WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 16)

Reclaim the corrupted capital.

In what I would assume is the final chapter of the Battle for Azeroth pre-release event we return (and lay siege) to the Ruins of Lordaeron. I’m not too surprised about this as it was a prominent Alliance location before Arthas returned, and it has featured as a capital city for the Horde ever since. However, despite intending to reclaim the capital city, it’s actually in a worse state than when it was the Undercity. As I’m pretty sure it’s uninhabitable and filled with neon green blight. So the Alliance is having a bad start to this campaign.

We’ve lost Darnassus and now the Ruins of Lordaeron.

I’m not certain what has happened to the area surrounding the Ruins of Lordaeron, either. I doubt that it will be a starting zone as the Forsaken will likely start at Orgrimmar instead, or perhaps there’s a new introductory experience where they’re fleeing the ruins of the Undercity. The only way to know for sure would be to make a new Forsaken and see what happens.

Battle for Azeroth has certainly provided many questions and not too many answers. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the developers can capitalise on the answers and provide engaging content, but from what I’ve seen so far I’m sceptical. Moggie encountered the rare but (apparently) now resolved quest log bug which emptied his quest log. I’m not too upset about it as there were a few quests I was working on for a while, but most of the others I can easily start again. If I can find them. But it’s surprising that such a thing would happen as I’ve seen quite a few World of Warcraft expansions and this has never happened to me before. I’m also honestly confused as to whether there should be four or five world quests in Darkshore.

The halls of unspeakable treachery.

I’ve done all of the quests and I’ve seen both of the events but it flutters between four and five on a daily basis. I don’t know if that’s a bug but I’d assume it is. It’s not too much of a loss as you’re not at a disadvantage by not having the fifth quest, but, given that the rewards are randomised, you might miss out on completing the entire set because a quest that should be there isn’t. But I dare say that Azerite will allow you to buy those transmogrification appearances at a later date. But these hiccups do seem alarmingly common at the moment.

I’ve also noticed that First Aid has disappeared.

It has been split between Tailoring (for bandages) and Alchemy (for potions) which I don’t really agree with. Bandages weren’t as useful post-Cataclysm as they were before, but rather than remove First Aid they could have just made them useful again. Then again, most classes can now heal themselves either actively or passively and so that might have swayed the decision.

Personally, I don’t know why they would remove a profession only to split it among two other professions. It also does incur a slight loss for me as my Priest is nowhere near the level of Tailoring required for Legion First Aid, which is what Moggie had being my sole Lvl 110. But it’s a minor loss and I can do without the bandages so I’m not incomprehensibly angry about it. I don’t think there’s much more for me to do pre-Battle for Azeroth as it launches tomorrow, and without the expansion I’m likely running Legion content. But maybe we’ll all unlock the Heart of Azeroth to get a taste for how that will develop our characters. Unlikely. But it could happen. Again, I’ll leave my final impressions of this expansion until I’ve actually experienced the core content.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 15)

Witness the fall of Darnassus.

Even the events of Cataclysm didn’t eradicate an entire Alliance capital city. Deathwing may have set Stormwind aflame and caused severe structural damage, but the city survived the onslaught albeit a little worse for wear. In fact, Stormwind still stands. But the same can’t be said for Darnassus in the wake of War of Thorns. Arguably the most ambitious pre-release event in some time as it fundamentally affects an entire Alliance race, however I feel as though the Horde will be losing something of equal value as a result. Even if it could be considered a reclamation.

Remember when Deathwing used to incinerate random adventurers? Fun times.

It does seem odd that they’ve decided to split the quests into two portions released over two weeks. Especially with the second portion being as short as it is, and only really functionally serving to unlock a fifth world quest in Darkshore. But that’s just more opportunities for pre-release transmogrification sets. Which also could have been included from the beginning.

But ours is not to reason why. Ours is to defend Darnassus and ultimately get slowly cooked before retreating in the face of an expertly executed assault. Admittedly, I don’t think Sylvanas makes a good leader for the Horde but that’s only because her story has become muddled. There was little to no reason for the war. Except that the Alliance should be eradicated. But, from what little reasoning we do encounter, it seems that her anger is wrought from failing to protect her people when faced with an onslaught by the Lich King. Which just makes this even more muddled. Honestly, it feels akin to something that Garrosh would do. Therefore it’s hard to see the reason why and without the reason why it’s difficult to respond appropriately to it.

It’s a coordinated war effort.

Even the Burning Legion had a solid reason for the invasion of Azeroth. They like burning things. Such as worlds. They also like enslaving things. Such as entire populations of said worlds. I’m hoping that the remainder of Battle for Azeroth makes a little more sense, and that there’s an actual conclusion to Sylvanas’ story at some point. They’ve been hinting at it since the release of Cataclysm. On the other hand, it’s kind of disappointing to think that such a developed character could potentially meet their end in a lacklustre expansion.

Once again, I’m trying to be hopeful for the events of Battle for Azeroth.

But I think that I’ll need to actually experience the expansion before making a decision. It’s a reasonable enough request. Given that you can scarcely judge anything without having experienced it, and I do think that this is reason enough to have the entire Alliance declaring war on the Horde. So the motivation to slaughter each other is there. Especially if you’re from Darnassus.

Besides these events I’ve mostly been working on the final enhancements for the Paladin Class Order Hall. There are many quests left to complete in order to unlock new appearances for the Ashbringer and Truthguard, alongside various dungeon quests, and even achievements related to my progress. I’m in for the long haul that’s for sure. That said, I may also be levelling up some of my other characters. I’ve yet to see the potential of the Survival Hunter since the pre-release patch. I’m quite keen on seeing how the return of totems for the Enhancement Shaman works out, too. Naturally, most of the time will be spent with Moggie and his new (and possibly improved) Retribution specialisation. But, again, you have to experience it to have an opinion of it.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

WoW: Adventures in Azeroth (Pt. 14)

Statistics have been squished.

Normally you expect such things when you hear of pre-release patches, but I was quite surprised to see how significantly things have been altered and (more importantly) how Legion content has been adjusted. There’s quite a dramatic difference between 3.1m health and 20k health. That said, Moggie remains roughly as effective as he was in combat before the reduction. Minus some of the potential for AoE damage as talents have been changed or removed. We can still retain Wake of Ashes, though. So that’s neat.

Even if it’s not necessarily tied to the Ashbringer.

Which is little more than a relic of a completed campaign at this point. I’m not really surprised that they eventually lost their power, but I am disappointed that I can’t earn Artifact Power for any of my characters who have yet to experience the Legion campaign. Mostly disappointed for Doomhammer as I would’ve liked to engage in the full Shaman experience in Legion.

I’m also disappointed because all of the passive bonuses and powerful new abilities are lost if you can no longer develop the equipment. It was quite the experience to have equipment that literally changed the way your character fought, which made Legion more enjoyable as it was something different. Now the levelling curve is like any other. You also lack the signature abilities of the equipment which are inactive now. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a devastating change, but I do wonder what the motivation for that change was as you could have left the levelling experience as was and disabled it at Lvl 110. Drained the equipment of its power at that point and not before. Then again, it’s arguable that investing in it prior to Lvl 110 would be pointless.

Weakened but not entirely ineffective.

I’m not too pleased with how Retribution feels at the moment, either. I felt as though Legion really gave back some of the more interesting, more versatile, and more enjoyable abilities which have been painfully absent in the expansions that came before it. Now it feels as though you’re forced to be a single target brawler with the few AoE abilities being Divine Storm and Wake of Ashes. I’m starting to wonder whether the new (and smaller) UI speaks of the removal of many abilities. I’ve not even tried to understand my Survival Hunter yet.

I’m not sure where all of his abilities went.

I was quite excited for the War of Thorns event hence the return. But I’m not really sure how I feel about things at the moment. I’m hoping that I’ll warm to these changes eventually, and that Battle for Azeroth will have an exciting and enjoyable campaign. I don’t know, though. I’m trying to be hopeful but these changes feel less than enjoyable for most classes.

I can only blame myself for not being able to experience the Legion campaign as intended for most characters. As I had the time to do all of those quests and I simply didn’t subscribe. But I still don’t understand why they removed those mechanics from the campaign, and I don’t see it making the experience any better. If anything I think it’ll make it worse. But here we are. At the crossroads that always exist when sweeping changes are made to expansions or mechanics. I don’t intend to be negative and I’ll definitely be talking about the War of Thorns event, but I do feel as though Battle for Azeroth is a step backwards for now. That opinion could very well change in the future depending on how favourable I find the expansion.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Hella Anarchistic

I had to do it. I’m sorry.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an enjoyable narrative-driven experience that explores the unlikely friendship between Chloe Price and Rachel Amber, while serving as a prequel to the events in Life is Strange. Composed of fewer episodes but comparable in length to the prior instalment, I was sceptical at first as Chloe possesses no otherworldly abilities (besides being able to relentlessly insult people) but she proves to be just as interesting as a protagonist. Rachel is quite a diverse character, too.

There’s even a rather neat bonus episode.

This episode provides an amount of closure (and heartbreak) by looking at the last day Max and Chloe spent together before the former left Arcadia Bay. Those who have played Life is Strange will know Chloe- and know that Rachel was important to her- but we’ve never really had the opportunity to explore either character before. Which the prequel provides in a satisfactory fashion.

In contrast to Life is Strange, much of the progression now relies on exploring the environment and unlocking dialogue options or collecting items. Not being able to endlessly reverse time to explore different outcomes also means that decisions are mostly permanent. There are fewer life-threatening situations, too. This provides a significantly different experience to what you might have expected, but it doesn’t detract from the story which remains engaging throughout and provides just as many surprises. I rather enjoyed the tension of having to live with the consequences of my actions rather than being able immediately explore alternatives. Which I would habitually do with Max. Sometimes just because I could.

Lies often protect us from the harsh reality of the truth.

I was once again most impressed with the character development. I feel as though you could play Life is Strange: Before the Storm and then Life is Strange and it would actually enhance the experience of the latter, which isn’t something you can always say about prequels. But in this case it’s very true. It’s also interesting to see how alike Chloe and Max once were and how they evolved quite differently over time. Which, in my opinion, makes this prequel a resounding success as it provides exactly what you would expect it to.

A means to flesh out previously unexplored events.

I wouldn’t be opposed to further exploration of these events, either. It’s unlikely that we’ll get that opportunity but I would welcome it. Mostly because I would be interested to see how they would handle the true conclusion of their story, and what events led to that outcome. But I suppose it’s equally as possible as not with the announcement of Life is Strange 2.

I’ve been rather impressed with both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Having also played the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (which is free) I’m rather excited for the future of this series, and I look forward to seeing what kind of protagonist Life is Strange 2 has. Again, I could use any number of positive adjectives to explain how I feel about the series but it’s probably better if you experience it for yourself. It’s different but the best kind of different you could ask for. Especially if you choose to explore different consequences by taking a different route through the story. I’ve had fewer positive experiences in the last few years than this and I would highly recommend it even if you’re only curious about the series.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Human Time Machine

You can’t always make the best decisions.

Life is Strange is an exceptional narrative-driven experience which features an unparalleled use of choice and consequence. You experience the story as Max Caulfield, a photography student who learns she has the ability to rewind time, and who will slowly uncover the truth about Arcadia Bay. The first few episodes do well to lay a strong foundation of how to utilise various mechanics and help you to build meaningful relationships with other characters. The last two episodes are as exhilarating as they are heartbreaking as the story comes to its conclusion.

I’m most impressed with the character development.

Max is an oddly easy to relate to protagonist, who, with her newfound powers, can answer some questions that are perhaps best left unanswered. Experiencing the consequences of her actions- and feeling the repercussions of certain decisions- is exactly what I wanted from Life is Strange. Even if I knew that some of her more drastic decisions weren’t going to end well.

I’m also quite impressed with how the developers introduced their core mechanics and conveyed them to you in such a way that they were incredibly intuitive. Many of the puzzles in the story are quite easily solved when you think about what you can do, and how you can quite literally be in two places at once. I rather liked the idea of Max’s diary, too. It really is very simple but it helps to introduce the characters, to explain the events prior to the story, and to understand your actions from her perspective. I feel as though a lot of love went into developing this universe and the characters therein. The optional photographs scattered around each episode were pretty neat as well. It’s a fitting series of achievements that suits the style of gameplay.

It’s not like someone could completely vanish without any trace, right?

I greatly enjoyed the story, too. It was definitely surprising but it made sense. I was quite happy with seeing how my decisions had affected the way the story would unfold, and I felt as though the endings were understandable resolutions to those events. I’m still conflicted as to which I feel is the correct (for lack of a better word) ending. But that only illustrates how well the events were presented. It’s arguable that there isn’t a correct ending as it really does depend on what you feel about the choices you’re presented with.

There’s also some impressive foreshadowing to those endings in hindsight.

I’ll definitely be back to Life is Strange soon as I’m keen to explore different outcomes to my decisions. Or keen to make completely different decisions. I missed a few photographs, too. I’m very likely to purchase Life is Strange: Before the Storm as well, and experience the events prior to this story from a completely different perspective. A blue-haired perspective.

I can string together any number of positive adjectives to indicate how I feel about Life is Strange but it really was an interesting experience that I deeply enjoyed. I’ve always liked stories that feature alternate history or time travel, and this story features both, but it also makes a lot of sense, and doesn’t rely on the convolution of time to hide mistakes. I also enjoyed the art direction and felt that it was an appropriate way to present this story. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try if you’re wondering whether you’d like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and rewind time so that I can take more photos of squirrels. It’s not an abuse of my power. Not in the slightest.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Wings Over Ivalice

A convenient method of transportation whenever you’re not in Jagd.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is an impressive remaster which introduces a number of new mechanics and provides an enjoyable experience throughout. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the new job system, but there are quite a few changes besides the inclusion of tantalising character builds. Most of these changes affect how you progress through the campaign, what certain Magicks are classified as, how you acquire some of the rarer equipment, and make the bazaar a more prominent feature for various reasons.

I’m mostly in support of these changes.

However, there are some, as previously mentioned regarding the job system, which do feel slightly imbalanced. Grinding is still prevalent in the earlier locations, but becomes almost non-existent as much of the higher level equipment can only be found. So there’s never a comfortable break even point. You’re either ridiculously poor or you’re obscenely wealthy.

The actual story campaign is as good as it ever was. You’ve still got the gorgeously vivid, freely explorable, incredibly detailed open world that will engage you for dozens of hours. Overflowing with side quests, rare monsters, optional marks, and more. Graphically, even without the remaster, Final Fantasy XII still holds its own. There are dungeons which take literal hours to fully explore, filled with traps and puzzles and not nearly enough save crystals. But I do feel as though something is missing from The Zodiac Age. I’m currently sitting on 10-15k Licence Points across the entire party, but I can’t spend them due to completing all of my boards, and so even though I’d like some characters to learn new abilities they can’t, which is eternally frustrating.

I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the world, uncovering its secrets, experiencing the main story, and being able to relive what I consider to be one of the best instalments in the series. But I do miss the freedom of the original Licence Board. That said, it’s still an incredibly good remaster and (mostly) highlights what made Final Fantasy XII so engaging. Gambits remain one of the best AI mechanics in the entire series and allow so much customisation of who does what and when they do it. Ultimately giving characters unprecedented levels of autonomy in battle.

Espers are pretty interesting, too.

They’ve changed slightly in The Zodiac Age but their premise remains the same. They can be temporarily summoned to provide assistance in battle, and they have a range of different abilities which are strengthened by the proficiency of their summoner. They’re also very rarely used in environmental interactions. Which is another thing that Final Fantasy XII does very well.

Despite disagreeing with some of the changes in the remaster, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is still a great entry point for new players and will provide an 80hr+ campaign if you’re looking to see and do everything. Even if you’re not you’re in for quite a long run. There has always been such a unique visual and musical style to Final Fantasy XII which really encapsulates the feeling of classic Final Fantasy instalments. It’s still much broader, more diverse, and has more depth than even the newest instalments. Which is a testament to the incredible amount of work that went into developing the original. Even now, twelve years later, it’s still one of the most exhilarating adventures in the Final Fantasy series. It’s absolutely worth your time!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Licence to Adventure

My life would be more interesting if I had one of these.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is an interesting adventure if you’ve ever experienced the original release. Unlike the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster which keeps most of the core mechanics intact, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age introduces a shiny new job system. Which, to be fair, was present in some versions of the original but definitely not the version I had. However, unlike other instalments with a job system, such as Final Fantasy III or Final Fantasy V, there is no need (nor any ability) to switch jobs after they’re chosen.

Which means you need to choose wisely.

But it also means that you don’t necessarily need to use every single job that’s available. Some offer little benefit other than access to another class of weapons which may or may not offer any noticeable difference. For instance, the Bushi, which primarily uses katanas, benefits from the Uhlan as they can use spears. As spears can hit flying enemies where katanas can’t.

That said, the only magick that combination could cast would be Black Magick unlocked via Espers and Quickenings. Which means that, unless you’re comfortable giving up the Esper, you’re essentially making a character that can only cast very limited Black Magick. Not that there is any requirement to have each character cast magick, but it does present an interesting issue when they’re going to gain increasing amounts of MP as they level. Something that is also prevalent with the Knight. The Knight is a class that will usually naturally develop low level healing magic, but in this incarnation they need to use Espers to unlock even the most basic White Magick. Of which their overall selection is quite limited but does prove useful.

I’ve never met a chocobo I didn’t like. Even this one.

For that reason I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this job system. For newer players it’s probably easier to digest than the original Licence Board, but for more experienced players I feel as though the job system takes something away from the experience. Especially when numerous jobs have access to Green Magick which seem to be almost exclusively unlocked through your Clan Rank. So there are several Licences you’re going to get little benefit from until much later in the story but they’re available fairly early on the board.

It’s natural that high level equipment would be saved for later.

But it does feel as though there is an imbalance between the progression. Some rapidly progress through equipment and HP Licences to become much more powerful earlier on in the story, while others seem to lack any kind of punch until much later. Like the Black Mage. Which was a secondary choice for me but didn’t become relevant until after the second board was available.

I don’t hate the new system. In fact, I welcome it. It’s interesting to see the difference between the two approaches. But it would be nice if they would allow you to access the original Licence Board, too. For those who prefer that system. Or want to experience it for the first time. I’m still enjoying my time with Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age regardless. It’s a huge adventure that never stops giving even when you think you’ve explored a fair chunk of the world. I’ve discovered hidden Espers, locations, and more while casually exploring the various locations that seem to be appearing as quickly as I clear them. I also decided that I’d put my thoughts down in writing. So, here they are. My thoughts. In writing.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie