It’s That Time of Year Again: TI

It was a big moment, four years ago when my best friend and I put together my first gaming computer. Sitting there with it actually working, it’s an accomplishment in its self. So it’s no wonder I was sitting there with a, “What Now?” expression on my face. I mean I had this computer with nothing really to play. After burning my self out on the first wave of games I had I was looking for something new, watching Twitch.tv is one of the best ways to see new games and it just so happened to be this time of year. The time for Dota 2’s biggest tournament of the year The International.

I had never played let alone seen a MOBA; I do have a love of Iso-metric RPG’s, and this game I was watching had a similar camera angle to them, but with more of an RTS feel. It makes sense considering that Dota was originally a MOD of the game Warcraft 3 and its history is well documented, as well as branching out as a stand alone success leading to the release of the beta for Dota 2. The game was chaotic and confusing, but from moment one when I saw pro player Mushi single handily carrying his team on a hero named Ursa, I knew this game was something I could get into.

Fast forward three years later and I still have a love for Dota 2, but I don’t find as much time to play it as I once did. But every late July I start getting the itch. Every year around this month it’s time for the big tournament affectionately referred to as TI. The best teams from all around the world gather and compete for their share of what is always the largest prize pool in Esports. This years pool sitting at around $23 million.

It’s truly a spectacle to behold. There are moments of cringe, which one quick google search can lead you down a rabbit hole, and moments of brilliance with incredible high skill plays with heroes you didn’t know were capable of such feats. It’s my favorite event each year and one I spend way too many hours consuming.

With events of this size, there is always blowback and criticism of the tournament most of which is overblown, but ones I find to be truer this year is the lack of production value. The four channels streaming the group stages is missing any post game break downs and with the decision of Valve (the company that owns Dota 2) to mostly have the panel comprised of former players. There is a serious lack of diversity in voice at the event. Now I will concede that it is still just the group stage and some of the talent aren’t even at the event, with the main stage bracket starting next week there is still time to rescue what has been a slightly down tournament in that aspect.

I love TI; it’s the time of year for me that hits max consumption of video games, Esports, and media. The fun of watching a tournament’s meta develop, and see heroes you love that don’t get much competitive play swing games is something you don’t get watching your favorite streamer playing ranked.

Review: Marvel Heros Omega

So for the last few weeks, as I’ve been taking breaks from FF14, I have been mindlessly playing Marvel Heros Omega. It’s a spiritual successor to the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 games. The game is an isometric RPG and is a Diablo clone meaning your biggest goal is to run around and collect loot and kill things. But instead of playing as your beloved Necromancer, you can play as Captain America or the newly released Carnage. Now I did play this game before the largest update titled Omega but didn’t get very far into it.

As of right now, I have two characters at 60 (the max level), and I’m not entirely sure what to do with them. With most of my MMO and Diablo experience the end game is laid out for you. You hit the cap and then progress into getting better gear so you can run tougher content so you can continue to get better gear. But the end game seems to be lacking, The unintuitive mission tracking system along with no real direction left me turning to the internet and forums to see what do I do next.

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The new playable “Hero” Carnage.

After doing some searching, it seemed the biggest piece of content to do was the Cosmic Trials. I felt like I was missing something, to my understanding this game had tons of end game content, which was a driving factor to get those heroes to the max but I felt like I had nothing to do. To be fair to the game the time I had invested in this stage was minimal. There could be content I’m missing, PVP or other means to keep you going at the end game but it isn’t easy to find. I did two legendary quests, and it’s mostly just recycled story content.

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Each hero has a travel ability Cyclops’s is riding a motorcycle around the avengers tower.

On paper, this game seems like it should be a home run, take the grindy formula of Diablo 2/3 and just paste Marvel superheroes on it. You have a predecessor which was loved by the fans so you can capitalize from two ends. But when you play it, the game feels hollow like there’s no soul to it at all. I turned to the steam reviews to see if I was missing the mark and it turns out that a lot of content was stripped away in this newest update. Most of the fans seem to be speculating that it was “dumbed down” so they could port it over to consoles. Which if true is a shame. The limited time I had with the previous versions brought me right back to play Marvel: Ultimate Alliance but in an online setting. To be able to rush through to the ending is something that appeals to me but with no direction seems frustrating.

If you are looking to go down memory lane and play an updated version of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance then this game is for you, but if you want a deep, rewarding experience with lots of content, then you ought to look towards a different ISO-RPG. The new season for Diablo 3 is just about to start, and the new update for Path of Exile is also about to be out, both games have the depth you are looking for.

Review: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

Graveoath reviews Square enix’s Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

Final Fantasy XII or 12 for those not familiar with Roman Numerals was the first time I was disappointed in the series. The game originally came out in March 2006, and the fanboy in me couldn’t wait to play it. At first, I was receptive to the changes, a build-your-own character archetype model, that allowed you to take the different characters down whatever path you wanted.

If you wanted to see the main character wielding a hammer and casting white magic you could. The problem for me with it was I made every character the same, all of my characters used shields and swords learned just enough magic to get themselves out of any situation, and could all heal and revive someone if they went down. Every fight was just a slow burn and not fun. Despite liking a lot of the characters and even liking the much maligned Vaan main character, I couldn’t bring my self to finish it. I tried three times, and couldn’t get past the first 40 hours of the game.

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Play this game you get to pick flowers in deserts.

Well fast forward ten years and we get the remastered version Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, this newer version brings some massive changes to the original game as well as updated and smoothed out graphics. In the states, we never saw the release of the Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System so this new update sees a version of that system in place here.

Besides what you would expect out of a remaster, better graphics, smoother load times, maybe a new game plus. Square decided to change the very core of the games job system; these changes are fundamental in the way you play the game, no longer is the license board open for you to take your characters wherever you want. Now you select one of 12 jobs, corresponding to the 12 zodiac symbols.

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The 12 Zodiac Jobs

This seemed like a change made for me. I hated the original make-your-own adventure style characters. I like to have a thief, a knight, or a monk in my Final Fantasy games and now the Zodiac Age allows you to do it in a sense. You start with picking a job for each character, and after some time you get to select another one of them, so each of the characters has two jobs. You could double up and make your knight even stronger with a class that supports what they do well, but the consensus seems to be it’s better to augment their weaknesses so you can use them no matter the situation.

Along with these changes, Square seemed to get the little things right. You spend a lot of time running around these broad areas, so they had a button that allows you to move at what seems to me double the speed. When you are backtracking through one of the major hubs, Rabanastre for the millionth time it’s nice to be able to cruise right through. The remaster sees changes to some of Final Fantasy 12’s more infamous features as well. No longer is one of the games most powerful weapons locked away if you mistakenly open up one of four chests throughout the world. They have also added a trial, so you can truly test your characters abilities. One small complaint I still have is the gambit system. The games way of ordering an ability through what boils down to an order of operations. This system feels dated after playing Final Fantasy 13 last year and the changes to once you discover an enemy’s weakness, casters will automatically cast whatever spell they are weak to. It feels inadequate to not have a catch-all gambit thats just elemental weakness=cast corresponding spell.

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It a lot of work making sure poeple dont die when your healer is Balthier.

This little complaint is nothing to how wonderful this remaster truly is, and has me wondering if now Final Fantasy 12 is one of the more underrated titles in the franchise. Now instead of not having any fun with the game’s combat because every character was the same, now I wonder if I selected the right job for each of them. I wanted to experience every job the game had to offer and now regretting some of the choices I made makes wanting to replay this game again an even more exciting experience.

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why is he wearing a corset? 

Review: Diablo 3: Necromancer

Graveoath reviews Review: Diablo 3 Necromancer

I have a fondness for isometric RPG’s, some of my favorite games growing up, Baldur’s Gate II, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Champions of Norrath, all games I played with friends for hours on end. But there was the one Iso-RPG looming that I never played– Diablo 2. I once saw a friend play it at his house, but I didn’t have a computer that my parents would allow me to install it on, so I was out of luck. Fast forward to the release of 2.0 version of Diablo 3 and all the problems were supposed to be fixed, I buy it jump in and its missing something. I couldn’t quite figure it out but, I was bored none of the classes grabbed me and then I remembered what made all those games great it’s a great social gaming experience, you need to play it with people.

Well, its been years now with Diablo 3 sitting in my battle.net account waiting to be played. I see this new class coming out Necromancer; I watch a few videos, see the teaser and decide to try it out. The Necromancer expansion, bundle, whatever they are calling it is $15 USD on battle.net. I start a new character run through the story but still no friends. I’m thinking this is going to be another negative experience; I WAS WRONG. Even without friends you can have a blast with this class.

The class nails it, you faceroll everything. I’m blowing up corpses, summoning the undead skeleton army to fight at my side, ripping the bones out of my enemies to make a suit of armor as I cut the hordes of demons in front of me. You feel like you have the power of the undead at your command, and it feels like I was a kid again running through dungeon after dungeon, getting loot, and facing off against the many bosses of the game, who proved too easy for the new class.

All this gameplay is in the normal story mode, and it will be interesting to see how this new season, Season 11, shapes up. One funny thing is that during all the dialog I’m supposed to be this hero to save the realm, but I have this undead army of skeletons and a huge deformed golem following me. If I were to put myself in the generic quest giver shoes, I don’t think I would be very welcoming to my character, but that’s a real RP’ers perspective, which I don’t consider myself to be.

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Please don’t mind the skeleton army and golem, they are completely under my control.

After making my way through the main story and onto Reaper of Souls, I can’t wait to see what Blizzard has in store for the next season. I don’t know if I will play it as Final Fantasy: Stormblood is eating all my time, but for those who enjoy the property hopefully, season 11 continues the fun I had with Necromancer.

Review: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Graveoath’s review of Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Overview

Final Fantasy XIV or 14’s newest expansion came out officially 17 days ago, and while initially plagued by server congestion and DDOS attacks, which have been well documented and reported, we can finally see what was meant to be. After the dust had settled from a predictable rough start, what was left was a real masterpiece of what a social and modern MMO’s should be.

The newest expansion Stormblood promised so much, the addition of two new DPS classes which had long been clamored for since the relaunch of the game as A Realm Reborn, Samurai and Red Mage. A whole new chapter to the story, continuing the journey of the Warrior of Light (you) as they try to free occupied countries from the evil empire. New dungeons and trials for you to test your abilities on, all with a newly revamped battle system with significant changes to most of the current jobs.

With so much new content to explore I choose to break this review up into more manageable segments as to keep my thoughts as coherent as possible.

I think the best way to describe this game to any general Final Fantasy fan would be to compare it to a greatest hits of the series. I don’t mean in a negative light. Growing up we play these games, get wrapped into the story, as convoluted as they can be, love the characters from the different games, and just live out a fantasy experience all while learning to love the grindy machines of a JRPG. This game is no different, Whats your Fantasy of the FF world? Is it to be an overpowered Black Mage blowing things up with magic from afar, or maybe the shield of your party eating damage and being the defender of those magic users, maybe your thing is you want to be Kain or Freya and be a Dragoon dealing massive damage with a spear. Whatever your dream scenario is, you can almost do it, unless your dream is to be a blue mage then you are out of luck (hoping for 5.0 for that one).

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Just you know, casually Blocking a sword 3000 times larger then myself, you know Final Fantasy things.

 

Story

The story of this game is one of the biggest selling points. After the events of Heavensward, many saw what could happen in Stormblood, and for me, I wasn’t looking forward to the liberation of these two new areas, Ala Mhigo and Doma. But I will be more than willing to eat my words, this story hits a lot of tropes but has just enough surprises to make you want to do the next fetch quest.

With a cast of already beloved characters, I didn’t think any of these new ones would do much for me. Then with the addition of the character Lord Hien, the person I found most interesting in this entire expansion, was, to put it mildly, surprising. Leading up I thought I wouldn’t like anyone, but in the classic Final Fantasy form they figure out a way for you to connect and be surprised in moments. I won’t spoil any major points but don’t skip the cut scenes it makes doing these missions much more enjoyable when you have some connection to what’s going on.

Personal experience

I would describe myself as a mid-core player. I don’t raid at the savage level, (FF14 most difficult tier as of 4.0) my favorite content seems to be what most people hate the most the 24 man raids. I play almost all the content but never pushed to get to the top tier. But my personal experience in Stormblood started off with a hard realization. I needed to switch my main.

I’ve been for the most part the much maligned Paladin since the 2.x series of A Realm Reborn. Coming into Stormblood Paladins were promised the world. We were constantly talked about how they were focusing on us, and hearing this I couldn’t wait to see what they were doing. Maybe it was going to be the much requested AOE’s we needed or better rotations. Well, we finally found out during the battle changes section of the Live Letter, and afterwards I was left slightly empty. Earlier in this piece, I talked about living your fantasy, and for me, it was never a hard casting spell while in the middle of my rotation and coupled with a lackluster battle gauge, I was feeling disappointed. So I flirted with other classes and decided to try Dark Knight, I hate the aesthetic of the giant sword, but they had this new ability Bloodspiller which had a high potency, and you built up a gauge to use Bloodspiller and other abilities, something that seemed to click with me.

So now I’m running all the content with Dark Knight while my former lover, Paladin sits there waiting to hit 70. I owe it to the class that carried me through so much to get it there and I will, but getting a critical hit on Bloodspiller is a hell of a lot more fun then I had playing Paladin.

Working through the leveling dungeons was way more enjoyable then the dungeons in Heavensward they have found a way to streamline the dungeon process, so it doesn’t feel as tedious. They seemed to figure out the near-perfect balance of trash mobs to the next boss fight with these pulls.

Earlier this week they released the first tier of the new eight-man raid, titled Omega. I was able to run through it, and it might be the highlight of the expansion. The fights bring new elements and exciting mechanics. That being said none of the songs from Omega matched my love of the Alexander: Cruise Chaser’s Theme

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One jump away form beating this damn jump puzzle in one of the new areas in Stormblood.

Hits and misses

Hit– All the new content, 90% of the stuff I did was incredible and fun.
Miss– except the solo instances, I hate these and find them to be just plot dumps with annoying fights.
Hit-Hunts, they are back and a nice change of pace to mix up your end game.
Miss– The Ixion fate, basically a world boss which spawns every 36-72 hours-ish. I’ve been able to do one, and you need to get a gold medal during it six times to get the mount seems like way too much.
Hit– The action mechanic, adds a new wrinkle to boss fights and while the fights that use it now seem gimmicky, it’s another innovation that could lead to better mechanically driven raid tiers.
Miss– swimming, it was to be a huge addition to the game, but the underwater area seems to be full of negative space with not much going on. This could change as gathers in the game need to get materials out of the new areas but overall it feels lack luster.

Have to try to hit those Bloodspiller Crits

 

Wrapping up, now’s the perfect time to join FFXIV they have a free trial where you can take any job to level 30. After that, through the game’s store, you can buy a jump potion to take any job to level 60 ten levels short of the new cap, as well as a jump potion to skip all the story so you can jump right into Stormblood. This is the lowest the barrier of entry is going to be, jump in try it out and see what’s waiting in the land of Final Fantasy: Stormblood.

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I do not want to admit how long completing that jump puzzle took.