Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hello Galaxy

Mass Effect Andromeda is out now. I had been looking forward to it as a fresh start in a new galaxy with a new broad objective; 'establish a foothold' as opposed to 'prevent the eradication of intelligent life by an overzealous species of sentient machines that think they are gods'. So far, I think I have pretty much what I wanted.

I'm still in the early parts of the game, having established my character and his role as Pathfinder for the Andromeda Initiative. I've been with my crew down to the planet of Eos and successfully terraformed its atmosphere enough to establish a colony. Next will be to rendezvous back at the Nexus with the Director of the Initiative to plan my next move. It will likely be to the standout planet on the chart discovered in the Remnant vault on Eos. That one was different from the rest somehow.

One thing I appreciate about the game so far is just how little most people know about what is going on in Andromeda, and what they're doing there. Ryder and crew  pretty often are clearly spouting conjecture as to what things in the environments around them do or how they came to be where they are. This is the sort of exploratory, scientific approach you would hope people in this position would take. Probably the most interesting choice I have made in terms of roleplaying so far was to decide between founding a military or science-focused outpost to begin with. The game pretty clearly indicates this first founding is a landmark and the decision you make here will set a tone for the rest of the game.

In terms of playability, and with respect to the game's nature as a third-person cover-based shooter with super powers, this is probably the best Mass Effect to date. Ryder is much more mobile than Shepard ever was, and much more flexible in terms of skill paths and variable loadouts, as well as available equipment choices. This makes for more possibilities on the battlefield, as well. Ryder's enhanced mobility extends to the non-combat exploration of the worlds presented here, as well. I love the jump pack and dash/dodge abilities. These allow for enhanced verticality of terrain in the game, too, which is important in large, open environs like the game is serving up to this point. It feels good to play, for the most part.

I can't really judge the writing, plotting, or character development authoritatively yet, since I am still so early in, but it's been fine thus far; if not stellar, also mostly not terrible. There is one really poorly done character (Addison), but she stands out for it, making me wonder if somehow it wasn't a conscious move somehow to make her like that. Many characters have odd-looking facial features or animations, Ryder included, but I don't find it too distracting--yet. There was one obviously erratic instance of blocking in a cutscene that took me out of the moment, and there are some issues with audio samples overlapping each other or being cut off unexpectedly, but again I'm not too bothered by them.

All in all, I think the game is off to a fine start. My taste in Sci-Fi is probably a little more forgiving or allowing for the slow burn than some, of course. I am definitely looking forward to playing a lot more of Andromeda, though.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Twirl, Then Pivot

I've kind of been casting about lately in a holding pattern waiting to maybe or maybe not get Mass Effect Andromeda. I'm going to move on to either that or something else tonight, though.

I played some GRID, a G game to remove from my backlog. It seems pretty good, like Codemasters' racing games often are. This is an older one, from 2007, focused on city street track racing. You begin as a nobody, racing for various teams in order to earn cash to progress your career. It was fairly difficult when I started, I think owing to its more realistic handling model. One real problem here--GRID 2 is out, and in my library. It has apparently been obsoleted, as games so often are.

I played some Zelda: A Link Between Worlds last night, finding my way to the mountain palace "dungeon" and completing it. It was fun enough in the moment, but left me feeling kind of empty afterward. A curious feeling.

The other day was the 20th anniversary of the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and as one must do, I paid tribute (!?) by accessing one of my numerous copies of the game, and playing it for a while, appreciating the crisp movement, and clear tones of the soundtrack, and awful recorded dialog. It is, as ever, a masterpiece.

I have continued to play Shadow of Mordor, as well, determining that my character needs more experience for skills and abilities to be able to hold his own against the worst of Sauron's monsters. I'm told I need to stick with the game at least long enough to make it to the second large region. It's pretty fun, so I'll keep it around for now.

I also replayed the first 30 minutes perhaps of Resident Evil 4 today, years after having played that game back on the PS2. It's still pretty cool, though it's really aged.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Suspended in Limbo

I was looking for something to while away the time with before Mass Effect Andromeda arrives, and so I bounced between a return to Shadow of Mordor, Final Fantasy IV, and Skyrim this weekend.

It hit me as I was playing Skyrim that I didn't care all that much about the plot or even exploring the world, which I have already seem much of now. I could deal with those, but the real problem is how combat system is lacking. Combat in Oblivion and Skyrim has always felt like flailing wildly about with pool noodles, and it really detracts from the experience. I thought I should probably just not play the game any longer and move on. One thing I do appreciate about Skyrim, though, is the way your character gets better at doing things with experience. Use a two-handed weapon long enough, and you will be noticeably more proficient with that type. Same with magic skills, lockpicking, persuasion, et cetera.  This is a logical and believable way to evolve your character and account for the spin your own play style puts on the game.

FFIV continues to be FFIV. I only played maybe 20 minutes of it this weekend, but I'm now about to take Cecil up the mountain with Palom and Porom to realize his conversion from Dark Knight to Paladin.

Shadow of Mordor is just a very solid and enjoyable open world action game. I like that it's more centered around its play mechanic (combat) with its rewards for doing things in the world as compared to recent Assassin's Creed games, which are more about exploring and enjoying the world and the sights there. I'm not too interested in Mordor or the Lord of the Rings world, but it works as a good backdrop for the play featured here. It's nice that the effort that goes into working with and mastering the core of the game is rewarded in that same area. I may go forward more with Mordor instead of Skyrim for now.

Friday, March 17, 2017

MH 4 U

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. MH4U. 4 U. Not for me, as it turns out.

I've enjoyed Monster Hunter in the past, to a limited extent, and this latest one I've tried (not by any stretch the latest released) is more of the same. I have less time and patience than ever for the type of rigmarole this game foists upon its players, though.

One 'gather some eggs' mission, and I'm done. I wasn't going to stick with it long anyway, but ugh. This game needs to evolve, dearly.

There's a PC clone coming out called Dauntless that will probably mix up some of the elements, and could turn out to be really good. I heard some ex-Riot developers are working on it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pargon of Samurai Excellence

I collected the full set of Samurai Artifact armor in FFXI! It took some doing. I had to hunt for coffer keys and then the coffers themselves in three locations, as well as undertake quests to hop around the world fighting notorious monsters in order to earn the full set of Myochin gear.

Artifact gear has always been a mixed bag in terms of effectiveness. For Samurai, I'll probably only really use the legs full-time, and those only until I can wear something better, like the Shura Haidate or Barabarosa's Zerehs I have from my time playing Monk and Ninja. A lot of the Samurai gear overlaps with that of those other classes I had previously played, so that instead of the hands I'm using Ochiudo's Kote, and instead of the chest I'm wearing a Haubergeon. Instead of the AF feet, I have a race-specific pair of boots that is great for melee damage dealing. The head piece I'll use in a macro gear swap because it makes Meditate better, granting more TP per use. Still, you can't beat the armor's design for that iconic class style.

AF gear is also a character development milestone in that it indicates you've hit level 60 to be able to wear the full set. I'm at 63 on Samurai, currently. With AF done, I need to find some other guiding star, going forward. Other than wanting to hit 75 and roam Sky and Sea, I'm not sure what that should be. Most of the things I want to do are better at 75 (or above, now). I may take this opportunity, that of needing a ton of XP, to explore some of the expansion content from Aht Urghan and after.

Another thing that needs some thought is the end of my month coming up. I'm not sure exactly when that is, but I may need to cancel. I'm not sure I want to be paying while Mass Effect Andromeda is out and incomplete. Hmm...

I should very quickly mention that I knocked Full Mojo Rampage off my backlog last week. It's a voodoo-themed twin-stick shooter roguelike that was surprisingly cool. I was ready to dismiss it out of hand, but it probably warrants some real playtime. From someone, sometime. Probably not me, sadly. I have way too many other things to play.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Booklog Update

A couple of months into 2017, I've been reading a decent amount so far. I've finished a couple of Horus Heresy books, am working on a third, and also finally polished off a non-fiction work I'd been reading.

The Ninja was a historical look at these famous, secretive warriors of Japan. It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, though. It was more about the philosophy and martial arts aspects of Ninja than the straight historical dope. Maybe it was unfair to expect that, though, given the subject matter. Hearsay and tall tales and unverifiable accounts are more to be expected. There was some interesting information here, to be sure, but it was also written in such a way as to be less accessible. I think I'll have to look elsewhere for the history I want.

War Without End was a collection of short stories and novellas set in the Horus Heresy, and might broadly be considered to be loyalist legion focused, whereas Legacies of Betrayal was mostly about the traitor legions.

Pharos was a novel in the Heresy, telling of a Night Lords attack on the world of Sotha, where Mount Pharos and Imperium Secundus' stand-in for the Astronomican was. In the end, after a gigantic pulse of energy (which caught the attention of the Tyranids out in intergalactic space--oops), I'm not clear on whether the beacon is still operational, and whether the Ruinstorm is more navigable now or not, since Lorgar and Angron's Shadow Crusade appears to be waning or through.

Eye of Terra is another short story and novella collection of Horus Heresy writings. The Wolf of Ash and Fire and Aurelian are standout tales so far. Generally, though, the "present" of the Heresy seems to be moving more forward now, with most of these stories catching us up with various happenings of legions we have seen (or not) recently, in preparation for what is to come next in their stories.

Weeks in Vana'Diel

I haven't played anything but FFXI since my last post about returning to it. I've been having a lot of fun times revisiting the world and seeing what's new. I have yet to revisit all of the zones I remember, or any of the newer ones, or try much in the way of newer content, the exceptions being Records of Eminence (achievements that award items and experience points), Trust magic (AI party members), and Fields of Valor (experience training regimens with point reward bonuses).

I have, though, managed to level Samurai up to 50, along with bringing Warrior and Dragoon to 50 as well, from 43 and 47, respectively. These I did because they were near enough anyway, and to serve as support jobs for a theoretical level 99 Samurai. I'm not sure I'll level that far, but this is how the game is played. I have noticed a lot of top-level Samurai using Dancer as their support job, but the brief bits I've read about that choice make it seem more like a consideration for soloing. Warrior seems to be the best for damage dealing through conventional means, and Dragoon for enhanced TP gain. Both seem to have their pluses. I'll stick with Warrior, probably.

I'm currently leveling on demons in Xarcabard, taking advantage of the Samurai's innate Demon Killer and Warding Circle abilities, which together confer a decent edge over this particular class of enemy. Next on the agenda, up through level 60, will be the Samurai artifact armor quests for the Myochin set of job-themed gear. Getting artifact armor is always a major milestone in leveling a job in this game. Even though Samurai is my sixth job to 50, it'll only be my fourth with artifact armor, and should I progress that far, my first past 75, since that was the level cap back when I used to play.

A lot has changed, since then, though. I've had almost zero contact with other players since coming back to the game. I wonder if that's a sign of the game being near death, or just to be expected, since I'm playing through low-level content at the moment. If I'm going to be playing a decent amount, as I have been lately, it would be nice to have a chat channel and group of people to do events with. I don't know that I will, but still.