Everyone is sleeping, eating, or having a lovely chat with death but no one is writing anything! How will we ever get to 1 million? Better question: HOW WILL WE PAY THOSE MASSIVE AMOUNT OF BILLS?!
<– Prologue || SITH INQUISITOR || Chapter Two –>
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter of the Sith Inquisitor storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
Ah, the Sith Inquisitor. Are you a raving madman or cunning deceiver, brilliant tactician or brutal murderer? I will say this, more so than any other class in the game the Sith Inquisitor has a very clear line between Light and Dark sides, to the point where you could easily make a Goofus & Gallant style comic about the two paths. With most classes, you can see the merits of mixing things up and sometimes making light and dark choices by need. I would argue that is very much NOT the case with the Sith Inquisitor. The Light Side choices are almost always about freedom/kindness/manipulation, the Dark Side ones just boil down to ruthless torture and murder. So you can kind of see how the two concepts REALLY don’t mesh well.
To those who don’t recall where we left off – because it has been a while – we defeated a ghost that turned out to be our great-great-great-great-great-grandpa and have been tasked by our master, Darth Zash, to find four relics of Tulak Hord, none of which include that cool armor set from the Nightlife cartel packs. So it’s essentially a mcguffin hunt, but as you’ll see this one is a bit more interesting than the early Consular mcguffin hunts. Because it’s rarely not about finding the relic, but finding a way to get to it.
This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. You know exactly where the relic is as soon as you arrive in Balmorra. The real problem is that it’s at the bottom of a toxin filled mine shaft that would instantly kill you as soon as you got even halfway to the bottom. Indeed, it’s explained to you by the kindly Imperial officer you meet that the only thing that can survive the toxin is the mutated genetically engineered colicoids. So the task is simple: become a colicoid.
While that does sound insane, there is merit to it. You’ll need to get some additional research and the de-defect a scientist to help construct a formula to resist the toxic waste. The scientist is hesitant but you can persuade him by promising that no harm will come to him and he’ll be allowed to return to the Republic once his work is finished, or you can just taze him bro with sith lightning. Once you recruit the scientist, your Imperial officer liason uses his cooperation as leverage to force you to go save his Sith son who was caught by the resistance while looking for an ancient sith relic. You have to do this mission sadly. The good news is you can just kill the kid and get the relic yourself (Note: it’s a crappy lightsaber. Not work it other than to piss off Officer-Dad.) or just send the kid on his way and dealing with his lip. I mean it too. Whether you help him or attack him, he will not shut up about how you are lousy Sith compared to him, how dumb his Dad is, how pathetically slow you are at saving him. They REALLY made it easy to want to kill him.
Of course if you do that you have to deal with the Sith’s Dad, who will promptly try to kill you if you harmed his son. Either way you then deal with the scientist by letting him go or killing him and take your injection to climb down the glowing green hole and get your relic. I hope you can start to see what I mean about having a hard time with a ‘gray’ play through of the Inquisitor. Dark side is torture with lightning and kill, light side is bargain and honor your deals. I suppose you could always promise to reward them and then kill them instead, but it certainly doesn’t work the other way around: “Zap! ZAP! Do as I say! Zap! Okay, now you can go. Toodles!” Unless you are completely insane. Of course, there’s enough dialogue options for the Sith Inquisitor that work in that vein that you could easily play your character as someone who makes the majority of Batman’s rouge gallery seem like down to earth sensible folk.
The Gambler’s Moon is where we see the introduction of the second major theme in the Sith Inquisitor storyline. Along with usual lost and ancient techniques & relics for power, there is also the ever running concept of the ‘power base’. While it won’t play a major role in the story until much later, we are introduced to it here with the opportunity to establish a small cult in your name. Why would you do this? Well, so you can take down another Sith’s cult. Another Sith who happens to have a relic of Tulak Hord.
Your cult starts with just two people: an angry young man who is fed up with the world, and a young woman who idealistically is hoping for change. Yes, that is cheesy. But how are YOU going to start a cult? With well rounded and fulfilled individuals? Ha! Anyway, it’s time to start spreading your good-ish name around. You get a choice of how to accomplish this: you can either break into a pharmaceutical company and steal a cure to a disease called the Rot and cure people with it, or kill of a local gang that has been terrorizing the locals. The choice is really up to you, it’s a light side/dark side choice though even the light side choice of stealing a cure is a bit dark. After you complete the task, your cultists will contact you about finding a new location for your ‘church’ and ask you to meet them there, where you are immediately jumped by the other Sith’s goons. Yay for security!
There is a bit of a hidden dialogue at this juncture where you can actual have an ‘intimate’ encounter with at least the female cultists – not sure about the male one as I never played a female inquisitor. You just need to talk to them before you head off to the next mission. Though be warned, it is dark side points to have your way with them, and the non-dark side points option is pretty much “Ew, your icky. Go away. Stupid head.” So you’ve been warned.
The next objective is to steal the Sith Cult Leader’s followers by performing a miracle during his big meet & greet shindig. To pull this off you convince a municipal employee to blow the gas pipes under the building when you give the signal (how you convince him is entirely up to you) and thus create a ‘groundquake’ – a name that only make sense once you realize there’s no ‘earth’ so what else are they gonna call it? This is enough of a feat to steal a good chunk of the Sith’s followers, and successfully tick off the Sith Lord. Which was the goal, I think? Either way, it works and the Sith invites you to his base of operations to deal.
And lo and behold the whole thing turns out to NOT be a trap. No, serious. There’s a bunch of enemies standing around in the usual pack layouts like you would have to fight them, but they stay green and non-hostile. It’s probably one of the better psych outs in the game, because you totally are waiting for them to start attacking and they NEVER do. Instead you just run in to meet with the Sith Lord, who has his own surprise in store. It seems that the Tulak Hord relic drains people of their force power and then he attacks you himself. This fight is really annoying because of the aforementioned force drain. You don’t recover force naturally, and all your abilities take twice as much to use. The one way to actually sneak by this whole thing is to die and then resurrect, which removes the debuff. You won’t get it re-applied because the Sith Lord doesn’t put it on you, it’s triggered by the cutscene ending and since you don’t have to watch the cutscene again, you are free to beat the Sith senseless.
So you got the thingamajig but now what is left to deal with but the cult. You again get three choices: Screw’em and leave, leave the Sith in charge, or leave your loyal flunkies in charge. As far as I know, the only thing this really changes is a few letters you get as you level up. I might be wrong on that, and I’ll be sure to mention it in future installments should these people ever re-enter the picture.
After completing Nar Shadaa and Balmorra, you will be visited once more by Ghost Gramps who tells you that Zash is planning something. While the general response is “No duh.” you can actually respond in the hilarious “No! Zash would NEVER do that to MEEEE!” way that leads to Ghost Grandpa plainly stating, “You are naive.” Why call attention to that? Well because it is probably the best way to summarize the Sith Inquisitor storyline as a whole. We haven’t got there yet, but trust me – your character is dumber than rocks at times. Anyway, to prepare you for battle the Ghost Granpappy sends you back to Korriban to retrieve his helmet. A mask model that is usually reserved for level 40-something Sith Warriors, so that’s cool.
The whole mission is fairly short and just involves fighting through a dude’s house and then either killing him or persuading him to give up the helmet, then running back to the ship. Really, the worse part in my opinion is getting back to Korriban to do this whole thing. The entrance is right by the Dark Council chamber so you have to go all the way to the Academy, up the elevator, and down the hall and that’s before the mission STARTS. Gah!
Okay, I’ll be straight with you here. This is the worst planet in the entire first chapter. I mean, the others are not about FINDING the thing but how to GET the thing, right? Yea, this is just find the thing. With a side order of revenge for your new companion Andronikos Revel. The mission is literally: 1. Find Andronikos, 2. Find the Pirate, 3. Find the Sand People, and 4. Find the Thing. This is quite literally a straight line across Tatooine. The only thing that diverges or affects anything is whether or not you deprive Andronikos of his revenge and kill the guy yourself. That is it.
Even Andronikos is a weird mixed bag. You are first told that he doesn’t like people or trust people, but by the end of one job that doesn’t even end well he wants to sign on to your ship’s crew. His backstory is also familiar: a pirate captain that was left adrift and almost went mad after his crew mutinied, only for his former crew to end up going insane from a cursed relic. Next he’ll be insisting that he’s CAPTAIN Andronikos Revel. Blah, can we just move on?
Compared to where we are coming from, Alderaan is my favorite world in Chapter One. This is just one of those times you get to be manipulative and sneaky as an Inqusitor and it really feels like how I wish the entire class would play. The whole situation is that the final relic is stored in a vault, and only House Organa has the key. In order to get that key, you will need some sort of dirt to manipulate them which you find in House Alde. It seems that the heir to the House abandoned his duty and more importantly his fiance to go train as a Jedi. A Jedi in love? Tender.
To lure the Jedi back to Alderaan, you go and break into House Rist and find their heir, the scorned woman from the holo that totally doesn’t still have feeling for the Jedi, not at all, b-baka. And this is where it gets fun, you can actually take the story down a few paths here. The first is to lure the Jedi back by forcing the Rist woman to call him and ask to meet at their ‘special spot’, you can kill her if you want and then go and kill the Jedi for the key. On the other hand, you can convince the two to work things out. They’ll both meet at the special spot and you can help them reconcile, convincing the Jedi to abandon his oath to the Jedi Order to be with his beloved. To reward you, he gives you the key. So instead of killing your way, you can actually manipulate a Jedi to fall from grace.
I really like the whole manipulation angle and using your enemies weakness against them. It was really what I was hoping the Inquisitor would be for the most part, and this world really shows how strong that approach is. You can mastermind a way to either have a Jedi fall, or lure a Jedi to his doom in a way that no one will be able to find his body or even know where to look which simultaneously strikes a blow against the Jedi, House Organa, and gets you the key to go and nab the relic from the vault.
The end of the story comes in two parts. The first is another visit by Ghost Grandpa who wants you to retrieve his lightsaber that has given to a retainer of your ancient family before Tulak Hord destroyed everything. The ancestor of the retainer is now working off her father’s debt at a Nar Shadaa casino, a debt incurred when her father bet everything – including the lightsaber – to a corrupt known-for-cheating gambler. You need to go and get it back so she can unlock the case for you (because Bioware wanted you to visit the casino twice since it wasn’t being used for much else). Now that you have your grandpappy’s lightsaber, it’s time to go and deal with Zash.
Now here’s where you either saw it a million miles away or got an awesome twist: Zash wants to betray you! You can’t say there wasn’t ample warning for it. In fact, her wretched form is starting to rot away. So she wants to put her soul in your body. Which sounds a bit too fantasy even for Star Wars, but hey I’ll roll with it. Your morose monster of a pet, Khem Val, disrupts the ritual and somehow ends up body sharing with Zash. The two of them now trading off who controls the body. Of course, Zash is furious. All her planning gone to waste. She even made sure that her loyal apprentices were to become YOUR apprentices, and to ensure YOU became a Lord of the Sith so when the conversion happened she would be ready. So she tries to attack you in Khem’s body but that pesky loyalty oath is apparently biologically ingrained so even when it’s not Khem, Khem Val cannot hurt you.
So the chapter ends with all your new loyal servants coming to hail you as the new Lord Kalig. Yay you!
The first chapter of the Inquisitor’s story is… good. I can’t call it great because it does have some missteps, but at the same time it fixes the biggest issues I had with the Consular story. With the exception of Tatooine which is honestly just a straight up treasure hunt find-the-thing mission, each story explores a different facet of working around complications to obtain your goal. You have the deal with Imperial command and bargaining on Balmorra, you have to build a power base and use it against an opponent on Nar Shadaa, and you have to manipulate your enemy into a trap on Alderaan. While you are still looking for the same Mcguffin over and over, it’s handled so different each time that you never really notice. It makes for a very enjoyable playthrough that keeps you engaged fairly well.
The downsides on the other hand are more so to do with the over arching plot. Zash’s scheming is poorly handled, and this really carries over from the Prologue. Every single person you meet flat out tells you not to trust Zash, and at no point past Korriban are you ever given a worthwhile reason to trust her. She constantly makes enigmatic promises of your rise to power, but that’s all it is – vague promises. By the time Lord Kalig shows up and flat out tells you she wants to betray you, well what reason do you have to keep going along with this plan? But for some reason, you do. You bring her all the relics, and then guess what? She betrays you! Shocker. The only reason you don’t die is because Khem Val saves your butt, establishing sadly what will be a long series of “Someone saving your butt” moments that extend well into chapters two and three. I would rather have had one of the interludes be something along the lines of finding some means to counter Zash’s ritual, the two counter rituals exploding and resulting in Zash and Khem Val sharing a body. SUPPOSEDLY this is what Kalig’s helmet is for, but when the time comes it is never brought up, so I have no idea.
The only other thing would be a small one but I would really have liked to see the relics have more effect than just be a macguffin. I mean, on Tatooine we establish that one can drive you insane (something we hear about but never see) and the one on Nar Shadaa can drain force power. The other two are essentially trapped under rocks, but still could affect things around them. The Alderaan vault IS guarded and the Balmorra altar was surrounded by colocoids. It was just a little something that I think would have added some flavor. Not a big complaint.
No the BIG complaint is going to be next time as we dive into Chapter Two of the Sith Inquisitor story.
<– Prologue || SITH INQUISITOR || Chapter Two –>
Long time readers know that I regularly flip back and forth between 2+ different MMOs for the sake of preventing burn out. Lately it’s been going back and forth between Final Fantasy XIV and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Two games that – while not perfect – are damn good at satisfying different cravings I have in games.
Final Fantasy put me in a tight spot recently. I really REALLY wanted to see the conclusion of the Main Scenario before the 12x Experience boost went live in SWTOR, and finally climb over that damn Story Wall of Ishgard, but I ran into a block with what has clearly become the guardian of the story wall: The Steps of Faith.
‘Oh, Vry! The Steps of Faith isn’t hard if you know what to do!’ I hear the internet shout as a collective hive mind that I have somehow tapped into but retained my sentience from. Well, yes. It is a bit different, and all you really need is to know what to do, and guess what? I DO know what to do. I know exactly what to do. But apparently 5-6 other people in the Duty every time do not, and their struggle wears on other’s patience and it ends up with us standing in front of the dragon, unable to pull, because we are constantly in the queue trying to pull new members out of the magic hat. I REALLY want to finish that place, because I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to see what happens to the Sultana!
So after a week of failed attempts, I just said screw it. I need some epic heroic time to cleanse the pallet of dying to this dragon over and over and came back to a galaxy far, far away. Mostly because I do have a job to finish there, and the 12x XP boost makes that job so much easier. I am kind of curious what the deal with Ziost is, as I have somehow managed to remain completely spoiler free on the plot there. To which I must say, kudos SWTOR community for actually keeping a lid on things. Others could learn from your example.
Although the first thing I did when I got back was grab up a few cartel packs, including the Grand Nightlife Pack which gave me a Dathomir Rancor. Not having any desire to ride piggy back on a monster, I flipped on the GTN (Auction House for those who aren’t familiar with SWTOR) for a cool cold 15 million credits, and officially netting me the most cash I’ve EVER had in the game. Combine that with Amazon’s sale for 14,500 cartel coins for $80 and I could get started the grand process of unlocking and decorating my strongholds. Because if I’m going to be building a bigger legacy, I need a place for them to crash. I hope to share some photos of them here soon, I think folks’ll be impressed.
So what should you expect here on the Summer of the 12x XP? Well, hopefully to finish up all my class story summaries and reviews. That’d be my big goal. I’m looking forward to seeing some alternate character choices too. Especially the Imperial Agent. Finally, with my resurgence of interest in writing fan fiction in my spare time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some short or flash fiction bits about some of my characters appear now and then. I do have an idea for the three brothers (Vrykerion the Bounty Hunter, Vrykarion the Jedi Knight, and Vrykerius the Sith Warrior) have a family get together over some cards to catch up. That might be fun. Regardless, there will be more reviews coming soon.
You know I realized while writing all these little posts and reviews and talking about my experiences with the Final Fantasy series as I go back and explore the latter half of the series I never really played when I was growing up, that I’ve never actually talked about my actual favorite Final Fantasy game and exactly why its my favorite. I have to warn people here though, that the story I am about to tell might be profoundly troubling to some people, oh and there will also be spoilers. So let me tell you about how I came to love Final Fantasy VI.
Unlike many people I’ve spoken to over the years, my favorite Final Fantasy game is not the first one I played. Oh no. That would have been Final Fantasy IV (then localized to be Final Fantasy II) which I would stay up playing at my best friend’s house with pizza and bread-sticks and times of immense joy all around. But no, my first was not my favorite. For several reasons really. I mean, I never finished it. I never actually owned it for one, and it’s hard to beat a JRPG in a 3 day rental. Combine that with a very difficult boss and a very naive Vry who really had no head for strategy. Not to mention I never got far enough for the characters to stick with me as likable. Except Rydia. I always liked Rydia for some reason.
I actually received Final Fantasy VI for my 11th birthday. I was so excited about it that I almost got in trouble at school because I wouldn’t stop humming the Chocobo song in class. I just couldn’t wait to play the newest Final Fantasy game. Oh and it did not disappoint. I got to meet fabulous characters, beautiful music, and while I know the Woolsey translation is frowned upon by many nowadays, it was one of the best stories I was ever treated to in my short life. Oh, I couldn’t stick with the damn hobbits long enough to get out of the Shire in Fellowship of the Ring but I was hooked till the end by the time I actually got to name Terra (And you better believe I used all their real names).
The game was everything I had wanted even back then: good solid characters that you cared about and fourteen of them to boot! Eleven of which had fully fleshed out story lines and back stories that gave them a truly three-dimensional feel (the other three are really just optional characters. Though that is literally the only time you will EVER hear me say that Mog the Moogle is optional. Cause you are a cold-hearted monster if you don’t save that dancing furball.) There’s a love story that is so much more than ‘guy likes girl, girl likes guy’. It’s more like ‘guy likes girl, girl gets amnesia and shoos off guy, girl dies just as her memory returns, guy searches for way to resurrect girl and meets another girl, guy and new girl fall in love but new girl is afraid she’s just a replacement and also has trust issues, and so on.’ Then of course, there’s the little matter of the bad guy actually winning half way through the game. Holy crap, this didn’t happen when I was a kid. It blew my mind!
Of course, all these reasons why Final Fantasy VI is an amazing game that is well worth a play are well documented and can be found on any site that talks about it. Is it the best Final Fantasy? That’s personal opinion. I personally don’t feel that it’s ever hit that level of both technical and writing achievement since, but there are plenty who do. No, this isn’t why it’s my favorite game. If that’s all it took, there are games out there that have hit all those same notes and will never be a contender for my favorite game. Yes, not Final Fantasy. Favorite game of all time, hands down. That reason is not simple nostalgia either, though I’m sure it contributes a healthy bit to it. It’s because of what happens in the World of Ruin.
The World of Ruin is the second half of Final Fantasy VI. It’s not post-apocalyptic, it is just apocalyptic. The end of the world is now. The villain has risen up as a god in his giant tower of death and destruction and randomly smites people for no reason. Monsters of terrible power are now freely wandering around the destroyed world. Much of the world’s population is dead. But the core of the tale is what happens with the characters. You start out with Celes on an island, completely unaware that anyone but her and Cid, her pseudo “grandfather”, are left in the world. Cid falls sick and you have to feed him fish. Now, I know now two decades later exactly which fish to feed the old man, but at age 11 I didn’t have a clue. Hell, I wouldn’t even know what the internet was for at least 4-5 more years. So Cid dies, and Celes in her despair climbs the cliffs of the island and with a reprise of the Opera Scene from earlier, throws herself to her death as Cid said so many others before her had done.
This is when the game stopped being just a game. You ever have those moments? When you finally understand the material on a different level? I received this game for my 11th birthday. For my 10th birthday, I was in the middle of a 4 month stay in a mental health facility because when I was nine years old I had tried to kill myself on three separate occasions. One of those times was by trying to jump from a stairwell. Celes was no longer the player PROXY at that point to me.
I’ve never really talked about myself as a person much on that blog, and this is one of those reasons. It’s hard to explain who I am without invariably explaining that at the age of 10, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II. Which in 1994, was damn near impossible to get a diagnosis for in a child. Bipolar Disorder happened to people in their twenties or older, not kids. So with that frame of reference, I’m playing this game 6-12 months after being diagnosed, my medication isn’t quite solidified and my emotions have more control over my actions at times than I do.
Celes, for those wondering who haven’t played (and shame on you), doesn’t die. She awakes on the shore to find a bird wearing a bandanna that belonged to one of the other characters, her love interest Locke. However, it is exactly what she needs to spur her to action and leave the island in hopes of finding the others. Thus kicks off a heavily emotional journey as you find each person trying to seek out something, anything, in this dying world to hold on to. For some, they seek out hope or giving others hope, or family and friends, or love. Even Terra, who could easily be argued is probably the first asexual protagonist in gaming, finds the love she was looking for. Not in the arms of another man or woman, but in the maternal protection of a group of orphaned children who are threatened daily by monsters looking for a meal.
All the while, you have Kefka – our god-king villain – sitting on his tower and blasting those below completely randomly. Oh, he might collapse your house, or kill that one random dude, or sink a ship. It doesn’t matter. They’re random. You don’t have to have done anything to the guy, or done anything at all to be targeted. Which is probably the greatest metaphor for life in general. It just fucks with you. There isn’t any rhyme or reason as to why. There’s no karmic balance to it, even in the grandest of schemes. Sometimes, bad things happen. That’s Kefka. That’s life.
So at the end of the game, after the journey as a whole and gathering your friends and allies you march up to the top of Kefka’s horrific tower and that is when you get this exchange:
“Why do people rebuild things they know are going to be destroyed? Why do people cling to life when they know they can’t live forever? Think how meaningless each of your lives is!”
“It’s not the net result of one’s life that’s important! It’s the day-to-day concerns, the personal victories, and the celebration of life… and love! It’s enough if people are able to experience the joy that each day can bring!”
For an emotionally unstable, sometimes suicidal, 11-year old Vrykerion… this was a very powerful sentiment. Kefka was saying everything that my brain was bombarded with so often. Thoughts that would leave little Vry crying in his bed at night until the wee hours. Then here were the heroes, my ‘proxies’ that I learned to identify with back on that island when Cid died. They were saying that those things weren’t important. The important part was to just to live each day and experience life. To enjoy living.
Final Fantasy VI changed my life. I could even go as far as to say that it saved it. It gave me exactly what I needed, when I needed it the most. And I don’t know if I would be here today if it wasn’t for that experience. That’s why it’s my favorite video game.
Thank you all for reading. From the bottom of my heart. It means a lot to be able to share this story with you all.
Everyone is sleeping, eating, or having a lovely chat with death but no one is writing anything! How will we ever get to 1 million? Better question: HOW WILL WE PAY THOSE MASSIVE AMOUNT OF BILLS?!
The money is getting tight, everyone’s miserable, and just when this challenge is looking bleak by the day 2 mark, who else comes a knockin’ but the Great Equalizer itself? But for who?
As the date draws closer and closer like some mad sick wolf desperate for a lick of fetid flesh stuck to the bone of a leftover kill, so too do the players of Final Fantasy XIV seek word from on high of the Heavensward expansions looming arrival. What will be needed? What will it cost? What new shinies will be able to grasp in our pixelated and fleshy mitts that will allow us to lord it over our fellow players as a triumph of worth, value, and excessive disposable income? The answers fall in spurts, small sprinkles descending from the lips of gods that flow down to a drought ridden earth like sweet manna. Here! They say. Here is what you seek and what you crave! Here is the nectar from our brow that you will feast upon and then only once the blood-craze has stemmed will you try to analyze. The newest producers letter is upon you, let the days of milk and honey run wild until your aching bellies cry for retribution and the sour bile spills forth with distasteful criticisms, whining belches, and claims of incompetence.
