Catching up after a long week

I’m back from my 4 day business trip to Seattle — forgot to mention I would be gone. I missed SoCal quite a bit. All that wet stuff falling from the sky and people smoking everywhere took a bit of getting used to for me. Living in the suburbs in the Inland Empire (greater Los Angeles area) we see very little of either of those things these days. I caught some kind of cold from the trip which either came from all the people hacking up a lung on the plane or the rain.

miitomoI had my first experience with Uber while in Seattle, and proceeded to use it a dozen times. That was pretty cool. I was marveling at how incredible it is that I walk out of my hotel, tap a button on my phone, and a car pulls up. I get in the car, it drives me where I told my phone I wanted to go, and when I get there I just get out of the car and go along my way never having to exchange money or interact with anyone (if that’s my desire). Technology is getting pretty darn cool — especially where our handheld devices are concerned. Now if only gaming could catch up a bit. Seems to me we’ve stagnated a bit on these dumb time waster games and haven’t seen much for mobile devices.

Nintendo’s first official first-party app Miitomo launches next month. I’m once again a little confused by their direction with new products. Miitomo is going to be an app about dressing up your Mii, talking with friends, and taking photos with your Mii. I was hoping for more from them when Tatsumi Kimishima took over. Just not seeing any of that yet. Where’s the true first party GAMES rather than these awkward Japanese inspired social mechanics?

Interestingly enough, Nintendo continues to push forward with updating games they released in the past for use on the 3DS family of systems. FOr example, Pokemon Yellow Special Edition Pikachu Edition launches on February 27, 2016 ($9.99). Pokemon Yellow was released 18 years ago! I love that they are bringing back these titles, but I’d also love that Zelda open-world RPG we’ve been waiting on for a few years now. I’ll be a tad bitter if the Nintendo NX launches and all these Wii U games we could have had are pushed out a generation.

Settling back into my routine is nice. I’m going to pick Final Fantasy Explorers back up and continue pushing forward. I’m loving the Machinist and looking forward to the Red Mage. Also playing LEGO Dimensions, Just Cause 3, and way too many games — write ups coming soon. Several of you have joined us in Albion Online. If you need a guild invite let me know! Our island is awesome for free crafting on high-tier stations.

Adventure Log Update on Games I’m Playing

I’m slacking hard on blogging. Honest truth here is that I have a lot of games I’m enjoying right now. So let’s dive into an adventure log update!

Keen’s Adventure Log, stardate 2/10/2016.

Final Fantasy Explorers

I’m really drawn into FFE. Graev and I are having a good time taking out Eidolons and building up our characters. This is one of those weird situations where I know there’s no story, I know there’s not true ‘end’ to the game. Things just end when I feel like I’ve gotten the most out of making a character and I want to quit. I’m playing a Dark Knight right now, but I think I want to switch over to Red Mage. Something about chain casting and doing more magic with a balanced sword-wielding class seems fun. I’d feel more useful and less one-trick pony, though a DK’s one trick is to do a ton of damage.

A few of you asked about multiplayer. The multiplayer work where you turn on multiplayer mode in your singleplayer game. You then can choose local co-op or multiplayer co-op. You can make a room and have others join it, or join someone else’s room. These are like lobbies. You can password your room and let your friends join — that’s what we do.

Albion Online Closed Beta InviteAlbion Online

Really, really falling hard for Albion Online. Despite so much about the game being centered around GvG combat and taking territories, I find myself harvesting and crafting. What I’m worried about is the benefit of zerging. Zergs will win everything. Zergs will control the map, and despite it being huge it’ll still be that way. Zergs will feed crafters and outperform a solo crafter, or even a crafter backed by a group of friends or group of 10-15. It’s all about numbers.

The more I play, the more I realize there’s still a ton left to do to fix the balance. I think the devs know this. For example, crafting really is borked. To truly master one line of crafting would take like 2 years, but to get that far in combat takes 2 months. While needing to make crafting easier, they can’t make it something anything can just do on the side, otherwise they’ve ruined crafting. The entire game hinges upon how they balance this out. Please, PLEASE, get this right.

I’m about to upgrade my house and add more laborers. I’ll write up on those sometime here soon.

EverQuest

Every day I come home from work, go to the gym, and then log into EverQuest. It’s my routine. I think to myself, “I’m going to get a group and play!” Then I can’t find a group for 20-30 minutes. I get frustrated. I log off. None of this changes my desire to group. I -WANT- to group. I’m playing a Cleric FFS… It must be my schedule. I’m trying to play around 5:30pm Pacific time. Am I too late? Too early? It’s becoming frustrating enough that soon I’ll come home and go straight to Albion Online or FFE.

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.

The Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes Review

TriForce Heroes Review triforce-heroes-3dsThe Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes just came out on Friday, but Graev and I have logged numerous hours in what I think is one of my favorite 3DS games yet. TriForce Heroes is a multiplayer experience designed for three players to work together to complete levels comprised of various platformer puzzles and challenges. While the game does allow people with absolutely no friends internet connection to play by themselves, the heart of TriForce Heroes can only be found in its multiplayer experience.

You take on the role of Link. And your friends (or random online people) take on the roles of… Links. That’s sort of where the story in TriForce Heroes begins to break down. You’re all heroes, but at the same time you’re not. Apparently Nintendo has said (these?) are the same Link from A Link Between Worlds, but you’ve come to Hytopia and decide to hide your heroic origins by dressing up in what can only be considered fantabulous outfits. Oh yes, the story gets better… or worse… or better?

triforce-heroes-totemThe gist of the story here is that Hytopia, a kingdom passionate about fashion, has been plagued by this awful witch (known only as “The Lady”) who has cursed the beautiful fashionista princess with the most unimaginably horrible curse of all: To forever have to wear this ugly brownish bodysuit thing. It is up to you (or the three of you) to save Hytopia from this awful curse by entering the Drablands (eye roll) and fulfill the prophesy to stop “The Lady.” So yeah.. the story sucks. It’s worse than any story in any Zelda game ever–and has matching dialog too. But if you completely ignore the story, the gameplay is phenomenal. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that your goal throughout this entire experience is to also acquire crafting materials to make yourself some chic outfits with bonuses.

Gameplay is similar to just about every handheld Zelda game thus far. I personally think it handles like a dream. You’ll queue up with any combination of 3 whether it be people you know or randoms or any mixture. Your goal in every level is simply to get to the end, and to do so requires utilizing unparalleled amounts of teamwork combining different items and strategies. You’ll be coordinating attacks, movements, and abilities that rival the coordination of a WoW raid boss–not kidding. Sharing the same hearts for health and being able to hurt each other with bombs makes the whole thing

triforce heroes carrying teammates

Graev (in green) carrying this guy (red) who was so bad. He flailed wildly with what could only have been the maddest of attempts to free himself.

Solving levels can be quite a challenge, and doing so with absolutely no voice communication is the best part of TriForce Heroes. Some reviews I’ve read consider the lack of communication a negative, but I think it might be this game’s biggest strength. Spamming the emojis of “Throw!” “Over Here!” and “Item!” etc., have brought on tears streaming down my face. I was laughing so hard last night that I got a massive headache. I haven’t laughed so hard in months! Graev and I were playing once level and the guy we teamed with was so unbearably bad that Graev finally said screw it and picked him up, unwilling to put him down, and forcefully carried him over his head like a bomb through half the level.

The intricate puzzles you’ll be solving, and the hilarity of doing it while having to rely on two other people to often be completely in-sync make for a chaotic yet addicting experience. Even when you come across someone who is so bad it makes you want to cry, you’ll be jumping right back in to see how much better you can do on that level the next time around. TriForce Heroes is just that kind of game. The attention to detail is so finely crafted around this multiplayer experience that it’s simply a masterpiece in that regard. You’ll easily put in 20+ hours before feeling anywhere near like you’ve played the same level twice. That’s the beauty of that multiplayer interaction.

New Nintendo 3DS XL & Monster Hunter Ultimate 4

New NIntendo 3DS XLI’m 1/10th the enthusiast that Graev is when it comes to handheld systems. We both got the 3DS when it very first launched and became ambassadors (received the spiffy badge and free games) for supporting their somewhat rocky launch.

When the 3DS took off and launched the ‘XL’ version, then several more versions of the XL, Graev would get them and pass down his systems to me and I would fiddle around in a Pokemon game every now and again. When the New Nintendo 3DS XL came out, boasting so many new features, I decided I wanted one.

My family got me the New Nintendo 3DS XL as a belated birthday present, and thanks to Graev tossed in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to go along with it. I’ll talk on MH4U but first let me talk up a few of the things I like about the new system.

Improved 3D Technology

New Nintendo 3DS Eye Tracking

If you’re like me and unable to hold still, you probably noticed that the 3D was finicky on the original 3DS. Moving your head to the side or not holding the 3DS at just the right angle made viewing the 3D effects difficult. The New 3DS includes a form of eye tracking that knows where your eyes are at and adapts to follow them when you move your face or the system around. I know it tracks my eyes because when I look a way then look back it wigs out for a second to find my eyes again. So as long as you don’t turn your head and look away completely, this thing keeps you engaged in the experience.

new-nintendo-3ds-c-stickThe C Stick

A couple of new controls were added like two new shoulder buttons, but the real star here is the C stick. The C stick is that little nubbin you see just above the X button. It barely moves but is made of a rubbery type feel that is sensitive to how your thumb pushes in directions. The only C stick implementation I’ve played with so far is in Monster Hunter, but that ability to control the camera alone has proven immensely useful for someone like me who has always struggled with handheld systems and the lack of ‘freedom’ of movement. Works great!

The New 3DS XL Overall

Overall the system is nice a big, feels good in my hands, and runs faster thanks to a better CPU. The browser on this thing feels better to me and navigates well. I think the camera was also improved to no longer be so dark and grainy. I haven’t played with the Amiibo support or anything but it has that. I plan to give the wireless file transfer stuff a try later to see how easy it is to take stuff from the micro sd card and transfer it over the wifi network straight to my PC. OH! I should also mention that exclusive games are coming to the New 3DS XL that will take advantage of not only the controls but the new upgraded speeds, so they will look even better.

 Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

mh4u

I have never been a Monster Hunter fan. I was always intimidated by what felt like massive barriers to entry and learning curves. There is so much that goes into such a simple premise of hunting monsters. Choosing weapon and armor types, crafting, upgrading, massive amounts of collecting, tons of strategic positioning during fights… it’s intense.

Much of that has changed now that I’ve hunkered down and put about 8 hours into the game. I’m starting to realize MH isn’t as incomprehensible as I thought. Still massive and overwhelming? Yes. If I stop and think about how insignificant I am compared to other people like Graev who have put in 100 hours already and could play another 200 hours easily… yep I could give up now. But I don’t. I focus on me and I go kill monsters.

For those who are completely unaware, here’s the gist of the game. You’re a monster hunter (the story is pretty simple and forgettable). You have a basic city/hub where you get quests, craft, etc. When you’re ready to go out on a quest you depart from the hub and you’re transported to a ‘map’ of ‘screens’ or ‘sections’ containing monsters. You’ll have lots of ‘trash’ monsters to kill as you make your way to objectives. You can harvest monsters you kill, big and small, for their resources which is essentially the entire point of the game: Kill monsters, harvest resources, make better stuff. You can mine nodes too for metals and gems, harvest plants, bugs, fish, etc. When done, you’re teleported back to the hub.

I’m having fun. I’ve even played multiplayer co-op with Graev! From the break room at work on my lunch I log in and Graev and I can connect to each other and slay monsters together. That’s an AWESOME feature for handheld systems, and it supports like 4 or 5 people all playing together hunting big monsters — yep, that’s pretty sweet.

I’m still a newb. I’m actually still trying to figure out which weapon I want to use. I thought I decided on the Chargeblade, but something about it just doesn’t fit my play-style. I’ve slayed lots of monsters already, gone on plenty of quests, and I’m crafting armor sets. This game brings out the min-maxer in me already by making me want to go online and read message boards to find the best combination of armor sets for my weapon type. Kinda fun, but kinda stressful.

Maybe the biggest downside to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and MH games in general, is the time investment. Don’t get me wrong, you can have tons of fun like I am from the start, but to really get far it’s going to take you easily 30+ hours. That’s realistically no bad, but for a handheld system it’ll be the most I’ve ever put into a game except for Pokemon.

Should you get Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate? Yes. Get it. It’s awesome. Just be ready for a learning curve and expect to invest some time. It’s a game that will last.