Kingdom Hearts III.1 – Feeling the Power of Progression

So it’s been a crazy few weeks.  I’ve been trying to get back into streaming in my spare time.  Got sick, got better.  Been taking care of my family and myself and our weird annoying emotional disorder problems.  Uh…  tried out those Super Duper Mega Stuff Oreos? And uh…

Okay.  Okay okay okay.  Fine.  /sigh.  It’s time to talk about Kingdom Hearts.

When Kingdom Hearts III came out a few weeks back, I took the entire week off of work so I could just soak it in and enjoy the culmination of a ten-game-long story.  I imagined what I was feeling was similar to what people felt when they finally gripped Ultima IX in their hands for the first time.  This was it.  The end of the story arc.  I wasn’t expecting it to be the finale of the whole series.  No, I was in the loop enough to know that this was the end of the “Dark Seeker” or Master Xehanort’s story, not Sora’s or the franchise as a whole. I was trying to manage my expectations somewhat.

The good news is that it was WAAAY better than Ultima IX.

I devoured the game.  No, seriously.  By the time I went back to work, I was level 99, had 100% everything I could on the Gummi Phone and gotten every Gummi Treasure, completed every Gummi mission, and defeated both the normal and gummiship super-bosses.  Got the Platinum Trophy for it too. All in all, took about 60 hours.  Which is about on par for my attempts to 100% the other Kingdom Hearts games.

I still felt hollow.

It wasn’t like the game itself was bad, but in so many ways it seemed like we were getting more and at the same time we got less.  The worlds are huge, the action is fun, the visuals are amazing – BUT I felt like character progression is non-existent, the over-arching plot was continuously delayed, and that ultimately I only saw maybe a third of the story that actually happened.  I’ll get to that last point eventually in a following post because that’s the one I really want to dive in on but I feel it would be unfair to just handwave over the character progression point without explaining what I mean.

In terms of character progression, I hold both Kingdom Hearts II and Birth By Sleep as the star examples in the series.  In Kingdom Hearts II, you gained drive forms. Each of which required a different objective to power up and unlock new abilities to use while in those forms and outside of them.  The striking difference in combat prowess between say Level 1 Master Form and Level 7 Master Form FEELS significant.  You do a number of new combo moves, you gain abilities to deal with crowds of enemies, and the animations get flashier and flashier.  You felt like there was increase in power. Outside of your drive forms you unlock and enhance exploratory abilities like high jump, aerial dodge and ultimately glide.  These abilities allow you access more and more areas that you weren’t able to before and reach new treasure chests or collectibles.  It’s a steady and tangible feeling of growth throughout the game that culminates with the gaining the ability to unlock Final Form after a major story point in the final world of the game.

In Birth by Sleep, you fuse together your abilities to create stronger abilities, allowing you to grind out things like Firaga before you leave the first world.  You can use special catalysts with those fusions to create passive abilities that are linked to the active ones until you master the spell or action, at which time you permanently unlock the passive ability.  The fun in Birth By Sleep and indeed the level of progression is figuring out which combinations create what abilities.  You can create “Mega Tier” abilities that are capable of destroying entire screens worth of enemies with a single cast by the end, but it takes time, knowledge, and effort to create them.  It feels really rewarding to reach the point where you can cast MegaFlare repeatedly and just lay waste to those around you or the completely upgrade your passive abilities to where a single enemy rains down health and other power ups that restore you instantly to full after each battle.

In Kingdom Hearts III, there are two aspects of progression: Your abilities that you get from leveling up or defeating scripted encounters and upgrading your keyblades.  The first is almost entirely passive and barely able to notice since the majority of your passive abilities are things like damage boosts, combo extenders or things that lengthen the time of your situational commands.  You get glide at a similar point as the other games – toward the end – but it doesn’t really open up anything.  There’s no reason you can’t 100% the treasures, the lucky emblems, and all the other things well before you get glide.  All it does is speed things up somewhat if you choose to do some back-tracking and a bit handy (but not necessary) in the final boss fights.  The only ability that I remember getting that really opened up a few new areas was being able to double jump through flowmotion by kicking off a wall (a massively nerfed version of the flowmotion we had in Dream Drop Distance, but I suppose there’s narrative and balance explanations for that).  You get a legitimate double jump later on but by that point the flowmotion and high jump got you 99% of the places you needed to. So the abilities are honestly so very forgettable by the end of the game.

As for the keyblade upgrades?  Well, it just ended up being you boosting their stats.  Maybe grant them a passive ability or two that are tied to that specific keyblade like the ones in the previous games had.  Other than that? Nothing.  Your keyblade determines which of Kingdom Hearts III’s equivalent to drive forms you get – dubbed ‘Formchanges’ – that actual shift the keyblade into a different weapon to use new abilities and attacks.  Formchanges are awesome and I always had fun with them. But in terms of progression? There isn’t one.  Your formchanges are the same when you get the keyblade as it is when you finish maxing them out upgrade wise.  They don’t affect you outside of when your transformed at all. Your exploratory abilities are just handed out at the appropriate story juncture through the game. They shake up combat for about 30 seconds to a few minutes tops but that’s about it.  Even the final upgrade to the keyblade – which is shown to have a different icon than the others – just bumps up stats.  The keyblade doesn’t evolve in appearance, your formchanges don’t well… change at all, and you don’t really feel like you got that much stronger for all the effort you will put in to craft 1-10 upgrades for these keyblades.

That’s what I mean by progression feeling lackluster.  You technically get stronger in a sheer mathematical sense, but so do the enemies, with the worlds upscaling in level as you get further in the game. You never FEEL like you are getting stronger and that’s in a game that starts out with a whole thing about the protagonist trying to recover his lost strength (To the point where even the villains comment on how weak Sora looks now) which in fact isn’t lost – you just haven’t been shown the tutorial screen for it yet.

At this point, I would really like to reiterate that I really did love the game.  I wouldn’t have bothered to 100% the thing if I didn’t.  I mean, I’m a fan and all but even I have my limits on what I’ll go full completionist on (I am looking at you Chain of Memories and 358/2… You *expletives deleted*) but this and the next post were really just the low points of the game for me and as someone trying to reconcile his cognitive dissonance with loving the game and its weirdly non-sensical plot and criticizing the game as BOTH being acceptable ways to love a game (I know this is possible because I love plenty of terrible movies and generally crappy music but its just harder when your a big fan of something), I just wanted to write about here.

Please do not take this as me calling the game bad.  It’s not.  It’s just not perfect.  I know we all wish it was.  I’m not the games harshest critic right now either I know.  I’ve heard other people’s complaints and my general reaction was just “Okay, I can see that. But that didn’t bother me.”  But hey, hopefully with this and the next few posts – the healing can begin.

Because Yensid knows that damn duck isn’t going to heal us.

 

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HoBo’s Big Debut – The Sims 4 Get Famous Pt 3

It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light up the lights. It’s time to get things started on the HoBo Show Tonight!

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Touching the Sky: My Weekend with the Anthem VIP Demo

So BioWare’s new game “Anthem” is right around the corner.  By that I mean releasing at the end of the next month, but hey, I just got done waiting thirteen years to fight a cranky old man along side Mickey Mouse, so what’s a month?  Originally, I was very much in the ‘wait and see’ camp on Anthem.  It was one of those concepts that easily could be plagued by excessive and near predatory microstransactions (still could honestly given that the demo priced everything at 25 coins – the in-game currency – and the recent habit of patching in microtransactions after the metacritic reviews are in) or honestly it could have just gone the way of Fallout 76 and been a confusing mess of lack of content.  Trust me, I love Minecraft, I get the ‘Make Your Own Fun’ concept, but I only have so many hours in the day to play a game and so many games to play.

However, all that changed when @Naithin on Twitter hit me up after a conversation about the game and offered me one of his Friend Passes to the recent VIP Demo of the game.  Well, how was I going to say no to THAT?

After some finagling with the weird fact that after SWTOR merged their accounts with EA Accounts, I have two different ones (pain in the butt process made simple by just moving around some email addresses it turned out), I was able to get into the Demo and give it a whirl.  I tried everything I could – all four javelins (the robot suits), all types of content, and just generally messed around a bit.  But first of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room:

Yes, the demo had issues.  I don’t know the full extent of them, but on the PS4 I ran into the Infinite Loading Screen where the game just stops loading at 95%, I had the sound cut out to my entire PS4 at one point until I closed the game entirely, a few random disconnects where I was kicked out of whatever content I was doing and back to Fort Tarsis – the main single player hub area, and my favorite one: Opening the map while respawning that made it so I couldn’t close the map.  That one was just funny.  And no, I didn’t rage over any of these. Even the Infinite Loading glitch. My own personal views going into this demo is that this was very much a “Soft Opening” for the game.  Open things up, let people play some, figure out what major quirks pop up so you can address them before the REAL opening and let the world in.  So I expected issues.  I got issues.  Now if these same issues crop up on launch day at the end of February?  Then you might see some rage.  Or at least a few snarky comments.

But you don’t want to hear about the problems with running the game.  That’s all anyone has talked about since and during the demo.  How WAS it?  Well, let’s break it down shall we?

Story

There wasn’t much of it in the demo sad to say.  Mostly just one short mission chain where you find a “Shaper Relic” and it leads to hijinks splitting the local scientist into three aspects of himself with different personalities (Am I the only one who thought this was a Power Rangers Zeo call back?  Trey from Triforia?  No one?) and you have to help solve it before they melt into goo.  It’s a fun little story and the writing is really entertaining.  While there wasn’t a lot of lore or indication of what the overall plot of the game will be, it does highlight that Bioware still very much has the touch when it comes to fantastic, fun, and engrossing character dialogue.  In these short little bursts of story, I felt like I really got to know these people and actually liked listening to them chat and chime in during the missions.

Missions

The story sends you on on these missions to do specific things in specific places.  There’s usually 2-3 different areas you’ll go, usually flying between them in your Javelin, and then there’s some manner of combat or a puzzle to solve.  Now, I found most of these pretty fun.  But there is seriously a wide range of difficulty within the mission itself.  The game gives you the option of six different difficulties of play – 3 are locked until you reach max level which is apparently 30.  But even then, the story missions would wildly swing from easy going fun to tedious uphill battle where you are constantly repairing allies and facing down small armies of spawned enemies.  Ultimately with one, I gave up on fighting the constantly spawning waves and flew up to a pillar of rock where I just sniped the boss over and over until it dropped and ignored all the enemies.  But that isn’t always an option.  But it might have been a level issue, a gearing issue, the fact that all four of us (the game just automatically matchmakes you with a group. I couldn’t find a ‘solo’ option anywhere.) where using the Ranger javelin with more or less common quality gear.  Who knows.  It honestly felt like with one mission, the big bad was supposed to spawn X number of adds after losing Y% health.  So if you pop your ultimate ability and drop him say… 4 times Y%, it would just spawn four waves at once.  But that was just my in-the-heat-of-battle observation.  Or my waiting to respawn observations.

Oh yea.  There are Respawn restricted areas, where the only way to respawn is to be repaired by an ally or the whole group to wipe.  The only indication of this is a small flashing pop up when you enter the area for like 2 seconds.  Other than that, nothing.  Even worse, if you die, it still shows the RESPAWNING IN 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…  And then it just stops.  Until someone repairs you.  I thought it was a bug like the loading thing at first.  But no, apparently it was working fine with just a really obtuse UI.

Free Play

The second option for game play is the aptly named “Free Play” where you just go out into the world and run around. From here you can find collectibles, crafting materials, and various lore bits, but mostly Free Play is there for doing the “World Events” where something pops up with an objective to complete and you rewarded with a chest of randomized goodies for your effort.  It was probably the best way in the demo to gear up.  The Demo only had a few areas open to players on the world map, but it was still fairly diverse from marshes to mountains to underground caverns to fight off baddies.  The problem with the World Events that I had was just that they were too sparse, too few, and too small.  By small I mean in terms of visibility.  There are no indications on the map where a world event might be happening, and it will only pop up on the UI when you are relatively close or within the exact same subzone as the event.  This makes getting backup from the handful of other players in your public game next to impossible since just because you are doing an event doesn’t mean other people will even see the event happening.

Other than that complaint though, I had a ton of fun in free play.  A bunch of us would stumble upon a base taken over by the enemy and then clear it out, gather stuff up, and then go exploring and blowing things up.  Just kind of a fun way to kill time really.

Stronghold

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t complete the one stronghold – Anthem’s equivalent of dungeons – that was available during the demo: Tyrant Mines.  Between frequent disconnects, various bugs that I wouldn’t be surprised were related to those disconnects (it seemed that if someone was carrying one of the turn-in objects when they disconnected, the object just vanishes with them and the objective becomes impossible to complete.) I just had a hell of a time with this one.  I did make it to the final boss where we wiped twice and then…  I don’t know. The group dissolved?  I was kicked back to Fort Tarsis with no explanation so maybe that was it.

But for what I was able to accomplish how was it?  Long.  Like some WoW Vanilla dungeons long.  Multiple large areas with massive amounts of powerful enemies that get reinforcements part way through and a final boss that pretty much one shot each of us – and that was on EASY difficulty. You’ll probably want to set aside an hour or two just to do a single Stronghold.  More if you aren’t sure that you can keep a consistent group.  Which reminds me: The matchmaking only works in certain spots.  If you are already engaged in a “scene” (anyone one of the objective/combat areas) it seems to pause the matchmaking.  Meaning if people drop out mid-fight, you won’t get another party member until you finish the area, or wipe.  Which makes these strongholds – which are specifically balanced for 4 people – even harder.

Javelins

Finally, we have the core of the game.  The heart of everything.  The Javelins.  Your fancy suits that give you robot super powers.  For some reason, I was unable to unlock all four during the demo despite everything I read indicating that I would just get a second one at level 12 (the demo starts at level 10) but I won’t look a gift mouse in the horth because now I can tell you about all of them!

Your default suit is the Ranger (or the Iron Man suit – their words not mine) and it has a fairly well rounded tool set of ranged explosives, customizable attacks, and support capabilities.

The first of the more specialized suits is the Colossus (Hulk) that specializes in tanking somewhat.  You have a ton of health, a collapsible shield that works somewhat like Reinhardt’s shield in Overwatch, and it starts with an area taunt that would be very familiar to Dragon Age Inquisition players.

Next up is the Interceptor, which is basically a robot ninja.  You get triple jumps, triple dashes, throwing stars that just dice enemies to pieces, and are just generally very fast.  Their drawback is that they have little health and are very melee range focused. In fact their ultimate ability is melee-only.  So you gotta get close but not take a lot of hits.

Finally is the Storm, or your wizard character.  They gain the ability to hover a lot longer in midair and can throw a ton of elemental attacks at enemies.  They can also spawn long distance shields to protect people.  Much like the Interceptor, they have crap all for defense though.  I had a hell of a time doing anything solo as a Storm in Free Play since there was little to nothing keeping the enemies away from me.

My personal favorites were the Ranger and the Interceptor, with the Colossus being a distant third.  Don’t think I’d focus much on the Storm when the game comes out.  You might notice that I didn’t mention anything about healing in there.  There doesn’t appear to be any healing abilities from what I could find in the demo aside from replenishing shields or providing covering shields.  Healing comes from picking up health drops that enemies leave behind sometimes.  There’s also a auto-regenerate feature that will restore your shields and your health up to 25% if you are below that when you duck out behind something for a bit.  It seems you do replenish your health when you exit a “scene” entirely however, but that’s based on just random observations and I cannot confirm that 100%.

Final Impressions

I know I talked about a lot of issues in this post, but I want you to know that this was about the worst I could say about the game.  It really was fun to play.  The characters were enjoyable to interact with.  Flying around is fun once you get the hang of it.  I just had a good time with it.  Definitely more fun that I had with Destiny 2, which always felt kind of like a slog.  I dunno if I’m going to pick this one up on the release day, but it’s definitely on the list for picking up based on even my flawed experiences here with the demo.

Rags To Riches: The Sims 4 Get Famous Story

The Legend of Howard Bolteski aka HoBo is known to even the smallest child.  Witness his rise to glory in this epic documentary that follows HoBo from his humble and somewhat sadistic beginnings as his star rises to glory… er… we hope?

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or watch the recordings at http://www.youtube.com/user/WorldofOddCraft

Vry Plays Heavensturn 2019

Join Vry as he plays through the 2019 Questline for Final Fantasy XIV’s Heavensturn (New Years) event.

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or watch the recordings at http://www.youtube.com/user/WorldofOddCraft

The Legend of Final Fantasy XV: A Post-Mortem

So with the recent announcement of 75% of the “Season 2” DLC being canceled, and Tabata’s departure from Square Enix, I feel that it’s time to finally put a cap on the somewhat infamous entry in the Final Fantasy series.  From its somewhat rocky and overly long development, to its reception and the follow up patches and DLC, it’s been a heck of a ride for Noctis and the boys.  One that I personally have enjoyed but has also generating an overwhelming amount of spite and anger in the fan base as well.  Maybe not as much as Final Fantasy XIII did, but it would not be wrong to call XV a base breaker.

This probably has a lot more to do with how the game was developed than what it actually ended up being. Announced in 2006 as a side game to Final Fantasy XIII titled “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” (Along with Final Fantasy Agito XIII which eventually became Type-0), the project was set up to be developed by the Kingdom Hearts team and headed by Tetsuya Nomura – a figure of near legendary status in the Square Enix pantheon to some, and a bit of a hack to others… my personal opinion of the man’s work lies somewhere in the middle to be honest.  The game would be an action rpg in the style of Kingdom Hearts, and would feature a myriad of weapons, the ability to comandeer and control vehicles, and a plot line revolving around Noctis and then Stella’s ability to see the dead leaving this world.  This would all be wrapped up in parts of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology – mostly the aspect of Etro who was repeatedly a major figure in the teasers and the logo art.

News of Versus XIII’s development for the next seven years would be scattering bits here and there.  Even as XIII-2 and Lightning Returns were delivered, word on Versus was sparse.  Heck, while the game was announced in 2006, not a single video or screenshot of actually gameplay would be shown until 2009’s Tokyo Game Show.  This was immediately followed by the next year, four years post announcement, that the team was starting from scratch because the game Nomura wished to develop could no longer work within the constraints of the Crystal Engine developed for the Fabula Nova Crystallis – they would develop their own game engine for Versus XIII dubbed “Luminous Studio”.

In 2012, Square Enix appointed Hajime Tabata and his team that developed Type-0 to start working on a prototype of the next mainline game in the Final Fantasy series (XV) for next generation hardware.  During this time and troubled by the lack of smooth development on Versus XIII after six years, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada contacted Tabata and asked him what his thoughts on Versus XIII and whether the project could be salvaged or just canceled. Tabata stated it could be salvaged, but the development could not be continued in the same way it had been up to that point.  Square Enix then appointed Tabata and his team from Type-0 to help finish Versus XIII, a decision that most of Tabata’s team was resistant to at first (reports stated that 90% of the team was against the idea at first).  This brought the Versus XIII to over 200 people, made Tabata the co-director on the game, and began the work of folding the already done work on Versus XIII into the next mainline Final Fantasy.

Tabata stated in interviews that at the time he and his team had joined the project, after six years of work and many promised concepts from Nomura, the game was only 25% complete.  As part of the reworking to finish the project, many of the concepts that Nomura had planned from the initial concept pitch and announcement back in 2006 such as the character Stella and character switching in combat were axed to help streamline the development, the story was altered to follow closer to the original scenario written back in 2006 by Kazushige Nojima – the original creator of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology and former Square Enix scenario writer (including VII, VIII, X, and X-2) – which would focus on the themes of “Journey” and “Comradery”.  Even with all these changes, Square Enix did state that their intent was to try and preserve what work had been done thus far, and Tabata and Nomura would work together to maintain the games direction and principal characters like Noctis would remain true to what Nomura wanted to achieve.

In 2013, it was formally announced that Versus XIII was set to become the new Final Fantasy XV. In December of that year, Nomura would depart the project to go work on Kingdom Hearts III and leave Tabata as the sole director of the game. Reports of a lot of internal struggle in the studio followed, with Tabata drastically rearranging the teams and the leadership on the project. However, reports from inside Square Enix that despite initial struggles, most of the changes and streamlining reinvigorated the team, and by the next year Tabata was reporting that the game was nearing 50%-60% completion.

From 2014 to 2016, the game released more and more in-game footage, put out two separate demos that showed off the scope and capabilities of the Luminous Studio engine, and announced the expanded “Final Fantasy XV Universe” project that would include a film, an animated series, mobile games and a spin-off VR game (eventually revealed to be a fishing simulator).

Finally, in November of 2016 – Final Fantasy XV was released.  The reaction was a resounding “Eeeeh. It’s okay?”

It’s hard to say exactly what generated that reaction. It was probably a myriad of reasons across the fan base.  From the long development cycle generating expectations, to the staff shake ups leading to conspiracy theories about good the game would have been if Tabata hadn’t “stolen” it from Nomura (Ignoring the fact that in all likeliness, Wada would have just canceled the game had Tabata not stepped in to get things back on track).  If you look up complaint threads across the internet, you’ll find endless different reasons why people didn’t enjoy the game.

To me, it just feels like there wasn’t going to be a “good” solution here.  There was no way this game was going to be able to deliver on everything that had been built up over 10 years of teases, and ideas, and concepts.  It didn’t help that after the massive backlash to the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and the small splash Type-0 had on Sony’s dwindling handheld market, that many fans were hailing Versus XIII to be the saving throw of the entire Fabula Nova Crystallis project and when your savior turns out just to be another game…  well, I think ‘letdown’ is putting it kindly.

Overall, I personally loved Final Fantasy XV.  I enjoyed how the story was deceptively simple by calling back to the original Final Fantasy’s Warriors of Light idea and traveling the world on a quest to gain celestial blessings and power to stop a great evil with a Machiavellian plan. The game honestly felt like it was trying to tie back the modern Final Fantasy games with the old ones in a joining of hands across generations.  I loved how you got to know these four characters in and out, and felt emotionally part of the squad as they went through these ordeals.  I enjoyed the subtle implied storytelling and world building over the blunt brute force exposition dumps that you had in some of the previous games.  The fact that Noctis and his friends really had no clue what their actual destiny was and only Lunafreya and King Regis were playing a big gambit with the whole thing to stop the Darkness.

That being said, it wasn’t a perfect game by any means.  There was a lot of bits that felt like they had the right idea but they didn’t do enough with, or certain story elements were confusing (not helped in part of the fact that Noctis & Co. were kept in the dark about what was ACTUALLY going on in the story until the end).  I won’t argue that those who complained didn’t have plenty of valid reasons to do so.  The game was just simply average at best.  Honestly, given the utter development hell that the game went through to get to release, part of me is shocked that it came out to even be average.  There are parts to like and dislike and mostly what works and doesn’t is going to come down to personal taste.

Part of me just really wanted to look back at the facts of what happened to create this game because there has been so much speculation and so many armchair developers waxing on the topic that I think that the facts can often get lost.  What could have happened instead?  Well, Versus XIII would likely have been canceled as Wada seemed to be leaning that way when he spoke to Tabata, Tabata was slated to work on the next mainline game regardless of whether they absorbed Versus XIII or not, and Nomura would have gone back to finish Kingdom Hearts III.  Would that have been better?  I don’t know!  There’s no telling if Tabata starting from scratch instead of trying to salvage Versus XIII would have resulted in a better game.

Following the initial wave of mixed press, Tabata and his team set out to work on fixing a number of issues people had with the game, including technical problems, frustrations with certain areas (This included the either maligned or beloved Chapter XIII which seemed to fall heavily on how much you read into it.  Funny now given the applause for realism on how slow and tedious RDR2 can be nowadays.) and further exploring some characters motivations and backstories.  This was in addition to the already planned season of DLC that the game was going to have featuring Episodes Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis that each explored a point in the game where the characters were separated from Noctis in one way or another – clearly planned places for DLC. Any additional content created for the purpose of fixing the story (the revised Chapter 13, new Lunafreya bits, Chapter 13.5 with Gladio and Ignis), and additional Quality of Life fixes (Chapter select) were all released for free so that everyone could enjoy the fixes.

Looking back at how everything went down,  I still feel that XV was a solid game at launch.  The fixes and DLC certainly clarified and expanded on the core game, but were they vital to experience?  I didn’t think so.  I mean, I enjoyed it from start to finish and I beat the game within the first few weeks of release before all of the talk of “fixing” it really took off. The infamous Chapter 13 was a pretty cool experience when I played it, and as I mentioned before the plot was deceptively simple.  By that I mean, it looked like there was a lot more to it than there actually was. Which is impressive, and does take some skill in my opinion to give that impression.

So with now the whole thing done with the exception of Episode Ardyn due out in March, what is there left to say?  Final Fantasy XV was a risky venture no matter how you sliced it.  I dunno.  In the end it’s just up to each of us whether or not it was worth it.  But I wanted to create a look back at what happened not based on speculation or rumor, but everything I could dig up that was reported from interviews, articles, etc. There’s a lot of “Tabata ruined it” or “Nomura couldn’t hack it” talk on the internet and I just wanted to just look at the facts and evaluate what all this was from that.

This was an enjoyable experience.  Final Fantasy XV for good and for ill was something I enjoyed playing.  I don’t regret the money I spent.  I don’t think we were robbed of a different game when the other game was barely even started when all this went down.  I don’t think badly of Nomura or Tabata.

It’s just a solemn end to a big extravagant project that left me kinda numb.  I wonder if I will feel the same in January when the Kingdom Hearts series finally comes to a close.  I guess we will wait and see, won’t we?

Rise of the Pre-Pre-E3 Press Conference News

It’s getting to feel a lot like Christmas.  As in that gaming news keeps clawing its way earlier and earlier on the calendar.  Back when I was a kid, it was all about CES.  Then the gaming industry started its own show so it wouldn’t be lumped in with TVs and Camcorders called E3.  Then the REAL news started showing up before E3 at Press Conferences. Finally, here we are two weeks before E3 and the game industry is throwing out announcements and teasers like they were 8 month old spaghetti you found in some Tupperware in the back of the top shelf of the fridge that you can never see all the way unless you crouch down so you forget things back there a lot and oh hey we DID have butter!

Anyway, let’s get into it.

Fallout 76

What we know:  Fallout 76 is being developed by Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Game Studios Austin (Formerly BattleCry Studios).  We know its set in Vault 76, one of VaulTec’s “Control Vaults” that didn’t have any weird experiments and was set to open 25 years after the bombs fell – making this one of the earliest Fallout games chronologically.  We know that Bethesda Austin has experience with multiplayer (they assisted Id Software with making Doom 2016’s multiplayer mode) and we know that they were hiring people with Free-to-Play/Micro-transaction game experience.

What We Think:  My money is on some kind of squad based multiplayer game that are all the rage with developers right now (From what I can tell, the public isn’t really biting) – probably to compete with EA’s Anthem and Activision’s Destiny.  No clue how required the multiplayer aspect will be for the game, but you can bet that micro-transactions will be involved.  The game will probably center around venturing out of the vaults and trying to stake a claim in the post-apocalyptic world, establishing the earliest settlements in the wastes, etc.

I also wouldn’t be shocked if there was some PvP elements to this, since then Bethesda can recycle the canceled BattleCry game with its 5v5 squad based combat as some level of return on investment.

Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee

What We Know: Pokemon’s first major outing on the Switch is a return to basics with a semi-reboot of the original Red/Blue games updated with new mechanics.  Everything from Team Rocket to Mewtwo was shown in the trailer as well as being a return to “Your First Adventure” in the Kanto Region.

However, this time you have a shoulder-riding pal in Pikachu or Eevee that can be dressed up and played with.  The wild pokemon catching mechanic seems to built on the Pokemon Go mobile app’s core mechanics rather than battling but battling with your pokemon is still a thing with other trainers.

There will be additional functionality between Pokemon Go and Pokemon Let’s Go where you will be able to send Pokemon back and forth from the two games (depicted as being possibly temporary or in a minor way – it was shown being imported into a “Go Park” in the trailer).

The game will have a multiplayer component.  The game only uses a single joycon to play, so if someone hops on using the the second joycon, you will have a second player join you in the game.  It appears you’ll be able to try and catch pokemon together with properly timed ball tosses giving some kind of special bonus perhaps.

Finally, there will be a ‘substitute’ joycon in the form of the Pokeball Plus – a pokeball with a joystick/button at its center.  Meaning the the mechanics to play the game can likely be distilled into a joystick to move, a button to interact, and motion controls to throw balls.  The Pokeball Plus can also store an ‘uploaded’ pokemon that you can take with you.  Unsure if its ANY pokemon or just Pikachu/Eevee.

What We Think:  In terms of a first outing on a new console?  I think this is a great idea.  It combines the already popular Pokemon Go app with the traditional pokemon experience,  it takes full advantage of everything that the Switch can offer a game (Multiplayer with multiple joycons, motion controls, etc.), and gives a fresher update on the original Kanto games (Let’s be honest, LeafGreen and FireRed didn’t bring a ton of ‘new’ to the table beyond using the Ruby/Sapphire game engine and allowing you to trade to old pokemon to the newer games).

For those who were hoping for a more tradiitonal Pokemon experience, Nintendo was nice enough to make mention that another ‘brand new’ Pokemon game was slated for 2019.  I however will be VERY happy with this one in the meantime.  It looks fun and has a lot of fresh new ideas to play with.  I do want to dress Eevee up as a mad scientist.

Pokemon Quest

What We Know:  Don’t care.

What We Think:  Really don’t care.

Vry Plays: Fable Anniversary (Part 1)

After some technical issues, Vry finally dives into the world of Albion and explores the horrific backstory of classes, tests, and a schoolyard rival… Oh! And your family dies. Check out Vrykerion and the Land of Odd every 2nd and 4th Wednesday live at 7pm MST on https://www.twitch.tv/vrykerion

On Being ‘The Other’: Thoughts on the Witcher Series

I’ve commented before here and there about ‘The Witcher’, the blockbuster game franchise developed by gamer darling CD Projekt Red.  It’s a game series that I have tried time and time again to sit down and play and I just never felt invested in compared to games like Final Fantasy, the Dragon Age series, or even the Fable games.  And it usually always boils down to me sitting there and asking myself why?  Why are these games so difficult for me to immerse myself into and enjoy?  When by all critical and gamer opinions they are superior to all three of the aforementioned franchises?

It’s not that I think that they are bad games.  In fact, the one place I would compliment them above all else is in their gameplay design – especially the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt which is often cited as one of the few games to do ‘Open World’ right.  And while I honestly felt many of the side quests in Wild Hunt were tedious and dragged on for far too long (I know we all are supposed to hate ‘fetch quests’ but going to fetch some milk doesn’t need to be turned into the Lord of the Rings either.)  Though I will note that the combat can sometimes feel overwhelming in the number of options for the short span of time you are given to utilize them that I tend to just end up smacking things with the wrong sword until they die.  I can honestly say that the gameplay is solid and enjoyable and quite often trims the fat from superfluous busy work.

The story itself was the next point that I thought about.  It’s not lacking in any way, far from it.  In many ways it often feels like there’s too much to take in.  Rich histories that you are merely gleaming the edges of as you partake in your focused quest.  I know the game series was based on a much larger series of novels, and it shows in the fact that characters often regard each in familiar ways even though you only being introduced to them.  It honestly had me wishing for a codex of some sort like in Mass Effect or even Final Fantasy XIII that I could refer back to.  While the game has something similar, it’s less a datalog or codex and more of a “there are tons of books lying around” and much like the Elder Scrolls, you might stumble upon a book explaining the rich backstory, or maybe just a recipe for cheese soup.  Who knows?  The setting was honestly probably the hardest swallow for me.  It’s just such a depressing world.  Death, disease, monsters, bitter hatred, murder, backstabbing, and of course a lot of war – these are the back bones of the Witcher world.  It’s not a happy place nor time to live in.  But it’s not like I haven’t played in settings that were bleak before.  Mass Effect 3 was literally the apocalypse and starts with you watching as thousands perish on your home world.  You watch world after world die, and things go from bad to worse and then discover it was all because an AI figured a periodic galactic extinction would be the simplest way to solve the problem it was given millions of years ago.  THAT’S bleak.  So what was it?  What have I not looked at?  Well,  there’s always Geralt.

Yes, Geralt of Rivia.  The titular Witcher of the series.  Who – no matter how much you choose the ‘nice’ or ‘good’ dialogue options – will remain a steadfast asshole in the cutscenes.  But I’ve played assholes before.  I’ve played characters that are even worse than Geralt in that area *side eyes my Sith Inquisitor* but I think we are close.  In fact, I don’t think it’s so much that Geralt is a jerk that it is WHY he’s a jerk.  I mean, wouldn’t you be a jerk if everyone hated you for pretty much no reason?

Yeah.  And here’s the crux of where the plot, the setting, and the characters all intersect to create the real reason that I just can’t enjoy the Witcher games:  Everyone hates you.  It doesn’t matter how many good deeds you do in the game, and how many individuals you win over to your side, in the end there is a societal hatred of Witchers.  Not just Geralt – though his reputation as “The Butcher of Blaviken” doesn’t help – but all Witchers are regarded in mass as being soulless blood-thirsty mercenary monsters that should only be interacted with if you have to.  There’s no changing that.  Oh you can choose the good options and decide to not take money from the people, but the next person you talk to will be back to the same old prejudices.  Even worse, it doesn’t change when you go to a different location.  This stereotype that you have no choice but to endure over and over with the sole exception of spending time in Kaer Morhen with the few other Witchers in your neighborhood.

And I know some are reading this right now and wondering if I’m saying all this with this particular phrasing to build up to some manner of a political point about the real world.  While I won’t deny that there is definitely meat on those bones that can be picked on for some interesting thought, I don’t believe I am the one to do it.  I don’t have the tongue for such impassioned speaking and I have a foot far too eager to slip into my mouth at times.  So I will leave it at that.

That said, that is truly the core of why I can’t get into these games.  Because I don’t find pleasure in playing through a world, fighting for a world, that actively and quite universally hates me for no reason.  It’s why despite all the claims in the world that the Witcher 3 is a superior game to Dragon Age: Inquisition, I will be playing my eighth playthrough of DA:I before even finishing one of the Witcher 3.  I’m not saying that the Witcher 3 is a bad game.  Or that it’s bad writing.  Or bad anything really.  It’s just…  not the right fit for me.  As a question I’ve had percolating in the back of my mind for years now, I figured I’d share the results of my thoughts.  Thanks for the read.

Rise of the Var Qveen – Long Live the Queen

Vry turns an innocent child who just lost her mother into a tyrant.

Tune in to watch LIVE at http://www.twitch.tv/vrykerion every 2nd and 4th Wednesday at 6pm PST.

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