Tuesday, August 12, 2014

FFXIV: Still Good!

Quick post/Update

Still having a ton of fun FFXIV. There is a lot to do within the game and none of it 'is quick'.

Want to level blacksmith in WoW? Could do it in like 5 hours with the new game 'quick leveling'.

Leveling blacksmith in FFXIV takes days of effort. And its not 'grindy', its like leveling up a combat class. There is depth to your choices, to how you craft, to what abilities you use.

But like a standard class, its not over then. Because blacksmith , like all crafting classes, nets you a few unique crafting skills. But in FFXIV you can poach abilities from other classes, so now suddenly you may want to level up your Culinary to get access to a power to help your blacksmithing...cause you might need that power to reach the highest difficulty of crafables (1, 2 and 3 star recipes). 

And this is just crafting. This idea of depth and enjoying the journey, and making the 'end' truely feel rare exists throughout.

Let me give you an example: You hit max level in WoW. How long until you are LFR geared?
How long until you are normal geared?
How hard it it to get some heroic gear?

In FFXIV this process takes longer, but there are more 'steps' in the path, so it is not that you feel like your not progressing, the ladder simply has more rungs.

And of course I would debate that each rung is more enjoyable, with better quests and experiences designed around it, but thats more an issue of taste.

After a very very long stint not running games I will be doing just that very shortly. Exciting times.

Gen Con
Sad we didnt go this year. Hoping to return to the great con again starting next year. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Return to Eorzea

So fucking long...

I rejoined WoW in February, after a stint in FFXIV where, despite enjoying myself, ended cause I felt I had done all the content there was to do and issues in their end game model.

I went to WoW, had my fun; did Garosh in LFR, then in Flex...then normal and now trying to pursue him in Heroic. In that time there have been no new dungeons, no new raids, no new dailies. The game is exactly as it has been since I joined as resources are focused on the future WoD expansion.

Taking a peak at developer tweets and alpha streams, the game is a long way off from release, with fundamental system changes still taking place. It is for lack of a better work, very frustrating to imagine that even after I exhausted content about a month ago (if not longer) that its still another 3-5 months before a new set of content will be released. 

So what to do until then?

I played in the Alpha and the Beta for months..and the game never really struck a cord with me. I did not like guild wars and other 'limited action bar' kind of games. I like having lots of buttons and powers to my class personally. More over the art style of the game is sometimes GREAT....most of the time though its just -too- much. It feels cluttered, clashing, like everything is trying to grab your attention. UI was terrible, leveling felt incredibly grindy...

Path of Exile
I love this game. Its great, that said no one I know plays it and in the end, without a social element its hard to spend hours playing a co-op dungeon game.

Diablo 3
Was fun, but short. Better than initial release certainly, but after you have done your rifting and gotten most of your gear, its rather dull. Rifts are really kind of limited affairs, nothing like Path of Exiles maps which add unique rules and 'affixes/suffixes' to the monsters in a map and the map itself, which you can reroll (harder mods=higher % chance of nice items dropping). This is more interesting than the torment system, which just inflates numbers for the most part. Secondly there are barely any legendaries, and for the most part many are boring as hell (no unique passives) while some are SUPER overpowering and requires for 50% of all builds (looking at you Cindercoat)

So what then?

A friend suggested I look into FFXIV. At first I fought the idea; FFXIV had a terrible and limited end game, the classes were so limiting, there was nothing to do.

After some talk I decided to see what FFXIV had done since I left. I'm something of a patch notes junky so I was going to 'review' and make a decision. Let me start off by saying one of the reasons I did leave was my perception that Square-Enix being a Japanese company meant it would take foooooreeeever for patches to come out, and that most patches would be small affairs with real content few and far between (a constant complaint I heard from friends about FFXI). 

So I took to the internet and looked. 

My jaw right about fell out of my mouth. In the same time span where NOTHING had come out in WoW FFXIV had put out dailies, tons of dungeons, new raids, new item tiers, pvp etc etc etc.

Now a lot of this might sound underwhelming, but what must be realized here is the level of polish. A quest line in FFXIV will include cut scenes, full animation, lots of detailed writing (its an FFXIV game, so the plot is quite good). Similarly the dungeons are beautiful affairs, the monsters in many cases being custom models (vs say, in WoW's MOP dungeons, how many non boss models are custom? Hell boss models themselves are generally used again and again (How many "Sha's looked exactly the same?")).

Its hard to convey this, but one quest line for instance had me (whom, despite enjoying comedy, seldom laughs) in stitches. At other points I appreciate that its a far more adult game, with murder, rape and other concepts spoken about in the plot, or shown (murder here, not rape!) in cutscenes. Its not in your face by any means and the game is generally fairly light hearted, but its a few 'steps' closer to mature than I feel WoW is (which is a bit more mass market after all). 

There are a lot of boss fights in FFVIX, a lot of dungeons, a lot of 'daily' activities that seem quite rewarding. They seem to be focused on adding interesting looking gear and custom effects. Its little details that win you over; do a new quest that came out in 2.1, and you can earn a new dance for instance. Other games might have a 'barber' in town, but in FFXIV this became a plot line quest with a ridiculously amazing hair stylist whom had lost his memory until you find his him comb and scissors then he goes through a rather humorous transformation.

In the end, FFXIV seems to want to entertain you, and its hard to not appreciate how well it does that (which can be really great). 

Does it have problems?
Yes. The combat is in general, very unresponsive and slow. For someone used to 'fast tanking' this means I decidedly cant approach things the same way, and have to plan out many seconds ahead of what might happen. In general I dislike that aspect of the game, as I prefer very active play styles (something happens, i react, or can adjust as needed). Until I really -really- get used to this in end game, it means I will for some points kind of suck at my job (tanking).

Secondly is the lack of secondary jobs for most classes. This was something promised early on so I'm a little disheartened to see that a new class/job (thief/ninja) is coming out before existing classes get secondary jobs. This isnt to say they SHOULDNT have done this, but I like adding depth to existing classes.

Fun factor varies wildly between classes, with some being very strategically enticing (Monk, Scholar, Summoner, Warrior, Bard) and others being rather mundane and boring (Black Mage, White Mage, Dragoon, Gladiator). As a note, the last two here are the glaring problems in FFXIV, Dragoons are simple to the point of painful (and despite this seem to attract the stupidist players. No offense if you play a Dragoon, although chances are your worse at the game than I'm) and Paladins are the most limited class in the game.

How many 3 level combos do you have? 1. Warriors by comparison have 3.
Your a paladin though right; you can heal. Not really, ANY damage interupts, and your a tank AND its a slow to cast spell. There are times you can eek out one or two, but since your not stacking piety as a tank, expect 300-400 heals (when you have 7K+ health, and auto attacks from bosses are 1.5K+, 3-5 heals throughout an encounter is negligible).  What you do have are some of the best cooldowns for a tank..and thats about it really.
That said, can it be fixed? SURE. The fact you have very 'fun' classes, like Monk, means Square can make REALLY fun classes. But at the same token WILL they change it is a question? 

----random tangent----

I dislike intentionally 'easier' classes than others in any game. I feel, personally, all classes should have great depth as well as easy to understand aspects. Easy to learn, hard to master is a saying I enjoy in any game, the idea I can have fun day one and continue to perfect and learn a year later. That said in my experience in MMO's this is fairly rare. For one, I do not believe this exists for the most part with the DPS role in a PvE game. I raided as a rogue for 3 years in WoW and returned to it periodically, and while the most 'complex' of most DPS specs (intense management while at melee range as the 'squishiest' of melee dps classes) it was still a game of blinders; you did your dps job, figured out how to perfect it, and executed.

I spent the later half of Ice Crown as a healer in raids (and did some during TBC whenever we were down a healer). This was more interesting, having to anticipate boss mechanics, but in the end it became a game of managing hit boxes and mana. Keep everyone alive =win. This was more interesting than dps (where its you and the boss) as now you were contending with everyone elses decisions and reacting to them. 

Tanking has varied based off the class. I tried Warrior during the later days of Cata and felt it was rather dull. Like DPS it was 'me and the boss' and nothing else really; it was also a very passive mitigation game, which made it felt even more boring. It was worth noting that I had tanked throughout TBC and WoTLK as a Paladin (paladin in guild 1, rogue in guild 2) and enjoyed it, but felt in general it was kind of boring. I enjoyed tanking but felt at that time like it was still an 'easy' job, although more critical than DPS (if you fuck up as a tank=wipe, vs as a dps=o well).

In comes MoP and the Protadin re-imagining...

So what I feel in MoP is while tanking and content is still rather easy, Protadins felt so active.

1) GCD's down to 1 second. Given the 2+ seconds in FFXIV, this is night and day. I can hit buttons very fast in WoW and get a reaction, where in FFXIV the GCD + the net code being so slow for west coast players (many MANY posts and vids showing this) I always feel 'behind' in the game, playing catch up.
2) Active mitigation sure..but I can heal people. Hell I can with a word of glory take most raid members from 20% health up to full. Of course I also have hand of protection, sacrifice and lay on hands to pass out as well. What that means is I'm KIND of playing the healing mini game as well. If I see someone drop low suddenly, BAM lay on hands. Slow consistant damage to raid? Devotion Aura (sadly going away in WoD from my spec).  I have 'tools' to give out to the raid to bring them up, so now im suddenly monitoring both the raid health and the boss mechanics and to me, this is challenging and fun. Sure I could ignore the raid health and just focus on the boss but suddenly I'm neglecting a very strong aspect of the Paladin (WoW version) class. Its this 'duality' of focus that I enjoy.

In FFXIV tanking as a Paladin is strictly me/boss; if I'm getting shit kicked in, pop cds. Admitedly Warriors are similar but they have more interesting mechanics with how to cope, and in an ironic turn, much better self healing than Paladins doe as its built into their tanking methods (rather than Paladins whom only receive healing from cross class abilities).

------End Tangent-----

So all in all, I'm enjoying FFXIV. It might have some great staying power, given they just put up their 2.3 trailer which most people expect out soon (this will mean FFXIV would have had a game release AND 3 major content patches in the time. WoW by comparison has had the 5.4 patch out since late September and will be pushing almost 1 year (presuming WoD comes out in September) without any new content. Eck.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Banner Saga, WoW, Wild Star, D&D and other news

Damn its been over a month! With the holidays I kind of forgot about this...ok where to start.

Banner Saga: I begin with this.

Play this game.

Play it right away. Its amazing. Its a story based game...its cruel..its beautiful, it...is heart wrenching in fact. It is probably the best game I have played in quite a few years.  Game is available on steam:


I'll just say this; I've never felt the need to cry after a video game (notably only one or two VERY depressing books have made me feel that level of emotion and maybe 3 heart jerker movies have made me tear up when I wasnt expecting it. This is after a life time of loving drama and sadness, so generally feeling pretty prepared to endure it).

World of Warcraft: Having a lot of fun in this game. Don't know what it is about Panda Land but I enjoy it, despite how much against it I was. I still hate the Panda race, but the world is lovely (gorgeous even), the content is very fun and the combat is the best its ever been. Looking forward to Warlords of Draenor and seeing the character model updates.

Wild Star: Admittedly I have not been in the beta much, cause of WoW. What I saw seemed promising although I still don't like the Guild Wars 2 feel I get from it, it is far more polished/nicer than GW2.

D&D: This is a bit of a rant..

Fuck fuck fuck..fuck fuck..fuck 5th edition/d&d next. I started D&D with the tail end of 2nd edition and never enjoyed the system. When 3rd came out I adored the customization, and when 4th came out I really enjoyed the tactics and builds. I for one never thought it was a systems fault that groups could not learn how to roleplay, and the idea that 4th edition somehow inhibited RP even today baffles me. The reality is that 4th edition brought in a lot of new players cause it looked fun and not as intimidating as 3rd edition and those players were not taught proper RP by their DM's. Also lets be clear about another thing; D&D was never a good roleplaying game, it was a good rollplaying game. It took a good group to make the game work as a story telling method. So the idea that going BACK to more simplistic rules to appease the 2nd/3rd edition crowd is a bit insulting to me. 4th edition could have easily have been updated with more content to flesh out non combat options, with more worlds and 'things' to explore but it failed for a few reasons:

1) Books were bad. Most of them were poorly laid out, poorly written and relied to much on filling up the page with large blocks of powers and reprocessed feats. Compare the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms guide to the 4th edition version; no real comparison here which one feels better as a DM.

2) Books all became player supplements. Few books targeted the DM and helped them enrich their game, instead I feel the vast majority of them were going after players with one or two new backgrounds or rules, and the rest of the book was fairly dull and uninspired.

3) Online tools were too little to late. Compendium was nice, and the builder eventually got to a good place, but the other tools were either too buggy (monster builder), too late (open table), or too little (dragon/dungeon magazine content).

They should have had a 4.5. Would have been an excuse to sell books, fix rules en masse and pull back in their old crowd by catering to them a bit more. Essentials was a good step for D&D but the fact is they had too much going on at the same time , and they needed to consolidate options for players a little more.