The problem with FPS RPG's (like Destiny)

It really comes down to one thing: Balance. A good FPS will have balanced weapon damage with enemy health to ensure that the player has a challenging but satisfying time, staying away from it being too easy or frustrating to the point where he's cheezing the AI to get through. But once you introduce weapon drops that dictate your primary weapon damage and armor that impacts your survivability, that balance goes out the window. And once that balance is gone, it means you no longer hit that sweet spot between too easy and too hard, resulting in a whole lot of non-ideal and (imo) unfun gameplay experiences.

At least it's easy on the eyes

This is where Destiny breaks for me. I've been playing the Alpha for a few hours and while the game is certainly neat and has a lot of cool ideas, that fundamental lack of balance has destroyed any hope of me wanting to play the game again.

In the Alpha there's a co-op mission called The Devil's Lair which is essentially a boss raid. You go in a dungeon and fight a couple of waves of enemies and it all culminates in a big boss fight. First time I ran that mission with a Fireteam (party) of 3, we literally spent 2.5 hours trying to complete a mission that shouldn't take more than 25 mins. Even though we were only half a level under the suggested level, the gap is strength was so large that it would take all 3 of us to focus fire the shielded enemies, dumping 3-4 clips each and maybe a grenade or two to bring down just one of them. Right before the boss you fight a spider tank thing and he probably had something like 5K HP and my shots were doing 7 damage each. This was so profoundly unfun and frustrating that when we were all one hit KO'd by the boss, we just gave up. Then after leveling once and buying stronger riffles we ran that mission again and cleaned house. I think we finished it in 15 mins with time to spare. I do want to mention that the game attempts to address this because the second time we ran the mission the enemies were actually 2 levels higher than before but it was still such a cakewalk it didn't matter.

Oh spider tank, how I hate thee!

In Bungie's previous game, Halo, this would have never been an issue since the weapon damage and player health were locked-in and the engagements were precisely tuned to take advantage of that fact. While weapon loot has it's appeal, I find that, particularly in FPS games like Destiny and Borderlands, it detracts more than it adds to the experience. Not to say that it doesn't have it's place, but it's not what I want out of my shooters.

57 Comments

Killer Instinct: Judging a book by it's cover

E3's over and done with and it's time to clear out the fallout. I've noticed that a lot of people seem to be down on the newly announced Killer Instinct. In this blog I'd like to examine these issues and explore my thoughts on the subject.

1. WHY ISN'T RARE DOIN EET?!?!

This seems to be the primary sticking point with KI fans. Frankly I find this outcry ridiculous.

Newsflash: Rare isn't what it used to be. It hasn't been for a long time. There isn't a single goddamn person left at Rare that worked on the original Killer Instinct. Not. One. But there's 2 working at Double Helix, the new developer.

Speaking of Double Helix, a lot of fans seem to be instantly dismissing the title because of their track record. Not gonna lie, it's certainly not the greatest record. Battleship? Check. Green Lantern? You got it. G.I. Joe? Yeah, they made that one too. Even their "original" games Silent Hill: Homecoming and Front Mission: Evolved didn't exactly light the world on fire.

But what I've noticed over the years is that a lot of the lesser-known studios just need that right game to come along before they're propelled from the licensed ghetto into stardom. Ever hear of Rocksteady? The developer of the fantastic Batman Arkham franchise? Yeah? Wanna know their last game before they released Arkham? Urban Chaos: Riot Response... Before Naughty Dog became the gaming juggernaut it is today, it released this... thing. The opposite is also true. Great game studios with fantastic track records have repeatedly shitted the bed time and again.

My point is that everyone's gotta eat and start somewhere. Don't disregard an entire game you've never played because of the developer's track record. As Reggie said over and over again "PLAY THE GAME!"

2. Free to play?! They just wanna nickel'n'dime us to death!

I'll be the first to admit that I hate micro-transactions and crap paid DLC that should have been free. Yes, the base game is free and you only get one character as well as a training/practice modes, but for a specific amount you can unlock the full game and all the characters (think buying a new game up front). That amount hasn't been announced by I highly, highly doubt it will be over $60 and most likely $30 based on other free-to-play games.

On the upside what this does is open up a new and exciting model for fighting games. I'd much rather pay $5 for a new character 2 years down the line than have to buy the same damn game with 3 new characters and "Super" in it's name for $40 (I'm looking at you Capcom!!!).

My Point Is Simple

Stop bitching about the game and give it a shot. If it ends up sucking, fine, shit on it all you want. But wait for the damn game to come out first!

21 Comments

Two doors free Abudhabi

One shingle falls,

Who writes the score.

Two doors unite

the shorts untie.

Don't look at me,e

I lost my shoe.

Don't sing to me

I blast the truth.

You have to know

If goodmcomesmlast

Or yellow fellows

Finish too damn fast

The rest I hit,

Atop the bluff,

Uned we can't

sand that stuff.

Don't cry frbyewn,

Ont cry for crepe

Just seepmly swear

To take a shit.

- Poet unknown

7 Comments

Banging my head against the wall till something gives

Design is hard

Or maybe it's just me.

Growing up, people always told me I was talented. That I was a natural artist. That I had a gift. But I don't. It's all a lie. I cheated!

As a human being, I like pretty things. I always have. Women, cars, tech, artwork, sculptures, nature. If it pleases the eye, then it pleases the soul. Because of that I've always tried to make beautiful things. Drawings, paintings, sculptures - even stories. While I found out that I had an eye for detail and could provide great constructive criticism, I lacked that initial spark of creation. That extra little bit of imagination and inspiration.

I cannot conceive things from scratch - I can only copy them!

An important person once told me that self-loathing is the mark of a good artist. No matter how much people might praise something you made, you can never see any of that. All you see are imperfections. Flaws. You had a pure vision in your mind and this 'thing' you made is a poor imitation. It's a permeant marker of shame for you inability to execute. A monument of your failure crystalized into a physical form.

I'm not talented or creative. I'm a sham. All I do is take other people work, their ideas, their techniques and modify them. Change them, grow them, improve them, but never create them. I can count all the things I made from scratch on one finger and I would still have a spot left!

So, here I am, working on a project I hate for a stupid job I probably won't even last a month at. And why? I don't even know anymore. Do I really want to go through that process again? All the stress and creative draining? All the fear of being found out for the fake I am?

I cannot even create one simple, itty-bitty thing, so why did I even begin to imagine that I can make 50? Or a hundred? Or a thousand!?

Kids, don't be like me. When others give you advice, listen to it. Find what you're good at and become great at it instead of stubbornly trying to make a living doing something you can't. Don't bang your head against the wall till something gives. Because it won't be the wall...

4 Comments

Hi

So a girl slapped me today's. What's shocker. All I said is that shemwasmhit. Talk about a batch. More money more bitched. You know ehat I saying yag u do.whata the proprietery Mount to tip- a hit bartender? I feel like they just get hired for thwart looks.

2 Comments

I hate you, Vita!

Who the fuck designed this thing? And why is he still employed?! Because if I did such a half-baked job on any of my projects I would be shitcanned before I had the chance to blink.

*Deep breath*

So I turn on this little abomination on again because I have an LBP Vita beta code, so I figured why not check it out. Might as well use the damn thing for something other than an ornamental piece for the top of my dresser.

But why make it easy? No. It's like it's doing it on purpose. Like the only reason for it's existence is to aggravate me. Because I guess I wasn't regretting my purchase enough, so how about we cement it into a rock-hard conviction, guys!

Anyways, I boot up the PSN store (8 seconds) and wait while everything fucking loads (5 seconds) and before I redeem the damn code, I see an E3 logo. The fool that I am, I tap on it and I'm greeted by a bunch of E3 vids. One catches my eye, shamelessly named "E3 Vita Sizzle Trailer" so I download the damn thing (4.5 minutes).

Ok, so it's finally done and I'm trying to figure out where to go to watch it. I tap the name on the Download list and I'm actually shocked that it boots up the video app. I mean shocked! The Vita don't look too kindly on usability. Oh no sir. Why make things simple and intuitive when we can make the user suffer and plod through shitty menu screen after shitty menu screen. Like I said, I'm fucking shocked here! But that warm feeling in my gut swiftly disappears while I'm forced to wait 14 fucking seconds while the video app loads and connects. WHAT THE FUCK IS IT EVEN CONNECTING TO?!

But I'm in. It's over. I'm watching the trailer. All 4 minutes of it. And do you know how many original Vita games showed up during that time? THREE! Motherfucking three! Gravity Rush, Resistance (lol) and AC Liberation. Everything else? PORTS PORTS PORTS! Ports out the ass! You like ports? Cause we've got ports! MGS ports. Street Fighter ports. Jet Set Radio ports. Sly Cooper ports. All-Stars ports. PS Vita: the industry leader in ports!

At this point I'm ready to set this thing on fire. But then a notification pops up saying that the LBP beta has finished downloading. But. Yes there is always a but. But in order to install it (?!?) I need to delete something else from my system because I don't have enough space. So I look through my card and I settle on SSHD. And I delete it.

Here comes the best part.

Apparently Vita saves are bundled within the actual game files. Because why not! So when you delete a game, you are also deleting that save file. But the Vita, in all it's kindness and splendor, decides not to share that information with you at that time. Because fuck you! So I just ended up deleting my save file. 18 hours lost. For no reason. Poof.

It feels like every single time I turn it on, I find something new to hate about it.

Don't make the same mistake. Don't buy a Vita.

48 Comments

96 hours 47 minutes 52 seconds

That's how long it took me to finish Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

That's a long time. I haven't put in that much time in a single game since my playthrough of the DA:O Ultimate Edition. And by no means am I finished with it. I still have over 45 unfinished quests, 3 unexplored areas (along with at least 10-15 dungeons) and 5 sets of lorestones left to find. But still, I beat the last boss and that's all that matters.

As a first effort from Big Huge Games, Reckoning is solid. It does some things right and it does some things wrong, but on the whole I don't feel bad for spending so much time with it. I do have two major issues with it though: performance and presentation. Neither is very good...

Playing on the 360, I experienced frequent framerate drops (particularly in the "corridors" between the larger areas) and some severe drops during custcenes (we're talking 5-10fps here). There's also a lot of clipping and general jankiness you can expect from open-world games like AI acting weird and stuff glitching out. None of it is game-breaking but it did happen often enough for me to make a note of it. Also I ran into an issue at least a dozen times where my A button became non-responsive when running around the world and trying to interact with objects (like when harvesting reagents) that would persist until I loaded up a new area.

There's also some vestigial things from Oblivion/Skyrim that I found very annoying, like the day/night cycle. Why does it even exist? It's completely pointless! All it does is make me run around trying to figure out which bed the NPC I'm looking for is sleeping in. It's just dumb. Same for resting. I think I only rested once during my playthrough.

Another little thing that bugged me is the "supply chest." You know, the chest you find in your house where you can put in items you don't want to sell. Why the hell is the item limit on that thing 155? Why is there a limit at all? All I kept inside it was unique armor and weapon sets and it still filled up so fast that I had to start selling them. It just boggles my mind...

But my biggest complaint is the presentation. The cutscenes, dialogues, and the voice acting just aren't very good. When you talk to another character they just stand there. Sometimes they move their hands up or down, but not often. Their lips don't match the words being spoken and the voice acting can be atrocious sometimes. A prime example is your female "love interest" Alyn Shir. In the span of 2 consecutive lines of dialogue, she'll be whispering softly and then screaming at me. It's like when your dude would snap at a witness in LA Noire but 100% worse. It just reeks of bad editing. And since all the NPC's were made using the character creator, they all look so similar! Old or young, you couldn't tell except for the white hair. Also I hate, HATE it when they have a bunch of VAs record the same goddamn line. Walking around and hearing the same fucking line being repeated by 5 different people is just.. ugh!

Reckoning is a big game. I'll even go as far as say that it's too big. I'd happily give up half of all that content if that meant that the presentation was just 10% more polished.

But it's not all bad. There's also a lot of good in the game. I think the combat system is really fun. You have 9 unique weapons and a nice amount of interesting skills and abilities. This means that each combat scenario can be completed in a variety of ways. Also it all looks really cool. For example, when rushing into a group of enemies I'd tag all of them with Mark of Flame, then activate my Relentless Assault ability (which means I couldn't be knocked down and 25% of attacks were reflected) and jump in the fray with my great sword. Once I soften them up, I'd use my Elemental Assault to gather all the enemies towards me and activate my Mark of Flame, making every tagged enemy explode. If there were any stragglers left I'd finish them off with my long-range chakrams. That's just a taste. Then there's shield parries and shield bashing and teleporting and dash-attacking and even sneaking and backstabbing. My only complaint is that the game is too easy. I finished it on Hard and even then I only died twice.

I also think that the world is very interesting and unique. It's high fantasy, but with it's own flavor. There are some stunning locations that you visit and overall, there's a nice variety of locales and themes. One place I liked in particular was the Great Talking Tree thing. It reminded me a lot of a nicer version of the tree Kvothe talks to in The Wise Man's Fear. At least that's how I imagined it might look when I was reading the book...

Speaking of books, don't do the Brother Til's Books Quest. It's completely useless and it takes 10 slots of your inventory. Just don't bother.

34 Comments

One week with the Vita: It's the little things

So I've had my Vita for about a week now and I decided to to make a blog with my impressions of the hardware, software and games so far. I ordered the 3G/Wi-Fi US version that came with an 8GB stick. I also bought copies of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048 and a digital version of Lumines: Electronic Symphony.

Hardware

The Vita is one sleek piece of kit. There's no anodized aluminum bands or gorilla glass here, but it's still very sleek and it doesn't look cheap. The most striking feature is the 5-inch OLED screen. The colors are incredibly rich and vibrant and the screen is bright. In fact I'd go so far as to say that it's a bit too bright, even on the lowest brightness setting. It definitely strains my eyes a bit when I'm playing in a dim environment. The touch screen seems as responsive as the ones on my iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, so no complaints there. Sony says the back touch pad is the same as the front, but I haven't really used it enough to form an opinion so I'll have to take their word on it.

The biggest sticking issue about the Vita after the memory card prices has been the battery life, but honestly it has not been a problem for me at all. After playing Uncharted for about 5 and a half hours on the lowest brightness setting (which like I stated before is still very bright) with maximum volume and with 3G/Wi-Fi on, I still had about 15-20% of juice left.

The buttons are a different issue. On the whole, they just seem too small, even when compared to PSP's. In fact I'd say they're closer to the PSP Go's buttons and also have a similar "clicky" feel. The face buttons are really small, and worse, very close to the right stick. This means that holding down the X button (in say Wipeout) without bumping the stick on accident is either very hard or very uncomfortable (usually both). The d-pad also seems like a step back because it's no longer segmented like every other Playstation product circa 1997, and that's a damn shame. Also while the triggers are miles ahead of the PSP's analog nub, they have a much shorter range of motion than you might expect on first glance. However they do have a nice rubberized feel to them. Finally, the Start and Select buttons are tiny and since they're flush with the rest of the faceplate, they're rather hard to press.

One thing the unit lacks is any sort of a lock button like the PSP. It's pretty weird that they didn't include one, considering that any slight brush of the power button or PS button wakes up the system from sleep. Also means you can't turn off the buttons so you don't accidentally hit them when you're watching a movie or something. A nice touch is that the PS button glows Blue/Orange depending on if it's plugged in or not.

As you can tell, the cameras are also nothing to write home about, though I don't really care since I never planned to use them anyways. Still, don't expect much there.

Software

The OS is by far, extremely underwhelming and incredibly disappointing. It's missing basic usability features and it includes a lot of the same problems that have plagued the PS3 and PSP (or dare I say more).

For starters, I sure hope you like to wait...

For a handheld system, the Vita expects you to have a lot of time on your hands. It's a bit disgusting actually. The problem stems from the fact that each bubble is basically it's own app, that needs to load and start whenever you want to use it. So if you want to use, say, the Settings bubble, you have to first launch the app and wait the 2-3 seconds till it launches. Combine that with the fact that you can only have 6 apps open at a time and there's basically no multitasking supported whatsoever apart from the music player and background downloading (though you still need to wait while it loads/installs) and you can end up spending a lot of time staring at a loading screen.

The general look of the UI is also an issue. It's ugly. You have bunch of icons Sony calls bubbles (though they look morel like M&Ms to me) arranged in this awful oval pattern. There doesn't seem to be any AA and while the screen resolution is pretty high, you can still see the jaggies. The customization is also lacking. There's no themes a la PS3 and PSP. All you can do is change the background to one of 23 standard PS backgrounds or a custom image. However if you choose to use a custom image, the system compresses the shit out of it (just look at the left side of Jensen in the Deus Ex image below) and it just doesn't look very good. Also while you can change the image of the lock screen, you can't change the blue background behind it, so unless you pick some kind of complementary image to the blue color, it ends up looking awful:

But the thing that bugs me the most is the little things. For example there's no battery percentage indicator and you can't group bubbles together. Also while you see a bunch of lightning bolts when you plug the Vita into the charger, you don't see them when you charge it through USB. It sorta makes you wonder if it's even charging at all.

Plugged in the charger - notice the lightning bolts in the battery icon
Charging through USB (?) - no lightning bolts

The browser is also a mess. Sony's Eric Lempel stated that it was a browser built upon HTML5, so it's weird that it does not support any sort of HTML5 video. Here's what happened when I visited Giant Bomb:

It's a trap!
OH GOD!

Other apps are decent, though they all suffer from extended loading issues like the rest of the OS. I have more thoughts but I'm tired of writing so here's some screenshots instead:

Games

Hardware and OS aside, games are why I'm here. Thankfully the games are pretty good.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

I'm a huge fan of Uncharted. The first one is the reason I bought a PS3 and I haven't looked back. So it's not surprising that Golden Abyss was one of the reasons why I bought a Vita.

I finished it a few days ago, and although flawed, it's still an enjoyable experience. The aiming is definitely a bit odd (the entire ballistics model from the PS3 versions seems to have been severely stripped down) and I had to turn on the Auto-aim feature. The touch minigames are fucking shit and the worst part of the game. I'd score the game a whole star higher if they weren't there.

Graphically the game looks decent in most parts and absolutely stunning in some (Lake of Ghosts anyone?). The character of Drake is present in full force and Nolan North delivers another award-winning performance. And man do I love Sully! The game features some of the best banter between the two.

3/5

Limines: Electronic Symphony

I love Lumines and this is the best version yet. Also, you bitches need to man up and put up some higher scores already. It's like I'm playing against toddlers...

Ding Dong - a true hero.

11/5

Wipeout 2048

I also love Wipeout, but I'm conflicted on this one. The MP is downright broken. I can't even load the leaderboards or enter my Online Pass, let alone race online. Also because of the placement of the Vita's buttons, my hands get cramped while holding the X button (Wipeout controls) for extended periods of time. And Jesus, are the load times long. I clocked one at 98 seconds!

On the other hand, there's a lot to love. The game is gorgeous and I love the changes they've made like splitting-up weapons pads into offensive and defensive pads, allowing you to spin your ship 180 degrees and the 3 ship classes. I also really dig the new engine sounds and track designs. It's pretty weird that there's no Racebox mode, but overall there's more to like than not to like. I just wish I could get online...

Need to play more before I can rate it.

Overall Impressions

I can't say that I'm not disappointed with the Vita, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that I regret my purchase. To quote Jeff, the Vita needs another 7-8 firmware updates before it's usable, but as far as games go I'm having a lot of fun. Near is still confusing as hell and the browser needs some serious overhaul, but watching Futurama episodes on that screen is a fucking experience you need to have.

That and Gravity Rush comes out in June!

17 Comments

Defecating Downer: Part 2nd - The Bastion Edition

This is a series of blogs where I take a dump on popular opinions. Be it games, movies or music, nothing is safe from the torrent of shit I command. Also, no animals were harmed in the making of this because I'm not a fucking savage, you dick! Also spoilers!

Click here for Part 1st - Skyrim Edition.

I've been sitting on this one for a while, letting it simmer. I bough Bastion a few months ago but didn't actually end up finishing it till this January. Why, you may ask? Because the game was absolutely boring me to tears. Also I had better shit to play (like Saints Row: The Third). Also I don't need to justify myself to you, asshole.

I can respect what the team at Supergiant Games was trying to do. There's some flashes of brilliance in there. And the potential? Oh god, the potential! It's ultimately what makes me dislike this game. But lets start with the good. For starters I liked the narrator. A lot. The dynamic narration that happened as you progressed through the game was neat. In fact, I wish they had pushed it farther, that there was more of it. There's also a nice number of weapons and I like the idols difficulty system. Sure Halo did it first with skulls, but it's nice to see other games use good ideas like that.

The art? Amateurish. Reminds me of this crappy Korean MMO thing I used to play. Ragnarok or something like that. For all the emotion and and seriousness that the story and the world tried to convey, the artstyle held it back. Like shackles, it diluted the good and made it goofy. Cartoonish. You may argue that it adds charm. And heart. And fun. No. It doesn't. It just looks dumb. And the Kid looks stupid. And so do all the rest of the characters. They all look like little kids, even Rucks and his epic mustache. It's rather disturbing actually.

The gameplay is also not that great. Controlling a 3D character on a 2D plane looks really awkward. Like bad CGI in an anime. The subpar animation doesn't help either. Also it's so fucking annoying when you pick up a new weapon and it automatically replaces your old one. At least let me choose which one it replaces so I don't end up with two long-range weapons and no close-combat options ffs!

The story itself isn't entirely unique, but it's written well-enough to be engaging. You start to identify with the Kid and the rest of the cast as you learn more about their circumstances. The music is also pretty good with that one song being appropriately catchy (if a bit over used).

But the thing that holds me back from liking this game is how it fails to capitalize on it's potential. A perfect example is the ending. After you finish the game you're treated to a slideshow consisting of 4 still frames and some narration. Watching it made my heart break. Not because of the realization that if you chose to activate the Bastion then everything would just repeat itself in an endless cycle of pain. No, it was because it was such a poorly made, low-budget ending that it physically hurt to watch.

It could have been handled so much better. Just imagine the possibilities: An animated cutscene with a cell-shaded style. The Kid wakes up in his tiny room, and looks around confused. He sees his old friend, the hammer and rubs the sleep from his eyes. The next shot shows him walking down a crowded street. You see Zulf passing by with his fiancee, smiling. A tired Rucks looks down from a high tower, watching the crowds with a passive interest, then goes back inside. The Kid hears a song and sees a young girl singing by a fountain. For a second the crowd splits. Their eyes meet and there's a hint of recognition. But then the crowd swallows the two of them and that feeling is gone. The Kid walks away, oblivious to his fate.

No, instead it's 4 damn pictures!

Don't get me wrong. I realize that it was made by four people in a garage with extremely limited funding. I get that. Hell, they did a better job than I could have ever hoped to achieve. But still, when compared to other games that came out last year, Bastion just doesn't hold it's water. I'm not saying that production value makes a game good. If that was true, FF13 would be the greatest game ever (instead of the giant POS it is). But it does help. It helps a lot.

Sure, Bastion is a decent game and a great start for a brand-new studio, but one of the most lauded titles of the year? One of the Top 10 GOTY? Absurd.

18 Comments

Was this designed by a bunch on monkeys?!?!

I bought Final Fantasy 13 on launch and I put in 30 hours into it. Everyone kept saying how the game got better when you got to Gran Pulse, so I did, and it didn't. I have not played it since. With FF13-2 coming out today, I decided to give 13 another chance. This is that story.

11 miserable hours of self-hate and frustration. This was my experience all day yesterday as I was playing FF13. I started with my old save since I didn't want to redo the entire beginning and lose the 30 hours I had already wasted. After a few trial-and-error battles things started coming back to me and I started remembering exactly why I stopped playing this game.

If any of you have reached Ch. 11, you'd know that it gets a whole lot harder at that point. This basically means that I was getting my ass kicked by even the lowliest enemy and one-shotted by the bigger ones. To make this even worse, the CP cost in the Crystarium (how you level up) is basically doubled which means you gotta kill a hell of a lot of shit if you want to level up. So, naturally, I did what you do in every JRPG when you hit a wall; I started grinding.

But, rather picking one spot and gaming the game, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and complete some side missions. I mean, that makes sense, right? I'll earn some XP while doing side content. Wrong! I'm really led to believe that his game was either designed by a team of sub-intelligent monkeys or a troll. The side mission structure is a perfect example of this. You need to find these floating stones and activate them, which then gives you a task to do (all the ones I did consisted of going to the other side of the fucking map to kill a specific monster). You find the first stone right as you enter the area and the second and third are close by each other. However after that is when things get messy. You see, the stones are all labeled 1-50, and since you do the first three in order, it's natural to assume that you have to do all of them in order. It doesn't help that you see a bunch of "dead" stones on the ground that you can't activate yet. Normally, this isn't a problem, but the game fails to mark any of this information on your map. So, basically you have a giant map you can run around full of overpowered monsters that can kill you in one shot, and you need to find these stones in the right order. Or so you think. In reality you only have to unlock a tier of stones in order to do any of them in any order. But does the game tell you this? Nope.

I hope you like fighting these guys... cause they sure love respawning.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the monsters respawn when you walk 20 feet away from that spot? Cause they do. Always.

And did I mention that the map decides to change it's orientation on a whim? Cause remember how your quest marker said to go north. Well, now it says to go south. Or east. Or west. It really depends on what the map feels like doing at that point in time. It doesn't matter that you just looked at it 30 seconds ago. No sir. You will have to double back through the tunnel you just ran through. Naturally all the monsters have respawned as well.

So, I did this for about 4 hours. I ran around like an idiot, constantly getting lost because the fucking map wont make up it's mind or because I had no fucking idea where the next stone I could activate was. And then I looked at my menu and saw that I only had enough CP to level up one tree out of 5 halfway up rank 8 (my current rank). In short, it was a complete waste of time.

Oh and get this. Some of the stones that give you missions also act as quick travel hubs. But only some of them. Why some, you may ask and not all of them? Well, because that would make sense, I reply. And this game tries really, really hard to not make sense. It's kind of impressive actually. No, that's a lie.

Thankfully my bro told me of a good place to grind. It's where two of the bigger monsters are fighting each other, and if you sneak up on them you can catch them unaware, fill their crit gauge and kill them really fast. At one point I had it down to 22 seconds per fight. You also get 6600 CP per fight. So this is what I did: I ran up to them, killed them, ran just far enough away so they respawned then doubled back and killed them again. Rinse and repeat. For 3 hours.

I forgot to mention that, one of every 4 times when you'd fight them, one of the enemies would heal himself to full health. At full health, even if I'm maxed out, he's a pain and it takes a few mins to kill him. So every time this would happen, I would merely press pause then retry the battle in order to save myself some time. Incidentally the quit function is right under the retry function. I think you can guess what happened after 3 hours of grinding and no saving.

So 4 hours later after I had recouped my lost CP and added a decent amount on top of it, I decided that I was done with this bullshit and headed straight for the story point. So I ran. And ran. And ran.

"Oh hey, there's a big robot guy. Hmm, I bet he'll be a piece of cake. After all I maxed out all of my characters and leveled their weapons to the max. Yeah, let's kick some... wait, what the fuck, how the hell did he one-hit KO me?!?! ...6 tries later.... Haha, take that you son of a bitch! What, he's not a boss? And there's not even a reward for beating him (and only 4000 CP)? And I gotta fight 5 more of them? Fuck!"

I would violate all the Geneva Conventions for you, Hope. All of them.

And I'm not going to even begin to talk about the god-awful writing in the cutscenes, or the shitty, shitty characters. Lets just say that if I had a hammer and a large sack I would put Hope and Vanille inside it and beat it till no more sounds came out. And then beat it some more for good measure.

So here I am, 42 hours into this mess of a game. I just fought a dude on a broken tower and now I'm looking for parts to repair a shitty little robot. I really don't know how much left I have, but since there's 13 chapters and I'm (I'm assuming) near the end of 11 it can't be that far, right? You know what, I'm probably wrong. This game has kicked me in the balls at every opportunity, so I wouldn't be surprised if I had another 40 hours to go. But you know what? I will not let this game beat me! Maybe I'm losing my sanity, but so help me god I will finish this POS and once I do I'm burning the goddamn disk.

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