Final Fantasy XIII: Twice the Hours, Twice the Fun?

Last night I crossed the 26 hour mark in Final Fantasy XIII. Actually I’m at 27. That’s 14 hours in about four days, which is a lot of gaming for me. Having days off for Thanksgiving helped, of course. So how’re things going?

Twenty-seven hours in I’ve just reached Gran Pulse and the start of chapter 11 which is, according to my vague memory of my last attempt to finish this game, where things “open up” and you start making some decisions for your party. Chapters 1-10 are very linear aside from some very short side-passages that generally hide a goodie behind a slightly more difficult than usual fight.

I haven’t really minded the linearity in and of itself. I’m one of those players who can enjoy doing battles and progressing characters just to earn the ‘rat pellet’ of another cut scene or chunk of story. In FFXIII I enjoyed the process during chapters 1-8. Chapters 9 & 10, though, were both slogs. They were both much too long or contained too little story, depending on how you want to look at it. The environments the party was moving through were monotonous, the enemies I was fighting were too familiar (slightly more powerful varients of baddies I’d been fighting for 8 chapters). Progress was starting to slow down. I’m hoping chapter 11 rejuvenates my interest which, I must admit, has been flagging.

One other point about Chapter 9. You’re on an enemy airship in this chapter and you’ve triggered an alarm. For almost all of this chapter there is a claxon blaring. I would like to find the person who thought this was a good idea and punch them in the ear in order to recreate the headache they gave me. This chapter literally cleared the room: Partpurple couldn’t take listening to it any more and left. I finally just turned the sound off and played in silence.

There was a tough boss fight at the end of chapter 9. I failed my first attempt on him after a long fight. This boss casts Doom 20 minutes into the battle. When a character has Doom cast on them, a timer starts counting down and when it reaches 0 it is game-over. To the best of my knowledge there is no way to remove Doom so basically it’s a time limit in the form of a spell. I am going to guess it takes 5 minutes for Doom to proc. Spending 25 minutes on a boss fight and losing due to a mechanic like this was discouraging enough that I didn’t want to repeat it. (Without the Doom spell I would’ve beat him; I was handling all his most potent attacks without losing characters; I just wasn’t doing damage fast enough.)

Before re-attempting the boss I did a small amount of ‘grinding’ by clearing a few encounters. That gave me enough experience to boost my character’s abilities a bit. Between that and some knowledge learned in the first attempt, I took him down the second time.

I wanted to talk a little more about character progression. You have six characters and there are six roles. Fairly early in the game each character receives three of these roles. You don’t level up the characters, instead you earn “Crystarium Points” from fighting. These points are used to unlock nodes on a ‘tree’, one for each role. Nodes provide either stats or skills. After a certain number of nodes are unlocked that character ‘levels up’ that role. Early on the game gates you in how far you can advance a role, which I think is meant to encourage you to unlock nodes in more than one role. A side-effect of this gating is that it is relatively easy to just unlock everything for each character, which is what I did for that Chapter 9 boss fight. I made sure everything was unlocked and that took maybe 10 minutes of grinding.

Part of Lightning’s Crystarium skill-grid thingie

Only three characters at most can take part in a battle. In the early game the battle party is predetermined; again I think this is to force you to try different Paradigms and combat styles (see my post from early this week for more about Paradigms). Somewhere around Chapter 9 (going from memory) the game lets you start picking your battle party members. Then at the end of Chapter 10/start of Chapter 11 each character gets all six roles unlocked and the gates come down.

At this point my characters had their initial 3 roles all capped at level 3. I’m finding that progress beyond level 3 seems to slow down quite a bit. I’m not sure if maybe that is to encourage us to work on the other 3 new roles each character just received? (The Internet tells me characters are strongest in their original three roles, though.) I’m currently running Lightning, Hope and Fang as my party. Light is primarily damage. Hope is healer and buffer, Fang is tank and debuffer. I don’t really like Hope much, though, and would like to swap in Vanille, but she doesn’t have the buffer role (Synergist). Well technically she has it now but no unlocks for it. So the question is, do I spend a bunch of points teaching Vanille to be a Synergist or do I just forge on with whiny Hope in my party?

Anyway, I guess that’s enough for today. I’m just about where I abandoned the game during my first attempt at it. I can’t remember what Chapter 11 was like, so it’s time to go refamiliarize myself. If the pace doesn’t pick up from chapters 9 & 10 then I might be coming to the end of my time with Final Fantasy XIII.

Finally thought to capture a full battle. This was my first time encountering triffids so I need Libra to learn about them. At one point I popped a potion more to show off that there are potions than for any other reason. Fight was dicey for a bit, then we staggered the big flora thingie and juggled it until it was dead.

Meanwhile, in Final Fantasy XIII

It’s been about a week since I started playing Final Fantasy XIII again. When I jumped back in I found I had a save file with 30-ish hours of playtime, but I couldn’t really remember how to play. I started a new game with my intention being to play the first 5-10 hours to get reacquainted and then switch to the 30 hour save.

So far I’m about 13 hours in. I think I’ve re-learned all the main systems and there’s no good reason for me to soldier on in this new save at this point. FFXIII is a linear game and it’s not like I can make different choices in this play-through. And yet, so far at least, I’m having too much fun to make the jump.

In truth FFXIII makes it easy to come back. There’s a ‘datalog’ feature that gives a textual recap of all the cut scenes and everything that has happened so far. I could read through all that and be totally caught up on the story. The various tutorials that you encounter can also be re-visited at any time. Kudos to the devs for offering these options.

I still might jump to the old save, but the vibe of the game is currently hitting me just right. Yup, it is super linear, and in some ways the game almost plays itself. But it’s awfully pretty and has a great soundtrack and I’m finding it quite soothing to play. With all the shit going on in the world, just easing into a mellow, escapist game is feeling really good right now.

It’s been a long time since I last played, but I think I am playing much differently than I originally did. FFXIII’s combat is base around teams of 2 or 3 characters with real-time, though not action-based, combat. There’s a bar called, I think, the ATB (Action Time Bar, maybe?) that you slot abilities into. During battle this bar fills up and when full your character performs the actions you’ve slotted. Then you slot new abilities in and wait for it to fill. The bar is broken into segments and different abilities take up different numbers of segments.

The game offers a way to automate this slotting of abilities into the ATB. I generally resist automation in games and I’m pretty sure I slotted things manually the last time I played, but this time I’m just letting the computer take care of that. I just pick the targets and the “AI” slots appropriate abilities. Honestly it does a better job than I do because it remembers what different kinds of attacks enemies are susceptible to. If an enemy takes double damage from Fire attacks the AI will slot Fire attacks whereas I’d probably never remember to do that.

In any case the AI always handles the abilities of characters 2 & 3; at best you can micro-manage the leader. There may come a time when I have to do that, but I haven’t encountered it yet and there’s a nice flow to battle when you’re just making the big decisions.

So about those big decisions. Each character can take on different roles. Roles are things like Commando (tank), Ravager (dps), Synergist (buffer), Medic (healer) and so on. You set up sets of this roles into a mechanic called Paradigms.

So maybe I have a Paradigm where Character 1 is a Medic, Character 2 is a Synergist and Character 3 is a Commando. That would be kind of a defensive Paradigm. Then I’d set up a 2nd Paradigm where Characters 1 & 2 are Ravagers and Character 3 is a Commando. That’d be be offense/assault Paradigm. You have have up to 6 of these Paradigms set up, and you can (and will) change them on the fly during a battle.

So instead of micromanaging the abilities my leader is using, I am instead constantly changing Paradigms and enemy targets. I guess the best analogy would be that I’m playing as the Coach of the team, calling the plays, but the AI is taking care of the moves each player makes. Here’s a short example video. Sadly the Xbox will only save 1 minute of video at 1080P so you only see the end of this fight when only a single foe is left standing. Need to start streaming then grab clips I guess.

I think this keeps me engaged. A lot of the battles are kind of trash mobs where my goal is basically “Kill them as fast as possible” (the game awards you for finishing battles quickly) with intermittent encounters where you have to think a lot more about what roles you need when.

And in between the battles, lots of anime-esque cut scenes where we learn about the characters’ backstories and watch the current story unfold.

So far, I’m digging it. There’s a lot more to the combat system but I’ve bored you enough for one post.

Finished Control

Welp I finished up Control on the PS5 this morning. I know this is a game a lot of people enjoyed, and that it received positive reviews, but honestly I didn’t like it all that much. That’s not to say it was a bad game; it was just not the right game for me. Generally speaking I found it more frustrating than enjoyable and when I got to the post-credits, “Guess what there’s still more to do!” bit I was like “Nope, not even a little bit” and I quit and uninstalled.

I think there were a few reasons why it frustrated me.

1) The Map. While I enjoy exploring in games, I don’t really enjoy being lost. I know that sounds odd. Control gives you a map. It shows where you are. Your quest journal tells you where you have to go, and you can see the destination on the map. And yet for me there were a lot of times where I still couldn’t easily figure out the path from Point A to Point B. This is the exact same issue I had with Jedi Fallen Order. I just don’t enjoy confusing maps in games, but at the same time I acknowledge that this was a deliberate mechanic in Control and that some people really enjoy figuring out pathways between points.

2) Combat rewards aggressiveness. I tend to be the kind of gamer that advances slowly and methodically through combat situations. I tend to hang back, take out enemies from afar when possible and advance slowly. Control punishes this style of play. Damage in control is restored by picking up ‘crystals’ that fall off enemies when they are damaged or die. As long as you keep moving forward you’ll vacuum up these crystals and restore your health. If you hang back, no health restoration. The ideal way to fight in Control seems to be pushing forward aggressively and using Dash and Shield abilities to avoid/mitigate damage. Again, this is not a BAD combat system, it just doesn’t suit me. See also Outriders, another game that rewarded an aggressive combat style that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as my friends did.

3) HDR, maybe? On the PS5 (at least) Control really leans into HDR effects. There are a lot of places where the screen gets so bright you can’t really see well, like stepping out of dark building into bright sunshine. It’s a realistic effect that looks really cool but so often I was attacked by enemies I couldn’t even see. Later in the game as things got weirder this impact ramped to 11 as I fought orange colored enemies in a room saturated with red light to the point where I could only see enemies from their shooting. I *think* a non-HDR version wouldn’t have this issue but I’m not sure. (The image at the top of the post shows the lighting I’m talking about, though no enemies in it and of course with HDR off so the effects aren’t quite as extreme.) There were times while playing that my eyes literally started watering from the lighting effects and I’d have to take a break.

OK so those are things I didn’t like. Sure there was something I did like, right?

Well the setting and the lore was really good. The premise of the game is that there’s a Federal Bureau of Control that is tasked with collecting Objects of Power that have paranormal uses/effects. As a kid, protagonist Jesse and her friends found one of these: a slide project that opens portals to other dimensions. The object, as well as she and her brother, were rounded up by the Bureau but she escaped. Now as an adult she’s trying to rescue her brother who has been kept captive all these years.

It was huge fun exploring the levels to find and read about these various objects, often via heavily redacted documents. Sometimes the items end up giving Jesse powers. If I remember correctly, the Merry Go Round horse gave her a Dash ability.

I also enjoyed the combat when it felt fair. You have a single gun that can morph into different configurations: shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher, etc. Ammo is unlimited but takes some time to recharge. Meanwhile you can pick up and hurl objects psychically. The amount of destruction that results is quite cathartic and oddly seems very pretty. The enemies you fight are in the shape of people (more or less) but don’t bleed, instead they kind of burst in a puff of smoke and light when they die. I wish I’d taken more screenshots in the middle of combat but I was always too focused on staying alive.

The strange thing is, when I first started playing Control I didn’t find it very hard. Then I took a break for a month or two and when I came back it was kicking my ass. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I forgot a mechanic, or maybe I stopped playing when I started getting frustrated and just don’t remember?

Anyway I died a LOT in the later stages and Control has one of those (in my opinion) backwards systems where you lose progress when you die. Let me explain. As you play you gather resources that you use to improve your weapons and ‘mods’ that you apply to yourself. There’s a currency cost to do these upgrades. Every time you die you lose 10% of your currency, making it harder for the player who is struggling to upgrade their weapons. This seems backwards to me. The player who is having an easy time killing baddies also has an easier time upgrading their gear to make it even easier yet to kill baddies.

Anyway, if there is a Control 2 I’d probably give it a pass. On the other hand if someone makes a Control movie or TV series, I’d be all over that. Great worldbuilding and lore. The actual plot was pretty straight-forward but all the backstory was quite compelling. And it was such a pretty game; maybe too pretty at times when all the smoke, colors and lights made it hard to see the enemies coming at you. Again, while Control wasn’t a great game for me personally, a lot of people enjoyed it quite a bit. Hopefully this post can give you some guidance on whether you’d be in the majority would really enjoy it, or if some of the issues I had would impact you as well.

Pondering Black Friday

The Black Friday sales have already started. Usually I gripe about holiday stuff coming earlier and earlier but if starting Black Friday a week ahead of time lets even one retail worker get to spend more time with their family on Thanksgiving and the day after, I’m all for it.

By the way, if the header image is baffling you, that’s a still shot from an old TV ad. Back before Best Buy crushed all the competition, Crazy Eddie was a big box electronics store that operated (at least) in the Northeast part of the US. It was known for having wacky ads, though really looking at one now it seems fairly tame compared to what we see online every day:

Anyway so yeah, Black Friday sales have started and I’m trying to resist the temptation of, in particular, the Playstation Store. I hardly buy PC games and honestly these days I rarely buy Xbox games, what with Game Pass keeping me so busy. But my PS5 library is still fairly small and there are a few titles I’d like to get that are on sale.

Titles I’m eyeballing (prices are based on being a PS+ member, if that matters, and are rounded to the nearest dollar):

Guardians of the Galaxy ($39 – yup, already on sale)
Far Cry 6 ($40)
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade ($47)
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart ($50)
Demon’s Souls ($40)

I could probably find more if I really tried but that’s already way more than I can afford. Generally these prices are in the 35%-off-ish range, so they’re not super crazy sales but still, decent discounts.

So I’m pondering. I don’t really NEED more games. I’m still deep into Final Fantasy XIII & Control and have a TON of stuff in my backlogs. That’s today. But what about in a few months? When will we see the next huge sale? Christmas? Summer? Hard to say when, and if the discounts will be as large. Of course by next Black Friday all these games will be even cheaper, right?

But at the same time, it’s the season for retail therapy and Guardians, in particular, is calling to me because so many people whose opinions I respect (Scopique, for instance) really enjoyed the game.

Well the other good thing about Black Friday starting early is I have some time to think about it. Maybe if I finish Control before the sale ends, I’ll treat myself. Or maybe Sony will roll out “flash sales” with even deeper discounts, though I’m not sure they’d do that for games already on sale.

So what’s on your Black Friday shopping list? Anything fun?

Game Pass Cloud Gaming Arrives on Consoles

It is finally here! Xcloud, Microsoft’s cloud gaming system for Xbox Game Pass, has been available on mobile devices and computers for a while now, but inexplicably not on the consoles themselves. Today it has arrived.

Here’s the official post about it.

Of course HOW to access it isn’t particularly clear.

Step one: Update your console. It’ll update automatically probably tonight but if you want to jump in now go to settings->system and choose updates.

Step two: Wait impatiently for update to complete

Step three: When the console restarts you’ll probably see all kinds of promotions for this new feature, but barring that, open the Game Pass app, open a game page, and from there you’ll see a “Play” button with a little cloud icon next to it. (See image at the top of this post.) You’ll also see the cloud icon on the game ’tiles’ in the game pass app.

I can’t take screenshots of the dashboard, so please forgive the photo of a TV. 🙂

Xbox One owners get this too, and can play Xbox Series X titles via Xcloud, though to the best of my knowledge there are no exclusive Series X|S games that are cloud-enabled yet. Flight Simulator is coming, though.

Playing Next: Control and Final Fantasy XIII?

Whenever I finish a game I feel a bit adrift for a while as I attempt to latch onto something new to occupy my time. Sometimes I can do that almost immediately and sometimes it can take weeks.

With Final Fantasy XV completed and off the Xbox external drive, I started looking for the next thing to ‘clean off’ the Xbox. (What brought me to FFXV initially was that it was a large game and I was trying to free up space on an external drive.) I was thinking Red Dead Redemption 2 has to be pretty big and I never finished that so I went to check and…it wasn’t even downloaded. I guess it was on the Internal drive of the old Xbox so didn’t make the generational hop. So of course I installed it and it is even bigger than FFXV.

So I’ve accomplished having even less free space.

I was all set to start playing RDR2 but…it felt intimidating. It was another long game; I’ve started it twice but never come close to finishing it, and I figured I’d want to start fresh this time, too. Plus I keep thinking Rockstar will release a native Xbox Series X|S/Playstation 5 version.

Then I thought “Hey I have a Playstation 5, maybe I should play something over there!” My PS5 has a 4 GB external drive for old gen games, and of course the internal space for new gen games. Unlike the drive on the Xbox, the PS5 external is quiet so I’m not really driven to get rid of it. In the PS5 ecosystem it’s the internal storage that is really limiting; there’s less than 700 GB of usable space on the PS5. You can now add a second internal SSD but sadly I don’t have a couple hundred bucks laying around to devote to gaming right now. Anyway, it seemed to make the most sense to complete and remove a native PS5 game.

A while back the ‘next gen’ version of Control was a Playstation Plus freebie. I’d played through a part of it before drifting away. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t like games with confusing maps, and Control has a pretty confusing map. (Poster child for this dislike of mine: Star Wars Fallen Order…I bounced off that game mostly because the map was so infuriating.) But I also know Control isn’t a super long game, so I decided to re-learn how to play it. I didn’t even start over! *pats himself on the back*

It is going slowly as I re-learn all the skills my character has and, yes, refamiliarize myself with the layout of game’s world. I’ve been spending lots of time reading the collectibles and stuff, which have a wonderful vibe and are really entertaining. I’m also only playing it late at night after @partpurple goes upstairs so I can put on the headphones because there’re so many creepy whispers and sounds in this game; headphones really improve the experience. (Rule of thumb around our house: the chance of her needing to tell me something spikes the moment I put on headphones! 🙂 )

But wait, that’s not a character from Control at the top of this post? Who is she?

Honestly I don’t remember her name, but she’s from Final Fantasy XIII, one of the more maligned FF games. Turns out I still have Final Fantasy stuck in my craw. FF XIII came out on the Xbox 360 but is covered in Microsoft’s backwards compatibility program. AND it just got the new “FPS boost” treatment where old games get their framerates improved on the Xbox Series consoles. Plus auto-HDR. In all, some Xbox 360 games look really good on the Xbox Series X. I booted up FF XIII and turns out it is definitely one of those games. The next thing I knew, I was playing it.

I have an old save with 30 hours of playtime on it, and one of the things no one likes about FFXIII is how linear it is for the first big chunk of the game (kind of the inverse of FFXV’s problems). Because of this I didn’t want to cast those 30 hours aside. Instead I started a new game with the intent of playing until I’m reacquainted with the characters and the systems, then I’ll jump to my 30 hour save and the open world portion of the game. I’m thinking 5-10 hours on the new save, then we jump ahead to the 30 hour mark.

I wasn’t really planning any of this so I have no screenshots other than…that girl, who I snagged a screenie of just because I couldn’t believe how good an Xbox 360 game was looking. I know my brain knows her name; she’s one of the main characters. I just can’t surface it. All I can remember is Lightning (that’s not Lightning) and Snow.

Anyway so that’s the plan. Double dipping, playing FF XIII in the early evenings, and Control later at night. I’m sure eventually one or the other will grab my complete attention but at least for now I’m keeping myself entertained.

(I also bought the Final Fantasy I Pixel-Remaster on Steam and have been dabbling with that, but so far not playing it very seriously. For me it is old-school enough that it is best enjoyed 15 minutes at a time.)

In other news: I’m taking a break from social media for a while (it gets really depressing seeing how wonderful everyone else’s life seems to be while you’re struggling) and because of that I need an outlet for random yammering; you may see more frequent blog posts that have absolutely no point to them. As someone who works from home full time and rarely leaves the house, I need to talk to SOMEONE even if it is the faceless Internet!

Final Fantasy Fifteen Finished

What a strange game this was. I’m pretty glad I finished it. The story, fragmented though it was, made it worth the time, though I still don’t know that I’d blanket recommend it to others.

In a lot of ways it feels like the devs were making an open world Final Fantasy and then deadlines started looming and they changed their minds. I spent something like 30 hours playing through the first 8 or so chapters in an open world, doing a ton of side quests and exploring. I remember an Achievement popping for having completed 80 side quests, so I did more than 80. As you play through this part of the game you level up your characters and gear, of course, but you also do things like improve your car and customize Chocobos. Chocobo riding levels up. Fishing levels up. Cooking levels up. There’s even a point where you can start growing things…

And then suddenly the game becomes a more-or-less on-rails experience and you leave cars and Chocobos behind. I spent 30 hours on the first 8 or so chapters and about 8 hours on the final 6 chapters. Also by the time I left the ‘open world’ portion of the game I was leveled near to 50 and doing level 30 content, but by the end of the game I’d only accumulated a couple more levels and the content had caught up to me. I’m glad I did all those side quests or the end of the game would’ve been brutal.

The combat system is so close to being fun, but too often things get too hectic, or a bush or wall comes between your character and the camera and you can’t see what is happening. Towards the end of the game there are some boss fights that change the fighting system and honestly even though I beat them, I still don’t really understand what I was supposed to do. Button-mashing got me through. When the main combat system worked, it was really entertaining.

The Crows Nest is a good place to stop for a bite,

Spoilers Below!

While I never really grew attached to any of the 4 main characters as individuals, during the open world portion of the game I did start to enjoy them as a group. There they are in life-or-death battle and they’re still trading quips, but they’re looking out for each other as well. One of them will draw Noct’s (and the player’s) attention if someone is really hurt, for instance. Between battles they bitch about it being too hot or too cold, or talk about how they can’t wait to get some food. Just kind of normal stuff. It did feel like a group of friends and I was an honorary member of the group.

That all unraveled in the linear part of the game when Ignis, who is kind of the den mother of the group (as well as being the cook) is blinded during an off-screen battle. In that same battle Noct’s intended bride and childhood friend is murdered. Yeah, shit got real, real fast. Noct is consumed by his grief while Ignis is trying to come to terms with his loss of sight. Gladiolus, the tank of the group, takes exception to the fact that Noct is dwelling on someone who is dead and not doing more to help their hurt brother. The two start to fight, a lot. Prompto, who is kind of the ‘everyman’ of the group, tries to hold the team together as best he can.

During the next expedition Ignis wants to come; he asks that the group not leave him behind. I said OK (there was an option to leave him behind and I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I’d chosen it. I’m guessing the others would’ve insisted he come.) Ignis is now walking with a cane, but he is new to feeling his way and moves slowly. If Noct (and you, the player) move too quickly the others yell at you about leaving people behind. In the meanwhile poor Ignis is stumbling and falling frequently. Prompto tends to hang back to help him while Gladio harangues Noct about his behavior.

Lunafreya dealing with an uppity god

From a story point of view I found this super interesting. Usually in a setting like this (an ‘adventure’ story) if one of the band gets hurt they’re immediately ditched to either die a noble death or to be retrieved later as an afterthought. That the gang brings Ignis with them is both heart-warming and heart-breaking. Just to drive the latter home, the next time you camp you don’t get Ignis offering you a menu of delights for dinner, instead you have 1 choice: a cold can of beans. It’s just kind of gut-wrenching.

From a GAME point of view, though, this was really annoying. Not being able to run as you’re exploring areas was super frustrating, made more so by Gladio at times yelling that we need to hurry (which is kind of his default thing he says through the whole game) and then yelling that I was going too fast. And the meal thing: I’d spent those 30 hours finding every recipe I could, and gathering food from all over the place, so we’d have a wide selection of food (each meal has a different set of buffs that last through most of a day). Having that all taken away really sucked.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough about a five year old game. Overall I enjoyed it, but not to the point where I want to stick around post-story to chase Achievements or clean-up side quests. I was level 52 as the closing credits ran and I have side quests of level 99! The level cap is apparently 120, so I guess they expect people to just keep on exploring for a LONG time post story. Yeah, I didn’t like it that much. If I squint I can see a truly great game in the design doc, but what got delivered was like a 3 out of 5 title.

Shiva: The ice goddess is the hot goddess

Windows Xbox App Games are Getting Mod Support

Just a quickie. I caught this video about what’s upcoming for Xbox Game Pass for PC users. I can’t find a text version because we as a society are too lazy to read I guess (or I’m too lazy to Google…maybe both) but the gist is that Microsoft is going to add mod support to games installed via the Xbox app.

It’s not clear to me if the same mods that work on other versions (Steam or Epic or whatever) will work, but I’d expect so. But what do I know about game programming and modding?

I do know that currently it’s a real pain in the ass to even find your Xbox app games, let alone try to mod them, so I expect this will be welcome news to PC Game Pass people.

If you’re an Insider I think you can start testing this now, or at least very soon. Maybe I’ll sign up to be an Insider…

[A little bit later…]
Well I guess it works. Now I just need a Skyrim mod to try out. Are there any of those? (That’s a joke.)

You have to enable modes via the … menu, then you can open the game folder, as I have done here. The explorer window that opened is behind the Xbox app in this image:

Playing Lately: Final Fantasy XV

My Xbox Series X has a lot of storage devices. There’s the 1 TB internal storage built in, and I invested in the Seagate 1 TB pseudo-internal storage module. So I have 2 TB just for Series X games, minus whatever the operating system chews up. For last gen games I have a 1 TB external SSD, and an 8 TB external traditional HDD drive. It’s a stupidly large amount of storage, and the 8 TB drive is pretty noisy and seems to spin up randomly even if I’m watching TV or something. I’m looking to remove it, but in order to do that I need to jettison some games.

All of which is how I came to be playing Final Fantasy XV. I sorted my last-gen games by size and FFXV was one of the biggest at about 100 GB with all the expansions installed. I have no recollection of buying the version of FFXV with all the DLC. Maybe it was a freebie at some point or it was on a super sale and to cheap to pass up? Who knows?

I did recall that I had started the game a couple times in the past but never made it very far. When I fired it up on the Xbox I had some save files with about 7 hours of playtime, last saved in 2017. I opted to start over, honestly assuming I’d bounce off it AGAIN and feel OK about just deleting it from the drive.

Two weeks later I’m still playing and I’ve got around 30 hours into it. I’m not sure why; I wouldn’t call it a great game. It is almost great, but has just enough annoying systems in it to keep it from getting there. Still, I’ve become invested in seeing it through.

I did almost bounce though, after about 3 hours. Then my buddy Irata reminded me that there’s both a movie (Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV – available on Netflix) and a short anime series (Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV – available on YouTube), both of which help set the mood for the show, and make the characters (for me anyway) a little less annoying.

In FFXV you play as Prince Noctis and you travel the world with your 3 male pals. All of you dress in black with lots of buckles and such; you kind of look like some sort of emo boy band. I found the characters pretty unappealing until after I watched the shows above, and particularly Brotherhood. When you know their backstory you start to understand them a bit more.

You can eventually change the gang’s attire but that changes their stats too and at 30 hours in I don’t have anything with better stats than what they were ‘born’ in. So I put up with the all-black look.

Anyway, getting ahead of myself.

At the start of the game your party of four are on a road trip. Prince Noctis is off to meet up with his bride-to-be, the oracle Lunafreya. They don’t get very far before all hell breaks loose and suddenly they’re refugees.

From that point on you travel the countryside in your car, the Regalia, fighting anything that moves, doing fetch quests, earning money for food, camping and slowly pushing the story forward.

Combat is almost really fun. In fact it IS fun in the rare moments when you’re fighting alone or with 1 other party member because you can follow the action. Most of the time you’re controlling one of four black-clad individuals fighting enemies that generally come in groups. Trying to pick Noctis out from his three companions and 10 enemy soldiers is a real challenge for me. I often have to run from the battle, then come back at it once I have the space to see what is happening.

Fortunately Noctis has a warp attack that lets him return to the battle quickly and with a big hit on an enemy. When you feel in control, the combat is awesome. It’s just that all too often you’re just trying to parse out everything that is happening in a fight. I mean I guess in a way that’s realistic, right? Battle is chaos. But in a game, to me it’s kind of frustrating.

There’s a “Wait Mode” for combat but I don’t like it much either. Using this mode nothing moves until you move, as best I can figure. If I could quickly toggle “Wait Mode” on & off it would help a lot but to change it I have to pause, access the options menu, find the battle style toggle and turn Wait on or off. It’s too cumbersome to do it very often.

The other big frustration is traveling around, particularly early in the game. The team generally travels via their car, and until Chapter 3 you can’t actually drive it; one of the other team members does. Getting from Point A to Point B can take anywhere from 1 to 8 or 9 minutes, real time, during which you, the player, has nothing to do other than go get a sandwich or something. I think the developers imagined us putting ourselves in the car with our ‘brothers’ and bopping along to the radio while watching the world go by, but that certainly didn’t work for me.

Eventually you start unlocking fast travel points and you get the ability to drive the car yourself, and in the edition of the game I’m playing you can convert the car to an off-road model and start cutting across the wastelands. Travel becomes much less of an issue at that point. Things get even better when you get to start riding Chocobos, complete with their jaunty theme song. That’s always fun (of course… I mean who doesn’t love Chocobos!?).

There’s a day/night cycle and (at least in the early chapters) you do most of your adventuring during the day. At night the bigger, badder enemies come out and your team members will resist you if you try to head out into the dark. For instance Ignis, who drives most of the time, will refuse to do so at night until you reach a certain point in the game.

The idea is that when darkness falls you need to find a place to spend the night. This can be a motel, a caravan (a trailer) or a camp site. Couple twists here. First as you fight enemies and do quests you gain experience, but it is held in a kind of reserve until you spend the night somewhere. While you sleep you level up. Staying at an expensive hotel can mean getting bonus experience. Staying at camp means no extra experience, but camping offers the opportunity to cook a meal for free. Meals give your team buffs that last a good long time. So there’s a balance there: do you want to spend $$ to get extra exp, or do you want to save $$ but get some nice buffs?

There’s also the convenience factor, of course. If you’re adventuring and it gets dark, it’s a lot more convenient to find a campsite nearby rather than spending the time to head back to town to a hotel.

Anyway I could go on and on; it’s a big game with a lot of systems. But it’s also an old game, and not an old game I’d give a blanket recommendation to. But y’know, the blog needs fodder so I figured I ought to at least report in about what I’ve been doing with my free time. Maybe I’ll come back and talk about the GOOD parts of the game at some point!! 🙂

Dungeon Encounters and STO

Somehow another week has slipped past without a blog post. Time flies, except when it doesn’t. Every work day seems to take an age to pass, but then suddenly it is Monday again. Next Monday is November 1st!

In days of yore this time of year would be the height of new game mania for me, but this year I’m not feeling it very much. Oh I’ll play Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite since they’re both on Game Pass but when it comes to shelling out cash I’ve become quite conservative. I have SO many games I haven’t played that it seems crazy to buy new ones.

Or at least that’s how I was feeling until Dungeon Encounters appeared out of nowhere and I had to buy it. In my defense, it was less than $25 and it was just so different from anything else I owned. Anything else remotely modern, anyway. It’s been a while since I played a game where I needed to take notes in order to remember where things are! I’ve been enjoying it. Maybe not as much as Tipa has (she’s already finished it!) but enough that it has pulled me away from most other games.

One thing holding me back is, well, my back. I’ve been having some terrible spasms in my back and it has made sitting in one place for a long time quite painful. So I tend to move from place to place. Gaming is particularly bad because once I get immersed in a game I start to slouch and that really aggravates my back. So I’ve been spending a lot of time watching TV while perched very upright on the front edge of the couch.

Alternatively I sit at my PC, where sadly I have a pretty shit chair, but it is so shit that it requires me to stay more or less upright, lest it (and me) topple to the ground. On the PC I’ve finally gone back to Star Trek Online. That only took a month to get around to. In September I shared a post from Roger Edwards about playing the STO story arcs in order. I’ve learned that Cryptic has put some obstacles up to prevent us from doing that. Some of the “Side Quests” that Roger suggests we play are now locked behind a level gate which is FAR above my level (I’m 10 and you have to be 55 or 65 to do these quests, according to reddit.)

Despite that snafu I’m enjoying STO quite a bit. We’re in the thick of a surge in Star Trek fandom here at Chez Dragonchasers. We’ve been re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’ve been re-watching TOS, and soon the new animated YA show starts up (with Lower Decks just recently ending for the season). So STO slots in very nicely, and the episodic nature means I can log in, play through an episode and then log out to give my back a rest.

I still mean to/want to play both New World and Black Desert Online, I just keep running out of time in the day before I get to them. I think for New World I have the opposite of FOMO. So many of the people who were hyped about it now seem disappointed in it so I wonder what’s the point of dumping a bunch of hours into it just so I can reach their level of disappointment. May as well take it slow and easy and see what new features/changes Amazon makes to bring folks back.

Meanwhile over in BDO I think I need to create a non-Seasonal alt. My seasonal character levels so fast that all the content she has to do is trivial (in terms of her main questline) and I think I’d rather level at a slower pace and have more time to absorb all the skills and systems. There’s absolutely nothing preventing me from rolling an alt other than choice paralysis because so many of the classes seem really interesting. I just need to set aside some time to do it. I think the Season system is awesome for established players but for this particular first-timer, slower might be better.