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.

Back to Guild Wars 2

So recently I started playing Guild Wars 2 again.  For a while I was all about FFXIV and wanted nothing more than to live in the world of Erozea.  But among the issues I had with the small world, broken economy, outrageous housing prices, and more character building restrictions than I could count, I decided I would go back and give some other games a try.

It started a couple weeks ago when I had gotten a beta invite to The Elder Scrolls Online.  Now i’ve been in that beta before and hated it (expected much better from the Elder Scrolls), but it turned out a couple of the guys I work with also had beta invites, so I gave the game one more go.  And the beta was quite fun this time around.  And it sparked something inside of me.  Some deep down lust for adventure, diving into the unknown, and becoming an epic hero in a world I hardly understand beckoned to me.  I knew everything about FFXIV and have been through all of the content.  I wanted to play something different than FFXIV for a while, and I remembered that the second best MMORPG I’ve played was GW2.  So fire it up I did.

Guild Wars 2 is by no means perfect (honestly, what MMO is?), but it does offer many features that I enjoy.  For one the world is huge and there is a lot to explore.  At any point I can open up my map and see where I haven’t explored and spend time on my own gaining achievements and loot.  I also have been paying attention to the details and how much work went into the games’ design.  The graphics and art style are nice and the maps have a lot of great views and landmarks.  The NPC’s have some interesting dialogue and much of the world NPC dialogue contains voiceovers which keep it feeling like a living place.  However with how big the world is, it feels very empty and lonely at times, hardly ever running into other players while exploring.

I’ve noticed how much more customizable the characters are in Guild Wars 2 as opposed to FFXIV.  In FFXIV there is only a handful of abilities to choose from and there is usually one best way to play your character role.  This makes solo play difficult and end-game content restricted.  There is a shortage of tanks and healers in FFXIV, meaning long wait times when finding parties.  In Guild Wars 2, characters are more self-sufficient and have a variety of play styles to choose from.  A warrior who wears heavy armor can be more like a “tank” with being able to fight up close, but can just as easily take up a bow and focus more on ranged combat or invest in being more of a tank/healer or a damage dealer.  You can pick a weapon based on your fighting style, and while there are only so many additional skill slots, you can pick which abilities to unlock and use to customize your character even further.

The items that can be used in GW2 are also a nicer variety than in FFXIV.  Not that they look nicer, but there are far more options that tie into whatever play style you are looking to get into.  If you like the combat with a staff or a hammer, you can find different versions of that weapon that cater to grant you more vitality, or healing power, or toughness to help either compliment what you’re finding you are good at, or to help boost you where you are weak.  For example, I like to use a greatsword and dive right into fights.  However I find myself often on my ass because I can’t keep my health up long enough to defeat an enemy.  Now I can either set my focus to do more damage during these battles by increasing my attack power and condition damage, or I can invest in vitality, healing power, or toughness so I can withstand more damage over time.  But I have the option to customize my character to what I want to be, not have to just accept my character as it is out of the box.

The Economy in Guild Wars 2 is also much nicer.  Not that I am a millionaire, but I make enough money of of gathering and crafting and questing and achievements that I am never wanting.  When selling items on the market, I get paid right away and don’t have to wait for a retainer to sell something.  The not having to wait hours for an item to maybe sell for a small profit is nice.  Prices are reasonable, and crafting, while not as exciting as other MMORPGs, is very simple.  I don’t have to worry about running out of shards when crafting, and many of the recipes need to be discovered which I enjoy doing more than knowing everything I can craft ahead of time.  I can pick up craft recipes as rewards or I can just start combining things I have to see if it will work.  If I have eggs, flour, sugar, and water for example – I can make some dough which can then be combined with pie filling to make a pie.  The pie recipe is then added to my list so I can do more of them in the future.

The community in Guild Wars 2 thus far is kind of lacking though.  It definitely is not the same crowd as I am familiar with in FFXIV.  Everyone seems to be focused more on end-game content on my server than helping out someone low-level as I am.  As I said before the world seems deserted except for when the big battles come around.  When a high level character goes into a low level area, they are extremely over powered compared to the lower level players even with level scaling.   I don’t see a lot of the player base as casual players out for fun and socializing, but more hardcore and achievement driven.  I joined a decent sized guild, most of which are involved in “world vs world” which I still don’t fully understand, but hope to enjoy in time.

Even though Guild Wars 2 has flaws, it isn’t a bad game.  It fact it is still one of the nicest looking and well done games out there.  It also has great reviews, and for a reason.  Having tried other games recently it still has a certain something to it that can capture my attention for a long time to come.  I can’t wait to see what loot I find or how the story unfolds or what kind of people I will meet as I continue playing.  Some of the mechanics are clunky or strange, but it ties into the flavor of the game.  I am also saving my $15 monthly fee by switching over because there is no charge to play.  I’m still trying to find my niche in the game with what class I like best and how I want to play, but the more I experiment and try new things, the more I understand just how much thought was put into the game and how deep it goes.  This isn’t a simple little world, it is vast and there is much to see and do.  I better get back in and continue my journey.

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!

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.