Okay. Now that I’ve come up for air, it’s time to talk a bit about what I’ve been doing down in the gaming depths. The past two days have been filled with little else other than one. Singular. Activity. That being Dragon Age: Inquisition. Now, of course, I’m known for my somewhat heretical enjoyment of the “Not cool to like” Bioware titles – Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3 – so my opinion is going to be a bit suspect on these things, but I have to say that Dragon Age: Inquisition is probably one of the more addicting games I’ve played in a long time.
The story is pretty simple at first. There’s a giant hole in the sky where the veil between the magical Fade world and our world have been torn asunder and now demons are pouring out like it’s a Necronomicon Spring Break in Transylvania. You also fell out of the hole, being the sole survivor of the explosion that caused it and with a weird glowing thing on your hand that can actually close the smaller holes dubbed Rifts. So now it’s up to you and your buddies to close the hole! At least at first that’s what is going on. I have a sneaky suspicion after 15 or so hours of game play that something else is waiting in the wings. Considering I know there’s a place called Skyhold and I haven’t seen it yet, but we’re already marching to close the big hole… yea.
The characters are diverse but there’s none that I immediately latched onto as favorites like I did in Dragon Age 2. I’ll admit that the characters were the big selling point for the second installment for me. From Merrill’s innocent quirkiness and dark reveals to Isabella’s love of life and even Anders and Fenris and their opposing view of the mages. Here we are treated to a veritable menagerie of characters and sadly to say only a handful of likeables thus far. Cassandra comes off as a cross between Miranda from Mass Effect and an ill tempered drill sergeant. Solas (pronounced Soul-less) feels pretty much soul-less due to having that elven “I’ve lived more than 100 hundred lifetimes and am all knowing and all seeing and thus don’t need to care much” thing going on. Varric is… Varric, I can’t really describe the fast-talking, double dealing, best example of a bard in gaming I’ve ever seen any other way.
About the only character I actually dig thus far on a personal note is Sera and that is because she is completely bat-$#!* insane. Her introduction can be boiled down to she has just killed a lot of people and stolen all their pants for absolutely no reason except maybe to sell them. Too bad my first playthrough is a lawful good mage. My Chaotic Neutral rogue playthrough however is gonna love her.
There insane amounts of little things to explore, collect, and unlock but each of these little things will help you in some way. Seriously! Either by granting experience to your character, giving you more power which you use to send people on missions, or giving you Influence which is kind of like XP for the entire Inquisition and lets you unlock overall power boosts like being able to open harder locks or getting extra XP from codex entries or kills. I spent the first day doing absolutely nothing with the main story quest and just wandering around the hinterlands doing little odd jobs and finding doodads and resources.
Yes, resources. Because crafting in this game requires an insane amount of resources. But it’s not all annoying. See unlike MMOs where you need a certain kind of metal and a certain kind of wood to make an item, DA:I boils it down to just need 10 metal and 2 wood. Any 10 of one type of metal and any 2 of any kind of wood will do. Now which metal and wood you use will affect things like bonus stats or color and pattern of the item, but the fact that creating things requires categories of items instead of specifics is much easier. Especially when you will need specific crafting materials to fill requisitions from your army, essentially researching things to help your forces and thus help yourself like better weapons or gear. For instance, I don’t know how much of this was me clearing up territory and claiming it protected by the Inquisition and how much of it was me filling up requisitions but as I kept playing I noticed that a pair of Inquisition soldiers would just appear in random spots with chests of a few useful items for you.
On that note, another great thing about this game is that it actually feels like you make progress. You know how in Skyrim you would do something insane like almost blow up Winterhold but then afterwards no one pays even a single thought let alone any lasting effects? Or in well ANY MMO you can clear out an entire fortress of baddies and kill their leader only to have them all just waiting for you in a few minutes? NOT HERE. If I bring a band of bandits under my command, every bandit in that company of rogues is now an ally and will no longer attack me. If I clear out the mage and templar strongholds, suddenly the mages and templars go from open war breaking out everywhere to nearly gone save for maybe a random pack wandering the wilderness. Yea, those strongholds and camps you clean out? STAY CLEANED OUT. You control that territory now. It’s yours. Oh geeze does that feel good. Because that means you can clear out the major conflicts in areas and then have nothing to contend with exploring except beasts, demons, and the occasional highwayman or Carta team (dwarf thugs) to deal with.
So thus far this game has been so much more addicting than Skyrim ever was. It’s that right blend of basic to use but expansive to master mechanics, a truly consistent world, and engaging characters that I might not instantly cling to like in previous installments but are interesting enough for me to want to see where their character paths take them while we try to save the world. Except Solas. He’s kinda just boring. Screw you, Solas.
So since my girlfriend and I spent this last weekend holed up in the house sick as can be, we decided to explore a new game. The game in question as I’m sure you already figured out from the title was Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the newish MMO addition to the Final Fantasy series. It was on sale for $15 on Amazon, I was curious, and it came with a free month. So we bought it to give it a try. Before you even ask: No, I am still playing SWTOR and I am still working on the class reviews. And yes, I am still playing Final Fantasy 13-2 and actually enjoying quite a bit, and I’ll be writing about some of that soon as well.
