So if your pizza takes 8 hours, and the delivery girl decides to bum your internet for a few hours… Should you still tip?
I miss when video games were fun.
Oh not the games themselves – they still are fun as heck – but more so everything surrounding them. In recent years, gaming has been something of a ‘problematic fave’ to borrow a term. You can enjoy the product but damn if the dubious ethics of the publishers, the foaming rage of the fandoms, and the all out tug-of-war over artistic merit doesn’t sour the whole experience a little bit. When its gotten back to the point where people are backing away from being labeled “gamer” again (albeit for wholly different reasons) you know things have gotten bad.
I don’t get it. I really don’t. I don’t know if its something about my experiences or upbringing or when I got into gaming or anything but a lot of this stuff doesn’t seem that complicated to me. Enjoy games. Treat other people with respect. Don’t assume your view is the only valid one. Sesame Street taught me this stuff. But even I’ll admit that there were periods in my life where I let them slip. I suppose none of us are without flaws.
Still it’s weird to be an outsider because of things like ‘giving the benefit of the doubt’ and ‘being optimistic about games’. For instance, I really liked the original ending to Mass Effect 3. I may have mentioned that on this blog a few (dozen) times. But I really did. It felt like a solid science fiction open ended ending that you would find in like an old Heinlein novel or something. I never got the whole ‘your choices didn’t matter’ thing because really, the entire game was a culmination of your choices. I bumped into faces that I did a side mission for back in ME1 and helped out or let live. Not everything got a big dramatic cutscene but if you read all the things (Note: This was before Final Fantasy XIII taught me that gamers don’t like to read apparently. Put down your torch, that was a joke.) your previous choices DO have an affect on things. Like the Rachni. If you take the Rachni back with you in ME3, the outcome is dependent on whether you saved them in ME1. If you did, then these Rachni will remember you and benefit the war effort. If you killed them, these are artificial Reaper controlled rachni and they will go nuts in your labs and you’ll lose precious resources from the war effort. Yes. That’s in the game.
So how is all that the benefit of the doubt? Well, generally I don’t just discount something because it’s obtuse or doesn’t make sense right away. I was a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion after all. I suppose it got drilled into me back in film school. There’s meaning and purpose behind things we create. You just might not see them right away. Take the previously mentioned Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. Is it flawed? Very. Is it difficult to understand? Can be. But if you take the time, savor it, and take in everything that it offers to you – I found it to be a magnificent game with a wonderfully fascinating story.
Even outside of game plots, there are things like DLC. Downloadable content has been viewed almost universally as a blight on the gaming landscape. Assumed to be lazy cash grabs or content ripped out from the finalized game in order to sell later to make additional cash. While I can’t argue that those things have never occurred and certainly can point to a few examples where they most definitely have, there are some positives to DLC that I don’t ever think get given the time of day. Take that “content ripped from the final game” concept. I see that one a lot. Especially with games like RPGs. People argue that they should have just included it in the final game and not sold it separately, that in ‘ye olden days’ of gaming that you would get the full product at a single price. Which isn’t really true. A lot of the stuff that ends up being DLC is stuff that is planned for the game, but can’t be finished by date they need to go gold by (the date the game needs to be finished so they can send it to be mass produced and packaged for the actual release day). A lot of times, studios will keep working on polishing the game after that point and push those updates out as a big ‘day one patch’. But a lot of times content that was planned like that would just be cut or dummied out. That happened A LOT in the old days. Heck, there’s entire plotlines to the original Knights of the Old Republic that got dummied out, and a romance plot too. Games can have massive unexplorable areas that were going to be used for something but there was no time to finish it. Going back to Mass Effect, a lot of the complaints about the DLC being “on the disc” were only partially right because yes, these planned for expansions were planned for and thus their bare bones were already in place but incomplete. All the dialogue and scenes where Kasumi Goto in Mass Effect 2 interacting with the existing missions/story were on the disc, but her model was a generic placeholder and her recruitment mission and loyalty mission where absent.
DLC is something that can – and often is – used as a second chance to save ideas from the scrap pile without having to sacrifice a release date window. But people often assume the worst, greediest, and most scummy practices imaginable. Again, I can’t say those horrible views are based somewhat on fact. There have been cases of that happening. I just think that its awfully pessimistic to paint the whole concept of post-launch content with such a negative brush based on those incidents. Now whether you don’t think the price is worth it is a whole other debate, and really that always comes down to personal taste. No different than ‘Is this game worth X dollars?’. Sometimes it isn’t. No I don’t want to spend $1.50 on a swimsuit I personally won’t ever use in Final Fantasy XIII-2 (I do have the swimsuit outfits, but that’s because they came as part of a bundle.)
I suppose a lot of this can be viewed as the ‘gaming fandom’ going through its cynical teenage years of being a long term fanbase. But there’s always those who buck the flow, and Indy gaming being embraced so wholeheartedly is just one sign of that. The fact that games made by small teams that don’t just become best sellers, but spawn entire fan followings solely around their games can just so that people can find something positive to enjoy in gaming still. It’s not just a bunch of grumps spouting witty cynicisms like a bunch of jaded critics. Gaming is something that should be enjoyable. Be that conquering the hardest difficulty if that’s your thing, or playing on ‘Story’ difficulty because you’re interested in the story and lore. You should play what you enjoy and how you enjoy. Be it Braid or Boy and His Blob, Tetris or Tekken – just enjoy your games.
Of course, that’s not that there isn’t anything to be concerned about with gaming in general. I mean, from the online threats to the unethical pressures publishers have pushed on developers, gaming as an industry and as a medium has a long way to go. And yes, there are plenty of valid criticisms that can be discussed about games. But if there was one thing I learned back in art school, it was that criticism is healthy for growth, and not everyone is going to like everything. Heck, my own writing was often berating for having ‘no substance beyond being entertaining.’ I personally believe that the important thing is to keep looking forward at how games can improve, how we can enjoy our entertainment to the fullest, and be considerate of other viewpoints that will help gaming grow into a vast and diverse community where we can all enjoy things.
Then again that’s all just me. I said I didn’t want to preach and I meant it. I’m not going to demand that my view is the right one, or the only valid one. It’s just mine. I just miss when games were fun.
So if your pizza takes 8 hours, and the delivery girl decides to bum your internet for a few hours… Should you still tip?
I’m happy to announce that just in time for the new Final Fantasy XIV expansion Stormblood, I have managed to put together a solid story summary for the story of Heavensward. While the “patch storylines” aren’t finished yet – namely because I haven’t played through those extensions to the Main Scenario yet – the main storyline of the expansion is now available to read here.
I don’t have a set date for when those remaining stories will be up mostly because I’m debating waiting until Stormblood is released to play through those patches since when Heavensward was released the 2.X patch story rewards were altered to give equipment to prevent having to grind item levels to progress to the next major step and since my current ilevel is sitting around 203 at the moment, and you need 230 to get through all the dungeons involved in the quests… Yeah, I might just wait and see if I can make this a bit easier on myself. If someone who is more active in the news for Final Fantasy XIV knows one way or the other if they plan on doing this again, do please let me know.
Otherwise, I’ll just keep on my current mission of “Get all Classes/Jobs to Level 30 then to Level 50” until Stormblood arrives.
EDIT: Upon further research, it seems that the Main Scenario Quests for Heavensward will have to be completed in order to access the Stormblood story, but you won’t need to do it to access the Samurai and Red Mage jobs. So I’m thinking it’s pretty likely for them to include “Catch Up Gear” with the quests like they did with ARR leading into Heavensward.
With the Great Fire of Episode 6 behind us, it’s time to hunker down and make some cash. But with everything breaking, hunger setting in and sneaky house guests that just won’t leave… It’s a bit like… what’s that saying? Corralling dogs?
So I was not even halfway done with my ‘I finished Mass Effect Andromeda’ post (Not the final title, I assure you) when Electronic Arts announced that the Mass Effect property was pretty much dead. Oh they didn’t use those words. That would be dumb. No, they said that Mass Effect – the entire franchise – is being put ‘On Hiatus’. Which in all honesty means that they’re going to stick it on a shelf until there’s nostalgia dollars to be made from it. Along with this news, we learned that Bioware Montreal was being gutted and the remaining staff would be support developers for other EA titles such as Battlefront or Project Dylan (the currently unnamed Bioware action game that rumors say is EA’s contender to go head-to-head with Activision’s Destiny series and The Division.) The only development for Mass Effect: Andromeda moving forward will be bug fixes and multiplayer support.
How did we get here? I mean, it’s not even been 3 months since the game came out. Now there will be no DLC, no sequel for the cliffhanger ending, and pretty much an end to the entire Mass Effect idea and setting for the foreseeable future.
Well, I’m sure some people have a very good idea of how this happened. I mean, the internet backlash was hitting this game before we even got to the release date because of the whole 10 hour preview that some people had. Mixed that with streaming media so everyone could share in the initial reaction and boom! Great recipe for an instant flame war. And I’m not going to sit here and hold those people solely responsible. The game had problems at launch. I’m not going to argue with that. The animations could be goofy, there were issues with bugs and the inventory system was just screwy. I mean, most of this didn’t bother me personally. Nor did it bother a lot of people I knew personally. But then again, I was raised on RPGs where “Facial Animation” was changing the position of an eyebrow on a 20×20 pixel head. I remember it being a big deal when “mouths moving when they have lines” was a big advancement. So maybe I’m a bit more forgiving of some silly animations. Ultimately, the game was playable. It was downright fun. Right from launch. The patches fixed issues as they rolled out and the fun got even better. That’s the way I viewed it all at least.
There’s also the issue of the broken fan base over to make the game more open-world. Right now “Open World” games are kind of a thing and its started to get some backlash against it. That isn’t Andromeda’s fault, but it did release right as the genre’s popularity has started to decline instead of at its peak. Really, I don’t think open world was much of a goal for the game as it was the side effect of the questionable overall design choice: An updated Mass Effect 1. Everything from the open format of upgrading abilities, to the inventory system and ranked equipment (Ranks I-X just like ME1), and the big open worlds to drive around and explore were all pretty much just yanked from Mass Effect 1 and then peppered with some of the sensibilities of ME2 & 3. Instead of moving forward from ME3’s gameplay, they went back and tried to revive the stuff that the second and third installments tried to push away from. And for that reason, I imagine there was a lot of push-back from fans. While there are some in the Bioware fandom that hold on to the classic Mass Effect as the last time the games were “RPGs” (a sentiment I disagree with. I view RPG as more of a choice of how one approaches and interacts with the game rather than a specific set of mechanics that must be followed) most of the folks I’ve spoken to over the years hold Mass Effect 2 as the pinnacle of the trilogy and many of them cite the choices to move away from things like the Mako sequences on worlds or the painful inventory system. Going back may have made sense to the developers, especially in light of the emphasis on exploration, but I don’t think it was what a lot of fans wanted.
Speaking of the exploration, I am still gathering that there in lies the big disconnect with expectations vs reality. Andromeda was set up to be a break off of the original Mass Effect trilogy. The same setting but a different story, hence why it was never labeled – and Bioware heavily emphasized that it was NOT – Mass Effect 4. Andromeda was about exploration. Going to a new place never before seen and trying to establish a home. This wasn’t the tale of a super-soldier trying to save the Galaxy. This was just a random team of people who volunteered to travel nearly a millennium away from home and try to set up camp in a barely charted galaxy. So it was a big step down in the important-ness scale. Just as epic, but more in a scale way instead of a heroic way. Because face it, Ryder isn’t a hero. They’re the kid of an ostracized scientist who had greatness thrust upon them compared to Shepard who was a damn legend before the opening title dropped hence why Shepard was being considered for Spectre Status. Ryder’s job before having the Pathfinder title dropped on their lap was Recon Specialist. No rank, no record of glory, no nothing. Andromeda was about new beginnings. A theme that runs through out the game and is handled really well. I just don’t think everybody was on board with a new beginning.
It’s one of those tough calls that you have to deal with as an artist in an entertainment industry. Especially if your a AAA developer or working with a big movie studio. You can make great art, but even then if no one is buying what your selling then you are just shooting yourself in the foot. It’s the cruel reality, and not one that I personally like or support. Electronic Arts supposedly dropped $40 million on Andromeda (That’s half of CD Projekt Red’s budget for The Witcher 3) to a brand new division of Bioware set up in Montreal to try and win back the fans that Bioware HQ in Edmonton put at risk with Mass Effect 3’s ending backlash. They decided to dive back into the well and play it safe by retreading ground established by Mass Effect 1. They developed a story that was easy for new comers and series veterans to get into with a brilliantly handled themes of exploring the unknown and establishing a new beginning. They crafted a story that wrapped up both the ‘new beginning’ as well solved the primary conflict without giving everything away so fans could theorize and have something to look forward to in the future. It created a villain with an interesting motivation (The Kett) and a mystery to ponder on without concrete answers (The Remnant). It ended the game with solving the issue of finding a home but gave a cliffhanger as to what will come next.
Mass Effect Andromeda was a good game overall. A good game that stumbled at the starting line and it cost them big. I honestly worry about Bioware moving forward. After this, ME3’s ending, and The Old Republic, I imagine EA’s patience may be wearing thin. Consumers on the other hand have higher expectations of Bioware than ever. Things could be rough going forward for the Canadian RPG powerhouse.
Which would be like… a teaser? The poster? A synopsis? I’m not entirely sure how parentage of a movie trailer works. Anyway, I’m talking of course about the much anticipated – for me at least – Dark Tower trailer:
I’ll just say this now so you can either click away or tell me I’m wrong right away instead of getting to the bottom: I. Loved. It.
Idris’ imposing charisma and gravitas as Roland, McConaughey’s sleazy and menacing presence as Walter/Randall/Man in Black, and just the amazing visuals of Midworld or the connection to the rest of King’s works all shining through in this short trailer. It definitely delivers on everything I would want from a film adaptation of the Dark Tower series.
And I think that’s where there’s some debate going on about the trailer. People aren’t happy that this seriously deviates from the source material so much. People have had issues with the film focusing more on Jake, the movie toning down some of the more western concepts, or them being racists. You know, pick your poison. Overall, I wasn’t expecting a transfer of the books story to the big screen. Because that would be terrible. The story of the Dark Tower books barely fit into anything resembling a traditional narrative structure and more closely resemble a traditional saga where the characters go on a meandering journey to ultimate destination and have various adventures along the way (also see: The Hobbit.) There is no easy way to break The Dark Tower into a simple beginning/middle/end. Heck, one whole book is like 90% flashback. Even the first novel, ‘The Gunslinger’ would work as a straight story namely because it ISN’T one. The Gunslinger is five short stories that take place in a chronological order, but while each of the shorts have a roughly complete arc unto themselves, the whole of the narrative doesn’t. Heck it doesn’t even really have an ending. Not one that resolves any of the conflicts brought forth in the story at least.
And that’s the Dark Tower in the nutshell. It lacks the structure that a film demands. So to expect any of it to make it to the big screen without some level of heavy adaptation taking place is naive of how media adaptation is supposed to work. That and I assume you’re a big fan of The Last Airbender. That was pretty much just copying plot point for plot point of the entire first season of Avatar to the big screen. (Full disclosure: I loved the Last Airbender. I have never laughed so hard at a movie. It wasn’t because it was good though.)
The other idea put forth about the movie that solves a lot of these conflicts would only make sense to those who have read the entire book series so this next point may have some SPOILERZ in it for those who are interested in reading the books. The idea being introduced and seemingly confirmed by both King and the filmmakers is that this story is another one of Roland’s cycles. Referring to the idea that entire series has been repeated an unknown amount of times until Roland gets it right by bringing the fabled Horn of Eld to the steps of the Dark Tower. When we last see Roland at the end of the last book, his journey has begun once again but this time he actually has the Horn in hand. While the Horn of Eld isn’t seen in the trailer (photos on the set show a horn like object in Roland’s satchel however), it doesn’t mean that this theory is bust. After all, it wouldn’t be the first cycle where Roland lost the Horn. But even Stephen King has hinted on his twitter that this is the next cycle after the books and that this time we’ll see Roland blow that horn and face down the Crimson King.
The one point I like about this theory is that it doesn’t tie the film makers to the events of the books. Mid-World is still there, the old familiar faces may come and go, but those are this cycle’s versions of those people. In the same way that Roland remembers Cuthbert fondly instead of bitterly at the end of the last book, we can’t simply assume that the events before or during the course of Roland’s last journey to the Tower will play the same. That means the film makers have full access to the names and ideas presented in the books, but don’t have to use them or even use them the same way in the film version.
Combine all that with the fact that you can tell from the trailer that the behind-the-camera team has a lot of love for the property, and this could spell a great time for King fans and non-King fans alike.
One final aside that I’ve been pondering on with the trailer: In one shot we see Jake wandering through an over-grown forest in the remnants of an amusement park with a giant broken down sign that reads “PENNYWISE” and a dilapidated statue of a clown holding balloons. Of course, this is easily a reference to Stephen King’s IT that is slated for its own theatrical movie here soon. But something struck me as odd – Is this where the clown came from? It takes many forms in the course of the novel – a werewolf, a mummy, Bev’s Dad – all conjured from the children’s frightened minds and of course Its final physical form of some Lovecraftian horror that could only be described as “Giant Spider-like creature”. But none of the kids were afraid of clowns. Heck, even little Georgie wasn’t scared of Pennywise when they first met. So where did that form come from? We know that It comes from the Macroverse, a place described in very similar terms as Todash Space in the Dark Tower, and Its natural enemy is the Turtle, which is a reoccurring guardian deity in All-World. So perhaps this right here is a hint to where the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown comes from original. Maybe this isn’t a reference to IT as much as IT is a reference to this. Who knows. Maybe we’ll find out in August.
So last Friday, I got my grubby mitts on the new Nintendo console, the Switch. I didn’t camp out or anything like I did with the Wii. After having that experience once, I am quite satisfied with just pre-ordering off of a website and waiting for the mail man. I’m getting old. I ain’t a whipper snapper no more.
Honestly what confused me more so was that people asked IF I was going to get a Switch. As if there would be some reason I wouldn’t? I guess people just assume when they see my Wii and Wii U that I might have felt burned by Nintendo in the past with these “dreadful” systems. Which only makes me laugh. I have NEVER been dissatisfied with a Nintendo console. Not once. Heck, I thought the Virtual Boy was pretty awesome when it first came out. I still think it was one of the most forward thinking consoles ever made along with the Dreamcast. Go back and look at the Virtual Boy and tell me that thing doesn’t look like the equivalent of the Game & Watch devices for the modern Vive or Gear headsets. Nintendo systems are always kind of this weird nostalgia trip anyway. When they were current both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube were mocked for having small game selections that trended toward “casual” or “kiddy” games unlike the then rising star Playstation & Playstation 2. Nowadays? People pine for the days of the N64 or ‘Cube. People sing their praises now that they’ve passed into the realms of nostalgia. But hey, I still loved those consoles when they were current. My PSX was used for Final Fantasy. Everything else? Nintendo 64.
So when people point out things like the weird gimmicks or the small launch selection, I can’t help but shrug. The Switch is no exception. It looked fun as hell and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.
The Switch itself is surprisingly compact. Even with the JoyCons attached to the side of it. It actually kind reminds me of a skinny Game Gear in that sense but with a bigger screen (Maybe a bit longer battery life). It’s definitely not like the 3DS where I can just stick it in my pocket but it would easily fit in a backpack, messenger bag, or purse. The stand on the back is NOT as flimsy as I’ve seen people complaining about, at least not in my experience. I’ve used it in the kickstand configuration a few times and the only time I had trouble keeping it standing up was when I tried to do it on a non-solid surface like a sofa cushion or the bed. The kickstand set up is probably my favorite configuration outside of putting it on the TV so far. The JoyCons connect wirelessly so you can just have your hands in any position you want while playing. I was at my sister-in-law’s hookah lounge/tea shop/gaming emporium (Check out the Lair of Abraxas if your ever in the Denver Metro area. #Plug.) with the Switch set up on the table and my hands crossed underneath and just playing away without a concern in total comfort. It’s hard to explain why but something about the fact that the JoyCons fit in your hand and are connected to nothing just gives you a lot of freedom to play comfortably.
The biggest technical hurdle I’ve had so far was honestly getting my TV to display a decent picture, and that’s really more so the TV’s fault than the Switch so I can’t complain too much. But if the saturation or brightness of the image seems too much or the anti-aliasing seems choppy on your TV, you might want to play around with the settings some. For me, it turns out that Gaming Mode on our TV isn’t so good for gaming, but HDR+ mode makes the games look great. So you might just need to fiddle in the settings until you find one that looks good for you.
These things were my biggest worry when it came to the Switch. I mean, they LOOK tiny right? And they are. Kind of. My hands can fit around them easily enough that I can play without any discomfort or crab claw hands. The buttons are about the size of the ones on a 3DS so if you don’t have an issue there, you won’t here. I won’t really know what to say about them in terms of gameplay until probably next month when I pick up Mario Kart 8 Director’s Cut or whatever they’re calling it, but I don’t anticipate too many issues. Regardless, I did get a Pro Controller to use just in case.
However, one thing that was both cool and weird at the same time is actually feeling the HD Rumble do its thing for the first time. While I didn’t bother with 1-2-Switch, there are a few moments in Zelda that use it and its just kind of neat. Feeling the water run down a stalagtite before dripping down as you watch it on screen is definitely a nice touch of immersion. I’ll be curious to see how developers will use it moving forward.
I only grabbed two games at Launch: Zelda and I Am Setsuna, and over the weekend I only really played Zelda. I was tempted to go for Bomberman as well, because I remember playing the heck out of BomberMan 64 back in the day, but I felt it was one of those wait and sees. Meanwhile, the next Zelda game and a retro send up to Chrono Trigger style RPG? Heck yes I will be playing those.
Zelda is gorgeous and pretty much hits all the right notes. The gleaming reviews are everywhere so I don’t think I need to sell you on the game, but I will touch on the highlights for me:
So that’s my early impressions of playing with the Nintendo Switch over the weekend. Once I get an actual multiplayer game, I’ll probably post my Friend Code somewhere so you can friend request me or something.
In case you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, there’s a bit of a hot topic spinning around in fan circles about the latest installment of the series, Final Fantasy XV. It pertains to the bonus dungeon, Pitioss Ruins, that can be found after the game is complete by taking your flying car over the mountains and landing on a pain in the ass small strip of land. From there you run up the hill and after the sun goes down you can enter the Ruins which has less to do with the rest of the game and more in common with games like VVVVVVVV or I Want To Be The Boshy joining forces with some insidious Little Big Planet levels. Precision jumps, instant death spikes, tons of bottomless pits, and plenty of puzzles. It’s a frustrating and yet suprisingly entertaining dungeon that had me less annoyed with each death and more so piecing together a solution or strategy.
However, the current “theory” or simply fan wank making the rounds right now is that this dungeon holds the key to understanding the entire game’s backstory and motivations for the villains.
To break it down simply, it posits that Ifrit, the second to last boss of the game, broke free of Titan’s imprisonment, ventured into the Underworld, traversed the Doomtrain to reach the afterlife, and freed the Goddess Eos who was locked away by the Astrals because she was pregnant with twin demi-god children (noted by the item the Genji Glove found in the statues belly button. Genji roughly translating to ‘Two Beginnings’.) These twin children would be the founding members of the House of Lucis, possibly Ardyn and Izunia (The Izunia thing is a WHOLE other rant), and would eventually give rise to Noctis. (If you want more detail, there is a great video by Final Fantasy Peasant that breaks the whole thing down here. It’s also where I got the lovely image at the top.)
At first glance, it’s a great idea. It explains why Ifrit turned against the other Astrals, Ardyn’s desire for revenge, why only the lineage of Lucis can use the Ring of the Lucii, and their connection to the Crystal. Damn. What a great theory. Boy is it clever.
I have a few problems with it though. (Shocker.)
A lot of the theory seems to be based heavily on Greek Mythology. No surprise there. The game itself draws heavily on Greek Mythology to tell its story especially when it comes to names and themes. However, the Pitioss Ruins theory goes beyond this and simply assumes at face value that if X happened with equivalent characters in the Greek myth, then the equivalent must be true in Final Fantasy XV. So things like “Eos was imprisoned for loving a mortal and having half-god children” is based solely on the idea that “It’s how an Olympian God would react” with no basis whatsoever in the mythology or story of Final Fantasy XV. There is zero evidence to back up the idea that the Astrals would be angry by this. This is just slapping in frog DNA to fill in the holes of your dino DNA and saying that it was always intended to be like that.
Secondly, the theory throws in concepts that are wholly foreign to the game as if they were just matter of fact things. For instance, the theory states quite plainly that Ifrit descended to the Underworld to find the Goddess Eos by riding Doomtrain. Okay. One, there is no “Underworld” ever mentioned in the game at any point as part of their mythology. Two, no where is the contraption in the Ruins called Doomtrain nor is the concept of Doomtrain ever mentioned let alone as the ‘Sole means of reaching the afterlife’ in Final Fantasy XV. This description from Doomtrain comes from other games, which is a bad practice since in no other Final Fantasy game is Bahamut a giant dude in a suit of dragon armor.
Finally, the Goddess Eos? The Goddess that is central to this entire theory? Not in the game. She’s not. Eos is the name of the world that the game takes place on. Beyond that it’s even more fan theory based on random comments made by developers. That the character in the logo is the ‘most important goddess’ despite never having a name and only appearing in the logo and one painting at the beginning (Oh, and after you beat the game it shows quite plainly who that sleeping figure is supposed to be, and she ain’t Eos.) So if there’s a super important goddess, and the world is called Eos, then that must be the goddess Eos right? Sure, why not. Except that nowhere is that backed up in the game. We know who all six Astrals are. We know that there were gods who left after creating the world and the Astrals but were never named. So how do we know this is a goddess? Well, mostly because this used to be based on the Fabula Nova Crystallis and in that there was a super important goddess named ‘Etro’ who was trapped in the ‘Unseen World’ (World of the Dead, Underworld.) But all of that lore was scrapped and only used as a template for ideas (Bhunivelze = Unknown Creator, Fal’Cie = Astrals, l’Cie = Lucii.)
So this theory is built on another theory and uses more theories to fill in the gaps. What’s actually canon to the game? That there’s a dungeon called of the Pitioss Ruins and there’s some statues in it one of which looks like Ifrit. That’s about it.
But what’s the problem, Vry? I hear you ask. It’s just a harmless fan theory, right? Well, yea and no. There are plenty of folks who are seeing this theory and turning around and shouting F#%& TABATA AND SQUARE ENIX FOR RUINING THIS GENIUS PLOT going along with the idea that if this had stayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII or that if Nomura had stayed on the project that this plot would have become fully fleshed out in the unknowable amount of time it would have taken to get finished (Don’t get me wrong, I like Nomura alright but the man is a hardcore creative and needs to some serious reining in if you want to put him in charge of a project or else he’ll just keep coming up with new ideas and trying to work them in).
So this theory is now being used as ‘Proof’ against the developers, and that’s where I felt like I should step up and use my corner of the web to try and remind folks that this is just a theory and one based on a LOT of conjecture. It explains a lot, but that’s fairly easy to do when you construct the entire argument from random bits and pieces of unrelated material. You can just as convincingly say that Eos was a Titan in Greek Mythology and Titan is an Astral, so Eos might be the mother of Titan as well. Which would make Noctis and Titan related, which would explain why they were mentally linked and the first Astral that Noctis forged a covenant with. See! It all fits! It must be true! Other than I pulled it out of my rump.
Fan Theories are great. But they are theories. They are not canon. They are not backdoors into the game developers’ minds. Need I bring the Game Theorists’ “Sans is Ness” Undertale/Earthbound theory? Great theory. So not canon.
But then why all the mysteries around the backstory of FFXV? I don’t know. Maybe because a lot of it wasn’t vitally important to the immediate situation. My own theory on that (HA!) is that it might be a leftover concept from the Versus XIII days when the game was described as portrayed the affairs of gods through the eyes of a mortal. Like war between the Astrals but only the given context of what a mere mortal would see or understand. Do I know for certain? Heck no. But hey… it fits, doesn’t it?
So lately, I’ve been playing a lot of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD as part of the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection (And that’s a mouthful.) I tried to play it before on the 3DS but something about the strange and unfamiliar mechanics (I had never played Birth By Sleep when I tried it so the Command Board was weird, plus the Dream Eaters) and the smaller screen between the controls seem to just give me an all around hard time getting into the game. So I figured that now I’ve solved some of those issues I could try it again on my TV. Turns out, it works a lot better.
Learning the Game
I figured since Dream Drop Distance introduces a bunch of weird mechanics that I’d share some tips that I’ve kind of figured out over the course of playing to make it easier. The first of which would have to be the return of the Command Board. A familiar installment to those who played through Birth by Sleep on the PSP or as part of the II.5 collection, the Command Board is pretty much all of your special attacks and moves be they special keyblade attacks or spells. They each have a separate cooldown that is affected by your Attack or Magic Haste stat. You start with a few slots but the list will expand as you continue through the game. The command board is your bread & butter in combat. I generally only do normal attacks once I’ve put most of my attack commands on cooldown to fill the gap. They do WAY more damage and have more Area damage options that your normal attacks. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what attacks work better for your playstyle. I tend to favor the “dive” attacks because they do area damage which is good for clearing out clusters of enemies which is very helpful when grinding.
