Archeage Ahoy!

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So my new gaming adventure is going to be in Archeage.  I’ve only played two beta weekends, but it feels like I’ve been playing it for quite some time already.  There is a lot to figure out in this game, but every minute I play I appreciate more and more the effort and thought that went into Archeage.  I appreciate the steep learning curve.  I appreciate the huge open world.  I appreciate the beautiful landscapes and the places to explore.  I appreciate the consistency of the world and how it brings the community together.  I also appreciate how much fun it is to play with everyone.

I first heard about Archeage about two months ago on Steam and how it was in Alpha access/beta testing.  I saw the videos and the art style and had some sneak previews of the content.  I saw there was open-world housing, and farming and gathering.  I saw you could take a glider off a mountain and float over the landscape below.  I saw you could ride carts and airships and raise mounts.  I saw there were open sea battles and PvP all taking place in the same world as the players chopping trees.  I saw cat girls.  I saw people riding donkeys and carrying packs across the world on trade missions.  I saw some awesome character building that didn’t lock players into just one specific class.  I saw a thriving economy based on supply and demand.  The game seemed perfect.  So I followed it.  I followed it hoping it wouldn’t suck, but fully knowing i’ve been hosed by other games in the past.  I watched videos, I read reviews, I played the beta, and I must say it is just about as good of a game as I could hope for.

Archeage is a “sandbox” MMORPG.  If you’re wondering what that means, you are not alone.  Sandbox MMO’s are not normal.  Most games are classified as “themepark” games.  Themepark games are the “pick your class, level, quest, do dungeons, level, get loot, get mounts, level, quest, dungeons, raids, and get more loot” type of games.  Games like WoW and TERA Rising and Guild Wars are more theme park.  They are fun but it is mostly about combat and gear and achievements.  A sandbox MMORPG as more of a live-in world.  Yes it is still a MMORPG and there is still the ability to level up and grind on mobs and do quests – but there is much more freedom and content in the world.  You don’t have to spend your time in battle if you don’t want to.  You can spend all your time gathering or growing crops and selling items for profit.  It is more like a “second life” of MMORPGs and encourages players to just hang out and enjoy the world and not so much worry about being the best.

The game is going to be F2P – which to be honest was hard to think about.  A game this good being free to play is going to draw some bad crowds.  But the more I think of it, the more I understand the need for the community to have people coming in and out all the time.  It adds variety and it adds player-driven content on a large enough scale.  The game comes from Korea and has been out for the past two years.  It went to Russia and is now coming to North America.  For a modern MMO it doesn’t look quite as beautiful and sharp as I would have hoped.  But it does have content.  Two years of development before being released here – so the game has ironed out a lot of wrinkles with how everything interacts together.  There are already plenty of reviews and videos explaining what to expect and how to play different classes.

The classes in the game are defined by players picking any 3 of the 10 skill trees available.  Whichever three you pick creates your class.  There are 120 different combinations to choose from, and you are free to swap out skills at any time if you change your mind.  If you start out with Battlerage/Defense/Sorcery for example so you can be a “Crusader”, and find you like magic better than melee attacks, you can swap out battlerage for witchcraft and defense for occultism thus becoming a “Demonologist” with more magic attacks and combinations for your character.  There is a sense of liberty when you finally find that perfect combination.  And there is no law saying you have to learn some skills before others.  If you like three of the sorcery skills but don’t want any of the rest – just take the three abilities you want and spend more points in the Shadowplay skill tree instead.  If you’re not interested in the poison arrow, spend that point to learn whirlwind slash instead.  There is a lot of freedom.

Back when FFXIV 1.0 came out – a lot of people didn’t like the game for its lack of content and vast empty world with nothing to do and the poor crafting system and fighting system.  But when I saw it – when I saw the complexity of the world,  the size, the amount of freedom and how much potential it had – that’s what drew me to the game.  Yes there were no chocobos yet, but there were going to be.  Yes the airships were closed, but they would be there.  Yes some landscapes were copy/paste, but there were huge areas and hidden places to explore.  There was much potential in that game, but they tore it down and remade it into a themepark MMO.  It was a champion sandbox game that just wasn’t finished so nobody gave it a chance.

