the love of all things electronic.

What’cha Playin’? 12/12/16 — December 12, 2016

What’cha Playin’? 12/12/16

Over the weekend I was able to play a bit of Final Fantasy XV, though I didn’t make any story progress. Like usual, I pretty much just did side quests before getting frustrated at a specific fishing quest.

I played a ton of Garou: Mark of the Wolves, and got all of the trophies in it, though I’m still missing a few gallery items somehow. I’m not sure how to unlock them all, but I definitely want to. I’m hoping they’re just unlockable through normal play and that I’ll get them all with time.

Lastly, I started System Shock: Enhanced Edition, which is the first game in the series with enhanced controls and graphics. I’m actually really liking it thus far, I’ve made it through the entire first area, which is pretty huge, actually. In the year 2072, you play as a skilled hacker who hacks into a space station owned by the Trioptimum Corporation who makes high tech interfaces for human use, among other things. Instead of being punished for his crimes, a man states he can clear the hacker’s name, if he agrees to hack into SHODAN, the space station’s AI, and that the hacker will also be awarded with a military-grade interface. The hacker agrees, does his job, and then gets the interface surgically installed, which requires a 6 month recovery coma. After 6 months, the hacker wakes up to find everyone gone, the place overrun with cyborgs and mutants, with SHODAN having plans on wiping out the Earth. It’s up to the hacker to figure out how to stop SHODAN. It feels very BioShock-esque, which makes sense, seeing as Looking Glass Studios worked with Irrational (of BioShock fame) to release System Shock 2. Seems to me that Irrational picked up some tricks from their time with Looking Glass.

At any rate, it’s a good thing, because I feel the game has aged pretty well, aside from the crazy menu navigation. The story bits are told through audio logs you can find scattered around the ship, and messages from characters such as SHODAN. The game plays kind of like an exploration-shooter, almost like DOOM but with an inventory system and more complex puzzles, like hacking and the weird, Rez-style cyberspace you have to mess around in to unlock doors and things. It’s a really unique amalgamation of gameplay, but it works really well and is pretty fun once you get the hang of it. Enemies can be kind of tough, but you can find plenty of healing items if you scour every nook and cranny and play cautiously.

The atmosphere is fantastic. SHODAN is a fantastic villian thus far, whenever her creepy cybernetic face pops up saying things like “Go any farther and I will kill you”, it sends shivers down my spine. I’m really digging the cyberpunk setting, and I think I feel a new genre of games I want to play…

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These “What’cha Doin’?” posts are designed to spark discussion, so feel free to post in the comments what you’ve been playin’, watchin’, or listenin’ to lately.

What’cha Playin? 12/6/16 — December 6, 2016

What’cha Playin? 12/6/16

As you may have noticed, I beat Amnesia: The Dark Descent over the weekend, so I was able to write up a review for it, something I’ve been waiting to do since I created the Best Games Ever List, since Amnesia begins with A, and as such, is the first title on the list. Great game.

Also, another one of my favorite games ever (and yes, is on the list) got rereleased with netplay on the PS4: Garou: Mark of the Wolves. This is my favorite fighting game of all time, so I highly recommend it, and you can always read up on my review more details. I did do some slight editing to that page as well.

And of course, I’ve been chugging away at Final Fantasy XV. I’m on Chapter 6, and my characters are levels 48-46. I’ve been doing pretty much ALL of the optional stuff, and my current play time is around 40 hours. I’m still liking it a lot. During the long car rides in game, I’ve also been playing a bit of the original Final Fantasy as well, which works well since it’s a total grind-fest.

Did you know that Cyberphile has a Facebook page? Feel free to swing by and get our new posts in your newsfeed.

These “What’cha Doin’?” posts are designed to spark discussion, so feel free to post in the comments what you’ve been playin’, watchin’, or listenin’ to lately.

Final Fantasy XV – Other Mechanics — December 2, 2016

Final Fantasy XV – Other Mechanics

I talked a bit about story, characters, themes, and settings two days ago, and the combat mechanics yesterday, so I wanted to take a moment to talk about what you can do in Final Fantasy XV when you’re not advancing the story or strictly in combat, even though a lot of what you’ll be doing is combat, of course.

Final Fantasy XV has a sandbox component. When you’re going from quest to quest or outpost to outpost, you can choose to get there however you please. In order from safest to least safest, you can fast travel assuming you’ve been there before and have a measly 10 Gil to get there, you can hop in the Regalia, the car, you can rent a Chocobo, Final Fantasy’s flagship bird/horses, or you can walk. Walking from location to location can cause you to stumble upon monsters, but running away is pretty easy, and not tied to chance or anything like that; you simply have to remove yourself from the combat area. Since it’s tied to the story that you’re being pursued, you can also get attacked while in the car, but it’s far less common, and Chocobos move quickly enough to escape before enemies can make their moves.

Since you’ve got a sandbox, you’re welcome to explore. Throughout the land you can discover treasures, ingredients for Ignis to cook with for the party for important (and sometimes necessary) stat boosts, campgrounds to rest at free of charge, dungeons containing powerful weapons for Noctis and his special ability: the Armiger, or simply shop and explore towns. There are a veritable TON of side quests, but only a handful of them are truly unique, and they’re all basically fetch quests: go here, get this, come back. Likewise are your main source of making money: Hunts. Hunts are bounties that you can go on to kill some trouble-making monsters for some money and an increase in your rank as a Hunter. The harder Hunts can only be taken on by higher ranked hunters, so you’ll need to rank up to take them on. Whenever you get into town, a restaurant can show nearby points of interest, offer you food to temporarily boost your stats (and it’s usually a pretty big boost, mind you), and offer you hunts. Restaurants are kind of like a base of operations. Though sidequests can get tedious, the rewards and experience gained from doing them makes them continue to feel important.

Nighttime is especially dangerous, especially for the low leveled, as daemons come out to skulk about, and they’re no pushovers. If you absolutely have to travel by night, keep moving. This makes the resting mechanic useful not only to spend your experience points (as EXP accrued is only added to characters after resting), but to advance the time.

There’s something about the world of Final Fantasy XV that draws you to it, and it might sound strange at first, but hear me out… The world of FFXV reminds me a bit of Hyrule and Termina, the worlds of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, respectively. You kind of feel like you’re on this grand journey, but everyone is kind of going about their day in their own way. Locations feel not like they were specifically made for the player, but for the residents of the world. Riding a Chocobo takes me straight to excursions of riding with Epona, and the characters that have their own business go about it seemingly without a real care in the world. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the world of FFXV is it’s own living, breathing world, complete with tons of things to find and do. It has this sort of charming quality that the overworld of LoZ has about it, and seems to do it well.

I’m hoping to get some serious play time in this weekend so I can talk about it more.

Final Fantasy XV – Combat Mechanics — December 1, 2016

Final Fantasy XV – Combat Mechanics

I’m having a great deal of fun with Final Fantasy XV, and yesterday I talked a bit about the story, characters, themes, and settings, so today I thought I’d talk about combat.

The first real difference FF fans will notice is that combat is no longer turn based. Like FFXIII, you only control the main character, Noctis, while the rest of the team will do their own thing unless you command them otherwise. (I’ll be talking about  the PlayStation controls, so just keep your Xbox equivalent in mind) While in combat, holding circle will cause you to attack repeatedly until you stop holding circle, and likewise, holding square will cause you to dodge all incoming attacks with a quick teleport out of the way, provided you have the MP to do so, which drains slowly while square is held, and a little quicker when a dodge must be performed. You can also tap square to dodge out of the way manually. Annoyingly, sprint is also mapped to holding circle, so I’ll often be trying to sprint out of combat to regroup, only to find Noctis attacking the nearest enemy again. R1 locks you on to an enemy, but it must be held instead of toggled, though I’m sure there’s an option in the menu to switch that. If you press R2, you can pause time to bring up your item list. Tapping triangle will perform a warp-strike, provided you have the MP to do so. Noctis will throw the currently equipped weapon at the locked on target (or in whatever direction you please if you’re not locked-on) and teleport to that location. The farther away Noctis is from the target, the more damage the warp-strike will do, and you can even target specific body parts of enemies in an attempt to break them, doing good damage, and putting them in a state of Vulnerability, dealing extra damage and preventing them from attacking until they recover. If you take too much damage in battle, you can hide behind structures as denoted with square to restore your health and MP, or you can hold triangle, provided there’s a point-warp nearby, usually a vantage point where Noctis can hang by his weapon out of danger, provided he has the stamina to do so, and the enemies don’t have ranged abilities to pick him off with. Teleporting to a point-warp location will instantly restore your MP as well.

If you run out of MP in combat, you will no longer be able to warp or dodge for a decent amount of time in what is known as Stasis. Over time Stasis will wear off, but it’s best to just keep an eye on your MP gauge, and point-warp or take cover before you run out. Managing your MP is a major key in combat.

Sometimes during combat, an enemy will wind up for a big strike and the square button will flash onscreen. If you fail to block this attack, you’ll take heavy damage, but if you do manage to, you can quickly press circle afterwards to parry. Better yet, if a teammate is around (and they often are), they’ll often help out for even more damage with a link-strike, which not only looks cool, but makes you invincible for the duration of the animation, which can be useful in a pinch.

Another key to victory in combat is the Blindside mechanic. If you attack an enemy from behind, you’ll get a boost in damage known as a Blindside. Again, if a teammate is around, they’ll perform a link-strike. Circling around your foes to land more effective attacks and reading when they’ll counterattack is important to get a hang of as quickly as possible.

Pressing L1 brings up skills for your teammates to use, one for each of your buddies. These abilities are super useful, and can be used at will assuming you have enough of the link bar (I think that’s what it’s called) filled up. The link bar maxes out at 3, and each skill costs 1-3 bars to use. That said, using them typically makes you invincible for the duration of the animation, and can usually be followed up with an extra strike if it’s an attacking skill.

Final Fantasy XV is very lenient with dying. When you or a friend lose all of your HP, you go into into a state of Danger, where you can no longer perform any actions except using items and limping away. Going into Danger lowers your maximum HP permanently until you rest, eat, or use an elixir of some sort, and while in Danger, your Maximum HP will constantly deteriorate. A buddy can help you recover from Danger, as you can with your friends, which removes the Danger state, but your maximum HP will stay lowered, and your current HP will be around half of your new lowered maximum. Alternatively, a quick potion will also remove the Danger state. While in Danger, you can still be attacked, and if you lose all of your maximum HP in your Danger state, you’ll die. However, if you have a Phoenix Down on hand, you won’t get a game over, always giving you a second chance. If Noctis dies without a Phoenix Down, it’s game over, but if you win a battle and everyone except Noctis is dead, they’ll all come back with about 1/4th of their maximum HP. Maximum HP lost via Danger does come back slowly on it’s own, but resting, eating and elixirs will restore it immediately.

It seems like quite a lot, but it makes for a fun battle system. There is also a wait mode which pauses time when standing still, if you’d prefer to plan your attacks more. More FF stuff tomorrow, surely.

What’cha Playin’? 10/6/16 — October 6, 2016

What’cha Playin’? 10/6/16

As I progress in BioShock 2 hard mode, with my Drill/Plasmid/Hack Tool only run, things only seem to be getting easier. More perks and research bonuses means more damage output, and more Adam means more powerups and useful Plasmids. I’m making good progress, so far.

I’m also picking at Final Fantasy Tactics, and as always, having a blast with it. I love making parties and powering up characters in that game.

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These “What’cha Doin’?” posts are designed to spark discussion, so feel free to post in the comments what you’ve been playin’, watchin’, or listenin’ to lately.

The Platinum Demo – Final Fantasy XV — April 29, 2016

The Platinum Demo – Final Fantasy XV

After reading Game Informer‘s May cover story on Final Fantasy XV, I got interested to finally try the Platinum Demo that came out around a month ago. I downloaded it while playing a few rounds of Rocket League, then I dove right in.

In the demo, you still play as the main character from Final Fantasy XV, Noctis, except you’re in his dream, and in the dream, you’re playing as a kid version of Noctis. A dream creature named Carbuncle (although you can name him whatever you like at the end of the story) guides you through the dream, communicating in text messages to Noctis’s phone. The beginning areas get you familiar with the controls and you move and jump around a rocky, forested environment. You can collect orange crystals along the way, and collecting enough of them gives you access to plates that are spaced around the areas. Stepping on these plates once unlocked do a variety of things, such as change the weather, switch the time of day, give you items, tease some of the summons you’ll see at some point in Final Fantasy XV, or even transform Noctis into numerous vehicles and animals. Depending on the time of day, you may get a different item or transformation from a plate, so experimentation is encouraged.

About halfway through the first area, your guide, the furry little Carbuncle alerts you of enemies up ahead and gives you some weapons to defend yourself, namely a toy sword and a squeaky hammer. The toy sword is quicker to swing, but the hammer hits harder, so it’s simply a matter of preference. You can bind each of your weapons or items to the D-pad. The enemies are known as Nightmares, and they don’t really pose much of a threat. They have a basic slash and a projectile, but they don’t really try to gang up on you. They’re about your size and look kind of like strange blue frogs. In combat, holding circle attacks continuously, while holding square causes you to defend, enabling you to auto-dodge, if the attack permits it. You can also tap square at any time to dodge in the desired direction. You’ll find items that you can use as spells in the game, like fireworks and thunderbolts, requiring you to aim them by holding down circle. While aiming, you’ll see their area of effect before tossing the item.

After the beginning area, things get a little more open, as the next area places you in a house, except you’re about the size of a mouse. You’re free to explore this large room, transform into a car or truck to move more quickly, knock down a block castle (if you want, and let’s be honest: you DO want to), and collect crystals before moving on the the next area, fighting Nightmares along the way. During the majority of this demo, I was heavily reminded of Kingdom Hearts, with the dreamlike fantasy settings, small shadow-like, bright colored enemies, and even the controls, movement, and attacks. I think fans of Kingdom Hearts will really enjoy the demo.

After you make it through your tiny escapade, you’re placed into a city square with plenty to do, including a plate that lets you respawn enemies at will, fighting indefinitely, if you want. Here you can transform into a number of creatures, a large giraffe-like creature with horns, a tusked-buffalo, and an alligator (or crocodile, sorry, I don’t know my lizards) with wings. Once you’re done in this area, you’ll move on to the final area of the demo.

The final area appears to be the city streets of Noctis’s home, Insomnia. Walking forward reveals a giant iron demon with a huge sword appearing, and for this short-lived part of the demo, you transform into Noctis in his adult form and are given real weapons and a fire spell. The demon can be tough, and it actually reminded me of a Dark Souls style boss battle, where being greedy will certainly get you into trouble, and that you need to learn the tells of enemies to be fairly successful. The toy weapons and items prepare you well for the real deal, as the control is all the same.

After you’re able to down the enemy, you’re free to watch the ending cutscene, or you can spawn the creature again, this time much more powerful than the last. This time however, Carbuncle gives you the ability to teleport with your smaller sword, enable warp strikes, and sticking to pillars and street lights to get out of the monster’s reach. Part way through the fight, Carbuncle will also give you access to the Armeger, a number of magic swords that float around Noctis, enabling him to attack with each one, kind of like a super or limit break attack. This fight is much faster paced with the ability to warp and the increased threat from the beast, but really shows what Final Fantasy XV will be capable of once it release September 30th.

I hope that they keep up the good work with Final Fantasy XV, as I really don’t think the Final Fantasy brand can really take another bad game. I’ll be on board at release, just as I was when XIII came out (ugh), but here’s hoping I’ll get a better experience than I did with XIII.

Final Fantasy Tactics (BGE) — February 6, 2016

Final Fantasy Tactics (BGE)

My Final Fantasy Tactics review for the Best Games Ever list is now live! You can read it from the Best Games Ever list, or by clicking here.

Here’s a preview:

Final Fantasy Tactics is a wonderful spin on the Final Fantasy series that spawned a few “sequels” (although I use that term lightly, as the stories are not connected to this original) that were also quite good, but not exactly what I’d call “Best Game Ever” material. I played this game A LOT growing up; it was one of the games in my dad’s collection that he never really touched, so I wanted to see what it was all about. Little did I know that this game would engross me enough to make many of my own pen-and-paper style RPGs with my collection of assorted dice for years throughout middle and high school. I never actually finished any campaigns, and even if I did, I never really had friends that would play them with me.