Hope County, Montana – Your Next Location for Far Cry

With all the excitement of Destiny 2 announcements in the past week, it’s been hard to even think about anything else. That is, until today… Ubisoft dropped a quick teaser on their YouTube channel for Far Cry 5 that captured my interest. The official announcement trailer is set to be released this Friday, May 26th. The new location is a pretty big change considering the past locations in the game. The rumors are flying over on the /r/farcry, so be sure to grab a bucket of popcorn and check that out. I, for one, will be tuning in on Thursday for the announcement trailer.

Horizon Zero Dawn: A Work Of Art

Guerrilla Games, developers of the hit game series, ‘Killzone’, certainly outdid themselves on this one.

Horizon Zero Dawn boasts all of the great qualities of an awesome action role-playing game — a vast, beautifully designed world to roam, a customizable character, and a wide variety of quests.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Aloy takes down a corruptor

Purple mountain’s majesty

The art in this game is simply unbelievable.

Gamers will cross vast expanses of mountains, desert, swamps, and plains and explore everything from marvelous cities with buildings towering overhead. At one point I remember thinking, “Is this game designed to look like Arches National Park in Utah?” To make the art even more awe-inspiring, loading only occurs while fast traveling between campfires.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Tallneck

Horizon Zero Dawn: Aloy overlooks the desert

General gameplay

HZD presents the player with a few categories of character traits to upgrade: Prowler, Brave, and Forager. Making a decision to focus on one yields benefits late into the game as leveling up becomes harder the longer you play. In the early game, I focused on the Prowler category, adding to the others only for skills that I really wanted. For instance, the Brave category has a skill which lets you load multiple arrows before shooting. This worked out well because there are more than a handful of quests that demand sneaking in the bushes to approach prey.

In close combat, Aloy uses only a spear. That spear doubles as a tool which lets her override machine. When overriding a machine, the machine becomes mountable or fights against other machines.

In ranged combat, Aloy learns to wield a variety of bows that are categorized by several traits: damage, tear, handling, and elemental. Damage is pretty obvious to anyone who has played an RPG — damage inflicted on impact. Tear represents Aloy’s ability to tear components off of machines (which grants the player more experience). Aloy reloads weapons faster that have a greater handling rating. With some weapons, Aloy inflicts elemental damage — ice, fire, shock, and corruption. This is useful in fighting machines with elemental weaknesses.

The main story

There’s no shortage of adventure availabe in this hunter-gatherer story. Armed with only a bow and a spear, Aloy must be precise to survive in this post-apocalyptic, machine inhabited world.

As we guide her through the story, we uncover new skills, better armor, and a plethora of new weapon options which will aid her in the journey to uncover the truth about her birth and the future of her people.

To be frank, I think the ending is a little bit predictable from about 65% completion, but it certainly doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable.

Side quests galore

If the main story wasn’t enough, there are hundreds of side quests and errands to choose from. If you’re like me, you can’t stand the idea of having many open side quests at once, so you quickly divert from the main plot.

With many hours of play waiting in side quests, I found myself disappointed to reach the level cap before the end of the game. When you combine that with the completion of the Shield-Weaver armor quest (an armor which absorbs all damage inflicted to Aloy for a short period of time), any remaining side quests quickly become obsolete. That being said, you should definitely still get the  armor.

Creating your own errands

Despite the maximum level cap, one thing that I really liked was the ability to create your own “errands”. In other RPGs, Players must remember which items require which components to craft. There’s that armor that I need one silver ingot to craft or the poison which requires hogroot. By the time I find the missing piece, I forget that I needed it for that special item so I use it on something else. Not a problem in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Finally, here’s a video showing a little bit of the gameplay (I’m wearing the Shield-Weaver armor and taking down a Thunderjaw). Enjoy!

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Back sometime in 1994, I remember seeing a commercial for a video game that was funny, but didn’t showcase any of the game. The more and more I saw it (I watched a lot of TV), the less interested I was in ever trying it. The following summer my cousins mentioned this game by name as a game they couldn’t stop playing and couldn’t wait to show me. I remember telling them about the commercial and how I didn’t think the game seemed that interesting (what a jerk, right?). The game they introduced me to was Final Fantasy VI (released as Final Fantasy III) for the SNES. Here is the commercial:

This was my introduction to JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games), and I could not have been more hooked. I spent an entire week with my cousins playing this game, enamored with the story, the characters, the combat, the weapons, the spells, the music, and the depth one game could have.

Because of how much I enjoyed it, this game led me to its follow-up, Final Fantasy VII. I purchased any game magazine that had any bit of information about it, and just like I do today, studied all of the screenshots in-depth an eagerly awaited its release, a date I’ll never forget: 9.7.97.

I was always excited when a commercial aired for it on TV. I bought a promotional tabletop stand-up cardboard cut-out (I still have it) and posters. It was the first time I can remember being this excited about a video game.

Being this excited, though, I wasn’t sure if the game could live up to the anticipation. Thankfully the game was amazing. I spent the entire weekend playing and finishing the game because I just couldn’t put it down, and I would go on and replay this game a ridiculous amount of times. To me, Final Fantasy VII is the best in the series.

As much as I have (mostly) enjoyed the Final Fantasy games that have followed, I always enjoy going back and playing Final Fantasy VII. It wasn’t until I had played Final Fantasy X that I (and probably most fans) wished we could have a graphically improved Final Fantasy VII to enjoy it even more.

Then …

Technical Demo and Remake

At E3 in 2005, Square Enix showcased a technical demo to demonstrate the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 3. However, instead of using footage from the then in-development Final Fantasy XIII, they treated fans to the opening sequence of Final Fantasy VII. Watch the video below.

This demo was so well received that fans immediately started wondering when the game would be re-released in HD. Many of us had hoped that after the release of Final Fantasy XIII (and it’s two sequels) were released, Square Enix would finally give fans what they had been asking for.

Sadly, an HD release wouldn’t happen, and it wouldn’t be until E3 2015 (a whopping 10 years later) that Square Enix decided to unveil a trailer of Final Fantasy VII Remake for the PlayStation 4 and XBOX one. Watch the trailer below.

(I still get goosebumps watching this)

The remake of the game is more of a re-imagining of the game and not just an HD version. While locations, characters, and storylines from the original will most likely be used, it is unclear how many elements will be kept.

The latest image release, calling back to one of the more iconic images to promote the original game.

This seems like a giant undertaking and potentially a risky move on Square Enix’s part to alter what is arguably the (or one of the) greatest Final Fantasy games.

With as excited as we’ve been since this trailer, there has been very little information provided.

What We Know So Far

Details have been scarce ever since the E3 2015 announcement, but here is what we know.

Voice acting

The most recent announcement came from Steve Burton’s Twitter account. Steve is the actor who has provided the voice for Cloud Strife in various properties, most notably Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (side note, I feel like you should only watch this movie if you’ve played the game) and his tweet confirmed he was doing voice work for Cloud again, and just last month.

The original game did not have have voices for the characters, and some fans are a little unsure how this will alter the game. It’s hard to image a game of this size with today’s standards not having voices for the characters, and I for one am glad there will be consistency between the properties.

Combat System

The original releases combat system was Active Time Battle (ATB), meaning the fight time continued while you were selecting each character’s next move, but you would have to wait for each character’s turn.

The more recent combat system of Final Fantasy XV has you focused on controlling each move of the main character and setting combat preferences for others in your party, which allows you and the AI to attack your enemies at once rather than having to wait for turns.

From the demos shown so far, it appear the Remake is moving more towards the Final Fantasy XV combat system. Without having played any of it so far it’s hard to say if this is for better or worse, but I’m optimistic. Tetsuya Nomura recently unveiled an image of the combat system stating that he’s “put a lot of attention into the combat system, and it’s going to happen without interruption.” (via Gematsu)

Some will immediately notice that the enemy in the picture is the Scorpion, the first boss you fight in the original game!

Three Games

It has been said that the Remake will span across three separate games, each of them will most likely have their own release date.

It is unknown if the story from the original is being split up into three games, or if each game will tell a different side of the same story, much in the same way Final Fantasy XIII was.

I’m wondering if they will expand upon the story from the original game’s timeline. Or, I wonder if they’ll add in the events that took place from the end of the game to the events of Advent Children?

Systems

The game will initially released as a PlayStation 4 exclusive with a later release date coming for the XBOX One (similar to what Rise of the Tomb Raider did, releasing n XBOX One first then PlayStation 4 a year later).

Release Date

Sadly, no release date has been announced, and while I don’t think this is a possibility, 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of the original Final Fantasy VII, so maybe the first release will be available by the end of the year (fingers crossed).

What Can We Look Forward to at E3 2017?

Nothing is confirmed, but this fan is hoping for some big unveiling. At E3 2016 Square Enix primarily focused on promoting (the somewhat disappointing to me) Final Fantasy XV, and they stated all other projects would not be shown so they could focus their efforts.

Recently game Director Tetsuya Nomura stated in an interview (via Gematsu) that he hopes to show off the game at an industry event sometime in 2017. We’re hoping that the event will be at E3 2017.

Are you excited about the Remake, or hoping to see something announced at E3? Let us know below.

World of Warcraft Legion Patch 7.2 – The Tomb of Sargeras

While I’ve been play World of Warcraft since it’s early beta (over 13 years!!), the Legion expansion has been one of the better additions to the game. The class hall campaign, personal artifacts, and world quests have kept things interesting since last August. The most recent patch 7.2, has some exciting tweaks that I’ve been waiting for.

Back to the Broken Shore

The Broken Shore
The Broken Shore zone

The expansion sends us back to the Broken Shore, the setting for the first scenario that we experienced when we started the Legion expansion. Now the Broken Shore is a new zone for exploration, some limited questing, and a source for new world quests. For folks pursuing the Pathfinder 2 achievement the Broken Shore is a must (more on that later). The zone feels dangerous, with pockets of different demon groups around a blasted landscape. There are a ton of named mobs that require a group to put down and a new set of chests to uncover.

Demonic Assaults

Along with the new zone patch 7.2 brings demonic assaults to four of the five original zones in the Broken Isles. The assaults feel a little bit like the incursions that heralded the launch of the Legion expansion but they are a little more complicated. To push an assault back you start by entering the zone where it’s going on. If you’ve opened up World Quests with the character then you’ll get a quest to stop the assault. You can then engage the Legion forces in several areas marked on your map. Once you’ve completed four of these events (which play similarly to World Quests) you’ll then get a quest line of about three or four quests. Once you complete these, you’ll be able to queue for a scenario whereby you complete another series of demon-busting events culminating in a fight with a demon commander. The whole event gives some good loot, great resources, and completing one is part of Pathfinder 2.

Armed to the Teeth

The Fist of Ra-den
The Fist of Ra-den – almost complete…

The patch also ups the item level for gear. Legendary items now max out at 940 and World Quests which were previously capped at 850 are starting to offer higher levels for their completion. Dungeon bosses and raids have also gotten a bump. In addition, the personal artifact that you’ve been lovingly enhancing gains some additional powers that have to be unlocked with a quest line. Once you complete the quest your original artifact abilities look a little different as well. This was a little shocking for me at first but looking things over the power level looks like an overall boost.

Now We’re Prepared

Illidan, Khadgar, and Balgash
Illidan and I are tight.

One of the more interesting aspects of the patch to me is the redemption/acceptance of Illidan Stormrage. Illidan was the big bad guy from the Burning Legion expansion, the first expansion for World of Warcraft. We had been following Illidan’s back story as we progressed through the Legion expansion but, seeing him put an end to Gul’dan at the end of Nighthold was particularly satisfying. Now he’s an NPC helping both the Alliance and Horde put a stop to the Legion once and for all.

I Can Fly!

All of the previous talk about the Pathfinder 2 achievement lead to the biggest positive about patch 7.2. Flight is now available on the Broken Islands (including the Broken Shore). The Pathfinder achievement was lengthy but hopefully you worked through. If not, get to work on that. Pathfinder 2 isn’t nearly as long with only four achievements needed to unlock it. You need to get to revered with the new, Armies of Legionfall faction, explore the Broken Shore, complete all of the achievements of Pathfinder, and complete one of the Legion Assaults mentioned above. There is some current chatter that the Legion Assault completion isn’t required anymore, but I needed to complete it for completion.

Now to to work on my class mount so I can fly in style.

Mass Effect : Andro-meh-duh

 

We Thought We Found Hope 

When Bioware introduced the original Mass Effect 10 years ago, the video game world instantly fell in love with the choice based narrative and amazing cinematic spectacle. Awesome Gamers everywhere were eager to take control of their own custom Commander Shepard and go soaring across the galaxy, saving the universe and getting it on with aliens! The game’s sequels, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, would only serve to improve upon the weakness of the game – namely the combat – and fortify it’s strengths – doubling down on the consequences of choice through the Paragon and Renegade story arcs. Bioware was praised for it’s brilliance, and the fan base grew loyal and strong. So, when  Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced at E3 2015, the crowd went wild! As time went by, more of the story was unveiled, along with screen shots and videos to whet the public’s appetite for space exploration and other worldly flirtations.

The timeline for Andromeda places it somewhere between Mass Effect 2 and 3, so instead of playing as Shepard, who is somewhere on the other side of the galaxy making all the tough choices, you play as one of the Ryder twins, Sara or Scott, as they discover what it means to be a Pathfinder, all while searching for a new planet for humanity to inhabit, fighting off a new alien species, and navigating tough intergalactic relationships. If it seems like a tall order, that’s because it is. Bioware isn’t a stranger to tall orders though, as this is the company that gave us Dragon Age, Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, and Baldur’s Gate, after all. So needless to say, fan’s weren’t worried, and the expectations were peaking. Unfortunately, it was due to those very same high expectations that fans felt they were let down so bad.

But There Was No Life Out There…

Let’s get something out of the way first, and come to a common understanding: the facial features need a lot of work. I know this. You know this. Thanks to the internet, everybody knows this. And thanks to the internet, we found out before the game was even released. So that’s a “check engine” light going off on the dashboard before the car even approaches the starting line. Red flag. Whatever, I already pre-ordered it, and I’ve played games with worse. Besides, you can always put a helmet over fugly. I brushed off the bad face memes and just went to watch more special ability videos on Youtube. Even though the faces looked ugly, these special powers look Nasty with a capital “N”, so I’m still in.

some examples of the female faces from the custom character selection

When release day came, ugly or not, I was ready to strap on some N7 armor and save the galaxy. I went with the pre-loaded Sara Ryder, opting to save my custom create-a-character for the “New Game Plus” feature on my second run through, with fingers crossed that Bioware would have patched up the faces by then. I wasn’t too worried about it, I was more hyped up for the combat anyway. Unfortunately, combat would have to wait, as the game forces me to wade through roughly 30 minutes of dialogue and interaction before I ever even get to pull a trigger. I honestly wouldn’t have minded so much, because there really is an interesting story buried in Mass Effect: Andromeda – awaking from a coma after traveling light years in space to find a new home, watching your father perish right before your eyes as he sacrifices his life for yours, adopting the mantle of Pathfinder and shouldering the hopes of humanity, and discovering the dark secrets of a new alien race: the Kett – there’s some real good stuff here. However, the problem is, it’s just not put together well.

A major part of story telling is HOW you tell the story. Whether or not you’re able to convey and connect with your intended audience. After a while, I was able to look past the sub par faces, but I still wasn’t able to fully connect with the game due to another fly in the ointment: the voice acting. It’s not that the game was voiced terribly, it’s just that coupled with the already bad facial animations, it created this huge emotional disconnect in the game for me. The lip movements wouldn’t sync up with the audio; the facial expressions didn’t convey the same tone or emotion as the actor’s voice, there was even a moment when the audio cut out altogether for a cut scene. It’s little things like that, these bugs and glitches, that kept pulling me out of what should have been a fully immersive space opera. It’s hard to care and to get lost in a game when it keeps stuttering and bugging out. At one point in my play through the game bugged out so badly that I lost all visibility on the planet I was on. I thought it was a loading issue, so I left the planet and came back, but there was still nothing to see. I ended up turning off the game and just walking away. When I came back to try again later things were working fine, but it’s things like that that take away enjoyment from the game.

The Search Continues…

Yes, there are things to enjoy in this game: the combat, for one. When I finally got away from dialogue wheels and cutscenes, the combat that I experienced was fantastic! The graphics, for another. Despite some poor choices in facial animations and character modeling, the environments and space itself look magnificent. The star systems are beautiful and vast, and the sense of awe is ever present in the design. It’s just unfortunate that the game lacked the cohesive polish that it needed to deliver a perfect package, worthy of being a contender for game of the year. There is so much to do here in Andromeda – a universe to discover, relationships to foster, drama to unfold – that it all just collapses under it’s own weight. If this had only been a new IP, like “Ryders In The Sky” or “Twin Galaxies”, and not Mass Effect, than it wouldn’t have been so bad. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The Mass Effect name carries with it a legacy of great storytelling and meaningful character arcs that really draw you in, however, Andromeda completely dropped the ball on this one.

Imagine it like this: You have a special Love in your life, and for this Love of yours you’ve planned what is promised to be, not just an evening of dinner and roses, but an experience you’ll both remember for a lifetime! You’ve been building the anticipation, sending picture clues of what the night has in store. A bottle of champagne. Rose petals on the table. A picture of the plate settings, the fancy china and the polished silverware. Is that a salad fork? Damn right it is, we’re getting fancy tonight! But as soon as you’re sitting across the table from the Love of your life, and you start to pour the wine in her glass, you realize that this magical moment has now become a Mylanta moment. “Buuuurp!” Not exactly the sweet nothings you were hoping of whispering, but oh well. You both laugh, because Love is like that sometimes, and you carry on with the evening. But it’s not just a one off incident. “Baby, do you know amazing you look right now – BURP!” “Ever since I met you, my whole life has been – BURP!” “Nuh-uh, You’re the best. No I’m not, You -BURP!” You try to get down on one knee to propose -PFFFT! More laughter is elicited, for sure, and the love you share is still there, undoubtedly, but the evening, for all intents and purposes, is a wash. Fun was still had, to be sure, because that’s what Love does, finds that fun in all the flaws. However, it wasn’t what it was supposed to be. It wasn’t what was promised or expected. It just wasn’t magical, just meh.

And that’s what Mass Effect: Andromeda is, a game filled with promise and expectation. A night alone with our Love that we had been promised, with our exceptions already high from the memories of what came before, to have them lifted only higher still with hype of what was to come. But what we got wasn’t a polished, pure, perfect expression of love – we got a bloated, gassy, glitchy expression of love. Fans of the game series, and those who truly Love Mass Effect are able to see beyond the flaws and just appreciate the game for what it is, because underneath the rough edges there still is a really good game here. I know I’m still playing the game, despite the glitches I’ve faced. But that’s just it though: because of those glitches, the game is just good. It’s not magical. It’s just meh.

Bioware has listened to the feedback however, and announced that they would address all the major issues, even listing out what would be tackled first on their patch notes. Whether it is enough to revive interest in Andromeda and save the game from going the way of No Man’s Sky is still too soon to tell. But Bioware, and Mass Effect fans everywhere, haven’t given up hope.

i wrote a Haiku for Mass Effect:Andromeda