Time-Machine Blog Post - .Hack Challenge

A few years ago I challenged myself to play through all four of the first .Hack series. I actually ended up liking the games. Let us enter the TIME MACHINE and go back TWO YEARS to when things were mostly the same.

**WARNING SPOILERS AND SOME PROFANITY BECAUSE I AM AN ARTIST AND AM NOT BOUND BY YOUR RULES OF EXPRESSION**

This page will be updated as I progress through the series.I've decided to put aside all other games, including my beloved Titan Quest to attain COMPLETION of the DOT HACK SERIES.

Love it or hate it, its still better than Xenosaga. Im going to start with Infection and work my way towards Quarantine.

IT WILL BE EPIC.

Completed in 15 hours

--I dumped almost 4 hours into .Hack: Infection last night. So awesome. Its just so laid back and easy. I can't wait for that role-playing knight to join my party and that newbie twin blade, they're the best characters. Long live .Hack!

--Gardenia is probably the weirdest character in the .Hack series. I mean the character is a complete bitch for most of the first game, then out of the BLUE you get an e-mail stating 'I like raw food'.

Wtf Gardenia. Wtf.

--I just busted into Mutation at 15 hours. Last boss' second form is much more annoying than the first. I dont think the number of boss forms is a spoiler so I had to say it.

I love this series tho, so fun.

Completed in 15 hours

--The new characters in Mutation are pretty blah. The money hungry new yorker is kinda funny, and I think is the best of them. The tall-haired show-man and the emo twin-blade are both losers.

In any case for some reason the enemies in even to lower level areas seem to be doing a lot more damage now. Even at level 38 I have to watch my back in the 34s as a lot of the enemies have life drain and death effects. I will say the loot in mutation is a gajillion times better and really scaled to keep the possibilities while trading wide open. There are a few players that have some level 50+ shit and they won't give it up for ANYTHING ive found yet. I've spent the first 6 hours of the game working to get the characters I use up to snuff equipment wise and leveled up some of the new characters just in case. The story is still progressing pretty nicely, but its clear im doing the bulk of my grinding in the first half of the game as the last boss fight was a big ol lol. I did get the multi-shot data drain skill tho.

Mutation also puts Kite into more situations where he has to find a dungeon and get to the bottom alone, which really forces the player to focus on the elemental weaknesses as well as manage their own healer in tight spots.

--Well I made it to Cubia, and im only like 10 hours in lol. I fought Cubia for a good 12 minutes before it charmed my main and my party was slaughtered.

I think I MIGHT have won if I had more artisan souls, ran outta SP about 7 minutes in and was pecking away by minute 10, and well..the rest is history. Ill be spending 2-3 hours leveling up my CUBIA SQUAD tomorrow.

Fuck YOU Cubia.

--Current Statz -- 27 hours Series Time -- Kite is level 45, most everyone else is 42-45 as well and outfitted with badass gear thanks to ME.

I met up with Marlos and he's just the best. Basically an Internet Poser Troll playing an MMORPG. I got the Rare weapons for Kite and Blackrose and right now im pretty f'n unstoppable with Mistral or Elk covering the spell-casting. Elk is thankfully around more than his furry yiff yiff wtf cohort and is kitted a bitttt differently than Mistral.

The enemies in .hack Mutation kinda taper off in difficulty near the end. The middle dungeons around levels 30-35 are honestly pretty fucking brutal, but right now I can coast through most dungeons. Could be im just getting better at the game too. Also grabbed Natsume some awesome level 19 blades tonight. For a while her and Moonstone were both using the Slayer equipment and while those have the cool death effect their average damage output is kinda meh.

I also like the nod to made to the .Hack//SIGN fans and you end up getting Mimiru's sword for BlackRose which does NOTHING but crit, its so awesome. I also like how Bear and Mimiru want to meet in an area called Rejecting Oblivious Wavemaster because Tsukasa WAS kinda a oblivious doof.

In any case I should be into Outbreak after the next play-period. GETTIN PUMPED TO TEAR SOME MORE SHIT UP!

-- Well I finally finished Mutation. I had actually spent a little extra time grinding some terribly difficult level 49-50 dungeons. I MEAN difficult. I dont think there's many RPGs out there that make you use items and spells and commands and your own skills as much as the .Hack series does in its later dungeons. I mean not only do you have to focus on killing them based on elemental type, with spells or weapons, but you also have to fucking kill them in the right order or prioritize cause the game mixes the enemy types in the most EVIL ways.

I mean I have to keep track of all o this in real time:

*Number of Enemies

*Which Element Type items and magic to use on each particular enemy.

*Which attacks to use.

*Which order to attack the enemy in, some enemies rez at no cost, heal for 400. Some enemies paired up will double team spells endlessly

*Order my people around to heal/kill/buff/debuff

*heal/buff/debuff/rez my own people

*Keep myself alive

I mean the list gets stupid long at some point and this is all in a REAL TIME fight. .Hack games are unpredictably difficult at times and thats probably the only real ding I can level against the gameplay. The combat is honestly complicated enough and DOES work well in forcing the player to use every item at least once and consider all possible skill combos. I think support character itemization could be handled better too, but aside from that its pretty awesome.

I swear tho they always pack some of the meanest fuckin enemies near the end; in fact the last dungeon before the third mega boss is HARDER than the mega boss. Granted I was level 50 as was the rest of my party; all decked out with RARE weapons too

I fired up Outbreak just to get the data file converted and check my e-mail, should be working through it on Saturday and Sunday, pretty excited actually. The increase in challenge is really making the parts between the story enjoyable. Its not just endless easy walking between cutscenes.

Statz: Kite -- Level 50, Hours Total at Completion -- 30:05

Completed in 16 hours

-- Checked my e-mail!-- God damn I forgot how hard this installment always starts out. There's a lot of story-focused things going on, but then there's this level 52 dungeon you have to take kite alone through that actually killed me once. There's these earth monsters that spam earth spells and well even at leve 50 I had less than 1000 hp. Then when you get to the end of the dungeon there's a boss fight. Im just glad I had a lot of potions left over from the easy Mutation End Boss fight.

Kinda sucks a lot of the characters are coming and going at this point in terms of availability so im having to try and make things work with new characters. Granted I give away so many items to these fruits I think only one of them is REALLY behind in levels. I keep everyone else rich fat n high powered. Most of the enemies in the 50-53 dungeons are the same as the final dungeons of Mutation (darkness type) but im starting to see a few new ones like the weird rock spell spamming medusa head things. The new server town I get to go to is lame cause no one is ever there.

Anyway, now that story mode has settled down I will be doing the level grind thing for the next six hours or so as I gift and level up all my other characters. Who knows who i'll get stuck with in an important mission. Ill be ready!

--Wow, I am REALLY liking the new enemy designs in .Hack Outbreak. Almost all the enemies I fight are huge. My new main spellcaster (kinda forced into the situation) casts these huge spells that just fill the screen. During fights I run through fire and darkness raining from the sky its awesome. Im doing the grind thing for now. Tacked on a few more hours. I also think Outbreak does an even BETTER job with loot and trades than Mutation which was already an improvement. This is good since Outbreak is largely considered the hardest of the three. Tonight I will continue to grind. I need to get Marlo and Gardenia up a bit, ditto for Natsume. Screw new yorker money grubber and the pink hairdo long arm.

--Aside from Wild Arms 3 I can't really think of an RPG that was so dependant on item usage. Im constantly digging in my bag of tricks to pull out wins or exploit weaknesses. Dungeon 50-56 were pretty easy overall after i got past the Kite-Only dungeon. I leveled almost everyone up and got them gear from trades, but the level 57 dungeon is just devious, the fire ones in particular. There's this gigantic floating eyeball monster that casts so many spells, the worst, and most common, being charm. My main wavemaster has the best gear but god damn he runs outta mana fast. Most of the late series spells are REALLY impressive but they come at a pretty high cost.

I've also noticed there's a lot more random adds outside of the typical monster spawn point. I often have 1-2 extra enemies show up on the scene and really complicate the situation. To the games credit this kinda shit keeps me on my toes and forces me to change my teams overall strategy as well as my own. I have noticed that the water dungeons 57-59 have been really easy. Most of the monsters dont cast the annoying charm spells. The biggest monster just has area fire spells but those dont hurt too much.

Speaking of biggest monsters; the monsters in .Hack are getting so big im not sure they'll fit in the dungeons eventually. Most of the dragon monsters reach the ceiling in some dungeons and whats even more hilarious is when they spawn an inch away from me in one of the smaller rooms. Thankfully the dragons are pretty stupid monsters so they wont put me in a major pinch if the wavemaster is set to First Aid, but if I get hit by one of the big Status Effect monsters in that kinda situation oh man im fucked.

I am almost done grinding for the next story dungeon, I have allllmost everyone caught up to the level of the story dungeon, but ill probably grind two more levels beyond that and do some more trades before proceeding. iirc this game gets pretty hard in some spots.

--Wow this story is really starting to come along. Outbreak seems to stick a lot of the extra characters into the background near the end to start giving face time to key players in the main plot itself. Its funny tho, Outbreak...aside from the Core Requirements, is easier than a lot of mutation. Cubia v.2 and the 4th..or was it 5th phase was honestly a cake-walk. The game also introduces an area that kinda gives you the impression you need to grind when you dont, resulting in being completely overleveled for the entire mid-portion of the game.

The enemy combinations have also become a lot less devious. They've sorta tossed out the status spells for giving the enemy more HP. Fine with me honestly since you can just put most enemies to sleep while you destroy them. There are a few situations where you fight a giant enemy with status spells but they're usually alone so its no big deal.

I suspect im nearing the end of outbreak, but at the rate im going ill probably crest 15 hours, unlike the first two games you need a lot of cores to get through gates, and the time required to gather cores without a direct connection to gamefaqs is considerable.

--Wow, Outbreak was actually easier than Mutation IMO. Most of the core requirements weren't THAT insane really. There was one instance in Outbreak where I had to grind Cores, but a character in the game provides a very complete list of where the cores are and what type of enemies you need to data drain to get them. This entry actually ran an extra hour long because the last dungeon, in contrast to the boss and dungeons prior, is god fuck jesus god damn hard. I even had the super dooper rares for the game for BlackRose and Kite. So I ended up grinding and was about level 72 before I took on the last boss, at that point it was a cake walk. Typical two form boss with one being immune to magic, one to physical. SNORE. I had my hardest hitting physical and magic characters with me so it was pretty LOLworthy.

Elemental Weaknesses and Order of Attack seemed to be high priority in Infection/Mutation, but with Outbreak/Quarantine im seeing A LOT of focus on using the various items. I mean there was a lot before, but im literally running out of HUGE stockpiles of items. A good example being the lich/hand of god enemy combinations. Both are magic immune so that immediately rules out higher damage area attacks. The liches will ALWAYS cast confuse on your secondary melee character, the Hands of God hit FUCKING HARD. The liches also run around so fast you need speed charms on to catch them long enough to do anything. So you end up blowing through piles of The Hanged Man and The Lovers and The Moon just getting them to either stand still or attack each other long enough for you to mount some sort of assault.

Nothing murders an HP bar like 2 Hands of Gods and your own team-mate slashing your face. On to Quarantine.

Statz: Kite -- Level 72, Hours Total at Completion -- 46 roughly

Completed in 14 hours

--This will be a big summary post. After beating Outbreak on Saturday night and watching the first .Hack//Roots DVD Sunday morning, I was in the MOOD to HACK. Thus begain a pretty considerable marathon. It's really been a while since I sat down with a single game for this long of a stretch, but Quarantine does an amazing job keeping you hooked in. The plot at this point is very task oriented and fast. A lot is revealed too, and a good amount of nods to .Hack//Sign specifically.

I think my favorite nod to .Hack//SIGN is the fact that in a level 70 area Skeith's Wand has appeared. If you go to the bottom level of the dungeon there:

Sora appears in place of the wand and thanks you for freeing him the torment imposed at the end of .Hack//SIGN.

Sappy, yeah, but after this event you get THE blades which aren't incredibly stat heavy compared to some of the higher level twin blade stuff, but true to the show, they have an INSANE Death effect that procs OFTEN. Im talking 4000-5000 damage max at some points. I assume it works on a percentage base. Plus it doesn't work on any of the phases but jesus christ normal data bugs...hell, anything just falls to these blades. In addition to that event you will find Mimiru and A-20 running around the third server, with Mimiru typically bitching about A-20's insane plans to hit high level areas neither of them can handle. Also Crim shows up for a moment.

Quarantine IS easier. Combine the mentioned blades with the Wavemaster head equipment that casts Phal Repth (Heal EVERYONE to MAX) with almost no cost to mana, and the fact that most of the enemies in Quarantine are variations of the harder monsters from Outbreak. Like, for example, Lich LORDS..blah blah. At this point you've developed strategies to deal with all of them so they just dont seem that hard anymore.

So I did the required grinding for a while and took part in some VERY friendly trades. Then all of a sudden the game kicked into overdrive as all the characters got together and developed fancy plans to stop the bad guys. I probably wasn't ready for it as the 2 phase fights + 1 cubia fight took almost an hour and a half. Each fight took HUGE amounts of recovery items. These phases are tougher than any I had previously fought too. They frequently spam status effects or one hit kill someone then bind the next closest person which may if youre unlucky, be your wavemaster. One of the phases even charmed EVERYONE for a short period of time which resulted in a last man standing situation where the last person alive had to rez everyone and dump them with mana once charm wore off before the phase attacked again.

Thankfully the Cubia fight followed the same pattern but god DAMN that was a boss marathon. Im in a quiet period of the game again thankfully so im taking the time to grind for levels and find some rare weapons before proceeding with the story. The boss gauntlet was ALMOST too much for me. The 7th phase is an ASSHOLE. Plain n Simple.

Statz: Kite -- Level 82, Hours Total -- 52 roughly

-- took a few days off from .Hack since work got busy, fired it up again today. Im currently tackling a series of four locked dungeons. They require a lot of cores but the only cores that are in short supply are on Omega server. This make sense since you just got access to this server a few levels back. Add to that the fact that enemies on Omega server drop cores from drains far less often.

I unlocked the first dungeon and it was pretty easy. It was surprising to find a few Guardian monsters from .Hack//Sign and they were pretty challenging, but data drains from them offered up level 98 items which rocks. Also good experience for killing them. I had to grab some Js and K cores to unlock the next one and this level 81 dungeon had the worst field spawns ever. Im talking 3-4 lich lords and 2-3 pumpkins. Thats just evil. Especially now that not only do the Lich Lords confuse and cast magic, they cast the POWERFUL magic. There's this lightning cannon spell that takes off 600 hp at a time and they whip em out in succession and my people just drop. Plus they're still magic resist. The pumpkins are physical resist so the best I can do is charm the pumpkins to try and keep the Lichs busy while i use The Moon or The Lovers on them (ran out of The Hanged Man a long time ago, its 100% guaranteed against liches too ) and then switch Wiseman to magic against the pumpkins.

I ended up dying a few minutes ago so im gonna take an hour break and WALK IT OFF. I know im getting close to the end tho, just gotta grind some Omega server cores. I wish the enemy combinations weren't so evil, or at least the cores dropped more often to make it seem worth it

--Grinding wasn't required believe it or not. Managed to randomly generate a dungeon just for J Cores. J Cores are really all I ever ran out of which is wierd. Whats weirder is I beat the game at 60 hours, shy on the dot by 11 minutes. Thats creepy. Truth be told the last boss and cubia are pushovers. With enough items you can beat them easy. I ended up using Sora's blades all the way till the end. Wasn't a bit deal since the big damage dealers in the Cubia and 8th phase fights wasn't me, but rather WiseMan and BlackRose. The ending is typical animu but its really neat how after you beat the game you get access to Helba and Sora and Subaru and Tsukasa....the thing is this, there's this optional dungeon afterwards thats fucking impossible cause all the enemies are BUGS and you have to data drain non-stop. I suspect you have to be level 99 or so to make the data bug drains impact Kite less but I dunno wtf.

Plus you can beat Cubia and the 8th Phase at level 90 lol. Its funny that the 6th and 7th Phases are harder than Cubia and the 8th combined.

But yeah, games beat. BOOM. F U DOT HACK! OWNED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Final Statz: Kite Level 91, 60:11 on the clock. Wtf weird.

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Fallout New Vegas: It's grown on me.

I tried to play this game at its release- it was up against some crazy expectations and memories I had from Fallout 3- a few hours in I dropped the game. I recently returned to the game with the release of the latest DLC. I decided to dig in and take this crap seriously. I made a crazy old chinese man and stepped out into the wastes.

I realized about 10 hours in that my issue with NV to begin with wasn't any fault of Obsidian's- I was looking for a Fallout 3 in Fallout NV, which just isnt fair. NV will never have the iconic imagery of Fallout 3 as its an actual wasteland. Now months after release I've been able to appreciate the true wasteland experience NV has been able to provide. Characters and communities aren't as obviously bound as they were in Fallout 3 by quests n whatnot, but i think in some ways these connections in NV are more subtle and realistic anyway.

I'm about 28 hours into the game, 1 DLC finished- most of the main story finished- got my foul mouthed shotgun lady and cyborg dog. I've been assaulted by old ladies wielding rolling pins and dudes dressed like roman soldiers. NV's Honest Hearts provided me with some of the more meaningful set of choices in an RPG, and Fly Me To The Moon quest will go down as one of the more memorable once off RPG quests i've completed.

Shockingly the game launcher can still crash and sometimes it hangs when I try to load a saved game- but all of that aside it's clear I owe Fallout NV an apology. Of course I may take that back if I never find a decent way to deal with the deathclaws.

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MAF's Playlist - Week of 07/11/11

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3: I've dumped a good 15 hours into this release so far- great game- the best in terms of gameplay. People complain about the dialogue but I think they're starting to have fun with the corny nature of the communications between pilots. Pilot comments are absurd but still fall within the context of the fight- great stuff. I think my only super-minor gripe is that when comparing mobile suit plans it shows the net loss in the event you KEPT the old plan, not the gain when keeping the new plan. Its kinda backwards.

Alice: Madness Returns: Halfway through this game. One of my favorites this year. While it doesn't push the envelope in terms of mechanics- it does in terms of style and atmosphere. The game follows the tried but true formula of gradually expanding available skills and constantly testing these skills as a whole as the game progresses. Some call it 'zelda-ish'- Darksiders also followed this formula and was better for it.

When people criticize this game they frequently resort to breaking down the game to its basic mechanics as if its a sign of heavy repetition- 'is it still jump jump float'? Yes, and is mario still 'jump jump fireball?' People are so strangely selective about using this argument.

Fallout: New Vegas: I actually played three or so hours into this when it was first released. It didn't hook me like Fallout 3 did- but maybe its all about location for me. Recognizing a structure in a post-apocalyptic wasteland is powerful stuff. Slogging through the killing fields of the Mall of America was a big moment, and wandering the early areas in New Vegas just doesn't have that punch. Still, this is definitely a 'personal problem' so i've decided to GROW A PAIR and wander back into New Vegas. I've created and old crazy chinese man that will save New Vegas- or just get ants in his pants.

Ascension (iPad): If you like card games but dont like buying booster packs this is the game for you. Its a set deck, every player starts with the same hand of cards and builds their deck as the game progresses. A great mix of skill and luck. Has online play through game center too!

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MAF's Playlist - Week of 07/04/11

I finished Dungeon Siege III last week (huzzah- I think) and got my shooter craving out of my system (Mushihime)

  • Alice: Madness Returns (PC): With Dungeon Siege III out of the way i'm going to focus on Alice this week. I've made it to the second 'world' or whatever and i'm really enjoying the game a lot. The combat is a mix of twitch and strategy- a good bit of mixed group combat; forcing you to prioritize different targets and then use Alice's different weapons to exploit their weaknesses. I also think the games art direction is pretty great- teapot enemy is my favorite so far- Upgraded Hobby Horse weapon is king.
  • Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 (360): Having played the first two games to death, I guess you could say I am a fan. I actually imported DWG3 and dumped about 20 hours into it before I realized that without a silly story and localization it was getting hard to keep my momentum- so here I am again. All n all, great game- second best out of the three. The original game is still the best despite lacking the more advanced gameplay mechanics of the third game; there's a lot to be said for a really well-rounded experience. The second game is still garbage; giant gundam fights are horrible, everything is way too grindy- story mode is barely that.
  • ARMA II (PC): Was gifted this one STEAM- so far all i've done is shoot the rifle range instructor in the crotch, high-center my humvee on a low wall, and shoot a few trees with an expensive javalin rocket. Still- the game is WAY easier to play than Flashpoint- so off I go!
  • Pokemon: Black (DS): Mostly been playing this while watching people fail at life in TLC and A&E shows. Not much else to say other than I need to get off my butt and finish this- or just give up and continue playing Dragon Quest 6- which i've been doing on the side anyway.
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MAF's Playlist - Week of 06/27/11

  • Dungeon Siege III (PC): Hated the first one, but I liked the second one, and the third one isn't bad either. I will say the number of stats tied to gear is a bit much- making a lot of choices difficult baffling. Most of the stats/modifiers aren't explained at all so im assuming more green arrows going up in the base stat for your character = good? The game also seems to punish people who are impatient; i've accidently selected responses I didn't want while trying to speed a conversation along. I have a feeling it will join Alpha Protocol in the 'Obsidian games I like but am not sure exactly why'
  • Alice: Madness Returns (PC): Like it- only put about an hour into it so far. I think the only thing I can say so far is that Origin games service is depressing- I picked up Alice on disc during the short EA vs STEAM thing- so i'm locked into Origin. What a dumpy service.
  • Pokemon: Black (DS) : One more badge to go- my favorite pokemon title yet. Mostly because I haven't seen a Bidoof yet. Leveling up is fast, gym battles are pretty easy, story is ok. Honestly, the best Pokemon story goes to Pokemon Mystery Dungeon- its a pretty messed up story that could have been a rated R pokemon movie if they had the guts to go forward with it. I also wonder why the hell Bianca is even a character in this game.
  • Mushihime-sama Futari (360)(Import): This is still my favorite Cave shooter mostly because while the final boss can be a pain, its easily the most accessible Cave shooter i've played. The soundtrack is also pretty incredible. Speaking of import shooters- Espgaluda II was recently re-released in the 30 dollar best seller format. If you've ever wanted to import a couple top shelf shooters for your 360- check out Mushihime and Espgaluda (and if you dont wanna import check out the two Raiden games on 360).

*most of this list will become irrelevant the minute I get my hands on Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 later this week. The series takes two of my guilty pleasures and mashes them together; musou and dem giant robots.

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F.E.A.R. 3

Finished F3 today. Little over 5 hours on recruit, only replayed two of the missions as Fettel. Apparently you get a different ending that isn't actually that different when you finish it with him. The alternate ending is probably more meaningful for a co-op play through. I suspect on a higher difficulty there's fewer game accelerating Rambo moments.

I've read some reviews here n there- and while I wont get into the gameplay complaints because there's plenty of small ones, the complaints leveled at the scare factor of FEAR 3 are kind of interesting....

I personally dont feel this game, with the same story/characters, could have been made scary even under Monolith. What's to be scared of? Youre the product of the big bad in the game- youre a freak of nature and along for the ride this time is an ever bigger freak. WTF is there to be scared of? I mean boiling it down its a game about two dudes and their mom.

So yeah- I doubt the FEAR series will ever provide scares again without a reboot of sorts. In fact, I think a good argument can be made against even FEAR 2's ability to provide scares, a game that instead depended on being just kinda fucked up and disturbing.

Id give this game a C+, cause I liked the gunplay and fairly aggressive AI. Modern Warfare Rail Shooter this is not. Game wasnt scary- visuals were a slight notch above 2- people may have expected a better looking game but I dunno, not every game is Crysis 2.See More

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