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

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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

Neither Man Nor Machine – 2018 – Digital – click for full view on site!

Like some sort of horrifically deformed cyborg.

It’s definitely more man than machine, though. I decided to exclude the harness from the finished version, which will hopefully put more emphasis on the anatomy and (most importantly) the face as these were the key areas of the composition. It hasn’t been the easiest creature to paint, either. But that was part of the challenge. Even with the original incarnation I wasn’t too pleased with some areas of the composition, but I still feel as though this is an improvement. It also helps me ease into some of the paintings I have in mind.

I’ve had to learn a lot over the last few months.

It’s hard to explain, but I’ve mostly reworked my approaches to digital painting as the new tablet is so noticeably different that I can’t use my old habits. They just don’t work. That’s why I’ve focused so much on how this piece has progressed from the early concepts to later developments, because I’ve had to mostly relearn digital painting in the last six months.

I’m most pleased with the skin texture and how it seems to cracking, bubbling, and peeling from their flesh. I’m least pleased with the teeth. I could never really decide what I wanted to do with them, and I didn’t like them as much as the sketchy almost non-existent teeth in the original concepts. This is one of many things that I’ll need to work on in the coming months. I know my understanding of all of the digital tools is limited, as I lack experience, so I expect to have areas of different compositions which could have been handled better, but weren’t for one reason or another. It’s definitely one of my better attempts regardless of any criticisms I might have. But then I’ll always have criticisms of everything that I do.
That said, I am quite happy that the majority of my work of late has been finished. Not only do I learn more about digital approaches with each finished piece, but they provide much needed creative content that is quite varied at the moment. We’ve seen everything from owls, to fictional beasts, to the no longer deceased. I’ve been itching to do more traditional pieces recently, too. But I’ve still got two digital paintings which are on their way. One has been started (and was actually started before this piece) and the second is going to be started soon.

The second should be quite good should it ever see the light of day.

The one thing that I lack at the moment is time. Not in the sense that I don’t have enough of it, but in the sense that I have so many things that I’m working on that even with an overflowing amount of it there isn’t enough. I’m using every hour in the day that I can without pushing myself to exhaustion but it still isn’t enough. It’s an oddly enjoyable feeling, though.

I don’t think I could ever be upset about an increase in the amount of creative content I’m producing. It’s just that I’m quite tired at the moment. I’ve been falling back into the old habit of letting the schedule dictate the content rather than the content dictating the schedule. That said, I’ve been actively working against that recently. It’s just a shame that this piece went through so many different iterations before reaching its conclusion. I’ve spent a good number of hours on this piece by now. Definitely more than I should have spent. But the result is agreeable enough and so I can’t complain, but I do feel as though I could have finished two paintings in the time spent on this one. I guess I’m just overstimulated by recent motivation.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Doom, the UAC, Doomguy, Pinkies, Revenants, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by id Software.

Unholy Evolution

I wasn’t expecting to go on this journey.

Not that I mind. In fact, I’m actually quite fond of this piece because it has helped me illustrate (pun intended) some of my more ambitious digital approaches. It’s interesting looking back at how the piece has evolved from the earlier stages where it was more of a painting, to when it became an illustration of sorts, to how it has now become a hybrid of the two approaches. I’ve mentioned before that each of the newer digital paintings has their own unique qualities and this one (unsurprisingly) is no exception.

That’s a sentence that is quickly becoming redundant.

Mostly because I don’t think any piece will ever completely follow the one that came before it. I’m of the opinion at present that the thick painted style that’s starting to show through in this piece will make a return, but perhaps it will be more ambitious or more conceptual in that attempt. I’ll more than likely lean on this approach more as I think it has a lot of character.

I mentioned previously that I wasn’t sure how I’d use the layers for this piece. That’s always been an interesting point for me as I feel as though the layers are part of the digital approach, but I rarely use more than two or three. That said, I’ve also heard many experienced digital artists say that layers (and brushes) are individual to the person. There are no requirements to have multiple layers and you can use just the one if you prefer. I think that has always made more sense to me given my experience with traditional approaches. But, at the same time, it’s quite nice to be able to section up some areas of a piece to make it easier to add or edit them. Regarding this piece, it’s mostly painted on a single layer with a few extra layers for convenience.

I’m particularly reminded of raw chicken skin.

I’ve rather enjoyed writing these posts, too. It’s nice to have creative content that looks at how everything has changed. I’d felt that creative content had become stagnant, but through these work in progress (and the material studies) posts the newer content is more interesting as a result. It also gives me the opportunity to talk about things in a broader and less specific way. I can then easily tie this all together with an image or three, which makes it enticing even if you don’t care about what I’m actually saying in the post. Which I hope you do.

But even if you don’t it’s not like you can’t enjoy the pretty pictures all the same.

I’m particularly fond of the evolving colour choice in this piece. I’ve tried to include more darker colours to enhance the lighter ones, and to suggest a better sense of depth and contrast in the piece as a whole. I’m not sure if it actually worked but such is the way of painting anything. You can never be entirely sure of how a piece is going to develop until it has done so.

There’s also a whole section of this piece that I’ve yet to paint. It’s not a particularly large section, but the harness and mechanical components have yet to be added and will be used to frame the piece quite nicely. I don’t intend to paint much of the jet pack, either. But we’ll see how that goes when I get around to it. It shouldn’t be too much longer before we see the final version of this piece, though. The rather drastic change that occurred between this and the last work in progress shouldn’t occur again. But even if it does this will be the last post regarding this piece until the final version is presented, as I feel as though there is little left to say now. It’s definitely inspired more content than I could’ve anticipated.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Doom, the UAC, Doomguy, Pinkies, Revenants, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by id Software.