Battle Bards Episode 12: Lineage 2

bardssquaresmallEmbark on a journey with us overseas, as the Battle Bards sail to the lands of Lineage 2.  It’s a plus-sized soundtrack with surprisingly good music, and we’re all about bringing you the best of the best.  Except for the one track that Syl held back for show 13 because she wanted to spite Syp.  Not that Syp is bitter.  It’s a musical journey of cymbals, sunsets, and unicorn dreams.  But what else would you expect from this show?

Episode 12 show notes

  • Introduction (including After the Storm and The Beginning of Gracia)
  • Opening: Call of Destiny
  • Counterattack
  • The Final Decisive Battle
  • Temple of the Moon
  • Praise the Victorious Knight
  • Merchant Ships from the East
  • Floran Theme
  • Mailbag: Ian
  • Outro (Unicorn Rest)

Special thanks to Tesh for the Battle Bards logo!

Final Fantasy XIV is not for me — and that’s OK

Final Fantasy 3When your gut and past experience tells you one thing and your friends are all telling you another, it’s sometimes easy to get persuaded to get out of your comfort zone and give a new thing a try.  In this case it’s where so many people seem to be playing, raving about, and enjoying Final Fantasy XIV following its relaunch, to the point where I got persuaded to drop $30 for a copy the other day.

And that’s a $30 I really regret spending.  I has the buyer’s remorse, I do.  But since it was an impulsive purchase, I have only myself to blame.

So yeah, it wasn’t even on my radar because the initial launch was a laughable mess and the relaunch looked to be pretty niche.  But whether it’s people starved for a major release right now in the latter part of 2013 or a tsunami of word-of-mouth raves, it’s been doing quite well for itself.  And it was strange for me to see a really wide range of gamers and bloggers that I know being won over by it.  So what did I have to lose?

$30.  Don’t remind me.  I shall do that myself.

Anyway, I should’ve listened to my gut.  It’s not that FFXIV is a bad game in any way that I can discern.  Downloading it and setting it up was pretty smooth, and I didn’t even have to enter in credit card info.  Hearing the music was a nice high point — the Final Fantasy series always does well there.  But this game was not made for me at all.

For starters, I’ve just soured on the Final Fantasy experience: the aesthetic, the trappings, the overused rehash of elements that some may love as “tradition” and I’ve started to frown at as “unimaginative leftovers.”  I’ve really not been into Final Fantasy since, oh, 10, and even that wasn’t too fun for me.  Final Fantasy XI just turned me off within the first couple days of trying it out way back in 2003 or so, and even retro versions of FF games on mobile devices have lost their luster.

So there wasn’t a lot to like about my first half-hour or so in FFXIV.  I don’t like the look of the characters, chocobos make my eyes roll so dang much, and most of the races just irk me.  I felt really grumpy through the whole thing and that’s probably not fair at all to the game.  Sure, it looked pretty.  But so do a lot of MMOs these days.  It had quests.  It had me running.  It had me clicking through a lot of text bubbles that were dull as carp.  Hey, carp are not the most interesting fish, okay?

And how much combat did I clock in that first hour or so?  None.  It was like the world’s slowest tutorial-slash-hand-holding, and I’m going cross-eyed because what little story I’m seeing is dull and I want to see how the combat handles.  I’m asking myself what others were seeing in this game.

So short story short, I didn’t have the patience to stick it out.  It just wasn’t for me, and that’s OK; not all MMOs will be.  Maybe it’s just about the best game in the world past that opening hour and maybe I’m too antsy.  But considering that I don’t need another subscription right now for a game that — even if I ended up liking it — I won’t be paying for when WildStar hits anyway.  So we’ll part amiably and shan’t mention it again.

Just wish I had that $30 back.

New bloggers: The NBI 2 is calling you!

We need both mentors and new/aspiring MMO bloggers to sign up for the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2!  Check out the official announcement at T.R. Red Skies and the official NBI 2 forums!

Whether you’re a vlogger, blogger, podcaster, artist or whatever …if you own a blog dedicated to video games, the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2 needs your support! A great number of bloggers supported the Initiative last year and we are calling on you again to participate as well as imploring new bloggers to snatch this opportunity as well. The goals of the NBI are simple:  Find, visit, and promote new video game bloggers.  Create a friendly network of support.  Increase survival of new bloggers. (This is a new area of focus this year!)

Guild Wars 2: One very dead Taco

grouphugI’ve been a little behind the curve of the rest of the Guild Wars 2 community this week in regards to the new, improved, will-most-certainly-kick-your-butt Tequatl battle.  Time just hasn’t worked out for me to do it that often, especially when there’s a long wait between these fights.  I get antsy just waiting around since I only have so much time to game every night.

