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 new found 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

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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

Accelerating Rate of Change (Pt. 2)

Changing habits like Infusions on your weapons in Dark Souls III.

Not that I ever really changed my Infusions around. I was originally toying with Chaos for the fact that I wanted to be a sort of Pyromancer, but ultimately decided on Heavy because I was using a broadsword and a shield. Strength was also my primary attribute. So it kind of made sense to lean on Heavy. Not that anything about that build made sense in the end- especially when facing bosses- as the shield was pretty much a hindrance. It did make clearing the majority of the content easier, though. Until I reached the DLC content.

Then my Unkindled was the lone resident of slaughter city.

I’ve mentioned previously how the last few months have been good for creative content, and so, in this post, I’d like to talk about how gaming content could potentially change. I’ve been thinking about focusing on individual aspects of certain titles and writing posts about them. This first occurred to me when I thought about playing through Dark Souls again.

I’ve already got a post that summarises how I felt about Dark Souls, but I’ve never actually experienced the Artorias of the Abyss DLC despite fighting the Hydra and likely having access to it with my first character. I’d also like to go back and experience a different way to play the original. Maybe with Miracles. Or spears. Or a spear with Lightning Spears. In the same way I could look at the different DLC for Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III as well. It was just an idea I had for highlighting content that I may have missed the first time around. It also illustrates how my personal focus is changing back to what it used to be, and how I’d explore certain games more than others or play through them multiple times. Dark Souls as a series is perfect for this, too.

Thinking about this chocobo makes me sad.

I’ve also been playing a lot of the Final Fantasy series in the last couple of years. Most recently I finished the main story for Final Fantasy XV but have yet to start on any of the DLC. Mostly because I’d already been playing for near enough 100hrs and didn’t want to rush through it, which meant it was probably best to return with fresh eyes. I’d also probably enjoy it more if the story wasn’t as vividly present in my mind. It’s like getting to experience it all over again. Which is one of the nice things about having Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age.

I can finally revisit one of my favourite instalments in the series.

This will mean that there will be more gaming content but I’m not going to stop creating other kinds of content as a result. I’ll still be sharing new creative efforts, random updates, and explanations of why I should never go to the local art store. This will just be occasional additional content which highlights things that I find interesting. Or fun.

Or a compilation of how many times it’s feasibly possible to die against the Nameless King while desperately trying to tank him with a greatshield. It’s technically feasibly possible to die infinitely as long as you never stop attempting it. I am known to be stubborn, too. I don’t usually feel this comfortable with whatever this is that I do and so I’m just stretching out a little. Like when you’re laying in a really comfortable bed so you stretch outwards. Only to find that you can’t stretch to the left as there’s a cat on the bed with you, nor can you stretch to the right as there’s another cat on the bed with you, and so you sit quite content with the purring sounds of your furry friends. Who never want to move, either. So making that bed will almost always be impossible.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Cure for Insomnia

It’s not safe to travel at night.

Normally I prefer being awake at night, but those pesky bloodthirsty daemons that occupy Eos once the sun goes down make it a little harder to justify. That was until I realised that by not sleeping I could save up (and consequently multiply) experience points at various locations, which ultimately led to not resting for weeks at a time. Which was great for everyone except Ignis who rarely utilised his culinary skills. But at least he cooked more meals than Noctis caught fish. I caught a grand total of two fish and both were for cats.

I later caught a third to talk to a NPC.

Final Fantasy XV is an interesting JRPG that invokes the nostalgia of earlier instalments while standing firmly with its own mechanics. Featuring one of the best open world environments I’ve experienced Eos is overflowing with dangerous enemies, dungeons to explore, secret locations to discover, and hundreds of quests to undertake in one form or another.

I was quite impressed with the character progression mechanics, too. Accruing AP will allow you to unlock new abilities and passive bonuses via Ascension, which made a noticeable difference and allowed your party members to act autonomously with variation in their abilities. It’s not quite the tactical system present in Final Fantasy XII, but it’s one that allows the different party members to retain their personalities and become more powerful over time. The attention to detail in their mannerisms and animations was refreshing as well. As was their role in the party matching their role in the story. For instance, Gladiolus, who acts to protect Noctis, has active and passive abilities that quite literally allow him to shield Noctis from damage.

I’m also glad to see that there is variation in the weapon types used by each character. It’s nice to see the return of a classic approach to upgrading equipment, but with the addition of equipment that is specific to Noctis (due to his role in the story) that allows him to fully utilise his Armiger. Not only reinforcing the new mechanics but allowing more variation when dealing with enemies who are resistant to certain weapon types. Or even magic types. Magic being a curious blend of drawing elemental energy from deposits and crafting this time around.

Elemancy is an interesting concept that I scarcely employed.

Having New Game+ as an option definitely invites the possibility to use different weapons and/or magic the second time around. Being able to switch to the other party members makes for an interesting variation, too. Seeing as each has their own unique mechanics which make them different to Noctis. I don’t know how feasible it is to stay consistently switched, though.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Final Fantasy XV but I was very pleasantly surprised. The open world is vast and features actual dungeons which not only include overflowing numbers of daemons but puzzles and rare equipment, too. The hunts are varied and increasingly difficult with many different enemies to encounter. The side quests often form quest chains which have logical conclusions with the characters concerned. It’s an accomplishment that the world feels as alive as it does- which is something the Final Fantasy series has lacked for a while- but something that comes so naturally to this instalment. It’s a living, breathing, ever-evolving world that’s just waiting to be explored. I highly recommend giving it a chance- it may surprise you.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Those Who Travel Alsgard

Neptune is the second Lvl 110 Paladin I’ve played.

Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddesses Online is an ARPG that is heavily influenced by MMORPG mechanics. Mostly because you’re playing an MMORPG with the cast of the Neptunia series. It boasts all of your favourite features, including, but not limited to: crafting, exploring dungeons, group events, loot, bosses, character classes, and character progression systems. It doesn’t boast the overflowing (and overwhelming) number of skills that most MMORPGs have, though. Which makes this a less intense and more enjoyable experience overall.

Not that having options is ever a bad thing in either an MMORPG or an ARPG.

But, in this case, the lack of options doesn’t restrict you. Each skill is generally more useful than several iterations of applying the same effect in a slightly different way. The only exception being the elemental damage skills which each class has limited access to. Naturally, Nepgear, the Mage, has access to all of the elemental damage skills. Including some that the Goddesses have.

The equipment strengthening mechanics also remove much of the busy work usually present in MMORPGs. It’s sort of like a crafting system that isn’t a crafting system. You still need to gather raw materials to strengthen your weapons or armour, but it is handled independently to your characters or their individual expertise. You can easily fully upgrade your starting equipment for quite the boost should you have the money and materials to do so. This is especially important later in the main story when more expensive equipment becomes available. Each upgrade is surprisingly potent, too. I was pleased to discover that some of the equipment I’d upgraded near the beginning of the story was still useful in the later areas. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

We must make haste for there are monsters to loot.

While there are some mechanics which I really enjoyed, there were some which were quite hazy. Like the choice of party tactics. I don’t really know what each of those options mean or what they change about the behaviour of my party members. I would assume that Blanc, a Priest, would default towards healing over damage, but when specifying what I would assume is that option she still seemed more concerned with damage. Then again, I don’t think any healing AI will ever do what I want it to do. But that’s just me being a defensive player.

That said, it’s a minor drawback that doesn’t impact things too greatly.

I’ve been looking forward to Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddesses Online for some time now and it hasn’t disappointed me. It’s not exactly a full length adventure like Megadimension Neptunia VII or other earlier instalments, but it is a greatly enjoyable way to spend thirty hours. There’s definitely potential for regular additional DLC akin to MMO content patches, too.

I wasn’t sure if I’d get around to playing this one as soon as I have due to wanting to play Final Fantasy XV (Windows Edition) at release, but I’m glad that I spent the time on it. I really did enjoy the experience and do wish it were longer. It intentionally feels unfinished (for reasons explained in the story) and that only makes me want to find secret dungeons and/or bosses. I’ll be attempting to get all of the achievements, too. I’m mostly there save for the quests which I still need to finish. I’m hoping that Neptune at Lvl 110+ with an additional roster of Lvl 85-90 characters is enough to beat the final final boss. The most final of bosses. With instant death attacks and several million health. Most likely. I guess I’ll find out when I get there.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

To Hunt Many Monsters

How else would I make equipment from their remains if I don’t hunt them?

It would seem that some of them would like nothing more than to live in peace, though. They’re quite happy eating at their patch of grass until I come along with a sword and take their body parts. Maybe I’m the real monster. Maybe that’s why they keep sending me out on these quests. I don’t really know. All I do know is that I have a pretty cool sword carved from monster bones, armour crafted from scales and fur, and I’ve finally bought something new-ish for my PS Vita. Well, it’s new to me. I’ve not played Monster Hunter before.

But I might be playing Monster Hunter World as a result.

The Monster Hunter series brings together an interesting albeit clunky set of mechanics. I’m not sure how much Monster Hunter Freedom differs from the original, but I believe it’s a PSP remake of Monster Hunter G. I have no idea what has changed (if anything) and how much it has changed. It’s surprisingly content dense, though. Which is always a good thing for portable titles.

Not that I’ve tried yet but I’m assuming that online functionality will mostly be non-existent now. I don’t know if that changes anything. I get the feeling that the introductory tutorials implied that taking on the toughest monsters is something best done with friends. Then again, it’s not like I’d listen to that advice as I’d still try to fight them. It’s part of the fun. I’d be slightly disappointed to find out that it is literally impossible to fight certain monsters alone. But I guess I’ll find out when I get there. I don’t think it would make too much of a difference, either. Besides missing out on a potentially epic fight or losing the ability to craft certain armour. Or certain weapons. Which may not be that valuable outside of certain encounters anyway.

Monster Hunter Freedom continues the older video game design trend of not really telling you too much about anything. I have several statistics on weapons or armour sets that I don’t fully understand the importance of. If there even is any. I don’t even know what my defensive statistics mean. I’m just assuming that higher numbers are better. But whether those numbers represent a damage reduction percentage, a flat number that translates into a percentage at different Hunter Ranks, or a flat reduction of incoming damage is anyone’s guess

Which is a shame as I love statistics.

I just wish I knew what these ones meant. It is an interesting series, though. I do enjoy how each weapon or armour set has a particular strength and weakness, and how wielding each weapon class feels different to emphasise different ways to approach the same problem. Preparing for hunts is also a vital step in taking down certain monsters. Which is a nice touch.

You really do feel like a monster hunter. You study the monsters, learn their weaknesses, prepare potions and tonics, and can even use that knowledge to capture the monster rather than slay it. There is a certain amount of repetition as you’ll need to grind with certain quests to be able to fully craft armour sets. Or buy a Whetstone for the thousandth time. But, again, these are older video game design trends. I don’t really have a point with this post, either. I just wanted to talk about a rather interesting time I’ve had recently looking at a series I’ve not played before. I’m quite excited for Monster Hunter World but I’m still deciding whether it’s really for me. It does look like it brings together these clunky mechanics in a more cohesive fashion. Which would be great.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie