So the Core Set in Armada is pretty darn deep. It’s got a lot of layers and interactions that really push my expectations for a “core” set. Today I will write a bit about each ship and one upgrade for it that affects how it plays, as well as the two fleet commanders.
Victory Class Star Destroyer – I want to call it the cheese wedge but that might be a bit pejorative. In the learn to play scenario it gets handled pretty rough but at 180 points things are a lot more even and this ship thrives. It pushes a huge wedge of fear in front of it, about 120 degrees of hate. Even its broadsides can cripple a corvette, especially if it took hits on the way in. Adding the Enhanced Armament card gives it a massive broadside that will really force the rebels to step carefully even when flanking you. The gunnery team just adds insult to injury by letting you fire from the same zone twice, albeit at a different target. Both variants are nasty, and the squashed nature of the blue band makes the Victory I a really intriguing choice, especially with the assault missiles.
TIE Fighter – I like to call this a Space Inferiority Fighter. The goal isn’t to dominate the fighter battle, it’s to prevent the enemy from capitalizing on his dominance. These fighters will quickly get hacked from space, and while they might do as much damage as they take, they cannot take as much. Their role is to protect and pounce on mistakes and that’s all.
Howlrunner – This is a real interesting card. The way I’m reading it she doesn’t boost herself, and X-Wings likely have enough firepower to cancel her birthday real fast, so she really is best used sitting at range 1 from a blob of ordinary TIEs turning them into really nasty heavy hitters. 4 blue dice with a re-roll can wreck things.
Grand Moff Tarkin – Or as I call him, Grand Moff Token. In a 180 point battle with one VSD he seems priced right at 38 points (a Corvette is 39) put three or four Imperial ships on the battle and he’s a freaking steal. He gives so much flexibility to the Imperials that it’s insane. Look Motti and Screed look good, but Tarkin has it all over them. The Imperials don’t need to be tougher, or hit harder, they need to be able to make small adjustments that they couldn’t predict three turns out.
Nebulon B Frigate – At first I was really not feeling this ship. It seemed like neither one nor the other. I was half right. It is neither one nor the other, it can’t brawl, it can’t snipe, but it can fence. It has enough speed that it has to be respected, it has enough toughness that it can’t be alpha’d off the field (without a LOT of luck and poor management) and it can keep up the pressure with guns, fighters, and provide a healthy bit of support. The upgrades here are all about the engineering team and Redemption title. That’s a lot of engineering. Your tokens are now worth 3 (can heal a hull point!) and the dial command can repair a shield, and repair a hull point. That’s a LOT of fixing. I’m not nearly as big a fan of the support version as the Escort variant. 6 points is not nearly enough for the lost anti fighter weaponry and losing control of a squadron as well.
CR90 Corvette – At first this ship seemed like a beast. Cheap, blindingly fast, hard hitting, and it appeared fairly tough. Until I compared it to the standard that mattered, the firepower of a VSD. It can be alpha’d off the table even in the side arcs, and two rounds of fire will be enough to crush it. You have to maneuver it perfectly to get the most out of it and I haven’t gotten the trick down yet. Even getting into the rear arc doesn’t help much as I tend to go whizzing out of it the next turn. That being said I have some ideas to put into play next time and we will see if I can get the hang of this mean little bastard. Princess Leia is going to spend a lot of times hanging out on these little buggers. They pick their command right at the start of the turn, and she can send it to one other ship. Your Nebulon B needs to repair RIGHT FRIGGING NOW? Leia’s on it! Time to ensure you’ve got the firepower to crack that VSF? Leia’s your gal. Of course she’s a bit of a fire magnet so even though Electronic Countermeasures is expensive, it allows you to use that key Evasive card all the time, or ensure that you have Redirect when you eat that big shot at range one.
X-Wing – A real qualitative difference between the Rebellion and the Empire right here. This fighter can win the Starfighter battle and carry through to do something useful with it. Slower, Tougher, Harder Hitting, and MUCH more effective against starships this ship makes TIEs cry in the corner even costing more than 1.5x the TIEs cost.
Luke Skywalker – Nasty little bastard he is. Underestimate him you should not. His black dice when attacking large targets and ability to skip capital ship shields moves this squadron firmly into the “bomber” column. Sure he can wallop TIEs as well as another X-Wing but you really want him dropping crits onto capital ships…
General Dodonna – … And this is why Dodonna has one of those “Wombo Combo” abilities. This conniving bastard lets you turn over the top 4 damage cards WHENEVER you deal a face up damage card to an enemy and then pick which one to inflict. Look the crits in this game are downright nasty, this card means you can REALLY ensure you get something your opponent will hate when you score one. On turn 2. Against a fully shielded VSD. With Luke (Or with Dodonna’s Pride).
This is just a taste of the tactical depth this game has. There’s other combos already possible that are just nasty, and looking ahead at the spoilers shown on boardgamegeek I can see even more that I’ll be using (I’m looking at you Yavaris and Adar Tallon, and Raymus Antilles, and Garm bel Iblis)
So I just got back from the LGS where I played several games of Armada. So far I’ve only played as the Rebel Alliance and I doubt I’d have much interest in playing the Imperials so that suits me. Even if the Imperials do suit my “Subtle is a smaller sledgehammer to the face right?” mentality. First I’m going to talk about how the game plays, then I’m going to run through how I feel about these decisions and mechanics.
How it Plays
So the basic mechanics of the game are, you set everything up, including your stack of commands, your ships, your fighters, your defense tokens, your turn marker, your initiative marker, your scenery, your deployment markers, everything. Each turn you flip over the top marker in your command stack (on subsequent turns you pick a new command to go on the bottom) and start activating your ships. When you reveal a command you can choose to convert it into a token that has less power than the command dial but can be banked up and spent later, a ship can bank up as many tokens as it has command points. This gives large, lumbering ships some flexibility by letting them store more tokens, at the cost of having a lower chance of having a useful dial command on any given turn.
Large ships activate alternately, with the ship activating, then moving, and special commands being used throughout the turn. This can give you some interesting combinations. Longer ranged ships can activate earlier in the turn without issue, closer ranged ships like to activate later to increase the chance of getting shots in. Ships then move in a more flexible manner than in X-Wing, you don’t commit to a move until you’ve had a lot of time to measure and prepare (outside of tournaments) and ships like the CR-90 Corvette can really dance around the field. Both firing resolution and movement resolution are very simple, without the opposed dice rolls, and reactions, and re-rolls that can drag out the X-Wing sequence, there’s a roll, a defensive reaction, MAYBE a re-roll, and move on. Just simplifying a step makes life a lot easier.
During large ship activation you can use dial commands or tokens. These use the same icons but commands are better than tokens. For example the Concentrate Firepower command gives you an extra dice, the token gives you a re-roll. The squadron one is where the game gets interesting. An Escort Frigate has a squadron value of 2. This means that it can activate 2 squadrons with the command, or 1 without. Those squadrons can move and shoot, or shoot and move, during the frigates activation. Quite spicy. The other commands let it repair or manage damage, or adjust it’s speed and maneuver batter. This is the only way to change speed without upgrade cards.
Fighters that aren’t activated by large ships activate at the end of the turn. They can move or shoot. This severely limits their ability to engage the enemy, though depending on their role it lets them still contribute. Fighters can roll a lot of dice against other fighters but generally only roll one dice against capital ships and only hits count (hits and criticals if you are a bomber, which the X-Wing is). Fighter Squadrons are highly specialized and the Ace squadrons are even more so. Luke Skywalker can skip shields and start chipping away at a ships hull right away, Howlrunner makes other fighters do even more damage just by being there.
Fleet building is an interesting challenge. There’s a couple of real wombo-combos so far, Grand Moff Token… erm… Tarkin leads the pack by handing out tokens each turn to his ships. The Rebels can build lots of crit combos around their ships using Dodonna’s ability to select a certain critical hit out of four whenever one is played. This can be brutal as critical hits are just that, critical. They do immediate and sometimes catastrophic damage to a ship. Others can give ships added capability, like additional attack dice, or special abilities on crits. There’s already a lot of depth in the game even with just the starter set, once Wave 1 arrives at the end of next month things might get silly.
Ok, this game has a LOT more depth to it than X-Wing. Movement is more fluid, damage resolution is quicker, but turns are longer as there’s a lot of measuring, planning and thinking going on. Ship movement is neat. Having to plan on firing before you move is awkward, and it’s meant to be. I like the mechanic but it is going to take a LOT of getting used to. As a Rebel player I had a lot of trouble getting both my ships in range to do something in the same turn. I expect this to be somewhat easier as the games get bigger, 2 on 1 matches are a bit rough as I have to move a ship that is dealing with the only Imperial ship on the table.
Firing resolution is very fast, as it should be. Once an attack is planned, executing it shouldn’t be a huge to do, and sometimes in X-Wing it felt like it was with dice being modified, re rolled, etc, to what felt like an excessive extent. While that CAN happen in this game, it isn’t the norm. Yet anyway.
The integration of fighters into a battle is going to be a very interesting thing to watch. I love fighters and I plan on using them heavily in a fleet, having to use a fighter command to get the most out of them is a REALLY neat idea, with the current lack of dedicated carriers and general dearth of them in the Star Wars canon it ought to be interesting to see how this plays out. There’s a lot of things you want capital ships to do and purely shepherding fighters isn’t always one of them, of course once a fighter gets into combat it can generally be left alone. Another neat mechanic is how fighters engage each other. Once fighters are in range they lock up and must shoot at each other, they cannot move. This means that one sacrificial lamb can jump into a throng of enemy fighters and tie down the whole striker force. Tie being the operative word, at 8 points each a TIE squadron can very easily tie up many more points of Rebel fighters on a key turn. Pre-empting this will be a major tactic in getting your own bombers onto the target. Of course that means you have to spend your precious fighter activations on your interceptor to get it there. See what I mean when it comes to complexity?
Movement is what this game turns on. Having to fire, then move means you HAVE to think a turn ahead, and having to move first can mean getting hit on the chin at times. I don’t think it will be quite as extreme once wave 1 comes out but there were times when I had ships roll into range and get alpha’d by a well prepared Victory I. That hurts.
The gameplay is fun, it feels faster than it is, this game is an hour-eater. It has the flow and scope of the kind of epic battles you see in the movies, and it’s easy for me to see what I’m looking forward to and what I’m worried about. I’m looking forward to big battles with lots of ships zooming about, pounding each other while wings of fighters slash and fence between them. Escorts charge in to harass major ships, while the big brutes hammer each other, ocasionally venting their wrath at an escort that has drifted out of place.
What I worry about is people saying “Ok, for 400 points I can build a mammoth ISD, park it in a corner for 5 turns, vaporise anyone with the temerity to come near me and have enough fighters and fast escorts to nip out on the last turn and deal with any pesky objectives”. Currently most of the ridiculous combos are offensive, and make demolishing ships easier, not harder, but it only takes one wonky card to tilt the balance and that is a worry I have for the game, especially with even bigger, harder to kill ships on the way.
Still the gameplay is excellent, engaging, fun and did not disappoint. 10/10 for gameplay, 8/10 for box contents.
Fantasy Flight Games has finally released Star Wars Armada. The game that lets you put Star Destroyers against Rebel Cruisers (This summer, because those are in Wave 2, and Wave 1 isn’t even out yet).
Fantasy Flight Games does brilliant, fun, well designed games. The rules are clean, the models are attractive, the systems they are built on are balanced and well thought out. Star Wars Armada is more of the same, and at the same time is STILL a unique, and different game from X-Wing.
Anyway let’s talk about the box. The box is big, heavy and loaded. Containing 10 squadrons of fighters (3 ships in each, 6 TIE-ln squadrons and 4 X-Wing squadrons) a CR90 Corvette, A Nebulon B Frigate, and a Victory class Star Destroyer. None of these are front line starships for any of the combatants, but they each have their own unique role. The models are a bit of a mixed bag. At one end you have the Star Destroyer which is an impressive slab, well shaded and attractive, with lots of detail, and the CR90 which is one of THE iconic ships of the franchise, looking sleek and potent. At the other end the fighters look more like ordinary game tokens and the Frigate’s paint job is… amateurish. There’s a good chance it’s getting re done. None of them are necessarily bad but the fighters and frigate are disappointing, even though they are more than serviceable for gameplay.
The rest of the box is a cornucopia of goodies. A movement tool that looks like it might have started off in the dentists office, enough counters to play any four games I ever played growing up, objectives, ship data cards, damage cards, upgrades, identification cards, and of course the obligatory Range Ruler and Fantasy Flight Proprietary Dice Set.
The ONLY thing I don’t like is the dice set. Look Fantasy Flight, I get it. You can sell dice and make a mint. I own your app already, I’m good. JEBUS am I getting tired of each and every game having a new dice set. I love the games, but man learning to read new dice every time is annoying.
The rest is very high quality thick cardboard, good cardstock and the parts that require assembly (shield counters, speed counters and command counters) fit together fast and intuitively.
I haven’t played a game yet, but you can tell at a glance that it will run longer than X-Wing. Tournaments double the time of a game in the current rules, and I expect things will be frantic in that time frame. I would expect casual games to take 2-3 times as long, especially with the amount of pre-measuring that is allowed. My first impression is this is a fantastic game if you are interested in this scale of combat, and in battles that require development and strategy. Currently it loses a point for some of the models being a bit less than expected, and for the proprietary dice.
So right now my Hard Drive is a bit crowded. I’m going to talk about the major MMOs that I at least have installed, why I have them, and why you should consider them (if you should)
Get ‘em While They Last
These are games that I don’t think will last very long for whatever reason. These may or may not be bad games, but they are endangered for one reason or another.
Lord of the Rings Online
Where to start. Look. LotRO will be on my computer until they shut down the servers. I love the game, I love the community, and I loved many of the devs who have worked at Turbine over the years. But this game is heavily threatened on multiple fronts. First off they are going to lose their license. Right now I don’t think there is anyone as pissed off as Christopher Tolkien is with the licensing structure of his Tolkien estate. So there’s that. The player base continues to erode away under the winds of lackluster patches, no endgame content, buggy systems and overall disappointment. I’ll make the march into Mordor with all the rest, probably through Cirith Ungol, but if this game is going 2 years from now I’ll be surprised and if it’s going 4 years from now I’ll be stunned.
I would recommend playing though. You can see SO much detail and love for the world, and visit SO many famous locales that even if you are only a casual Tolkien fan you owe it to yourself to try it out for a couple months.
Star Wars The Old Republic
SWTOR has followed the development strategy of “Two steps forward, two steps back” ever since launch. It’s a good game, it’s a fun game and the stories should be played through by any fan of the Star Wars expanded universe. That being said the mouse is going to want a mint to extend the license and Bioware probably won’t see the value in doing that based on the money they are making. There’s still plenty of players out there but if the mouse takes his cheese and goes away there won’t be a game, just more disappointed Star Wars fans.
This is another “Log in while it lasts” game. Do you really want to miss the chance to force-choke people or steal an Imperial prototype out from under the nose of a Sith Lord? I didn’t think so.
Who makes this now? Daybreak? Who is that? Oh. Does anyone work for them? Ouch. This one will last longer than the rest but… Don’t invest a lot of time into it.
Notice how there’s a lot of big IPs involved? Yeah this thing has been a massive disappointment. I just patched it and while that was downloading I lost interest in actually playing.
I Should Log in More
World of tanks
WoT is offering a lot of bonuses right now so I actually am logging in every day. I should probably play more though. This is just a fun game to drop in and pew pew. If you like it and especially if you have people to play with it’s worth the time.
League of Legends
This is another game that I can log into for 20 minutes, play a game or two, or drop 6 hours on in a binge. It’s a fun game if you invest the time into it but my GOD is the community shit.
World of Warcraft
Not logging in a whole lot. The games in a great place, and it’ll be in a great place without me. The problem with this run through isn’t that the game isn’t fun. It is. The problem is that you can do everything you want to do pretty fast and just don’t feel like you have to do a lot more unless you put in the time on alts.
The Secret World
Every time there’s a story I get excited, patch, and try to remember my login. This game has SO much potential but whenever I play it feels janky and like there’s no plan for most of the fights. The story is fun, even better than SWTOR in a lot of ways but the gameplay feels poor by comparison.
Star Trek Online
Another one of those “It’s worth logging in to take the tour” games, STO sets the bar low and revels in fan service, acceptable, if mediocre-to-average gameplay and capitalizing on a community that wants to make the game MUCH better with its robust fleet and foundry systems. It would be nice to see more developer driven content, and there is some neat stuff on the horizon. I spend a fair amount of time in the Alpha quadrant these days, albeit not as much as I probably should.
Unsubbed right now, maybe even for good, although I doubt it. I just don’t ever feel like I’ve done anything when I log out.
The Time Sink
Final Fantasy XIV
FFXIV has become the time sink that EvE would be if I could get anything done these days. I always have made progress in something and now that I’ve set some goals for myself I’m actually enjoying working through all the stuff I want to get done. The game is a blast to play, visually stunning, the score is fantastic and the sound effects… the score is stunning! The community is great with far more helpful people than dickheads even if the dickheads retain the ability to be incredibly annoying from time to time.
So that’s what’s on my menu right now. How about you guys?
What do Hannibal, and Robert E. Lee have in common?
They were also very unlikely to ever win.
Hannibal and Lee won famous, shattering victories. They won seminal battles and frequently dictated the course of entire campaigns if not wars with impunity for extended periods of time. They dominated the battlefield, imposing their will on the enemy. Yet they lost.
There were operational reasons they lost, Hannibal had no ability to breach the walls of Rome, or to besiege it. Lee never had the resources to force a major decision. But that wasn’t the extent of it.
They didn’t have the ability to string victories together to break the will of the enemy to fight like Scipio Africanus, or Grant and to carry through on their battlefield victories to conclude their wars.
Hannibal entered Italy and proceeded to destroy every army the Romans could scrape together time after time. To the point where the Romans more or less sat behind their walls and ignored the armies as much as possible. Hannibal could win all the battles he wanted but he couldn’t break Rome’s will.
Lee won victories just as devastating but he lacked the capability to string these victories together. On occasion he simply left the field and failed to seek a final decision, settling for driving back the Federal armies, but he never could turn A victory into victory for his “country”.
The US has won nearly every battle in the Vietnam War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet at the end of our contribution to the Vietnam war the North Vietnamese overran the south at about the same speed as they could drive through it. Iraq is as stable as a 3 year old doing cocaine and it’s an open question whether the current regime in Afghanistan could hold a PTA meeting let alone the determined Taliban offensive that is in the offing. We are a great nation for winning battles but we have forgotten that you have to win the war. We assume that if you score enough points time will run out and you can dump the gatorade and go hit the showers.
To win you have to set your goal and work backwards. Hannibal knew he had to take Rome but once his siege train was lost in the Alps he never reconstructed it (and it might not have done any good against Rome’s walls) and Rome is a rather hard city to besiege. Lee never could make the assault on Washington DC or destroy a Federal Army enough to let him inflict serious damage on the North to force a decision, instead scoring victories then letting the Union lick its wounds until the next time. America hasn’t set a goal since wrapping up the show on the U.S.S. Missouri and since then we have spent a lot of time accomplishing very little.
“But Corelin” I hear you ask “This is a gaming blog. Why are we talking about this stuff?”
Because it’s my damn blog! GET OFF MY LAWN.
And because it’s important in gaming. Sun Tzu famously said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” I realize quoting him is a bit pompous. You may have read my blog before, it happens. Hannibal, Lee, and every US General since Ike put down his stars has forgotten this lesson. They go into battles prepared to win but not wars.
EvE Online has seen this as well. When I was in CoW our “Planning” was lucky to get 20 people with the right ships/fights in anything like the area we were fighting in. The Russians on the other hand were famous for getting the ever living snot knocked out of them for months then suddenly winning the whole damn war. Goons take meticulous planning to the level of any modern organization to turn their cavalcade of clumsy cohorts into a well-oiled machine. Admittedly a steampunky, lurching, “who knows what that bit” does machine but it gets the job done.
When you are getting into a game you need to set goals, and you need to at least be able to figure out how to reach them. FF XIV has lots to do and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by choices. EvE has an even bigger menu and higher bars to leap to get there. Minecraft is a mind boggling game with nearly infinite possibilities (your world is about the size of Neptune) where you can get lost for days until you realize what you want to do, or just give up.
On the tabletop you are given objectives. You know what you have to do to win you just have to do it. And keep your opponent from doing it. The same rules apply though. Just because you have an objective doesn’t mean you are past step one. You have to define the objective in a way that your force can accomplish it, and hope they can. You have to plan what you will do to overcome your opponents moves and then you have to execute.
Have a plan. Stick to it. And let me know if you want me to write a post on how Lee was a terrible General.
So my miner hit 50! Always a good time in FF XIV. Now I have access to high level crafting mats. I can efficiently farm crystals and in-demand materials to buff my wallet. AND I’M OVER A MILLION GIL POORER AND MIGHT PAY MORE THAN 4 MILLION TO MAX IT OUT.
Yeah. I’m POOR. I mean incredibly poor. I’m nowhere NEAR first to market of course, and I can’t gather the absolute top end gear. I’m making money at an acceptable rate, I could probably clear a couple hundred thousand on a work night and I don’t doubt I could clear a million on a GOOD weekend binge. Between the ventures I can complete and the unspoiled nodes as well as crystal grinding or finding key materials to farm I am quite sure I can make a lot of money out there but WOW is it pricey.
Right now we are a month or so out from the 2.55 or whatever patch which will probably be the last content patch before Heavesward. Heavensward will render all my gear useless and require me to start over. That being said it’s not the worst money grind I’ve ever had and it’s certainly a different sort of engagement in gameplay style.
Money isn’t a huge deal in FF XIV. There’s not a lot of things you need to buy and it seems like accumulating it to buy vanity gear or to fill in key pieces (or help level an alt) is the big priority. I will keep grinding money and try to figure out the best ways and places to spend it when the expansion drops but it will be interesting to see how fast I can make money and how worthwhile it is to upgrade gear I will be dropping in three months or less.
So I’ve played Final Fantasy for a long time. My parents bought me the first one for the NES so long ago they might even have still been married. I was only barely old enough to understand 90% of what was going on and much of the game was simply beyond me. I bought and read the guides, I played the game and eventually beat it. As young as I was this was an incredible accomplishment. Keeping the focus to grind away, figuring out the game systems enough to actually beat the various levels, cutting through thousands of enemies and finally solving the “clues” in the game to bring down Chaos. I still love this game and have re-purchased it several times. The characters are bland, with no lines and no personality as the party is highly variable, and the NPCs are scarcely more developed but the game was fun, with interesting puzzles and challenges and I still love it.
FF XIV Callback: This is the toughest one. A four fiends dungeon might be fun. Warmech Primal fight could be a truly epic battle. Unfortunately by modern standards this game is kind of thin.
The next game I got to play “originally” was FF IV on the SNES. This game was a horse of a different color for sure. The story was far more advanced, with characters who came and went as the story demanded, who had personalities and abilities and motivations that differed from each other. This game included some of the great characters, with Kain, Cecil, Palom, Porom and Tellah all being amazing, the ubiquitous Cid had one of his better appearances and while the ladies weren’t up to their later qualities they were at least interesting characters. This is another game that was very easy to enjoy and that I thoroughly relished beating and playing over again.
FF XIV Callback: This game also should have the next iteration of the Crystal Tower in the Tower of Zot. Seriously squenix. MAKE THIS HAPPEN. And yes I know Demon Wall was already in FF XIV. TOWER OF ZOOOOOOOT!
Final Fantasy VI was the next to grace our chores and it’s my favorite of the series. Goodness what a game. Terra and Locke share a spotlight that has a lot of work to do to cover the best overall cast of any FF game. The real star of the game, though, is Kefka, the kind of guy that gives nihilism a bad name. Kefka takes this game from being a top tier game in a great series to being the defining game in the series. From his appearance to his theme to his mad laugh, Kefka came to personify everything you hated in a villain. Oh and he treated you with such utter contempt. WOW did he piss me off. One of the longest games for me to beat but OHHHHHH so satisfying.
FF XIV Callback: The part of this I’d love to see in XIV would have to be the Phantom Train. Yes I know WoW JUST did a train dungeon. Fuck it. Let’s show these folks how it’s done.
Final Fantasy VII is my third favorite. Yes it fell that low. It’s NOT a bad game at all. It’s a great game and it added a lot without betraying the core of Final Fantasy. Cloud is a great hero who stands tall even when his world comes apart at the seams. The rest of the party is a lot of fun, my problem is with Sephiroth. The giant emo bastard just pisses me off the wrong way. It’s like he wants your approval at the same time as he’s stabbing Aeris in the back. He’s not a villain, he’s a bully. He just rubbed me the wrong way and the lack of an awesome hero combined with a villain who didn’t do it for me knocks the game down even though the gameplay, the graphics, the cast, and the story were fantastic.
FF XIV Callback: We just got the gold saucer, maybe not what I’d have picked but certainly a worthy callback for this game.
Final Fantasy VIII was my first real disappointment in the series. From Cloud, who manned up after finding out terrible terrible things about his own life, to Squall who had his greatness handed to him and WHINES about it like a little baby. Yeah he eventually gets his shit together but it finally happens in the most lazy, grudging, and painful way possible. Finishing this game was a godsend. There were good sequences and some of the changes were interesting but my GOD Squall was a whiny bastard. I’ve never rooted for the villains as much as I did in this game.
FF XIV Callback: You know what,I’m good stopping at triple triad. I’m sure there’s some dungeon, some event that I missed but… fuckit I’m good calling it a day.
Final Fantasy IX was a breath of fresh air. It was old school final fantasy, it was young, energetic, filled with laughter and brilliance. It also features the absolute best and bravest hero in the series. Vivi is the MAN. Faced with a lifespan better measured in months than years, racism and hostility, and a rain of bad news sufficient to make Noah look for lumber; he tightens his belt, steps up to the plate and does what needs doing. Zidane is great, Garnet is good, Freya is good, the whole party is fun but Vivi makes the game. There’s no comparison between him and Cloud or Squall or even Cecil. He’s on another level and quickly becomes a beloved character. The gameplay is classic ATB, the summons are fun, and the atmosphere is fantastic. It easily earns it’s spot as the 2nd best game in the series.
FF XIV Callback: This one kind of screams for Hildibrand. I mean they could do something with the Lifa tree, but Hildibrand seems like he’d like “I want to be your canary”.
Final Fantasy X is a really interesting game. There’s a lot to be said positive and negative. It’s a tearjerker for sure, and Tidus is an interesting hero. He might be the only guy in the world who whines MORE than Squall… but Squall is a volunteer special forces soldier whereas Tidus is a sports superstar who finds himself in the middle of the most awful war he could imagine. And then things get worse. The difference is Tidus mans up fast and Squall is still whining. This game had a brilliant cast of people who interacted like you would imagine real people would in these situations, villains you love to hate, a story that drives you to binge-play like mad and and ending that just yanks the rug out from under you.
FF XIV Callback: Can we make it so I can kill Seymour Guado a lot? I mean like a lot. I mean like low level dungeon trash? FINE but Anima HAS to be a Primal fight. And I want to kill Seymour.
FF XII is next. I’m not doing the MMOs. Ugh. What a bland game. You give up a ton of control and eventually figure out the best way to play the battles is to come up with a good script and walk away. Then you do the same for the rest of the game. The story is interesting but not urgent, the characters are bland and I just couldn’t make myself finish it.
FF XIV Callback: Honestly I don’t know. There’s a lot I still don’t know about this game.
FF XIII I did manage to finish. The tutorial on how to do the credits was a nice touch, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. This game suffered by alternating between leading you by the hand and murdering you with bosses whose abilities had suddenly escalated by an order of magnitude. It’s a weird game with a lot of systems I liked but I couldn’t get attached to the characters and the voice acting was just painful to listen to. It really really was.
FF XIV Callback: I loved the huge flying fal’Cie. Running raids through one of these (active or fallen) could be one hell of a lot of fun.
So FF XIV, LotRO and EvE all have one problem in common. They have great communities. I’m not kidding. They all have great communities. And that’s a problem at times.
Tonight I was running the monotonous drudgery that is Dzemael Darkhold. I’m not sure whether it’s the worst dungeon in FF XIV (Cutter’s Cry is close and some people hate Aurum Vale just as much) but it’s not a fun dungeon. I was helping a FC mate through it, and he had only run it once so we were going to clear things thoroughly and rather deliberately. I wasn’t going to race through and I wasn’t going to skip lots of things. We got a DPS and a healer through Duty Finder and off we went. And immediately the complaints began. Now I’ll take complaints from a healer. It friggin sucks to have your queue be this dungeon, and to have a group wanting a full clear. Then our DPS started bitching. About everything. I invited him to keep talking if he wanted to wait for another 45 minute DPS queue.
By the end I was heated. I was upset at the way I and my EXTREMELY new friend had been treated by these guys. They were rude, inconsiderate, and constantly pushing for bigger pulls and faster clears even though the healer was going OOM as soon as I pulled more than one group at a time. They kvetched like my grandmother when I forget to call (which… I need to do) and were all over the place hitting targets and pulling extra mobs. It was a fiasco. The bosses went down easily, which is a bit of a surprise in DD.
What made it that much more painful is that this game has a great community. 99% of the time you’d get supportive people giving advice, then hearing what your intentions are, and why you are doing it this way, working with you instead of against you. We had one of our DPS sitting out a fight because he didn’t think we should bother with side rooms.
EvE has people who will shit up the game sometimes, and some of that is to be expected in a game, but others will take things too far. Out of game threats, homophobic slurs, asshattery that frankly demeans the community and the insulter far more than the insultee. And yes I’m making new words here. You don’t like it make you own blog.
LotRO has people that will use any excuse, bug or other opportunity to harass the large RP community, and finding people for raids can be… ugh. Also the line between casuals and elitists is SO thick it’s a lethal weapon. You can get whomped by it because someone thinks your legendaries are crap. I’ve only run into it once or twice but MY GOD is it awful.
And all of these things are made worse because the communities in these games are SO GOOD. The podcasts, blogs, news sites, vlogs, forums…. everything. It’s so good! There’s so much content generated by the community and it all helps a lot. Even divisive people add a ton through both what they generate and the spin off comments and hate that adds even more entertainment. It all adds up to a situation that when you get genuinely toxic people, people who have no interest in helping others meet their goals, who just want to do their thing or who actively seek to destroy other people’s experience.
Ok rant over. This weekend I’ll talk about getting our new guy geared up once he hits 50 on Dragoon. That’s right folks. Dead Dragoon jokes incoming!
So two of my favorite games are FF XIV and LotRO. They have something in common and it’s something I love and hate about the games. That thing is the legendary / relic weapons. These are weapons that can grow with you (theoretically). These are really iconic systems in both games, and there’s been a lot of words spilled over both systems but hey, I’m all about beating dead horses so grab a club and let’s get to it!
Legendary weapons are unlocked through a level 50 quest that everyone runs at 45. The initial weapon lasts you until about .01 seconds after you turn 51. The weapon you ground so long to get will then be broken up for spare parts. No kidding. Imagine if Bilbo had gotten Sting, then picked up St1ng and Stung or whatever and realized it was .3% better and said SEE YA WEAPON OF LEGEND, broken it into pieces and used a couple of those pieces on the new weapon. Then the rest of the fragments get melted down into more fragments. This is the most EvE like part of the game with level 100 weapon development often involved hours of planning with spreadsheets, tons of bag space, more hours of grinding, and lots of money (real or in-game) and a lot of luck. You can spend a lot of time working on a first age weapon only to get totally hosed by it having only 3 base major legacies. 4 is considered good (or useable) and you can buy one extra for each weapon. I’ve seen one with a base 5 and everyone has HEARD of someone who got 6 majors but I’ve never seen it on any weapon you would want to use (and it’s diminishing returns anyway by that point) but anytime you spend hours and hours raiding or dozens/hundreds more grinding to get items to make a first age only to get screwed by an RNG mechanic…. Fuck that. The system doesn’t feel very legendary and without a lot of planning and work you can go down a road that requires you to redo a lot of the planning on the weapons. There’s also more grinding to upgrade the legacies to make them cheaper to level up so you can level up more legacies and if this doesn’t make much sense… well… that’s why I say it doesn’t feel legendary. It’s a great concept with meh planning and poor implementation leading to a real mess.
Ohhhh Relic Weapons. First you grind. Then you grind A LOT more. Then you grind some more. Then there’s some building of your weapon. Which involves a metric ton of grinding. Then you grind some more. Then you give up and find a group to run final coil and get a better weapon anyway. Let me talk a bit about the grind. Just to get the base (ilvl 80) weapon you need to: Get a broken weapon. Buy/Make and then upgrade/pay someone to upgrade another weapon. Fight a Chimera (one of the more annoying bosses for melee/tanks). Run Amdapor Keep, which used to be a real pain in the neck and is now very fun due to how much damage a group can have. Kill 24 beastmen with a poor version of the weapon you want, kill a Hydra, which is an annoying boss for EVERYBODY. Kill Ifrit (cake). Kill Garuda (pie a la mode). Kill Titan (fuck fuckity fuck fuck this can be a nightmare). Buy some oil (hope you have some soldiery handy) and finally COLLECT YOUR WEAPON. That’s step one. The next step involves grinding soldiery (can be done in an evening) to upgrade to the ilvl 90.
Ok. You’re done with the easy part. Now you have to farm Fates to get Atma. Fates are open world events and Atma are random drops. Supposedly around 15% but at one point they were as low as 2%. This can easily eat a whole weekend just to upgrade one weapon and you will find that, for the item level it has very low stats. There’s a reason for that. Its power hasn’t been unlocked yet! You need to grind more soldiery tokens to get books, then do what the books say to unlock the power. This can take a week or so now, but it could take forever back in the day when there was a weekly cap on soldiery that was less than what you needed to get a book.
Done yet? Nope. Time to grind more Fates, and while you are at it there’s now two levels of RNG hell. First you need Alexandrite to drop, then you use the alexandrite to meld specific stats into a weapon to increase secondary stats that you choose. Great! I get to pick my upgrade path! Only Alexandrites aren’t a guaranteed drop and the melds can fail meaning I need even more of them. Grind-fucking-tastic.
Then you need Light. Light isn’t nearly as random and while it will be another grindtastic hell to get it all done, at least the RNG gods can’t shit all over you for hours on end.
Not done yet though. Now for the Zodiac Brave step. 400k gil (Which I actually have now, miracle of miracles) 80k grand company seals (you should actually have this by now if you’ve been paying attention) 6400 MORE soldiery tomestones. Which you won’t have. Drop from 15 dungeons, which frankly should get you a lot of the way to that 6400 soldiery, crafted mats (hint they ain’t cheap) desythesized mats (even less cheap) and some gathered mats, which are cheapish all things told. Oh and some random other mats that you probably have sitting in your bags anyway.
Now for the kicker. You can get alternate weapons that will be just fine. One of them is frankly an upgrade to my way of looking at things, dropping a useless stat for a useful one. Some of the weapons are truly phenomenal (there’s one for every class) some are a bit meh. They do look amazing and will hopefully lead to better things later on but for now I’m underwhelmed. I completed step 3 today, and will start gathering books this week. I’m looking at about two weeks of this (!) to get my weapon better than the one I already have, and even then I’ve got one stat I just don’t want on it, then on to alexandrite. I don’t feel like I’m working on something legendary, I feel like a hamster on a wheel. A heavily randomized and slow wheel.
Fine Fine Fine What do you Want?
Well that’s the real trick. I love how LotRO gives you access to the system early. I would love to find a 1st Age Weapon in Moria and bring it with me all the way. I want it to really level up with me as I move along. Especially because the Moria weapons look GREAT. I would open them up even earlier. Most games have a point where the leveling process drops off a cliff. I mean really really harsh. For WoW it’s the 30s and 40s and LotRO this is around 25. FF XIV has it in the 30s. You know what would spice this up? Starting on your legendary weapon. It’s one thing to have a grindfest at endgame when it’s grinds on top of grinds, but if you spread it out over levels upon levels, well, it’s not so bad. You can have it undergo a marked increase in power as you reforge it. Especially in a system like FF XIV where each class only uses one weapon type. In a game like WoW or LotRO you might have to invent some deus ex machina stuff to get around people wanting to switch to a different weapon or different type of weapon (1h vs. 2h for example).
So start it earlier, spread out the grind. Now I want control. Primary stats only please. Let me chase down questlines for secondary stats, let me infuse it with power from the blood of my enemies, let me quench it in the nameless depths below the deepest caverns, or temper it in the heat of the hottest volcano. Let the weapon become part of the characters story. Make it an Excalibur, a Sting, an Anduril, an Icingdeath, a Durandal, something of power and mystery. Something that gains the traits the wielder and creator wants, not some arbitrary set.
I want it to feel legendary. The best results should take time, but more importantly, skill. Want the highest, most powerful version? Be ready for challenging content, raid tier and solo content that is demanding and puts you through trials to earn the right to carry the greatest weapon, not just get carried by friends, but mastering your class, playing at a high level and earning the best rewards. Doing normalized content, where the challenge scales with your level and gear so you can’t just overpower it. I want to walk into town with my glowing blade of light and have people KNOW they are dealing with someone who knows what he’s about.
FF could start the quest with the Ifrit trial, granting you a weapon from the otherwise dropless fight. It starts with mediocre stats but as you progress you infuse it with more power, with optional quests to grant you more and more stats and slots for secondary stats. Unlocking the last stats and the highest upgrades should take truly legendary levels of skill, but it shouldn’t require endlessly doing a low return on time invested task.
So Final Fantasy XIV has come to take a BIG part of my gaming time again. This game just cannot be shaken from the rotation. I’m going to make a list of things I love.
- The slower Global Cooldown. I do sometimes feel like I don’t have anything to do, there are times when it causes things to lag, but if you manage to lineup some cooldowns off the global cooldown you feel like a rock star, and it gives you a LOT of time to enjoy the battle environment, animations, music, everything.
- The visceral thrill that is Final Fantasy’s music and graphics. This game is stunningly beautiful and the music is amazing. Primal fights especially feature thematic music with a very “primal” theme. From the drums-pounding relentless beat of Titan to the melodic, paced Ramuh theme these songs add so much flavor to a rich game. The graphics are, if anything, better. The cities are huge and often inconvenient, but beautifully done and you feel like you’re exploring them. The world is even more so, not as sprawling as that of Everquest or FF XIs MASSIVE planets, but large and wide in a way that forces you to really dig into the world, the lack of flying mounts helps as well.
- The game design has a lot of thought going into it and it shows. I don’t agree with all the decisions. One day I will build an aetheryte plaza in Vesper Bay. However the integration of the games many dungeons, FATEs and sidequests makes the game a smooth ride once you get used to the system.
- The game teaches you to play. I may get the wife into this in a couple months. From the tutorials to the guildhests this game will spoon feed you lessons. Sometimes it’s patronizing, until you get into a group in a dungeon and think “wow… these guys should play the guildhests,”
- The community. Look I love EvE Online and it STILL has the best community out there. While simultaneously having the most dangerous community out there. But MAN these guys are usually fantastically accepting, willing to deal with the wipefests and help each other out through thick and thin. Sure there’s been some parties where people freak out, but not like I’ve dealt with in WoW or ANYTHING like the trailer park shit I’ve dealt with in EvE. Do they reach the same heights of brilliance as the best of EvE or WoW? No. But I’ll take the calm tyvm.
- A relentless focus on PvE. Look I like PvP. When I want it I can log into WoT, LoL, and ruin someones evening. They do that aspect well. Squenix doesn’t try to mix bubble gum into salsa, SWTOR has been wrecked by trying to balance the two, even WoW with resources that are practically limitless, can’t do it perfectly. FF XIV gives us a tacked on sort of PvP that I have a hard time remembering exists.
- Interesting classes. I know some people don’t find a ton of variety and I think I see what they are point, but it boils things down to such an abstract that we’re all pressing 1-= with modifiers for different skillbars. Summoners, Black Mages and Bards have WILDLY different playstyles and roles that go way deeper than “ranged DPS” White Mages and Scholars are very different, as are Paladins and Warriors. The melee DPS is the one place I see some blending, but even then the utility difference between Monks, Dragoons and Ninjas makes a huge difference. Each class has its own style, and its own partisans.
- Story. There’s a lot of story. It goes on and on. It’s classic Final Fantasy stuff chock full of JRPG drama and adds a lot to the experience.
Which is not to say the game is perfect. There’s things that do hurt it and make for sizeable humps in the road.
- Uninspiring Mechanics. Look some of these bosses just aren’t interesting. As a tank I more or less have to grab the boss, turn him, and keep him from AOEing the group and that’s about it for maybe 4/5 bosses. That’s not to say there aren’t individual challenges and/or cooldown rotations, but you could fall asleep as a tank at times and that takes doing.
- Crutches and Crutch Removal. Every AOE has a marker on the group. ALMOST. You get used to dodging out of them then that ONE boss comes up and WHAMMO everyone is eating boots to the head. No Bueno.
- Grindfests. You don’t even want to know. Look up some guides on relic weapons. Wow. I haven’t even really tried it.
- Story. Yeah it’s here too. First they give you what amounts to a cell phone. Which you mostly use by nodding your head to whatever is said because you’re a Final Fantasy Hero. Then every mission requires you to go back to the same start point anyway. Usually in Vesper Bay requiring a wasted 2-3 minutes of travel time. It also stifles a good bit of player creativity. It’s hard to blog about the story when it’s THAT cut and dry. Not that that will slow me down.
- Lag. My god the lag. It’s ridiculous and I know I’m not the only one to have screamed in frustration when Titan knocks me a mile off the platform WELL after I got clear of the landslide. Grumble grumble.
Look this is a really really good game. I’m not going to say it’s a great game. It’s fanboyish as hell. If you love Final Fantasy you owe it to yourself to play it because it is CHOCK FULL of callbacks to earlier games. From the enemies, to the music, the the bosses, to the allies there’s endless references to the enemies we’ve hated, the allies we’ve loved, the allies we’ve hated and the enemies we’ve loved. Chocobos are in, Biggs, Wedge and Cid are together as they should be, Malboros have bad breath, and you DO… NOT… FUCK… WITH… TONBERRIES. Seriously.