little bit, while feeling like I had a meaningful experience.  I had talked the game up to some of my friends and was super saddened to find out that apparently the female models are a boob jiggle mess.  I mean I knew that was a thing among the South Korean developers… but I didn’t know it was a Russian thing as well.  The other big problem with the game is that you ultimately have a long list of interesting classes….  but no easy way to access them.  You functionally have to start the game as a Paladin, a Smite Nuking Healer, or a Ice Mage… and then work your way to whatever class seemed interesting.  For me this was just perfectly fine given that I really like the Paladin as a class, and ultimately will probably always play it as my main in the game.  However I have a lot of friends who were interested in other classes but are never going to make it through the grind to ultimately get there.  I am shocked that you cannot simply buy your way to freedom in the game and unlock whatever class you really wanted to play…  or better yet allow characters to pick any single class to start with.  I mean the game has some really interesting classes like an Alchemist, the Kinetic, or Gunner…  so there is a lot of interesting stuff going on but unfortunately if you don’t like tank, mage and healer… you are going to bounce super hard before you get there.

final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-04-16-2017-22-56-08-03

Finally I have been still popping my head into Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis and working on my overarching mission…  which is to get all of the classes to at least 50 before the release of Stormblood.  I’ve set 50 as the goal because it allows me to jettison the bulk of the leveling gear from my bank vault, and reaching that level seems completely reasonable with Palace of the Dead.  Over the weekend I managed to push the Monk to 50, and am now sporting the full set of Allagan look-a-like gear that I have been picking up through the dank dungeon.  I like the set quite a bit because it is one of the few “armored” looking sets that you can get for a monk.  We had this lengthy discussion the other day about how we each favor different styles, and for me… it needs to be symmetrical and heavily armored to really make me perfectly happy.  What is left on the leveling track is Machinist and Astrologian… neither of which I had even trained in.  I picked up the Machinist from Ishgard and almost immediately hopped back into the Palace of the Dead rather than doing any of the actual class quests.  I have to mention that it was a bit of a chore to sort out what all abilities I should actually be using with that class… and how it functions.  However once getting used to it, I have to say I like it quite a bit.  It is gimmicky and RNG gated…  and I still have no clue if I am actually playing it correctly…  but for casual dungeon running it seems like a lot of fun.

Ode to Cactuar

bigchocobohappening

bigchocobohappening

Cactuar is a strange place and I love it.  This is of course the server a bunch of us play on in Final Fantasy XIV and compared to so many other game servers…  this one just seems to have a bizarre and friendly spirit to it.  There are a whole slew of us that have been practically living in Quarymill as we grind away at Palace of the Dead to level secondary classes and get a shot at tasty replica raid gear.  As a result Grace and myself happened to be milling around in town waiting for the festivities proper to begin that evening.  Grace pointed out that there were two people bouncing around on Big Chocobo mounts… and we both agreed something to the effect that we should both join in and make this happen.  So within moments of us joining the fray and bouncing around wildly on our giant chocos…  this happened.  Granted a few more guildies came over and joined in the fun but most of us this from just random people talking in /say as we bounced around happily.  This sort of thing is honestly an almost nightly occurrence on our server.  I cannot count how many times I have been in a major hub like this and a random pony party broke out, where everyone mounted up on their extreme primal mounts and started running around.  Sometimes it even evolves into a parade as we all run around throughout the zone.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-01-23-22-23-08-86

Cactuar is a weird place and I love it.  There are so many times I have had to step afk and typed /mdance before leaving…  and come back to a whole bunch of other strangers there with me also dancing the Manderville and somehow almost perfectly synced up with me.  I have so many people on my friends list because they had an amazing outfit and we just struck up a conversation, and we /wave madly at each other anytime we pass out in the world.  Argent Dawn the server I play on in World of Warcraft has always had its bizarre streaks, but more often than not there was an undertone of malice there.  In Final Fantasy XIV folks just seem to be interested in enjoying themselves far more than bringing other people down in the process.  I am sure Cactuar also has its dark underbelly, but generally speaking folks are friendly and more than willing to join in the silliness if given a chance.  It is funny how a server develops a certain culture, which is honestly the main reason why I question games that are essentially server-less.  I know our server “feels” different than a lot of the other larger servers, and I am never quite certain how that sort of thing develops.  I mean I guess it could simply be because our server mascot is a half man half cactus…  which doesn’t exactly evoke feelings of being hardcore and brutal.  Although… anyone who has ever fought a Cactuar knows the score as they fall over after a 10000 Needles attack.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-02-21-20-51-03-61

In other news I finally got to see the Sophia primal fight, as there were a bunch of us who had never done it.  I realize we are a few patch cycles behind on this one, but I have to say I really enjoyed it.  It was like all of the things happening with Leviathan…  but messaged far far better.  There are a lot of moving parts on the fight, but we largely winged it without having seen it and only the most vague description of the fight from those who had.  We single tanked it, and that role fell onto me…  since really I don’t have a well enough geared anything else to do big kid content on.  I had an awful lot of fun with the moving back and forth on the platform to avoid this ability or that… or the platform shift as the scales get out of balance.  We also did a one tank, one healer Ravana Extreme and that fight is still madness.  I would love to do that some more largely because I would really like to get my axe from there…  also of as a side note I would love to do some more Bismarck for the same reason.  I guess ultimately I really am a Warrior main, given that I didn’t swap at Heavensward and still have no plans to swap for Stormblood.  Of all of the gear I own… it is my Warrior gear that I end up enjoying the most.

Weekend of the Dead

casterweekendclasswork

ffxiv_dx11-2017-02-18-21-08-58-56

This weekend it finally happened… I finally reached a point where I am full saturation once again in Final Fantasy XIV.  I am not really sure if it was the Fan Fest news trickling out over the weekend, or the introduction of Stormblood.  Whatever the case I spent the majority of the weekend plunked down on the sofa playing FFXIV.  Now the bizarre part of this however… is that I played a bunch of classes that I traditionally never play.  I almost exclusively played finger wigglers, which lead my guild to wonder if I had been replaced by a pod person.  Would I even know if that actually happened?  I mean do the pod people actually know that they are pod people?  Whatever the case two different things were happening this weekly.  Primarily I was using the Palace of the Dead to level classes that would be cool to have at max level… but that I don’t really want to level properly.  Namely Scholar and Summoner, which admittedly is the same leveling process…  but I spent most of the weekend running around with Garuda Egi in dps form.  I finished the grind Sunday Afternoon and then went rummaging through my vault to find something to wear.  Thankfully I managed to scrape together enough gear that I picked up along the way to hit somewhere in the vicinity of 110.

casterweekendclasswork

From there I spent a good amount of time catching the Summoner and Scholar up on their quest chains…  which were laughably easy now that I overgeared them by a significant portion.  The thing that is making the leveling process awkward is that I switched Grand Companies between now and the last time I leveled… and as a result my vault is full of a bunch of Immortal Flames gear that I cannot actually use.  Side note…  Maelstrom completely fails because the low level Black Mage weapon is a one-handed item.  Regardless I managed to catch up quickly and now have four sets of awesome gear… 2 for summoner and 2 for scholar because I guess they just straight up give you the recolored version now?  The recolor was pretty different on scholar so I went with the good ole classic.  On summoner however they both looked pretty samey and I went with the evoker set not really knowing if that is the original or the reskin.  Side note… summoner “Egis” are hilarious as a Lalafel since they are always larger than you are.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-02-19-00-05-53-63

After getting Summoner and Scholar to 50… and through their class content…  I shifted gears and started working on Thaumaturge.  I had managed to get it to 26 a long time ago only because it was the level needed for a cross class ability.  I stopped there expecting to never pick it up, but instead tonight I dusted things off and tried to make a viable build work.  I guess in part I am wanting to get all of my casters to 50… so I can have a massive cleaning out of my vault given that I have so much gear laying around and there is zero way I can survive another expansion with the vault in its current state.  In truth I think it would be kinda cool to get ALL of my classes to 50, but given that I have not even started on Machinist and Astralogian…. and only have Dark Knight to 33 that might be awhile off.  I do however find Palace of the Dead extremely relaxing, especially the manner in which I am running it.  I am simply running 51 to 60 over and over which still seems to move the bar up nicely on weapons.  The other side benefit of the weekend is that I can now purchase my next weapon upgrade for the Warrior…   however in order to do that I am going to actually have to beat level 100 at some point.  I can begin pestering my friends about that now…  but having run 1-50 for a friend this weekend… I know just how much of a slot doing an entire PotD can be in one sitting.

Heavy Crowns

ffxiv_dx11-2017-01-25-06-27-45-28

ffxiv_dx11-2017-01-25-06-27-45-28

I’ve admittedly been pretty sporadic in my gameplay of Final Fantasy XIV since just shortly after the launch of Heavensward.  For whatever reason the story this time never quite clicked in the same way that it did during A Realm Reborn.  Additionally Alex never felt nearly as interesting as Coil…  so it just felt like I was grasping at things to tie me to the game but struggling to find them.  More than all of these I think the two dungeons per cycle business hurt the most, because it turned something that I used to love…  Expert Roulette into a grind because there was always the dungeon you enjoyed…  and the dungeon you disliked in every patch cycle.  All of this said I have been poking my head in periodically and was at least aware of the mentor program.  The idea being that Square would create a way to identify players who know lots about the game…  which was an interesting theory.  In practice it largely just means you have a Tank, DPS and Healer at the level cap.  Also as I found out last night it apparently makes you feel like you need to run around barking orders and throwing shade on how bad you feel the rest of the party was doing.  Even though I was attuned for it… I never actually ran the second of the 25 player raids called the Weeping City of Mhach.  Collectively folks just call it the “Wiping City” and for good reason… because we died an awful lot but given that it was the first time myself or Grace had been in there… I thought we did largely okay.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-01-24-20-45-07-75

The funniest part of the night was the Forgall fight… which involves becoming zombie but not going full zombie and avoiding some things while absolutely standing in others.  In short it is the traditional insane dungeon fight that simply requires constant execution… and has mechanics that will straight wipe entire parties.  It is a rarity that there are fights where you need to use the healer level three limit break…  but during the course of this fight we used it at least twice…  and there might have been a third time I didn’t realize.  We were at a point where we had no tank and maybe three people total still up, and a bunch of us assumed we were wiping it out and running back.  We were wrong… as the “Mentor” continued barking orders and telling people to rez this person or that person… during a contorted fight that felt like it took 20 minutes to finally beat.  The truth is I had no clue what I was doing, but I finally got finished off by an actual fight mechanic as one of the attacks takes you to 1 hit point…  and requires chain healing to keep the tank from instantly dying afterwards.  We had maybe a single healer up at the time and I fell down hard… but just in time for another tank to get rezzed and pick it up.  I feel like this was the sort of fight where we needed to play Yakety Sax …  but slowed down to the point where it almost sounds like a funeral dirge.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-01-24-20-53-57-15

The fight that I got the most enjoyment from however had to be Ozma… an encounter that I had heard about for awhile now.  Largely I had heard about it being the group killer, in that it required a lot of moving parts that rarely got coordinated properly among the alliances.  Thankfully I was on voice chat with my Free Company and they were able to give me enough of a heads up about what I should be doing.  It also helps that early into the fight we lose the entire B alliance, giving me a run seeing the mechanics the first time and then allowing me to take that experience into the second smoother attempt.  All in all we nailed it pretty well on the second go, and for the most part by the end of the encounter I learned everything that I needed to do to appropriately tank the fight.  The reason we were running Wiping City however was to get me some gear…  and unfortunately not a single tanky piece dropped.  However I do feel confident enough to probably solo queue tank for the place and start soaking up more gear that way.  The risk of playing FFXIV irregularly is that the game moves on without you… and I hit yet another wall with the latest patch.  I was sitting at 220 from my last attempt to catch up… and this time around the first dungeon requires 230.  There are of course a lot of more grindy ways to catch me up… but we were trying to take as many short cuts as possible.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-01-24-21-17-35-84

Before disappearing and flaking out last time I had managed to put in some progress on the 235 weapon from Palace of the Dead and as I talked about yesterday our little run pushed me pretty far… but not quite over the tipping point.  So last night once finishing the Wiping City, we broke up into a smaller group and did some Palace of the Dead and over the course of a few runs managed to get me to 39 weapon 32 armor.  During all of the stuff I managed to accumulate enough Lore tombstones to upgrade my earrings to 230, and at some point during the evening Tam hooked me up with a set of 250 legs to replace my then lowest slot.  I had enough cash accumulated to manage picking up the 250 ring as well since my next lowest slot was that.  All together those four pieces of gear pushed me up to exactly 230 item level, and thus makes me viable for a lot more content including the dungeon that is blocking my quest progress.  Unfortunately however I have had this patch cycle spoiled for me, because before I remembered to turn off player titles…  I actually happened to be running Deep Dungeon with someone that was showing their new title off.  Now I am not sure exactly how it is going to go down… but I know something is going to go down.  Ultimately that is not necessarily going to ruin the impact, just a bit of a bummer to have it spoiled in a way that really should not have even been a thing.  While I wouldn’t necessarily count myself as “caught up”, I am at least in a much better place than I was.  I need to do a lot more palace of the dead so that I can pick up the next weapon…  but that one requires 60 weapon/armor which is still a very very long ways away.  My only revision of that content would be to make the end of sequence mini-boss drop one of whatever your lowest rank happens to be armor or weapon.  Also of note… you can see that thanks to the new weapon I did some glamouring and am once more the Bunny Samurai.

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.