I know I eagerly await that fated day foretold by the old gypsy woman that the fanbase turns from jubilation over the new pristine words that they have been gifted by developers into rampaging beasts who have been thrown a newborn babe and are unsure whether to devour the helpless creature or to tear it apart until blood coats the walls of their reinforced enclosure like fresh paint. And a helpless creature it is. There are no follow ups, revisions, or detractions that will spare the infantile man-thing’s fate once it has been cast out into the hellish home we once call the world wide web or the Information Superhighway in some bold faced and ultimately futile lie to ourselves pretending that information had anything to do with its true purpose.
Oh but what limb shall be the first sacrificed to the masses to ignite the first fires of this mob? The buff to GP in the Gold Saucer activities? The nerfing of difficulty with NPC Triple Triad matches? Nay, I have glimpsed a peek at the vile pits of prophetic darkness and seen what I believe to be the true battleground not only of this next expansion, but everything leading up to the release of the expansion: The requirement to complete all the Main Scenario quests to access the expansion areas. Yes, that is right casual perusers of gaming and core of steel ‘gamers’. It has been said that one must complete the entirety of the main scenario, from level 1 to 50 and for each of the patch 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 extensions of that story before you may walk through the gates into Ishgard’s welcome embrace.
What would that hive of excrement production, the World of Warcraft forums, think of such a bold idea? That they would have to complete Loremaster of Pandaria and the achievements for Landfall, Isle of Thunder, the Siege of Orgrimmar, and the Timeless Isle before being able to move on through the reddened Dark Portal into Draenor? Especially if those achievements had required dungeons to progress them like Final Fantasy XIV regularly does? I think we all know what would happened to those dreaded stomping grounds of fonts & fantasy – it wouldn’t exist. Burnt to the ground and rendered to fine ash only suitable for frolicking by the small rodentia that somehow survived the blazing inferno of rage-naros, elemental lord of pissed off MMO players. It would be a wall that would be blocking further content, and not one of those acceptable walls that can be justified by simply looking down from it at those poor souls struggling so scale the behemoth and uttering in contempt “Git Gud,” no this would be a wall of story, of plot, and of time. Like dailies of yester-expansion, this wall would be deemed an insult to the player base who have much better things to do in an role playing game than give two s***s about plot.
However Final Fantasy XIV is not the World of Warcraft. Nor is it story ‘optional content.’ It’s the main event and routinely required to unlock instanced content like trials and dungeons. So the entire landscape shifts but the question still remains. This is uncharted waters. I can’t recall the last MMO that attempted to stand tall on its narrative and demand that its player base plunge head deep into the thick of it before getting to play the shiny new toy that they purchased. This is doubly unique in that I’ve never played an MMO with so much current endgame story content. Each patch extends the main scenario by a few hours of quests at max level. So it wouldn’t simply be the matter of doing the main story quests while leveling, but also stopping at level 50 to do 6 whole patches worth plot and dungeons (a minimum of 10 hours to be sure) before the expansions content opens up to you. With a bar like that being set, a precedent to be forged from mythril and planted firmly in the stone to declare that this shall be what is expected of you Final Fantasy XIV players, one must wonder as we stand on the edge of the yawning abyss, “What will they say? How will they react?”
This blogger knows where he stands however. Happily climbing that mountain to reach the promised land. The story of Final Fantasy XIV has been almost entirely enjoyable, and the idea that you will be required to play through and experience the entirety of the narrative before continuing the tale in the northern lands of Ishgard seems to signal that the tales will be linked, and not some separate new narrative that we deduce how it all pieces together like some jigsawed monstrosity – he mutters in contempt glancing over at the timeline fiasco wrought by the Cataclysm expansion. The story is why I play these games and for once it is a pleasant surprise to have a company put the emphasis on the story above all else. To build an unflinching wall out of it and to put the players to task on completing the tale and climbing the wall to reach the next tier of play.
Still one has to wonder what will happen when the wave meets the rock…
Cranky old men yelling at each other, women authors chatting in the kitchen, and no one is doing any work! As cash flows dwindle, will Bob save us all?
So with Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 now firmly in the ‘dealt with’ drawer, and Type-0 HD along with the Final Fantasy XV demo knocking on the door, it’s time now to look at the final installment of the “Lightning Trilogy” of the Fabula Nova Crystallis – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Which is kind of a backwards title to be honest. That always confused me. Surely it would make more sense as Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns. But maybe they wanted it to be viewed as more of a standalone game. Which is both odd and completely makes sense because this installment is about 90% references to people and events of the previous two games, and the other 10% is the where and how, and THOSE are completely brand new. Yes, in a weird change of pace, the entire combat system of Lightning Returns is completely different than anything seen in the previous two games and almost seems built as a weird RPG/Fighting game hybrid that somehow manages to actually work really well. As for the places, well… that’s best explained by getting into the set up of the story for this installment.
For those who recall my recap of Final Fantasy XIII-2, the game ended with Caius claiming victory from beyond the grave and the heart of the goddess Etro destroyed, allowing the chaos to pour out of the Unseen Realm and into the Seen Realm destroying the space/time continuum pretty much. Then our main protagonist, Serah, dies and Lightning seals herself in crystal in hopes to ride out the storm for a chance to be reunited with her dead sister someday somehow. Lightning Returns begins 500 years later. Yea. You did not read that wrong. Five hundred years later. Yea, it’s quite the time leap. In that time, the world has completely changed. No recycled areas this time. No, as the sea of chaos slowly consumes the world, the remaining land is divided up into 4 regions: Luxerion – the city of the faithful, Yusnaan – the city of the never ending party, The Dead Dunes – a savage desert, and The Wildlands – a wilderness where folks try to live with nature. Across these four regions, the remnants of humanity try to live out the remaining few days of the world. Humanity too has changed a bit. Remember that bit about the space/time continuum going boom? Yea, no one ages anymore. Seriously! People can still die from things like murder, getting ripped to shreds by monsters, disease, etc but no one has aged in 500 years. Hence how pretty much every character from the series comes back in some fashion. The chaos has also had some strange side effects now that Etro is dead. People and creatures have had drastic changes to their shapes in some cases, or other things like a certain pair of Gran Pulse residents being woken from crystal slumber.
So with no aging and a brand new world, what is the basic plot? Well, with the Unseen Realm opened up, Bhunivelze the God of Light, Creator of All, Giant Ass Who Killed His Mom, has returned to his creation to find it all broken beyond repair. He has awoken and tasked Lightning with saving the souls of humanity and preserving them in the Ark (that giant ball that Hope built in XIII-2 which was supposed to be a replacement Cocoon for when the Crystal Pillar broke, which is now just considered a big second moon to the world at large.) before the world is destroyed in 13 days. Yea, you get woken up and given the task of saving as many souls as you can in 13 days. All the while you’ll meet up with old friends and enemies, meet new friends and enemies, and Lightning will learn an important lesson. More on that later. The whole saving souls thing is done in the form of completing quests. Quests are the life blood of Lightning Returns. Completing quests will give you access to equipment, cosmetic customizations, stat increases (no more levels or crystarium), and most importantly: TIME. Oh yea, time is not on your side. At the start of the game, you have 7 days of game time before game over. Wait! Didn’t I say 13 earlier? Well, yes. See, the world will be destroyed in 13 days. If it makes it that long. You start with only 7 days left, but by helping others and completing quests you will gain more time which will ultimately give you 13 total (technically if you complete all 5 main story quests and enough side quests you can gain access to a special 14th day created from all the lost time after the Chaos flooded and days went from being on a 13 hour clock to a 12 hour one… Just go with it. All it really does is unlock the bonus dungeon, I’m surprised they tried to give it a lore based reason for existing at all.) Any time you are not inside the Ark that serves as a safe haven and base of operations, the clock will be continuously counting down. You can slow it down using bonus abilities that you’ll unlocked through out the game, but honestly I abused the hell out of them and ended up with 5 whole days of nothing to do but ride the train around. So they’re not crucial to burn unless you are close to missing a window to complete something since certain quests are only available at certain times each day or give you so much time to complete the task.
So along with the new world and time mechanic, what else does Lightning Returns bring to the table? Well, there’s the new combat system I mentioned. Since Lightning is the only playable character this time around, how do you handle the myriad of enemies being tossed at you? Well, besides being an agent of God (cue the Blues Brothers music please!) you have the ability of rotating through a myriad of abilities divided into the ‘roles’ established in FF13: Sentinel (Tank), Commando (Stagger Retention DPS), Ravager (Stagger Building DPS), Medic (Heals), Saboteur (Debuffs), and Synergist (Buffs). You change your set of abilities, by changing outfits. Yes, you play dress up and as a modern 30-something year old man in the 21st century, I will tell you… it’s pretty damn fun. The outfits consist of your clothes that dictate your abilities, your weapon that determines your attack power, and a shield that determines your defense. There are insane amounts of each that allow you to mix and match to your hearts content to build the perfect outfit for combat or just to run around in. On top of the stat and ability customization, you can change the color of outfits and add cosmetic accessories that do nothing (hats, glasses, plushies on your shoulder, badges, tattoos, etc) but add some aesthetic fun and other things to collect in the game. In combat, each outfit has its own ATB bar (think of it as energy or mana) to use that outfits abilities. It will refill as you fight but usually not fast enough that you won’t have to switch between your three outfit slots during the fight to continue the battle. Each ability is assigned to one of the four main buttons (ABXY on Xbox 360, Square/Circle/X/Triangle on PS3) so you just hit buttons to do the attacks. During combat (which occurs in a separate little universe like any other Final Fantasy combat), you actual control Lightning’s position, movement and blocking with the shield using the other buttons and joysticks. So you can move out of a blast, or move to the side of the enemy, or get up close and personal. Beyond that, the trilogy mechanic of ‘build stagger meter up till staggered then unleash hell for massive damage’ remains par for the course.
The whole combat system is much faster and attention holding than the traditional Final Fantasy turn based method. As I said, it feels a bit like they tossed in some Fighting game into the mix and it really makes all the repetitive combats fun. The only down side is that without the slower turn based system, strategizing is usually done with trial and error with lots of dying and restarting the combat, especially on bosses and the heavy hitting enemies. You can usually load up right back to the start of combat or right before the combat was initiated for a chance to run away, so it’s not a huge loss of time but it can wear on you a bit after dying 5-10 times on a single encounter. Still, I personally feel the change is a net win.
Moving around the game is fairly the same but with the addition of being able to actually jump whenever you want instead of just certain spots. The moving around actually feels very similar to SquareEnix’s other series Kingdom Hearts where the movement is really fluid and you get used to jumping up and grabbing onto ladders or snatching poles to slide down on as you run around. I actually found it perfectly entertaining to just run around Luxerion, climbing up on things and diving off high spots.
The last new mechanic in Lightning Returns is the ability to upgrade your stuff. The main one is upgrading your abilities. You will routinely encounter enemies that drop unattached abilities that can be slotted into the blank spots in outfits. These unattached abilities can often be combined at a shop into more powerful versions of itself, creating higher level versions of the ability and gaining things like the ‘+’ suffix that gives it a bonus to its effects. (If you end up with a ton of them, you can also sell these abilities for cash. Helpful when you have 30 Blizzard Lv. 1’s sitting around.) It also seems clear that Lightning Returns was made to be a quick, enjoyable game that you can and should play through multiple times. Not only do you get more stat boosts for redoing quests on a second, third or even fourth playthrough (it has diminishing returns and eventually just becomes extra cash instead of stat growth), the New Game+ option also opens up the ability to upgrade your weapons and shields, making them more and more powerful. Thus you can almost treat the game like Diablo, where you can play through it on the lower difficulties to build up stats and gear to take on the higher difficulties (which also has exclusive gear for all you collectors out there).
Overall, I’ve always felt like the mechanical changes in Lightning Returns were a mixed back. It felt like, much like the rest of the game, a radical departure not only from Final Fantasy as a whole, but the 13 trilogy as well. On the other hand, the changes by no means detract from the game. They are still fun and work with what this game in particular is trying to do. It just feels odd calling it a Final Fantasy game, or as part of the Lightning Trilogy since its such a radical departure from the established status quo. It kinda feels more like a spin off than a main entry in the series at the moment. I supposed the best way to describe the feeling is like being an American trying to pronounce something with the British English pronunciation (think ‘aluminum’). You recognize it as a valid way of saying the word, and it may even make more sense then how you usually say it, but it still sits funny in your mouth. That’s Lightning Returns on a mechanical level. Fun, but different.
Anyway, next time I’ll crack deeper into the storyline and characters and we’ll see exactly what the deal with Bhunivelze is after all this time.
8 Sims, 1 house, 1 goal: To make 1 MILLION SIMOLEANS in 365 days. Who will survive… The Sims 4 Monkey Shakespeare Challenge!?
So despite a fairly warm reception, some may have noticed that I haven’t uploaded any new lets plays. And while some of that has to do with the holidays and other real world things, mostly it’s just my own stupidity. There have been many recording sessions in the past few months, with absolutely nothing to show for it. Either because of technical problems or my own incompetence I end up with an hour or two of recorded audio but no video. Other times I’ve had games continually crashing on me at random times. So it’s not that I haven’t been working on them, and more that the work has been problematic at best.
That being said, I still want to keep recording and putting up more Let’s Play Vry Versus Video Games videos on YouTube. In fact I’ve recently just finished another near 2 hour session that is sitting on my hard drive awaiting editing. I really just wanted to give those of you who were enjoying my silly exploits a heads up that it is not an abandoned project by any means and it’s just been a series of mishaps that have delayed it this much.
For those who aren’t sure what I’m actually talking about, I’ve been recording, editing and uploading Let’s Plays of various games under the title of Vry Versus Video Games on YouTube (You can find my channel here.) I’ve currently been working on 3 different series, changing things up every now and then to keep it fresh for at least me if not you folks as well:
– Shadowrun Returns: Where you get a taste of my strange range of silly voices as I read the dialogue for the characters and play through the game for the first time.
– BioShock: One of my favorite games. I’ve started doing kind of just a wacky commentary that has devolved into a weird metaphorical revolution as the ‘Luigis’ (Green light wearing hacked machines) are rising up against the ‘Marios’ (Unhacked hostile machines). A viewer poll decided to NOT kill the little sisters, so we’ve been saving the creepy little girls.
– The Sims 4: Shakespeare Monkey Challenge: The newest series currently being edited takes the concept of ‘putting monkeys in a room with a typewriter will produce Shakespeare’ to a new level. We shove 8 sims (7 of which are based on famous authors) in a house and force them to write in an attempt to make money. The original goal was 1 million simoleans in 1 year, but considering how time moves in the Sims world, we might be altering that goal and trimming it back to avoid having several hundred videos.
Anyway, I just wanted to offer an explanation on the status of these projects and to introduce the videos to new readers (thank you for visiting by the way! Always nice to have new folks stop in.) Hopefully, the drought will be lifted soon.