Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fable 3

Yes or no?
Aaron and I bought Fable 3 and have been glued to it all day. One of the first things we did was have a baby, but the nanny the game stuck us with was hideous and questionable at best for a child care provider. His traits included kinky, aggressive, and bisexual -- meaning neither our son or daughter would be safe. So we fired him before he had a chance to molest our virtual babies, only it didn't end well.

What we expected was that we'd fire him and a new nanny would show up. Problem solved. What happened was we fired him and social services took away our baby. I guess social services thought our baby was better left to an aggressive, kinky bisexual than with two heroes of the realm. We spent the better part of an hour trying to find her in the orphanage to no avail. Tragic, I know. Had we found her, perhaps we would not have become such murderous tyrants. Your fault, Fable. Your fault.

The game mechanic has changed significantly from Fable II, though it's not all bad. Simply... different.

You can now only access your inventory at your home base, where items are divided by type and separated by room. This isn't necessarily so much bad as it is needlessly time consuming. I can understand if they were working from an immersion perspective, where you wouldn't be able to carry all that shit with you, but considering you can instantly teleport to home base from anywhere in the world, well, so much for immersion.

I'm not sure how to give gifts to anyone outside of other players you invite to your game. You unlock emotes as you go, so perhaps it's just something we haven't unlocked yet? But it would seem odd I could gift to players but not NPCs by this point in the game.

Shops have changed too. You no longer speak to the NPC running the shop to open a shop menu where you select what to buy. Now all shops have their wares on display. To purchase something you approach the display and buy it there. There is sadly no "buy all" option so if you want to buy a lot of something, you'll have to hit A a lot. This gets old fast.

One thing I found odd is that you can only have a maximum of two spells equipped at once. One in each hand, and once you unlock the ability to cast two different spells your only option is to cast both simultaneously. You can't just cast one or the other. Not that it matters really, as your mana pool is infinite. It just seems like a peculiar change to me.

On that note, your progression (leveling up of skills, magic, and jobs) takes place in some other dimension by purchasing chests with guild seals instead of an in-game menu where you spend the appropriately colored orbs on the corresponding colored skill. This isn't necessarily a worse method of progression, just far less intuitive.

Then there's your emotes. Unfortunately you have little control over your interactions with others. If you want to dance with someone, for example, you may have to whistle, hug, and pose for them first (multiple times over) before the option becomes available to you. You can't just hit the d-pad as in Fable 2 until you find the one you want and then execute it. This can also get old fast. Particularly if you need to complete a task where a specific emote is required of you.

Lastly, they integrated the xbox Live store into the game, which seems unnecessary altogether but a keen idea in the regard that readily available content inevitably leads to more sales.

Co-op has definitely taken a huge step forward from Fable 2, which had such lousy co-op it was unplayable. The camera is the biggest set back, as only player 1 has any control over it and if they change it during movement it doesn't detect the change accurately for player 2 which sends them running off in some random direction -- causing them to get stuck in terrain or lost. This makes navigating narrow spaces and doorways a bit of a nightmare, but it can be done. Granted it's frustrating. Teleporting to player 1 is always an option if you get stuck, but there is a delay. The time it takes you to teleport to the other player, you probably could've ran around whatever obstacle was in your way. So really it just saves you some frustration, not time.

I realize some of that sounds really bad, but when you compare it to Fable 2's co-op, you realize it's all actually an improvement.

Unfortunately your dog is mentally handicapped in Fable 3. He will often bark to notify you of treasure, or a dig site, or danger, only to then just walk in circles confused. It takes considerable patience and a lot of wiggling around in one direction or the other to make your dog actually go to whatever he's barking at. Even with advanced treasure hunting. This is really my only true complaint as the game goes on this glaring retardation only seems to get worse and worse to the point where your dog loses all functionality and you are more or less guiding yourself to buried treasure.

The only game-breaking fault lies in a certain area of the game where the map does not actually correlate to the zone you're in. With the map being 100% inaccurate, you're effectively lost, wandering around in the snow blindly. Probably for aggravating hours. This situation is impacted by there being several caves in the zone -- and you only need to be in one of them. But you have no idea where they all are or which ones you may've already visited because everything looks the gd same.

Otherwise the game plays in much the same way. X attacks with a melee weapon, Y attacks with a ranged weapon, B casts magic, A sprints when moving, you've got a dog, and so on and so forth. The quests are good, your hero is voice acted, and the music makes you feel immersed in the world. If it weren't for the fact that the game's presentation seems so rushed and incomplete, this would be a definite buy. While I foresee much time spent exploring Albion in our days ahead, I can really only recommend you rent this game.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Final Fantasy XIV

This is going to seem delayed, considering, but if we've learned anything it's that a) I am a slacker and in general b) time means absolutely nothing to me. Perhaps I was simply waiting for my opinion to be justified, but it's more likely that I simply tried to block the experience out to the best of my ability. Because honestly, playing it was a lot like witnessing a horrible crime.

With the news recently that worlds (servers) are being forcibly merged due to population deficiency, I felt it was about due. Maybe because my harsh review seemed more justified now than it did before? I don't know. Anyway...

I'll preface this by saying, I could only stomach the game for roughly a week during beta. Mind you it was the final build in beta, only several days prior to retail launch so Square should've had their shit together. I presumed they would take what they had with FFXI and build/improve from there. That is not however what they did at all. It seems that for some reason or another they decided instead to start from scratch, rush, and then leave everything half-assed.

Let's begin with character creation. First things first -- this shit's weird. The arrow keys will filter through your menu options and do nothing to control the camera. For that you need to awkwardly use J, K, L, and I. Why? I don't have any flipping idea. But there you go. You're welcome. I probably just saved you a good three minutes of, "wtf???"

You have five races to choose from in FFXIV: Hyur (human), Miqo'te (cat-girl), Lalafell (elf-gnome-thing), Elzen (elves), and Roegaydn (man-beast). Each of those has two additional clan options with slight variances such skintone and starting attributes, but ultimately it doesn't seem to particularly matter a whole lot. Also some clans don't allow you to be certain genders so the whole thing feels a little last minute to me and I can't be assed to get into it in any amount of detail.

Selecting individual features is pretty lackluster, with no color wheels or true sliders to speak of. At the time in which I played there were, for example: five height options, three voice options, anywhere between seven and sixteen skin tones, between six and nine hair styles, and an impressive thrty-two hair color options -- though most are nearly identical to each other honestly, so you could probably half that. You can further customize your hair by selecting a highlight color on top of the base color, but honestly the lightning makes this process moot much of the time.

For faces you can choose the basic shape of the face and then further refine it by selectine eyebrows, eye color, nose size/shape, and so forth. Unfortunately for some reason your face shape is directly connected to your bust size if you're a woman, so you may choose the soft innocent looking face only to get in game and realize for some reason you now have a D-cup. The individual options aren't magnificent, but at least they're there.

There are four starting classes referred to as Disciples of War, Disciples of Magic, Disciples of The Land and Disciples of The Hand. Which probably means squat to you if you don't know wtf that crap means.

Disiciples of War are fighters who can choose between Pugilist, who fight with their fists and knuckle weapons; Gladiator, who specializes in sword and shield; Marauder, who wields giant two-handed axes; Archer, who clearly uses bows and arrows; and Lancer, who makes use of a lance.

Disciples of Magic are mages who can choose between Conjurer, who wields elemental magic; and the Thaumaturge, who wields spiritual magic.

Disciples of The Land are gatherers who can choose between Miner, Botanist, and Fisher. What those three classes do should be really quite obvious.

Disciples of The Hand are crafters who can choose between Alchemist, Armorer, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Culinarian, Goldsmith, Leatherworker, and Weaver. All of which should also be really quite obvious as to what they do in the scheme of things.

Incidentally, you can change what you are at any given time by purchasing a new weapon, so none of these choices seem to carry any significant weight behind them, cheapening your need to even make a decision.

After you've done all of this you can choose your character's birthday and patron deity. I still have very little idea what precisely these options did, as they had no discernible effect on my questing or storyline. But you can choose them, so I'd assume they intended to do something with the system.

After all of this, you choose your starting location, of which there are three, which I'm to understand is the key factor in deciding what storyline your character progresses through. Despite being able to travel freely, you can only witness the storyline of the city you started in, so I guess this is truly the only real option you've been given that matters. So I guess if you're really intent on hammering your way through this game, means you should choose wisely.

On to the rest of the game, then. The game is quite pretty, as expected of a Final Fantasy game these days, however from what I saw the story is sorely lacking (also kind of expected these days I guess?). The quests I did were very run-of-the-mill and left me feeling bored, even when faced with impending doom. Go kill obscene amounts of ______. Go collect absurd numbers of ______. And so on. The music left a lot to be desired, particularly for a Square title, and left me feeling outside of the world rather than a part of it.

The lag was a frightening experience itself, which strangely added more excitement to the game than anything in the actual game on purpose. To clarify, the issue was with the game servers themselves, not my internet. I'm fully aware of the difference.

Monsters were never where they showed up in the world, and since most were aggressive, this meant while slowly trudging along from one great distance to another, you'd get attacked by something you didn't even realize was actually in your path. Sometimes, the monster model wouldn't even show up, leaving you standing there trying to fight something invisible. Targeting was a nightmare and it had more to do with the targeting box-size (tiny) compared to the creature you were targeting (huge) than anything else. Though the choice to rely on software mouse rather than hardware mouse certainly did not help matters.

In fact, without a third-party modification for that game to enable hardware mouse, the game was effectively unplayable due to the effect lag has on software mouse. The fact that Square so adamantly refused to include hardware mouse as an option, forcing some random nobody to create the mod on their own speaks volumes as to what's wrong with FFXIV. Which, I suppose is a good place to end the review since just thinking about the game just disappoints me all over again.

P.S. I know it's Square Enix, and many of you would like very much to blame the last half of that equation for the woes here, but honestly old Square could've put more polish on a turd and sold it, with half the time. I mean, they know it's bad. Which implies they knew it was bad! They've sent at least two official apologies to fans, recognizing the poor quality of the product.

Edit: It should be noted at the very least, in an effort to make up for the extreme failure, FFXIV is free-to-play and there are numerous patches in development meant to correct many of the glaring flaws that have existed to this date. I would say, however, that these efforts are simply not enough and the release of this game no where near completion is the rock-bottom to the recent decline of the Square empire. At least there's no where to go but up from here?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Skies of Arcadia

Computer and internet troubles have plagued me since my return, no biggie, I'll have them sorted out in no time. In the meanwhile I have Skies of Arcadia to keep me busy.

I get to be a sky pirate. Yes, you read that right and it's exactly what it sounds like. Only cooler. Which beats what I was doing before hooking up the Gamecube:

Having a rather intense staring contest with my cat. I win by default because he always falls asleep.

The game plays a lot like your typical JRPG, but you have an airship. Also, maybe I just haven't played a JRPG in a long while, but this seems like more fun than what I'm used to in a JPRG. Less predictability, if that makes sense. Normally in this sort of game I've figured out the good guys, the bad guys, and how it's all going to end within the first hour of gameplay. Not so here.