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

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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

Celestial Brushwork

The brush is mightier than the wolf.

Okami HD (as the name would suggest) is a remastered version of the original Okami released in 2006 (which I have never played), and is a rare example of an experience that is complex yet thoroughly enjoyable throughout. It features a large open world and a surprising amount of freedom to go with it. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you’re encouraged to explore this open world as soon as you complete the starting experience. As there is so much to see, do, and unlock even with the limited variety of brush techniques you’ll have at that time.

There are plenty of secrets hidden in this vast world, too.

The focal mechanic of Okami is the use of the Celestial Brush. This allows you to draw onto the environment for a number of different effects, which are directly linked to the number of brush techniques you currently have access to and will be invaluable in unearthing secrets or making progress. It’s an expertly implemented and meticulously utilised mechanic.

Alongside this there is a rather interesting levelling mechanic which is vital to your success. While you can collect three Sun Fragments and increase your health, the primary way to increase your various attributes will be through the acquisition of Praise. Which is something you can find anywhere and everywhere in the world. Mostly acquired from restoring nature to corrupted lands or feeding animals (which is a whole mechanic of its own), you’ll also acquire praise for defeating certain enemies. Praise can then be spent to increase your health, the number of ink wells you have, how many Astral Pouches you can carry, or even how much currency you can hold. It’s an oddly refreshing system that doesn’t promote grinding out battles for experience.

Such a colourful and diverse creature you are.

You’ll also find (and hopefully equip) various weapons in the course of your adventure. Each class of weapon promotes a different advantage be it speed, strength, or combo potential. Visiting the Dojo will allow you to unlock new techniques or bonuses related to each class of weapon, too. While you can also earn rare Demon Fangs which can be used to buy various Holy Artifacts. These are not required for completing the story, but they do have unique bonuses for Amaterasu that you can’t find elsewhere. Especially if you collect all of the Stray Beads.

New Game+ helps greatly in acquiring them all.

One of the other focal mechanics of Okami is the unique storytelling approach. The story itself is an enjoyably awesome tale of epic heroes and ancient demons, but it is presented with such a gorgeous illustration style and brings together the visual style of the title quite well. It’s also rather light-hearted, comical, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously at any time.

There were many things that I enjoyed but the freedom to explore was most enjoyable of all. It’s rare to be allowed to wander around the map as and when you want to, while it’s equally as rare to be allowed to return to earlier areas to use your new brush techniques. You’d usually expect that to be hidden behind New Game+ or the like. In fact, New Game+ is rather well implemented as it isn’t required to access anything. It only really makes it easier to earn the resources required to collect anything you missed the first time around. In either case, I’ve greatly enjoyed this title and can easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys having fun while gaming. Which, in my opinion, is the only reason you should be gaming in the first place.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Return of the Wang

The Way of the Wang is long, and hard, and ribbed for her pleasure.

Shadow Warrior 2 is an excellent example of everything you would want from a sequel. You’ve got deeper character development mechanics, a greater selection of upgrades, numerous skills to unlock, a greater selection of weapons (with new weapon types), and an extensive story that offers more freedom. The swordplay might even be better in the sequel, too. But, if that’s not enough, they’ve even thrown in free DLC, which will not only add new missions as you progress through the story but offer greater customisation of weapons and upgrade gems.

It’s also ridiculously fun in the silliest way possible.

The close combat options are just as enjoyable as they were in Shadow Warrior. I’m particularly keen on the dual wielding options that allow me to slice, dice, and observe giblets as my foes fall to literal pieces. You also get more chances to burn, freeze, electrocute, and poison foes when swinging these. I’m not sure what that calculated murderous intent says about me.

Upgrading weapons is a particularly important mechanic for unlocking their full potential in combat. Upgrading Wang is pretty important, too. Both of these sets of mechanics will allow you to specialise in the things you want to do best and give you the ability to handle different situations. Likewise, investing in certain skills will give you better results with certain techniques or styles of combat. Sting, Vortex, and Force Slash comprise your active weapon techniques. While Healing Flame, Chi-Blast, Grip of Darkness, and Vanish comprise your active chi techniques. Each has a specific situation in which it will perform at its best, but they’re all equally useful in helping you survive the countless demons you’ll need to slay on your lengthier adventure.

It’s a lovely day to go to the video store.

The best surprise in Shadow Warrior 2 would have to be the final boss fight music. It was one of those perfect moments in video game history, where you’re trying to take this particularly important fight seriously but you’re somewhere between smiling and laughing at the absurdity of the situation. I loved it, though. Which is, in my opinion, what makes Shadow Warrior (as a series) so great, as it never takes itself too seriously but is always enjoyable. There might be more grinding in the sequel but it’s enjoyable grinding.

Even the randomised loot was handled well.

Weapons (and some upgrade gems) will have specific statistics, while everything else will have randomised combinations of affixes which can create some truly unique (and powerful) bonuses for certain weapons. I’m not sure if it works from a set of prefixes and suffixes as an ARPG would but it does work quite well. You rarely find something that is completely useless.

That said, even if you do, you can easily reforge it with two other upgrade gems and have another chance to roll something usable. There is so much more to Shadow Warrior 2 than the previous instalment and it really helps to deliver a more enjoyable adventure. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m also starting to wonder when other first person action titles will start to employ as enjoyable close combat mechanics, rather than the repetitive left click spam. I’m particularly fond of swords in the first place but I’m more fond of them when you can do awesome things with them. Such as twirling around until you get motion sickness and your vision is clouded with blood and viscera. I’m also not sure what enjoying that sensation says about me.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

From the Ashes

Greenish tints are common in post-apocalyptic wastelands.

Devil’s Crossing has seen better days. Mostly the ones where they’re not under siege from a fallen city overflowing with horrific monstrosities. But, seeing as they are under siege, and their militia is more or less useless, you’re going to be busy for a few days. Or weeks. Assuming you aren’t immediately swallowed up by the void. Ashes of Malmouth is the utterly fantastic continuation of Grim Dawn, which features both new Masteries and new story content (alongside a heapin’ helpin’ of new items legendary and otherwise).

It’s a good ol’ fashioned expansion.

The two new Masteries alone are worth the price of admission, as they can either be used on their own or with any of the other Masteries which opens up myriad possibilities. I’ve been trying the Death Knight (Necromancer/Soldier) and the combination of summoning with close combat is pretty fantastic. Having a menagerie of unholy beasts and skeletons is pretty neat.

That said, the new story content is excellently introduced through a series of breadcrumb quests which take you back to Burrwitch and then to heart of the void. From there you journey to Malmouth and (quite literally) fight your way to the heart of the city. Gaining ground and losing it in equal measure as you push forwards. It’s a surprisingly extensive journey which will introduce you to new factions nestled deep in marshes and crumbling cities, and will require you to make choices, as your actions will dictate who will welcome you and who won’t, and those interactions will help you understand the true nature of these factions. As expected from Grim Dawn there is a wealth of choice and consequence that’ll keep you busy for hours to come.

Crown Hill definitely has an infestation problem.

I’ve had a few pangs of nostalgia while playing through this expansion, too. It gives me similar feelings to those I had when I first experienced Diablo II Lord of Destruction, wherein the snowy plains of Act V kept me company while I adjusted to the innumerable challenges that lay ahead. I’m also quite excited to see how the Death Knight develops. I’ve mostly experienced Ashes of Malmouth with my Warder (Shaman/Soldier), which, besides being my first character, doesn’t have a particularly strong or effective build.

It has great burst potential but terrible survivability.

However, despite the build drawbacks, I’ve greatly enjoyed all that I’ve experienced so far. I’ve still got to find those new dungeons, too. I would say that I’ve seen the majority of what this expansion has to offer, but I know that isn’t true as it is so incredibly content dense. I’ve definitely missed quests and NPCs along the way. Not to mention the results of different choices.

It’s an incredibly easy recommendation to make if you love ARPGs. Grim Dawn is an expertly crafted and beautifully complex yet intuitive and easy to learn ARPG, which only becomes better (in every way) with this expansion. That and you can raise skeletons. All the cool kids are doing that. I’m not really sure what the Inquisitor does- but I’m sure that’s neat as well. I’m quite excited to see what’s coming next for Grim Dawn, but, until then, I’ve got to roam the fields of Wightmire with my Death Knight. She’s due to loot something really cool any day now. Or maybe I’ll try to make sense of the Devotion screen and pick something out for her. I don’t really open that screen much. It’s big and confusing.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Purloiner of Cinders

That’s a fairly accurate description of what I do.

I’ve also been known to farm Silver Knights for their equipment, collect spells of many different varieties, collect armour sets that I’ll never use, and sometimes even fight bosses to progress the story. I became the Lord of Hollows, too. That was quite an interesting marriage ceremony. Dark Souls III is an adventure that I’ve been eager to begin, but one that I approached with a build that focused on two things I’ve scarcely used before- Strength weapons and Pyromancies. It’s an odd combination and it’s not the easiest build to make effective.

But I get to throw smouldering fireballs at people. Which explode into lava.

I’ve greatly enjoyed the build, but I will admit that I mostly fell back on using my weapon and shield instead of the varied Pyromancies. Which still feel like (mostly) PvP options to me. That said, I’m not too upset about that as I’ve been able to make use of a greatshield. Which is also a first for me. I’ve had varying success with bosses for obvious reasons, too.

As is becoming common practice for Dark Souls, Human Effigies (like Humanity before them) have been replaced by Embers which are much less required as they only really boost your maximum health until you die. It’s a nice boost- but it’s not as necessary as using a Human Effigy because you’re missing half of your health. Many of the mechanics you’ve become accustomed to have returned as well. Infusions allow you to enhance or completely change the damage type or scaling on your weapon, the reinforcement process remains unchanged, and the most major of differences is the introduction of Ashen Estus Flasks. Which are like regular Estus Flasks (and they share collective charges) but recover FP instead of HP.

Let’s take the scenic route.

FP is a rather important mechanic but only if you intend to cast spells or use weapon arts. It replaces the previous mechanic of attuning multiple copies of the same spell for extra uses and introduces a casting resource (FP), which is recovered with Ashen Estus Flasks, and so every spell has a cost, while spending points in Attunement will give you more FP and more slots. It’s probably the broadest change and it’s a little confusing at first, but very simple once you get the hang of it. I’m actually really supportive of the change. It feels balanced.

Likewise, weapon arts allow you to use special moves with certain weapons.

These special moves will also drain FP but they’re often worth the cost. While some of the more unique transposed weapons will have entirely different movesets to what you may expect, which makes those weapons interesting for reasons other than scaling and/or damage. It’s an enjoyable experience overall which still holds a lot of secrets (and optional bosses) for you to discover.

Likewise, the Dark Souls series as a whole is quite enjoyable. There are some less than enjoyable moments or bosses, but it’s mostly a very well made series, which has the ability to be experienced in different ways over different playthroughs, and will most certainly give you hours of entertainment. It also tends to teach you how creative you can be with profanity. I’ve got a few other builds I want to try with Dark Souls III as well. Mostly those that include Sorceries or something that suits my usual build. Even the dual wielding weapons look fun. I’ve also yet to make my way through the DLC, which I know are quite difficult and feature several multiple phase bosses. Those are my favourites- that’s when the despair really sets in!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Shieldless in Drangleic

It’s a dangerous world out there.

Likely even more dangerous when you willingly opt out of using a shield entirely. That said, I’ve started to wonder if I rely too much on my shield. Especially when I don’t really build characters around heavier armour which are more likely to require a shield, or, at the very least, make good use of one. Dark Souls II is an experience I don’t really talk about all that much. That’s not to say that the experience itself is bad, just that I made a bad decision in thinking that Miracles would be a good secondary damage option. When they’re really not.

Well, no, they are- you just have to progress pretty far into the story to get those Miracles.

Which meant that I’d need to start over with a new build and I never really got around to doing that. Until recently. Which is when I decided I’d run a full Sorceries build with limited weapon options and no shield. I’ll admit- it sounds like a bad idea. Which it was with some bosses. But it was something different that helped me to understand when a shield is actually useful.

The majority of character progression and development mechanics remained the same as they were in Dark Souls. But the most significant difference would be the introduction of Human Effigies, which essentially act as Humanity but also restore the temporary maximum health loss that occurs when you die. They’re not particularly required, either. Especially if you have the ring that reduces the amount of maximum health you lose with each additional death. I do believe the Sorceries have remained mostly the same as well. That said, for me, the greatest challenge was defeating bosses like the Lost Sinner with no reflexive shield raising. I always do that panic button press hoping that it will absorb the damage when I’m about to get hit.

Shower him with Soul Arrows!

I’ve had a lot of fun with the build, though. It’s definitely different as I’m usually doing most damage with a weapon and then relying on Sorceries for some enemies. Whereas, with this build, I’m having to think a lot more about actually rolling effectively as I don’t have a panic button. If I roll badly I’m going to get hit. Which makes equipment weight more important, which in turn reduces the number of armour sets I could wear without investing heavily into its governing attribute. Casting time is also something I’m now much more aware of.

It wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting, either.

Which many would say is because of the inherent damage of Sorceries, but in many ways I felt almost underpowered in the earlier areas as I had limited Sorceries to attune and these were my main sources of damage. But that’s part of the challenge. When using a Strength/Dexterity weapon you have steadily increasing damage, whereas Sorceries are much more spiky.

It took a fairly long time to come back to Dark Souls II but I’m glad that I did. I didn’t own the Scholar of the First Sin version until recently, so these are all observations of a character in the original version but I do have the DLC for that version. So I’ll likely be exploring those at a later date. Until then, I’ll likely be moving on to the next in the series with which I will likely try another different build. But, again, as I said with the first Dark Souls, the character customisation and progression is what makes the series so enjoyable. It’s great to always be trying new weapons or building around different attributes. I can easily recommend Dark Souls II, though. It’s different- but it’s the enjoyable kind of different.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie