Game Grazing Lately

Over on Time to Loot Nathin asked readers what their personal Game of the Year was and… I couldn’t remember what I’d played in 2021. LOL And since I hadn’t been blogging for the first half of the year, I didn’t have any way of reminding myself.

That alone feels like a reason to keep blogging; at least then I could remember what I’ve played. Old age man…it stinks. Ask me about how bad my night vision has become!

Anyway since finishing Guardians of the Galaxy I’ve kind of been flathering around, not sticking with any one game. I keep waiting to settle into something to blog about it but it isn’t happening. So here’s what I’ve been bouncing around between lately.

On the Xbox I started Final Fantasy XII but so far I’m only about 5 hours in. I’ve played this before back when it came out on the Playstation 2, but never finished it and obviously can’t use that save, so I’m starting fresh. At some point FF XII was refreshed or remastered or something (it is now “Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age”), but the faces of the player characters still look like lumps of clay with features drawn on them. I find it really distracting. Oddly NPCs seem to look better, and the cut scenes look fine.

FF XII does come closer to scratching the FF XIV itch than the other Final Fantasy games, so that’s something. What I REALLY want to be playing is a single-player version of Final Fantasy XIV. If I were king of the world I’d command Square Enix to create such a thing.

Also on the Xbox, I finally started Halo Infinite but so far I’m not really feeling it. To be fair I’ve done all of one mission. I just think my tastes have moved past first person shooters, maybe.

Lastly, a week or so ago Ubisoft released some new content for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which is one of my favorite games of the past few years. I love that game so much I’ve been playing the new content slowly to make it last. Kassandra is such a bad-ass and one of the best video game characters since Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn.

On the Playstation 5 I’ve been beating on my backlog. I’m back into Sword Art Online: Re: Hollow Fragment (these names…oof). This time I did NOT start over and I’m focusing on the Hollow Area and sticking with just partnering with one character. My goal is to finish the storyline and not to worry about stuff like trying to date all the girls. I’m vaguely proud of myself for being able to come back to this game and still know how to play it given how chaotic the combat system is.

I like it well enough but it isn’t something I can play for hours on end as it starts to feel pretty repetitious. It’s a nice game to boot up when I’m feeling kind of low energy and just want to grind through a bunch of enemies and stuff.

The other old game I’ve fired up is Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. I almost bounced off this one due to the on-boarding process. I had to agree to 3 different Eula/Privacy things, then the game asked me what country and state I lived in, as well as my birthday (obviously I lied on all of this). Then early in the Prologue it asked me to customize my avatar which I spent a bunch of time doing only to not have the avatar used at all: I’m still Solid Snake in-game.

Then you start playing and you have to sit through credits for every mission. It’s like they actively are discouraging you from playing. If I took a shot every time Kojima’s name came up on screen I’d be passed out before Snake took his first step forward.

Once you DO get past all that nonsense, the actual game play is pretty darned good so far. And for a last gen game it looks really good. It’s an open world game; you can go in and do missions or just free-roam and find supplies and stuff. It’s supposed to take place in 1984 Afghanistan but a lot of the tech you have is pretty advanced. Lots of scouting and sneaking and placing C4 charges and things like that. Serious business then broken up by silly things like using a cardboard box to hide in, or air-lifting sheep back to base via balloons. This is the game I’m closest to settling into but it does play best when you have a solid chunk of time and can focus on it.

Lastly, just this morning I splashed out $60 for Rider’s Republic and the Year 1 Season Pass on PS5. It’s on sale for 40% off and it wasn’t a super responsible decision to make but hey, let me have this one bit of mad spending for the season. I bought the whole thing just for this:

I’m feeling kind of desperate for something festive and upbeat and this looks just like that. Hopefully it’s fun. I played a beta of it and the actual gameplay was pretty fun but cut-scenes and interacting with NPCs was super-cringey. My plan is to skip all that stuff.

Final Fantasy XIII Finished

Well that’s done. I think my last save was around 55 hours. I think 55 hours is about 20 hours too many for the game’s systems. At least for me. Some spoilers in this post, not around story but around challenges and pacing.

Initially I really enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII. Even in the super-linear part I found being the ‘coach’ of the team was pretty enjoyable. I was at 26 hours when I got to where the game ‘opened up’ and the change of pace helped me stay interested, but not enough to be doing the same fights over and over again for so many more hours.

A lot of RPGs have grinding and I generally don’t hate it, but in FFXIII the fights take a few minutes each. Not all of them, but later in the game, a lot of them. When you fight a baddie and it takes you 5 minutes to beat him, then fight another baddie just like him again, and then do it 30 more times, it gets to feel really repetitive. You get to the point where you know you’re going to win. That makes the fights start to feel slow, dull and repetitive. Character progression slows too and of course Final Fantasy is known for having relatively few skills. You know how it is: first you learn Fire then you learn Fira then your learn Firaga. They’re the same spell just with more potency.

Early on there’s a lot of story bits to break up the monotony, but the farther in you get, the longer the stretches of just fighting, fighting, fighting get. Early on there are other characters around your party that you interact with, at least a little. Later on, you’re the only sentient beings for long stretches of a time. They only dialog you’ll hear is your party saying the same old things during battle. I bet I heard Fang yell “Eat this!” at least 5,000 times.

Honestly I almost didn’t finish. I kept asking myself why I was still playing. This came to a head at the very end. There are 3 “final boss” battles in a row, with no Save Points between them. You can Retry a battle, but Save Points also double as shops and crafting stations. There’s also no way to use a buff item between these fights. (These can be a huge help and I’d been hoarding them for end game, of course.) Final Boss #1 was pretty hard. Final Boss #2 was fucking ridiculously hard for me. It casts a spell that would insta-kill 2 of my party, leaving me frantically scrambling to Raise them and heal the last warrior standing at the same time. I failed that one after a 15-20 minute battle and the idea of doing it again, and then doing a third boss… I actually exited to the Xbox Dashboard on the way to just rage-quit/uninstalling.

But instead I jumped online and read some strategies and decided to try it again and I beat it by the skin of my teeth. All my party was blinking that particular shade of red that means “Death imminent” but the second boss finally fell. Final Boss #3 is a timed battle and gosh do I hate timed anything. I expected it would break me but I figured may as well try it one more time and…it turned out to be really easy. And that was it: Game Over.

For “Post-Game” content you just load back at the save point right before the final 3 bosses and can go do whatever you want. There’s no context to it that I can see; it’s purely grinding to max out your characters. No thanks, I’d rather go clean a toilet or something.

And yet…there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with sticking through adversity and finishing the game. I’m glad I did it, now that it is done. I can’t imagine ever wanting to replay Final Fantasy XIII, but in spite of all my struggles I am kind of curious about Final Fantasy XIII-2. For one thing it’s much shorter. HowLongToBeat lists FFXIII at 48.5 hours and FFXIII-2 at 28 hours. For another thing, I’ve heard the battle system is improved. And lastly, it’s on Game Pass so why not.

But not right now. I need a Final Fantasy break. Halo Infinite is out in 2 days and I have a bunch of stuff on the PS5 I want to get into. Plus that big Caves & Caverns update for Minecraft is out and I wanted to check that out. So I’ll put off the next Gran Pulse Grind Fest, at least for a little while.

A Final Fantasy X-III Warning

Progress in FFXIII has slowed somewhat, mostly due to a very sick dog. Lola was at the emergency vet twice in the past week. Lots of late nights trying to make her comfortable, lots of time standing around outside while she worked through stuff. She’s a little better now, but ~$2000 later we really don’t know what is wrong with her and I’m not convinced the meds she is on are doing more than treating the symptoms. She goes in for another battery of tests on Tuesday and I’m hoping we finally find out the root of her problem.

Being ANOTHER $2000+ in the hole will be good for my gaming backlog though, right?

Anyway, in spite of all that I did finally make it to the end of Chapter 11! Chapter 12 started with a battle that forces you to use a pre-determined party and it comes in hot right after a cut scene: this was a problem for me because one of the characters (Snow) I hadn’t touched in probably 30 hours of playing. I hadn’t unlocked any Crystarium nodes or updated his gear in all that time. Fortunately, the other two party members (Lightning and Vanille) were totally up to date so they carried him and eventually we were victorious, but it took a LONG time.

Immediately following this fight, I decided I’d better get my ‘unused’ team members prepped in case there are more pre-set battles in the future, and that’s when I learned I’ve gimped myself. Snow, Sazh and Hope all had 999,999 Crystarium Points. In other words, there’s a cap on how many CP a character can store (after every battle all characters gain CP even if they weren’t in the battle party) and I’d hit that point sometime in the past, after which additional CP was being lost. After spending all their points they are still pretty far behind the three characters I’ve been leveling up as I went.

So moral of the story is, spend CP even for characters you aren’t actively playing. Don’t be like me! Now I’m worried there’s going to be some grinding sessions in my future.

And while I’m handing out advice, I’d suggest not trying to convert a character into a role they aren’t “born” with. I decided to make Fang a Synergist (her ‘native’ roles are Sentinel/Saboteur/Commando) since my main party (Lightning/Vanille/Fang) didn’t have a Synergist. Turns out leveling up a new role takes huge amounts of CP (a lot more than ‘native’ roles) and the attribute bonuses you get are puny compared to sticking to the roles given to you in the early game. Ergo my Fang is a bit gimped, too.

Oh well. I think the game is designed so that you don’t have to make all the right decisions to be able to finish. Honestly the story-dictated boss fights haven’t been as hard as some side-quest bosses I’ve tried to take on. There seems to be quite a bit of ‘post-story’ content out there designed to challenge the min-maxers. Or maybe this is all wishful thinking on my part.

I guess we’ll see! I don’t expect to be sticking around for post-story stuff, what with Halo Infinite coming next week, not to mention the fact that Final Fantasy XIII-2 is now on Game Pass. So is Final Fantasy 12 which is another game I’ve never finished. I don’t think I have much need to squeeze every minute of playtime out of these games! Life is too short!

Final Fantasy XIII at 39 (hours, that is)

When we last checked in with our intrepid heroes they were 26 hours into their Final Fantast XIII adventure and beginning Chapter 11. They’d arrived on Gran Pulse and were enjoying the wide open horizon, even if it was littered with beasties that wanted to kill them.

Fast forward another 13 hours. At hour 39 our heroes are…still in Chapter 11. Now staring glumly at the wide open horizon, sighing deeply at the prospect of fighting these same beasties over and over again.

But at least they can ride chocobos now.

I’m painting a pretty bleak picture, I realize, but I’m still playing and that should tell you it isn’t as dull as it seems. There are still creatures that can flatten us so challenges await. The world is quite pretty and some of the creature designs are really cool. There is plenty to do: the “open world” of Gran Pulse has a lot of missions to take on. All these missions are given by Cie’th Stones. Wait, what’s a Cie’th Stone?

Time for a history lesson. Hopefully I get this straight. In the beginning there was the Maker who created the world of Gran Pulse and populated it with two races, the Fal’cie and the humans. The Fal’cie are weird demi-god-ish creatures who seem to each be associated with some kind of element. On Gran Pulse the Fal’cie more or less ignore the humans, and vice versa.

At some point hundreds or thousands of years ago, a group of Fal’cie created Cocoon, a hollow moon that hangs above Gran Pulse. The Fal’cie brought a bunch of humans to Cocoon and cared for/guided them. (One of your party members points out “We’re like their pets” although the truth is more malicious.) At the start of the game your group are on (in?) Cocoon. By this point in time the Pulse Fal’cie and the Cocoon Fal’cie seem to be at odds. Or at least the humans of Cocoon have a huge amount of fear of Pulse, to the point where anyone who has been in contact with anything having to do with Pulse is “purged”. Or as some might put it: murdered.

Sometimes the Fal’cie need an extra pair of hands. When they do they convert a human into a L’cie. (You still with me?). L’cie get magical powers! That’s the good news. The bad news is, they also get a “Focus” (a quest of sorts) that they have to complete for the Fal’cie. If they succeed they get turned to crystal. Wait, if being turned to crystal is the carrot, what is the stick? If they don’t complete their focus they turn into a Cie’th which is a kind of mutant zombie-ish monster bent on destruction.

L’cie who become crystal exist in a kind of suspended animation until the Fal’cie need them again, at which point they are turned back to flesh and given another Focus. Cie’th, assuming they aren’t hunted down and killed, eventually turn to Cie’th Stones where they exist in some kind of purgatory for the rest of time, UNLESS a group of adventurers comes along, finds out what their focus was, and completes it for them.

So yeah, we’ve been helping these poor Cie’th bastards by completing their Foci for them. Weird thing though: while this is supposed to release the Cie’th to ‘move on’ in practice the Stones don’t vanish and we can repeat the quests (sorry, the Focus), so who knows what kind of scam is being run?

Any way back in real life, I’ve done about 16 of these quests and there are 64 of them. Hopefully I don’t have to do them all to finish the game because ye gawds that’s a lot of running back and forth. There ARE some fast travel points and I’ll admit I’ve been ignoring them in favor of randomly battling my way across the landscape to level up my characters. If I focused on more efficient travel I might be progressing faster, but then I wouldn’t be as leveled up and fights would be hard so who knows?

In some ways, this section of FF XIII is reminding me of Fallout 76, in a bad way. Remember when FF76 launched and there were no other humans and you got all your quests from robots or computer terminals or something? It just made the world feel dull. Same thing here. You are literally talking to stones to get quests and there are no other sentient creatures in the world (so far). It’s just the six of you and any bits of cut-scene/story-building are few and far between. In practice I’ve been using the same three characters in the same configuration for all the time I’ve been in this chapter.

The fun at this point is trying to take down enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible while continuing to unlock nodes on the Crystarium. There is an upgrade system for gear but I still haven’t done much with that because I don’t feel like I have the ‘end game’ gear to focus on. says FF XII can be completed in 48.5 hours for the Main Story. I’m note sure how that would happen because I don’t feel close to the ending, but maybe it all happens in a rush? I’m pretty ready for it to be over though, but not to the point where I’m ready to just say “Heck with it, I’m not going to finish.” It might be the kind of game where I have to just set aside a day of the week to play it and slowly push forward. We’ll see. That’s always a slippery slope because then you skip that day one week and then you forget all about it the next week and soon enough you’ve forgotten how to play.

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.

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