So 12 painful hours of downloading later, we finally got to play. She made an Arcanist and I made a Marauder. Kind of a tanking/healing duo. Which works out nice as we can tackle a lot of content like the random world events ala Guild Wars 2 called FATEs (Which is an acronym for something I couldn’t be bothered to remember) that it would frustrating or painful to do solo. I smack the thing, she keeps me alive, I keep the thing from killing her. It’s the circle of MMO roles, Simba. Don’t be a n00b. Lionesses don’t dig n00bz. Sorry! Tangent. Sick. As I said before.
Overall, the game seems fun. We’re fairly early on it only getting to level 10 so we could unlock all the other classes. See, in FF14, you don’t just play one class like you do in WoW or SWTOR. Okay you do. But only for the first 10 levels. Then you can unlock the other classes by visiting their trainers/guildmasters and taking a short quest. Once you do, you can switch between the classes by switching to a different weapon (more Guild Wars 2 flashbacks with the whole ability sets being tied into weapon choice) and each class keeps its own level. So I may be a Level 10 marauder, but only a level 1 Arcanist, and a level 5 cook! Because yes, even your professions are baked into the class system. On one hand, this is pretty cool. You can pretty much experience EVERYTHING you want with a single character. Play any class you feel like. Level all the professions! On the other hand, it seems like doing that will be insanely grindy. See your base class levels pretty quick at first because you are doing a lot of unique low level quests. But those quests are gone once you do them. That means you’ll eventually have classes to level and have nothing to do it with except for FATEs and grinding mobs. But hey, you don’t have to level the other classes right? Well, sort of. See on top of the classes, there are Jobs. Jobs are kind of like Advanced Classes, or even more accurate a LOT like Prestige Classes in the sense that they have a requirement tied to them. Like the Warrior job requires having Marauder leveled to 30, and the Gladiator class leveled to 15. And jobs are like where it’s at. You want the job. The job is cool. For uh… reasons. I guess? I assume the usual MMO rigamarole of more abilities, more power, more etc. And you can unlock all of those too but that pretty much will mean you need to get every class to at least level 30 (out of 50). Be prepared to kill a whole lot of lady bugs and rabbits.
However, the game is still fresh and fun and the grind has yet to set in, so I plan to fiddle around with it for this first month and see how it goes. Maybe it will be added to Vry’s Regular MMO Arsenal of Killing Time. There is one thing I am dreading but haven’t quite reached yet, which is apparently around level 15 in the main storyline (the main storyline being the thing that sets when certain in game capabilities like being able to make guilds, use airships, get mounts, etc are unlocked with) you have to do a series of dungeons to progress. Oh. Oh boy. Um yea. Forced grouping to advance. Lovely. I’m sure someone is rolling their eyes at that and saying “Oh forbid you interact with people in a MULTIPLAYER game” or some such. But yea, I’m all cool with interacting with people. When it’s my choice to do so. It was bad enough in school whenever we had a group assignment and had to find a group of students to work with and no, doing the project by yourself is NOT an option, Lil’ Vry. I’m not good in those situations. Never have been. So why play an MMO? Because I like the idea of a living world that updates and changes as time goes on where as single player games remain static and unchanged year round unless you have massive modding support (I ❤ you, Bethesda) or are something like Animal Crossing but even that just repeats every year with nothing new being added (Oh, imagine Animal Crossing meets Skyrim. Real time calender and time events in the game? How cool!) Anyway, back on topic. Yea. Forced groups. Not looking forward to it. Especially since you need to do them to do things like… use a mount. And I know there’s a dungeon finder tool but the horror stories of 4-5 hour waits for each of these three consecutive forced dungeons does not exactly leave me hopeful. Oh well. We’ll see I guess.
Finally, I suppose the Final Fantasy series has a uh… reputation for more… er… “Feminine” male figures than most game series out there. I mean, you could play a game of what sex is this character with a great number of both main characters and random NPCs throughout the series since it went to CD format (And the earlier concept art for the NES/SNES games by Amano was the same way, don’t get me wrong. But that seldom got translated into the game sprites. If you even could.) But can we please discuss the early armor quest reward I got for my Marauder?
That is not a tabard, chest piece or tunic. That is a dress. A pink dress, with pink gloves, and pink sneakers. On my MARAUDER. Normally I’d compliment the game on trying to buck gender stereotypes here, but honestly I can’t think of a situation where any gender would find this acceptable clothing for an axe wielding barbarian. But I won’t deny that jokes of Pretty Pretty Barbarian Princess were uttered all night long at this ridiculous outfit I found myself wearing. Oh, and those little pantaloons sticking out from beneath the “tabard”? Those are his pants. They are described as such in game.
On your first guess, would you say those were pants? Or even shorts?! I know that was the first thing that came to our mind. Oh no. And what about that poor kid I’m saving from the vicious giant crabs of doom? Kid is scarred for ****ing LIFE. Look at his face:
To be fair, if you just got saved from giant evil crabs of death-like doom or doom-like death (GECDLD for short) by someone wielding a giant axe and dressed like that of any gender or sexual orientation, wouldn’t you have that look on your face too? Seriously, Square Enix. WTF?