An Eorzean Interlude (part 1)

Back on Thursday last week I saw online that Final Fantasy 14 was having a welcome back event lasting through 1st May, whereby you could log back in and have 96 hours of game time for free starting anytime until that date. We’ve passed on at least two of these events before, although husband and I really enjoyed playing the game as a duo, we burned out on the super-lengthy quest content before we made it to Heavensward’s expansion zones.

It’s been years since then and it felt like the right time to spend the long Easter weekend just playing the game again. It helps that husband’s on a short break from WoW that just started and other friends weren’t available so we had literally nothing to interrupt this. Jumping back in was relatively easy: beyond the rather large patch, we did have to redo skill shortcuts since our jobs had lost some skills and gained new ones, plus the ‘cross class’ skills were now ‘role skills’ (yes it’s been that long!).

All those outdated skills…

Over the course of three days solid play we’ve experienced some of the best and worst aspects of the game, over the rest of this post and a follow-up I’ll outline my thoughts on these.

Stuff to love about FFXIV:

1. The graphics

This game is so graphically rich and beautiful. The spell effects, the landscapes, the changing weather (e.g. moody thunderstorms in the Shroud) – it is so pretty to play.

It makes me stop and take screenshots constantly when I’m playing, which is a very good sign that I’m enjoying the game.

I could just fill the post with lots of screenshots from these few days but I’ll restrain myself, I’m sure it is easy enough to find a lot more examples on other blogs.

2. Duo-friendly features

This game actually has a few stand-out features for small group play, things that we’d forgotten and, contrasted to other games we’ve played since, made us smile. Firstly if a character teleports (usually this costs some money) somewhere and group mates are nearby, they get offered to ‘ride’ the teleport for free. It’s similar in effect I suppose to the ‘Meet-up’ system in Secret World.

The game has a lot of riding around for the questing. That’s not a complaint, I’ve posted recently that I find it relaxing to actually do a good amount of travel while playing. FFXIV has two features that make for easy duo-play in this aspect: a two-person mount and a follow command. Generally we rode around on our own chocobos, but if one needed a break it was easy to make good use of time by using my two-person chocobo to take both together. Likewise we made judicious use of the follow command while mounted – something we’ve done in many MMORPGs, but I’ve noticed of late with the trend towards action combat (e.g. Tera) follow commands aren’t available as often.

These are little things but they make quite a difference over time.

3. So much content, with variety

As a returning player the game could be considered daunting given the sheer volume of content we haven’t touched. I’ve continued reading FFXIV blogs in the intervening years so I’m aware of some of these different additions. As we’ve wandered around Eorzea there are quests and feature-unlocks everywhere. We stuck to the Main Scenario Quests (MSQ) series almost exclusively, only stopping to unlock the odd dungeon hard mode or job feature

We’ve seen a lot of really good questing content; with laughs, pathos, plot-twists and surprises. There’s combat-heavy content of course but also, perhaps, a more than average share of non-combat activities and interactions – FFXIV gets you to talk to a lot of NPCs.

There’s also been the MSQ mandatory group content, mostly ‘trials’ (one-boss 8-person fights). These have been challenging for us on our first attempt, but enjoyable and mechanically interesting.

4. All the cute

Final Fantasy 14 does cute like almost no other MMORPG, other games have cute things in them, but FFXIV has so much cute and raises the bar with specific creatures. That’s a good or bad thing depending on your tastes, but we love it.

Cutest boss fight, ever…

It just made us smile a lot as we played, and sometimes laugh out loud at how cutesy some of the stuff is. On the above pictured trial I was super lucky and got the Bard bow weapon drop on my first try. Every time I draw or sheath my bow it makes a Moogle-floating sound. I may never replace that weapon!

So there are lots of positives to my experience of the game in 2018 based on three pretty-intensive days of playing the game. We’ve not reached Heavensward in this time, though rushing content isn’t our thing anyway so that was never likely to happen. I’ll talk more about content pacing and other less positive aspects of this dip back into the game in my next post.

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Posted in FFXIV, Gaming

Beast’r egg hunt 2018 #EverquestII

My Easter Sunday started with a relaxing egg hunt in Everquest 2 for this year’s Beast’r live event. This year there are five new named eggs to find in starter city zones. I checked out this excellent guide so I knew the names to look for.

I chose to take the easy route, I didn’t have all day to wander around looking for them, so I spent a good half hour bothering guards if they knew where to find this egg or that egg. I also chose to collect the ‘shinies’ as I rode around to complete the post-themed collection for the city, somehow this character hadn’t ever done it!

Qeynos-style mailbox reward for collection

It was a very relaxing game session, meandering around the city, watching other players riding around and switching to different city zones using the bell teleport. I imagine the guards may not be quite so relaxed about the influx of egg-hunting heroes , indeed some seemed less than pleased to be asked for the whereabouts of “Zesty” or “Bubbly”.

Having collected them all I’m all done for another year, though I was able to trade in some duplicates for the new housing decoration versions!

Some new additions to the menagerie

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 1 Comment

MMORPGs as interactive entertainment

Stargrace has a recent post talking about game and movie crossovers. The topic interested me particularly because of the interactive role we get to play as protagonist:

The appeal of most video games is the chance to be the hero yourself and directly influence the action. Often games will echo the kind of scenes you are familiar with from a typical action film, sci-fi space adventure or war movie, but they allow you to play the lead role.

If you’ve played many of the games in this genre you’re used to your character being portrayed as a leading character – in Guild Wars 2 we are ‘the Commander’ of a vast allied army and in World of Warcraft we’ve progressed to being the leader of a class order. Not that all of the MMORPGs give you a leading role, Lord of the Rings Online is careful to portray your character as heroic, but not quite in the same league or position as members of the Fellowship of the Ring. In Rift your character is one of many ‘Ascended’ that are tasked with saving the world – powerful, but not unique.

A newly constructed (Defiant) Ascended

My attitude to interactive versus passive entertainment has shifted a lot over the years, and I would say playing MMORPGs for the last eleven years has contributed to that. I do watch movies and TV but rarely, and never as my first choice of activity. These-days, if the opportunity presents itself I would always choose to play a game over sit watching something.

TV hasn’t evolved to offer dialogue choices yet…

MMORPGs in the current era present gaming that is varied and potentially very social. They have the continuity of characters that a TV series might have, but they are interactive – you direct the action to a larger extent. Unlike single player games or console games they have longevity and often no distinct or planned end. Some MMORPGs have even managed to release content with a regularity that mirrors a show’s seasons to some extent (e.g. GW2).

Leading the troops into battle as ‘the Commander’

So I would value MMORPGs as overall holding more entertainment value than single player games in general, although single player games may have more complexity of gameplay or more choices as a character, they rarely match the MMORPG base playtime and lack their longevity. The chance for random social encounters, grouping and even conflict with other players in MMOs is something else that passive entertainment and single player games cannot come close to matching.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Guild Wars, Rift | 3 Comments

Population sweet-spots #RiftPrime

I imagine that MMORPG development is very difficult conceptually, not even the game development itself, but dealing with a potentially large and fractious playerbase cannot be easy to plan for. As I plod through Rift Prime’s Stonefield zone I’m feeling more relaxed about the pace of questing and events, things have certainly thinned out from when I joined the server, albeit already late to the party back on the 14th or so of the month.

Freemarch back then was awash with players, it was fun but pretty frantic for the first half of the zone at least. I cannot imagine what a mess questing was when the first hordes of players washed across it. By the end of the zone there was notably less competition for “click the thing” quests. In Stonefield that less competitive landscape continues, although that doesn’t mean I’m not having to silently negotiate with other players over who gets what update. Grouping up to share the updates does not, of course, occur to either of us. Players do join in for kills at least, that can speed up fights and doesn’t impact me in any negative way that I’m aware of (this isn’t old-school LOTRO with the XP penalty).

Are they going for the same objective?

Despite the noticeable drop in population, there are enough players around that rifts are being closed, so I can easily do the zone’s repeatable quests for closing rifts and killing rift-spawned monsters. Also invasions are still attracting a very healthy army of heroes to take down the extra-planar threats.

I’ve written before, multiple times it seems, about the importance of player population to my enjoyment of MMORPGs – it doesn’t need to be constantly heaving to have a positive effect, indeed too many players is often a negative. However, I’ve experienced enough ‘ghost town’ zones in my time to not want to persevere if there aren’t enough potential allies nearby to group with. Rift Prime is still fun for me for now, but given a few more weeks will I be left alone in these early zones?

Posted in Gaming, Rift

Riding around virtual worlds #EverquestII #RiftPrime

Over the course of the weekend I’ve squeezed in some solid sessions of MMORPG goodness. I’ve done several stints of leveling my Inquisitor in Planes of Power, now at level 105. Questing in EQ2 is super relaxing gaming usually, although some concentration is needed to work out what to do and where from hints in the quest text.

I love all the travel actually, the questing often has a lot of back and forth, but I don’t see that as a negative these days. It’s good to be travelling around on my beautiful flying mount and admiring the vistas in the Plane of Magic.

Riding around is also something I’m now doing on Rift Prime’s Vigil server. I finished Freemarch on Saturday and had enough saved to buy a basic mount. So now I’m mostly questing up in Stonefield, although returning to Meridien to do auction sales, banking and some crafting and daily quests.

