Bioshock Infinite is Infinitely Frustrating

So I’m taking a break from my online gaming to pursue some offline gaming.  The other day at work while doing some remedial factory work and being bored out of my mind I had an inspiration.  I thought “Gee, it would be awesome to play some Bioshock Infinite right about now” and I started to daydream about doing so.  Well not more than a day later I fired it up again on my PC and started playing.  I had fun, but now it is becoming a chore to play.

I had gotten a download of the game free when I purchased my 7950 graphics card earlier in the year, and due to all the hype I decided to play it.  The game looked amazing and it was very beautiful and fun to play – until I got to the combat.  I wasn’t ready for how difficult the combat would be and how un-skilled I would be starting out.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, it turns out it was very easy to die from standing in one place and getting shot at.  I hadn’t unlocked any good weapons and had no HP/Shield/Vigor boosts.  I was limited in what I could do, and I was frustrated.  I played a bit longer, but then my interest slowly dwindled as the game didn’t seem to get better over time.

Since then I saw many reviews saying how great the game was, and I put in my own review saying how un-great the game was.  Sure it looked shiny and it was a cool idea to have a hot chick running around on screen to keep me company – but the game seemed too forced.  No I don’t want to be the “false shepherd” and start shooting everyone in this beautiful city.  Oh, I have to?  I don’t get a choice?  Everyone suddenly hates me and wants to kill me on a simple mission to pick someone up?  Ok, gee I guess i’ll have to start fighting.  No, I don’t want to go on a long and boring sidequest to pick up an item before I can use another item to open a door to get through to the next zone, I just want to continue on with the story.  No?  I can’t do that?  I have to go through this side mission?  Fine.  I’ll do it.  I guess I don’t have a choice.  No, I don’t want to say this thing that upsets that bad guy.  I want to reason with him.  Oh, I can’t reason with him?  Ok, guess I gotta fight his giant army.  That’s the problem with Bioshock Infinite – I don’t get to have a choice.  Everything seems a bit forced, which isn’t what I would expect in a modern game.

The battles are at best predictable, and at worst confusing and frustrating.  I know when a tough fight is coming due to the amount of resources available before hand, and every fight seems to cycle through the same format – easy mobs, then slightly tougher, then very tough.  The next area repeats the same battles.  There isn’t a lot of pressure to do the fights with any strategy either.  Mostly I just rush in and start shooting because I know very well if I do die, I’ll just be revived over and over and over and keep trying until I win.  There’s no sense of danger or fear of failure.  The battles that are fun are frustrating.  There are sky hooks that I can latch on to and fly around and shoot enemies, but while it is fun I can’t aim and I have no idea where I am going on these hooks or how to use them properly.  They are a great idea for travel in Bioshock Infinite, but as far as combat, I might as well be trying to fight from a roller coaster or a mine cart or a car chase.  It’s exciting, but it is frustrating to aim a shot when both myself and the enemy are on the move.

Weapons are not all that they should be in Bioshock Infinite.  There is a variety of weapons, but you can only ever carry two at a time.  It would be nice to have a sniper rifle for long-range sniping, a rocket launcher for boss monsters, a rifle for long-range combat, and a shotgun for close range.  But since I can only have two and there is no way of knowing when i’ll come across another weapon of that type I have to choose wisely.  I normally like to snipe, but when all mobs aggro at once and ammo is limited during combat, it becomes a choice on the two guns that will provide the most accurate shots.  And while weapons can be upgraded, it is too costly to upgrade all of them, thus the two guns you favor will be come the two you upgrade first, and the two you get used to and stick with.  I would love to use that RPG or the heater gun or the heavy machine gun, but when it means I have to give up my upgraded carbine riffle or my hand cannon that I am used to, I won’t do so.

Vigors are nice, but again there are too many to choose from and they can all be upgraded at an expensive cost.  I stick to one mostly because I don’t have the time or the patience to keep switching between them.  Combat is fast paced and I just want to eliminate the mobs as quickly as possible.  I don’t want to do tricks with them or set up traps and hope they walk into them or rush into battle with a vigor and then be surrounded by mobs that I can’t take care of.  Yeah, I know if I die I just come back and get to try again, but there is something shameful about hearing someone in the game say “Mr. Dewitt you are tougher than I expected” when I just died six times and had to keep being revived.  So as best I can I just stand back and keep casting fire explosions at the mobs and hope to kill them.

However as a sci-fi fan and a gaming fan – the uniqueness of this game, the graphics, and the story keep me coming back to continue playing.  I am truly interested in where the story is going and what I will learn from the characters and the world.  I really like the way the game looks and over time I feel submerged in the world and it is exciting.  The characters are interesting and the story always throws something surprising into the mix.  I don’t know how much further I have to go in the game until I have finished it, but I’m at the point now where I just want to push through to the end and see how the game ends up.  The game is frustrating, but also fun enough that I want to finish it.  I hope I can do so soon.

Exploring the UI

I’ve been playing ARR since the alpha testing stage, and one element that has stayed pretty consistent has been the UI.  I’ve recently been looking into customizing it beyond the default setup and looking into other player’s ideas for customizing their UI.  I’m finding there are a lot of different ways people are setting up the UI.

The thing I like the most is that there is a “HUD Layout” mode where you can move any element on the UI to whichever position works best.  SE also did an excellent job with the hot bars and what can be put on them – making essentially every item, action, emote, and command in the game as an icon that can be placed on the UI.  Below are some of my favorite examples:

Image

In this example, the user has four hot bars along the bottom to create one mega command bar as well as a hot bar on the right size of the screen to quickly switch between different classes/gear sets based on the situation.

Image

In this example the user has two chat boxes open at the same time – one for chat and one for battle messages. A great solution for reducing chat clutter.

Image

Here the user actually stacked two hot bars on top of each other on the right side and is using this as a shortcut to many different emotes for interacting with others. The map is moved to the opposite side and there is a hot bar above the chat box where items are readily available.

Image

And here is my UI so far. I’m still trying to find the perfect balance, but I have been inspired to use four hot bars instead of the one or two I started out with in the beginning of testing.

Image

Here’s an example of the HUD layout mode, just to show exactly how easy it is to customize the UI and move each element exactly where you want it. Something I wish ALL games had.

The chat box is a very magical tool also.  Not only can it be moved anywhere on the screen or broken into multiple chat boxes as needed.  This was also possible in 1.0, but many people will never experience that magic.  In ARR chat can do anything you would want it to.  The font size can be changed from very small to very large, colors can be changed, channels can be toggled on or off, commands are as easy as “/follow”, “/shout”, “/em”, “/tell”, “/say”, “/wave”, etc.  User names can be clicked right in chat to add to party, send friend invites, and send tells.  Additional tabs can be added and switched to simply by clicking on them.  It is a very intuitive feature and causes zero frustration.

The set of maps in ARR are among the best I have seen.  The mini-map displays current location, quest markers, FATE battle locations, party member locations, and everything else a mini-map should have.  Clicking on the mini-map or pushing the “M” key the game will bring up the full map – a window that you can move and change the size of that contains the full set of maps containing everywhere you have explored and have yet to explore.  In a local area the map becomes semi-transparent so you can leave it up in front of you while on the move.  The map features in ARR make exploration and finding your next goal easy and intuitive.

Quest tracking is an amazing feature, and is something that isn’t new to an MMORPG, but something all MMORPGs should have and I am glad FFXIV now has.  Being able to see what you are currently doing in-game and what your next goal is is a phenomenal tool.  Being able to open your quest log and select which quests to track and which quests to hide is also available in ARR – again nothing new but still very useful to have.

ImageAside from the elements explained above, there are a lot of subtle little items in the UI that deserve mention, but are too much to go into at this time.  Many items I am still learning (such as the hate levels shown next to player names in the party) and exactly how many items can be placed on the hot bars.  But one thing I do realize with the UI in ARR is that anything is possible.  Just about anything I can think of or want to do with the UI has so far been available.  This is one of the many awesome things in ARR.  I am glad that SE listened and payed attention to so many pros and cons from other MMORPGs while developing ARR.  Nobody but SE had the power to pull it off, and they used their powers for good.

Don’t be a Jerk

Don't be a Jerk

Remember kids – in MMORPGs, just as in life, there will always be someone better off than you and there will always be someone worse off than you. Respect and admire your elders and learn from them. Teach those with less fortunate than you and help then when you can. In the future, they just might do the same to those who come after them. Just don’t be a jerk.

Back to the Beta

Image

Phase 3 of Beta kicked off this weekend and it was everything I hoped it would be.  After a barrage of new information at E3, and after a month and a half since the last beta test ended, players were allowed to go back into their beloved world and see the results of all the hard work that had been done since Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn was announced.  Beta Phase 3 includes many features that will be released for the final version of the game, UI changes, all classes playable (save for arcanist, summoner, and fisher) and all areas around the three main city-states have been open for exploration.  Testing on the PS3 also began and the NA/EU servers were up and running.  This was a very special and exciting time for everyone in this phase of beta, and the energy was all positive.

I started my Beta adventure at 6AM CST, two hours after the servers were up and running.  During the first few hours there was some server issues requiring a few reboots, but once things were up and running the beta test went off without a hitch.  I was able to freely come and go from all areas, accept quests, use the UI features, and talk in all the chat channels without issue.  Load times were super fast between areas, and many characters could be seen playing nearby and off in the distance – all while the NPC’s went about their daily activities, the audio stayed in synch, and the weather cycled beautifully.  The world of Erozea felt like a living, breathing world and at no point did I feel anything was herky-jerky or lagging or falling behind in frame rate or detail.

There was so much detail in the game, everywhere I looked.  From the sound of footsteps clanking while walking on metal, the echo of character voices in tunnels and stone rooms, the background chatter in busy areas, the stars in the night sky, the sound of rain falling, the transparency of the water, the way the sunlight filtered down through the trees, how the shadows were set around objects, the details in the texture of clothing and the landscape – everything looked and felt very real and surreal at the same time.  The music in the game was very beautiful and very fitting to the respective areas.  Most of the time I couldn’t help but form an emotional connection with an area based on the music alone.

Despite all the distractions of a beautiful game, I knew I had to focus on the core game play elements and make sure the story and questing and leveling and ability systems were all working correctly because it was still beta.  I rolled a Lalafel THM and started out in Ul’Dah.  I was expecting a different experience than what I saw in Gridania from the past beta test – but I was surprised to find out that the new starting city had a lot of parallel features.  The opening scene still started with a wagon ride with a similar conversation and ambush, and I still had to go to the Adventurer’s Guild and go through the same basic type quests starting out as in Gridania.  The quest names were different and the environments were different, but the core objectives and experiences were very similar.  In 1.0, each starting city had a different story and feel from each other – but I was a bit relieved this time around knowing that no matter what starting city I would pick in ARR, I wouldn’t be missing out too much by not starting in another city.

I was able to get to level 15 on THM, and I see they made some real big changes with the classes in ARR.  All the abilities were different and required a different mindset to be strategic and do the best damage.  I wasn’t really happy with THM – partly because it was so different and took some getting used to, and partly because it was beta and I wasn’t sure how much it would change before release.  I wanted to make sure I gave proper feedback as some spells didn’t make sense to me and I felt game play could be better.  There are only a few spells starting out, and until I understood how they all worked together it was frustrating to try and learn something so new in a world that felt so familiar otherwise.

I was happy to see a lot of NPC’s in the game that I remember from 1.0, and how the layout of Ul’Dah hasn’t changed much since 1.0.  There were a few changes made to the city (such as eliminating the market wards and placing the grand company in the city instead of an instanced area), but these changes were for the better and do not take away from the original feel of the city.  Quests were easy to track, map locations were easy to find, abilities were easy to set, and there was plenty to keep me busy in-game.  I had a vareity of quests, hunting log targets, storylines, levequests, guildheist quests, FATE battles, and dungeons to keep me busy.  There was not one moment that I was lost or confused or out of things to to while playing solo.

ImageUnfortunately due to a glitch in one of the main-story quests and only having the two days for this phase of beta, I wasn’t able to get as much done as other players.  Aside from focusing on THM and chatting with my friends and tweaking the UI and exploring the world and reading through the quests – I didn’t have time for much else – but that’s another thing I love about this game is the variety of players and styles of playing. I hear some players got to level 20-25 in these two days by really knuckling down on it, or leveled two classes or explored some dungeons and party combat during the two days they played – but not everyone felt the need to rush through it.  I have many more things I want to explore, so I’m hoping the next phase of beta comes soon.

FFXIV Live Letter From Producer Part II E3

Well here it is – the last live letter from the producer before beta phase 3 starts and before we really dive into experiencing the full offering of what they’ve been working so hard on for A Realm Reborn. Many questions have been answered and the interview runs from 3:00:00 to 3:45:00.  The video answers many of the main questions we had thus far including the scholar job, fishing, housing, FATE battles, and chocobo breeding. Also some exclusive footage of the new summoner/scholar jobs in action.

FATE system described. (Eng. Sub)

Just wanted to share this new video explaining the FATE system that looks like what we’ll see once the full game is released. I also appreciated how detailed and beautiful the game looked running this video on 1080P. Looks like the level sync is implemented too. I can expect when the game is released this is similar to how the final gameplay will look and feel. Great window into FFXIV 2.0!