Now that those days are gone and the world of Erozea is small and cramped and full of waaay too many mounts and aetherites and instant travel and concentrated mob spots and instanced areas – it just doesn’t have that open world feel anymore.  I have been looking all over for a game to bring back the early FFXIV feeling, and I think Archeage has it.  I am looking forward to the good memories and fun times I will have here.

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Farewell for Now

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Well, i’m throwing my hat into the ring for now and quitting FFXIV for the foreseeable future.  I don’t know if it’s just me, or if the game itself has gotten stale, or if I’m just itching for a new adventure.  Something about the game since 2.0 just hasn’t been sitting well with me, and I feel like it is time to part ways.  

Part of the reason may be that as of last year I have been working more, leaving very little free time aside from nights and weekends.  Back when I started FFXIV in 2010, I had a lot more time to invest into the game.  I had met a lot of interesting and fun people, did some RP, joined a popular guild, and it was an overall fun experience.  The game went well for me and I enjoyed what it was up until it went down in preparation for 2.0.

When 2.0 came around, it was very amazing and fun.  I started a class I hadn’t played before (marauder) and played it all the way up to level 50 while at the same going through the story, unlocking the map, and picking up on the new lore along the way.  And the game was fun for this journey that lasted a couple of months.  Combining this progress with my other level 50 classes, I found myself sitting at end game pretty quick.  All dungeons were unlocked and the maps were complete and the story was played out.  I felt a sense of happiness and accomplishment.  I couldn’t want for what was next.

But there wasn’t much next.  It turned out that at end-game the only thing to do was dungeon grind for tomes and when I had tomes I could spend them for gear.  I did this for a while and got my darklight armor and again was decked out with the best gear.  Then another patch came with new gear to grind for and a couple new dungeons.  I got sick of them but unlocked the new gear.  Then more difficult dungeons came and more gear.  It seemed all end-game was consisting of was dungeons and gear, which got very old very fast.  That’s when I tried doing other things with my time, and when I realized just how much 2.0 was different from 1.0 and that the game I once loved no longer existed.

Let’s start with one thing I never really paid much attention to in 1.0- gathering and crafting.  In 1.0 gathering and crafting classes were just that – classes.  They were things you could spend time and hard work on and gain levels in and have as much pride in doing as any DOW/DOM class.  IN 2.0 – this feeling was just gone. I found it was fun for a short time, but after a while it did get repetitive.  Gathering zones were concentrated to a small area of a few spots on the map.  Instead of roaming far and wide looking for objects, now you just ran back and fourth between five spots.  Very dull.  And discovering objects no longer took skill, but rather just equip high enough gear and push button to receive materials.

Crafting wasn’t much better.  Recipies were much simpler and already written down in the journal, so there was no sense of discovery as in 1.0.  Perfecting a crafting class didn’t render many rewards either.  Mob drops and dungeons raids yielded items much better than what could be crafted, and markets were flooded with decent gear that was dropped for quests.  The economy was wonky because nobody really bought anything crafted as decent gear was laying all over the place for next to nothing.  The really good things that could be crafted at high levels cost waaaay too much to craft due to the materials needed.  Repairs/repair requests were no longer relevant since repair NPC’s could repair to 100% thus phasing out a major need for crafting.  Oh, and leveling a crafting class?  It didn’t take skill.  All you had to do was buy a bunch of items on the market and repeat the same quest in town over and over to turn that in.  Very disappointing.

So the game it turns out was very focused on only dungeon raids and gear.  End game content was geared towards unlocking the best equipment and raiding more dungeons.  More hard modes came out, more extreme battles, and more fancy items like mounts and hats for doing difficult fights.  All great and fun – but that was ALL there seemed to be to do.  In 1.0 – FFXIV seemed more about the community and world, where 2.0 seems more about dungeons and gear.

The world of FFXIV 2.0 is much smaller, and much more crowded than 1.0.  Yes, the game looks great and the maps are gorgeous in 2.0, but there isn’t a lot to see.  That, and the world is so full of objects and people that it doesn’t feel all that open or epic.  There are aetherites everywhere – making traveling on foot extremely quick.  Combined with mounts of all shapes and sizes, that make travel even faster.  Not only does this make the world feel smaller, it also makes it too crowded.  Mounts can be HUGE and there are so many of them.  Gone are the days of simply having different sized chocobos that can have different gear.  Now you have goobles, fat chocobos, behemoths, horses, ahirmen, magitec mounts, courels, flying chair thinggies, and so many other annoying mounts that take up the screen and look ugly.  All these mounts make the chocobo feel useless and not worth keeping around, which is disappointing considering all they can do.

I remember when playing Guild Wars 2, I asked why there were no mounts.  Guild Wars 2 is a much bigger game with more maps and vistas and fields and valleys and open areas and sights to see.  I asked why such a game had no mounts to get places faster.  My guild members stated very bluntly it was because there were so many waypoints (teleports) that having mounts would make the world too small.  Why then, does FFXIV allow for so many mounts and aetherites in a map that is much smaller?  I am not sure, but that upset me.

Of how small the world is, it also doesn’t feel very alive.  The community seems to have dried up.  It was promising in Alpha/Beta, but it died off.  Players are standing around, but nobody is talking.  Everyone is gathered to the end zones and maybe talking in their guilds – but I don’t see actual conversations.  I don’t see anything in world chat or area chat.  I don’t see people RP like I used to.  I don’t see people needing help on quests.  Everything just feels lifeless and dead.  Even in such a small world – this is what bothers me.  In 1.0 you could stand in Ul’dah and hear shouts for parties and different groups bantering back and fourth.  It was fun to know I could jump into a conversation and make some friends or ask questions about the game or look for a group.  This is no longer happening in 2.0.  Take a game like TERA online – people are always chatting and having a good time.  I miss this in FFXIV.

In the end for me, FFXIV just feels like too small of a world with too much candy and not enough meat and potatoes.  If the world does someday get larger, if they go back to only chocobos, if they make the crafting system more involving again and allow for more customization of characters – I might be back.  But I don’t see that happening here.  The game just gave into the themepark MMO model – which was fun but now I have to move on to something a little more interesting to me.  No, I do not care about having the best gear or being max level.  I care about the people I meet and the adventures I have along the way.  When a game cuts out the adventure and socialization of a game to the point where all you do is log in, complete daily limits, and log out – that isn’t fun to me.  I need something more to spend my time on.  And for that, I am out.

Luckily though, there are some very nice MMORPG’s coming out in the next year or two.  Archeage, Black Desert, Bless, Blade and Soul, Phantasy Star Oline 2, Everquest Next, the Crew – so many new worlds to explore.  Uriah Nool may be out of FFXIV, but where he goes next will only be told in time.

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

After playing South Park: The Stick of Truth for around 10 hours now, I think it is time I review this game. No, I haven’t finished the entire game, but I have played enough to know how it feels, and what to expect going into the future.  I don’t want to have to rush through this game or bypass some great hidden items or dialogue due to my want to crank out a review, so I am going to review what I’ve seen so far – both the good and the not so good.

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The first thing I wanted to mention is that the game has a lot of fun items and references that make me want to go back and re-watch some of the older episodes of South Park.  Being a fan of the series, I am finding a lot of items, characters, and conversations in the game that remind me of some great South Park moments.  I feel special because I get the reference, even if others watching me play the game do not.  There are also me references specific to this game, namely satire that picks on the elements of other video games.  On one quest while exploring the alien space ship, there are audio logs to be found in the different rooms, and the recordings are just golden.

The story itself seems pretty simple and linear.  I always know where I are supposed to go next and who I need to talk to.  I was surprised on how quickly the game let me explore the town and start some side quests, however there are certain parts that are blocked off to kept me from doing too much or exploring areas outside of the main scenario until later on.  There is a fast travel system to utilize, which is great once you’ve been somewhere and opened all the boxes and looted all the drawers.  There isn’t a reason to go back and explore a second time, as everything remains opened and empty after doing so once.

As far as the looting goes, there is not a large variety of “useful” items in the game.  As far as gear/weapons are concerned, it seems like the options are limited.  There is only one best set of gear or weapon to use at a time, where everything else is either too high of a level to equip or too low of a level to be of any help.  The weapons can be customized with “stickers” and “patches” to give them bonuses in combat, but again the base item is the limiting factor.  For example, I really liked having the billy club I unlocked during the mission to recruit Token.  I wanted the town to “respect my authority,” but by the time I found that weapon there was already a better weapon that did twice the damage, so I had to leave the billy club off.

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Some of the items I’ve found in-game are useful (such as health and mana potions) but a majority of the things I found are junk.  In fact there are are quite a few “junk” items that serve as nothing more than show references that you’ll find often.  It is fun for a while, but after finding “The Poop who Took a Pee” for the 20th time, the novelty of looking for items wears off.  I also found that there are many items in the game that look like they would be fun to use in crafting recipes, but they serve no purpose other than to sell for money.  It would have been nice if the game included a “crafting” system so I could use some of these objects like a “broken sword hilt” or a “cardboard tube” or “scissors and glue” to make some unique gear.

The dialogue and story in the game is hilarious and the game very rarely feels like a chore.  The situations I have to go through as the player are sometimes predictable, but the game tries really hard to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.  Yes there is a quest where I have to unlock one door to get the brass key to access the silver key to get the gold key to unlock the door to the cafeteria to rescue Clyde from detention, and in any other game that would mean a chore of wave after wave of obligatory enemy while working up to a boss.  And yes, that is what I had to do in The Stick of Truth.  But the thing is, I don’t mind.  The battles are fun in that I am always wanting to fight some more enemies to hone my skills, and the further I am in the mission, the more fun and unpredictable the story gets.  I don’t know what to expect around the next corner, but I know it is going to be worth it, because it is South Park.

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To me, the most annoying part of the game is where it tries to squeeze elements into the game that really shouldn’t be there.  I speak of course of the “buddy” skill and the “dragon shouts.”  At first I don’t mind how fun it is to learn a new “dragon shout” or fart spell that I can use to manipulate the environment, do sneak attacks, and blow things up with fire.  But after the novelty wears off, these seem to be nothing more than mandatory skills that are only useful when the story forces you to use them.  Oh you want to get past that door?  You can’t unless you use a fart at just the right time.  Oh, you want to get past those guards?  You better distract them with a fart or you’ll get sent back to the start of the area.  Oh, the gate is closed?  You better change your buddy to Princess Kenny so you can charm that character and then never use Kenny again.  (Seriously, I only use Butters, and I hate having to switch him out for other buddies to pass these mandatory storyline quests).

All in all though, the game itself is a great wonder to behold and an experience no true gamer should ever pass up.  I believe South Park: The Stick of Truth is one of those games that will be around and talked about for a long time.  Everything it does, it does well.  The interface, the fully voiced characters, the graphics, the controls, the story, the dialogue, and the references are all perfectly done in this game and speak true to the fans.  If all games were made with the same detail, care, and attention as seen in South Park: The Stick of Truth, I think the entire gaming world would be a better place.  This game to me feels like an apology to the gamers for all the crappy and boring games that have come out in the past based off of popular television shows and movies and for that I am deeply thankful and take my hat off to South Park: The Stick of Truth.

South Park: The Stick of Truth First Impressions

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I just started South Park: The Stick of Truth on the PC recently and wanted to share some first impressions.  First of all, the reviews were right in that the game does deserve a 8-9/10 score.  The game has great presentation, a fun battle system, a hilarious story (so far) and will appeal to the fans of South Park.  The battle system is surprisingly challenging and fun, which I was not expecting in a South Park game.

As far as the game itself, they hit the nail on the head with how true it is to the show.  Not only are the graphics and voice overs identical to the show, but also the exploration and situations you encounter feel very on-par with the South Park series.  I don’t feel like I am playing just some game with South Park painted over top of it, but I feel like I am actually in a living, breathing, South Park world.  I am impressed.

To be honest, I can’t think of any other video game in the past where not only did it look like a show it was based off of, but also feels like that show.  I mean, some of the older games like Pokemon felt like you were living in the world if you used some imagination, but never before have I seen a game hit the nail on the head so well with both visual elements and story/interaction elements.  I can’t want to keep playing this one.

The Elder Scrolls Online Beta

ImageLike many MMO fans, I signed up for and was invited to the Elder Scrolls Online beta.  Recently the NDA has been lifted, so I thought I would share my experience.

The first time I had participated, I was very disappointed.  However in recent beta tests I have found a new interest in TESO.  My experience in this game so far are based off of  my first impressions and what my views are on this game compared to other MMO’s and RPG’s I’ve played in the past.  This also isn’t a review by any means, and I know it is still beta, so I will have to hold off on too many complaints I have until the actual release.

The game itself is beautiful and feels very much like an Elder Scrolls game.  The graphics, music, enemies, and atmosphere have that Elder Scrolls feel that we’ve all come to know and love and the world is filled with all the lore you could ask for.  The story and quests are all voiced over and are easy to pick up or decline based on what you as the player want to do.  There isn’t a lot of hand-holding or forced quests aside from the main storyline, so your character is free to roam and do things as you see fit.

That being said however, there are some MMO elements that make this feel very different from traditional Elder Scrolls games.  For one, areas are divided up by zones based on level ranges.  If you try taking your level 2 mage too far from the starting area, you’re gonna have a bad time.  Another difference is the lack of elements such as pickpocketing NPC’s, town guards, stealing items, killing NPC’s and looting corpses.  (Yes, corpses have some loot, but if you’re used to finding a full set of armor on a corpse, tough luck.)  Rather the world is set to be protected from the epic heroes running around and most of the content can’t be manipulated with as in other games.

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One thing they really need to work on in my opinion is the UI of The Elder Scrolls Online.  The minimal UI in Skyrim worked great for a single player game, but for an MMO, people like to have a “cluttered and interactive” HUD.  MMO players like to track quests and friends and events and items and statuses.  The quest tracker thus far is limited to one quest at a time, there is no mini map to see where I am going, and the chat box is very basic.  Another major complaint I have with the UI is that I can’t see the overhead names of other players.  I am unable to tell a fellow player from an NPC or an enemy, so I have no idea of that character I am approaching will help me out, try to kill me, or try to sell me some crap I don’t need.

Gathering and crafting in TESO so far seems to be on par with other MMO’s.  Items are scattered throughout the world and you can collect anything from basic food ingredients, to insect parts, to ores, to wood and plant fibers.  It seems very similar to the gathering/crafting system in Skyrim.  Of course I can’t think of many people who would have the time to go out and gather all those supplies, so I’m hoping to see an trading post in the game at some point.  Personally I was confused with the crafting system and would have liked an NPC quest to help walk me through how to do some basic crafts.

My impressions of TESO beta is that is is shaping up to be a well-made MMORPG and should appease the fans of The Elder Scrolls who want to try playing with other people instead of going the game alone.  However, I don’t believe this is going to last as a subscription-based MMO unless they do more catering to the existing MMO crowd.  I feel like this game is going to be worth the pricetag for the game itself, but not worth the monthly fee as there is not a lot of social content/interaction I am seeing available at this point.  I’ll keep reading updates though and see if they add more elements in the future.

Party Party Party

Party Party Party

Who would have thought on a Tuesday night, while rolling a new character on a new server, that I would run into such great people having a fun event? I strolled into Gridania as a level one conjurer on Gilagamesh and I found this group of lalafels sitting around. Not wanting to be left out I joined them and immediately was invited into a LS and made some new friends. To top it off, this is a screenshot of a live stream being played online to a final fantasy vocal soundtrack. It’s nice to see FFXIV players hanging out and having fun. It is moments like this that make me proud of this game and community.

http://www.twitch.tv/rumipuffs