The Strength of Their Convictions

On the road again.

There are few things that I enjoy more than well-crafted JRPGs. Octopath Traveler was allegedly one of those well-crafted JRPGs, but as I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, nor have any interest in purchasing one, it became increasingly apparent that I would never know for myself. That was until it was recently announced for release on Steam, which prompted a (somewhat rare) pre-order and research into what made the nostalgia-driven but entirely modern JRPG stand out from the crowd. There are quite a few things, in fact. Not that it does anything entirely new or unique but what it does do it does very well.

It’s a very solid experience from start to finish.

The combat has a great rhythm that never feels particularly sluggish or boring. The path actions allow you to quite literally steal everything that isn’t nailed down or to inquire about secret treasures. The character classes are quite competent individually and when paired with a secondary class can become quite devastating.

One of the best choices I made was to combine Tressa with the Scholar. With her Rest skill she’s a self-sustaining damage machine that can devastate enemy shields, break multiple enemies at once, and deal ridiculously high amounts of damage. Likewise, Olberic as an Apothecary, due to his naturally high elemental defence, makes an excellent healer. With the Cover Support Skill he’s able to soak most of the damage, protect the party, and then heal himself. Should someone die he can just resurrect them. I’ve also got the Hang Tough Support Skill on Tressa which means she’s very unlikely to die. That is unless she’s hit by AoE damage or Olberic is dead. Once you’ve mastered the various classes you gain access to ridiculously powerful Divine Skills that absolutely destroy opponents. Or provide exceptionally powerful buffs.

To discover the truth behind the fall of Hornburg.

In many ways, the various mechanics surrounding combat and character progression are among my favourites. I love the concept of being able to boost damage (or healing) and being able to save highest damage for when enemies are already broken. Being able to boost physical attacks is quite neat, too. That allows you to chain several hits with a weapon to break enemy shields faster. Or, just as effectively, chain the strikes for higher damage. It’s very rare to have a turn where you don’t have something you’d like to (or need to) do. It’s an oddly effective fast-paced strategic combat approach that feels great.

It doesn’t feel particularly grind-y, either.

While some of the Support Skills are quite powerful they are the only things that carry over when mastering a secondary class. Some are also slightly useless when you first gain access to them, such as Surpassing Power, which allows you to break the damage limit, and is wasted unless you’re able to deal over 10k damage on the regular.

I’ve pre-ordered few titles in the last few years but Octopath Traveler was definitely worth the risk. I’ve already amassed a (quite frankly ridiculous) number of hours in exploring the various locales of Orsterra, and I’ve yet to really experience the majority of the eight simultaneous main character campaigns. Not to mention the various dungeons, shrines, towns, and general JRPG busywork. I’m also quite curious about the four character classes I’ve yet to see. I’ve only seen mention of them in the achievements list. My best guess would be that they’re advanced or exceptionally powerful classes available closer to the end of the main campaign. Or perhaps even available post-campaign as things often seem to be in JRPGs nowadays. In either case, I’m definitely looking forward to experiencing more of Octopath Traveler in coming weeks.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Advertisements

Infectious Outbreak

If it’s not contagious then you’re not trying hard enough.

Of all the Early Access titles I’d seen Chronicon was among the most promising. It’s been quite a while since I last wrote about it, but that’s only because to write a new post regarding every major update would be to flood the blog with nothing but Chronicon. It’s rather different nowadays to how it was back then, but each update has generally been an improvement and has introduced new mechanics or new content. The updates are quite regular, too. There was even an update recently to provide support to those playing at 3840 x 2160 resolution with correct UI scaling.

It was sort of tricky to make it function correctly before that.

Through the major updates there are now revised skill trees along with an entirely new approach to the Mastery system, you can now collect gems, you can transmute items following certain recipes, you can enchant equipment through the acquisition of essences, and you can push your build through the new Anomaly mechanics.

The character classes (and skill trees) were already quite impressive, but the new Mastery system develops them so much further with some rather unique bonuses only available through certain trees. Like the ability to not require keys when opening treasure chests. Or to never take damage from floor traps. Alongside rather attractive (and quite powerful) passive bonuses such as increased elemental resistances or damage. It’s a really engaging system that actually rewards you every time you level up, and offers you choices within certain trees as to which benefit you would prefer based on which best suits your build. I’ve kept up the same Warlock from the first post but I’m quite interested in seeing how other classes fare in this new Mastery tree. I’m also itching to see how the Templar or Berserker performs.

Melt their flesh and strip their bones with corrosive poison!

Mastery is also available from when you first start playing the character and access doesn’t require an arbitrary level requirement. I’m also quite fond of the new enchanting materials and gems, which, in their own ways, allow you to further customise your equipment and further empower your most precious loot. Most enjoyable of all is that these materials are stored in a separate crafting inventory which means they’re universally available to all of your characters. They also don’t require stash space. There are new transmutation mechanics, too. But I’m not really sure what they do quite yet.

I’m thinking that they allow you to add powerful bonuses to your equipment.

I have actually received a few mysterious items as a result of completing various Anomalies and should probably look into what they do. That said, as with many things, the acquisition of loot is randomised and so I’m not entirely sure if these are items that are remotely useful for Warlocks (or more specifically poison Warlocks).

I’ve been quite optimistic regarding the final release of Chronicon and I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed. There have been many fantastic major updates which have introduced new mechanics, new story content, and have generally solved various issues that existed with the title from the first release. I see no reason why the developer would stop now. That said, if I’m still playing the same character some two years later and they’re now Lvl 100 (Mastery Lvl 200) and I’m still enjoying it then they’re doing something right. It’s more than I can say for many of the modern ARPGs that I’ve played. Most of which are good for maybe one or two characters and then they become stale and repetitive. Yet there’s something about Chronicon that’s so easy to come back to and enjoy.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Lady of Caed Nua

The fairest lady of all.

Pillars of Eternity is an exceptionally enjoyable but devilishly complex CRPG that offers a satisfying, engaging, and (often times) harrowing adventure. It also allows me to have a stronghold that I can invest in to provide increasingly diverse bonuses and amenities. Which is the kind of freedom I haven’t had since the rather excellent PS1 JRPG Suikoden. Also, according to local law, as a landowner, I have the right to freely execute or imprison people without requiring any actual legal intervention. I don’t remember being able to do that in Suikoden…

That said, what did you think was going to happen when you offered me Orlan slaves?

Firstly, I don’t support slavery. Secondly, I’m an Orlan. Thirdly, I may have reconsidered my decision had I known that your corpse would be hanging from a beam near the Eastern Barbican. But there’s no sense in crying over spilt milk. Or broken necks. They’re more or less the same thing. I’ll put it down to the barbarism Barbarians are known for.

One thing I was concerned with when starting this Pillars of Eternity campaign was whether I would ever see my loved ones again. Or if I could effectively build a character. I’ve had a taste of the mechanics present in Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights to name drop but a few but they’re all based on a Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. This isn’t a Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. Also, real time with pause combat. I have no idea how to micromanage that. But I feel as though the Barbarian was a good choice. Great at dealing damage, reasonably mobile in combat, has a few active abilities, and is adept at dealing with multiple enemies at once. She’s also (rather surprisingly) got more health than both the Fighter and the Monk in the party. So she’s great at getting punched in the face, too.

It’s a very inviting cave, isn’t it?

The other thing I was concerned about was the level of difficulty. I do enjoy a challenge, but I’ve rarely experienced real time with pause combat and when I have it was through a more restrictive ruleset. However, so far, I’ve greatly been enjoying the pacing and the combat, and I’ve only really found one battle that I haven’t been able to win. Not yet at least. But, to be fair, the opposing force does have a literal army, and I have six party members. I could also probably do with more troops which are likely to come from The White March expansion pack.

Speaking of The White March- it’s pretty great.

I’m quite pleased that it has been integrated into the main story from as early as Act II and that it doesn’t offer wildly overpowered rewards. I was expecting that I’d need to finish the main campaign before I could access the content, but, to my surprise, it turns out you can be clubbed by frost ogres from relatively early in the campaign.

As always, I intend to write a more comprehensive less exuberant post after I’ve completed the main campaign. But I thought I’d write something that shows how much I’m enjoying the multi-layered complexities of the dialogue present in Pillars of Eternity, much as I would enjoy a multi-layered chocolate gateaux garnished with chocolate curls. Sadly there are no chocolate curls in Pillars of Eternity. We do have cocoa beans, though. So maybe there will be a quest delivered to my stronghold wherein I must discover the secrets of chocolate. That would definitely take priority over quite literally every other quest I’ve got. Even the one about defending my claim to Caed Nua. Who needs Caed Nua when you have chocolate?

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

By The Skin of Their Teeth

Not all losses are acceptable.

One of my favourite gaming experiences in the last few years is XCOM: Enemy Within. It’s not that surprising as I do enjoy turn-based strategy, but I really enjoyed the depth of mechanics present in the modern XCOM series and how infuriating but simultaneously fun it could be. I’ve long considered multiple campaigns with increasingly brutal sets of conditions. That said, I’ve yet to play XCOM 2. I’ve also yet to experience the many wondrous things that I’ve heard about the War of the Chosen expansion pack. So I decided to do both at the very same time.

Despite having no idea how either one works.

Initially it can be quite an overwhelming experience. For those entirely new to XCOM 2 there’s a lot to learn about the various unit classes, the new (and rather powerful) unit development mechanics, the different facilities that you can build, the different kinds of missions (and rewards from them), and so many other things.

There’s also the minor issue of the Chosen appearing on missions and basically ruining your day. Easily surmountable once you’ve discovered what they can do and developed a strategy for dealing with them, but absolutely terrifying in the first encounters. Where the Assassin runs across the entire map to stab and daze a soldier, then vanish, and retreat into the fog of war. While you’re under fire from an ADVENT MEC or two. Totally normal day in the life of an XCOM operative and I won’t hear otherwise. That said, it is an oddly satisfying experience. It becomes significantly easier as you hunt down the Chosen, as you progress through the main story, and as your soldiers become increasingly more powerful but it’s still deeply enjoyable.

One final shot to bring it down. Or you’ll miss and be annihilated.

The notion of encountering a Sectopod on a mission is still daunting (albeit less so) even when you have the most advanced weapons and armour. Just ask the entirely unaware Ranger who helped me figure out what Wrath Cannon is and how much damage it does. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting the outcome that I got. But that’s the way that you live and learn. Or, more accurately, that’s the way I lived and learned. I can’t say the same for that poor, unfortunate, remarkably selfless soul. On the other hand, Sectopods are quite useless when you’re controlling one.

I am quite impressed with the variety of aliens, though.

It feels as though there are multiple aliens which offer an individual challenge with individual mechanics. There are far less simply hiding in (and firing from) cover and more that utilise unique abilities, take to the skies, rain death upon you, or lay eggs in the corpses of deceased civilians. Yes. They’re back. With armour.

I’m planning on writing a more comprehensive post soon which details the different classes, mechanics, and other interesting things that I’ve enjoyed about XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. But this seemed as good a time as any to write about the modern XCOM series as I’ve greatly enjoyed both XCOM: Enemy Within and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the Tactical Legacy Pack has to offer. It won’t mean much to my current campaign as I’ll be doing it after I finish the main story, but in any future campaigns it would be nice to see how the unlocked equipment affects my progress and ultimately whether it’s worth having. That said, I highly recommend both XCOM 2 and the War of the Chosen expansion pack. They’re pretty awesome!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

An Unlikely Continuation

From the ashes of humanity. Or the franchise.

There are few series that I’ve enjoyed in recent years as much as the (once disappointingly short-lived) Darksiders series. Darksiders was an exceptionally enjoyable combination of great art direction, satisfying visceral combat, and everything I’d ever loved about the Legend of Zelda series. While Darksiders II featured some of the best art direction I’ve seen and some of the best music I’ve heard in a video game, not to mention a loot system and character development mechanics akin to an ARPG. Darksiders III is… somewhat disappointing by comparison.

It’s still an enjoyable experience but is marred by flaws.

Most puzzling of all is how it feels as though many mechanics were never finished. Such as the weapon Enhancements which insinuate that you need to actively use (or switch to) the weapon to get the effect, when every weapon is the whip, and so every effect is always active. Despite the feeling that maybe actual secondary weapons were meant to exist.

The mechanic which allows you to dodge an incoming attack and retaliate with massive damage is one of the few enjoyable elements of combat. Much of the rest of it is a painfully slow exercise in evaluating when best to land a hit with your whip, or the several other variants of your whip which you unlock as the story progresses. In many ways the secondary weapons could be interesting additions to your arsenal. Were it not for the fact that Fury is made out of tissue paper and can easily be killed when she is locked in an attack animation that can’t be cancelled. Not to mention the convoluted mechanics present with Nephilim’s Respite. A consumable which allows you to restore your health that replenishes when you defeat enemies (or purchase refills when visiting Vulgrim). There are ever-increasingly expensive health restoration items, too.

Pride can make people do terrible things.

The world design is also oddly inconsistent. There are some environmental hazards that will kill you despite being able to easily jump out of them. While some falls will return you to the place you were before you fell at the cost of a portion of your health (despite visible ground below you suggesting you can fall down). Further to this point, the Hollows, which Fury uses for puzzle solving purposes, often appear in number at any given puzzle. Even when it’s not possible to have one Hollow before another and so the inclusion of a second or third is moot.

It was certainly an ambitious project and I recognise that ambition.

But the execution of that ambition left a lot to be desired. Lest we forget that one boss fight at the beginning of the story which functioned more as a puzzle than a fight. I was hoping those boss fights would not make a return (and they didn’t), but it was still a weird uneven mess of trying to understand how controls work under threat of death.

I don’t like to be inherently negative when I write about things and so this post might seem a little out of place. However, it is, in my opinion, the only way to honestly talk about how I feel about Darksiders III as a continuation of the series. I still believe that it’s worth experiencing for yourself as everyone enjoyed something different about the Darksiders series. It’s also not entirely irredeemable as it has quite an engaging story. It could also be said that this is how Darksiders III is taking the series as a whole in a different direction, and that, while I liked Darksiders II, many people could have felt similarly to those changes. However, I still greatly enjoy the series and look forward to what they do next.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

A Refined Outlook

Things are slowly but steadily improving.

I’ve not yet mentioned it on Moggie’s Proclamations but I’ve added Instagram to the list of social media sites I frequent. I’d been thinking about doing so from as early as the end of April last year, however it took until the end of October last year to actually set everything up. I’m quite happy with it, though. Naturally being entirely new to the site I’ve few followers to speak of, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find that my pieces are being found and engaged with regardless. It’s certainly a better and more consistent response than I’ve received on Twitter over the years.

It features more traditional artists than expected, too.

Then again, given the nature of the platform, that’s not really too surprising as it is all about taking photographs of things. Which I definitely do. Yes. I’m hopeful that over the next year I’ll be adding much more content to Instagram and that it’ll serve to mostly tie together my creative, gaming, and other content.

I can’t really share too much about Moggie’s Proclamations on Instagram as I would on Twitter. But that’s also fine. I’ve been thinking about intergrating this blog with my personal site and having the two work together, to raise awareness of the content on here. Especially the creative content. As I would like the Material Studies posts to feature on the site somewhere. Somehow. Hence the recent updates to my personal site, as I would like to have a more cohesive approach to things. Which, to be fair, is actually working, as I’ve found that I’m quite pleased with everything as it stands at the moment. However, both this blog and my personal site will never be truly finished as they are a perpetual work in progress. They change as I do or as what I do changes.

Most of the updates to my personal site are relatively minor as they mostly address layout or page issues. However, there are some substantial changes made to the actual number of (and categorisation of) pieces on the site. With some being moved to different sections, some consolidated into a new page structure, and some removed. So it’s quite a significant update despite not looking any different. But it may start to look different as I work with the new layout to accomodate the Material Studies posts.

In the same way this blog has also seen a few minor updates.

Mostly, again, to mirror the recategorisation or removal of certain pieces, but also to standardise the categorisation of posts. I’ve got more updates for Moggie’s Proclamations, and I’ll be working on those slowly and steadily over the next month. I’m hoping to find time to create content at some point, too.

That’d be nice. But I’m still rather hopeful that this year will provide more content than the last and that things will continue to improve. I feel as though I’ll be done with the majority of the updates at the end of January, and that, at that point, I’ll have very little else to do other than focus on new content. I found it quite refreshing working on the content for Instagram, as that features myriad pieces from different periods in time and of different states of completion. It’s interesting to see how well the finished pieces and the works in progress sit comfortably next to each other. These social media changes will likely be the last that I make. So, wherever this goes, and whatever happens as a result of it, this is likely to be the last iteration. Let’s make it a good one.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Festive Reflections

I should probably have stopped eating mince pies after the twelfth one.

It’s a lot like the Steam Winter Sale. You tell yourself that this year you’re only going to buy one new video game and instead work through your backlog, but inevitably you end up with a list of discounted titles. You can’t turn back now, though. Nay! That would show weakness. So, in a moment of pride, and utter senselessness, you purchase the whole shopping cart. It’s not the best decision you’ve ever made, but they do add to your backlog and you did say you were going to work through it. So you’re still doing what you said you were going to do, right?

Personally, I’ve been buying JRPGs. I’ve missed those.

Of those JRPGs the most notable is Battle Chasers: Nightwar. A delightfully adorable and incredibly enjoyable experience which is reminiscent of Breath of Fire III on the PS1, but with a much better fishing minigame. Fishing which (I would assume) is somewhat required. As it’s one of the few reliable ways to earn Shadow Coins.

I’ve been fairly lucky with engaging gaming experiences in the last year or so. Most recently I decided to finally purchase Book of Demons (as it had come out of Early Access) and it was fantastic. Both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before Storm were wonderfully executed narrative-driven experiences, while Okami HD prompted nostalgic reminders of yesteryear. I was also able to experience Final Fantasy XV for the first time, which was surprisingly better than expected. Not to forget the wonderful (yet somewhat finicky) Divinity: Original Sin and the exceptional sequel Divinity: Original Sin II. I also spent more than a few hours playing through the story for Dragon Ball FighterZ, and I might have actually won an arcade match or two in that time.

It’s been a particularly odd year for my creative pursuits, though. I feel as though I’ve made decent enough progress, and that digital painting in particular has surpassed all prior expectations while still rapidly improving. But I haven’t finished as many pieces as I would’ve liked. This more or less aligns to a rather distressing turn of events in my personal life. For that reason I’m not surprised by my lack of commitment, but I do want to start this year with a greater focus on all things creative. I’ve actually been working on a few updates today towards that end.

I shall, however, share further details about those later.

I’m quite excited to see how things will develop as these minor updates work alongside major updates from last year. Together they promise a much better foundation for future content with more accessibility, and more opportunities to coherently connect various parts of the collection of sites together.

With the coming year I would’ve been using WordPress for seven years and it’s interesting seeing how things have changed. How I’ve changed. How my ideas have evolved. How the kinds of content I’ve been creating have developed. And how, even after all this time, and through all of these iterations, I’ve still got ideas for what I can do next. How I can make things better. How I can provide a broader range of content that still holds true to the original intentions. I’m most excited to work on traditional pieces again and to finish some of my older digital paintings. I’ve got quite a few concepts in mind for both. Here’s to hoping that this year at least proves to be better than the last, and that I might finally realise some amount of the potential I perceive myself to have.

Happy New Year, all!

Moggie