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[GOTY 2019] I have played games and once again decided to write about them

My game of the year lists on this site sometimes exist in list form, but other times they don't exist at all. This is one of those rare in-between times where I both played games this year and feel like writing a lot of words about each one. So much so that I've included almost every game I played this year so that I can create a list of the top 19 games of 2019.

My style of writing these blogs is always very... reflective? To look at what games I like and why I like them I like to contextualize them within my life and explain my history with the game or genre. My life has changed a lot since I last wrote a game of the year blog, my last one being in 2015, and me basically uprooting my entire life in 2016 and starting fresh. I apologize in advance if these are too rambly or unrelated to the game itself. This list is mostly on pure gut feeling, but left to simmer for about a week before I gave it another pass to see if I still felt the same way.

Also shoutout to games like Slay the Spire, Disco Elysium, and Resident Evil 2, which I did not even get to this year and don't know when I will, but I just wanted to say, hey, shoutout.

Anyways, thanks for reading!

i am on my laptop and don't have any screenshots, so enjoy this unrelated image. it was this or a burger.
i am on my laptop and don't have any screenshots, so enjoy this unrelated image. it was this or a burger.

#19 Mario Kart Tour

Mario Kart Tour made it onto this list by reminding me that Mario Kart, real Mario Kart on switch, is actually a really fun and incredible racing game. That's one of the only good things I can really say about it. I was excited for it prior to it's release based on the quality of the other Nintendo mobile games I'd played, but it's execution was just kind of off. Neither type of steering mode feels particularly good or fun, with one feeling too simplistic and limiting, and the other giving too much freedom and not fine enough control. The gacha mechanics are also the most disgusting I've seen in a Nintendo mobile game, so only play it to remind yourself that Mario Kart can be great. If you even need to be reminded in the first place.

#18 Minoria

I love the Momodora series. I think I put Momodora III on one of my previous lists that made it's way onto the site? But if not, know that I adored it. This gave me confidence that a new game by the same developer, in the same genre, would for sure be something I'd love, but... I'm not sure what happened. Minoria has charm, but something about playing it feels off. Enemies do far too much damage, or feel inconsequential. The movement and look of everything feels at times jerky and unrefined, and at others extremely smooth. I honestly really wanted to like Minoria more, and maybe I'll get back to it at some point, but from the art style, to the animations, to the combat, it just left me wanting. There's little glimmers of hope here and there, tiny sparks of what made Momodora so enchanting. The atmosphere is wonderful, and some of the animations on their own are very satisfying. But ultimately I think I expected too much of Minoria, and I'm not sure whose fault that is.

#17 Pokemon Masters

Pokemon Masters could have been much different, and much worse than it ended up. It's a mobile gacha game, only the gacha doesn't matter. It's a Pokemon game, only you can't explore or catch Pokemon. It's such a wild departure from what the series is known for, but at the same time, it's a satisfying distillation of one of the more fun aspects of it. The game features real time 3v3 trainer battles, where each trainer only gets one "partner" Pokemon. The gacha aspect comes in where you can recruit new trainers and their partners for use in your squad. The story is told through a visual novel style, and is constantly rewarding you with new trainers and free gems for the gacha. The only bad part about this game, is it's extremely grindy, and for no real purpose. Things like co-op and gear items unlock far too late in the game, to the point where it feels like a tacked on afterthought to keep you playing. Aside from that, it's easy to recommend. You don't have to spend a cent, you learn a lot about Pokemon moves and the battle system, and it's got a decent story.

#16 Gears 5

I still remember emergence day. My friends and I packed into the local GameCrazy (which was basically half a GameStop stuffed into a steel cage, inside a corner of a video rental store, Hollywood Video) with a couple other sweaty nerds, waiting to buy our copies of Cliff Beezy's magnum opus, Gears of War, so we could go home and marathon through the campaign together in co-op. Gears 5 brings those memories rushing back. Though years have passed and my interest in the series had fallen into the negatives, Gears 5 being on game pass made it an easy decision to jump in and give it a shot. It felt like a vague suppressed memory slowly becoming more clear, "oh right this is what makes it satisfying. this is why i liked it". I didn't touch the campaign in Gears 5, but the multiplayer was just as I remember it. Paced well, chunky, and extremely fun. The escape mode is a very smart addition, though I'm not sure if it's new here or not. The idea is, a bite sized, maybe 30 minute, co-op horde mode style experience. Some characters even keep horde levels and perks in escape, making it feel like no matter what you do, you're progressing. Horde mode feels just as fun as ever, and helps bring in new players who may get overwhelmed by adding Jack to the mix as an invisible support drone who can heal teammates or stun enemies. Overall a very compelling package whether you want vs or co-op multiplayer. Definitely surprised how much I enjoyed this.

#15 Dr. Mario World

As a kid, I loved Dr. Mario. The music was infectious, the gameplay simple but fun. Dr. Mario World takes those elements and brings them to your mobile phone, but with a new twist. The puzzles and mechanics are extremely clever, and while the gacha is pretty gross, you can largely ignore it. The energy mechanic common in mobile games is also present, but I usually wanted to stop playing a session before I felt held back by it. For a quick fix of engaging puzzles, with hundreds of levels to burn through, check out Dr. Mario World. It's a very rare, good mobile experience that gives you enough satisfaction in a short period of time. The only reason I'm not still playing it, is in moving to a new phone, even synced to google play and my nintendo account, it didn't carry over my save. Soundtrack still slaps though.

#14 Yoshi's Crafted World

Full disclosure, I've only played a few levels of this as player two, but this game is so extremely cute and charming, it left a lasting impression. Yoshi's Crafted World is the latest in the series of soft and adorable platformers that are more about relaxing and collecting and cooperating than pixel precision and balls hard levels. Everything about it oozes sweet style, from the handcrafted look of the visuals, to the saccharine and addictive songs that you can't help but bob your head happily to. Playing with two players feels great, it completely changes the dynamic of the gameplay. In most platformers, you're just kinda running through things together, almost competing with each other to get to the goal first, or find items first. In Yoshi's Crafted World, you can play it like this if you want to, or you can combine forces to play as a suped up version of Yoshi. One player can jump on the other player's back and ride them. The rider is now a "gunner", they have unlimited eggs and take care of all the aiming and shooting. The player being ridden, is the one platforming and navigating the levels. It's an interesting way to give both players something to do and an extra perk for working together. If you just want to relax with a cozy, feel good game, check out Yoshi's Crafted World and you won't be disappointed.

#13 Risk of Rain 2

Risk of Rain was a game I spent a ton of time with. I think it was one of the first roguelikes that really clicked with me, and I felt like it sold me on the genre. Risk of Rain 2 takes that familiar feeling and characters and translates them into a fully 3D world. Some things are lost in the process, such as the intensity of the enemy swarms and the scale of the bosses, but i feel like it makes up for them in being much more immersive and fun right out of the gate. In the first game, a run could feel pretty boring in the first level or two, especially after you've played so many. In Risk of Rain 2, the 3D world and gameplay contribute a lot towards making even the earliest part of a run feel engaging. Some of the characters play differently in a third person shooter setting than in a sidescrolling platformer, which is to be expected, but that combined with the game's look, contribute to a vaguely unfinished feeling. If nothing else was added after today, Risk of Rain 2 still feels like a fun and challenging experience, but the promise of updates over time make me want to wait for a more "complete" version to really sink into.

#12 Heave Ho

Heave Ho is a game that really came out of nowhere and surprised me. I'm always looking out for fun new co-op games, simple and effective, more like Overcooked than Overcooked 2, where I felt like I just wanted more Overcooked, but it got too complicated and stressful to play. Heave Ho succeeds by almost being too simple, but still extremely effective. You have two buttons, grip left hand and grip right hand, all you can do besides that is move, make silly faces, and fart. But you have to use these tools, and communicate with your co-op partners, to work together to get all of your characters to the goal of a stage. You gain nothing by trying to cheese your way to the goal without your teammates or take on too much alone, but you find success through actual teamwork and coordination. It's extremely satisfying and fun to solve these levels together, while staying just chaotic and unpredictable enough to keep you on your toes and entertained. The style of the graphics is simultaneously cute and crude. You can unlock new outfits to dress up your colorful Geodude lookalike, but honestly I think more options up front would have been a better play here. It's easy to get engrossed in the game and not really stop every couple stages to roll for and equip new outfits, so they almost feel like an afterthought.

#11 Judgment

I've never played a Yakuza game, I've honestly never been too interested. But my girlfriend picked up Judgment one night on a whim, and it pretty much sold me on the franchise. I realize Judgment is a spin-off, and there's a lot in it that doesn't go back to Yakuza, but it still made me think "ok, so that's why people like these". Without giving the plot away, because it's an extremely cinematic experience, Judgment has you playing as a lawyer shamefully turned detective, uncovering mysteries, tailing people, chasing people, spying with drones, searching for evidence, playing arcade games, getting into fights, taking selfies, and photographing cats. It's an extremely unique game that just keeps surprising you. The combat system is wacky and fun, giving you so many options to play with, even though you get into a random fight every five minutes, they never have to play out the same way unless you want them to. While there's a lot of depth to the combat system, if that isn't your forte and you're just here to see the story, they've made it easy to just brute force your way through encounters. Some of the other mechanics could use some polish, such as tailing and chasing. Tailing is exclusively based on where your camera is pointed. If you hide behind a sign, but haven't adjusted the camera to keep the person in view, even if they're right next to you, it says you're losing them and starts the panic music. Similarly, the chases feel very finicky about what you should be dodging manually and what it assigns as a QTE. So a lot of times you're barreling towards a group of people on the left side of the road waiting for the dodge right QTE, only to run directly into them, so the next time, you see a group of people on the right, so instead of waiting for the dodge left QTE, you manually move to the left, but then it pops up while nothing is in front of you and you have to hit left again. It's a minor complaint, and hopefully they can get it ironed out if they make another one of these.

#10 The Outer Worlds

I never really played Fallout: New Vegas. I tried it and it burnt out my video card and I just never got back to it. loved Alpha Protocol, however, and even though The Outer Worlds is supposed to be closer to F:NV than AP, it still brought me back to the style of sharp writing I enjoyed from AP. I was a little bit disappointed that the game is only first person, as I generally like third person more in these types of rpg, but a couple of hours in and I was already used to it. I made my character an extreme himbo, just dumb as a brick, but hits like a ton of them. I felt like my style of play was just as fun and rewarding as if I chose something else, which I feel is a difficult thing to balance in games like this. A lot of them feel like, well you need x skill because you get all these perks and extra options and you really miss a lot without them. Playing a low intelligence character unlocked the [Dumb] skill dialog options, and while entertaining and well written, they didn't make a real difference in access to content or items, which was nice. There were some moments where I had a problem with this though. Such as a side quest where I needed to pass a persuasion check, a relatively low one if you're playing like a normal person, but for me it meant scouring more of the map for xp so I could crank some points into it and come back just for an unsatisfying ending to a quest that doesn't really matter. Overall I liked The Outer Worlds, I just kinda had my fill of it by the time I finished the very first planet.

#9 Mortal Kombat 11

I was exactly the right age when the first Mortal Kombat hit arcades. It was shocking and new and violent in a way that most games of the time weren't. It was such a rush to walk down to the Circle-K and see it looming over the magazine rack, a couple of kids my age crowded around it. Of course the years have not been as kind to that original entry as some other games. I feel like that's always an issue with the MK series, it ages so much faster than other games. If I'm playing Street Fighter V and go back to Street Fighter IV, both games look fantastic. But if I'm playing MKX and go back to MK9, it's such a weird night and day difference where you think "how did this ever look good to me?". But what absolutely has aged well, is the gameplay. What started out as a simplistic joke of a game with nothing but gore to sell it, has over the years evolved into one of the most fun and accessible fighting games. Pair that with an extremely good story mode that is exactly as corny and silly as you would expect from a game about kung fu wizards vs army guys and ninjas, and you have a real winner on your hands. They finally made the Krypt fun to engage with, making it feel like a third person puzzle-lite exploration game where unlocks tie back to your progress in the main game, or give you cool skins. Towers are... still towers. Nowhere near as good as the original tower from MK9, but easier to get into than whatever was going on with Injustice 2's towers. Something I wish they brought back is the factions from MKX, while not perfect, and while Injustice 2 replaced them with player clans, I actually thought it was cool to fight for your faction, and it made the towers a bit more engaging. Overall, MK11 is simultaneously a beautiful send off that celebrates the long running saga of MK, and a promise of even better things to come. It's hard not to like it, even if the gore has worn out it's welcome.

#8 Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem is a series I've always kind of admired from afar. My first exposure to it was visiting my coworker Dmitry's apartment after work one night where he'd just downloaded one of the older games. At the time I thought, "this reminds me of shining force" which in my book made it pretty dang cool. Fast forward multiple years and characters in Smash Bros of mysterious origin, and suddenly the world was ready for Fire Emblem. The 3DS games seemed to hit really big, and that Warriors game is totally a Warriors game, love it or hate it. But the big question was could it translate well from the traditional small handheld format to the hybrid handheld/full console experience on the switch? The answer as it turns out, is yes, absolutely, and much better than you would expect. All of the prerelease marketing materials for the game left me cold and uninterested, but seeing it come out and having people just gush about it, that wave of zeitgeist is what helped it catch my interest. The game plays as you would expect if you're familiar with the series or other turn based strategy games, but the units and environments look great, the battle system is fun, and the voice acting is fantastic. It really gives the huge roster of characters unique personalities, and helps you connect with them. Picking your titular house doesn't feel as corny or happen as early as you would expect, and the story absolutely took me by surprise. I've still not even seen hint of the time skip I know is coming thanks to twitter, but I'm still comfortable putting this game in my top ten of the year knowing there's a whole lot of this goodness left to enjoy.

#7 Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game is a very simple and charming premise. From the first minute of looking at the game you know all you really need to know about it. You are a goose, you have a little list of mischievous deeds to accomplish, and accomplishing enough of them will grant you access to the next area and a new list. Your tools are your beak, your honks, and flapping your wings, but mostly just some combination of the other two with moving your body and neck. The controls are responsive and simple and make piloting your terror goose stress free. The puzzles that make up your list are enjoyable to solve and execute. Everything about Untitled Goose Game just feels very light and paced well. The music creates a fun atmosphere and adds something to build and ease tension in a way, and you never quite dwell in one area long enough for it to overstay it's welcome. If I had one complaint about the game, it's that there aren't enough fun little hidden objectives to stumble across in your reign of terror. Mostly they reveal themselves in the post-game and are either extremely specific, or a very game-y "do it again but faster" that feels a little out of place. I'd rather just not have a post-game list than goals like that. Most people seem content just to watch a stream or enjoy the memes the game spawned, which is perfectly fine. The game shows well because the premise is so simple but elegantly executed, it's just as much of a joy to watch as it is to play.

#6 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

From the initial Kickstarter, I had no interest in Bloodstained. I was happy they were making it, as a fan of SotN and the GBA/DS 'vanias. But everything about the look of Bloodstained was not great. The 3D models for the characters and environments looked cheap and bad. It's something that's easy to dismiss as "it's just a proof of concept" or "it's just an early demo", until you're still saying it while you watch the launch trailer. Still, even after finishing the game, I can look at some of the screenshots I took and think "jesus that looks bad". It is then a testament to how good this game feels to play, that it doesn't even matter, and is not even something I thought about while playing it. This game is almost a love letter to SotN, if it's possible to write yourself a love letter. The variety of weapons and ways to spec your character, without having traditional RPG stats, is impressive. The shards the main character absorbs are fun to experiment with to find your favorite combo, and remind me of the souls from Dawn of Sorrow. You want to collect them all and upgrade your favorites, which leads to farming enemies and challenging rare bosses, things that extend the game a bit and help it feel a bit more worthwhile to engage enemies. My only complaint about this game, other than how poorly it looks, is actually just that there's not enough of it. I finished just about everything in 26 hours, which left me wanting more. For the style of game it is, exploration and finding new areas through upgrades and new abilities is key, but it felt like most of the time you unlocked a new ability and it would unlock one main path for you to take, and maybe one or two secret rooms if you backtracked. This makes the map feel poorly designed and the abilities almost an afterthought. Even one or two new areas per ability feels like it would extend the game a bit. Though, with the 13 free dlcs planned, maybe we'll get something to make up for it?

#5 Tetris 99

Tetris is one of my favorite games of all time. I can remember childhood vacations sitting up at night playing on my Game Boy Color, as well as years later spending overnight shifts trying to get better and better on Tetris Friends (which sadly shut down earlier this year). It's the most consistent game in my life, as every version I play I can pretty much enjoy on the basis of "it's tetris", even if nothing else about it is good. In my opinion, the ideal version of Tetris was Tetris DS, which I do still have and play from time to time, but my hands don't really find the DS (or 3DS in this case) as comfortable as they used to. Puyo Puyo Tetris was another outstanding version of Tetris, and much easier on my hands. I didn't really enjoy Tetris Effect, only because Mizuguchi's signature style felt like a poor fit for Tetris to me. I loved Rez (which isn't a music game), I loved Lumines, but Tetris Effect didn't add enough to Tetris to make it interesting beyond curiosity. I absolutely did not expect a third year in a row with a new and potentially exciting Tetris game, but then they dropped a 99 player battle royale with Tetris 99. The premise is right there in the title. It's Tetris, there's 99 of you. Go. And it's so simple it's brilliant. All the feelings of being in a Tetris Friends arena lobby are back, and multiplied by like 16. It controls exactly as you would expect Tetris to, the UI is clean and undistracting (which is a huge feat considering 99 games of Tetris are being displayed on it), and using the right stick to aim your garbage just feels like it makes sense. Some time after release, a couple of DLC packs were released that added more modes that made it an even more well rounded Tetris experience. But the heart of the game is the signature online mode. For the amazing price of free, Tetris 99 comes packed with a lot of fun and excitement in just that one mode, which initially sounded more like a joke than a genuine good game premise.

#4 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro was a game that I was cautiously excited about from just the announcement of it's title. People were still hype after Bloodborne, which I still haven't played, and seemed to expect ninja Bloodborne. When we finally saw gameplay and there was a grappling hook involved, people immediately thought of Tenchu. From Software does incorrectly get credit for the Tenchu series, despite only being the publisher (with the original developer Acquire most recently helping develop Octopath Traveler, and K2, now an internal team at Capcom, helping with Devil May Cry V (a game I hope to get to someday)), and the grappling hook did give off slight Tenchu vibes. Thankfully, Sekiro ended up playing like neither really, but feeling inspired by both. There's the slow, methodical stealth and memorization of enemy patterns, the perfect execution of taking each guard down one by one until an area is cleared to explore for items. But it's not mission based like Tenchu, it has a Souls/Bloodborne style inventory system and open world. There's no souls/xp, there's no levels, no armor or different weapons, you just find new equipment or upgrade your current set. It honestly feels like it's the best of both worlds, you get the cool ninja stealthy action, but then it doesn't play like absolute garbage when you get to a boss encounter. My main complaint with Sekiro, was that some of the bosses didn't feel like they fit in the theme or gameplay of the game. Like they felt like there weren't enough bombastic bosses and just copy/pasted in something from Dark Souls II with no regard for the fact that these are very different games. Bosses explicitly designed for Sekiro, like human enemies designed to take advantage of the combat system, or enemies that at least uniquely incorporate the grappling mechanics, are far more memorable and fun. A sequel to Sekiro is probably inevitable given it's reception and story, but I'd be more than happy if this was it. It feels complete and satisfying just as it released, in a way a lot of games don't these days.

#3 Super Mario Maker 2

I missed the wave on the first Mario Maker. I didn't own a Wii U, and while ultimately one game wasn't enough to push me over the edge to buying one, I instead settled for the late 3DS version, which was great even though it was lacking in features, but had the same problem as every 3DS game for me in that it was physically painful to play it for too long. Fast forward to this year, there's a new and improved Mario Maker on Switch. Such is the story for basically every Wii U game at this point, it really makes me feel better about not buying one. I can really spend hours just playing whatever random levels it decides to throw at me, playing through the top lists, or finding codes for levels people made on twitter or discord and giving them a shot. There's a lot of bad levels, especially at first, but there's also much more genuine fun and clever levels out there. I find my sweet spot for difficulty is like two notches above "automario". I don't want to be stuck for hours perfecting a section or even just one jump or mechanic. But I have no problem with easy, fun levels designed to make you have a good time or feel like you did something cool. Levels that make you think or use specific mechanics can be extremely fun, if they're intuitive and designed well. It's hard to describe, but you absolutely know it when you see it. You'll play a level and make note of helpful things that teach you what it wants you to do. Maybe with signs, or an easier version as a demonstration before the real thing. But small moments like this that internalize in you "that part felt cool" or whatever, which helps you get better organically, both at playing more levels or designing your own. Mario Maker 2 works so well because the baseline is responsive and familiar. Everyone knows how Mario jumps and runs, everyone knows how that's supposed to feel, and not having to tweak or mess with that to get it the way you want it, lets you be more immediately creative than something like LittleBigPlanet, as much as I liked it, just because you yourself know what you think would be fun. You're not contending with both the tools and the mechanics to try to make a good playable level. To me, that's the beauty of Mario Maker 2, it doubles down on everything that made the first one so appealing.

#2 Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers

Final Fantasy XIV is undoubtedly in my top 5 videogames of all time. There are layers upon layers that I could write endlessly about what makes them so great and how well they come together and overlap. But that's not why we are here today, that's just the setup. Shadowbringers is the latest and greatest expansion to one of the best games of all time. My girlfriend and I were sitting in the room at fanfest when it was first announced, there's no possible way I could have been more excited for or had higher expectations for this game. By the end of the patches that led up to Shadowbringers, I was unsure of what to expect from it, and that uncertainty led to me believing that maybe they could fumble this one. Some of the popular theories going around seemed lame, and while Shadowbringers didn't change the bullet point list of things that would be included, enough of the points were left vague enough to let that seed of doubt grow. Thankfully those doubts were unfounded. People had expected a repeat of Raubahn Extreme from Stormblood, where the instance servers were under such a heavy load from the new expansion launch, that players couldn't complete the main story quests, which are the gateway to... pretty much everything else in the expansion. But there were no such issues and Shadowbringers launched without a hitch. Not only that, but the story went in a direction that felt fresh and interesting. FFXIV has always had a good to great story, but the Shadowbringers content elevates it to a new height. Not to spoil for anyone playing through, but the world post Stormblood is ready to go to war, and that war feels like it's going to be a long, grueling, dreary, tiring affair, as wars often are. But Shadowbringers starts by literally whisking you away from all of the troubles of this world, to an alternate version of the world, ravaged by a calamity and slowly rebuilt by its survivors. It's a refreshing new take on the world you are used to, it's not 1:1, as different circumstances led to things being developed, named, and used differently, but those differences make things feel fresh and exciting. The new jobs added, Gunbreaker and Dancer, are both very fun and easy to play, and start at level 60, making them easier to catch up to where most people are starting Shadowbringers at level 70. The new races, Hrothgar (male) and Viera (female), both ended up looking fantastic despite limited customization options and gear restrictions. The new Trust system for story dungeons is amazing and almost serves as a stress free tutorial for each dungeon. And the post launch content is looking great as well, with the first major patch just recently to have finished releasing as I write this. The Nier crossover is executed well in its first raid, and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest. Smart additions, new story and lore elements keeping things fresh and exciting, jobs being balanced to reduce hotbar bloat, and constant updates and quality of life features mean I'm going to be playing FFXIV for a very long time.

#1 Pokemon Shield

After all the gushing and love I had for Shadowbringers, it would take quite the game to take this top spot away from it. I started this year almost 100% certain that when all was said and done, Shadowbringers would be right here. But in an unexpected turn of events, Pokemon Shield was released. I've not really played a lot of Pokemon in my life, all told. I started with Blue, but then there was a large gap where I thought they were too intimidating to get back into. Things started looking up with Sun/Moon, where things seemed to be simplified and improved from previous versions. Let's Go took this a step further, but almost went too far. Throughout all these games though, I never finished one. I loved the style and setting of Sun/Moon, but being on the 3DS made it difficult to enjoy for long. Let's Go was on the Switch, but was far too simple, and just a remake of Red/Blue/Yellow when all was said and done, so I had less of an interest in getting deep into it. From the initial trailer for Sword and Shield, I was intrigued. Seeing these big open areas, huge gyms, adorable starters, it was all extremely exciting, even for a casual Pokemon fan such as myself. With each new update and trailer, it felt like the entire Pokemon community found something else they didn't like about it, and by the time the game was about to release, they felt ready to completely write this game off. Even my girlfriend, a diehard lifelong Pokemon fan was starting to question it, so I was wondering if this would finally be a huge miss for a mainline Pokemon game. A week before the game came out, we hadn't seen the starters evolution line, there were wack 24 hour livestreams to promote one new variant of an old Pokemon, every new way they tried to market the game felt like a big wasted opportunity, and more and more information kept leaking that hurt public perception. But despite all of that, the game came out and that initial excitement shined through. This Pokemon felt good. There are some very smart changes to the underlying systems at work that are honestly long overdue. Everything is easier in this game, and I don't mean from a difficulty standpoint, I mean from an accessibility to content one. Hyper training can fix bad IVs, it's easy to train EVs, getting foreign Pokemon through surprise trade is effortless and almost guaranteed after a certain time of night, which makes using the Masuda method to hunt shinies even easier. Max raid battles are fun, and give amazing rewards. Being able to catch a Pokemon with good IVs or their hidden ability, on top of getting TRs, XP candies, and other valuable items, they're some of the most rewarding content. The story could be a little stronger, but the gym system is great, and the lore reason and mechanics for Dynamaxing are interesting without playing out the gimmick. The new Pokemon are well designed, some of my favorites in a very long time, like Corviknight, Dragapult, Falinks, Cursola, and Polteageist. I'm 290 hours into Pokemon Shield currently, and I'm not even finished building up my team to start competitive battles yet. Early next year I'm taking place in a player run Pokemon League, and I'm training up a monotype team for that. Playing Pokemon Shield is the most excited I've been to play a videogame that wasn't FFXIV in a very long time, and I don't see it slowing down any time soon. That's why Pokemon Shield is my favorite game of 2019, because I've already had so much fun with it, completing the story, filling out my pokedex and currydex with my girlfriend, and hunting for shiny Pokemon, but I'm still excited to play it and set new goals for myself.


[GOTY 2015] Game of the Year MMXV: The Phantom Pain

2015 was an excellent year for games, so much so I think this was the first year I actually had to cut things and wasn't just struggling to add anything to fill out the last spots. That said, it introduced the new problem of actually trying to rank things and figure out what I really liked this year, and what's valuable to me in a game that makes it stand out above the rest. This led to a lot of thinking and contextualizing and reflecting, as you'll probably notice reading me rambling about my past in addition to telling you what I like about these games.

#10 - Dragon Ball Xenoverse

I pretty much grew up watching Dragon Ball Z, I was introduced to it in 6th grade by a friend who I had seen drawing Raditz in history class. I looked over and said to him "oh, you play a lot of rpgs?", since my young self's only exposure to the Toriyama art style was seeing ads for Chrono Trigger in game magazines. That Friday I slept over at his house, and Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to catch DBZ, and instantly I was hooked. At the time anime wasn't as widespread as it is now, the only way you got any exposure to it seemed to be through buying VHS tapes, usually from Manga Entertainment that all felt really shady for some reason and definitely looked like the kind of thing you shouldn't be watching in 6th grade. But DBZ sent me and my friends down this dark hole of watching those exact tapes like Fist of the North Star, Fatal Fury, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, etc.

They even give you a dang scouter, how can you not love that?
They even give you a dang scouter, how can you not love that?

Dragon Ball Xenoverse for me is a throwback to things I haven't thought of in such a long time, but it does more than just present the story to you as you remember it, it's the perfect way to make a DBZ game, since it gives you the story you know and love from watching it, but turns it into a game by having you change and interact with it in fun ways. It makes it feel like something more fun than just replaying those events would be, instead you are a time patrol agent doing your best to keep things going as they should, in almost a Back to the Future Part II kind of way, where after you've played it, you'll know it only went the way you thought it did originally because you were there preventing an outside force from tampering. It's a really fun idea, and it's only just the story mode, there's also side missions and versus battles, as well as fully customizing your character's moves and gear and stats. It's not the deepest game, but it's really fun and looks incredible, I look forward to finishing it, but it doesn't have it's hooks in me to keep me going for more than a mission at a time, which lands it in the 10th spot on my list.

#9 - Rocket League

Something about Rocket League just works for me. It's easy to look at it as a competitive sports game you need to be good at and use a lot of teamwork to have any fun, but it feels disconnected enough to where you aren't really in as fine of control as you would want for that to be possible, so you can just have fun driving around and trying to hit the ball. That's basically what it was for me, I'm not a very competitive person, I love fighting games even though I'm terrible at them because I can just have fun, but I'm always frustrated playing sports games because the controls are usually dense and require lots of teamwork between a lot of moving pieces on the field, I think I'm best at football because you throw it from one guy to another guy and you run, and it's almost like a strategy game, but things like soccer or hockey could never really click for me.

Here's where Fallout appears on my list.
Here's where Fallout appears on my list.

Rocket League takes those frustrations and does away with them completely. Dense controls are reduced to just driving, forward and reverse, a handbrake, a jump, and a boost. It's super simplistic and leaves a lot of room to use it's mechanics to get better, but at it's entry level, it's a fun driving game, the cars handle well, and you can customize them in cute ways without needing to sacrifice any performance or needing to worry about any kind of stats. Instead of needing to worry about controlling who has the ball, you are you, you interact with the ball and you can pass to teammates and set up shots, but you only ever control yourself, and you never feel like you are lost like I frequently do in other sports games. This is what Rocket League does well, this is why I enjoyed playing it, and still do. The only reason it hasn't rated higher on my list is everything else is just so good, but I can see myself playing it for a long time to come, and introducing new friends to it locally as well.

#8 - Ronin

I first saw Ronin being shown off on a stream by @babylonian pre-release, and within 5 minutes of explaining the mechanics, I was sold. It was everything I had hoped for when I started playing Mark of the Ninja, not to say that game is bad or anything, but I still haven't gone back to it because it wasn't what I expected. I love turn based strategy games, I love stealth games, and Ronin is a combination of two into something that feels incredibly cool and makes you feel perfectly in control, while also barely hanging on by a thread where one slight misstep could be fatal. The controls are easy enough, the left stick moves, the right stick shows a jump arc and when you let go, you jump to where the arc shows, every other button is context sensitive, but you never need to hit them in a hurry. You move around in real time as long as you aren't spotted, but as soon as an enemy is alerted to your presence, everything goes turn based, and your movement is restricted to your jump only.

Over time they take these simple mechanics and add layers to it in the forms of new enemies and new ability upgrades, pulling off stealthy kills fills a meter that lets you use special skills like a teleport, or throwing your sword at an enemy, which are super useful when you need to take care of someone quickly, but also are tactical decisions you will need to live with. You throw your sword at an enemy, but now all you can do is knock other enemies down until you retrieve it, while you're constantly being aimed at and dodging their fire, you can throw out a clone to distract them so you can get your sword back, but an alarm is counting down that will bring more enemies in just 7 more turns, so you need to conserve your movements, get your sword and get back to the guard counting the alarm down. It's this kind of high tension situation that make up the bulk of Ronin, especially the last mission which is just doesn't let up from start to finish. Ronin does some great things but doesn't overstay it's welcome, earning it the 8th spot on my list. I wouldn't go back it soon, but I'd definitely play a fleshed out sequel.

#7 - Dead or Alive 5 Last Round

Dead or Alive is a series I've always had a lot of love for, back on Playstation I was strangely enamored with 3D fighters, as a kid who grew up playing Street Fighter II, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, and so on and so forth, seeing things like Tekken and Virtua Fighter were insane to me. Virtua Fighter was more of an arcade thing, and there was a Genesis version of Virtua Fighter 2 that was pretty terrible, so Dead or Alive was the first 3D fighter I played at home, renting it from Hollywood Video because they were out of copies of Tekken 3, which I had heard was the second coming from every game magazine I read at the time. DoA2 was one of my first Dreamcast games, then one of my first Playstation 2 games. DoA3 was my first Xbox game, only buying Halo because my friend did, DoA4 was the whole reason I bought an Xbox 360, and I played hundreds of hours of it.

Pictured: How it feels to win a match online.
Pictured: How it feels to win a match online.

By the time DoA5 came out, I was well out of the console market, my 360 had died out of warranty, and my time with Playstation 3 had come and I had gotten out while it was still worth something before Playstation 4 came out. So when I heard the newest version of DoA5, Last Round, was coming out on Steam, my gaming platform of choice, I was really excited. The launch was somewhat bungled in that it actually shipped without online multiplayer, and lacking new stages, effects, and physics from the new console versions, being a port of the arcade version of Last Round instead. But over time, they added an online ranked match mode, which is disappointing coming from DoA4's amazing lobby system, but still just as fun as ever. Unfortunately this came almost 5 months after the initial launch, when it was promised in 3, effectively killing off the playerbase (only 182 players total today, not even all at once), which is the only reason this hasn't ranked higher for me. I love the game, but I can rarely actually play it because I'm not searching at the right time of day. It's just really unfortunate.

#6 - Nuclear Throne

I'm kind of a sucker for roguelike-likes or rogue-lites or whatever you want to call them, for me they're the ultimate short time experience, you can just boot one up and try to get a run in or two, or three, or ten. When a run goes right it feels amazing and tense, you know the deeper you get the bigger the loss is going to be if you make a mistake, and when it goes wrong, it feels like it didn't count, you'll just do another, both just keep you coming back for more, knowing you can do better, get farther. In a way it reminds me closest of old school Nintendo games I played growing up, when you die there's no game save, you just start over, and you play again getting as far as you can. It's not 1:1, but it's definitely that kind of feeling for me, where you just spend time getting good at one game by bashing your head against it over and over and over again, it's not designed to be something you coast through once to see the story and that's it, it's something you keep coming back to.

Nuclear Throne is one of these kind of games, but unlike something like Spelunky or Binding of Isaac, the latter of which I've also dumped a ton of time into, it feels incredible and fast paced out of the gate. in other games, it's a slow build, you only feel the intensity as the run goes deeper, not wanting to lose your progress, enemies ramping up, and collecting more skills and upgrades. In Nuclear Throne, every run starts with an airhorn, and then the music kicks you in the chest and you're off to the races, which gets you flying out of the gate and feeling it immediately. The game plays like a dream, the controls are super tight and there doesn't seem like there's any luck to the actual gameplay, only what upgrades you get, and unlocking new characters with different abilities as you play only makes more runs more enticing. It's a combination of all these things that just makes me excited to come back to it again and again, just starting a run and getting that initial rush is more exciting than something like Spelunky, which in comparison, feels like playing a math problem.

#5 - Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat has always been a series that is just cool as hell to me, seeing the arcade machine at the local Circle K and playing it for the first time, I felt like, this is illegal, I shouldn't be playing this, these are real people and there's so much blood. Over the years this feeling faded, despite MK getting more violent and gross and gory and extreme, getting away from real actors and going to polygonal models, along with well, growing up, made it feel a lot less like watching a crime in progress, and more like just a silly over the top gross-out callback to those old games, with increasingly better tech. Underneath that layer of shocking gore, is actually one of the most fun to play fighting games, feeling like the old games to the point where my friend can still pull off the same combos with Scorpion he's been doing since MKII in every new game, but also feeling so modern and tight and introducing all kinds of new characters and mechanics.

Pictured: My average framerate at the start of a match.
Pictured: My average framerate at the start of a match.

I loved MK9, but I thought it covered everything I had wanted from a new MK, the story covered the first 3 games, which were the best to me, and it felt like, anything they did from there was just going to get into the terrible 4-8 zone again. Preview coverage of MKX only cemented this, showing off new characters that looked terrible to me early on like D'Vorah, Ferra/Torr, and Kotal Kahn, I was fully prepared for this to just be those 3D MK games all over again where they add a bunch of stupid generic characters to fill out the roster when they had a ton of characters that were cool and fun to play already. Full disclosure, I can barely run MKX on my pc, in game it runs ok, almost 30fps most of the time, but it takes a minute or 3 to actually load matches, making playing online impossible as the connection times out before the game loads, and making me want to wait til I get a new pc to play the story. Still, I've played 26 hours of MKX just completing the living towers, because it's so much goddamn fun to play. I see myself coming back to this game a lot in the future, even though the second season pass looks really dumb. MKX far surpassed my expectations and made me feel like MK9 was garbage in comparison, which is no small feat, considering how much I liked that game.

#4 - The Legend of Dark Witch

This is one that really surprised me, I had never heard of it at all, even though it came out a year ago on 3DS, there was no buzz around it, and it just wasn't a name I was familiar with. Coming up on the pc release, I noticed a tweet in my twitter timeline from the NeoGAF New Threads account titled "SteamGAF, don't sleep out on Legend of Dark Witch, releasing Dec. 2nd!", which for some reason I clicked on. When I read it, I saw them mention that it was a "2D action game similar to the Megaman series". As someone who grew up playing the heck out of Megaman 2 and having a lasting fondness for it to this day, I was instantly intrigued. I looked up the steam page and saw in screenshots, a Gradius/Cobra Triangle style upgrade system, which is one of my favorite styles of character upgrade system, where the better you do the stronger you get, but mess up once and it's back to square one, making the game tougher on you.

On top of this per-level xp/upgrade system, finding Syega to give you permanent passive upgrades, and beating bosses to get new weapons, there's also a meta-progression. Any Tres (xp) you earn in a level saves to a total, so if you earn 500 Tres in one stage and then die, you might have to start over without those per-stage upgrades, but you can try again and get say 500 more. Then assume you continue along this path and get a game over, before you select a stage to try again, you can spend your 1000 banked Tres on permanent upgrades to your shot power, health, lives, and the amount of Tres you get overall. It's something that eases up that system of Gradius style upgrades, and while still important, doesn't just feel like "well I lost my upgrades I can't finish this stage now", you never feel stuck, but rather like your current attempt will still build you up even if you don't finish the stage, and I love that loop. I'm looking forward to finishing it and hopefully the recently released sequel also comes to steam.

#3 - Nom Nom Galaxy

PixelJunk games are always hit or miss for me, for everything charming and fun like Monsters and Shooter, there's a Racers and Eden right there making me go "ugh". I never played Shooter 2, SideScroller, or 4am, but I'd also heard nothing about them, while the previous games at least had a buzz about them where people were excited and talking about them. This made me think that PixelJunk games had fallen off after Shooter and probably weren't worth paying any attention to. Along came the quick look on this very site for Nom Nom Galaxy, which looked cute at first glance, and I had honestly never heard of, so I didn't know the PixelJunk lineage where it had started as PixelJunk Inc. The quick look was for Playstation 4, but I was really intrigued, and happy to find out it was coming out on steam as well, even though it was in early access and the online multiplayer hadn't been implemented yet.

Nom Nom Galaxy is a silly name, but it's kind of appropriate. You play as a tiny spaceman landing on a new planet, trying to build up your own soup company. You set up a headquarters and soup machines, harvest ingredients from around the planet, put them into the machines, and then load those cans of soup into rockets to ship them out across the galaxy to your alien customers. These customers will have different tastes depending on the day and the planet you are on, so you can't just rely on the same things to get by, and you are also competing for market share against another soup company on the same planet. So your goal is to efficiently make more, better soup from ingredients your customers like, faster than your competition, who will send hired thugs to come and attack your operation. All the while you are building and expanding and exploring and managing your resources. You need to ship soup before the day ends so you keep your market lead, but you also need to get a power core to expand your base, which will take time away from harvesting ingredients. You need to build robots to automate the soup making and shipment process as much as possible, but you also need to build turrets to defend your base and repair it from the last attack.

It's a constant balance of all these factors, which only ramps up as you unlock more robots and equipment, ingredients get rarer and harder to find, and the amount and severity of attacks from your competition only increase. It's really relaxing and fun to explore these worlds and automate a base and get your little business going, but at the same time it can be tense and dramatic as you're struggling to get your last soups shipped off before the day is over so you maintain your lead, being at 100% market share and losing 15% due to an emergency and needing to hustle to recover. It's one of the most fun and rewarding experiences finishing a planet, and then you unlock even more and move on to the next one with new tools and new things to consider. If this sounds like it would be super stressful, i'm sure it would be, if not for the ability to co-operate locally with 2 players, or online up to 4. Communicating with friends and having them focus on one thing while you do another is one of the most fun things i've done in a game in a long time. If you like games like Terraria or Starbound, but wish there was more of an immediate goal in mind on top of vaguely exploring planets for resources like I did, check out Nom Nom Galaxy with a friend or two.

#2 - Invisible, Inc.

Invisible, Inc. is like a combination of just about everything I love in games. Like I mentioned previously in this list stealth games, turn based strategy games, rogue-lite-like games, all extremely my jam, and Invisible, Inc. is a beautiful combination of all of them with a stylish, well animated cyberpunk finish over the top of it all. I think the most interesting thing about Invisible, Inc. is how little of the game revolves around combat. So many turn based games are part positioning and part combat, and to me, the combat is often where things can fall apart or feel unfair. Things like missing a 90% chance to hit in close range with a shotgun in XCOM, enemies just appearing in the exact right spot to screw you over. These things only seem included to make perma-death matter, it doesn't matter if you're careful and play well, you still just have a chance to lose no matter what, but while people seem to enjoy that part of the game, I feel like balancing a game to be unfair to put that aspect more into focus is still really not cool.

But in Invisible, Inc. everything feels more natural, things only go bad when you plan and execute poorly, when you're in a rush and make a mistake, a small oversight that you should know better than to slip on but it was just a lapse in judgment that cost you something. It feels that way because there is basically no real "combat" in the game, your entire time is spent hiding and avoiding encounters as much as you possibly can. You have a melee stun attack which recharges in 3 turns, and knocks guards out for 3 turns, that only counts down when you aren't pinning them down. There are ranged lethal attacks to permanently kill guards, but the ammunition on them is so limited, you only really want to use them as a very last resort, especially since all guards have a heartbeat monitor that will raise the alarm levels as soon as their heart stops. By stripping down the combat to basically nothing, and limiting your options to a last resort or a small stopgap, it really emphasizes the stealth, since resorting to combat can often complicate things and make you have a much tougher time than figuring out a way around it.

Each run in Invisible, Inc. feels like you are learning something about the game. A small trick to help deal with a new situation, a new way to approach and deal with another situation, a new use for your tools, a new way to leverage your agents abilities. This makes starting a new game feel good, because you come in with new knowledge that will help you in this run, slowly you build up these lessons in your head that even the odds against the enemies and help you deal with whatever they can throw at you. The more you play, the more agents you will have access to, which all have different play styles and uses, as well as starting programs, which can have some powerful and interesting combinations. For a game with no real "action", Invisible, Inc. can really make your heart pound and give you the biggest feeling of relief when you get your agents into an elevator and escape. As some one who loves sneaking around, Klei has taken sneaking turn based in the best possible way, and made one of the best games this year.

#1 - Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

If you know me, this top choice shouldn't surprise you at all, but honestly, it surprised me. Leading up to the release of MGSV, I was all aboard the hype train in a way I hadn't been in a long, long time. I remember reading previews of MGS in PSM magazine, EGM, Gamepro, etc. just drooling over screenshots and dying to get into this super cool looking world of espionage. I'd never really seen anything like it, and at the time it was really revolutionary to me, personally, regardless of it's impact on the industry at large. This made me so unbelievably hyped for MGS2, I was almost in tears when I bought Zone of the Enders to play the demo, spending hours just messing around, doing everything I'd heard about in previews, getting used to the game and being amazed by the graphics. I wasn't even mad when you actually played as Raiden for most of the game, I was just so in awe of everything happening. By the time MGS3 rolled around, I was actually able to go to E3 myself, I was actually at the Konami press conference where it was announced, along with Twin Snakes, but for some reason, being closer to it didn't make me more excited for it, and by the time 3 came out, I was without a Playstation 2 to play it on, so I missed the boat on playing it. MGS4 is what I bought a Playstation 3 for, a $599 60gb model with backwards compatibility, so I could finally get around to playing MGS3 as well. I was still just as in love with the series overall, but I felt like peak excitement for new installments was in the past.

They know why you're here.
They know why you're here.

Along came MGSV, looking so amazing, finally taking the game into an "open" world, instead of just being corridors. I had never really thought about that before, but when they released that map of Afghanistan in MGSV that showed all the previous games maps laid out over it, it really hit home, not how small those maps were or how big Afghanistan was going to be, but rather, how limited and linear those older games were. Watching the Metal Gear Scanlon series only cemented this, making these games that I thought of as infiltrating this huge complex, look like a series of arenas to sneak through. Enter this room, sneak through it to the next one, repeat. MGS3 even just felt like a boss rush with little rooms full of "trash mobs" in between. The story of the games really distracted you from how shallow the gameplay actually was, and seeing it in this new light was almost disappointing, but I had still enjoyed re-watching them, and I definitely enjoyed my time through them, and hey, on the bright side, this amazing new open world Metal Gear has been announced and should fix all of this. When Ground Zeroes was released on steam I bought it instantly and played through it that night, it felt like the promise of Metal Gear finally realized, but it was still just a small map, densely packed with ways to infiltrate and tackle objectives in the 7 missions included. But because it was so limited, to 100% the game, you sort of fell into the "one way" to complete it, to speedrun it for the S rank. Still, I was excited for The Phantom Pain.

Pictured: Half of my time spent in MGSV
Pictured: Half of my time spent in MGSV

When it finally came out, I poured over every inch of the world in MGSV. I took my sweet time with everything, completing side ops, redoing missions for better ranks or to complete more optional objectives or to try it a new way. By the time most of my friends who had rushed through the game were completely finished with it and hating it, having difficulty with the "boss" fights and complaining about it, I was on like the 10th mission, I hadn't even fought Quiet, but we had spent the same amount of time with the game. Reading all of that really made me appreciate how I was approaching it and convinced me it was the right way to go about things, since I hadn't really faced any of these difficulties or disappointments, and I was having a blast. It felt so amazing to play an MGS game where you really could approach anything from any way you wanted, with controls that were tighter and more polished than even in Ground Zeroes, giving you so many options in every aspect of the game, but also making each one easily accessible. I spent hours just roaming around the world, capturing small outposts and fultoning soldiers to fill out the staff on my Mother Base. The structure of the missions was great to me, I could just wander into one freely if I wanted, or select them from a list, get in, get out, and get back to my base.

Snake looking how I felt when I hit 100%
Snake looking how I felt when I hit 100%

After 209 hours of play, I finally completed 100% of everything in the game, I got all the achievements, I built a nuke, I had invaded FOBs, defended them, played their event missions, maxed out everything I could, and researched damn near every weapon and item. At that exact point, I felt great, but still wanting to play more, the next day I booted the game up again, and I kinda just... didn't want to play anymore? Amazing I know that after 200 hours of nothing but this, I was burnt out on it, but it felt really hollow, true to it's title, I felt like something was missing, and I was disappointed there wasn't more of it for me to go through. I started looking through the mission list and thinking about each mission, reflecting on them and just thinking, "nah, I don't want to play that again right now" and quicker than ever before realizing how not-actually-open MGSV really is. Every mission is the same stealth-arena as in previous games, only instead of connecting them via corridor, they're spread out across the same big map with tinier ones put between them to give the illusion of an open world. I felt more betrayed by this than any of the story revelations or lack thereof.

The only thing that keeps me coming back at this point.
The only thing that keeps me coming back at this point.

Based on this feeling, I was having second thoughts about giving it the top spot on my list this year. I know this a silly thing to feel about a game you put 200 hours into, but it made me really think about everything else I've played and put things into context. It's not about wanting to play a game forever, or there being enough of it to keep you coming back for more over and over. While those are nice things obviously, you can't really fault MGSV for only entertaining me for as long as it did, which is still more than most games I play, according to steam, the only games I've played more are Borderlands and Super MNC, and I'm not far behind Borderlands. Plus, there is some slight hope of getting more on the horizon, with Metal Gear Online supposedly launching in January of next year, I'll at least get another small burst of enjoyment out of MGSV, and even if I don't, it was a fine ride while it lasted, and there will likely never be anything like it again, so I can appreciate it for what it is, and feel good about it being my game of the year.


Final FAQ XIV: A Realm Re-Asking The Same Questions Over & Over

This is just a list of things I see popping up repeatedly in /shout so I figure why not list them out for someone checking here for answers!

Character Creation: Races, Deities, and your Nameday

Each race gets different starting stats, these are largely irrelevant, so pick whatever race you want regardless of class. Those extra 2 points in DEX aren't going to make or break your career.

The same goes for picking a patron deity, basically just pick whichever you like, the bonuses are the tiniest of tiny.

Rumor is that you get a small xp bonus on your nameday (in in game time) but I've yet to see this confirmed yet and it doesn't sound liek that matters either.

Pretty much, it's all flavor, pick what you want to.

For Starters: A 1-15 Shopping List

As soon as you get like 300ish Gil, which shouldn't take very long at all, explore around the market district of your starting city and buy the following:

  • One (1) pair of Level 5 Pants for your class (Disciple of War or All Classes)
  • Two (2) Hi Potions (you can buy more if you can afford them but you just need two)
  • One (1) Orange Juice

You're now ready for levels 1-15. The pants are for a quest where a guy checks your gear to make sure you're ready for an assignment, pants are the only thing that doesn't come as a quest reward up to that point. The hi potion is for a guy who just wants you to bring him a hi potion. The orange juice I will get to later.

Travel: When and How? (Level 10, 15, 20)

Did you start in Gridania as an Archer but want to play with your friend who is a Marauder in Limsa Lominsa?

Too Bad. Sorry. Try to start in the same area as your friend if it is really that important to you, you can always change class later when you get your freedom. So when is that?

  • Level 10 - Chocobo Porters & Rental Chocobos
  • Level 15 - Airship Pass
  • Level 20 - Your own Chocobo

Basically the 1-15 quests are designed to be a mostly solo experience. You can party up for things but there are still solo only story instances. After the level 15 story quest you're given an airship pass, then you can use airships to freely travel the world.

Around level 10 you'll be able to use Chocobo Porters, they're basically griffons or whatever, preset travel paths that are quick and safe. You can also rent a Chocobo in main cities from the Chocobokeep at this point for 80 gil and you get 10 minutes of use. Aggressive enemies can and will still attack you on these so be careful.

If you REALLY want to go from Ul'dah to Gridania or the other way around, that is possible but risky, it takes about 10 minutes by Chocobo, but goes through level 30-35 areas. Basically just look at your map and try to find the other area.

If you start in Ul'dah you'll want to go Steps of Nald -> Central Thanalan -> Eastern Thanalan -> South Shroud and stop at the first Aetheryte Camp you see in South Shroud, then just use the Chocobo Porter to ride safely back to New Gridania.

Starting in Gridania you'll just go the other way around, starting in New Gridania -> Central Shroud -> South Shroud -> Eastern Thanalan, and then Chocobo Porter Back to Steps of Nald.

You get your Chocobo after you do your level 20 story quest and join a Grand Company, they cost 1000 company seals.

Attributes: What do they do and where do I put mine? (Level 10)

Once you hit level 10, you start earning bonus attribute points. You can assign these points by pressing C to bring up your character sheet, or whatever does that on PS3, and then allotting the points where you want them.

So where do you want them?

  • STR - Strength, this is a boost to melee attack power and also how much damage is mitigated by block or parry. A Lancer or Pugilist would be a class you want to pump STR on.
  • DEX - Dexterity, this boosts ranged attack power and also raises the chance to block or parry attacks. Archers are the class to pump DEX on.
  • VIT - Vitality, this is straight up just how much HP you have, if you are a Marauder or Gladiator, you will probably want VIT, as they are the tank classes.
  • INT - Intelligence, this will boost offensive magic power, so if you're a Thaumaturge, INT will be your main stat.
  • MND - Mind, this increases the potency of healing and defensive spells. You'll want to dump points into MND as Conjurer (and probably Arcanist?)
  • PIE - Piety, this is basically VIT but for MP instead of HP. I dunno who wants this as a main stat, currently.

This is just a rough guideline from how I understand things, feel free to do whatever the hell you want with your character.

Classes: How to change your class, and use skills from multiple classes. (Level 10)

Once you finish your level 10 Class Quest, you unlock the ability to change your class.

To change your class, simply find the guild of the class you want to change to, and talk to the Guild Registrar, they will then give you a quest to talk to the Guildmaster, who will give you a quest to kill some level 1 critters. This should be familiar because you did it as your starting class already.

After you finish that, you'll have the hunting log for that class unlocked. Each class has it's own separate hunting log. You only get to do the story quests ONCE, same with any sidequests you've done along the way, so if you leveled Archer to 10 and switched to Conjurer, you will basically only have the hunting log, FATEs, and guildleves to do until you get up to guildhest/dungeon level.

To change between classes you've already unlocked, open up your Armory Chest (Ctrl-I by default on PC, or the little red icon in the lower right menu, again not sure about PS3) and go to the weapons tab. Now equip the weapon of the class you want to be. It's really that simple.

You can also save your current gear set and switch that way. This is done in the Character Sheet menu (C by default on PC), just go to "Gear Set List" and save your current gear. You can then rename that gear set to like "Lancer" or "Botanist" or whatever you want for ease of use. If you update gear, just right click the gear set you want and click reassign gear, it will update that slot with the current gear. You can also drag gear sets to hotbars for quicker changing without needing to go into menus.

To use skills/abilities from a class you've already leveled on your new class, go to the Actions & Traits menu, it's one of those red circles in the lower right on PC, not sure on PS3. Now go to where it says ADDITIONAL, and you'll see little class icons, click the icon for your other class and it will bring up a list of skills available to your current class. Tick the box next to the skills you want to use and they will fill up the slots at the bottom of this menu. Drag these skills from those slots to your hotbars and you're set. Now you can use Cure on your Archer or whatever.

Quests, FATEs, Guildleves, and Guildhests: Do the Main Story, please.

This is really simple, but do the main story quests (these will be some if the first quests you run into, their icon looks like a flaming gold outline with a blue center). Almost everything you could want to ask would have been covered by just doing the main story. The main story will guide you basically on rails into areas you're supposed to be in, and introduce concepts to you as they become available, popping up help windows for you to read as needed. It will even lead you into your first Dungeon experiences at level 15.

Aside from that, you will have Class Quests every 5 levels (1, 5, 10, 15, 20, etc.). You should do these as soon as you can, you can only get some abilities by doing the appropriate class quest to unlock them. These are as important as story quests, make sure you don't ignore them for too long.

FATEs are basically public quests, you will see them on your map at all times, it will show you the suggested level, and the timer remaining on it. Each type of FATE icon shows what it is, if it's a mean looking face, it's a big boss type enemy, for example. If you're above the suggested level, you can level sync down to contribute and still get credit.

Other than that do whatever you want. You will have a hunting log opened after your first class quest is complete, this will give you bonus xp for killing x amount of each monster on the list. There are also sidequests littered around the areas you will be taken for the main story, these are a good idea to do as you go along.

Once you do the level 10 story quest, you will unlock Guildleves and Guildhests.

Guildleves are basically repeatable quests, usually to go to an area and kill something, they're generally pretty easy xp, but you only have certain allotment per day. If you don't use them it will build up over time (up to 99) and you can use them whenever, but I think you earn like 8 per day.

Guildhests are party based Guildleves kind of. Just short repeatable missions designed to teach dungeon mechanics and build party experience. You will get HUGE xp bonuses for completing a Guildhest for the first time, like at level 10 the completion xp will be around 700, and the bonus will be around 4000, to give you an idea. The first Guildhest will be teaching you how to pull groups one by one, to fight them away from dangerous enemies. The second teaches you about tanking a boss and dealing with additional enemies that spawn. These are a great way to familiarize yourself with party mechanics if you're new to MMOs.

How Do I Dye My Armor: Seriously I Look Like an Idiot... (Level 15)

Once you hit level 15, there is a sidequest in Vesper Bay, which is an area in Western Thanalan. The quest is basically the only thing there, it's really hard to miss.

This is also why you've been carrying around a single Orange Juice for 15 levels, that's all the quest is, bring her orange juice and she teaches you how to dye your gear.

After completing the quest, you can find dyes in any city's market district, just check around in the shops, they're generally pretty cheap, from 40-260 gil each pot.

The Masked Mage: This is impossible and you are a liar (Level 15)

The level 15 story quest is not very hard, but it can be if you go about it wrong.

By now you should have figured out the trick to every single quest, but if not here it is: Focus on the minions, Stay near any NPC helpers for heals.

The masked mage quest is a bit different, because it's misleading, also hard to read.

To beat this quest,

you need 1 antidote (which you should have 5 of from a previous quest reward) and 1 hi potion (remember earlier when i had you buy two?). Focus your damage on the gargoyle, do not touch or go near the masked mage.

WATCH YOUR STATUS BAR. Find your status bar in the HUD editor and put it somewhere you're going to notice it. You will get poisoned, it will do a TON of damage if you don't use an antidote, this is where most people fail.

You don't even need to kill the gargoyle, once he gets low enough, NPC help will arrive, and you will just breeze through the rest.

That's the trick. It works for every class I've tried, and the ones I haven't I've asked around and get the exact same answers.


Limit Breaks in FFXIV:ARR are party based special moves that you can use after building up a meter that is generally in the top left of your screen by default.

You build it basically just by playing, and they're used by putting the Limit Break skill in your hotbar from the Actions & Traits menu and then mashing that button when you want to use it.

Here's what Limit Breaks do depending on what role uses them:

  • Tank Limit Break - Raises the defense of the party.
  • Melee Damage Limit Break - Huge damage attack to ONE target.
  • Ranged Damage Limit Break - Huge damage AoE attack.
  • Healer Limit Break - Heals all party members.
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Duty Finder: Make friends from around the world (Level 10, 15, 20)

You can use the Duty Finder (U key default) to find Guildhests (first at 10), Dungeons (first at 15), and Trials (first at 20).

This is a CROSS SERVER search tool that will match you up with people to form parties for this content.

All you need to do is equip the class and gear that you want to take on Duty, for this example I'm a Marauder. I equip my axe and my gear and I can queue up for up to 5 different activities in the duty finder, you can even choose to join parties in progress who may have lost a member along the way.

You pick which languages you prefer, you can queue to play with any combination of Japanese, English, French, and German (i think) speaking players. Since Marauder is a tank class, it queues me for the tank role, it will now need to find a healer, and 2 dps (assuming a light party duty) and then it will pop up a window telling me it's ready.

You cannot queue as dps as a tank or healing class, this is to make balanced parties. You can still pre-form a party of 4 healers and run that way if you like, but if you need the duty finder to get members for you, it will pick roles you need.

The duty finder is required to run the level 15-17 dungeons for story quests, as well as the level 20 trial.


Grand Companies: Which do I pick? (Level 20)

Aside from minor stat differences on the GC gear set, it doesn't matter. Pick whichever Grand Company you feel is right for your character, or whichever has the colors you like the best, or pick Immortal Flames because it's the right choice how can you argue with a Lalafell riding a Highlander??

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Closing: You should know what to do by now

If anyone has anything else to add let me know, but by the time you pick a GC everything should be gravy as far as really common dumb questions go. When in doubt, look to the main story.

Aside from things to add, if there's any corrections to be made or outdated info, feel free to let me know.

Hopefully this was helpful to someone!


[GOTY 2012] A List of Games I Played This Year

It's that time of year again. I have opted out in years past, but now I feel like participating in some game of the year fun. Not content with a list, and inspired by and his classy business, I decided to write a bunch of words about games I've played, make some shitty images, and throw the whole thing up as a blog post. Let's get to it!

Number 12

Diablo III was a disappointment. I didn't even want to put it on this list at all, back when I couldn't put together 10 games to make a list. Now that I've graduated to a blog, I feel I should include it if only to explain. I have basically no nostalgia for Diablo II, I didn't even play it for the first time until late 2011, so it's not even an "I liked it better before they messed up all my favorite stuff" type deal. I really was just disappointed with how fast it got to the point I didn't want to continue playing. People played Diablo II for like 10 years, and while irrelevant to someone who didn't play Diablo II, I feel like the fact that Diablo III never even came close to 2 months for me and my group of friends is indicative of a huge misstep somewhere.

The first play though the game, I was pumped, having a decent time playing with some friends, my monk felt powerful, there was meaningful progression to be had. After completing the game once even, I was excited to start over, I felt I had only scratched the surface, and yet, the more I played, the more everything I liked about it washed away.

Soon every new skill or rune unlock felt not as good as something I already had, and I was dying pretty much instantly in certain encounters, which were becoming more and more frequent until I stopped playing. Overall I feel like it's a well made game, and I would like to give it another shot at some point to see if any patches have addressed my issues with it, but it's the bottom end of things I played this year.

Number 11

Guild Wars 2 is similar to Diablo III for me, which is why it takes the 11th spot on this list. I have no love for Guild Wars, I actually bought it at launch, and ended up giving away my account to someone I played City of Heroes with, I cared that little about it, I just gave it away. Going into Guild Wars 2, I had pretty much no expectations, at that point I couldn't even remember what Guild Wars played like, and I hadn't been paying any attention to the pre-release hype.

My first experience with the beta was a bad one, it was the game at it's worst, 70 dudes in an area all rushing the same objective it would take 2 dudes to complete at the most, with horrible lag and rubberbanding even trying to fight or move. At launch, the technical issues had been addressed and there were good times to be had, but for me at least, they didn't last. The skill system probably was the biggest contributor to me just getting bored of the game. As you use weapons, you unlock new skills for that weapon, which fill out your hotbar. This is cool, until level 5, where you've unlocked everything, and switching weapons on the fly is hardly worth it in regular PvE.

I got to about level 37 until the game just started to feel like a series of checklists. Enter an area, look at the map, check off all the boxes on the map, move to next area. The combat in between lost it's shine for me once I unlocked all the utility skills I wanted to, and there were at least 40 more levels to go after that, with nothing to look forward to but checking off more boxes to make a number go up.

That's pretty much where it ended for me. It's a well made game, and it has some good ideas, but it just lacks any incentive to actually play it.

Number 10

I am horrible at competitive first person shooters. I avoid games like Call of Duty and Battlefield because I have zero fun just being a target for someone else, and I don't have the twitch skills and awareness to spot and kill someone before they do the same to me. Planetside 2 is no exception, but where it is exceptional, is in it's scale. The basic premise is: Battlefield in space, with three factions, and three huge maps where the game never ends.

The scale of the continents in Planetside 2 is kind of amazing. I had most of my fun with the game just being alone, exploring the world, and seeing what kind of trouble I could get into. I had some great times just stumbling into an outpost that was undefended, taking it all by myself, and waiting for someone to come and take it back. Or maybe it wasn't actually undefended, and there was a tense showdown for a few moments until one of us could take the outpost as their own.

I wish I could enjoy Planetside 2 more, it's got smart progression and unlocks to keep you playing for a long time, exporing the world is fun, and the shooting feels good. But the game breaks down for me when I need other players to get anything done, and the more players you add, the easier I get lost and lose interest. Seeing a fleet of galaxies close in on a bio lab or a line of tanks roll up on a facility is an amazing sight, I just don't want to be anywhere near it when it hits, on either end, and that is the crux of the experience.

Number 9

Syndicate was a surprise to me. I knew nothing about the original, and still don't know anything, aside from the fact that it's not a first person shooter. Hot off of the heels of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I was ready for more games in similar settings though, and Syndicate scratched that itch. That's not to say they're comparable experiences though.

Syndicate is very much a linear setpiece shooter, but there's nothing wrong with that if you have an interesting setting and a story to tell. The gunplay is really tight and the additional powers make encounters more interesting than in most shooters. The campaign only took me about 5 hours to complete, but it was just the perfect length for the story they were trying to tell.

Admittedly, I don't actually own the game, I borrowed it from a friend, and as such, I didn't get a chance to dig into the multiplayer part. I wish I had, but with just the single player campaign, I feel like it deserves a spot on this list.

Number 8

Wizorb is a really unique, charming game. Sure, somewhat similar concepts exist, such as Sequence and Puzzle Quest, but this feels very much like it's own thing anyways. If you're unfamiliar, Wizorb is a 16 bit style RPG where you're a wizard trying to collect coins to help rebuild a town. To collect coins, you travel around playing Arkanoid, only instead of powerups, you're collecting mana potions, which let you cast your sick wizard spells.

Another use for your coins is item shops you can bounce into inside of levels, as well as visit in town. You can even buy a wall at the bottom of the screen that will last 3 hits to help you through levels. It's a challenging game, I had to kick it down to easy just to get past the first set of levels, but it still took me about 7 hours to complete. I still haven't completed 100% of it, and will definitely go back and do so someday.

Because of my time with Wizorb, I'm looking forward to Tribute's next game, Mercenary Kings. But until then, you should probably play Wizorb.

Number 7

Super Monday Night Combat is a rare case for me. As of right now I've got 338 hours played according to steam, which doesn't count time spent playing in the beta, easily bringing it up over 400 hours. That is probably the most I have ever played any game that isn't an MMO, and I spent it in a competitive 3rd person MOBA. It really shouldn't have happened.

But it did, and there was a lot to love about the game. The mechanics were simple to understand, you don't need to worry about most of the things you need to worry about in RTS style MOBAs like League of Legends or Dota 2, all you need to know is, you need to shoot their robots. Sure there are some map specific hazards, and the annihilator, but those all take about one game to get to know about, and then you're back to what's important, shooting robots.

I guess you kill dudes too, but that's so far from the focus of the game, it's entirely possible to win a game without killing anyone, or at least not having more than 1 kill per person on your team. Matches are deigned to last from 15-25 minutes, which makes it way more accessible than other games in the genre to me, and even then, you can have some epic hour long stuggles where the teams are pretty much even, and that is some of the most fun you can have in the game.

The style, the humor, the personality, and the fun gameplay all came together into a really compelling experience that kept me wanting to play more. So it's a shame that eventually, the community dwindled down to the point where I didn't want to play anymore. Hopefully someday it picks back up again, because I'll be ready, but at this point I doubt it. The developer has largely moved on since getting like 2 million in kickstarter money for another game, and SMNC updates are light, and pretty much months apart now.

Number 6

I will admit, I haven't actually played too deep into Scribblenauts Unlimited, I'm on like the 3rd level or so, 1 hour into the game. But just from having played that, I know it belongs on this list. This is my first Scribblenauts, and while it took some getting used to how things worked and what I could and couldn't do, now that it's clicked with me, I'm having a great time collecting starites.

One example I've told a few people about already that I will recall here, because it was pretty much the defining moment for me, is early on. Some kids ask you to get their baseball back for them, but they tell you that you have to stay off the nearby old man's lawn. So naturally i walk directly onto his lawn, only to have him spring up out of the chair and grab their ball angrily.

I click on him and try to steal it and he backs away from me, so I quickly think to myself "How can I get this ball from this old man?" and as if a lightbulb had gone off over my head, I clicked the man again, and this time went to my notebook. Add Adjective. D E A D. Enter. The old man falls over dead, and I walk over and collect the ball, and return it to the kids.

The fact that this was a viable solution, and I was not somehow punished for coming up with it, let me know that I'm in for a lot more fun with Scribblenauts Unlimited.

Number 5

Another recent addition to my library, but still deserving of a spot on this list, is Super Hexagon. I'm still on the first set of 3 stages, and haven't finished any of them yet, I've only even played for 45 minutes total. But this isn't the kind of game you just play through a campaign and you're done with it. This is pretty much a drug.

You can boot the game and start playing in not even 1 second, and you're immediately assaulted by the pulsing colorful visuals and catchy, pounding music. This is how it hooks you. Your only objective is to survive, there is shit coming at you, you need to get out of the way of that shit. There's not a lot to it, but for some reason, when you die (and you will), you just instinctively and immediately press the "let me do that again" button, and you're right back in.

It's this addictive quality that's earned it a spot on my list. It's so fast and so light (32mb!) that I can see myself keeping it installed just to boot up whenever, over and over again for a long time to come. The built in leaderboards could definitely help with this, should more of my friends buy it.

Number 4

It's weird to talk about atmosphere in a top down 2D game, but Hotline Miami has amazing atmosphere. I'm sure everyone is sick to death of hearing how amazing the soundtrack is at this point, but it really is that good in the actual context of the game. As a collection of songs that I casually listen to, it's more hit or miss, there's only about 4 songs that fit that bill. But in the game, it's actually brilliant, and amplifies the mood of the experience that much more.

But Hotline Miami isn't just a soundtrack, it's an incredible game experience as well. While some would decry the gratuitous violence, to me it exists in the same realm as the soundtrack, to add to the atmosphere. It's not like you're some psychopath for enjoying a tight gameplay loop, even if that tight gameplay loop revolves around efficiently murdering every dude in a building.

I think that is why Hotline Miami hit me so hard, it's like the perfect run in a stealth game, without needing any of the stealth. You just hop from body to body without having to worry about hiding what you're doing, just hiding yourself from harm, since you are actually very fragile, you can't just stand and fight like you can in most stealth games should things go rotten.

As someone who loves stealth games, this seems like a different take on them to me. A sped up, stylish, and unique take on them, that is capable of tricking people who might not like those games into seeing it's charms.

Number 3

Like I mentioned, I love stealth games, and coincidentally, I also love ninjas. The Tenchu franchise is one of my favorites, even before I had any kind of personal bias towards it, and even after, though I've not played some of the more recent entries on consoles I don't even own or ever plan to. That brand of exacting planning and execution is one of my favorite things in videogames.

Mark of the Ninja isn't exactly that, but it's about as close as you can get in a 2D sidescrolling game. The stealth mechanics are easy to understand, everything is presented to you in a way that you're never surprised when you're spotted, it just means you failed in your execution somehow. Like Hotline Miami, you have a flow or a pattern you start going through in a level, retrying to really get it down and perfect.

I love this kind of thing in games, even if some of the games it's present in aren't exactly the best, they're some of my favorites. Mark of the Ninja is not a game I'd have any trouble recommending to someone because they're not also a fan of stealth games. The visuals are impressive, the animations are fluid, and the controls are super responsive. I'm not sure about the longevity once I complete everything, but it almost doesn't matter when I'm having this much fun with it.

Number 2

If you're surprised to see this game up so high, so am I. Let's back up for a second to explain why. It's 2009, Age of Conan has come and gone to me, I'm back playing City of Heroes, and I hear that the developers of Age of Conan are going to make a new MMO set in modern times called The Secret World. I think "well that sounds like a trainwreck" and laugh and go about my day. A couple trailers come out, I think at PAX? and they look decent, so I sign up for their beta/newsletter/whatever.

Fast forward to May 7th of this year, I get my beta invite, and proceed to give it away to a friend, because I wasn't in the mood for a new MMO, and I'd heard from some people who had gotten in before me that it was kinda janky and needed work still. 2 months later it launches, the friend I gave the key to ended up buying a lifetime subscription, he says it's awesome and I should give it a shot. It does sound cool but I still have no need to really and he's the only opinion I've heard on it at the time, so I go on ignoring it.

More and more people I know start playing, City of Heroes shuts down, and The Secret World makes the switch from a subscription model, to the Guild Wars 2 style "buy it once and you're set forever" model. I figured now was as good a time as any to jump in, so I picked it up for myself for xmas and installed it. The character creation was ok, I wish it was a bit deeper, but your character still feels unique once you're finished. You get 3 names, a first name, a nickname, and a last name, and all 3 display in game, a feature I think is pretty cool.

Once I got in game, I realized this isn't really a standard MMO. The first guy you talk to has fully voiced conversation options where you can just sit and listen to backstory on subjects of your choosing. This isn't uncommon, I find out as I get further in, a lot of NPCs have this. You don't need to listen to it, it's all just fleshing out the world and the characters if you want that, and it helped set the tone of the game for me.

Mechanically, it is kind of a standard MMO with some of it's own unique business. There are no classes, there are no levels. Your XP bar fills to represent how close you are to the next Ability Point or Skill Point, you can equip 2 weapons at a time, and take any abilities you want until you have 7 active and 7 passive abilities on your hotbars. Attacks operate on cooldowns and resources, the combat is fun, and unlocking more of the skills lets you equip stronger weapons and armor.

But what stands out the most to me is how it is pretty much the opposite of Guild Wars 2 in a lot of ways. They came out around the same time, but they go about things quite differently, aside from subscription model. Unlike GW2 where there aren't really "quests" outside the story missions, pretty much every quest is a story mission, with at least some kind of lore or dialogue worth seeing or hearing.

The Secret World limits your amount of active quests, which sounds shitty until you play with it, it usually puts some relevant/nearby side missions next to a main mission area, so you can tackle them quickly on your way to do the main mission. They can be off the beaten path a bit, so you end up exploring for hidden sidequests, instead of just seeing boxes to tick on the map to watch your % complete go up. And where GW2 peaked early for me, I already have more abilities than I know what to do with in TSW, with so so so many more to unlock over the course of my career still. Which has a ton of possibilities for trying out new things should I get bored of one set or another.

I know this is a lot of words about a game most people who read this (lol nobody is reading this) don't even care about, but I feel like I have to go out of my way to explain what makes this game so good that it's above all these other amazing games from this year, and explain that I honestly didn't think I would like it this much either. It's overall quality and how quickly it hooked me is one of the biggest surprises of the year to me, and that puts it in my #2 spot.

Number 1

Like most people, I loved Borderlands. I went into that game fresh, I knew nothing about it and was pleasantly surprised. I had high expectations for Borderlands 2, and leading up to it's release, I wasn't so sure they would be able to meet them. I was actually worried because my friend was still in super hype mode, and it was all just kind of hitting me and falling directly to the ground. I didn't want to pump this game up so much I would be let down.

But it worked out in my favor in the end I guess, being reasonably cool on Borderlands 2 at release let it blow me away that much more. It helped that I had gotten the itch to reinstall Borderlands just before it released to wrap up some achievements (which I still don't have, and fuck them), so I could make a more direct comparison. Borderlands 2 blows away Borderlands so hard that I can't even sit here and tell you that Borderlands 2 is just more Borderlands.

Borderlands 2 is more of a reinvention of Borderlands from the ground up. Sure, they look the same, and have the same ideas, but everything about Borderlands 2 is so much more polished and refined, it makes it painful to go back to the original. The UI is smarter, the world doesn't look as muddy, the gunplay is greatly improved thanks to the gun manufacturers having their own style now, and the improved AI that doesn't just stand there or run directly at you.

A lot of these things aren't immediately apparent on the surface. You could look at them side by side and say "yeah, that sure is the sequel to that, they look the same", but it's probably the most drastic changes to a sequel I've seen without going in a blatantly different direction. Imagine if Call of Duty next year didn't FEEL like the typical Call of Duty gunplay. Something felt different in how the bullets behaved, or how looking down the sights felt, you would notice immediately. That's how Borderlands 2 is compared to Borderlands for me, but it's a good thing.

On top of the mechanical upgrades, they got rid of the shitty gamespy of the original and used steamworks, which let them integrate the co-op so much better. You could just boot up the game and see a list of everyone you know who is playing it, what level they are, what quest they are on, and how many people they have. Just that simple menu is one of the most powerful additions they could have made, making it so much easier to get into an ideal situation for maximum enjoyment.

Personally, Borderlands 2 hit me in a special way because of the circumstances surrounding it's release. I had installed it, and was fully prepared to play in co-op with my friend as a Siren, just like I had in the first game. Until tragedy struck, and I was left without internet from September 20th to October 10th. Not wanting to mess with my co-op progress, I made an Assassin to solo through the game hoping my internet came back soon. Eventually that turned into a Commando, and then a Gunzerker. I had finished the game 3 times and gotten to around level 33-35 with each character before I got internet back.

I never wanted to play the first Borderlands alone, it was boring, and I had even less desire to play classes that weren't Siren. But here I was in Borderlands 2 doing both at the same time, and still having a blast with it. Once I got internet back, the Mechromancer was released, and I took one of those through the game in co-op, and now I'm finally working on my Siren, slowly but surely.

I still don't have a level 50 character in Borderlands 2, so I haven't seen any of the "endgame" bosses, and I haven't purchased any of the DLC, so there's still hours of content out there that I have yet to experience, and I've already played and enjoyed 95 hours of it. The Secret World probably has it beat on overall longevity, but Borderlands 2 was the game I enjoyed playing the most this year, and probably will continue to enjoy into next year.


[Star Wars: The Old Republic] Beta Impressions

I spent most of this weekend (Saturday/Sunday/Monday) playing this with a friend of mine, and now that I've given it a few days to kind of settle, I figure I might as well write something about it, as it's been a while since I've done one of these.

My Sith Inquisitor, Elvia, freshly created on Saturday morning.
My Sith Inquisitor, Elvia, freshly created on Saturday morning.

First thing is first, this is an MMO, it is a good one of those, but it is totally still one of those, so if that's not your thing, you probably won't like much here. If you're kind of done with MMOs though, it may actually have something to get you interested again, depending on what you're burnt out on. I won't spend much time talking about what's familiar, I would rather write about what's different about this game for someone who knows their way around an MMO.

The most noticeable thing at first is there is no auto-attack, right clicking an enemy will activate whatever ability is in the number 1 hotbar slot, this is nice because it can be ranged or melee, depending on what abilities your character has, and you're not stuck with a weak ability your entire career. It's not as nice because you don't notice immediately, and wonder why you have to manually click to attack, and why your basic attack triggers global cooldown.

I don't even know what these things are.
I don't even know what these things are.

In a somewhat sinister move, all quest dialog is voiced, in Mass Effect style conversations, where your character will actually speak back to quest givers. This helps immersion and story out a lot, but you spend about 10 times as long actually getting and turning in quests, unless you just spacebar through everything until a dialog choice pops up. This kind of sets a pace to leveling, especially in groups, so you're not consistently just mashing through text and missing all story on the way, it helps as well that the early story is also much cooler and more involved than most other MMOs.


For the first 10 levels or so you're kind of stuck in this tutorial zone, where everything but some of the last quests being built specifically to solo. At level 10 the game starts to open up a bit though, you get your first companion at the end of your class story quest line. A companion is like a pet from other MMOs, you can set them to passive, or aggressive, and determine what abilities they will use on their own really easily, so they need very little micromanagement. Your starter companion will also fill a role you don't, which is really nice, getting an AI buddy who can tank for you as a mage style class, etc.

Me and my companion, talking to a hologram, thinkin' about lightsabers.
Me and my companion, talking to a hologram, thinkin' about lightsabers.

But combat isn't all companions are for, companions are also used for crafting, gathering, can go on missions of their own for xp, and can be sent away to sell your junk items for you while you quest. You can also chat with your companions, and in conversations with quest givers, they will show approval or disapproval of your actions, like my guy Khem Val hated weakness, so whenever I would just be a total dick to people, he'd happily give me a +15 affection point bonus.

Sending out my companion to collect some crystals to raise my Archaeology skill.
Sending out my companion to collect some crystals to raise my Archaeology skill.

At about level 18, you get your own starship, which acts kinda like a mini-Normandy, for those familiar with Mass Effect. Your companions hang out there (you get a second companion who tends to your ship when you're not around) where you can talk to them and such, there's a Cargo Hold where you can store items from your inventory and acts like a bank, and there is a Galaxy Map, where you can fly around the galaxy checking out new planets for missions.

Flying to the Imperial Fleet from the Galaxy Map.
Flying to the Imperial Fleet from the Galaxy Map.

Also from the Galaxy Map, you can take on some space combat missions. Space combat missions are very simple, but fun, they almost remind me of a very simple Star Fox, with only mouse controls to move, left click will fire lasers and right click will shoot out missiles (which you have a limited number of). Your ship is just like your character, or your companions, and you can buy new "gear" for it to upgrade it, you can also earn some as rewards for space combat missions.

There's still XP for doing space combat missions.
There's still XP for doing space combat missions.

Something else I haven't mentioned is grouping, I kinda wanted to get the rest of the stuff out of the way before I added the grouping modifier to it. How the conversation system works with a group is, everyone gets their own choices, but in the lower left corner of the screen, there is a dice roll to determine who actually gets to speak to move the conversation forward. Any light or dark side points are awarded for choices individually, so you can't troll your light side friend by being a dick and giving him dark side points, but if your roll is the highest, the dark side option is what moves the story forward, and that will stick for everyone in the group as the decision that was made when you turn in the mission.

The popup you get when you make a choice that will earn you dark side points.
The popup you get when you make a choice that will earn you dark side points.

The other thing about grouping and conversations, is you get social points for every dialog choice. If you choose the opposite of your teammate (the one who won the roll I believe) you will earn 1 social point per group member. If you manage to pick the same option, you'll get 2 points per group member. Social points tie into titles (social rank 1: Friendly [character name], social rank 2: [character name] the Outgoing, etc.), and can also unlock new social items to buy from special vendors. Light and Dark side points have the same kind of special vendors, but some gear in general will have a requirement of light 1 or dark 1 to equip it. For example, if you're neutral or light 1, you can use green and blue lightsaber crystals, but if you're dark 1, you can't use those colors at all.

Doing an Area quest with my group. The light beacons are loot to pick up.
Doing an Area quest with my group. The light beacons are loot to pick up.

I didn't do very much of the PvP, but the 2 matches I did play were fun gametypes. The first was attack and defend, I seemed a bit lost there, but still managed to have a good time with it. The second was Battlefield style control points, 3 points to control, each team has points ticking down to 0, losing points and dying makes them tick faster. Apparently there's a 3rd gametype, possibly more but i know for sure a 3rd, where you play some kind of soccer game, I didn't get a chance to play that one myself though.

A PvP scoreboard, medals are awarded for things like killing players 1 on 1.
A PvP scoreboard, medals are awarded for things like killing players 1 on 1.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with The Old Republic. As tired as I am of the MMO formula, there was enough fresh and neat and novel about it that I could totally see myself playing it. Like I said in the beginning, it's totally one of those, but it's a good one of those. For a beta it was surprisingly polished, and it's taken the right things from the games it took things from. I'm sure playing with a friend made it that much better, as with most games, but the story stuff is interesting enough I could see myself playing it alone, never grouping or raiding, with 8 different characters just to see all the class stories, pretending it's just another Bioware game.

Elvia, now a Sith Sorceror, on Monday night before the servers went down. Eyes now orange from the corruption of the Dark side.
Elvia, now a Sith Sorceror, on Monday night before the servers went down. Eyes now orange from the corruption of the Dark side.

Thanks for reading~


[Mortal Kombat] The End of the Road

 I beat all 300 Challenge Tower missions without skipping any... 

 ... and all I got was this lousy costume.
 ... and all I got was this lousy costume.
Also, I didn't get the 10,000 koins it said I'd get. Not like I have anything to spend them on, but still kinda lame.


 and After
 and After