fEidolon

Recently I’ve been hearing more and more statements about the polarization of the Final Fantasy series. In particular how fans of the series are more likely to passionately hate and love various titles in the series and the high likelihood that there isn’t a fan out there that likes them all. It definitely makes sense given how radically different each entry in the series tends to be.

I definitely fall into that former category as I hate some entries in the series (VIII) while loving others (X, XII) and today I can safely add another title to my hated FF list: Final Fantasy XIII. I really tried to like FFXIII, but there are so many flaws and inexcusable design decisions that I honestly think that XIII is by far the WORST Final Fantasy game (main series) ever created.

Woah, the worst in the series? Seriously?

Yes. Most definitely yes. From the criminal pacing of the first 4 hours, to the stale characters, to the pretentious names of Fal’Cie & l’Cie, to the horrific item management/upgrade system, to the HUGE STEP BACK from XII in combat, to the steep jumps in difficulty for certain encounters, to the unforgiving and piss-poor designed Eidolon battles I’ve had enough of this pathetic entry into the Final Fantasy series.

After finishing up Batman Arkham Asylum I felt that I owed it to myself as a fan of pretty much all things Final Fantasy that I should give XIII one last shot to make sure that I wouldn’t regret setting it down. I ground out some crystarium points and was able to get past the bombs that had previously proved impossible to down quickly enough and proceeded to run into yet another wall, this time comprised of fortified concrete: Vanille’s eidolon battle.

What a piece of shit encounter. First off you’re not given a choice on who to bring in to the battle, you must use Vanille and Fang. I like neither character and thusly when I first encountered Vanille’s eidolon I had over 80k+ CP unspent on both of them. Obviously I was destroyed this first time considering that you’re not given a chance to adjust equipment, paradigms, and spend CP prior to battle unless you’re retrying it.

After numerous failed attempts where either Vanille would die or I wouldn’t build the gestalt meter enough before running out of time I have no more motivation to keep playing through XIII. I’m sorry Square, you’ve failed … miserably. I guarantee that had the title not been graced with the name Final Fantasy very few people would have even bothered getting more than 5 hours into the game.

There are just so many better games out there and I refuse to waste my valuable free time on piece of garbage. I seriously hope the team that is inevitably working on XV take a long hard look at Mass Effect 2 and reflect on what made XII and X such a great game. (Ironically XIII was developed by mostly the same team responsible for X, my favorite in the series)

Oh well, looks like I can safely return to Mass Effect 2 now.

Celestial

Let me just come straight out and say it: “Yes, I will be buying the celestial steed for both myself and my wife.” Well, I should clarify that I will be purchasing them once my wife and I come back to WoW. There’s no reason to buy them right now while we’re still on hiatus from the game.

WOAH! Wait. Hold on. Did I just say that?

Holy fuck, I did … and you know what? I’m not sorry.

Now before you scoff and call me a hypocrite, I didn’t actually rail against “micro” transactions in WoW in my post, Value. Sure, I did state multiple times that I felt that $10 was far too much for an in-game non-combat pet and I still feel that way.

But the Celestial Steed is $25, how could you possibly think the mount is worth it?

I admit that $25 is a pretty steep price for a virtual vanity mount, but LOOK at it! It is damned sexy and the fact that is BoA and scales with your riding skill makes it worth it. Had it been a one-use mount, then yes I would be crying from the mountains about how much ActiBlizzard was attempting to rape its customers. Sure, it is a money-grab and might have been orchestrated by Darth Kotex, but you know what? I’m okay with it … now.

Wait. Wait. Hold on. Did I? Did I just say that?

As long as these “micro” transactions stay purely for vanity I don’t begrudge Blizzard for “printing money.” No one is being forced to buy these virtual goods and they’re not yielding any in-game benefit (other than looking freaking cool atop the steed). You have to realize how much risk is involved in the video game industry, especially with how expensive it is to develop quality games. We’ve come to the point where development costs so much money that there’s a lot of risk of not getting a return on your investment.

But Blizzard makes millions of dollars in profit per month from WoW subscriptions alone!

I’m sure they do, but Blizzard makes more than just World of Warcraft. Just think about how long Starcraft 2, Diablo III and the unannounced next-gen MMO have been in development. Add in the costs of running ALL of Battle.net which supports Starcraft, Diablo II and Warcraft III at no additional cost to you. Let that soak in a moment. We’re talking about games that have been out for over a decade which still have FREE online play and support. Just think about how much that has cost Blizzard over the past decade. Then think about all of the R&D that is going into the new Battle.net experience coming with Starcraft 2, again at NO COST to you.

Okay, I guess you have a point … but, but but …

No. There is no but. In order for Blizzard to continue surviving in this market and put out the quality that they do on their time schedule they need to have lots of money in their coffers to fall back on. Remember that Starcraft: Ghost game that was axed? That was a lot of money that Blizzard wasted and I’m sure there are plenty of other projects that we don’t know about that never saw the light-of-day. If they don’t bring in money, they can’t reinvest it into other projects and put the necessary time into them to put out the quality products that we love.

Now if Blizzard was putting out the annual drivel that Activision typically does then we’d have reason to lambast them, but they’re not. Blizzard has grown to be a huge company that puts very few products out to market compared to other companies their size. That’s not a business model that typically survives in this climate, especially when answering to stockholders. By selling these virtual products Blizzard is able to write checks to green light projects and, most importantly, take their time working on them.

So while Blizzard just made millions of dollars today, realize that a good chunk of that is going to be reinvested in quality products and services for us.

Lamentaclysm

Let us all bow our heads in silence in remembrance of the uniqueness of the Death Knight. No other class could tank and dps within the same tree and come Cataclysm, no class will ever again. I can understand the retcon on the DK design given how many headaches their balancing issues have caused, it’s just a shame that it had to come to this. Yet, I’ll attempt to be positive about this and embrace the decision to go with a dedicated tanking tree.

There’s only one issue, with this change my preferred dps tree is now a tanking tree and my preferred tanking tree is now a dps tree. My DK’s world has been turned upside down and torn asunder! When I do return from my WoW-hiatus I have a couple of decisions to make: Do I learn to tank in blood now or later? Then once I figure that out, do I switch to unholy dps or remain blood until Cataclysm? I’m not a big fan of frost dps, so post-cataclysm it appears that unholy will be my only option for dps. @.@;

Anyhoo, I did promise to be positive so let’s look at the bright side of having a dedicated tanking tree. No longer will I have to lust over great tanking talents in blood and unholy, they’ll all be in the blood tree. I’m sure the frost tanking talents will have to go through some “re-flavoring” to fit in the blood theme which will be interesting. Having a dedicated tanking tree will also benefit healers as no longer will there be 3 different flavors of DK tanks; they’ll have a better idea of what to expect with a DK tank.

We’ll also have less confusion on how to setup our tanking builds with not being of two minds in our talent selection. For some reason it was always odd that I would have to dump lots of points into pure dps talents to get deep enough to pick up pure tanking talents in the frost tree. There’s only one issue that remains with the presences … will blood presence become the tanking presence? Or will Blizzard rename them to be in line with warrior stances, just with a death knight flavor?

So many questions, so little answers.

Add in the change to the rune system and there’s a lot to digest all at once. It’s almost causing me perpetual indigestion. I’m sure things will shake down and all will be well for the Knights of the Ebon Blade, but for now it’s a little hard to see the forest through the trees. I have faith that it’ll all work out and if things do end up out-of-wack, it’ll get fixed at some point. Wrath has been a roller-coaster for DKs and for once I think the devs will finally get the class balanced in Cataclysm.

Now where’s our monk? I’d love to have a cloth-wearing hybrid class that can heal, tank, or dps.

Ninjaclysm

Don’t look now, but this might just be a WoW-related blog entry. Is the world ending? Is the Cataclysm coming? Yes, folks, the end of days are nigh. At least in Azeroth as we used to know it. Not only is Blizzard changing the landscape of Azeroth, but they’re changing how we’ll be playing our classes … well at least somewhat. Now don’t fret, I’m not going to go into detail of the nine class change teasers released this week, there are far better sites out there for that analysis. I will, however, in a series of posts offer my opinions and takes on the changes that affect the classes I play: rogue, priest, mage, druid, and death knight.

As a short aside, I think Blizzard’s “world friendly” release schedule for the teasers was horrible. Releasing teasers at 11:58pm PDT? C’mon Blizzard.

Rogue Ninja

Anyone else disappointed with the rogue teaser? I am, especially considering the duplicity of statements of “rogues are too cooldown and stun dependent making them very binary in pvp.” So what do we get? More cooldowns -.- … Well, at least with more cooldowns we can try to not blow them all at once. But let’s be honest, other than the increased health pools and supposed armor increases to leather, we’re still going to be a very binary class in pvp. Our stuns are getting nerfed again which means we’ll have to blow combat readiness against melee or smoke bomb against ranged and then hope our increased yellow damage will be enough after nerfs to our white and poison damage output.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really like combat readiness and smoke bomb, but I was hoping for shadowstep to become a baseline ability. Recuperate may be able to provide us with some sturdiness in pvp situations, but we’re still completely reliant on cooldowns. We’re still going to get roflstomp’d trained when combat readiness isn’t up and vanish will continue to remain borked. But I digress, I don’t pvp with my rogue anymore so my pvp QQ is pretty much moot anyways.

Unfortunately we’re getting slightly tuned nerfed in PVE content as well. I’m cautiously optimistic that overall our numbers won’t change much, but the adjustments to Fan of Knives and Tricks of the Trade have me a little worried. Greg “Tiberius” Street can claim that neither adjustment is a nerf, but let’s call a spade a spade, they ARE nerfs.

Blizzard HOPES to allow us the ability to apply poisons to our ranged weapon, which likely means that it won’t be at Cataclysm’s launch, or ever. *cough*fixing vanish*cough* While having a ranged poison applier would be useful in PVP, we’re losing FoKs ability to apply two poisons in PVE. Not a huge nerf, but a nerf nonetheless, even if it is sound in its logic; it’s not called fan of swords/maces/axes/fists after all.

Then there’s the adjustment to tricks, one of the best utility spells we were given in Wrath. Sure, they’re happy with how well it has worked out for us, but they’d like to lower the amount of threat transferred. >.> Okay, maybe I’m over-reacting to this “adjustment” especially with the return of necessary crowd control in Cataclysm, but it has been a blast never having to worry about throttling my DPS (unless paired with an epic-fail tank). I’m sure casters have appreciated their ability to open up their arsenal from our threat transference.

Oh well. At least Blizzard has fixed our combo point problem when switching targets … once every minute. Seriously Blizzard? Couldn’t you just make the points stack on US instead of the target? Oh right, that might be too over-powered in PVP. @.@ Then again, I’ve become accustomed to how our combo point system works and haven’t had issues with it in PVE situations. It is entirely possible that I may never even need to use redirect, but I imagine there will be situations where it will be useful. Hell, I may even herald it as the ONE change made to our class that reinvented how we play … okay, I jest.

Not everything in the teaser disappointed me though as recuperate and smoke bomb will have huge impacts on how the rogue class plays while leveling and give us incredible group utility respectively. When I remember back to my days of leveling my rogue in vanilla WoW I recall having to eat and/or bandage every couple of mobs. While we had zero downtime on our ability to kill things, we had downtime on our ability to survive.

If you got more than one add while blind was on CD, it was usually game over. Now rogues will have a chance to live through some situations that we weren’t able to previously. We will have to wait to see what kind of HoT recuperate will provide and whether or not it will it will find a place in the new end-game, but for now it looks good on paper. Well, other than the potential to have healers completely shun us for heals now that we can heal ourselves outside of potions and bandages. Like we’re not shunned right now … ^^;

Smoke bomb underwhelmed me at first, but after re-reading the ability description I’ve grown quite excited about it. We’re ninjas now! Yay! or something … I only wish Blizzard had gone all the way with this and turned our subtlety tree in a pseudo-evasion tank tree. Now before you roll your eyes, there are precedences for evasion tanks in other MMOs and for a brief period of time in WoW itself. Sure it is counter to the direction Blizzard has been taking tanking in Wrath, but I’m not suggesting the ability for rogues to evasion tank end-game content. Although it was awesome to see rogues become physically unhittable in the Burning Crusade.

No, definitely not end-game content … but it would be quite cool if a subtlety rogue could “tank” normal dungeons and possibly easier heroics through the use of absorption shadows (ala the ninja’s utsusemi spell in FFXI). Absorption shadows are what I would have imagined shadowdance to be and given subtlety a completely different purpose. If I were to think this redesign out completely this is what I would envision:

It’ll never happen, but it would be damned cool if Blizzard did go this route with subtlety rogues. It’s not terribly overpowered and the % to dodge could be adjusted if +agility on gear does get out of hand, pushing a rogue’s chance to passively dodge too high. It’s impossible to become unhittable in Wrath, so I don’t think this would be an issue in Cataclysm, but you never know; with reforging it might be possible.

Again, I’m not suggesting to make rogues capable of tanking end-game content or harder heroics (well maybe when over-gearing heroics) but it would be fun as fuck to tank normal dungeons as a rogue. This redesign would also give subtlety rogues survivability in PVP without making them horribly unbalanced providing that Blizzard doesn’t substantially boost subtlety’s damage output.

Okay, enough dreaming …