Final Fantasy Explorers Review [3DS]

Final Fantasy Explorers

Take the classes and abilities from Final Fantasy with the basic gameplay from Monster Hunter, and you get Final Fantasy Explorers. The premise of the game should be very familiar to Monster Hunter fans. Your goal is to advance your character by running quests, crafting better gear with drops, and mutating abilities. While really not even close to MH’s depth, FFE strikes a chord with me that MH wasn’t able to — FFE’s pacing is way more my style.

Basic Questing / Gameplay

The game takes place on an island with diverse areas/tilesets to explore. The main hub of operations where the player upgrades gear, obtains quests, and advances the very thin plot is in the town of Libertas. From Libertas you can accept quests to go out and slay summoned monsters, bosses, etc., in an overall effort to gain more crystals. I guess you might say it’s Crystal Chronicles meets Monster Hunter.

FFE OdinThe questing system is straight forward. You get to accept one main quest and any number of sub quests. The main quest is something like “Go kill Ramuh” and a subquest can be to use a certain ability during the fight.

Combat is much more intuitive for me than MH. Although deep enough to incorporate positional attacks and skill shots, the interface and execution are easier. Hold LB and RB opens up submenus with X, Y, A, and B for each. So you can basically bookmark 8 abilities, a basic attack, sprint, and item menu. This is way easier than having to remember combos, and it works so much better too.

Battles play out much like a standard RPG or even MMORPG in real time. Combat mechanics include tanks, heals, boosters, and damagers with a variety of ways to execute each. Monsters fight back using the typical, though a tad unoriginal, mechanics too. You’ll see lots of AOE attacks, charging monsters, and ‘get out of the red circle or instantly die’ mechanics. Despite being a little contrived, they work.

FFE Classes

Classes & Abilities: FFE has lots of them

Knight, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, Dragoon, Paladin, Thief, Ninja, Red Mage, Time Mage, Bard, Hunter, Dark Knight, Beastmaster, Geomancer, Machinist, Alchemist, Sage, Blue Mage, Samurai, and Freelancer. Those are your class choices in Final Fantasy Explorers. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a variety of tanks, heals, dps, and boosters (buffers) to play, and a variety of ways to satisfy each play style. Want pure burst dps? Go Machinist. Want a traditional Tank? Go Knight.

I like how the abilities, in some cases, can be used cross-class. I can use Cure on my Knight to help heal myself in a pinch. Eventually you can master a class and obtain access to additional weapons and abilities.

Mutating and upgrading abilities adds a whole new level of customization. As you use crystal surges (special abilities on timers) you can then use other abilities that, when used in tandem, spark a mutation. Mutations can stack and build custom abilities. Let’s say you use Guard during a mutation opportunity and it adds Haste. This creates a NEW abilities that will give you both Guard and Haste at the same time. It’s like ability stacking, and you can ultimately walk around with all of your abilities no longer basic simple skills but mutated abilities. The customization here is overwhelming, but if you simply focus on making abilities you think are cool and useful then you’ll get by just fine.

Single-player & Multiplayer

Graev and I have been playing FFE together almost exclusively. Multiplayer works flawlessly without any lag at all. Final Fantasy Explorers works great solo, don’t get me wrong. You can create monster pets to act as a companion and do just fine in the game solo, but I think the true spirit of the game is best felt in multiplayer with up to 4 players.

FFE teamwork

Again, combat is designed for that typical ‘group’ gameplay. Graev is playing a Time Mage with lots of support abilities and heals, but a healthy dose of damage too. Remember, you can customize your character quite a bit, so he has made a character that fits his style. I’m playing a Knight (standard tank) until I unlock either Red Mage or Dark Knight. I think both of those sound most fun to me.

Teamwork and synergizing together, planning attacks, etc., are all beneficial in FFE. We did a boss fight against Ifrit and realized we hadn’t properly planned. Neither of us came in with the abilities we’d need to synergize a good combo or to output enough damage. Fixing that issue, we defeated Ifrit again in half the time.

More to Come…

There’s a little much to put here in a review. You know me, I like to keep these short and to the point with a bit of info to satisfy your questions and whether or not you should buy or skip. While FFE’s scope is easier to grasp than MH, the depth is there for at least 100 hours of gameplay. I’m going to try and rig up a way to stream FFE and/or record a video so that you guys can see it in action from my perspective.

I highly recommend Final Fantasy Explorers. Go into it expecting a game all about playing interesting classes and beating bosses. This is a game about grinding for loot drops to craft that perfect weapon, customizing your abilities to make your character feel just right, and simply enjoying to thrill of the hunt. Just don’t expect a plot — there really isn’t one — or anything close to a traditional Final Fantasy game. But trust me, you won’t miss it. Looks for whatever videos I can come up with soon as they’ll answer more questions and provide more insight into gameplay.

P.S. I highly recommend you purchase FFE on Amazon. Gamestops are sold out, and Best Buy laughed at me. Amazon had it to me in 2 days.

Disney Infinity 3.0: Rise Against the Empire Review

Rise Against the Empire Play Set

Rise Against the Empire represents the final Disney Infinity 3.0 Star Wars play set for me to review. I was originally going to review this one right after Twilight of the Republic, but Graev and I decided to share this one and he took his sweet time getting it to me. Waiting was so worth it; Rise Against the Empire (RATE) is easily my favorite play set.

Story/Presentation/Gameplay

Rise Against the Empire is broken up into 3 main segments, conveniently comprising the three movies (4, 5, 6) and the three main planets on those movies: Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor. While RATE takes enormous liberties with the story, just like the other play sets, it actually works better than the other play sets. I want to break this up into sections on each planet where I can talk about what I really liked on each.

Rise Against the Empire Tatooine

Tatooine

Tatooine is the weakest of the three planets, but there are a number of fun things to do. I think they introduce the idea of credits nicely. Credits are this play set’s currency mechanic. Credits are used to buy buildings and customization info. Tatooine introduces the ability to purchase buildings and erect them in the form of a base. I’m reminded of the toy box mode with how these pop up and give you vehicles/customization.

Rise Against the Empire Hoth

Hoth

Here’s where things pick up. Hoth contains lots of missions, and some base building, but the true gem here is roping walkers. Flying a snow speeder and roping works beautifully — way better than any other vehicle use in in any Disney Infinity game. I had a blast here, especially having to rope 5 of these suckers in the mini Battle for Hoth.

Rise Against the Empire Endor

Endor

By far the best planet. You get to help the Ewoks do Ewoky (Ewokian?) things like take helmets from Stormtroopers, ride their elevators up and down (or in my case not realize these exist while trying to find a way to throw Ewoks…).  My favorite part was wrangling AT-STs and setting traps like swinging lots, slip ropes, etc. Riding a speeder bike through the forest was also a lot of fun.

Rise Against the Empire Space Battles

Death Star Trench Run & Space Battles

The space combat and death star trench runs (plural since there New Hope and Return both had one) were executed perfectly. RATE introduced the dodge, shoot, and evade mechanics for scripted/lightly-on-rails moments which worked great. Saving Admiral Ackbar’s fleet while destroying multiple Star Destroyers was a great space moment. The controls when not on-rails are absolutely horrible, though, and a taint on an otherwise amazing experience.

Rise Against the Empire Characters

Once again RATE shines above the other two play sets, this time by having the best characters. Luke and Leia come with the play set, and others can be purchased individually.

  • Luke – Standard Jedi with a blaster, but has nice saber fighting. Straight up.
  • Leia – Great combos that stun/knock back.
  • Chewbacca – Charge-up on his Bowcaster is an amazing infantry killer.
  • Han Solo – Great combos like Leia.
  • Boba Fett – Flying is great, and has a strong blaster, but his rocket launcher is why I use him.
  • Darth Vader – Saber throw wins.

Overall Thoughts

Rise Against the Empire is the best Disney Infinity 3.0 play set yet, and definitely does the best job providing a mix of vehicle gameplay and interesting/fun character use. If you’re going to buy only one play set, or if you’re looking for a reason to get Disney Infinity 3.0, then I highly recommend Rise Against the Empire along with all of the characters.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper DLC Review

Jack the Ripper DLC

I was able to get a pretty good deal on the special edition of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate which means I get at least all of the first DLC and somne goodies at no (additional) cost. The first main DLC for Syndicate is Jack the Ripper, a look into the mystery surrounding one of London’s craziest and creepiest serial killer bad guys. For the purposes of this review, there will be spoilers.

A little backstory for you…

Jack the Ripper DLC takes place 20 years after the main storyline in Syndicate. Evie has been in India with Henry Green working with the local chapter of the Assassin Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Jacob stayed in London all these years to build up the brotherhood there with plenty of new Initiates. After the death of Starrick, Jacob liberated the Aslyum and took on an Initiate named Jack the Lad (can you guess who he becomes?). Jack’s mom was killed by Starrick’s Templars, and he was committed to the Aslyum and pretty much ‘jacked up’ by the people there. So of course it makes perfect sense to train him as an Assassin…

A few years later, Jacob and his initiates meet up with the Indian Brotherhood where they learn this new fighting tactic which involves filling people with ‘fear.’ It’s less gruesome — so less stab stab and more about street magic and scaring the crap out of people. Fear bombs, spikes to pin people to the ground, etc.

After Jacob and his initiates return, having just learned lots of Jack the Lad loses it and begins killing … just about everyone in the London Assassins. He takes over the Rooks and turns them, along with anyone else he can manipulate, into groups of baddies.

The Autumn of Terror

Here’s where we come in — right in the Autumn of Terror — when Jack has just killed a lot of women (who were Assassin Initiates, shhh) and Jacob has been trying to stop him. We learn a lot of this backstory I told you above as we go along, but it’s all really, really poorly developed. Jack’s goal is to spread fear through London — great that he has learned so many techniques on how to do it from the Indian Brotherhood. Jacob ultimately fails and is taken prisoner by Jack, but not before he is able to let Evie know that she has to come back to help rid the world of this monster they created before Inspector Abberline (who knew the twins from the main Syndicate story) is forced to arrest Evie on the grounds that everything is starting to point back to the Assassins (which, of course makes sense — it DOES!).

Unfortunately, most of the story is really underdeveloped and sadly drags on with boring/mundane side missions. The memories themselves should have been way less convoluted and repetitive. I’m surprised to say that I think it should have actually been shorter. The story begged for closure, but never gave any.

Gameplay

The majority of the gameplay is from Evie’s perspective. She has aged quite a bit, now fights using these fear tactics rather than stealthy Assassin stuff. I really, really dislike this style of fighting — especially for Evie. The Assassins are so much cooler when they are about staying in the shadows and being undetected. The skills in fear fighting are all about making sure your enemy sees you and sees you taking down others. It’s this bizarre juxtaposition.

Periodically throughout the 10 Memories comprising the DLC you get to play as Jack the Ripper. Now here is where the fear style makes sense. He’s supposed to scare people. Playing as Jack is really well done because his sociopathic psychopathic tendencies are well-translated with effects. I thought Jack was very well done.

I felt like everything I did in the main story was ditched or tossed aside. All of my skills are gone and replaced with only a handful of passive upgrades to my fear-inducing items.

Setting up the Future?

Jack the Ripper DLC did a nice job of giving me more about the Frye Twins. I loved seeing them 20 years later with gray hair and wrinkles. I liked knowing what happened to them and how they went on to do things in different regions.

Could we have been given a taste of a future AC game here? Should we expect India? Perhaps during the Sikh Empire? Honestly, I just hope they do not ever, EVER, bring back this fear-inducing fight style. It’s just awful.

A Nice Try that Falls Flat

Overall, Jack the Ripper had tons of potential. Had these events not been 20 years later, this would have been a perfect set of side missions. Unfortunately, we were given a set of rushed (yet too long and boring) memories for an underdeveloped story, and gameplay was marred by a fighting style that conflicts with the core of what it means to be an Assassin.

Here’s where I’m torn. Is this worth $15? Yes. There’s plenty of content to justify the price, but the execution leaves much to be desired.

Disney Infinity 3.0: The Force Awakens Play Set Review

Disney Infinity 3.0: The Force Awakens Play Set

The Toys to Life genre continues to find its way into my busy gaming schedule with another play set from Disney Infinity 3.0. Star Wars The Force Awakens Play Set came out to coincide with the movie, and offers gamers the chance to take on the roles of Finn and Rey — along with others — as they unravel the mysteries of this post-empire galaxy.

I won’t offer up any movie spoilers, though the game itself doesn’t actually spoil any of the major movie surprises. Like the other Star Wars play sets, The Force Awakens play set departs a bit from the story told in the movies. This doesn’t really hurt or help the experience any, but may influence whether or not you want to jump in.

Disney Infinity 3.0: The Force Awakens Play Set

The story itself is good. The presentation is also fairly good as well. I’m trying not to say anything that would spoil the movie, so I won’t go any further on story.

Kylo Ren FigureGameplay is mostly about the characters themselves. Rey’s combat abilities are interesting, but overall this figure (which comes with the set) fell flat for me. Finn was pretty good and seems like an overall good choice for range and melee combat.

Additional figures like Poe were definitely needed to help round out some of those more difficult encounters so that you do not have to go back to a checkpoint. My absolute favorite character was Kylo Ren. The figure matches his personality and behavior in the movies perfectly, and I thought his moves and gameplay were (by far) the only truly unique ones in the bunch.

Vehicle use in TFA was wonky — more wonky than the wonkyness of the previous play sets. I actually didn’t like how the ships controlled at all. Aside from one moment on Jakku where you fly the Falcon, vehicles were an afterthought.

There is a slight sense here that the play set was rushed. A lot of the side missions (blue exclamation marks) were generic even for Disney Infinity.

Overall, The Force Awakens Play Set was fun. I think it’s worth buying for a Disney Infinity enthusiast, but not by itself going to justify grabbing both the core game and the play set.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

ac syndicate

I’m finally ready to review Assassin’s Creed Syndicate! I say finally because I am finally at a point where I have finished the main story and achieved a completion percentage higher than I’ve ever had in any previous game in the franchise. As always, I like to start my reviews off by portraying the overall sentiment: Syndicate was a phenomenal game, and one of the best in this franchise.

Story, Setting, and Overall Presentation (No story spoilers)

I’m a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed story arch. You either love it or you hate it, and I think it drives these games forward and allows Unisoft to create relatively similar titles one after the other without them being too stale. Unlike Unity, which had absolutely no connection to the modern day world, Syndicate at least uses cutscenes between sequences to progress a story.

You’re once again the nameless “player” in the “game” working to uncover a secret from the past that will help the present-day Assassin’s uncover information about a relic. At the end of the game, these sequences finally tie back to the overall story we last saw back from Black Flag. I really liked the revelations in the end.

ac syndicate train base

The setting of London is fantastic, and Ubisoft’s presentation of the city and its boroughs has set the bar so dang high I can’t help but worry that the next game’s city-play will disappoint. London is undergoing its industrial revolution. Gangs, child labor, and socioeconomic disparities abound. This time and place, despite the horrific atrocities, make for an awesome setting that (hard for me to say) beats even the great pirates of the caribbean motif from Black Flag.

London is divided into boroughs that each do a great job of telling the story of what’s happening in the city. Taking over the boroughs requires you to complete a variety of missions like killing a named templar, defeating a stronghold, kidnapping someone (cool new feature), or rescuing orphans. Side missions also play a huge role in defining the setting too. Marx, Dickens, Darwin, etc., all make appearances and have missions throughout the city.

Oh, and your base of operations is a friggin personal train that actually moves around the entire city. ’nuff said there! [Read more…]