Posted in Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft

Facing the headwinds of MMO FOMO in late 2022

Maybe the worst part about online games, other than the fact that they can disappear forever, is that they continue to operate even when you’re not playing them. The fact is that there are often more games than time allows, yet there’s no way to freeze an MMO until you’re ready for it. You have to make those decisions to do Thing A while Thing B proceeds without you.

This is made especially difficult when there’s a wave of FOMO blowing through the air. I’m feeling a lot of that lately, and it’s mildly frustrating as I barely have time these days to play two games, nevermind the six or seven that I’d want to. So instead of playing, I’ll grouse about them here and feel a bit better at having aired my first world gamer problem.

So what’s FOMOing lately? Well, there’s FFXIV’s latest patch, which seems to be a hit with the community thanks to the new island sanctuaries. They seem neat, although perhaps they’re not for people on tight time budgets. More like, they’re great for dedicated FFXIV players who need to kill some time when they’re not doing MSQ and dungeons. I wouldn’t mind seeing them, though. And it’s always in the back of my head that I have my character right at the start of Shadowbringers.

Following the FOMO breeze takes us through Guild Wars 2, which is enjoying its 10th anniversary this season. This is not so much the case of “new content that looks awesome” so much as “stop reminding me that I used to have a very good time in this game way back when.” The game seems to have more of its act together this year than in the previous few, so there’s this palpable sense of hope for the future.

And then there’s World of Warcraft, which rented as many FOMO machines as the marketing team could get its hands on. The Wrath Classic pre-patch, Wrath Classic launch, Dragonflight testing, Dragonflight pre-patch, and Dragonflight launch will be yelling at me for the rest of the year to, y’know, come back and play already. Already I’m doubting my decision to walk away instead of doubling down with Wrath prep. And while I still don’t hold a lot of hope for Dragonflight being a smash hit, if word-of-mouth is good, then that might be a holiday excursion.

It’s just how it goes in MMO circles. It can be fun to be inspired and excited by community interest in titles, but I never want to let FOMO call the shots in my gaming life.

Posted in Final Fantasy, Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 216: FFXIV Before Meteor

Episode 217: Legend of Edda Battle Bards

Chances are you've never heard of today's featured MMO — or its quirky little soundtrack! So why not come along with Syp and Syl to explore Legend of Edda, a now-defunct RPG set in a realm of Greek Mythology? Episode 217 show notes Intro (feat. “Ballack's Castle” and “Cybele Garden”) “Title Theme" "Frigid Valley" "Gaiyan Town" "Wailing Wall" "Kobalos Mines" "Silver Lake" Which one did we like best? Jukebox Picks: “Millick Meadows (Night)” from Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and “Drug Store” from EarthBound Outro (feat. “Boreas Temple”) Talk to the Battle Bards on Twitter! Follow Battle Bards on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts! This podcast is produced using copyrighted material according to Fair Use practices as stated under Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.
  1. Episode 217: Legend of Edda
  2. Battle Bards Episode 216: FFXIV Before Meteor
  3. Battle Bards Episode 215: Lineage W

While Final Fantasy XIV players won’t shut up about A Realm Reborn, it’s not often you hear people speaking fondly of the original 1.0 edition. Yet in this episode of Battle Bards, Syp and Syl find something to praise from this era: the Before Meteor soundtrack. Let’s rewind the clock and hear the O.G. Eorzea tunes!

Episode 216 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Canticle,” “Promise of Plunder,” and “The Rider’s Boon”)
  • “When a Tree Falls”

  • “Navigator’s Glory”

  • “Born of the Boughs”

  • “Desert Moon Defied”

  • “Eorzea de Chocobo”

  • “Dreams Aloft”

  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox Picks: “Stage 2” from TMNT 2 and “The Fallen Kingdom” from Blue Fire
  • Outro (feat. “To the Fore”)
Posted in Final Fantasy

In which I gripe about FFXIV’s MSQ delivery system for a bit

Have you ever experienced that feeling when you’re not THAT into the whole experience of something — a book, game, movie, etc. — but you press on because you want to see how it all turns out? That’s kind of me and FFXIV these days. That’s me and FFXIV most days, to be honest.

I know everyone and their game-playing grandma praises the Shadowbringers expansion as, like, the Best Final Fantasy Story Ever, but boy am I getting so tired of how honestly lame the MSQ is. I’m not feeling that charitable toward it, right now. Oh, the story is fine. Sometimes the story is very, very good. But how it’s told has me waving my arms and shouting, “This? This is what you all have been praising as the best narrative delivery system ever? I don’t get it. I don’t think I ever will!”

I guess I’m tired of the slow-as-molasses pacing, the Scions who are by and large nice, bland people without much in the way of depth, the fact that my character always comes off as a clueless Straight-A student being dragged around by this cast’s C-students, absolutely no real agency in dialogue choices, vile heroes that reveal tragic backstories and now we’re supposed to root for them, and the lack of explanation about how Lord Hien has TWO sets of X scars.

Again, it’s not all bad. But it’s not, say, SWTOR or Secret World by any stretch of the imagination. What probably bugs me the most is how little you actually *do* in any of the MSQ. I’m too lazy to make a pie chart to represent this, but about 40% of your average MSQ is “go to this place,” 35% is “watch this cutscene where your character does nothing other than nod,” 15% is “find the one glowy thing on the landscape to click on,” and 10% is battling a couple of landscape mobs, doing a duty, or running a dungeon.

That’s it. Rinse and repeat for hundreds of hours.

Yet I do want to see Shadowbringers. There are characters, just a few of them, I honestly like a whole lot. But I don’t have a lot of hope that the MSQ is going to become any more interesting in how it functions.

Posted in Final Fantasy

FFXIV: Treasure hunting and flamethrowers

Once I finished up with Stormblood 4.0 in FFXIV, I made sure to catch up on my class quests. It only gradually dawned on me, playing through this game, that FFXIV is really invested in continuing this idea of class quests. They don’t stop coming, and I love that. Sure, sometimes I just want the new skill without the fuss, but I do feel more connected with my Machinist thanks to the class-specific stories.

And hey, I got a flamethrower! If you know me and MMOs, you know that I am always and forever a sucker for a good flamethrower. I had fun pulling this out in a dungeon run, since we’re always burning down packs of mobs. Pro tip: You do extra damage if you laugh maniacally while using a flamethrower.

 

Sigh. Remember when Simpsons used to be good? I barely do any more.

My guild told me that while Stormblood wasn’t that great of an expansion, the patch quests were far better. And I have to say that the first batch — which include a treasure hunting expedition and some insight into one of the villains of the expansion — were far, far more interesting than what I had been slogging through.

I feel that this is further evidence that shorter story arcs in MMOs always have the potential for being better because they’re not as drawn out. Just give me a good three, four, or five-quest chain that tells a self-contained gripping story, and I’m in paradise.

Posted in Final Fantasy

FFXIV dialogue choices be like…

  • Sure, I’ll help you!
  • I’ll help you, sure!

Or

  • I totally want to go with you on this mission!
  • I don’t want to go at all… but you’re going to make me anyway, so what does saying this even matter?

Or

  • Alphinaud, you’re the most amazingly brilliant leader ever!
  • Also, you wear the dickins out of that baby white tie!
Posted in Final Fantasy

FFXIV: Stormblood finished!

My ongoing goal for FFXIV this year has been to finish one significant section of the main story quest every month — either the core expansion quests or the collective patch quests. July was all of Heavensward patches while August was all of Stormblood 4.0. And with over a week before the end of the month, I finished that latest milestone. There’s still a good long way to go before I’m caught up with the front-runners, but I’m on track to do so by the time Endwalker releases.

I was hoping that by the time I wrote my final thoughts on Stormblood 4.0, I would have to eat my former words of being somewhat underwhelmed with the storyline, but… nope. It was ultimately fine. Honestly, kind of tedious in parts as you slogged through liberating two separate countries. I just wanted it over, if nothing else than I never wanted to see Zenos again. He made my skin crawl, not as a character but as an existence. I know that we should hate bosses and all that, but this was hate coming from outside of the story itself and more from how the artists portrayed this sleazy uncanny valley weirdo.

One bright spot of Stormblood was Lyse, who really developed well as a character. You see her going from headstrong impulsive fighter to wise leader in a measured journey that felt believable. I ended up liking her a lot as a leader, far more than I ever did Minfilia, and her voice work was rather well-done.

And I’ll give FFXIV this: When you finish an expansion, the game makes a big, big deal out of it. The above screencap crammed almost every single character together for one big selfie, and while it was eyerollingly overdone, it was also kind of a fun moment of celebration as well.

I did like the final scenes that teased further development. It made me look forward to the future storyline rather than dread it.

Posted in Final Fantasy

FFXIV: Mess with the Aura, get the horns

When I’m in the thick of a FFXIV expansion, it can kind of feel like it’s going on forever. Story beats — which are more interesting than they were back in ARR, I’ll grant that — still are slow to develop. Sometimes you see where the game is going for the next eight or nine missions and you sigh because you kind of want it done already.

Stormblood continues to be fine, just fine, but never much more than that. The whole thing feels like a two-pronged quest — free Doma, free Ala Mhigo — that’s supported by a branching nest of objectives leading back up to those two main points. I understand that the writers are trying to get us players to understand these lands and care about their liberation (while also making some ham-handed points about the duties and obligations of oppressed people to revolt), but it’s not connecting as strong as I would hope.

Ultimately, it doesn’t feel like I’m off on a grand adventure or uncovering a gripping story. It feels like I’m George Washington single-handedly fighting the British, one encounter at a time. Maybe there’s some big twists or really great moments ahead — this game CAN be surprising in that — but it’s not doing much of that so far. And if I have to do another round of “arrive in a village, everyone mistrusts you, do some nice stuff for them, now they trust you!” routines (in this or other MMOs), I may have to go scream into a pillow for a while.

I am happy to report that I’ve finally finished my first beast tribe rep grind. After about a month of faithfully doing dailies, I maxed out the Vanu Vanu and went on with my life. I was hoping for better rewards or resolution, but it kind of limped across the finish line to sit there. I did get a couple decorations and cosmetics, although the gil cost of the mount (200k) is higher than I’m going to spend right now, especially since I don’t even have my first million.

I am not that inclined to do another beast tribe, at least for the time being. It was a bit of a hassle every day to do those, and I’d rather free up that time for pursuits elsewhere.

Posted in Final Fantasy

Figuring out what there is to do in Final Fantasy XIV

I’m stressed in FFXIV. It’s a pretty common feeling whenever I’m in an MMO and haven’t fully wrapped my head around all that there is to do. I know, FFXIV evangelists will yammer on about taking things slow and making your own objectives and whatnot, but they’re also speaking from a position of knowing most of these options. They’re above it, I’m below it, and down here is stressful.

There’s always that question of, “Should I be doing some specific activity every day for a grand goal?” I mean, I only found out a month ago that I should be heading over to the Gold Saucer to grab a few free lotto tickets every day, and now I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t doing that since the start. It’s that sort of thing. Should I be doing daily roulettes? What about pursuing a beast tribe? And what waits for me when I’ve exhausted the MSQ or want to take a break from it?

The only thing that relieves this stress is doing research and making a list of activities and features to investigate later on, so here’s what I’ve found:

  • Leveling more or all of the jobs to the level cap (Heaven-on-High, roulettes, etc.)
  • Blue Mage leveling and skill collecting
  • Making money (I’d like to own a house one day, after all)
  • Beast tribe reputation tracks
  • Hildebrand questlines (have no idea where I left off in these)
  • Crafting — probably never going to be my thing
  • Gold Saucer minigames
  • Eureka — What is this zone? Do I need to do it? Is it outdated now?
  • Relic weapons — Worth getting? How much time will this take? Able to attain solo?
  • Seasonal events
  • Raiding/savage instances
  • Doing weekly challenge logs
  • Wondrous Tails
  • Grand Company — Do I need to keep leveling this up?
  • Sightseeing logs
  • Triple Triad — Collect cards, look up a guide
  • Adventurer Squadrons
  • Unlock flying for each zone
  • Treasure Hunts
  • Clan Hunts
  • Going through the Content Unlock page on the wiki and seeing what needs to be done
  • And, of course, GLAMOUR, the real endgame

Obviously, I don’t want to do ALL of these. I don’t have the time for it. But I want to have this list to investigate later on to figure out which activities are up my alley and worth pursuing.

Posted in Final Fantasy

FFXIV: Lala out, Aura in

FFXIV likes to yank me around. I got so dang excited the other day when I hit what I thought was the max-tier for this Vanu Vanu beast tribe and went through this epic little battle. I thought I had finished my rep grind… but no, apparently there’s still more to do. I had heard it took about a month of dailies to get through a tribe, and it better happen soon because I’m losing my patience for sundrop dancing and scaring people with a Chinese dragon.

Meanwhile, I found someone’s tall pile of rocks. I guess that’s Heaven-on-High, but I’m calling it “An Structural Disaster In The Making.” That sucker is going to fall down and smoosh a whole bunch of crabs when it does.

Stormblood continues to abide. It’s actually a pretty depressing expansion so far, because it’s been a nonstop tour of visiting oppressed people beaten down so far that they’ve more or less given up. I understand that it’s setting the stage for some big liberation, but just when I think they’ve hammered in the malaise, here comes some more THWAK THWAK THWAKs. But hey, now there are two big bad guys that I hate with every ounce of my passion! Perhaps even more than Alphinaud the Wonder Elf!

So as I patiently bide my time until I can single-handedly save two countries from oppression, I found a little vial that said ‘DRINK ME’ and followed its instructions. Actually, I swapped from a Lalafell to an Au Ra after a whole lot of internal debate. You see, I really did like a lot about the Lala — I’ve always been a fan of pint-sized races — but the animations and squished cosmetics weren’t big selling points.

Why the Au Ra then? It wasn’t going down the beaten path of bunny girls and cat girls, and it also gave me a shorter character. It’s something different that I hadn’t considered until I saw a couple cross my paths and went, huh, I might be able to live with that. So I spent an embarrassingly long time working with the character creator to come up with this look — and I’m very happy with it. Not too big, not too small. Just right.

Posted in Final Fantasy

FFXIV: From the middle east to the far east

Four main story quests. That’s my minimum goal every day in FFXIV if I’m to stay on track to be done with Stormblood by the end of August. 122 quests is a whole lot to process as a whole, but four at a time? That’s pretty doable.

As I said previously, the general lack of enthusiasm among FFXIV vets when mentioning Stormblood is hard to ignore, even though I do try hard to give it a fair shot. Honestly, so far it hasn’t been too bad. It’s starting to shape up as a liberation narrative involving two countries dominated by the same empire, and I’m down with that. It’s definitely in line with a lot of Final Fantasy stories from past games.

The story does give us a key enemy that’s so sneering and condescending that I have to refrain from punching the screen whenever he appears. I don’t hate this guy from the perspective of the in-game universe — I loathe him for myself. Japan’s had a lot of experience creating these kinds of oh-so-superior beings who weigh maybe 125 pounds but have some sort of supernatural power and lord it over everyone, and it’s not my favorite facet of that country’s pop culture.

The Scions, for the most part, aren’t impressing me this time around. I like New Lalafell Sage, as she puts Alfie in his place and is a likable enough person, and Tataru is really growing on me as a favorite. But I’d love to go on some quests without the Twins boring things up around me. It’s like this is a babysitting simulator that someone passed off as an MMORPG.

FFXIV doesn’t often give me dialogue choices, but if I ever get one when Alfie asks me a question, I choose the “…” option and imagine glaring at him with undisguised loathing.

But as I said, the story has my attention. I’ve just gotten to JapanLand, which is a huge tonal shift from ArabiaLand. It’s kind of garish and a little TOO perfect the way that FFXIV does its architecture. I guess now I can understand how this expansion gave us a Samurai class!