Storming the Castle
This morning I admit that I have been struggling to figure out what to write about. It is not from a lack of material, but a conscious effort to filter myself. Last night I leapt over a content wall in Final Fantasy XIV and it was quite possibly the best dungeon experience I have had since first stepping foot into Deadmines back in 2004. It was so over the top amazing, that it is hard to put into words much about it because quite simply I do not want to ruin the story for anyone. Square Enix has somehow managed to capture all of the magic of Scarlet Monastery, distill everything that made it fun… and then amply that and unleash it onto the world. The dungeon design is vastly different than anything else I have seen in Final Fantasy XIV to this point. On one level it almost feels like a kung fu action movie, where you are deluged with impossible odds yet somehow manage to hold things together enough to keep moving forward. The fourth dungeon in the game is now the pinnacle of “storming the castle” experiences for me.
What makes it so amazing is the fact that the dungeon is set up by some truly phenominal storytelling. By the time you reach this point in the story arc, you feel like righteous avengers off to save the day. I had been stalled on this dungeon for awhile, but had been holding back doing it so that I could do it with a full guild group. Kodra managed to get caught up last night, and the two of us entered with two others that were gleeful in keeping silent about the tactics of the dungeon. Somehow we made it through, and our raider instincts kicked in enough to keep us from doing anything too stupid. It is funny how those instincts are now fairly universal regardless of what encounter a game throws at you. Final Fantasy XIV does an excellent job of messaging things you should avoid or at least take note of… and when it down… get the hell out.
So Many Sads
Does this picture not just break your heart? This is the saddest Bel I have ever seen in this game. So not only does it excel at giving you moment after moment of excitement… it can also manage to punch you in the gut when the story turns in a sad direction. Things happened… things that made us sad, and the game is doing an awesome job of letting us know it. Not to mention me the person behind the screen was effected by these events too, so it feels reassuring in a way to see my on screen facsimile struggling with the events as well. I cannot expound upon just how amazing the experience of Heavensward has been so far, with the storyline from last season picking up and continuing where we left off. I call it a “season” because really that is what it feels like. The original 1.0 launch was Season 1, A Realm Reborn was Season 2… and now we are entering the Third Season of this really awesome television show… where I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next. It is a game like this that makes me feel like a game can both be engaging and deeply narrative at the same time. I feel like I am telling the story… more than I usually do in a story driven experience. Sure the story is happening to me… but I identify so completely with my character.
The thing is this feeling we are having is apparently completely intentional. The above quote is from a ZAM video interview with Yoshi P from E3. It is very clear that he feels like he is stilling one large episode of the same story, and as a result all of the little elements and people that you meet along the way have a lasting importance. Just because you go several levels without seeing someone, does not mean they will not show up at some point in the future. The characters in this world have their own destinies and do not just support that of the main character. Everyone has an agenda and are given the latitude to shift in and out of the focus of what we ultimately view as the “main story”. Ashgar and I were talking for a bit last night and he made the comment that there is enough story content in here to make an actual “traditional” Final Fantasy game. Thinking about this I absolutely agree and in many ways this sort of storytelling that we are experiencing is the same sort of storytelling we saw in Final Fantasy VI for example… where characters shift in and out of your party but you are constantly moving forward towards an end goal. This time we the player character are the constant in a world that is constantly changing around us.AggroChat
AggroChat 63 – There Came an Echo Show
Last night we recorded the sixty third episode of AggroChat and the fifth AggroChat Game Club game show. This time around it was Kodra’s pick a quirky voice controlled story driven RTS called There Came an Echo. My experience was vastly different than the rest of my co-hosts, but it seems that pretty much everyone other than Kodra and Tam had some measure of technical difficulties with this title. For example Thalen, Ash and I were all missing significant UI elements during our play throughs. Several of us had to content with moments when the game seemed to just stop accepting voice input commands as well. I however had the most issues with the game constantly crashing on me. There was no point when I was able to actually load anything without the game going unresponsive and having to hit the “wait for program” button in the hopes that maybe just maybe it would wake the hell up and start working again. As I said I was the only person who had issues quite that severely, and I am hoping that maybe this is just a bad patch as they recently rolled one out.
The positive however is it has good enough story and voice acting to make me futz with this game for two hours trying to make it work for me. During the course of they show the folks that did manage to beat the game exposed all the spoilery content and I got enough of a feel for how the story goes that I really want to see it play out. At the very least I am planning on watching a play through, and preferably one without much streamer dialog to preserve as much of the voice acting experience as I can. The one I was watching for a bit yesterday kept talking over the character dialog… which kinda ruined the experience. This game feels very much like a tech demo with good story and voice acting… and I would love to see this same level of effort taken and expanded into a more traditional game experience. Sure this voice control thing is somewhat neat, but I hate talking to devices. Devices like the Amazon Echo, Siri and even my own Google Phone experience are lost on me… because the last thing I want to do is talk to my device to have it do something for me. The voice control was deeply awkward for me, but your mileage may vary… Kodra and Tam both seemed to enjoy it greatly.
Source: Tales of the Aggronaut
So Many Sads