Back to Final Fantasy 14

Since the last post here I’ve been mostly playing Final Fantasy 14, having joined the many in quitting WoW over Blizzard being… New Blizzard? Let’s not focus on that, and instead focus on why I’m back playing FF14.

In short, its basically the ideal themepark MMO. If WoW in 2004 refined the formula, FF14 comes along and basically perfects it. And then, rather then mess with said perfection, Square just kept adding more ‘stuff’ to the game without altering the basics. You don’t need a FF14 Classic because FF14 today is (mostly) the classic game, and then a lot more.

Which isn’t to say the game is perfect, it has its wrinkles, but for what I want out of a themepark MMO, it checks all the boxes. Plenty of solo content to tackle when you can play but don’t have others around. Group content (dungeons mostly) that is fun and scales well, so you don’t have to ensure everyone in the group is leveling at the same exact rate. Graphically it still looks great, the voice acting is nice, and it runs really well.

Not being a new game, it also has a ton of side content you can do, content that unlocks in fairly natural and easy-to-spot ways. There have been very few times I’ve needed to look anything up online.

FF14 does what I want in an MMO today (a topic for another post), and our group is having a good time with it.

Posted in Final Fantasy XIV | Comments Off on Back to Final Fantasy 14

Medieval Dynasty review

I have been playing a lot of Medieval Dynasty of late (50hrs+ according to Steam), and its a very interesting game cloaked in the very familiar trappings of a builder/survival sim set in about as generic a medieval setting as you can make (and I say that as a big positive for the game).

Let’s start with those basics. This is a single-player game where you play a peasant who has recently arrived in this area (the map), and must build a home and eventually community/village. The map is big and features a number of NPC towns, with those different towns having different vendors who sell/buy things, NPCs with small quests/tasks, traveling NPCs who you can eventually recruit, plus NPCs who just live in that village. Between towns there are forests and mountains and streams, all with resources you can collect to build stuff.

Building stuff is the core gameplay loop here, first for basic tools (axe to cut tree, spear to hunt animals, etc), and then buildings such as your home, crafting stations, storage, etc. Think of that part of the game as a city sim, only instead of god-view you are in control of just one builder. It works really well here, and seeing your town grow as you progress feels really rewarding.

The game has a nice seasons model, with the default setting being 3 in-game days per season. Each season looks visually different on the map (snow in winter, spring plants growing, fall leaves, etc), and has gameplay impact as well, mostly around what crops you can plant, grow, or harvest.

Once you have a settlement going, you spend most of your time progressing it further. Sometimes that’s crafting tools for your workers, or going out to collect materials yourself, or building a new building. It can also mean visiting different NPC towns to buy new seeds or livestock, or selling what you produce. You will also want to complete various quests for more dynasty points (reputation basically) or some nice higher-tier tool rewards. There is always something to do. In fact, there is almost always too much to do, and assigning your villagers to tasks helps spread this out. This can include resource gathering, tending to crops, or crafting tools for others to use.

Setting up these supply chains is another fun aspect of the game, as you want villagers to help you out, but you must also house and feed them, which itself is a resource drain and requires some attention. That said once you have a dozen or so villagers, seeing them go about their tasks is really fun, as is seeing their skills progress and their work unlocking more technology (new buildings, new crafts). Your own character also has progression, and as you do things (gather, craft, quest), you get XP in those areas to unlock perk points.

What makes Dynasty really enjoyable for me however, beyond the basic setup, is that the balance and pacing is really solid. The game is never ‘hard’ in that you lose, but its easy to spot areas where you can do things more efficiently, and working out those efficiencies is rewarded with more time to do other things. It also nails the ‘feel’ of things like chopping down a tree, or hunting an animal, or building your town. The UI and how it communicates some information isn’t perfect, but once you are comfortable with it none of it feels painful or gets in the way of enjoying the game. Its also a very easy game to play for 30 minutes and gets some work down around your village, or for longer sessions where you play multiple days and see things really progress.

The game is ending Early Access soon, but in its current version I haven’t experienced any bugs or issues. As the price is increasing with the 1.0 version, if this at all interests you I’d suggest grabbing it now.

Posted in Random, Review | 3 Comments

5 minutes with a console port

Monster Hunter something something 2 has a free demo on Steam, so I decided to try it out of sheer curiosity, not having played a JRPG since the Playstation 2 days.

Right off the bat the demo feels like a rushed console port, with the mouse sometimes working to click things as you set it up and other times not, which is always a bad sign. Character creation was more about fighting the UI than making selections.

However it wasn’t until I got into the game that I found the most comical example; there is a 5ish minute gap between watching the intro video and talking to the first character, where you can walk around the starting city, and until you talk to that character the menu option is disabled. Meaning hitting the escape key does nothing, and other than force-quitting the game, you can’t exit out. Because I had to walk away from the PC so early, I force quit the game and then tried to see if I was missing a key to exit or something, found nothing, and then a minute later discovered that the game locks the main menu until you talk to that NPC and they explain things.

Maybe just me, but I found it pretty wild to lock the basic menu to quit or change settings behind an NPC.

Posted in Random, Rant | 5 Comments

WoW Classic: Already feeling the reduced difficulty

Blog is not dead, just less attended. Such is life. Anyway, this post over at TAGN, which links to a video about Classic WoW, has inspired a post here. Remember when we had lots of good active blogs and this happened often? Blog nostalgia!

In WoW Classic right now our group is going through the 1-60 game again before we head into Outland content, but experiencing the ‘re-tuned’ dungeons that happened at some point via patch. We are only mid 20s so have only seen the first 4 dungeons (did BFD most recently), but even now the difference between launch-day WoW and whatever patch changed the dungeon levels is noticeable. They are just easier, with all mobs in the dungeon being 1-2 levels apart, and that makes them less interesting. And that, IMO, sums up WoW fading away for me in a nutshell; each patch/update felt like it made the game easier, which ultimately made it less interesting.

To go back to the video, I think some of that is either implied or alluded to. It starts with everything feeling new BUT also worthwhile and important. But as the game went on, the ‘sparkle’ was increased by Blizzard yet the core magic fades away. To me even the small changed between launch-day Classic and the version we have now with TBC is evidence of that. When you go into a dungeon at level or slightly below and are never in any true danger of wiping, that’s bad. And while we wiped less in Classic then back in Vanilla because of better PCs and general game knowledge, we still did wipe on some dungeons when Classic first game out. We have yet to do so in the revamped dungeons.

I’m curious how things go as we continue with the core content and then into TBC. Will we continue to stomp everything or will the normal struggle return at some point?

Posted in World of Warcraft | 1 Comment

Back to Old Azeroth again

Quick little update here, WoW Classic Burning Crusade pre-patch starts today, and myself and a few others will be rolling new characters to once again take the trip through Azeroth. Expectations are to basically enjoy the 1-60 content again, mostly around the 5 man dungeons, and then go into BC content and experience that. I doubt I’ll personally get too far into the raid scene, though I would at least like to see some of them as I never did originally.

Tauren Warrior this go-around, as I missed tanking when I went human rogue.

Posted in World of Warcraft | Comments Off on Back to Old Azeroth again

Clash of Clans: Town Hall 14 is here!

Clash of Clans has just released Town Hall 14, a major update to the game that has given myself and some of the other long-standing members in the clan new things to work on. The timing is pretty spot-on for me as my accounts were just about fully maxed out, and my interest in the game was dropping.

TH14 brings some new things I’ve yet to see, like pets you attach to heroes to give them some additional abilities, and the builder huts finally getting some defensive value. I’m sure all of the new things in the update will shake up the meta, and I’m personally excited to try out some new or modified attack strategies once I unlock things.

Our clan is still active, which is impressive considering some of us are past the 5 year mark with the game (7+ for me). Our activity, especially in normal wars, is off its peak, but we still regularly do them and always have a strong showing for the Clan War league.

SuperCell has made the early game much faster now, so jumping in and catching up isn’t as daunting as it once was. If you have played before and needed a reason to return, or are interesting in trying one of the best mobile games out, feel free to drop a note and join us, guild name is “Supreme Cream!”

Posted in Clash of Clans, Inquisition Clan, iPhone | Comments Off on Clash of Clans: Town Hall 14 is here!

Shop Titans thoughts and guild creation

I saw Tobold post about Shop Titans, and then had a few guild mates also confirm they enjoy the game, so here I am, playing another grinder F2P game (via Steam, but is also on mobile). Honestly as easy as these are to bash, they do make for great background content, and Shop Titans can also be played a fair amount actively in a 30 minute gaming session.

This won’t be a full review, but rather a few points that has me enjoying the game more than similar titles. I think the biggest is it doesn’t seem to punish you with decisions you make, rather everything is varying degrees of progressing forward. This means playing Shop is more relaxing than other games where mistakes can be made and you feel more pressure to look up guides so you don’t ‘mess up’. I also don’t believe there is a competitive aspect of Shop, just the cooperative progression of your guild.

Speaking of the guild, another thing I’m enjoying a lot is that guild members all work together to upgrade your shared town, work on earning guild points via tasks, and when there is a global event everyone’s progress chips in. It’s again relaxed, but a lot of design focus has been made to tie progress together.

I’ve got a new guild going in the game with some spots open, the name is Supreme Cream. Post here if you have issues joining, or just jump into our discord.

Posted in Inquisition Clan, iPhone, Random | 2 Comments

Mighty Party advice after a year of playing

This information is accurate as of March 13th, 2021. The game is frequently updated and things change, while this post most likely won’t get updates, so if you are ready this months later, double check to make sure the advice still applies.

I have been playing Mighty Party for a year now, having reached league 1 on my Steam account rather quickly (legacy rules where progress was super easy) and league 8 on my mobile account (normal rules). I have spent some money across the two accounts, but am certainly no whale. Below are the most important tips or advice that isn’t clear to new players. Note that this advice is from the perspective of wanting to advance as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s where I find the fun in games like this. If that’s not your direct goal, play however you want to have fun; it’s a game after all.

About spending money: The most impactful thing you can buy in MP is a legendary pet, which costs $50. It’s a high cost but they can’t be earned in-game, and have a huge power impact. I think of buying the pet as upgrading from the trial version of MP to the ‘real game’. The best pet to buy is Drogun, primarily for the +hit point ability, which will let you establish board control and scale your heroes out of reach. His direct warlord damage ability and his +attack boosts are also nice of course. Sentry is the only other pet to consider, as his immediate +attack is very nice, but right now Drogun is just better long-term.

You want to buy the pet as soon as possible (unlocks at league 16), because the sooner you have it the sooner you can start doing the Hunts to level it up, and because the best time to Hunt is during High Growth fable, that will naturally limit how quickly your pet levels up each month.

After the pet, the gem fund from Journey mode for $20 is great value in terms of cost/gems. This expires after some time, so if you are going to spend some money on the game, after the pet don’t let that expire. Beyond those two items everything else is of lesser value, and what to buy and when is more situational. Another good use of money is chest slots, especially if you play on PC, as on that platform chests all open at the same time, so the more slots you have, the more chests you can open. If you plan to play only on mobile, chest slots have less value, though it is nice to have the extra space to store bigger chests to be opened during events.

With the recent removal of Raids, there are now only two game modes that rotate: pit and dark tower. Both of these scale in difficulty based on your total might, a hidden value that is the total power accumulation of your account. Doing well in these modes will earn you a significant amount of extra resources, so it is important to try and limit how much your total might grows. Because of this you want to avoid soulbinding any hero besides what you need for an event, and the current 8 heroes you use. Soulbinding anyone else will inflate your total might for little gain. You also want to avoid using reborn on most heroes too early, with my rule of thumb being level 16 for commons/rares/epics before I reborn. Legends are a bit different as you often need to reborn one for hunts, and when a reborn fable comes around its not a bad idea to take advantage of it. Once heroes are at 16, it’s good to start evolving that hero to its higher rarity rather than leveling it higher.

Making the most of the High Growth fable is also very important. While it may be tempting to level what you can each time, sometimes the correct choice is skipping a HG to go all-out the next one. The gold cap is 3 million, so getting close to that and then doing a HG is ideal, because the gems-per-level is higher after the first 5 tiers in HG. If you end up just short of levels, this is when using a reborn or two can also make sense.

The best use of gems is first to buy the pirate skin, its by far the most powerful warlord skin for anything outside of League 1. After you have the pirate, you want to save up gems to use in an event that has at least one top-tier hero. When that event comes around, you want to use gems to first reach chapter 3 on the first day, and then keep pushing as much as you can, including buying the warlord skin for that step in chapter 3. The more bosses you unlock early, the more times you can kill then after a refresh for sparks. Don’t waste gems on events with sub-par heroes, and never waste gems on things like summons or the wish shop.

Top tier heroes can change as balance is adjusted, but currently these are the heroes that will help you climb and are less level dependent: Shadow Shaa-moona, Dead Lord, Groot, Frost, Blair, Santa, Justia, Iceburg. This gives you plenty of direct removal, silence, and delay, while your backline is a ticking timebomb with Justia buffing attack. This is important because if you are progressing quickly, you will be facing accounts with heroes 2x+ the stats of yours, meaning you can’t rely on direct damage to kill them. Any hero that is only good when “its high level” won’t work for you, since you will always be under-leveled vs what you are facing.

The above covers some of the major points. There are countless smaller items and adjustments that will help or hinder your progress. Discord is the best place to ask those.

Posted in Mighty Party | 1 Comment

Valheim, final thoughts after defeating boss 5

We have killed the fifth and, for now, final boss of Valheim, officially marking our end with the game until more content is released. At $20, the 136 hours I already have with the game have been well worth the cost. Certainly the best gaming surprise so far in 2021.

I’m trying to get into the flow of Red Dead Redemption 2, and its especially rough coming off Valheim, as the games are almost complete opposites from a core design and gameplay perspective. DDR2 seems hell-bend on having a different UI and way of doing everything in the game (and being a console port doesn’t help), while in Valheim you interact with everything using the E key, and combat controls are the same all game long. It just feels terribly bloated in DDR2, and makes me appreciate how clean things are in Valheim. I’ll say it again; the core reason why Valheim is so enjoyable is its the World of Warcraft of survival games; its not that it has one key super-awesome feature, but instead that the core of the game is so clean and works so well, and if Valheim is WoW, then DDR2 and games like it are EQ2; just clunky and worse-off but hey look, so much ‘stuff’!

Focusing back on Valheim and its gameplay, I think I appreciate two major things about it. First is that the game is consistent from start to (current) finish. You explore more biomes and use better gear, have access to some more utility, but the core loop of explore, fight, collect is always there, and it remains fun. The other is that while not perfect, a surprising amount of the games ‘stuff’ remains useful. You always need more wood, stone, and other basics. Because of how food works, many of the early game mobs are also still needed later into the game, as is going into earlier biomes like meadows and the forest to collect resources. Too many games have an open world in theory, but you still transition from area to area in those worlds, with the older content becoming obsolete. That’s not the case in Valheim.

The early biomes staying relevant is important because exploration is so key to the game, and so enjoyable. The world generation is top-notch, and in all those hours I never tired of cresting a hill and seeing what lies beyond. Sailing around exploring was also a joy in its simplicity and in how impactful the wonderful weather effects are. Nighttime and fog means you can barely see the front of your boat, and that more than once resulting in unexpectedly running into land, which then required some pickaxing to get the boat going again. A storm with huge waves and rain FEELS like a storm, and the water level raising because of that weather effect is also a nice and impactful touch.

I’m sure I’ll play more Valheim as the game sees content additions. It has a lot of room to grow, in a lot of directions. But even as it stands today, its an incredibly easy recommendation for basically anyone. Just a fantastically enjoyable game.

Posted in Random | 4 Comments

Valheim – Thoughts after 100+ hours played

Some more Valheim thoughts as I cross 100+ hours played according to Steam. This is all based on playing consistently with a small group of friends. I think everything overall would be less fun/interesting solo.

The boss fights are very well done, having seen 3 of the 5 so far (number 4 will be this Saturday). They remind me of oldschool MMO raid bosses in that when you first attempt them, you go through a learning curve of their mechanics and need to bring your best consumables to help with the odds. Then as you further progress in the game, those bosses, that once seemed so difficult, feel far more manageable in the event you need to kill them again. Adding more bosses and big monsters to the game will go a long way.

Each of the biomes feels very different. The meadows are calm and easy to navigate. Black Forest really captures the sense of being surrounded by trees and tougher terrain, with woodland creatures/enemies around. The swamp is hard to navigate because of all the shallow water and the leeches that occupy it. It’s also dark and always feels dangerous because of the many poison blobs and draugers. Mountains, after you gain protection from the cold, are more open, but the verticality and the need to sprint/jump around can leave you without stamina to fight back. Finally, plains, the current end-game zone, are open and seem inviting while being populated by deadly insects and goblin cities + patrols. If anything I feel swamps and plains should switch places in terms of progression. Goblins aren’t scarier than the undead. As with the bosses, more biomes will be very welcome.

Finally crafting feels about right in Valheim. Gathering resources does take time, especially metals, but it also feels rewarding. Getting a new tier or type of weapon or armor feels like a big deal, and with each type of weapon having a different feel in combat, switching is a noticeable change. Another important aspect of advancing is being able to go back to earlier biomes and actually feeling significantly stronger. It feels good to one-shot enemies that tormented you in the past.

I believe our current plans are to finish the existing content of Valheim, meaning beating the Plain biome boss, and then wait for more content to be added. If the content addition is soon and significant, we will likely play it right away. If not, we can always return for a fresh run at a later date, perhaps when the game leaves Early Access.

Posted in Random | 3 Comments