The second big mechanic to keep in mind is the Dream Eaters. Much like Pokemon Amie meets Nintendogs, you create these little spirits and can groom and pet them to your hearts content. But why you would want to do so was confusing to me for a long time. See, these little guys are more important than just being your fill in party members since Donald & Goofy are off doing their own thing during the adventure. These little guys also give you your abilities. Abilities being things like ‘Attack Haste’ or ‘Second Chance’ or ‘Magic Boost’. How you get these is from a Dream Eaters’ ability link grid. You spend Link Points to unlock nodes on the grid that grant Abilities or Commands. And you get Link Points from leveling your Dream Eaters in combat, playing minigames or yes, petting them. Petting them is especially important because petting or poking them in certain places can change their ‘Disposition’ (aka what attacks they use in combat) and a new disposition can unlock extra paths on the Link Grid (It’s the only way to 100% their grids.)
The other thing about Dream Eater abilities is which are permanent and which only apply when the Dream Eater is in your party. Essentially ‘Stat Abilities’ (The blue ones on the ability screen, or the ones with the dream eater logo on the grid) only apply when that Dream Eater is in your party. The ‘Support Abilities’ (Red abilities or Red Orbs on grid), ‘Spirit Abilities’ (Purple Abilities or Purple Orbs on Grid) and any commands (Wizard Hat & Key icons) you got are permanently unlocked for both Sora and Riku.
Flowmotion is the final mechanic and I don’t think I can really do it justice in text. It essentially allows you to jump massive distances, up walls, and perform new attacks. It takes get some used to but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to reach new areas, treasure chests, and skip a bunch of tedious jumping. Don’t worry if you can’t get the hang of it though. I’ve yet to encounter anything that you can’t get through normal jumping (or high jumping.) There’s even some stuff like a friendly animal that you can ride on to reach areas in some worlds. So you don’t NEED flowmotion, but it can make things easier/quicker.
The Pieces Fall Together
The other thing I’m really enjoying about Dream Drop Distance is that it is taking the time to finally start piecing the story together from all the various spin offs that the series has had since KH2 came out in preparation of well, the final chapter. Tying in titles like 358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep and Re:Coded to the current going ons with Riku & Sora really helps to make the picture complete and help you to figure out how all of this fits together into a single story. If you haven’t played one of the games, or you can’t remember, you’ll eventually unlock “Chronicles” which are text summaries of the events of each of the games.
However, the story isn’t flawless. Mostly when it comes down to the individual worlds. Of the first three ‘movie inspired’ worlds you go to – La Cites des Cloches (Hunchback of Notre Dame), The Grid (Tron: Legacy) and Prankster’s Paradise (Pinnochio) – two of them don’t put a lot of effort to weave Sora or Riku into the narrative of the ongoing plot like many of the other games did. In fact, in the Grid it feels like our heroes aren’t even there half the time as the game just reenacts random scenes from the movies without context as Sora & Riku stand in the background. Oh there’s scenes that advance Sora & Riku’s story as well, but they have little to nothing to do with the events of the world’s story. Usually it involves Young Xehanort showing up with one of his many incarnations to taunt or mysteriously hint at things at our heroes before departing back to parts unknown. I’m not going to say it’s a game breaker, but damn if it doesn’t just let the air out of any enthusiasm of going to the various worlds.
On that note, I’m not sure Square Enix quite understood the plot of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Because the random aspects they chose to focus on – and they are random. Like the one scene with Pheobus & Esmerelda’s spontaneous romance with zero development that only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie – seems to imply that the writers were unsure of what the story was about. Is it about Frollo hating “G–sies” for being ‘Free’? Or Quasimodo overcoming his crippling fear of going outside not because of his visage but just because Frolo told him not to. Heck, they have one scene about Frolo looking for the Court of Miracles that explicitly conveys the opposite intention of the original film (He WANTS to crush them ‘one by one’ instead of crushing them all). It was just a weird world over all and nothing was given context. It was like reading a cliff notes version of the Disney movie with half the pages missing. Just weird.
Should You Get It?
If you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan and plan on playing the whenever-it-gets-done KH3? Definitely. Unless you already played it on the 3DS, because this version doesn’t add anything. It removes some non-essential stuff like AR Codes and Photo Taking of the Dream Eaters (there IS a photo mode but it just removes the UI for screen shotting) but this isn’t a “Final Mix” incarnation, just a HD remaster of the graphics and ported to a console. The follow up in the 2.8 collection, ‘Birth By Sleep 0.2 -A Fragmentary Passage-‘, also picks up literally right at the end of Dream Drop Distance’s Secret Ending, which might be spoilery if you haven’t played Dream Drop yet.
So I finished Final Fantasy XV, and by finished I mean I got to level 99, I ran through every dungeon, and I got every trophy. I FINISHED it. And like every Final Fantasy game I’ve played before, I had fun. But the question is how much fun did I have? Well, let’s break it down shall we?
The story of Final Fantasy XV is deceptively simple. By that I mean, the only reason it seems to be complex is the method by which its told rather the actual complexity of the events. For instance, the actual purpose behind the majority of the actions in the majority of the game isn’t revealed until the end of Chapter 13 out of a total 14 chapters. It’s not uncommon for a Final Fantasy game. Lightning Returns and Final Fantasy X both tried to do something similar to varying levels of success. However, here it feels the deception is almost malicious in its intent. When we meet the heroes, Noctis is on his way to get married and enjoying a bachelor party-ish road trip along the way with his closest friends and confidantes. Once we break through the games pseudo-prologue and the first twist happens (not much of a twist if you saw Kingsglaive first) where the city of Insomnia falls to Imperial betrayal, the road trip turns dark as the group swears on vengeance and begins to build power via Noctis’ birthright to command the weapons of former kings followed by forging pacts with literal gods.
We are given context to all of these events solely through the vantage point of Noctis himself. Hence we discover the true reveal along with him. We see the confusing messages that he struggles to interpret with him. And we are forced to face the consequences of his actions with him as well. It is a powerful way to tell the story, if your tale is simple enough to manage such a narrow point of view. Final Fantasy XIII tried something similar as I have mentioned before and it bogged down into tons of extra reading or be very confused. XV does succeed in the endeavor a bit more though there still are some confusing moments that feel like slapdash plot hole filling. Where this approach suffers the most is in the development of characters that are not directly encountered by our protagonist: Ravus, the Empire, King Regis, and sadly especially Lunafreya. You only get glimpses of these characters who are such major players in this story because our field of vision is limited to what Noctis sees and interacts with. You don’t meet up with Lunafreya until three-fourths of the way through the game. Before that you only get Noctis’ flashbacks with her, their two sentences dog-texts (They both own reality warping dogs that deliver messages for them. Yes, there is an explanation. No, it’s not a great one.), and the brief visions given by the Gods. This is all you get to figure out why these two who haven’t seen each other in years are supposedly “in love” (although Kingsglaive does explain the marriage idea was part of treaty.) And yet, because we’ve seen Noctis interact with so many people that when he acts so out of character when he finally sees Luna, you get this feeling of knowing how much she means to him.
And that’s what the game does so very well with the story. You may not know what’s going on, but you feel like you identify with the tale. The story isn’t laid out in the most narratively pleasant order but it does a DAMN fine job of getting you emotionally invested in these characters.
Our protagonist is Crown Prince Noctis Lucis Caellum, the sole surviving member of the Lucis Caellum line and a wanted fugitive of the Niflheim Empire.
I said before how a lot of the surrounding characters don’t get a ton of development and that is sadly true. Lunafreya is shown to be a powerfully determined woman on a mission that won’t even make sense until the end of the game, but she is also one of the more kind hearted characters shown as well. Her brother Ravus, despite building him up to be a big antagonist, gets next to nothing. He is a character of many seeming contradiction tried together out of an extreme loyalty to family that comes from who knows where. His story is mostly only told through journal pages you find late in game. I can kind of see why they want to revisit Ravus’ story in a patch or something.
The main ‘Warriors of Light’ (Yes, that IS what the four are meant to represent if you missed the blatantly call back to the original Final Fantasy at the start of the game) are on the opposite spectrum. You spend nearly ALL your time with your companions occasionally departing for a mission or two of the story before returning. Ignis, the attendant of our prince protagonist and the caretaker of the group in charge of repairing damaged clothing, cooking meals, and driving the car most of the time. Gladiolus is Noctis’ bodyguard and trainer who comes from a long line of Kingsguards. Finally there’s Prompto the seemingly fun loving commoner that became friends with Noctis in high school. The game does an amazing job making these three feel like they are your best friends. You feel for them on an emotional level. Which is important as the game progresses and starts using that affection and attachment against you. Oh there will be drama. Oh yes, there will be drama.
Finally, there’s the supporting cast. It’s a mixed bag of who you like and don’t like. I found myself being rather fond of Gladio’s teenage sister Iris and her love of Moogles, the mercenary Aranea Highwind and her dry wit was great for a laugh on the mission she joined you, and I kept imagining Cor the Immortal having epic adventures off somewhere without me accompanied by either heavy metal or the soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian. I was a bit irked that they changed “Cidney” to “Cindy” for the English release though. I mean, way to kill the joke. She’s still listed as Cidney in the credits along with her Japanese voice actress. There weren’t any characters I downright loathed though. Which is impressive for a big open world game like this.
Finally, we have our villain. What? No. Not the Emperor. No one cares about Emperors. Haven’t you been paying attention since Final Fantasy VI? No. We have High Chancellor Ardyn Izunia. Both pseudo friend and foe through much of the game, the main group immediately doesn’t trust him but also is forced to work with him repeatedly. His goals seem to be at odds at times with his masters in the Empire, but it’s not clear what they are until much later on. I’d go more into Ardyn but you really can’t without spoiling it. I can say that he is easily on my short list for best Final Fantasy villain. He’s so amazingly slimy.
I wanted to touch on this because as I had made mention of in my first reactions post a while back, this was one aspect that constantly surprised and frustrated me. That the world of Eos is built up so amazingly well just using what you see, hear and interact with that very little exposition needs to be given about it. You can tell how much of Lucis the Empire had controlled before the fall of Insomnia by the check points and military bases. You get a feel for the vast gap between the frontier people and the people living inside Insomnia just by comparing the names “Noctis Lucis Caellum” and “Dave.” You discover that pretty much ALL women of working age work in the reactor by seeing them walk around the city in their protective work clothes.
How about the effects of a world where monsters and Gods walk among you? You see the Hunters working to keep people safe, ultra bright UV lights at all points of civilization to help ward off monsters. Duscae’s power infrastructure is based on the giant meteor that Titan holds in the Disc. Altissia has statues and temples built to honoring Leviathan. All of these things and so much more end up coming together to form the world, and none of it is ever explained in depth. It just gives you that feeling again that this world is actually coherent and thought out.
However, that lack of detail also just drove me crazy! I would read tomes upon tomes of the history of the world. All we get is an art gallery at the start and a timeline in the strategy guide. And the timeline only begins maybe 2000 years prior to the start of the game. Everything beyond that is “Ancient Time” with no info. Bah.
