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FFXIV Early Beta Impressions

FFXIV Keen Graev Beta

Now is as good a time as any to share some of my FFXIV impressions.  I’ve been playing in the beta weekend events for three weeks now as a Conjuror alongside Graev who is playing as an Archer.  I’m in love with the conjuror class and the idea of being a White Mage later on.  Graev hasn’t been too impressed by the Archer, so he plans to switch to the Lancer and ultimately become a Dragoon in Open Beta.

Likes

  • Open world (other than dungeons)
  • Combat takes a little more time than usual
  • Environments are pretty
  • UI is nice on PC
  • Class / Job system
FFXIV Beta Lalafell

Our adorable Lalafell striking a pose.

I love how I have already felt lost.  I was trying to find out where a quest wanted me to go, and it took me several minutes to get myself oriented with the map.  Not that finding quests is hard once you figure things out, it’s just slightly more effort that I can personally appreciate.  Navigating the world has been a lot of fun so far.  I’m loving the terrain and environments, and so far the game runs beautifully on my 3.5 year old PC.

The UI is waaaay better than it was back at the original launch.  While still a hotkey system with the typical inventory and character sheet, it looks nice and functions adequately.  Visually, I think it matches.

The class and job systems are going to add a lot of time to the game.  If you want to be a White Mage you’re going to have to level multiple classes — same for every Job.  To me, this presents plenty of opportunity to *hopefully* make it past the 3 monther mark.

In general, FFXIV just feels slightly more… traditional, might be the word.  There’s a touch of difficulty, a slower pace, an appreciation for the (again) tradition that makes these games enjoyable for me.  FFXIV sits right between themepark and psuedo-sandbox, and its suits the games well. [Read more...]

Picking a Class

Graev and I are playing in the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn beta.  We’re not even close to a point where we can share our thoughts on the game.  MMOs are a tricky beast, especially when you go as long as I have without playing one; they have a way of being really fun early on, then quickly turning 180 degrees on me.  Playing has reminded me of a topic unrelated to FFXIV: Picking what class to play.

I like the conjuror class.  Conjurors are a caster that can combine with another class and become a White Mage.  Something about the healing in FFXIV feels really good to me.  FFXIV has this old school grouping vibe to it that makes me feel really needed and appreciated as a healer.  I can tell I’m going to really like being a support role.

Okay, so much for waiting to talk about FFXIV.  Now the real point I was trying to make. [Read more...]

Neverwinter Impressions

Neverwinter officially entered public “open beta” yesterday.  It might as well be called launch because everyone can get in, and characters won’t be deleted.  I jumped in and began my foray into the Sword Coast as a Half-Elf Devoted Cleric.

Neverwinter Sword Coast

The world is traversed by clicking on a new location and instantly traveling there.

I’m disappointed by the gameplay.  Everything feels like it boils down to mass mob slaying.  Everywhere I go there are clusters of 3-5 mobs a level above me that I just nuke down in seconds.  AoE’ing packs of mobs and doing nothing but slaughtering bandits, rats people, skeletons, etc., eventually (read: quickly) gets old.

So far leveling has been a quest grind.  Kill 12 mobs, sample the sludge, go burn some crates, go to this sewer and slaughter your way through it mindlessly until you get to the end then come back for some experience and silver.  Killing the mobs is fun at times; I like the aiming mechanic, although I hate my cleric’s spear spam ability. Playing one of the 2-handed warrior guys was a lot of fun swinging my axe around.  There’s no auto attacking, and everything is ability/click activated. Combat feels solid. really connected, and smooth.  If you can find a class you like I can’t imagine there being many reasons to dislike combat.

Neverwinter MMO

Player-made content, group content, and events make Neverwinter a content-rich experience.

The world is really truncated/disconnected because of the instancing.  That’s not to say it visually looks bad, or that it doesn’t have a nice atmosphere.  All of the zones I’ve been in are really pretty, and the art style is pleasant.  I don’t like being in City 1 or 46, or clicking on a door and teleporting to a location that I wish I could walk to and see a world.

Battlegrounds are average.  I’m not a fan of them in any game, but I think WoW does a better job creating a ‘battleground-like’ experience. Neverwinter isn’t a game you play for PvP.

The cash shop is… well, a cash shop.  There are mounts, bags, potions, clothes, companions, progression items, and the typical F2P offerings.  I don’t have an opinion of the cash shop other than my own personal belief that with a cash shop no game can ever exceed the limitations imposed upon it by having one.

Neverwinter Keen

AoEing mobs on my Cleric.

One feature that I really, really like is the player-made content.  In a game like this, being able to run quests made by other players is a nice touch.  I ran a few quests earlier which had like 10,000+ reviews.  Players can rate the content and even leave a comment.  I think this makes perfect sense for a content-grind game.  The content integrates nicely with Neverwinter, and coming in at 20-30 minutes each (the ones I did) they were a really nice change from the 1-5 minute quests I grind from NPCs.

I can see some fun clearing dungeons with friends, and as I said before the combat is fun, but it feels more like an Action-RPG or a game that shouldn’t be called a MMO.  Suddenly when I think about Neverwinter as a game that isn’t a MMO, I can forgive the disconnected world.  After all, Neverwinter Nights is the same way.  Action-RPG’s are all about slaughtering massive waves of mobs.  But it’s not being marketed as an Action-RPG, and there is an extremely tedious and generic quest grind.

Neverwinter isn’t a horrible game, but I can’t see it being more than a short-term, generic jump-in for free and kill some time game.

Defiance PC and Console Beta Impressions

Trion’s Defiance beta weekend for PC and Console began today, and with it the NDA dropped.  Graev and I have been playing on the PC and Console versions all day to get a feel for the game and decide if Defiance is a game we want to pick up when it launches in just a few short weeks.

Defiance Mount Tam

Defiance is a very pretty game.

Since this is a beta test, and we do not have a finalized copy of the game, we can’t really give Defiance a fair review yet.  I know I’ve formed some definite first impressions, though, and I want to share what Graev and I have begun to think overall about the game.

Defiance handles beautifully on the PC.  My very first reaction was in response to the controls and the fluidity of movement.  Nothing’s better than a game that just ‘feels good’.  On the PC, the graphics are really, really good.  I remarked immediately to Graev and my friends that I wish games like Planetside 2, Battlefield 3, and even Borderlands handled this well.  My PC sustained exactly 60 FPS with no drops on what I assume are the max settings.   I was also unaware of any latency lag in the PC version.

Defiance Shadow War

The Shadow War region of the map. When a match begins, you can enter a phased or instanced version of the region to frag each other.

The Xbox 360 console version is slightly different.  I feel like the graphics aren’t quiet as good as the PC, and I was having some frame rate issues.  I also noticed a fair bit of screen tearing and slowdown with menus.  At one point Graev asked me to go watch the videos we saw last week of the console version because the console beta we have now doesn’t look quite as good.   Also, the console version might be a different build since feedback popups appear after finishing missions.

Graev and I are also a little disappointed by the latency issues plaguing the console version. At one point it was so unplayable that we just logged off.  Trion announced via Twitter that they are working hard to resolve those latency issues. Worth noting about the console version  is how few people I saw playing compared to the PC version.  PC version had people everywhere, but the console version felt like a ghost town.  There are a number of reasons why that could be the case, though.

Gameplay has been very, very mission-centric so far.  Lots of ‘go to this location and kill’, ‘defend x’, ‘find and retrieve’, and ‘interact with an objective’ missions.  At times I felt like I was being lead around around a bit too much.  I would really like to just find a nice area of the map and kill difficult mobs like the good old days of EverQuest pulling.  The closest thing I found  to staying in one spot and killing bugs was this mini-event I stumbled upon to protect some kind of objective or something.  I liked having to fight waves of bugs.

Defiance Shadow War Objectives

Sniping enemies who try to take one of our objectives during a 48v48 Shadow War match. It’s like Battlefield.

To best classify what Defiance gameplay is like, I’d have to say it most resembles Borderlands 2 if you could have a ton of players doing the missions and all playing together at once in that game.  Playing really does feel like coop on a massive scale.  Lots of people running around making the game feel busy and ‘online’.   Defiance uses lots of instancing and phasing to accommodate all the player, which is a little disappointing.  I like games where I know there’s one version of the world.  If my friend is on Tranquility Path and I go to meet him, I don’t want to get there just to realize he’s in another instance of the area.

My biggest disappointment is with the PvP because I am not a fan of matchmaking and queuing for instanced battles.  If you like battlegrounds and instanced objective-based PvP, especially with shooting mechanics, then Defiance has the PvP for you.  I prefer more of a connection to the world.  The Shadow War, which I thought would be true open-world, is really just a big instanced battleground.  I participated in a couple 48 vs. 48 objective taking battles that felt a little fraggy for my liking.  Basically you queue up for a Shadow War, and when it ‘pops’ you get teleported to the match.  The match takes place in a real region of the world, but it’s an instanced/phased versed. Teams are randomly assigned since there are no real factions in teh game, so you’re just fighting the sake of shooting each other and winning points.

Overall, I think the game has potential as an action shooter with RPG elements.  Some of the missions/quests are fun, and others are typical themepark, but I think the real fun will be had with a group of people clearing out a dungeon (whatever they are called).  I want to somehow get into one before I pass judgment on the game’s PvE coop content.  The PvP is a letdown for me in terms of style, but for the type of gameplay it provides, it pulls it off well.

Graev and I really want to explore the console version more when it is working properly, and get to do more of the content.  We’ll bring you more of our Defiance impressions soon.

Rift: Storm Legion Tour Part 1

Rift: Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012I had the opportunity to take a private tour of the upcoming Rift: Storm Legion expansion with Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols.  As many of you know, I played Rift when it first launched back in March of 2011.  I played for a few months, got a couple characters almost to the max level, but didn’t continue playing because I felt like something was missing — I wasn’t hooked by anything in particular.  After this awesome tour, I’m able to see many of those ‘hooks’ making their way into Rift when Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012.

During the tour I was introduced to the story and shown the dungeon that would lead up to the new content.  I was shown the Dimension system (player housing), and also the major end-game raid zones.  Elrar also took me to several of the new zones, explained to me how the content would progress during the expansion, and provided me insights into Trion’s thoughts of Rift’s end-game and its future. I was also granted a max level character for the duration of the beta test currently underway.  So as you can tell, there’s a lot for me to share. I’m going to give you guys my honest opinion of what I saw and fill you in with as many details as I can. Be sure to check back for the full look at my tour through Rift: Storm Legion.

Read more after the break for Part 1: Dimensions! [Read more...]