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.

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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.

Living in Eorzea Part III

So you’ve got your character created, you’ve taken your first steps into town, and you’ve arranged your UI and graphics just the way you would have liked.  You’ve accepted your first quest and now you are ready to venture out into the world.

The first thing you want to do is turn in that first quest.  Not only can you not run away and never come back to your starting city without first turning that in, you also won’t be able to see or talk to any of the other players.  You’ll notice the world is eerily quiet – and that’s because the game hasn’t shoved you into the full world.  But don’t worry – you’ll get there in a minute.

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The world is so empty – Where is everyone?

Turn in your first quest, and the guild master will have another quest available for you.  You’ll notice the icon over his or her head has changed to a “meteor” shape.  Those are the quests which drive the storyline, so you’ll want to do those when you see them – especially if you are stuck in the game and feel like there’s nothing left to do.  FFXIV is full of many quests.  Don’t worry about taking on all of them – you can cherry pick which ones you want to do and save the others for when you want to quickly level up another class later in the game.

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Oh, there everyone is!

Right now take the meteor icon-quest from your guild master.  She will give you three objectives – talking to the guild of your starting class, touching the aetherite, and learning about the markets.  You’ll also notice that now you can see and talk to other players.  At this point you can completely blow off your training and run head first into the world as far as you can before you get clobbered by an angry wild hog, or you can stay in the city and do some quests and learn a bit more.

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See these wonky things? You should go and touch all of them.

I suggest you go through these first few quests, while at the same time explore the city and attune yourself with the aetherites shown in you map.  See if you can find any other low – level quests to get you feet wet.  (For example, there are some quests that have you collect objects on the ground, or give /emotes to people).  It won’t be too long before you’re outside the city gates and slaying your first monsters, but all things in good time.  Right now enjoy learning the layout of the city, the shops, the items available, and how to access the things you need.  It will make things a lot easier later on.

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Do you know where you can buy minions in town? If you take time to explore you’ll find out soon enough!

The most important thing to remember is to read what NPC’s have to say during your quests.  Also if this is your first rodeo, don’t skip over the help menu system.  There are sure a lot of players rushing to end-game without knowing what they are doing, then complaining that the game is too hard or too boring.  Well, you don’t want to be one of those people.  You want to enjoy this game and enjoy the writing and the music and the graphics and scenery and the fine details.  You, sir, are one of the elite and you will not fall into the trap of becoming one of the much hated elitists – errr something like that.

Living in Eorzea Part II

When we last covered living in Eorzea we went through just the character creation and all the options available.  Now that we’re done making our character and picking our server we are going to enter the world of Eorzea.  But don’t get too far ahead of yourself, there is still a ways to go before we’re ready to start our adventure.

As soon as you enter the world, you are going to see a couple of cut scenes.  Make sure you’ve packed your snacks beforehand, because your life in the real world is about to end for a good month or two while you sink all your free time into FFXIV.  And you’ll have no regrets.  Don’t be impatient with the opening movies and dialogue – these set the mood for the game.  (You also can’t skip them, I tried).

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No matter which city-state you start out in, the opening scene is going to be very similar.  You’re riding in a carriage (or boat), the carriage gets ambushed, there’s a small battle to watch, and your carriage gets away and you make it into town.  You’ll have a conversation with Bremondt here and you’ll be asked a question.  Depending on your answer to that question you’ll get a level 1 ring in your starting gear that boosts your stats slightly (by one or two points, no big deal so don’t worry too much about it).  You’ll also be asked if it is your first trip to your starting city.  If you say yes you’ll hear a description of the city’s lore.  If you say no, you’ll hear a description of the city’s lore.  So just give an answer and appreciate the ambiance of the ride.

After a voiced-over cut scene with more lore and a title card, you’ll be able to walk around and stretch your legs in your starting city.  But first, you’ll have to talk to an into-NPC who gives your first quest.

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Now I’m a let this NPC guy finish, but before I do, I want to make sure you have one of the best UI/Graphics combinations of all time.  So before you talk to him for your first quest, you should take some time to go over your settings.  You can access the main menu by using the “Esc” key.  I find this is the best time in the game to do so, because up until you turn in your first quest, there’s no other players lurking around to mess you up.  There isn’t anyone shouting in the chat, nobody running by in their underwear, and no strange noises from people cheering or crafting to distract you.

The four things you’ll want to change are your graphics, audio, key bindings, and HUD layout.

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The system configuration is where you’ll find most of the settings you want.  If you’re cool like me you’ll just set the graphics to maximum and enjoy the full force of the game’s awesome graphics engine coming right at you.  But if you’re wanting some more FPS and find a good balance for your hardware you can tweak it here.  You can also change the sound settings, which hotbars appear, screen resolution, and controller settings.

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HUD layout is a great feature to FFXIV and allows you to position items on the screen.  Each object is labeled so you know what you’re moving and where you’re moving it to.  I had a post earlier this year on some awesome HUD layout examples – but it is mostly based on what you are comfortable with.  Feel free to be creative and see if you can find a layout you like.  Starting out you probably won’t have too much to keep track of, so just one or two hotbars will be fine.  Make sure you save your settings when done using the options on-screen.

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Looks great!  I think you’re ready to accept that first quest now!

Gamespot Reviews FFXIV: A Realm Reborn

I’ve been waiting a while for Gamespot to put out their review of A Realm Reborn. I normally go to them if I want to get an informative and quick review of a game I am interested in, and I’m sure I am not alone. I feel many people looking to buy FFXIV in the future will first search for this review.

7.0 isn’t the best score, but this is an MMO and it is never going to be a finished or complete game. There will always be bugs or glitches or content that isn’t yet available. So getting a 7.0 while the video doesn’t point out anything majorly wrong is a good compromise. I also think the video captures a lot of the good aspects of FFXIV with enough detail to pique the interest of people who are undecided if they want to try this or not.

Living in Eorzea Part 1

Having spent the last several weeks going from level 1 to level 50 and spending much time exploring the world, our hero Uriah Nool is going to piece out information on his journeys and provide some helpful tips for new and old adventurers alike.  This is part one of his multiple part series: “Living in Eorzea”  Let us begin.

As any new adventurer starting out in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn the first thing you’re gonna want to to is build a character.

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Any character will do, but I suggest you either pick a brave and heroic Lalafell like I did or a sexy female Miq’ote.  And you’re going to want to do this in the character creator by selecting “New Character” at the top of your menu.  In the character creator you can change many things.  Your height, hair style, eyes, face, voice, etc.  Even though there are no individual sliders to give yourself a wicked long nose and a huge gnarly overbite, the options are still pretty extensive.

Take some time to go over the different environments and gear set previews and make sure your character acts and moves and talks and dances like you’re hoping before finishing the appearance settings.  Now there are in-game items called “fantasia” that will bring you back to this screen and allow you to change all of your character model settings, but it may be a while before you can acquire one of these items, so for the time being you are who you are after completing this step.

After your appearance is all in order the next step is to pick your astral sign and guardian, which doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot in this game.  You might have slightly more fire resistance or slightly more wind resistance, but that’s about it.  I just put in my birthdate (third sun of the first astral moon) and picked whichever guardian I thought sounded good at the time.

After this, you’re going to pick your class.

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When you pick your class there is an option to choose between the disciples of war or the disciples of magic.  Pay attention when picking this class.  This will determine your starting city and your overall first impressions/experience with the game.  Gridania has a woodsy feel to it, Ul’Dah has a desert feel, and Limsa Lominsa has a pirate feel.  While it is true that you can change your class at any time later on in the game, and eventually you will get to see all of these lands, it’ll take a while to get to that point, so make sure you pick something you are happy with starting out.

Even though some equipment looks awesome and bad ass for your character – remember each class also plays a role later on.  If you want to be a tank – pick either a marauder or a gladiator.  If you want to be a healer – pick conjurer or arcanist.  Thaumaturge, archer, and arcanist are for ranged damage, while pugalist and lancer are for up-close melee damage.  This may sound pretty straight forward, but if you’re coming from a game like TERA where lancers were the main tanks you’ll want to know it is different here.

Now each of these classes eventually will allow you to pick a job later on, which is a more defined role.  You’ll notice I mentioned arcanist twice earlier, that is because arcanist can either be a damage dealer (summoner) or a healer (scholar) later on in the game.  Jobs are just more specialized versions of your class.  For example if you are a conjurer you can later transition into the white mage job.  When you become white mage you gain more healing power and new abilities specific to a healer, but you also sacrifice being able to borrow skills from other classes.  Think of a class as something versatile for solo play, and a job as a more defined role for party play.  Also, don’t think about jobs right now, as you won’t see that until later in game.

So finally once you pick your class and know your starting city, your final step is to pick a world to play on.

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They are divided up between Japan servers and NA/EU servers.  The closer your server group, the better response time you’ll have with battles and abilities as well as you’ll have people you can talk to who will be in your area.  If you live in Canada for example, you’ll have a better chance picking an NA/EU server than a Japanese server.  (Protip: I hear the NA/EU servers are hosted in Canada).  Now as far as picking a world, you either pick the one your friends are on or you pick a strange world.

When I first started playing FFXIV back in 2010, I picked Besaid because I liked the name (which was later turned into Balmung during the great server merge).  If you want to hang out with me, you can join the Balmung server.  If you want to play with anyone else, pick any other server.  At this point, it really doesn’t matter if you pick a legacy server or not.  When the game launched the legacy servers were all left over from players on 1.0 and the other servers were newly added for 2.0 (A Realm Reborn).  However, now that each server has players who have been through the story and collected all the items/gears and fought all the big battles – there really won’t be a difference.  So roll the dice, flip the coin, or close your eyes and pick whichever one you like best – then get ready for your adventure.

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Oh, and give that guy a name.

Early Access Roller Coaster Ride

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So early access is underway, and it has its ups and downs.  On the plus side, the game looks beautiful, the content is full to bursting, the systems are working great, there is very little lag, and I am able to play my old character and reconnect with all my friends.  But on the down side, here in North America, we’re seeing a lot of server issues and connection issues with logging in and the duty finder.

One aspect of the main story line is to go and run though several dungeons which can only be connected through using the duty finder, so when this is down the story doesn’t progress.  No grand companies, no earning seals, no epic cut scenes, no dungeon loot.  As a side effect of this problem, it also looks like some instanced battles in-game also rely on the duty finding server.  I was on a marauder quest that wouldn’t load because of a server error, later to be followed up by an error related to the duty finder.  Needless to say this has been frustrating while playing the game.

So to help us out, the maintenance team has been taking down the servers, trying to resolve the issues, and putting them back online.  This works for a while, but with so much traffic coming in with players trying to log and go right back into the duty finder, they have to throttle traffic, people can’t connect, people get booted, and other people cling to staying logged in as long as possible which ads to server population and wait times.  In fact, the reason I am writing this blog right now instead of being in-game fishing is because the servers are down again and I can’t log in.

However, amid the error messages, full servers, connection issues, and a few systems not working, the game itself is fantastic.  As I said, everything works as it should and everything in the world plays seamlessly.  The game is so great, that even with the issues they are having, once I am logged in and playing my character, all of that server maintenance and unable to log in crap is forgotten.

If any of you had played beta, you’ll know what kind of treat you are in for with the full version of this game.  You know the lands you will explore, the quests you will take, how the FATE system works, the marketing system, the equipment, the crafting/gathering systems – it is all there and working as it has been.  Now with the full release we have all areas unlocked for exploration, no level caps, grand companies, housing, more in-game items and rewards, fishing, arcanist class – the list goes on.  And every area visited, every class played, every dungeon explored – it all has something new to see and something interesting to do.  I also like the little bits of pop culture references that the game has sprinkled into it.

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The most exciting thing about FFXIV 2.0 is that the level of detail in the full version of the game doesn’t dwindle after the first few levels or after the first few main story quests.  As a player, you won’t “get the hang of it” after just a short while.  The game is constantly challenging players, throwing new and exciting things their way, and getting more and more exciting over time.  In most other MMORPGs you pick a single class and level that – and about halfway through the game you feel you’ve pretty much got a handle on how things work and just continue to grind and grind until the end.  FFXIV doesn’t work like that.  If you feel you’ve mastered a class – there’s plenty of difficult end-game content and equipment variations that will keep you working extremely hard to become better and push yourself to the limit.  And when that isn’t enough, at any time your character can take up another class and the game becomes completely new again with a new storyline, new abilities, new quests, and new items.

ImageI won’t go into too much more bragging about this game just yet, but I have a feeling SE hit the ball out of the park with this one.  So, even with all the issues in early access, I have been to the other side.  I have seen the working game.  I have played with the community, and I have tasted the waters of what this game has to offer.  And there is hardly anything that I would change about it.