I kinda wish I could say more about the music. It kinda of strikes me as similar to other open-world RPGs where the music kind of starts to blend into the background which in this kind of game I always considered a good thing. I’ve had to turn off music or radios that tend to become annoyingly intrusive after a while as I explore (I’m looking at you, Fallout 4.) The music alternates between pleasant and calm and bombastic and epic during the battles and especially the boss battles. The song ‘Apocalypsis Aquarius’ that plays during the battle with Leviathan is one of my favorites. However, other than the titular song ‘Final Fantasy’ (known to some as ‘Main Theme’, ‘Prologue’ or for the very old school fans ‘The Bridge Song’) and some updated renditions of the ‘Prelude’ Crystal theme, there are very few songs in the game I could identify without looking at the track name and even then I probably wouldn’t be able to place them. The music is good – of that there’s no doubt – but I can’t really say there are too many memorable themes or stand out tracks that immediately make you think ‘Ah, this is when X happened’. Even the Leviathan battle song since every major boss battle is just a different arrangement of the same Apocalypsis song. Great soundtrack for just playing in the background though. I bought a couple of tracks I like to listen to while driving.
Of course, if something more iconic is your taste, you can get music collections from older Final Fantasy titles throughout the game that can be played through the car stereo or eventually a portable music player you can purchase. The selection is usually about 5 or 6 songs per collection but some games have more than one “disc” that you can get. For instance, Final Fantasy XI’s music has a separate collection for each expansion the MMO had. There are some omissions though. While multiple Dissidia and Type-0 collections appear, you won’t find many other spin off games or sequels (X-2, XIII-2, Lightning Returns, Revenant Wings, Tactics, or After Years.) Final Fantasy XIV’s music doesn’t appear either sadly, keeping this from even containing tracks from all the main numbered games. Still it offers a huge selection of songs from classic Final Fantasy games, so there is always that to take advantage of.
Though I will mention one thing about the ‘portable music player.’ It does NOT work in combat. The normal combat music will always play and turn off the music player. Big minus there. Would love to beat up monsters while listening to ‘Sunleth Waterscape’.
While the game has transitioned heavily into a ‘live combat’ style that feels almost closer to Secret of Mana then what one may associate with the Final Fantasy franchise, the combat system is quite fun. There is a Wait Timer that while takes some getting used to at first, grants access to things like Libra that can be further buffed via the upgrade-able Ascension trees. Speaking of the Ascension trees, they are used like Sphere Grids or the Crystarium in the previous game with the exception that the entire party shares a single set of Ascension trees. Some branches of the trees will unlock or upgrade follower abilities and some will grant new ways to gain Ability Points to spend in the Ascension trees. It offers a good level of choice with nothing feeling ‘Absolutely Mandatory.’ The costs increase exponentially as the branches go further and ultimately culminate in nodes that cost 333 or 999 AP to unlock. Which is a lot when you realize you’ll be averaging about 2-4 AP a battle unless your actively farming it. Luckily, you don’t need to get all of the abilities. Not even in the end game. So it’s kind of just another to work toward to if you want to and there are all manner of AP farming guides out there to help ya.
The one thing to keep in mind is that certain things and areas will take time to unlock. You won’t have the car right away, and then you won’t have chocobos right away (And if your wondering why take a chocobo when you have a car, chocobos can off-road and the car can’t), huge sections of the map are opened a piece at a time and there are a ton of things to do in each of them: Sidequests, Helping fix broken cars, Hunts picked up from food stops, treasure hunting, and dungeons. Dungeons can be incredibly painful early on because while each has a ‘recommended’ level, there will often be monsters deep within (or right inside the door) that are much higher level than that. I did a dungeon that was supposedly a “level 15 dungeon” that also had randomly spawning level 40 monsters that could petrify insta-death you. Don’t be afraid to GTFO and come back more prepared with accessories or weapons to counter the enemies inside. There’s an option on the map screen to warp back to the entrance for a reason. There’s also a few dungeons you won’t be able to complete until the ‘post-game’ just simply because the means of accessing them aren’t available until then such as a specific quest or the flying car. Yes. There’s a flying car in the post-game. And landing that thing is the bane of my existence (you game over on a bad landing or crash.)
Once you reach a certain point – the end of Chapter 8 – the game shifts and the open world more or less leaves the game for a much more linear experience. Altissia in Chapter 9 is a bit open but there’s not a ton of space to explore. Once you reach the train however, the plot is literally and figuratively on rails until the end. Luckily, you don’t get locked into this. At any Inn/Lodging you can call one the previously mentioned reality-warping dogs to take you back to a previous section of the game. So if you want to go level up on hunts, or find a Fire-imbued or Light-imbued weapon you can (The Light-Embued Weapons are at the Megiddo Hunter HQ in the North. Buy them. They deal an extra 50% damage against daemons.)
As for the infamous Chapter 13? I still stand by what I said before. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I found it to be quite an experience that made for an intense little bit of gameplay. The only problem would probably be how poorly the story surrounding the ‘boss battles’ was handled. But the mystery, the desperation, the frustration, the fear? All just seem to help propel the story and create empathy with the characters. I LIKED Chapter 13. It was probably the most memorable moment in the game for me.
At its core, Final Fantasy XV is a great game. At no point did I ever stop having fun with it. Heck, I still have fun with it. I logged back in to explore that weird Chocobo Moogle fair that’s going on and just running around was a blast and the humor still gets me. But I won’t lie. There’s some problems with the game. The story truly feels like it suffered from one too many complete tonal changes in direction to the point that parts of it seemed to have become rubbed plain. Assets re-purposed for the new narrative seem out of place and no one was sure what to do or how to handle certain characters. The narrative suffers from being told from a single point of view much like Final Fantasy XIII, but unlike XIII it tries to compensate for that. Honestly, I’d rather them just be willing to cut away to other places and people to progress the story or be willing to drop more exposition early on.
However, what shines in the game beyond the sometimes directionless feeling and the lack of development in the plot is the emotional core of the game. You will find yourself completely enamored with these characters. When bad things happen to them, you will feel sorry for them. You’ll want to give them a hug. And most importantly, probably driving the story more than the actual apocalyptic scenario, you want them to have a happy ending. I can say that I have played many games that have better crafted stories and more finely tuned gameplay than Final Fantasy XV. But I can’t say that they drew me in emotionally the same way.
Walk Tall, My Chocobros.