Finished with Final Fantasy Fourteen For Now

I’m never one to pass on an alliterative title.

So as it says above, my 1 month Final Fantasy XIV sub ends in a couple of days and for once I timed things right. For the past week or so I’ve been logging in less and less so it’s the right time for a break.

I do plan on returning, probably when they release the next chunk of solo-able Main Story Quest dungeons. Not that I’ve gone through all the ones that are available now: the last one I did was Brayflox’s Longstop which crops up in the long (and to me, annoying) quest chain that happens before you fight Titan. Do you remember it? You’re sent all over hell & back getting food for a feast?

Generally I think I like the early levels of A Realm Reborn best, before you are expected to teleport all over the world to pick up a package or talk to an NPC. I am not really a fan of fast travel because, for me, it robs the world of a sense of scale and of being real. Of course I COULD just travel between these places on my Chocobo, and I might actually do that if I wasn’t paying a subscription fee which means there’s always a little clock ticking in the back of my brain. I don’t want to waste that much time when my time is limited to what I’m willing to pay for.

Anyway back to this quest chain. I had forgotten that when I was sent to get the wine it became a whole sub-branch of fetch quests and I just couldn’t face it, so I stopped logging in. I will try to power through these before my time runs out so they’re not the first thing I encounter when I inevitably come back.

And coming back should be easy because I’m playing a Paladin and at level 40 (I have managed to get way over-leveled without trying – Brayflox is a level 32 instance) I have only 5 skills that I regularly use. I have more than 5 slotted of course, but I rarely have need to use them. Turns out playing a Tank solo is kind of dull, at least so far. I’ve considered starting to level a healer or dps job but again…the clock is ticking and by the time it occurred to me to start a new job I only had a week of time left. Tt seemed wasteful to start over again. Maybe when I return.

Hmm, so far this post has sounded like a bunch of griping, but in general I’ve been having fun in FF XIV. I’m just grumpy because of this one quest chain.

Concerning Solo Dungeons

Doing the dungeons solo has been really enjoyable for a few reasons.

First, there’s obviously no social anxiety issues when your party buddies are all npcs.

Second, I get to really explore all the nooks and crannies and I have a better sense of the layout of these dungeons now. Dungeons that in the past were just a blur of rooms dashed through while trying to keep up with an experienced party hell-bent on finishing as quickly as possible now feel like fully-formed places. Haukke Manor is actually creepy when you have a minute to look around!

Third, you get to keep all the loot! I know that comes off as very selfish but it’s nice to go into a dungeon and come out the other side having replaced several pieces of gear with upgrades. Bonus: You have time to stop and put that gear on while you’re still in the dungeon!

Outside of the dungeons, the game has been pleasant enough though experience flows in so quickly that, as mentioned, I’m over-level everywhere. There’s not much challenge in overland content right now, which is another reason I thought I might start a new job. Easy-mode gets boring. If I wasn’t focused on the Main Story quest I’d mix things up by re-running Dungeons or grinding Fates (both of which level sync you) but again…the clock is ticking.

I still love the visuals and the vibe of the game. It would be great to be able to own a house and just kind of widen the experience beyond just questing all the time.

Sometimes when I’m done playing I stay logged in and turn on the “Idle Camera” and leave it running on the TV just to watch what folks are doing, see what they are wearing. That kind of thing.

So better to leave while I’m still basically feeling good about the game. I’ve got other things I want to play and FFXIV will be there waiting for me for the foreseeable future.

Weirdly, the thing I’ve been playing most when I’ve not been in FFXIV is Elder Scrolls Online. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. But that’s a different post.

April 2022

Disclaimer: I’m not in the mood to write a post but I just want to keep a list of what is going on so…

April is already over. The oppressive heat of May-September is right around the corner. Here on the Internet folks (well, some folks) are quite concerned over Elon Musk buying Twitter. I have thoughts on that I keep meaning to write down but never do. I’m hedging my bets. No plans to leave twitter but it did spur me to check out the “Fediverse” which I’m finding to be an amusing experience so far. The Mastadon instance I’m on (https://mstdn.social) feels a little like Twitter in the old days (not that it is a new instance..it just has an influx of new people) where FollowFriday is still a thing and I’m finding lots of science and tech folks to follow and learn from. Have to say though, my favorite account is from someone in northern England who is a stonemason and who posts pics from their job sites. I have nothing but respect and envy for people who build things with their hands.

Games

This will be quick. I started the month still playing Guild Wars 2, then munged up my shoulder so using a keyboard was really painful. That led to me subscribing to Final Fantasy XIV and starting a new character (playing on the PS5 via controller). Both the good and the bad part of paying a sub (for me) is that it means I feel obliged to play that game pretty exclusively. Which is mostly what I’ve been playing this month, though just the other night I started a character in Godfall, which I found was pretty fun. So maybe more of that in the days to come.

Bloodborn, Code Vein, Horizon Zero Dawn & LOTRO have all fallen by the wayside.

Godfall with HUD

Books

I finished the 2nd Expanse Novel, Caliban’s War. I’m still not sure who Caliban is. I enjoyed it, but with the same caveat as book 1: the TV show is such an authentic recreation of the books that this all feels really familiar given it hasn’t been very long since I watched the show. Characters look different in the books, and yeah there’s a lot of details that are different, but the big picture feels very familiar. This didn’t prevent me from rolling right into book 3, Abaddon’s Gate, though. [To put Caliban’s War in context for TV show viewers, this is the book where Avasarala, Bobbie and Prax are introduced…hopefully that’s not much of a spoiler.]

TV

I dunno. Nothing that feels exciting to write about. As a family we’re keeping up with Moon Knight, Picard and Halo, as well as rewatching Upload (which I find both hilarious and depressing…the latter because it all seems so plausible). Oh and trying to get through season 2 of Raised by Wolves, a show we watch mostly to see how much more weird it can get. I’m not sure either of us really cares about the story or the characters any more. Oh and we’re still wading through Star Trek: Deep Space 9 at lunch.

For my solo viewing, I bit off another chunk of The Sopranos. I’m not sure why I am forcing myself to plow through it. Everyone made such a fuss about it back in the day that I keep thinking “It has to get really great!” but I think I’m in season 4 and it is still mostly just “OK.” When I burned out on The Sopranos I bounced around a bit before landing on All Creatures Great & Small which I’m finding very soothing. It’s a PBS Masterpiece show. Also been watching random documentary-ish shows from The Smithsonian Channel and PBS.

And that’s April. We’re 2/3rds of the way to the summer equinox. We’re halfway to Halloween! One third of the way to Christmas. I’m bracing myself for the long, hot, humid, miserable summer weather and am already looking forward to when it gets cool in November.

FFXIV: Satasha Solo

Well it took me a week but I finally got a chance to check out the new solo dungeon system in Final Fantasy XIV. It took me a while to get there both because work has been kind of brutal requiring me to put in hours every evening, and because I was just really taking my time while playing. It’s going to be a while before more dungeons get added to the system, so why hurry?

Anyway, this is going to be a super short post. For Satasha, the party was made up of generic NPCs. I’m not sure if that holds true later or not, but at this point in the game you’re not talking to the Scions (??) yet, other than having one show up in the middle of some early game Duties to help out. But you don’t really know them yet.

But even though I was fighting with, y’know “Eager Lancer” and “Optimistic Conjurer” or whatever, it worked well. We sailed through Satasha with no issues, and I saw parts of the dungeon I’ve never seen before since most groups go through it in the fastest and most efficient way possible. For the first time I was able to go slow enough to understand the layout and see what switches needed to be switched and so forth (though that is all really simple in Satasha — I seem to remember there being more choices in the old days).

Bonus side effect: Doing the dungeon with NPCs has been thinking more about doing it again with people now that I understand it better. Maybe even as a tank. We’ll see.

The only thing my NPC friends didn’t do is shut down the grates in the final boss room. There’s a mechanic where 4 grates in the corners of the room start leaking water and if no one activates them, eventually Adds will spawn from them. My NPC chums ignored those grates, though to be fair most human players do as well since it tends to be faster/easier to just burn down the boss and semi-ignore the adds.

Oh and one thing I hadn’t been clear on: you can re-run the dungeons with an NPC party, too. I wasn’t sure if Square Enix was going to allow that or just let you do them once with NPCs in order to push the story forward. But nope, you can replay them with NPCs whenever you want, so that’s nice.

With only one run and my lack of experience, I can’t comment on whether the quality of loot was the same as running with human players. I can tell you I got to keep it all! 🙂

Final Fantasy XIV, The Solo MMO

Here’s a perfect example of life as an old person. There I was, finally really enjoying Guild Wars 2, when I jacked up my shoulder. And when I say “jacked up” what I mean is, I went to bed one night feeling fine and woke up with my shoulder feeling like it was on fire. Best I can figure, it’s a rotator cuff issue, but WHY it happened, I have no idea. I was just put on some statins for high cholesterol and I’m wondering if that is it. I’ve stopped taking them for a bit to see if this goes away.

Anyway this isn’t a medical blog, but the point is with my shoulder the way it is, sitting at a keyboard is really, really painful. Work has been hell. I tried to push through and keep playing but eventually decided it wasn’t worth it, so I headed back to my consoles.

But the MMO bug was still latched onto me. There’s ESO on consoles, of course, but I wanted something different (I low-key play ESO pretty much all the time). And then I learned that this week the FFXIV patch drops that brings the Trust System (tho they call it something else) to the original A Realm Reborn stages of the game. What this means is you can do the ‘story dungeons’ solo with a group of NPCs.

PERFECT.

I always love FFXIV right up to where I’m forced to group to progress. I don’t like being reliant on other people and I don’t like other people being reliant on me. If I screw up a run I feel awful for days. Basically what happened in my prior FFXIV sessions is I’d play until I really fucked up in a dungeon, then I just never log in again, but even before then having to wait for the dungeon finder to decide it’s time for you to play…between that and the login queues FFXIV hasn’t been a good fit, much as I love the world.

Now though, I can play through the MSQ until the end of ARR at my own pace and not have all that stress. I am so down for that. Of course my “main” is already through all of ARR so I had to start a new character to experience what it’s like to be a new FFXIV player. Bonus points for being able to pick a class based on what sounded fun rather than based on avoiding any kind of high-pressure roles (eg tank or healer). So for the first time in ages I’m playing a Gladiator. I’ll tank for NPCs, but not for people.

My first take-away is that leveling has been sped up a lot. Yesterday I installed the game, created a character, spent too much time going through the settings [it always takes me a while to get used to the controller for FFXIV, but this time out I don’t even have the game installed on PC…PS5 only!], and barely played. I was level 2 or 3 and had done one quest that involved combat. This morning in a few hours I got to level 11 just by doing Main Story Quests, Class Quests, keeping my Hunting Log on track and 2 or 3 low level Fates I stumbled on. No other quests done. None needed so far.

At level 11 I’m still wearing some of the gear I was ‘born’ in, and that quest where you have to have everything level 5 to complete it? That quest is still there but he waved me through regardless of the fact I was wearing some level 1 gear.

So I guess I’ll just be playing for a month, if that. I assume I’ll burn through the ARR content pretty quickly then I’ll have to wait for the next patch when they add that Trust system to the first expansion’s dungeons. Hey, it’ll be like playing on a “Progression Server” in some other old-timey MMO!

Apologies for this being a kind of low-effort blog post, but it is killing me to by typing (again, this shoulder thing) and I just want to get this out and go find some pain-killers!

Guild Wars 2 is starting to click

A while back I decided to give Guild Wars 2 another try. I logged in, grabbed a low level character (I had 8 characters, most of them under level 20) and started to play. He was a hunter who already had a pet. I was in a map I had no recollection of and with no other indicators of what to do I was trying to fill a “Heart” which I was finding really frustrating. The NPC wanted me to eliminate Centaurs but I couldn’t find any to eliminate. Combat felt super easy and dull (in retrospect this was because I was encountering single enemies that I was scaled down to). I only lasted a session or two before I quit.

More recently Belghast’s enthusiasm got to me and I decided to try yet again. This time I sacrificed a character to free up a slot so I could start completely fresh. I picked a Revenant (?) because it was a class I’d never played. Turned out to be a nice mix of melee and ranged. One of my ancient GW2 memories was that playing pure melee isn’t much fun because you often can’t even see your character in a group fight. I dunno if that is still true, or if it was ever true, but it was a memory I had.

Anyway, I found my new character pretty fun to play. I was just following the games advice to move through the zone of Queensdale. You get prompts like “There is an unexplored region in this direction” or “An unclaimed Hero Point is over here.” So I just went with the flow. In terms of levels I’d just caught up with that earlier character when I arrived at that same Heart and ran into the same issue. There is one Heart in Queensdale (Beetletun) where it is really not apparent (to me anyway) where to go to complete it. It seems a peaceful place. But when character #2 hit this spot I was already on-board the GW2 train so I was more willing to search around. I finally found one centaur camp and just farmed it until the Heart filled up, then I moved on.

Fast forward a bit. New character has 100% completion of Queensdale but wasn’t level 20 so not able to do the next phase of her story. I decided to look into crafting for her, rather than pushing into the next zone. I’d done crafting in the past and after a while memories started to resurface of leveling it up via discovering recipes. That was going well until I ran out of Aspen Wood, which is a tier 1 material.

I googled where to farm it and found a map that led me a merry chase throughout Queensvale. That actually felt pretty tedious though, so I found one spot where a good number of trees spawn (Altar Brook Vale) and then I tried something. I gathered several of my low level characters in that spot. I’d log one in, gather the trees, log that character out and another in, gather more trees, and so on. It seems to work…though for all I know just waypointing away and back might do the same thing on a single character.

But the nice knock-on effect is I’ve been playing my Revenant, an Elementalist and that Ranger that I more or less rage-quit while playing, and they’re all pretty fun. Altar Brook Vale is a lively place with a bandit camp that from time to time disgorges an army of bandits (bound for an event nearby) and more than once I’ve been caught up in a running battle against a hoard of bandits with some other players. There’s a hero point here too and while I’m waiting for trees to respawn I’ll often help other characters clear it. I’ve even stumbled into some of the fights that are… I dunno what they are? They show up on the map as red icons. Remnants or something? Suffice to say MUCH too powerful for me but I can hang at the peripherals and contribute enough to get some rewards.

What’s weird though is that I just keep playing different characters in this one tiny spot on the map, doing different things (chased a loot goblin, fought a cave troll, slaughtered some harpies, gathered grub bits for a fisherman, found a TON of bandits…etc etc) without getting the least bit bored.

So yeah, I guess I’m getting it. The design of the game draws high level characters back to these newbie areas too, which means I’m seeing cool mounts and stuff which is fairly aspirational for me. And I’m enjoying the leveling process that ArenaNet seems desperate for you to skip — I have 3 level-80 boosts, wads of boosts for levels 20, 30, 40, 50 & 60, and some items that give you a level on use. Not using ANY of that. Might as well hire someone to play the game for me. Leveling is fun!

Thinking way back, when I used to play GW2 I just remember doing most of my ‘leveling’ via daily rewards and really not knowing how to play my character, which of course doesn’t add to the enjoyment of a game. One of these days I’ll get brave and wake up a level 80 and see if I can figure it out, but for now this little stable of sub-20s is providing much enjoyment.

March 2022

I guess the fact that the post before this March recap is my February recap tells me it is time to let the blog die the next time it comes up for renewal. I just can’t seem to find the energy to post any more. Mostly I can’t find the energy to wrangle screenshots and images. I could gas on in all-text screeds for hours.

Anyway, onward to recap the glory that was March 2022.

Games

I have notes that tell me I played Horizon Zero Dawn and Bloodborne in March. I don’t really think I did much in Bloodborne. My HZD replay was going strong until it wasn’t. I still poke at it now and then, though I’ve quit my “never fast travel, soak in the world” methodology and am more about “let’s get to the end so we can go back to Horizon Forbidden West.”

The reason I didn’t make much more progress in Bloodborne is because I started in on Code Vein, which is an anime-inspired Souls-Like from Bandai Namco. I’ve made decent progress in it, but there’s a section called the Cathedral of Blood that is SUCH a maze that it has put me off the game a bit. Every so often I log in and try to find my way through this maze. The plus side is I’m leveling up like crazy which is making the game easier and easier. The negative side is, I’m getting bored running around the same area endlessly. Still, Code Vein is still in frequent rotation and it is probably the game I played the most this month.

More recently the MMO bug bit me. Belghast’s Guild Wars 2 shenanigans convinced me to patch up Guild Wars 2 and give it another go. Like Bel this is a game I’ve bounced off many times. But what the heck, right? I already own it…may as well give it yet another chance.

And that was going well until a random YouTube video put me in a Lord of the Rings frame of mind, which led me to patch up and start playing Lord of the Rings Online again. Not too long ago I started a new character, a female elf champion, and I’m liking her a lot. I realized after a bit that a big chunk of my issue with LOTRO is that the male character models just look too goofy. My elf looks so much better than any of the boys.

I mean, who would you rather play?
Female LOTRO characterMale LOTRO character

For a game as old as it is, LOTRO still has quite an active community. This shot was taken on a Wednesday night and crowds like this are not at all rare.
Screenshot of a crowd of players outside the Prancing Pony

My only real complaint about LOTRO is it can still be pretty janky at times, just in terms of lag pockets and such. I miss a lot in combat because the mob and I have clipped through each other and now I’m not longer facing them. But I don’t think you play LOTRO for the combat; you play it for the environment, which is still really enjoyable to me.

Guild Wars 2 obviously doesn’t have quite the lore-draw that LOTRO has, but I find the combat really fun thanks to trying out the Revenant class. It’s one of the few MMOs I can recall where I go out of my way to get into fights because they’re so enjoyable.

One thing both LOTRO and Guild Wars 2 seem to have in common is a mature community. In both games I’m comfortable leaving general chat open and I see a lot of theme-appropriate names and very few of those sorts of names that just make you cringe and want to report someone. Me being me, I never talk to anyone, but both games feel like being a newcomer in a local watering hole. Not ready to chat with the other customers, but happy to sit and kind of listen in on all the news and such.

I don’t have any big gaming plans for April. Just going to continue with what I’ve been doing. There’re no games coming out this month that I’m particularly interested in so I’ll just keep playing what I’ve already got.

Books

Just one book to report this month: Leviathan Wakes, which is the first of The Expanse novels. I’ve read it before, and of course I’ve watched the TV series a few times. I think this is causing me to read more slowly since it all feels pretty familiar. Plenty of nights I’ve gone to bed and just gone to sleep rather than do any reading.

TV

TV has been all over the place. @partpurple and I watched Raising Dion (Netflix), caught up on Star Trek Discovery (Paramount+), then bounced over to Archive 81 (Netflix) which was a fun creepy diversion before heading back to sci-fi with Star Trek Picard (Paramount+).

For my late-night solo viewing, I was watching The Sopranos for a while but drifted away and finished up 1883 (Paramount+) which I thought was fantastic. After that I went back to the Snowpiercer series, which I’m currently watching. I’d seen Season 1 before, but rewatched it, watched season 2 and now I’m in season 3 which so far feels like it might not be quite as good as the first two seasons. I did NOT like the Snowpiercer movie but the TV series I’m really enjoying, although you have to just roll with the kind of ludicrous overall premise of the last of humanity living on a train that can never stop moving. Well at least not until the plot calls for it to have to stop. Also in season 3 a lot of train track just starts mysteriously appearing to serve the plot. Oh well.

I have to say March kind of flew by in terms of leisure activities. Too many evenings spent working, I guess. We’ve been having dinner later and later and I sometimes tend to keep puttering around with work stuff until dinner no matter when that is. Gotta break that habit. By the time we eat and watch some TV together it is often nearly 10 PM so my gaming time is down to maybe an hour/night. Thing is, I feel kind of OK with that. Gaming in general isn’t the great pleasure it used to be. I go through these slumps from time to time where I just kind of need a break, then I get excited about games again. Hopefully this slump won’t last too long! Sad thing is gaming is really my only hobby and when I’m not doing it I’m just wasting time on YouTube or something.

February 2022

Another month ends and we say goodbye to what is laughingly referred to as winter here in North Carolina. I spotted an 80F day in the 10-day forecast. (Of course it’ll probably snow that day…in my next life I’m going to be a weatherperson so I can be wrong most of the time and get away with it.)

Games

The big take-away this month is an old lesson re-learned. Don’t pre-order games. I pre-ordered three this month and the results were not good:

Horizon Forbidden West — Nothing at all wrong with this game but starting to play it just made me want to go back and re-play Horizon Zero Dawn, which is what I’ve been doing lately. I probably could’ve just done that and picked up HFW later. Still it’s such a great series I don’t have any regrets about this pre-order.

Elden Ring — I pre-ordered the Xbox version of this and it flat-out did not work. There was some glitch in the update progress where I (and many others) had a version installed that would not connect to the networks, and there was no way to ‘force’ a refresh. On top of this, there are many reports about poor performance. The good news here is that Microsoft gave me a refund with no fuss at all. I’ll come back to this at some point in future when the kinks are worked out.

Dying Light 2 — This one I pre-ordered on the PS5 and it was so janky that I set it aside. No refund available. This was just money poured down the drain, though I’m sure eventually it’ll get patched and I’ll give it another go.

Those were the three games I had INTENDED to be playing.

What I actually wound up playing is, as mentioned, Horizon Zero Dawn. I have the Platinum trophy for this, earned 5 years ago, and re-playing it without hunting for trophies has been incredibly fun and relaxing. I am in no rush to finish, but I’m glad Forbidden West is waiting in the wings.

Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Hold was a Playstation+ freebie and I wanted to check it out to see if I’d be interested in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, which I believe is out in March. I really did enjoy my time with this one and intend to go back to finish it at some point.

Dying Light 2 was not ready for prime time, though when it worked well it was pretty fun. Looking forward to playing this one when it is done. Still salty about paying $60 to beta test it, though.

Scarlet Nexus was a bounce-off. I really expected to like this game but ultimately I just never got in the groove, and the story wasn’t interesting enough to hold me in that world when I wasn’t enjoying the minute-to-minute gameplay. Don’t expect I’ll ever finish this.

Bloodborne is back in rotation now that Elden Ring is out. I haven’t been playing it much, just trying to keep the muscle memory alive until such time as I’m ready to dive back in ‘for real’.

Babylon’s Fall is coming soon and there was a demo available on the Playstation. I tried it and found it quite lacking. This is a game I might try when it’s in the “Games under $15” section of the store.

Lost Ark is a PC game that a lot of my friends are excited about. I tried it, uninstalled it, read more hype from friends, re-installed it, and I guess technically I’m playing it. I poke at it while I have my morning coffee on weekends. It seems… fine. I really don’t understand the excitement over it, but it’s free-to-play so maybe I’ll keep poking it.

Books

Well book, singular, actually. I finished Bernard Cornwell’s War Lord, the last book in his Saxon Stories series. At least the last so far, but Uhtred is so old in it that I’m not sure how Cornwell could squeeze in any more unless he goes back and fleshes out some periods earlier in our hero’s life. I have to say, it’s been a while since I read something this long (there are 13 novels in the series) without getting tired of it.

Having finished that, though, I’ve kind of taken my foot off the gas as far as reading goes. Gotta get back to it!

TV

So much TV!

With The Expanse finished airing, we went back and re-watched Season 5 & watched Season 6. I’m now ready for someone to pick up the rights and keep making this show. I was honestly not as enthusiastic about Season 5 as I was about Seasons 1-4 just because the gang was no longer together, but season 6 pulled me back in.

We’ve also started a re-watch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine though honestly we’ve both been a little lukewarm about it so far. We’ll see if it gets better after season 1. I remember not being a huge fan back when it aired but I was hoping that a re-watch would change my opinion.

Currently we’re rewatching Season 1 of Raising Dion before watching the new second season. This is the story of a single mom raising a son who has super-powers, which sounds like the setup for a comedy but it isn’t: it’s a drama (tho of course some funny things happen now and then).

My late-night, “watch the stuff @partpurple doesn’t want to watch” selection this month has been The Sopranos; my first viewing. I just started season three, if memory serves. So far it’s been OK but I’m not sure why folks made such a fuss about it back in the day.

Ascendance of a Book Worm is an anime about a young woman who dies and is resurrected in the body of a small girl in a fantasy world. She quickly learns to her horror that there are almost no books in this world so she sets out to ‘invent’ paper making and printing. It was a pretty sweet story; I hope there are more seasons coming.

Wrap Up and plans for March

So that was February. In terms of gaming I don’t have much planned for March. Keep playing Horizon until it isn’t fun and then…who knows?

In books I’ve started a re-read of Leviathan Wakes, which is the first Expanse novel.

And I have 4(?) more seasons of The Sopranos to get through, which will probably take all month. I’m not sure where @partpurple and I will go after Raising Dion. We still need to get back to Star Trek Discovery so we’ll probably do that. I dunno, can’t make plans without consulting with her.

Hope everyone had a nice February and here’s to March going out like a lamb. Preferably not a 90F lamb!

Back to the Beginning With Aloy

I played Horizon Zero Dawn when it launched in 2017, consuming it as quickly as possible because I was so caught up in the story. I came back for the Frozen North DLC, finished that and was done with the game. I hadn’t touched it since. I have very fond memories of playing and it is on my ‘top games of all time’ list. To say I was excited about Horizon Forbidden West would be an understatement.

When Forbidden West launched last Friday I dove right in, and was immediately hooked. The aesthetics and the gameplay strangely felt both familiar and new in the best possible way. But after the immediate rush of that first play-session faded I noticed something was missing. I wasn’t feeling a connection to the characters.Aloy sneaking in the rain
In the early hours Forbidden West re-introduces characters from the first game. For as fondly as I remember Zero Dawn, it turns out what I remembered were the main themes/plot, which focus mostly on Aloy discovering who she is (she was abandoned as a child) and the player discovering how the world that we’re playing in came to be.

Along the way Aloy gets caught up in politics between tribes, meets a lot of people, and generally experiences a lot of exploring and side-stories. I’d mostly forgotten all that. Very early in Forbidden West you run into Varl. Aloy clearly knows him, but he is a mystery to me. A little later she runs into Petra, and same thing. Aloy and these people have a history but time has erased them from MY memory.

So I decided to do something crazy. I set Forbidden West aside and started a new game of Zero Dawn. I considered a New Game+ run but then I’d have all kinds of gear that I no longer remember how to use, so I just opted for a regular old run-through on Normal difficulty.

I haven’t regretted this situation one bit. Horizon Zero Dawn holds up wonderfully and it still a fantastic game. I’m enjoying re-encountering these characters and thinking “How could I have forgotten Varl/Petra!?” constantly. And Rost. I’d forgotten Rost! Now I remember him.
Sunset skies
Since I earned the Platinum Trophy { /minor_flex } back when I first played, I don’t have to worry about searching for every collectible or whatever. I can play the game very naturally which is turning out to mean “very slowly.” I’ve rarely used quick travel, preferring to see the sights and kill some machines when going from here to there. Or riding a tamed machine, which never gets old. Aloy 2.0 is now level 20 and I haven’t even been to Meridian yet. (For reference, in my old post-DLC saves, Aloy was level 53.)

I am in no hurry to finish and move on to Forbidden West again, but when I eventually do I think I will enjoy it even more thanks to having all the people and lore fresh in my brain. It’ll be me saying “Hey! It’s Varl! Good old Varl, how ya been, buddy?” at the same time Aloy is greeting an old friend. That’ll be nice.

Side Note: Look at this campsite she stumbled on. It’s like maybe a diorama of a funeral or something? I’ve also included a close-up of one of the dolls that protect this camp.

Dear Scarlet Nexus: It’s Not You, It’s Me

I still remember how much fun I had when I tried the Scarlet Nexus demo last spring. I couldn’t wait to play the full game, though it was about a week ago that I finally got around to it. I was really excited to dive in.

Since my last post I’ve put about 12 hours into Scarlet Nexus and…I’m not enjoying it at all. In fact I’ve decided to stop playing, and that makes me really sad. HowLongToBeat says I’m halfway to one third of the way through and I feel like if I’m not having fun now, I’m not going to suddenly start having fun.

So what happened between the demo and now? I’m really not sure. I just can’t grok the flow of combat, and the game is really all about combat and cut-scenes and very little else. If I’m not enjoying the combat (and I’m not) then there’s little point in playing. I find even after 12 hours I’m just kind of frantically button mashing trying to keep up with everything going on on-screen (and to be clear, it is NOT a game that rewards button mashing).

Maybe there are just too many systems operating at once for my old man brain to deal with? You have weapon attacks which include basic attack chains, perfect dodges with a reaction attack, launch attacks that send the enemy in the air, then air juggles with air dashes, and there are heavy attacks that fling you backwards. Oh and a ground smash attack for when you’re in the air.

All that I can deal with.

Then there are the magic attacks. Hold RT to fling something at the enemy. Hold LT on other things that spawn a quick mini-game to do extra damage. But if you break the ‘shield’ of the enemy then LT becomes some kind of Brain attack that rips the enemy’s head (or what passes for its head) off (every time you do this a cut-scene plays). Sometimes RT does something else but I’m not sure what…a button prompt flashes on screen when something happens but I haven’t figured out what yet. Then there’s a mode where you press L3 & R3 at the same time to go into an alternate realm with slightly different combat.

And you can (and more or less need to) combo magic and weapon attacks, by following up one type of attack with one of the other type. So you fling a car at an enemy (that’s magic) then time it right and you can rush in with a powerful melee attack. You’re supposed to be able to do the opposite, too: melee combo into magic attack, but the magic attacks take so long to spin up I’ve never figured out how to do these.

Then there’s buffs from other party members, fired off via RB+face button; they all do different things like infuse attacks with electricity or give you hyperspeed. Or you can do LB+face button to get a friendly to attack for you.

R3 will lock on to an enemy and I think RB+right stick is supposed to change what enemy you have targeted but I haven’t had much luck with that. I generally just unlock and re-lock instead.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things. So you’re doing all these combat systems in a fenced-off arena while getting pummeled by all sides. You can use a healing consumable by pressing down on the D-Pad but 9 times out of 10 as soon as you let go of the left stick to tap that d-pad you’ll get hit by a projectile. Enemies are uncanny with ranged attacks…no matter how you zig and zag if you stop moving you get hit.

If the game offered something other than combat, combat, combat, I might stick around, but the environments get really same-y really fast and it’s all corridors to run down. Heck your character has a double jump but can’t jump over most things because of invisible walls. Like maybe you see a delivery truck. You can jump high enough to clear it but if you try you’ll find the sides of the truck are invisible walls and just bounce off the air above the truck.

There are ‘side quests’ but those mostly boil down to “kill enemy type X using attack type Y” and they have zero story or lore attached to them. There’s no ‘over-world’ but instead you teleport from level to level. Really you’re either running down a corridor fighting things or you’re watching cut scenes. There is zero exploration. And the main character I’m playing (Kasane) is about as likeable as a box of stale crackers.

Anyway, I’m really bummed that I’m not liking it more, but at this point I’m so frustrated that playing it is just making me angry. “Trash” mobs aren’t bad, but the boss fights are just difficulty spikes that have me burning through all my healing items just to squeak by, after which I have to spend all my currency replenishing healing items.

I guess I could just go back and replay earlier areas over and over for items to sell and to get some combat experience to level up, but this is not a game where I find grinding fun.

Fortunately it is on Game Pass so at least I didn’t spend $60 to find out I am not enjoying it [glares at Dying Light 2] but still, I’m disappointed. And I know it is me, because I have friends who played and really enjoyed it. There’s just something about the combat I’m just not getting. Maybe five years from now I’ll try it again and it’ll all make sense and I’ll love it and… hey, I think I’ll go play some Bloodborne.

Scarlet Nexus, Finally

Back in December (I think?) I started playing Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age on the Xbox. It was on Game Pass and I was on a Final Fantasy bender. Then in typical fashion I got distracted and let it drop, but I still had it pinned near the top of the Xbox dashboard because I had every intention of getting back to it.

The other day I opened the Game Pass app and there under “Leaving Soon’ was “Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age.” Bummer. In theory I could drop everything and try to mainline FFXII and finish it by the end of the month (I think that’s when it drops from the lineup) but I know doing that when I wasn’t in the mood would just make me hate the game. I considered buying it, but it is still something like $40 which seems like a lot for a game that originally came out in 2006. Granted this is a remaster but still. Anyway, for now I wave farewell to FFXII and maybe I’ll snag it on sale at some point.

On the same day I got this news, I opened the Microsoft Rewards app to earn some sweet, sweet Microsoft Points/funny money. There was a challenge to “Earn an Achievement In One of Our Top 10 Games”. I looked at the list of games, which I think is more “The top 10 games we want to promote” than anything. Scarlet Nexus was in there.

Before it launched, there was a demo for Scarlet Nexus and I had played it and enjoyed it. I’d even planned to buy the game at launch but something came up…who can remember back that far? And then it popped up on Game Pass and I was happy I hadn’t spent $60 on it. Now I could play it for “free.” *happy dance*

Except I didn’t. This is my Game Pass Achilles Heel. A game I want to play hits the service, I get excited and put it on my mental list of “games I’ll play Real Soon Now” but…I forget that inclusion on Game Pass is transient. Generally games are on there for a year or two, maybe even longer, but most do eventually leave. Use it or lose it. Play it or… belay it? (I’ll work on that.)

So this Microsoft Rewards quest thingie was thankfully the kick in the ass I needed. I fired up Scarlet Nexus and quickly remembered how much I’d enjoyed the demo. It didn’t take long to earn an Achievement to get the Rewards points, but I didn’t stop there. Now I’ve been playing it for a couple nights and my intent, as of right now, is to finish it. Tomorrow that intent may change, what with me being me.

I particularly enjoy Scarlet Nexus while wearing headphones with the sound cranked up. I’m finding the music a delight, even though it is not really in my wheelhouse. The whole anime vibe of the game is enjoyable too, and the Others (the monsters you fight) are delightfully weird.

None of this is news to anyone. We all played the demo, and a good number of us enjoyed it, at least based on my Twitter circles.

So this whole post is really just a cautionary tale about waiting too long to play the Game Pass games you want to play. Don’t be like me, sitting here with my crushed Final Fantasy XII dreams…

I’ll come back to actually playing Scarlet Nexus in a future post. Maybe.