Tag Archives: Square-Enix

Skeptical Plays: Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn [PC]

Square-Enix’s somewhat archaic and unconventional feature designs, in my opinion, had actually made the original 1.0 release of Final Fantasy XIV one of the most unique and interesting experiences available at the time.  Sadly, the critics disagreed.  The game did not fare well with the mainstream audience, and it was considered widely to be a failure.

Fast forwarding now to 2013, after three long years of redevelopment with a brand new team, the game has been given a new lease on life with the recent 2.0 relaunch, aka A Realm Reborn.

The game is still very much Final Fantasy XIV at its core, retaining the original graphical and audio assets, as well as elements of the gameplay mechanics. However, great efforts have been put into bringing the game in line with the other existing MMOs on the market, with everything ingame having been streamlined and “modernized” to some degree.

While I am appreciative of their efforts, I find myself feeling somewhat let down by a lot of the changes that 2.0 had brought.

Take the addition of the hundreds of new NPC quests for example.  Instead of fleshing out the world and providing players with interesting new content, what we ended up with was a series of generic and forgettable quests, which only serve to lay down linear lines of progression, discouraging exploration, and at the same time giving the game a very closed theme park feel.

Adding to that theme park feel are the new fully open map zones.  While the new open map design does give the illusion of a larger, more persistent world, in my opinion it also gave us more generic map zones that are far less interesting to explore.  Worth mentioning too is that some of the more interesting areas have now been converted into timed instanced group dungeons, and are sadly no longer accessible by smaller groups, or the odd solitary explorers like myself.

ffxiv_18092013_193820

Despite my skepticism, the game is not without its strengths and charms.  Most gamers I’m sure would find the franchise’s signature creature designs, with your chocobos, moogles, cactuars and the like, to be a welcoming change from the often overused generic high fantasy bestiary.  The iconic Final Fantasy tunes and sounds are excellent as always, and I am happy to report that the unique crafting mini-game transitioned over largely unchanged, as has the excellent multi-class jobs system, which allows players to experience all of the games classes without having to create new characters.

Also, being designed with the subscription payment model in mind, it is sure to please the more traditional gamers, folks like myself who might be looking for a strong character-based non-restrictive gameplay experience – something away from your real-money Cash Shops and Locked Boxes, where you constantly feel like you are being punished simply for not paying extra.

At the end of the day, it pains me to say that A Realm Reborn now plays a lot more like your average generic MMO, with its industry standard hotbar control scheme; the mindless kill-ten-rats NPC quests; simplified one-click gathering; the grindy daily quests; and the focus on its number of generic loot grind dungeons.  While the Final Fantasy name is sure to attract fans of the franchise, I remain unconvinced that in the long run, the game as it stands with its traditional theme park gameplay, is enough to appease your average modern gamer – but, as always, only time will tell.

ffxiv_11092013_233417

ARR +

  • Subscription based – development focus is on story and gameplay, not on expansive cashshop items.
  • Stable client software.
  • Optimized UI and more accessible controls.
  • Fantastic Final Fantasy music and art designs.
  • Engrossing main and job storylines that carries on from 1.0.
  • Non-restrictive jobs system that allows players to level up multiple classes with a single character.
  • Unique crafting mini-game.
  • Intriguing world with strong lore and an unique sense of identity.
  • Mount/Combat Companion.

ARR –

  • Generic NPC quests.
  • Improved but still clunky gear management.
  • One-click materials gathering.
  • Some of the more interesting areas have been removed and converted into generic timed group dungeons.
  • Removal of Companion NPCs
  • Mindless XP grinding FATE parties seems to be a focus of the communities.
  • Multiple class job leveling can get repetitive and grindy.
  • Questionable long term appeal for casual social players.

ffxiv_13092013_212916ffxiv_24092013_225059ffxiv_10102013_170528ffxiv_14092013_225804ffxiv_19102013_203657ffxiv_23102013_214502


Final Fantasy XIV: Legacy Campaign

Earlier this year I found myself wondering back into Eorzea, the world of Final Fantasy XIV, after having been away from the game for over a year.  Of course, a multitude of fixes and extra content have been added since I left, and as a result the game had seemed unfamiliar and fresh.  And for a while, I found myself lost in the honeymoon bliss that one usually experience with a new MMO.

However, as beautiful as the game was, and as much as I love its world, with the small number of both players and NPCs around, it all felt pretty barren.  Plus, the game’s socialization options were still horrendous.  There was still next to no interaction between players outside of their linkshells (ie. FFXIV’s version of clans), and with the clunky chat UI and a lack of regional and zone chats, finding new people to chat and socialize with was pretty much impossible.  It might have been down to being on the wrong server at the wrong time, or just plain bad luck, but I was disappointed to find that even after weeks of yelling in the cities, I was still unable to find people to party with for group contents.

There were numerous other little issues as well, both from a gameplay and technical perspective – some of which, I might add, were the very same issues that had caused me to quit the game in the first place.  And that was why I had stopped logging on a few weeks ago, and why a couple of weeks ago I had actually cancelled my subscription.

However, having said all that, I must also say that somehow, this week Square-Enix has suckered me once again into re-subscribing with the announcement of their Legacy Campaign.

http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/campaign/campaign.html

The Legacy Campaign introduces several benefits for those who have subscribed for at least 90 cumulative days since January 6th, 2012.

1. Legacy members will be able to play at a specially discounted subscription price post-launch of version 2.0.

2. Legacy members will receive an exclusive in-game Chocobo mount at the launch of version 2.0.

3. Legacy members can request that their name be displayed in the credits for version 2.0. One name per service account can be listed in the credits.

Version 2.0, by the way is stated to be due sometime between October and December of 2012 to early 2013.

For former players of Final Fantasy XIV I would also like to point out that there is an upcoming Welcome Back Campaign happening from May 9th to May 20th, where former players with inactive service accounts will be able to play for free during this ten-day period.

I must admit I have been rather down on MMOs lately, and I have become a rather jaded skeptical bastard in the past couple of years.  However, Final Fantasy is a strong brand with a large dedicated fanbase, and judging from Final Fantasy XI I would say Square-Enix have the expertise and the stamina to create a decent MMO with a strong stable playerbase and communities, so I do have rather high hopes for this franchise, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 will bring to the genre.


Generically Average

Square-Enix announced earlier this month game-wide server mergers and character transfers for their MMO ‘Final Fantasy XIV‘.  However due to player feedback, they removed the announcement a few days later, stating “In order to ensure that the most desirable and effective outcome is achieved, we will be reassessing the method of the merger process.”

[UPDATE: Square-Enix have announced that the server merger process has been reevaluated, and are going ahead starting from March 1st, 2012.  Details could be found at http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/topics/detail?id=13222abe211533c87814786dc7c7c72707574cb8 ]

I must say, my feelings are kind of mixed about the whole ordeal.

On one hand, I feel like I SHOULD be happy, myself having resubscribed to the game recently.  Their willingness to reassess their merger process due to feedback means that there are still a large number of active players, and more importantly, a large number of active players who are passionate enough about the game to raise their voices, and give game-changing feedback.  It also means that perhaps, just perhaps, the current developers care about their players, and indeed care enough to listen to and take their feedbacks seriously.

On the other hand, this serves to highlight a problem that I have with a lot of game developers today.  I understand that like the rest of us, they need to make a living too, and that they are under constant pressure from the publishers, the press, the players, and indeed from the rest of the industry in general to succeed.  But it really annoys and saddens me, seeing the way how so many developers could just abandon and change the direction and the development of their projects so easily and willingly.

Personally I have just about had enough with their constant drive for appeasement, and it is breaking my heart, this seemingly lack of conviction on their part.  Again I say, I understand that it is their job, and that they are in the business of producing games that appeals and sells to the masses.  But I couldn’t help but feel that somewhere along the line, their quest for the dollars has lead to the abandonment of their integrity, creativity, and artistic vision, and have in the process let innovation fall by the wayside.

While I might not be a fan of all of their works, I really do admire folks like David Cage, Peter Molyneux, Hideo Kojima, Will Wright, Richard Garriott, and others like them.  I just wish more would join the ranks of these dwindling number of stubborn, self-righteous developers – people who are willing to stand their ground, and create products that are the results of the conviction of their own artistic visions and concepts.

Even if they don’t always succeed on what they set out to create, or deliver on their promises, at least you’d know that each time you start up one of their games, you’re in for something unique and distilled with personality.  You know to expect pieces of art, and not some generically-average mass-produced clone of all the other games currently on the market.

Perhaps this is why I feel so jaded nowadays, and why the industry as a whole feels so stagnant to me.  Damnit, I WANT to be shocked; I NEED to be scared; to be outraged; surprised.  Perhaps I am unique in the way that I feel, but I just don’t want to be pleased anymore.


The Return To Eorzea

Once again highlighting the fact that timing and dealings with money are NOT some of my strong points, earlier this week I find myself reinstalling and resubscribing to the MMO ‘Final Fantasy XIV‘ by Square-Enix, a game which I haven’t played or been subbed to since December 2010, despite the fact that it has been essentially running under the F2P model for the past year.

‘Final Fantasy XIV’, incase you are not aware, was panned critically by both reviewers and players alike when it was launched back in September 2010, and has been in a state of semi-limbo since.  The universal negative feedback resulted in a major reshuffling the entire development team, with plans of a complete overhaul of the game systems.  The backlash also resulted in a surprising temporary suspension of the subscription fees, meaning since launch. In fact, it wasn’t until a month or so ago that subscriptions for this game was resumed, returning the game to full P2P status.

I really enjoyed this game way back when it was launched, and I was perhaps one of the few people who actually liked the game for what it was, despite its many perceived flaws.  I thought the world was imaginative and enchanting, and I loved the over-arcing storyline and the NPCs that were involved. I enjoyed the combat mechanics, the leveling, the crafting and gathering systems, the music, the graphics…  To be honest I enjoyed pretty much everything that the game had to offer.  For me the many flaws that other people complained about weren’t really flaws as such – for me they were just… different.  The game was a pretty unique experience, which was a rare thing indeed in our overcrowded modern day MMO market.

However having said that, there were a few things which stopped me from fully loving the game.  The inability to regen your mana without having to return to a town or a camp was one – this means I was unable to just roam around the maps and explore, which is one thing I enjoy doing with MMOs.  Another thing was the focus on Guild Leves (which are basically generic repeatable timed quests – eg. 30 minutes to goto three map points and gather 6 ores), and the lack of NPC quests beyond the main quest.  Combined with the lack of mana regen, this means the game pretty much forces you to hang around the camps and towns and grind leves, which I dislike.

There were other little technical issues which bugged the hell out of me too, things like the inability to alt-tab to Windows while in fullscreen mode, and the inability to run other things in the background which accesses the graphics card – trying to check the temperature of my card while playing the game for example would crash the game.  Also whenever your game crashes or your connection drops, the leve you were on would automatically fail, even if you logged back into the game before the time limit ends.  This was particularly frustrating for me since my net connection was very unstable at the time.

And finally, the thing which annoyed me the most was perhaps the people, the gamers who populated the worlds.  Sadly it’s a common theme among MMOs – assholes who runs in and steal your mobs and your gathering nodes; not being able to find people to play and chat with; or finally finding a clan to hang out with, only to find that all the other players have formed their own little clicks and are out doing their own things.  My time in the game was pretty frustating, me having to jump around three or four different servers before finally finding a friendly English speaking clan, only to find them all playing and chatting within their own little clicks; to find the server filled with rude assholes wherever I went; and to find that the only friendly players who understand the meaning of “teamwork” are all non-English-speaking Japanese players.

Anyways for better or worse, I’m planning on spending more time in ‘Final Fantasy XIV’ the next few weeks.  I might spend some time in ‘Champions Online‘ too, and thinking about dropping into ‘Star Trek Online‘, which have just switched to F2P.  Who knows, perhaps I might stop by here and tell you all a bit about my experiences – as usual though, only time will tell.


Top 10 Collector’s Editions from Mighty Ape

Regrets – my life is filled with them.  Not over paths not taken mind you, nor over words said (or not said) in fits of passion, nor, over girls I have failed to kiss (though there are many that falls under that category).  Rather, I often regret NOT picking up that newly released game at the shops; that limited release version with the shiny big box; that coveted, elusive, awe-inspiring, Collector’s Edition.

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight a number of special Collector’s Editions, which are all currently available (at the time of this post) at Mighty Ape, one of my favoriate online stores.  I just want to say that I am in no way associated with the folks at Mighty Ape.  Having enjoyed their excellent customer service for years however, I thought I would give them a shoutout, and take down two birds with one stone today by linking my list back to products from their website.

And now, without further ado, here are 10 Collector’s Editions that are currently available from Mighty Ape:

10) Guild Wars: Nightfall – Collector’s Edition (PC)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PC-Games/Guild-Wars-Nightfall-Collectors-Edition/1526526/

Guild Wars, in my opinion, is one of the most under-appreciated game out there, featuring many innovative features and gameplay mechanics that I have yet see implemented in any other game.  This Collector’s Edition comes with all sorts of goodies – poster, map, art book, soundtrack, exclusive ingame dances, and much more – all packaged up in an attractive box.

9) Alone In The Dark: Limited Edition (PC)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PC-Games/Alone-in-the-Dark-Limited-Edition/1556243/

This is the 2008 sequel that goes by the same name as the original game in the series.  While the game did not do well with the critics, I actually quite enjoyed the game, despite its flaws.   This Limited Edition comes with a Carnby Collectible Figurine, a Making of DVD, soundtrack, and art book, as well as an attractive collectible box.

8) Star Trek Online Collector’s Edition (PC)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PC-Games/Star-Trek-Online-Collectors-Edition/3968130/

Star Trek Online is yet another under-appreciated game that I thoroughly enjoy.  With weekly content updates and regular major gameplay additions, plus stories and characters that were pulled straight from the TV series and movies – this is a game that I highly recommend to all Star Trek or sci-fi fans.  This Collector’s Edition comes in a super attractive deluxe packaging that features futuristic 3dX holography set in a high quality brushed aluminum finish.  The package includes an artbook, guest passes for your friends, special ingame items (including TNG and DS9 uniforms for your ingame characters), and lastly, a freakin’ Communicator Badge: High quality cast metal design based on the in-game badge model. Fully 3d Sculpted with recessed burst and curved contours!

 

7) Final Fantasy XIV: Limited Collector’s Edition

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PC-Games/Final-Fantasy-XIV-Collectors-Edition/7420730/

Final Fantasy XIV is the second MMO to wear the Final Fantasy name.   While the critics are divided on the game in its current state, you have to keep in mind that it is early days for the game still.   Many of the issues have been addressed with patches already, and major patches are due to come in the next few weeks.   I myself is enjoying the game the way it is, and I look forward to seeing what Square-Enix will bring in the future.   This is one attractive Collector’s Edition, featuring one of the most beautiful journal/artbook I have ever seen.   Other bonuses includes an a collectible tumbler, a behind the scenes bonus DVD, a FFXIV branded security token, a cloth map, and an exclusive ingame item.

6) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Night Vision Goggles Edition (PS3)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PS3/Call-of-Duty-Modern-Warfare-2-Night-Vision-Goggles-Edition-NVG/8818085/

Even if you are like me, and have yet to play this game, I am sure that you all know what Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is, so let me jump straight to the contents.  Not surprisingly this Night Vision Goggles Edition includes the game, and a set of fully-functional, wearable, adjustable Night Vision Goggles, complete with a limited edition stand.   Night. Vision. Goggles. ’nuff said?

5) Call of Duty: Black Ops – Prestige Edition (PS3)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PS3/Call-of-Duty-Black-Ops-Prestige-Edition/8169772/

Chances are you already know what Call of Duty: Black Ops is, so once again I am jumping straight to the contents.   This special Prestige Edition contains the full game in a special-edition steelbook case, 4 additional co-op maps, special avatar outfit for your PlayStation Home character, a collector’s medal with display case, and, a high quality FULLY FUNCTIONAL remote control RC-XD surveillance vehicle.  The RC-XD has the ability to transmit video and audio wirelessly straight to a 2” backlit TFT colour screen, built into the RC controller.  Do you need one?  Probably not.  But do you want one?   Hell yeah!

4) The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Collector’s Edition (PC)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PC-Games/The-Witcher-2-Assassins-of-Kings-Collectors-Edition/9196853/

The Witcher 2 is the second installment in the Witcher saga based on Andrzej Sapkowskiin’s epic fantasy novel series.  This sequel promises to deliver a thoroughly engrossing, mature storyline, as well as an original, brutal combat system that uniquely combines tactical elements with dynamic action and a new, modern game engine.  Even if you were not a fan of the first game, or even if the sequel fails to deliver, you will at least be able to enjoy all the extra bonuses which comes with this Collector’s Edition.  With a making of DVD, soundtrack, world map, art book, replica coins, dice set, stickers, playing cards, ingame item, and last but not least, a sculpture of our hero, Geralt of Rivia.

3) Crysis 2: Nano Edition (PS3)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PS3/Crysis-2-Nano-Edition/9067573/

Like the Far Cry games before it, the first Crysis set the world (and many graphics cards) on fire when it was released back in 2007.  Crysis 2 looks to carry on the tradition, and will attempt once again to redefine visual benchmark standards on both console and PC platforms, as well as promising to wow modern day gamers with its top tier AI and an intense dynamic online combat.  What impressed me the most about this upcoming game however, is the contents of this amazing special Nano Edition.  It comes with a special NANOSUIT backpack, a premium 176 page art book, a special steelbook packaging, ingame bonuses, and lastly, an impressing looking 8” statue with internal lighting effects.

2) Killzone 3 Helghast Edition (PS3)

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/PS3/Killzone-3-Helghast-Edition/9497230/

I have been a huge fan of the Killzone franchise since the original PS2 title, so this limited special Helghast Edition of Killzone 3 is a no brainer for this list.   The Helghast Edition includes a 100-page hardbound art book, an exclusive DC Unlimited Helghast scout figurine, a special steelbook case, with codes for ingame unlocks and maps, exclusive dynamic themes, soundtrack, and most of all – it all comes in a highly collectible hand-decorated Helghast soldier’s helmet!  (Let it be known now by the way, that if I were to die, I wish to be buried wearing that helmet.   Creepy helmets for the win!)

1) LittleBigPlanet Sackboy Holder

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/LittleBigPlanet-Sack-Boy-Holder/8742541/

And finally number 1 on my list, is this amazing LittleBigPlanet Sackboy Holder.  Okay, so this is not actually a Collector’s Edition.  But it’s a collectible Sackboy Holder!  Just look at Sackboys happy little face!  Could you say no to Sackboy?!  Of course not, it’s Sackboy!

Also check out:

http://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/LittleBigPlanet-6-Articulated-Figure-Sackboy-Happy/8742538/

You might think I am obsessed with Sackboy – but I say, if you are human and NOT dead on the inside, then you would understand.  It’s Sackboy – ’nuff said.

And there it was, 10 amazing Collector’s Editions, that are all currently available (while stocks last) from my favorite shopping site.  Hope you enjoy the list and got some shopping ideas from that for christmas.

Now before I go let me leave you with a little question – are YOU a fan of Collector’s Editions?  What are some of your favorites, from past to present?  Feel free to drop me a comment and let us know!


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