But everything came together quite nicely last night.  I logged in and heard that the fight was coming in 20 minutes.  The community has obviously cracked this fight and was really organized, forming teams for the turrets, turret defense, and battery defense.  I joined a squad and our leader took us on a quick tour to show us what to do when.

The fight itself was just… nuts.  Everyone stacked in this clanky group hug that you see above.  Just like how real battles happened in history.  I heard the Romans would create one giant dogpile to defeat the elephant-dragons of Hannibal.

My jobs were pretty simple.  In the stack, I just healed: tossed out healing elixirs and healing turrets and revived as best I could.  Not that I could really tell what was going on otherwise to contribute to the offense.  In that mess o’ people, we really couldn’t see the shockwaves coming.  I died a couple of times, but got revived more often than not.

During the megalaser segments, we blitzed over to the north battery and spent a couple of frantic minutes killing and stomping on grub mounds.

We went back and forth between the batteries and the stack three times.  It got really brutal toward the end, as everyone was frantically fighting while watching that last minute timer count down.  It was going to be close… real close.

And then we did it.  Taco died with exactly zero seconds left on the clock, and the crowd went wild.  A victory could’ve been a defeat if we were a second slower and we just couldn’t believe it.

So I got to see Tequatl downed and received a ton of loot and achievement points.  Nothing too awesome with the loot: one exotic, a few rares, and a bunch of odds and ends.  Still, it was a great moment and I’m glad I was there to be a part of it.

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2 coming soon!

I keep getting emails and tweets asking me if I was going to be organizing another Newbie Blogger Initiative this year.  I hadn’t originally planned it to be a yearly thing — it was more of a one-shot experiment that quickly (and fortunately) passed from my hands to the larger community.  And because I’m up to my eyeballs in work and little kids and other projects, I just don’t have the time to do it again this year.

However, I’ve also been contacted by two other bloggers who want to take up the mantle and bring you NBI 2, and I promised to lend my support to it.  Contains Moderate Peril and T.R. Red Skies are teaming up to put this on, and while it’s not here just yet, you can keep an eye on their blogs and follow the official twitter account (@newbieblogger2).

In the meantime, if you’ve been thinking of starting up your own MMO blog, I’d encourage you to do so!  Drop me a line when you get it set up and I’ll give you a promotional push, and follow NBI 2 for lots of support, encouragement, and month one traffic!

Arcanum: Final Thoughts

(This is part of my journey playing through Arcanum.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

Arcanum-map2I think it’s come time for me and Arcanum to part ways, at least for now.  As I said a while back, in these playthrough series, I’m committing to at least two weeks of examining a title with the option to keep on going if it’s gripping me.  Well, while there’s a lot of good in Arcanum, it’s become more of a labor than a love to play it for me, so I’m going to step away.

Before I do that, I want to give a few final thoughts.  I’m finding that going back to these older games (or in some cases, trying them out for the first time) is kind of like going to garage sales: You might strike gold with forgotten relics or it might be a waste of time.  Some of these games hold up well over the years, but I don’t feel that Arcanum does.  And that puzzles me.

You see, on paper and often in practice, Arcanum is an amazing RPG.  A lot of props has to be given to its setting, showing a world where magic is being replaced — and is in conflict with — technology.  The Industrial Revolution-meets-Lord of the Rings is a great twist on tired tropes.

And the game is absolutely great when it comes to choice.  You have loads of choices when it comes to your character’s background, your character’s build, and the way you play.  That you can approach the same quest in three or four different ways is applause-worthy, especially when most MMOs these days have just one (“stab it in the eye and take its gold”).  I’ve heard lots of testimony about how replayable Arcanum is, especially when you take a different route.  Want to be a dumb Orc brawler?  A sly Gnome thief?  A Dwarf gunslinger?  An agoraphobic lunatic?  All are possible.

But here’s where we come to the drawbacks, and for me they were enough to eventually put me off of the game.  For starters, Arcanum is just ugly.  I mean, I know it’s over a decade old, but it was ugly even back in 2001.  I think I spoiled myself with the incredible variety of locations and structures in Planescape a few months ago, because the blocky brown houses and brown fields and muted green grass and grey caves just got to me.  It’s not a world that looks or feels alive.

I’m also less-than-fond of its combat.  Arcanum can be stupid hard in spots and has a weird difficulty curve, and each battle I faced could vary from a pushover to insta-death.  Even setting aside difficulty, the fighting itself was… dull.  Just click on an enemy.  Click on him again.  Move a little.  Click more.  Maybe fighting as a spellcaster would’ve been more interesting, but I just did not enjoy fighting one bit.

I guess my last criticism is that the game started to drag.  The storytelling, while adequate, wasn’t that engrossing to make me want to play on, the initial companion I got was as fun as a strip of flypaper, and so much of the space in these towns are wasted — just empty buildings and people who say the same thing over and over again.

It pains me to end like this.  I think there’s a great game here and I know some people absolutely love Arcanum.  But I’ve given it over two weeks and I’m ready to move on.  Perhaps one day I’ll come back and roll that lowbrow half-orc pugilist that I’ve always dreamed of roleplaying.

Farewell, WAR

newtitle14I’m sure you all heard, but Mythic finally pulled the plug on Warhammer Online.  The studio is citing the end of a licensing deal with Games Workshop as the reason, although, y’know, who are we kidding here.  It hadn’t been making much of any money or headlines at all in the past few years and never went F2P to give it a second shot.

I’m absorbing the emotional blow of this right now.  No, I haven’t played WAR since… late 2009, maybe?  So it’s not the loss of something immediate, but the death of an old friend morelike.  WAR meant a lot to me: It got me started in blogging, it put me in touch with many great friends, and it gave me a couple fun years of gaming.  As I just said to a friend, it wasn’t an awful game, it just was awfully bungled.  And I don’t really care to dwell on the negatives right now, because I suspect this will be my last-ever post on WAR here.

There was just something so special and energetic about the WAR community and blogging scene, especially leading up to launch, that I’ve yet to see copied elsewhere.  The shared excitement, the analysis, the journeys, the frustration, and the laughs drew many of us in.  There’s barely a shadow of a hint of that today, with no WAR blogs out there that I know of and a much diminished playerbase.  But for a time, it was a great ride.

Perhaps it’s time for WAR to go.  Five years isn’t an incredible run, but it is more than what some MMOs get.  Whether a game is shut down or we leave it, all that’s left behind are the relationships, the memories, and the screenshots.

I invite any of my former WAR blogging colleagues or fellow players to leave a note on this post.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’ll end with sharing two things if you’re interested in a little WAR nostalgia: my recent column on Massively sharing my favorite things about the game, and a list of greatest hits from my WAR blog, WAAAGH!

Arcanum: The magick trap

(This is part of my journey playing through Arcanum.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

sonicI can’t wait to get to all of the imminent elf-punching that must be done in the name of justice, but the rest of Black Root needs to be explored.  A woman who is — for reasons completely unknown to me — emitting visible sound waves implores me to find her tinkerer son.  Because I like collecting quests like useless junk, I go ahead and say, “yeah, sure, whatever.”

There’s nothing much left to do here, so I leave and decide to go find this lady’s son.  His house is nearby and quite obviously deserted.  A journal in a dresser tells me of how he’s encountered a demon portal and is trying to create a device to combat it: the Magick Trap.

ttrapWell, that’s convenient he made two of them, so I should probably find the other one.  I spend a few minutes punching open a locked chest and find the duplicate magick trap as well as a few other goodies and gold.

Getting to the portal proves to be too much for me, however.  I’m just level 7 and when I encounter a level 15 void lizard on the path to the portal, it kicks my butt time and again.  I guess I’ll put this in the “get back to it later” pile.  Sometimes Arcanum feels really unbalanced when it comes to levels and challenges; I don’t quite know where I need to be at my level and I’m worried I’ve accidentally skipped over XP-rich quest areas.

So back to Black Root I go.  Might as well deal with the thieves (again).  Thieves, rings, and punching, those are a few of Arcanum’s favorite things.

thief2Well, the thief camp in Black Root is pretty easy to spot, but it’s also heavily guarded by mobs in the level 15-21 range.  So I guess I got out of my depth really quickly in this game.  Was there more I should’ve done back in Shrouded Hills?  Perhaps.

One thing I do like about this game is that it places an emphasis on solving quests in a variety of ways.  I’m given three choices here: kill all of the thieves, steal from a hedge wizard, or get poison from a local merchant.  I’ll… get the poison, I guess.  Nothing wrong with turning poison over to thieves, right?

poisonGetting the poison is a cinch.  The local poisoner — y’all have one in your community too, right? That’s a normal thing? — sells me some once I tell him that I’m killing Orc-shaped rats.  Otherwise known as Orcs.  Guess he likes Orcs the way I like Elves.

The elf thief is happy with the poison and gives me not only the ceremonial dagger but all of the extra stuff he plundered from the mayor as well.  I jog back to the mayor — man, I hate these maps and the small resolution, it makes travel so annoying — and the guy is barely grateful I did the task.  He gives me 100 gold, covering the cost of the poison, and I guess I come out ahead some XP and random stuff.  Am I a hero?  A villain?  A chump?  All of the above?  I am not so sure.