07 August 2017

Love/Hate #13 T.I.M.E Stories Expedition Endurance *spoiler free*

A very brief review of T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition Endurance, sans spoilers this time for a change.

Image result for time stories expedition endurance

It all feels very different, from the very start. Even the briefing is handled differently.

The characters are hardy enough but each have small little advantages unique to them. Closer to the Asylum level of difficulty in character choice, while Marcy-PoD-Mask being stronger than these/more focused probably.

There are a number of unique mechanics and cards/events tied to them in this scenario, which really refreshes the run, fail, run again etc. of the others. I like that they're starting to invert the same old formulas.

Plot-wise there is a good bit there. If you are any way savvy in the themes it uses it may influence how you handle certain situations. However it wasn't too obvious about it in most instances - there was a trend in PoD and UtM to show a good/bad situation on the card and do the opposite for gits and shiggles, usually at player and fun expense. Not to mention TU. EE has a good few narrative building cards that you may end up ignoring on the subsequent runs but do add plenty of flavour.



This was certainly one of the harder more recent scenarios. The unique mechanics and certain tests will brutalise you and they do it so simply. It's a lean, mean scenario and was refreshing to run through 3 times until we beat it. There was none of the misery of PoD in doing subsequent runs, it was like Under the Mask - refreshing and new each time you play. If you kept failing, then it may get tedious for sure.

Run time - for us it took about 4 hours, with a good bit of chat but plenty of strategising and discussing what the next move was. Lots of decisions and stuff to be made, making tie breaks necessary. They definitely looked at everything that made T.I.M.E good and started fresh with a great new scenario.

New ranking w/ EE added:

Marcy Case
Asylum
Expedition Endurance
Under the Mask
Prophecy of Dragons

This is probably the way I'd rate them for now. If PoD was still good that just means the rest are even better. PoD was "here's 4-5 different routes to the end with different templates on them" but still managed to be good. UtM and EE bring so much freshness to the series but Asylum and Marcy still loom large, even if the latter has that one big issue built into it - it can never really be played again. All of them can't really be played again but Marcy is the most like that! Here's hoping for more scenarios soon.

07 July 2017

Age of Wonders Editor Necut PART 1

I have made the same-ish world map in Age of Wonders editor over the last decade and a half. Necut was created in 2001-2002 for a write-a-book project and has evolved a lot since then. These changes can be seen in the editor.

The Evolution of El

As the base of the Elven civilization and my own personal stake in this fantasy world, it actually hasn't changed that much:


2005. Lots of roads and samey forests.


2006. Noticeably unfinished compared to previous one.


2008. 'Necut1' way more complete and the shape if pretty much set.



2017. Note the Skagrak on the east cast and the smaller size to accommodate the rest of the world getting bigger. Still working on this right now.


The Evolution of the World Map

This reveals the biggest changes in the design of my world:


2005. Interesting how North Omera is entirely wasteland, while Frostica is completely covered in snow. Lacour, the small green ball in the centre probably changed the most over time.


2006. Little details start to creep in but not much has changed. Branch started to change in the east to be straight while the Omeras are no longer completely wasteland.


2007. A feckin revolution, Lacour and Terra Nova/Branch changed the most. Lacour is now very large and has a realistic Sahara-like desert in the west and centre. Branch and Terra Nova are now fused together with a gigantic Himalaya-esque range where they meet.




2008-2010. As was developed in Leaving Cert and beyond, the place starts to look a little more realistic and the map is actually playable from different angles.


2011. Laccai emerges on the west coast of Lacour. No Scoutja on the north pole to allow for more strategic warfare, note all the rivers. I learned some lessons from playing Deroman's excellent Napoleonic Wars. Also south coast of Kalousa no longer desert. The Skag'rak emerges as the final Elven island.




2012. Scoutja is back on the north pole. The player roles are starting to settle. Lacour as Humans (Blue) and Omera as Azracs (Orange) as they are traditionally allied in the setting.


 

2017. The emphasis now in the AoW version is less on the actual accuracy of the map to what is set in stone but what will be fun to play in AoW. Sweeping warfare, grinding sieges, naval transport and raids; a big bad AI player in the caverns.



26 May 2017

Yu-Gi-Oh! Decks built thus far out of old collection and some new pulls:

Main Dragon Deck (Blue Sleeves)
Nephew's Deck (White Sleeves)
Blue-Eyes Dragon
Water
Fire
Dark
Exodia
Low Level
Insect
Machine

16 May 2017

May update

S'all good here!

17 April 2017

Love/hate 12 T.I.M.E Stories Under the Mask *spoiler-tastic*

I played the Ra priest who could lock an automatic success the whole way through and Ger played the soldier dude; Dave played the scribe and changed on one run while Donal played the healer and changed many times.

We scoped out the boat and acquired the transfer device, allowing us to change characters mid-game. There are two characters here but we opted to press on, leaving the boat behind for this run.

I think we went to the streets first, then the military barracks followed by the temple. We scoped out the dyer's market later. A villa was revealed on the map and led to a number of encounters.

Our second run was equally good for revealing more locations but much like the first run we had nowhere near enough time to complete it. We more or less found everything you possibly could and occupied all but one or two vessels (the priestess, the soldier and the other version of the servant girl).

The third and final run was the quickest, at about an hour or less. We chose a slightly less optimal path but ended up only losing a small bit of time before we had everything we needed to make a run for the end. The puzzle at the end was quite easy and the final encounter was even easier. It did the Prophecy of Dragons thing where what seemed like a tough encounter or two is not what it seemed. I had the mask ad the poison so was able to glide toward the tomb and the mission was accomplished.

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The original four characters are pretty great but some of the ones you pick up later are better in some fields, the artisan when improved has the best dexterity and the servant girl has great charisma. The initial guard guy is great strength-wise and can hand-wave many encounters from happening. The priestess of Ra I controlled has a nice auto-success and the ability to buff allies was very nice too. Healer priest had a hefty TU price-tag which would be good if combat were a factor but there were very few fights in our runs.

This was much better than Prophecy of Dragons. It felt somewhat fresh each time and was not as frustrating to run through again. I'm really looking forward to Expedition Endurance now. Being able to transfer between characters was excellent.

Probably ranking them:

Marcy Case
Asylum
Under the Mask
Prophecy of Dragons

If you reverse that order it's probably how replayable they are. PoD is the most pick your own adventure like and can be grinded through like five different ways while the Marcy Case is pretty much spoiled forever. I've forgotten quite a bit of Asylum so would not remember the optimal path and the same goes for UtM. I hope EE tops them all from what we know thus far.

23 March 2017

March update

2 exams at start of May, better study for those soon. Course was very good on balance.

Theo almost 5. Will be a nice weekend at end of month.

Currently playing: nothing, no time for vidya. Played a few emulators.

Itzacon soon maybe hopefully. Will probably do Saturday only. Warhammer probably wrapping up soon.

Finally acquired employment, 5 mins from house. That's it!

Got back into Yu-Gi-Oh! cards a bit and the Abridged series a lot. Stopped watching it years ago (2011?) glad to see only 20 episodes have been released since then. What's next, watching Zexal?

Wrestlemania: nice to see Jim Cornette will be presenting part of the HoF and also Kurt Freaking Angle being inducted; might even tune in to the event itself somehow and catch the Goldberg/Shane-AJ/Undertaker/JeriKO matches.

Fleetwood Mac doing farewell tour 2018? Will have to go when and if they're in Dublin.

01 February 2017

Love/hate 11 Final Fantasy IX spoilerish

Super fun entry in the series, cutesy look but dark at times story line, probably more so than VIII, X and XII. VII could be pretty dark at times but this one is surprisingly more adult at times. I took a ton more screenshots this time around compared to the FFVIII review.


Plot

Like VIII in that it has a super tight plot in disc one which is superlinear and then it unravels a bit and the pace falls away after that. The war on the Mist continent is done quite well but after going away to the Outer Continent things slow down a bit in some ways. I did not even realise I had advanced into a new disc as it is all one big game on Steam. I’m used to changing the discs after certain epic scenes.

I loved all the characters in the FF games I have played so this is no exception. Zidane is a great main character, cheery and an apparent ladies man, a refreshing change from the others. The supporting cast all mix together well and have their various goals and get a good bit of screen time, though as usual this wanes toward the end of this long game.

All the characters are based off classic FF job classes, Zidane being a thief, Dagger the leading lady as a Summoner and Steiner (above) a Knight. I love using the four fighty characters, while I generally leave the four mage characters behind.

Unlike VIII which kind of tapers off into silliness toward the end, IX is pretty strong throughout plot-wise. You visit most places two or three times throughout the story and there is always something new going on and the locations change as you move through the story, some places are destroyed and the NPCs move along with the plot and so on.

Soundtrack

Not as good, though some brilliant ones in there. Many of the tracks have the same basis and tend to be the ones I don’t like while I really enjoyed the ‘unique’ tracks like Treno, We Are Thieves!, Cid’s Castle Theme, Pandemonium and Memoria and more. Some were based off earlier games but updated for this. Thankfully I didn't need any Roses and Wine app to fix the music as in VIII, the music here is perfect, if not even better.


I would probably put this after 7,8,12 for sure… not sure about 10 as I haven’t played it in a few years. This was the last of the pure Nobuo Uematsu soundtracks and apparently he was getting worn out and uninspired at this point but after doing all the prior soundtracks I can’t blame him.

Appearance

This one always looked pretty good, despite the ‘deformed’ appearance of everybody it looks great. The Steam version perhaps looks even better than the original, I approve of the remaster, as opposed to 8 which did not look quite as good (lots of pixelated shite).


Gameplay/mechanics

No Junction system here, and a return of arms and armour. Weapons and armour and add-ons each have an ability or sometimes a spell that can be learned off them after you acquire enough AP. Once you have the requisite amount of AP you learn the skill off and can change to a different weapon or armour if you wish and learn something else or just equip what’s strongest. It’s very satisfying to search for them as you progress through the game and each new piece of equipment you buy or find may add a new ability. Here's me after beating the timed boss fight versus book early in the game:


Combat is super simple, each of the eight main characters has two special command abilities - Zidane has Steal and Skill. The former is simple - steal stuff off enemies, with bosses having the best stuff. Many bosses you may stall fighting to death so Zidane can steal from them. Only a few have ridiculously low drop rates, the infamous Hilgigars and his Fairy Flute comes to mind. Zidane’s Skill is stuff like Flee! Which allows you to flee battle easy for a small price as opposed to manually by holding the shoulder buttons. Some commands are classic ones like offensive Black Magic and support spells in White and Blue Magic while others are very interesting and powerful too - Amarant’s Throw is great, fling a weapon at an enemy for ridiculous damage or Freya’s Jump allowing her to temporarily leave the screen and jump back into battle moments later with a Spear attack.


I try to level everyone as equally as possible, and there are plenty of story reasons for doing so, with the party splitting up regularly enough until later in the game. By that point I usually use Zidane, Amarant, Freya and that combat beast, Steiner, continuing my shunning of Summon Magic and trying to find ways around healing. Vivi’s Black Magic can be insanely useful for the first half of the game but fades away to just Attacking the enemy later on. You can use Auto Reflect or whatever and cast spells off that back at the enemy for double damage but you can also attack with four characters in a few seconds and do way more damage.
I never managed to beat Ozma, but I fought him for the first time. That's 0-3 to the super bosses of Steam FFs I have played; I couldn't beat Omega in VIII or Ozma here, while I will replay VII on Steam soon and see how I do against Ruby and Sapphire and so on. Seeing as I can't really be bothered to level up *that* much it may be a wipeout.


Side quests/mini games

I tried something different and played the Chocobo Hot and Cold to the death for the first time ever, and it was pretty good! I powered through it as made use of the Steam speed boost while playing it to squeeze as much of that mini game into a few play sessions. I cannot imagine what it was like to play at the slower speed but I guess the rewards are somewhat worth it.

The card game in this is pretty terrible, having no clear rules and being largely chance based. I made sure to grab any cards I could find and made sure to win the 'mandatory' card tourney halfway through but that was about it. It doesn't hold a candle to Triple Triad BUT Tetra Master looks good at least and unlike Triple Triad there are no insanely powerful items to be made from the cards so avoiding it doesn't matter.




In conclusion: The most 'fun' FF, the bombastic opening scenes are fun and the first disc railroads you nicely around the first continent but things slow down a lot after you leave there. Nice characters pretty tight interactions no one is wasted though as usual some of the quieter characters in your party get relegated to quick time events. Some of these are quite good and some even give you items but unlike Star Ocean 2 (which desperately needed its version of QTEs) they add very little. I kicked Hades around and easily beat Necron this time, as opposed to when I barely survived with one person left on the console.

Bonus: