My Time at Eorzea, Week Two - Walls

Hi, I'm TFP. I spent another week playing Final Fantasy XIV - A Realm Reborn, and I figured I'd continue writing about it until the Twitch Prime trial ended. Last week, I became an adventurer, talked to a crystal, hung out with cool thieves, then became a ninja. This week, I did a whole lot more of the same, except this time with added base-game level cap hitting.

Try all you like, I'll keep writing these blogs.
Try all you like, I'll keep writing these blogs.

The main scenario started for the week, to my understanding, with a bunch of hidden character tests to determine whether or not I was a good enough person to take on the Titan, one of the Primals. The Primals are a bunch of older Final Fantasy summons that just seem to hang out in Eorzea and get worshiped as deities. A rather long quest chain involving running a bunch of errands for people until they all showed up at a party and went "Yeah, we were just doing that to see if you were a nice person. The way to Titan is that way."

The Titan boss fight itself is uneventful, but does have the problem of taking place on top of a pillar of rock covered in ornamental lava that makes the ground glow the same color orange as the AOE threat indicator, which makes it incredibly difficult to tell where you're supposed to stand to avoid said attacks. This resulted in me and my squad killing the boss right as I got launched straight off the platform, resulting in my rather hilarious death.

After that, it turns out the whole fighting Titan thing was mostly a distraction so the evil Empire of Garlemald, a bunch of people who look like Destiny villains could show up and abduct the leader of the adventurer's guild I'm a part of, while also murdering a whole lot of other adventurers. Bummer. The next leg of the story resulted in quests following three general directives. First, the surviving members of the guild had to find any ally they could, most of which centered around a church near a location called Camp Drybone, which unfortunately had nothing to do with skeletal turtles. Next, locating the location of said leader who got stolen by the empire.

Mostly your airship.
Mostly your airship.

The third thing sort of ties into the first two. In meeting up with the church fellows, I ended up running some quests for a dude by the name of Marques. Or at least, that's what he said his name was. It turns out his name is actually Cid, because you can't have a Final Fantasy game without a dude (or lady) named some derivation of Cid, for some reason. Also unsurprisingly, he's got an airship. Somewhere. Luckily, some friendly people up in the snowy region of Eorzea seem to have been looking after it.

Of course, by friendly, I mean almost maliciously unfriendly. Also having their own problems with some kind of dragon cult. Most of what this means is that there's a long chain of quests involving an innocent person being accused of being a dragon cultist while trying to figure out who the actual dragon cultist is. Of course, by the end of this, another queue for a dungeon involving fighting many dragons is involved, but finally, the people let Cid have his airship back.

Tell me about it.
Tell me about it.

Then it was time to actually use the airship. This meant picking up another chain of quests involving getting it ready to fight Garuda, a wind-based Primal located in a violent windstorm called the Howling Eye. I actually had to take a moment to look up why we had to fight this bird lady, and the reason seems to boil down to "I dunno, the crystal I talk to in my head told me to do it". So that's cool.

Anyway, one dead Primal later, and it was time to go rescue the guild lady. One Imperial disguise later, and it's done. The game seems to be crashing into the endgame at this point, which brings us to the main point I want to talk about in this blog post: The Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium. Or, as I was informed as I was talking to my friends: The Wall.

Too much psych. Waaaay too much psych.
Too much psych. Waaaay too much psych.

After another week with the game, I have stopped bemoaning it for inserting mandatory dungeon escapades with other people. At least they seem important enough by the game's own narrative standpoint, even if I think the game's narrative isn't necessarily outstanding. As the base game started to crash into the ending, starting with the final non-dungeon related "boss fight", in quotes for both the reason of lacking a better term and also for said boss basically just being a regular enemy with a party of people beating it up, the amount of people necessary to queue up for these events jumped from four to eight. consisting of two healers, two tanks, and four DPS players. This already makes the frustrating queue times even longer, but, as informed by my MMO-loving friends, there was another reason this queue takes forever.

Waiting patiently over here.
Waiting patiently over here.

And that reason is "Nobody wants to do these last two dungeons". As relayed to me, because they're so important to the plot of the game, Square Enix decided to make it so that the cutscenes, of which there are many, are completely unskippable. This makes it far less likely for higher level players to queue up for the dungeons, because not only would they get very little out of it, but it would also take forever, preventing them from doing other things.

After doing some research, Square Enix has tried to make it more appealing by providing these dungeons with their own "leveling roulette", a system in place to give players who have out-leveled older content a reason to go back to help out newer players by raising the amount of reward they get for queuing up for a random dungeon. The roulette that targets these specific dungeons apparently give a massive boost to the rewards if higher-level players help out when compared to the general leveling roulette. Unfortunately, it still isn't effective, because the rewards just don't scale enough to the players it's trying to attract who are knee-deep in the expansions.

Which leads to what seems like the obvious question, as someone who still hasn't done either of these dungeons: Why are they forced to be multiplayer at all? The game already has a system in place for instanced combat arenas against "tougher" enemies, where your character is assisted by NPC fighters. If you're that concerned about ensuring the players get your story, why would you force them to get 8 people all at essentially the same point in the story together to do something that could probably just as easily be accomplished by one player and a handful of AI buddies? It seems baffling.

Anyway, queuing up for Castrum Meridianum is where this week's progress has left me. After about 30 minutes of queuing last night, I ended up with a party of four DPS and two healers before the major storm currently hitting the Eastern United States knocked out the internet in my area. If anyone on the Diabolos world or Primal server wants to help me out, that'd be cool. Besides that, if anyone has any hot tips, tricks, or topics they want me to tackle, I'm all ears there as well. After the surprise additional two weeks, I now have about a month left of my original one month free trial, so that's pretty cool.

Goodbye!
Goodbye!

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My Time at Eorzea, Week One - On Queue

Hi. I'm TFP. I like to write stuff. A lot of it ends up on this website in the form of a review or game of the year list you may or may not have read. Today I thought I'd try something a little different. Twitch Prime, the service in which Amazon decides that if you link an Amazon Prime account to a Twitch account, they'll give you free games, decided it was going to throw Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn out for free in the middle of February, presumably to entice people to try out the new expansion coming this July. As someone who will try anything for free*, I decided I'd give it a shot.

*Subject to terms and conditions. Certain restrictions may apply. Offer void in Nebraska and Colorado.

Normally, I don't really play that many MMOs. I've tried out a decent range of free to play ones, but the only ones I ever stuck with to a level cap were Neverwinter and Guild Wars 2. I also popped a 30 day free trial of World of Warcraft back when there was a video feature, and have returned a few times over the intervening years, but mostly I just stick to not-multiplayer games. Plus, the MMOs I did play, I tended to keep to myself in. Some people like doing the PvP stuff, others enjoy doing Raids and big late-game content challenges, but I kind of just enjoy the general questing nature of MMOs. I tend to think of the other people running about as something akin to time trial ghosts in a racing game. Things to look at and go "Hey, that's a cool outfit." or "Oh, that class effect seems pretty neat." but never as anything more than that.

With that preamble out of the way, I made my character and jumped in. I just want to comment on the fact that despite the fact that Thief/Rogue was a job class in the original Final Fantasy, I find it incredibly irritating that not only did they later patch in a rogue as a job class later, it's also not available for you to start as. So instead I decided to start as an Archer, because Hawkeye's a cool lady.

I'm an adult.
I'm an adult.

As I got used to the myriad systems and teleportation options, a few things jumped out at me, the MMO novice. First of all, moving around is a bit of a bear. The fact that sprinting is your only option to move slightly faster near the very beginning of the game, and it only lasts for 20 seconds, then takes a minute to cool down before you can sprint again, is moderately irritating. (Later I would discover what those Aethernet shards were around the major cities, but it's not abundantly clear at first). Second, the fact that they let you give your created character a first and a last name is perhaps the best part of FFXIV, as the names run the gamut from mine, seen right, which is an old D&D name that sounded cool, to super edgy names like "Darkangel Reaper" that I forgot to grab a screengrab of, to pretty amusing jokes.

Anyway, I don't quite remember how the early story goes, because it seemed especially boring, even for Final Fantasy, but I eventually impressed the adventurer's guild and some grand lady of the forest to be whisked away via airship to the other sections of the map, and I was finally able to become a Rogue. I think the Rogue storyline has been my favorite part thus far, following a guild of heart-of-gold thieves and scoundrels as they try to reclaim stolen artifacts from various pirate groups. Along the way there's a somewhat amusing cop who tries to take you down for being dirty rotten thieves, and while it's not particularly original, it's at least compelling enough that I wasn't idly skipping cutscenes as soon as they started. Unfortunately, since I switched to Rogue, I had to spend a few hours grinding back up to the level I had been as Archer, because despite the main story quests primarily consisting of "Talking to people, then getting experience", I had to be above a certain level threshold to complete them.

Riveting gameplay.
Riveting gameplay.

After catching my Rogue level back up to where my Archer was, it was time to resume the main story. As I progressed, learning more about my character's connection to crystals and aether and assorted other fantasy-esque buzzwords, the time came to deal with some pirates. This meant queuing up for one of the game's many (presumably many, I don't know, I've only gotten up to the fifth one) dungeons. And here's where FFXIV started to lose me. I know, I know, it's a multiplayer game, I shouldn't be surprised when the multiplayer part of the massively multiplayer starts to creep in to the RPG.

But by that same token: Holy cow, those queue times. And that's like noon on a weekend, in the screenshot. What a way to just grind forward progression to a halt. Admittedly, after talking to some of my friends who regularly play this game, some of that time was "on me". When I would play with them, and one of them was playing as a healer or a tank, the queue times dropped from over 16 minutes down to just about instantaneously. Turns out: lots of people play DPS classes, not as many play healers or tanks. But by the same token, there has to be a better way to tell your MMO's story than pausing the quests to make people sit in a party queue.

And mind you, I think the quest design in FFXIV is pretty good. While a lot of the quests are just "Go to location A, talk to person A, person A needs you to go to person B in location B, repeat until someone sends you back to person A", they do a good job of breaking up the traditional MMO quests of killing a certain number of indigenous wildlife. Some of the quests involve doing certain emotes at NPCs, which is pretty novel, though the quest where you have to dance for a bunch of sylphs is moderately demeaning.

Artist's rendition of what playing a Ninja is like in Final Fantasy XIV
Artist's rendition of what playing a Ninja is like in Final Fantasy XIV

Rather quickly, due to starting on one of Square Enix's "preferred worlds", which seems to just mean a lower population server, I hit level 30, which is where the jobs unlock. See, in Final Fantasy XIV, classes and jobs are two different things. So while my class is a Rogue, my Job is a Ninja. It seems a little weird because after cursory research, only one class has the option of choosing between two different jobs, and most of the jobs added in the various expansions aren't tied to a particular class. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to the rogue's guild I had enjoyed up to that point and become a ninja, which is significantly less cool. It also meant leaving the various guildmates I had grown to enjoy for a rather stuffy ninja man and his ninja sister. They taught me the ancient ninja arts of totally-not-japan-but-where-ninja-and-samurai-come-from-in-FFXIV-realm, which at early levels mainly consists of tossing a gigantic shuriken at people.

Tossing a giant shuriken works via "mudra", which are a set of up to 3 hotkey presses followed by pressing the ninja attack button. They start you off easy, since the giant shuriken only takes one mudra to use. However, they start to add in more mudra, meaning the Ninja class really just feels like Invoker from Dota 2 just popped in to design an MMO character. The colors of the mudra are even somewhat similar to Invoker's orbs.

Anyway, after about eight days (so this is really week one-ish), I've got a level 37 or so Ninja waiting around in front of a spooky forest mansion until one of my healer or tank friends decides to help me deal with a spooky ghost mansion. I'm bad at concluding these, so if someone reads this and has any FFXIV tips or anything they want me, random person on the internet playing FFXIV through a free trial to check out, feel free to let me know.

I believe we're 8 days down, 22 to--wait, hang on.

...what?
...what?

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TFP decides to write things because he doesn't do enough things already.

Man, this new site is all crazy! For the most part I'm a fan, although I do miss the forums on the front page because I liked jumping into all of the discussions, not just ones that I have bookmarked.

Anyway, one thing I've always kind of wanted to do was write things because people used to tell me I was decent at it, so I guess I'll just sit here, this Saturday evening, and do just that about some of the games I've been playing. There will be spoilers. Maybe I'll even do it next week? Who knows.

Fire Emblem: Awakening, or how time travel can really muck things up.

After going to/calling a combination of 6 different stores ACROSS HALF OF MY STATE, I finally managed to track down a (singular) physical copy of Awakening. It was definitely worth it though, the box art and cartridge art are both beyond amazing, although I really am hating the trend of "instruction manuals" being fold-out sheets of paper. Considering how awesome the instruction manuals to Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn were, the fold out was more than a little disappointing, but I digress.

Point is, Fire Emblem: Awakening is decidedly my early contender for Game of the Year. And truthfully I don't see it falling too far below 2nd or 3rd. While the gameplay is still the high-tension tactics from the rest of the series (of which I've only played any amount of Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and never actually... beaten any of them), but what really makes this game shine, in my eyes, are how great the characters are, and the eventual connections they build through the paralogues.

It's these connections between parents/children that brought a new level of personal dedication to the characters for me (even though I ended my first run through the game with only 2 sets of parents/3 children). And, while most of the parents I had were lords and thus couldn't die without it being game over, I do kind of wonder what happens if the parent were to die. Would you lose the child unit? I don't know.

Also, I have no idea how my personal child... set-up... even worked. Because I had the unit that was me, and I married Lucina (hold your surprise). Seeing as she's from the future (and I think I am too?) does that mean there are two of me in this time period, as well as two of her? And, considering the ending of that game, does that mean there are 3 of me in that time period at that time? And since we had a child, who seemed to be roughly the same age as we were, at one time was she born? With the us that were babies, or the us that were time travelers? And what about--

You know what, at this point, I'm just going to wave my hands around, say TIME TRAVEL really loud, and move on.

Saints Row 2, or how OH GOD, I'M A MONSTER!

I really like Saints Row: The Third. It's the right amount of crazy. Everything in that game is ridiculous to the point of absurdity to the point of normalcy. So when Saints Row 2 was free on Playstation Plus a while ago, I picked it up. I ended up barely playing the intro and then deleting it to make room for other things.

Lately I redownloaded it, and man... It's... harsh.

And incredibly glitchy.

I mean, thus far I've only completed the Ronin stuff and done the first one or two mission of the Brotherhood and the Sons of Samedi. And I don't like Boss. In The Third, I felt like there was more of a line between the Saints and the Syndicate. Not much of one, but at the very least there was one. On the other hand, Boss and the Saints feel like bigger villains than the opposing gangs in 2, and that's saying something.

I'm not going to say it's objectively worse or better, but I am going to say that I don't particularly like it.

What I will say is worse is that about 3 times now, most of the time after boss fights, the game just hard locks on me. And it sucks, because I really hate all of the boss fights I've had thus far. They're all terrible. Countering has a weird timing and the only two times I ever beat Shogo were do to less malicious glitching.

The Cave, or how I missed actual adventure games.

If anything, The Cave taught me that man, when adventure games feel great, adventure games feel great. It almost feels plucked out of a different era, what with the puzzles that wouldn't seem out of place in the classic Lucasarts adventures. The puzzles were truly mindbending, but in the good way of making me feel really smart when I figured them out. The writing, voice acting, and atmosphere were top-class in adventure games, and I can't wait to return to the depths of The Cave.

Thus far, I've only completed one trip in The Cave (using The Twins, The Adventurer, and The Monk), and I got the bad endings with all 3 (accidentally, in that I didn't know there was a good/bad ending until looking it up later). I definitely want to go back and write more once I've seen everything, so I think I'm going to cut this segment a bit short.

In conclusion, or hey, writing this wasn't that bad.

All in all, Fire Emblem: Awakening is absolutely stellar, Saints Row 2 I'm not going to say is bad, is just not my cup of tea, and The Cave is charming and the best adventure game I've played since 2008.

Hope you enjoyed this blog, and maybe I'll remember to do something again next week.

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