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Archive for March, 2010

FF XIII impressions

If you’re anything like me, your childhood was spent in basements and living rooms playing video games, beating any games you could get your hands on and boasting about how you could kill a boss or finish a game others  couldn’t. And one serie that hooked me on roleplaying games and by extension MMOs has been  the Final Fantasy series. I have played every single numbered game in the franchise(even the japanese ones on badly translated emulators)  and have beaten most of them. I say most of them because obviously you can’t beat an MMO(FF 11) and some of them are not that great(12, x-2).

So of course I’ve picked the latest one and played it for most of the past few days sprinkled with some Lotro and some heavy-duty cleaning of the apartment. I’m now 17 hours in and feel like I can give an honest opinion of the game, at least the first part of it.

In case you have been living under a rock you need to know first that a Final Fantasy game(talking the main line here) is a huge event in itself, especially if you happen to love jrpgs(japanese rpgs). Those games are supposed to be the pinnacle of the genre and every detail is worked to perfection. The graphics are amazing and the orchestral score could rival one made by John Williams.  On the story side it keeps to an incredibly convoluted and complicated one like previous FF games. You also get your stereotypical jrpg characters,  meaning you get the reluctant hero, the spunky girl, the token black brother, the grizzled vet, etc…If you’ve played one Final Fantasy game before this one will feel like stepping in old shoes.

So is it good? Yes, I’d even go beyond that and call it awesome and worthy of the Final Fantasy title, unlike the last few games. Is it perfect? Not at all. So let’s get the bad out-of-the-way first. First of all the game is linear, extremely so even. Maybe it will open up later but so far it’s go from point A to point B with a few branches to get an extra treasure or two. And that’s pretty much it, it’s the only true low point I can find with the game.

Now the combat system is something you will or will not like. The system revolves around the use of roles (melee,caster,tank,buffer/debuffer and healer) that your¸ characters can learn. You create paradigms for your team wich are sets of role that your party can use. For example I can have a paradigm set up for maximum damage (melee, caster, caster), one for damage and some healin (melee,caster,healer) and another for quick buffs/debuff setup (tank,buffer, debuffer).

During combat you control the party leader and the other characters will act according to the roles they currently have. Most of the time you will also assign your leader to automatic so he follows his role too wich means that the minutiae¸of the exact abilities used will be left to the computer. What makes the system dynamic is that you can switch paradigm on the fly during battle. I can start the battle with damage setup, switch to healing mid way to top myself up, then move to a tanking paradigm to survive a particular devastating ability, back to  healing after and so on.

This means that combat is more strategic than technical. It’s not about casting a big spell from time to time it’s about planning and anticipation. This means that the game is in the end a bit harder than previous FF games. I’ve died quite a few times to bosses or tough battle where I tried to force my way through without  paying attention to the particular enemies ability. Buffing, debuffing, going to a protection mode often pay off bigger than just pure offensive all the time. Still if you pin for the old days of inputting attack for every character then you might not like this system.

Then we come to the good part, the story. I said earlier that the game featured somewhat stock characters that we expect from jrpgs but the real beauty of FF13is to make them believable. They start out as simple stereotypes but as  the story progresses and you discover more about them you start to understand them and they move beyond being simple stock characters without resorting to cheesy  and easy story twists. It is a real feat from the storytellers to make me go from not liking any of the characters to make me want to play more to learn how their story will go.

Talking about the story its a very original one and not anywhere close to anything we’ve seen yet wich tends to be one of the strength of the FF series. Where Dragon Age is very predictable, Final Fantasy isn’t. They’ve built a very complex universe with his own rules and background and somehow, they make it believable. The actual storyline is very complicated but again the game manages to explain it all in a way you can understand it.

So, do I recommend FF13? Yes, if you approach it without any special expectations.  This game is a lot like a movie, meaning that you will enjoy it if you allow yourself to simply enjoy the ride.

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Nearly every single video game I’ve played has unequal quality when it comes to its actual content. A zone, a level or certain concepts just don’t grab your attention the way the rest of the game does. MMOs being quite massive games, are particularly subject to this. Think for a moment about your favorite MMO and you’ll find out a few zones or places you could do without. For example I hate AshenVale in WoW and I make a point never to quest there on any of my characters, same as I can’t be bothered to run Blackfathom deeps… ever. A friend of mine love Lotro but hates Lone lands, another hates playing a shaman so much he nearly gave up on the game when he made one as his first character.

I know I have a relatively low tolerance for content or gameplay I don’t really enjoy. I’ll bear with it for a while, especially if I know its only temporary but it if drags on it can motivate really quickly to go look somewhere else. Clever designers will have provided me with alternatives to said “bad” content so I’m not forced into it more than I have to. Taking back my Ashenvale example, I have numerous options at that level to gain xp and I can completely skip the zone if I want to.

If I’m forced through content like when ToC was the only raid worth doing for a while I can burn pretty quickly. I hate ToC and when it became the only raid to do I started playing other games. Some people on the other hand have put up with it in the hope the next raid would be better.

So… how long does it take you to move on when your faced with content you don’t enjoy? Or will you grit your teeth and hope it becomes better someday?

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Chicken… really?

This is why I’m burned out on WoW. More than anything this picture sums up why I’m done with WoW and why I’m back with Lotro. Once upon a time Blizzard crafted an immersive world where Tauren had an ability to run to mimic mounts because they were too heavy to even have a mount. Developers tought at the time that having a cohesive universe would in the end be more¸fun that the small disadvantage given to taurens of not having a mount.

Back then you had to complete a lengthy quest chain to be able to enter Onyxia lair because you had to find out who she was. It was super long not to make end game harder but because the developers tought players would find it awesome to find out the story behind Onyxia. They were right because walking in Stormwind to confront Onyxia remains one of my most epic moments of WoW.

It’s not the first time I talk about immersion and it probably won’t be the last. For me its more fun to run around a near empty zone like North Downs than it is to joust in front of the Lich king citadel. One quote from a boss made to look like a known character is funny once in a while but having abominations talk like 5 years olds and Prof Putricide quote Prof Fansworth from Futurama kind  of kill the mood. This is supposed to be an epic fight against the forces of evil and I would expect them to be a bit less silly.

I look at WoW now, what it was 5 years ago and then compare it to Lotro and I realize I might not have picked up WoW at all if it looked like it does today because it is way too far removed from the Warcraft universe I’ve been playing in for the past 15 years.

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A big thank you!

Over the weekend this blog has hit 10,000 visitors… 10k… this is somewhat unreal to me. When I started this blog I was not really expecting to have anyone visit it.

So a big thank you to everyone who’s come here, left comments and motivated me to keep at it. Thank you.

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Cranky left the building

CrankyHealer decided to call it quits and stop blogging. She claims that bad comments, trolls and flames got the best of her, that she didn’t want to put with being ridiculed for her ideas or having everything she says put under a microscope so the commenters can make fun of her.

This saddens me because I loved reading her blog. There was some sort of warmth coming from her posts and you could feel she really cared about helping others even if it not always easy(hence the name of the blog I suppose). She did leave a few comments here that I really enjoyed. So Cranky, I will really miss you.

Still I can’t shake the feeling this is all related in part to the general boredom before Cataclysm since its yet another WoW blogger that is leaving us… that and the WoW community can be one of the worst out there.

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