The questing itself is a trip down memory lane of course, but I’m keen to do any zone-invasions that come up – I’ve only timed it right to do one so far in this second zone, so I look forward to more epic fighting as I progress.

I make use of shortcuts in both games when they’re available – Call or Soul Recall (a k a Hearthstone), but I never shy away from travelling on hoof or foot when questing. It helps that I love to gather shinies and crafting mats so I enjoy being out and about, and roaming wider than just the quest area.

Sometimes it’s nice to just ride around and to see what you come across.

Following the road, where it may lead…

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Rift | 1 Comment

Build check time #SWL

Although some things are very different about Secret World Legends, compared to The Secret World, other things are very familiar. One of these confronted us as we played our last session, the forced solo instance encounter. Finishing up on the City of the Sun God we had the mission Black Sun, Red Sand.

It dawned on me that I’ve repeated a mistake that I’d made back when we played through the original game – building your character around the dungeon trinity roles other than dps/damage dealer means you will eventually be blocked from completing these instanced story-bosses.

My previous character was our trio’s tank, this time around I went healer (Fist/Blood). So I found myself hitting this boss like a wet blanket and dying to inevitable mistakes from the fight taking too long and me being over-tired. I play the Secret World (either game) for its story, not for its combat, so forced solo instances remind me quickly how little I like the combat in the game and how much better it is to play with friends.

I gave up on the first stab at this fight, I was way to tired and it was too late to start crafting a new build. This morning I set about looking for a full-dps Blood/Fist build or a Fist/Blood one. I quickly found some build explanation videos on Youtube by Bishiknight, although actually I couldn’t copy them as they assume you’ve fully unlocked actives and passives for the weapons in question. I’ve only unlocked an elite on Fist, have just over half the Fist passives and have a smattering of Blood actives but very few passives. So instead of trying to follow the suggested build, I just listened to the descriptions of various synergies and areas where no such synergy exists (he mentions that Blood/Fist is a particularly bad combination). I tried shifting anima allocation around towards damage but found I needed the healing boost to keep myself alive.

New dps build

After another attempt with a new build I was close to killing the boss, but still was dying to the odd bad positioning when the “bridge phase” began. Choosing the right statues to invoke for your character/spec may also be important – I found Houy, Thutmose and then Moutnefer or Hemitnefer to be best. Having the channeled heal was good, although I still found I needed to swap out one dps ability for my Blood shield/heal to keep my health topped up. Thutmose’s boost to hit/pen makes all the difference to my healer character in terms of damage output.

Version 2.0 with shield

In the end I beat the encounter and moved on by spending some time on build crafting and through having better luck one time over previous tries. I know, sadly, that there are more frustrating fights like this to come, it doesn’t particularly motivate me to push through to Tokyo so we can, eventually, catch up enough to see the new content due next month. Secret World in either form fills the “small group” play gap in the mix of MMORPGs that I play. So the forced solo content is and always was really unwelcome, it’s also even more anachronistic in the newer game since the open world content is so easy. Surely it would be technically possible to allow groups into these, if people want challenge they can always solo them?

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 5 Comments

Cleaning up #GW2

Although I’ve not made great strides yet to implement all the great advice on my inventory problem, we have been busy tidying up zones in Guild Wars 2, working on map completion in Heart of Thorns.

The maps are pretty complex, finding just where a point of interest or hero point location is regardless of what the map says can be a challenge. Some zones have four or more layers stacked vertically and getting between them has proven quite a learning experience at times.

These cats can swim

That said we’ve avoided using guides or enhanced maps for the most part – better to at least try to discover it all ourselves. Some of the paths have become rather well-worn as we ride, glide or Griffon around the zones, the Chak tunnels in particular are uncomfortably familiar.

We’re done with all the zones except for Dragon Stand now, so nearly done on our Charr pair. After that, I’m not sure what we’d do next, other than waiting for the next Living Story chapter. We haven’t done any of Living World Season 3, so if we can save up enough gold to buy some gems we might unlock the two chapters that we’re missing. Although it wasn’t as noticeable during the Path of Fire main story content, we’ve felt since starting Living World Season 4 that a lot has happened that we missed while not playing.

I am certainly enjoying playing Necromancer more, though I haven’t yet decided if I prefer it to Mesmer (Mirage is a TON of fun). I have unlocked Reaver through playing the Heart of Thorns story and zones. I’m about one third of the way through unlocking Scourge as well as we tidy up the remaining map elements, so will be giving that a try as soon as I have enough unlocked for a complete build. For the two classes that I play the most the elite specialisations seem to add a decent amount of variation to their gameplay.

Reaper mode, engage!

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars