Current Feelings on MMOs
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 April 2015, 10:00 am
MMOs are cool!  Right?  Well, I love the idea of MMOs but in the past few years I seem to have fallen out of love with them.  There has been so much sameness in new releases in the genre.  Not to mention the subscription fees or F2P models that just don't feel worth it.

That's how I felt until I picked up Final Fantasy XIV as part of my Final Fantasy Project.  It has brought me back to the world of MMOs.  It's designed in a way to incentivize playing through lots of content and helping out new players.  It's easily the most friendly community I've ever encountered in a MMO.  I'm consistently playing it and I'm super excited for the expansion in June.  I'm constantly amazed by how much new content and features the FFXIV team patches into the game.

The future of MMOs will be interesting.  I wonder if developers will continue to refine the same old systems or if there will be a truly breakout hit in a new direction for the genre.  I suppose only time will tell.

As always, drop your favorite links from the week below and share them with the community!


An InLinkz Link-up



Bloodborne
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 April 2015, 10:00 am

I picked up Bloodborne.

I don't really know why I did.  Well... yes I do.  I needed another game that I can work at a little each day while I'm on my exercise bike.  But what I meant is that I typically wouldn't pick it up since it's not my kind of game.

Bloodborne is brutally hard and I didn't enjoy the last two games from the same creator.  But, I watched some gameplay videos and could tell that this game controlled much better than those.  Bad controls were my major hurdle getting into the predecessors to this, so I thought I would give Bloodborne a try.

I'm really bad at the game.  I die a lot.  When I start to think I'm getting better I am constantly proven wrong.  But I keep coming back.  It's kind of mindless exploration and slowly getting better at the game.  At least I think I'm getting better.  It's really hard to tell.

I don't know if I like the game or not.  I keep playing it because it's something to do while I'm on my exercise bike, but I don't know if I could really recommend it.  It's not a game I would ever sit down with for a night and just play.  It's best experienced in short bursts for me.  It's filling a weird little niche in my gaming library, and I'm ok with that.

I'm playing Bloodborne consistently each day but I don't have strong opinions on it one way or another.  This is strange because typically I can get my head around a game very quickly.  I feel like very soon I'm either going to give up on the game entirely or it's going to finally click with me and I'll love it.


Legion and Legion: Skin Deep
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 April 2015, 10:00 am

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors.  His book vary in quality, but I like all of them on some level.  But his novellas are always amazing.  He takes all his worldbuilding ability and focuses it into the perfect little package.

Legion and Legion: Skin Deep are two of his novellas that I recently re-read and loved.

These are more modern than most of his other novels.  It's not sci-fi or fantasy.  The main character in Legion has an interesting psychological disorder where his skills manifest to him as imaginary people.  He doesn't have typical multiple personality disorder, he actually sees and interacts with his various aspects all the while knowing that they are imaginary.  He's found a balance that works for him and his aspects let me retain a ton of skills and abilities.

They great novellas and fantastic in audio book form since each aspect gets their own voice.  It truly adds a level of depth to the story when listening to it.

The two books in the series are available right now and I read them back-to-back.  I would highly recommend them to anyone.  I especially recommend the audiobook version of these.


Final Fantasy Record Keeper
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 April 2015, 10:00 am

Final Fantasy Record Keeper launched last week on iOS and Android.  I dug into it for a few days to see what it had to offer.  I was trying to see if there was much long term appeal in the game or if it was something I could let go of relatively quickly.

Like I said, it only lasted for a few days.  Then I had experienced enough to delete the game and move on with my life.

It's a free-to-play Final Fantasy nostalgia game.  The hook is that you get to relive many of the famous Final Fantasy scenes from across the whole Final Fantasy series.  You get to collect your favorite characters and make your dream party to fight battles with.  Find characters, collect gear, acquire new abilities, and level up.  It sounds great on paper.



Unfortunately, Final Fantasy Record Keeper is there to prey on your nostalgia... not to celebrate it.  It's much more forgiving than most free-to-play games.  I never felt like I had to buy anything.  And the wait times for energy to recharge weren't that bad either.  That doesn't make it a good game.

It's still free-to-play.  The production values are low and the gameplay is much too simple.  It doesn't take long to see all the mechanics the game has to offer.  After that you're just grinding through levels to try to unlock your favorite Final Fantasy scenes.  Honestly, a better use of your time would be to just look them up on YouTube.  Or you could always replay the original games.

Record Keeper becomes a time suck without much reward.  Even for someone like me who has played almost every Final Fantasy game... it felt hollow.

I keep holding out hope that Square Enix will make a mobile Final Fantasy game with high production values that doesn't have any free-to-play mechanics.  I love playing games on my phone, as long as they're not there to take advantage of me.  We'll see if that ever happens with Final Fantasy.


Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 April 2015, 10:00 am

This is an interesting situation.  I can continue my mainline Final Fantasy project... in demo form.  With the release of Final Fantasy Type-0 I was able to pick up the Final Fantasy XV demo.  It has it's very own title, Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae.  I have no idea what that title is supposed to mean, but that's ok.  It's about three or four hours of content and gives a taste for the systems and characters in the game.

The developers have said it's only part of the middle of the game and it's not taken directly from the story, it's been modified to become a demo.  It's also obvious that a bunch of things are missing since the game isn't done yet.

But, there's enough game here to get a feel for it.

I've played enough that I'm excited to see what the final game is like.  It's a reinvention of the series, just like every mainline game before it.  I've seen plenty of complaints online about the setting, characters, mechanics, you name it.  But in my four or five hours with the game I had a lot of fun.

The combat has some classic elements, like hp, mp, and abilities.  But, it's mostly action based combat.  I played the demo immediately after beating Type-0 and I liked it much more than the Type-0 system.  It definitely needs some refining, but they still have plenty of time before release.

I'm super impressed with the scale of this game.  The open world lends itself to huge enemies that you can organically encounter.  Not to mention the summon that you get in the demo.  It's one of the most epic things I've ever seen in a video game.

I'm not going to nitpick on any of the little stuff.  This is still a work in progress.  Things will get changed and refined before the launch of the final product.  This demo has me more excited for Final Fantasy XV than any other piece of promotional information I've seen about the game.

I have high hopes that it'll be great when it releases!  Now we just need to wait for it...

Final Fantasy Project Article List





"Retail Therapy"
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 April 2015, 10:00 am

Sometimes my wife kids jokes around and says she needs some "retail therapy" when she's going out shopping.  It's a running gag for us.

The other week I was sick and I realized that I actually do some retail therapy by browsing Amazon.  I don't usually buy things without thinking about them for a really long time... but something about browsing Amazon is comforting.

And it's just browsing too.  I'm not actually buying anything.  I'm just clicking on related items and seeing if there's anything out there I haven't thought about.  Usually I'm browsing electronics, video games, and board games... but who knows where the related items will take me.  Often, I'll end up with a new set of board games in my wishlist.

Anyway, I didn't buy anything, but I browsed for awhile and had fun.  I never browse in stores so it's kind of strange that I'll browse on Amazon.  Does this happen to anyone else?


Mario Party 10
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 April 2015, 10:00 am

The Wii U in my house has become a family console.  It started as mine, but now it's definitely ours as a family.  My kids play it more than I do, and I'm fine with that.  It's really cool to see my 2 year old and 4 year old playing Mario together.

Because my daughter uses the Wii U often, she sees all the ads Nintendo distributes to the console.  She just had her first game that she was excited to wait for the release date.  If you couldn't already guess, it was Mario Party 10!

As a parent, it was really fun for me to watch her get excited for a game release.  I know the feeling of being the one excited for the game, but it's really fun getting that enthusiasm by proxy through her excitement.

We've been playing it almost every day.  Every member of the family has gotten involved.  Sometimes my kids sit on the couch and play together, sometimes it's one of them and one adult, sometimes it's all four of us.  It's so much fun to have a game that we can all get invested in!

My wife and I have even discovered a new level of difficulty in Mario Party.  It's called, "Try to make the 4 year old win despite her erratic play style and the unforgiving computers"  Granted... we could work on shortening the name of that difficulty level, but I find it fairly descriptive.

If you look at the reviews for this game you'll see that it's derivative, with nothing new to offer, and not worth your time or money.  Those first two might be correct, but in our case it was definitely worth our money!  It's fun to get so much enjoyment out of a game that critics have already written off as "bad".




Ongoing Fun
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 April 2015, 10:00 am

I was sick the other weekend and I got a chance to just sit down and consume some media I've been meaning to get to.  I finished up the latest episodes for two Telltale games.  Both Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands.  I also caught up on the two Star Wars comics series that I've been keeping up with.  That would be the Leia and Vader series.

I thought about writing posts for each of these things, but I realized I'm just generally having fun with them.  I don't actually have any new insights or interesting thoughts about them.  They're all still good and I'm going to keep up with them until they're complete.

Do you have anything that you keep up with as it releases?  Anything that you just enjoy and plan on continuing to enjoy as more of it becomes available?  I know TV shows are this way, but it's interesting to see some video games moving to this format too.




Negativity
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 April 2015, 10:00 am
I know negativity is rampant in the online community.  I don't know how much I have to say about it, but it's our topic of the week so let's see what I can come up with.

Generally, if people are being negative online I simply refuse to interact with them.  I don't waste time being angry with people on the internet.  I just shrug to myself and move on with my day.  They aren't worth my time.

I try not to be negative on this blog.  If I ever come off that way it's not because I'm trying to rip apart the media I'm interacting with.  It's because I process a lot of my media thoughts through writing about them here.  If I don't like something I usually write about it to find out why I don't like it, not to just bash it.  I hope my thought process and my interactions with media help you make good decisions with your time.  I write for me, but it's nice to be a useful resource too.

How do you guys deal with online negativity?  Ignore it?  Try to correct it?  Interact with it?  I'm curious.

And, it's Friday once again!  That means it's time for another link-up.  If you came across any interesting posts in the last week, or wrote any, drop them in the link-up below (You'll have to click through if you're reading via RSS)!


An InLinkz Link-up



Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 April 2015, 10:00 am

Continuing along the Star Wars Legends timeline, the next novel is Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor.

It's actually kind of a weird book in the timeline, it was published in 2008 but all the other books that happen around this point in the timeline were written in the mid-1990s.  It's definitely shoe-horned into the timeline after the fact.  Because of this, it doesn't contain anything that has a large impact on the surrounding novels.

It's a decent book, but it's not great.  It's definitely doesn't contain key events in the overall Star Wars Legends timeline.  It's another story of Luke Skywalker's coming to grips with his Jedi powers in the New Republic.  He starts investigating an imperial remnant faction that is being controlled by someone with Force powers.  Slowly, all our other Star Wars heroes get involved until Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, R2D2, and C3PO are all there as well.

It's a fun little story, but it's also easily skippable.  This is one of the Legends books that I never read the first time around and I never felt like I missed anything of importance.  So, while I liked the book, I recommend steering clear of it unless you're a Star Wars die hard fan.  There are better Star Wars books out there... and we're almost to them in the timeline!

More Star Wars Legends Articles




Friday Link-Up: Superheroes
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 April 2015, 10:00 am

Superheroes!  Link-up!  Superheroes Link-up!

Feel free to drop any of your favorite links from the last week into the link-up below.

But today, our theme for discussion is Superheroes!  I've never been a big comic book guy, so I don't have a huge encyclopedic knowledge of Superheros.  Most of my Superhero knowledge comes from the 90s Superhero TV shows I grew up with, videogames, and friends who know more about them than I do.

That being said, I love a good Superhero movie.  Marvel has been knocking it out of the park lately and I've been eating it up.  They've had some misses along with their hits, but movies like The Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier show that they're on the right path.  I'm super excited for the next Avengers movie and I'm really curious to see what they do with Ant Man.  The Marvel movies are helping me get a new appreciation for superheroes as a genre.

I've been less impressed with the DC movies, except for the latest Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.  Those were amazing.  I think I've watched all the other DC movies and none of them had a big impact on me.

What I would really like is a new twist on Superheros.  I loved the premise of the show Heroes that was on NBC a few years ago, but that show got hit brutally by the writers strike and never truly coalesced into what it could have been.

I think Superheroes as a genre is just waiting for someone to come along and reinvent it.  We'll see how things pan out.

As always, drop any of your favorite links from the last week below.  Whether it was something you found or something you wrote, we'd love to have it as part of our Link-up!


An InLinkz Link-up



Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 April 2015, 10:00 am

I might get flack for this... but I didn't enjoy this book.

I know it's classic.  I know a ton of people say this is their favorite book.  I know it's supposed to be hilarious.

I thought it was pretty dumb.

Ugh.

I read the entire thing.  I stuck with it.  I really did.  I wanted to like this book a lot but in the end I couldn't.

I don't want to try to analyze and pick it apart.  I just needed to get this little complain-fest out of my system so that I can move on.

I'd actually be really interested to hear what people like about this book.  Please, if you disagree with me, leave a comment and let me know why.  Does this series get better?  Is there a different book of his that I should try reading?

Seriously, help clue me in.  What's the deal with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?  Why is it so loved?


The Last Colony
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 March 2015, 10:00 am

The Last Colony is a great book by John Scalzi.  I've read it a bunch of times but I just re-experienced it in audiobook format for the first time.  It's a really good audiobook too.

The Last Colony is part of my favorite Scalzi series, the Old Man's War books.  It's a universe where humans are colonizing, aliens are generally upset with us for doing so, earth is treated like a military recruitment center, and super-humans are green.  I can't do the setting justice, but I can say it's one of my favorite book series ever.

I highly recommend The Last Colony.  If you're interested in the series you should probably start with Old Man's War but you can feel free to skip the second book and move right into reading The Last Colony.  It actually provides a much better paced story if you skip the second book, Ghost Brigades, and jump right into The Last Colony instead.

There are so many cool sci-fi things in this series.  I don't want to spoil any of them by giving you plot information though.  I'll leave you with this... If you are a Sci-Fi fan you absolutely owe it to yourself to pick up Old Man's War and get acquainted with this amazing series.


New Posting Schedule
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 March 2015, 10:00 am
If you haven't noticed, I've been on a bit of a post streak.  I started posting every day sometime in December and I kept it going for about four months.

It was a really good exercise and I had fun doing it, but in the past week or so I've felt like I can't quite keep up the pace.  I don't want writing to become a chore, because I really enjoy it right now.

So, I'm going to try moving to a 5 day per week post schedule.  I've noticed that my posts on the weekends don't get read as much anyway, so I'm going to try to aim for a post each weekday.  Except for April 1st.  No one takes anything serious on that day and it's right around the corner.

Anyway, I'm giving myself permission to skip posting on weekends if I don't feel like it.  You might still get 7 posts per week, but I'm not going to hold myself to it.  We'll see how 5 days per week feels for me going forward.

That's it for housekeeping.  Expect a return to your normally scheduled programming tomorrow.  And thanks for reading my writing!  You guys make it fun to keep posting!


New Star Wars Canon Timeline
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 March 2015, 10:00 am

Oh my god.  It's so tiny.  Look at that new canon timenline.

Just compare it to the abridged version of only the novels for the Legends Expanded Universe.


I'm having trouble letting go of the old Expanded Universe.  Can you tell?




Final Fantasy Type-0 Wrap-Up
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 March 2015, 12:54 pm

I finished up Final Fantasy Type-0 last night!  As always with Final Fantasy spin-off titles it was really interesting to see what they did with the game and where they differed from normal.

I think the best thing they did with Type-0 is making it a mature game in a way that no other Final Fantasy game has been before.  Within the first few minutes you see an actual tragedy of war.  Death and being mortal are huge themes throughout the whole game.  And death often happens brutally, with blood.  Blood may not seem like a big deal in a game with war, but there is rarely any blood in a Final Fantasy game.  I'm surprised by how much weight it gives to the injuries and death in this game.

The themes and the story in Final Fantasy Type-0 are the strongest parts.  I loved watching the members of Class 0 develop together as the story progressed.  By the end of the game I felt a connection with each member, even though there are 14 playable characters!  The developers made it work somehow.

The counterpoint to this is the combat... it's not horrible, but it's not great.  After the first couple hours you will have seen everything the combat system has to offer.  The game is only about 15 hours long for an initial playthrough, so it's not a huge slog through the game but I was pretty tired of combat by the end.  It's basic hack n slash action-oriented gameplay without much depth.  You can assign a couple abilities to the face buttons on the controllers and that's it.  There are much better combat systems out there if that's what you're looking for.  Despite the combat, it's a good game.

It took me about 15 hours to beat Type-0 but the game is definitely set up for multiple playthroughs.  I can tell that the story would feel different a second time through, knowing what I now know.  There are big revelations at the end of the game that change how you look at things.  I also suspect that there are new missions and cutscenes on subsequent playthroughs.  Luckily, there's a New Game Plus option!  You can pick up right where you left off with your character development while taking them through the game again.  I love New Game Plus options in games, I wish they were more prevalent.

I'm glossing over many of the imperfections that exist in this game.  They're there because it's a port of a handheld game originally made for PSP.  You could nitpick a ton of things that result from this, but I had fun with the game overall so I'm not going to.  Just keep in mind, you're not getting a game built for the PS4 from the ground up.  This is a handheld port.  You have been warned.

I'm trying to think who I would recommend this for and I'm not entirely sure.  I like the game as a complete package, but I can't endorse it on any one aspect alone.  I suppose if you're a Final Fantasy fan you probably know whether or not you'll get it.  If you aren't a Final Fantasy fan chances are good that you're going to skip the game.  Like I said, I had fun with Type-0 and that's what matters to me.

There's a secret ending buried in the game that hints at a sequel.  The online community is already calling it Type-1.  After playing Type-0 I would definitely buy that game.  That's a pretty solid endorsement from me.  I liked Type-0 enough that if they made Final Fantasy Type-1 I would buy it day one, no question.

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Link-up Fridays
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 March 2015, 10:00 am
My friend, B.J. Keeton, has been doing Link-ups on Fridays for awhile now.  They're a really cool idea.  Basically, you embed the linkup code on your blog and let anyone submit a relevant link.  It's like a curated list of articles for the week, but both writers and readers of articles are submitting their favorites.

This past week he pointed out something interesting to me.  You can use the same embed code on multiple blogs and have it all contribute to the same Link-up.  He asked if I would be willing to try it out with him and I jumped at the chance.

So here it is!  My first Friday Link-up.  Check it out below.  Submit any link from the past week that you think other fans of this blog might enjoy.  Anything geeky, video gamey, exercisey, whatever.  We're not going to curate it and pull links out.  If you think it's cool and want to share it with the community then feel free to drop it in the Link-up.

And if you're interested in joining our Link-up and embedding the same code on your blog just let me or B.J. know and we'll get you involved!



An InLinkz Link-up



Final Fantasy XIV: Low Level Magic
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 March 2015, 10:00 am

I played to level 15 with all three magic classes.  Later, these classes evolve and split off into more than three jobs once they reach the job stage at level 30, but all Discipline of Magic jobs stem from these three classes.

Level 15 is a key point in Final Fantasy XIV because it's the point at which you can use the Duty Finder to automatically find groups and run dungeons.  It's when the game really picks up and becomes much more fun.

Dungeons are one of my favorite parts of the game and they also give great loot and experience.  I would much rather level via dungeons than via grinding out Leve Quests.  And that's what I've had to do while getting these classes up to 15.  Lots of Leve Quests.

Actually, under level 10 isn't too bad if you do your class quests and your class hunting log.  It'll generally get you to level 10 without too much grinding.  But leveling from 10 to 15 is a slog.  That's where Leve Quests come in.  Unfortunately, Leve Quests don't add much variety.  Any one Leve Quest vendor will give you the same four or five quests over and over.  The quests scale to be the optimal difficultly and experience... but going through the motions of the quests is exactly the same every time.  It's an efficient way to level, but it's not a very interesting one.

Right now I hate levels 10-15.

That's my basic methodology... do class quests, do hunting log, then do Leve Quests.  I got all three of these classes up to 15 even though it took awhile.  One of the benefits is that I can now start getting rid of low level gear in my inventory.  More importantly, I'm excited to start running dungeons as these classes.

But what have I thought about the actual classes up to this point?

Arcanist

Arcanist has been my favorite of the three magic based classes.  I thought I would like the Scholar job and this is the class that leads to it.  It has a mixture of damage over time (DoT) skills and healing abilities.  It also has a sweet summonable pet.  Arcanist is the class that leads to the Summoner job, so that makes sense, but it's cool seeing that the Scholar gets summons too!  This is the class that I'm most excited to level up beyond level 15.

Conjurer

I went into Conjurer expecting to not like it.  It seemed like the boring start to the White Mage job.  I was wrong.  Conjurer is actually really fun.  It's a combination of elemental attacks, healing, and damage mitigation.  The damage mitigation really sets it apart from Arcanist in an interesting way.  I liked my time leveling this class to 15 and now I'm intrigued to see how it plays with groups in dungeons.

Thaumaturge

I like DPS classes a lot.  I always have.  My main job is a Bard, which is a ranged DPS, and I love playing as it.  This is a ranged DPS caster and I thought it would be a great fit for me.  It is not.  I can't seem to get my head around the correct spell rotation or how the class abilities work together.  I feel like I must be doing it wrong.  This class leads to the Black Mage job, which is one of the most powerful DPS classes in the game.  I hung in there and got Thaumaturge to 15 but I wouldn't go back to this class without doing a lot of research first.  I feel like there's some key aspect about the spell rotation that requires more explanation than I've been given in the game.

And that's all of them.

I had a lot of fun with these casters and now I'm super excited to take my two healing classes into dungeons.  I anticipate running dungeons as a healer will be a completely new experience.  I look forward to it!

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Card Crawl
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 March 2015, 10:00 am

Card Crawl is a diamond in the rough.  By rough... I mean the Apple App store and by diamond... I mean a good game.

Card Crawl is kind of like playing through a tactical solo dungeon crawl... with cards.  It's also a little bit like solitaire?  I feel like I'm not doing a good job here.  Stick with me, the game is good.

What happens is you are dealt a hand of four cards and you have to manage them.  They're in the middle area which represents the dungeon.  There are six types of cards in the dungeon and a few ways to deal with them.  The card types are shield, sword, coin, potion, special ability, and monster.  All of the card types can be dragged down into the section around your character, but the catch is that you only have two hands and one backpack.  This means only three items can fit on your character at any time.  Monsters, on the other hand, can be attacked with swords, get hit by special abilities, be defended against with shields, or dragged directly onto the character to deal damage.

As soon as you clear three of the four cards out of the dungeon area you will be dealt three new cards to fill up the empty spaces.  The goal is to work your way through the entire dungeon deck without having your character reach 0 health.

It's super fun.  It plays really quickly.  And it's a little bit addicting... in a good way.

I highly recommend it.  Especially since it's only $2 in the App Store and doesn't have any of the F2P/In App Purchase bullshit attached.




Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 March 2015, 10:00 am

This was a Star Wars New Canon Universe Novel.  I still don't know what the official terminology is for that.  I know that the old Expanded Universe is now called Legends... but I don't think the new books, comics, and games have an official classification.  I'll keep an eye out for it.

Anyway, this novel takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.  It happens to be the same time period that all the new comic books are in right now.  It wasn't ever explored very much in the Legends universe so it seems like they're finally taking a chance to flesh out more of what happens in the middle of the rebellion.

While the novel is about the rebellion, it's much more of a character piece about Luke Skywalker.  He's the main character and he's given most of the focus in the book.

Luke is just starting to understand the basics of the force and get experience in the wider galaxy.  He's breaking out of his farm boy roots and is excited to explore.  He's been left without guidance after Obi-Wan was killed and he's unsure about what to do next.  Generally, he feels adrift and he's trying to figure out what he should do to expand his Jedi skills.

Luke seizes on a chance to do a new mission for the rebellion and it kicks off the story.

Most of the main cast is absent, except for R2D2 and a small appearance by Leia.  On the other hand there are characters introduced specifically for this novel all of which are interesting and fit in well.  I don't anticipate any of them carrying over into future novels, but that's ok.  Everything is written in a way to keep the focus on Luke and, in this case, it works.

It's a good book, I liked it a lot, but I'm having trouble adjusting my worldview to accommodate the new canon novels.  I already know the Legends books so well.  Now I need to hold two universes in my head, with two different and overlapping timelines.

Despite that, I really enjoyed the book.  I would recommend it to Star Wars fans that are interested in easing into the new canon universe that Disney is creating.  It's a great point to jump in.  I recommend this over the other two books already in the universe, Tarkin and New Dawn.  It's definitely better than them and it's more relevant to the main characters in the Star Wars series.

Like many of the novels I read now, this one was partially read by me on my Kindle and partially listened to on Audible.  I still can't get over how well they sync, it's amazing.  The audio book production quality was fantastic with it's ambient sound design, sound effects, and music.  I wish all audio books had this kind of treatment.  You can happily pick up either format.

This is the first book in the canon universe that I can give two thumbs up and recommend to anyone.  All you need is a passing familiarity with Star Wars and you'll be able to enjoy the book.


Path to The Force Awakened
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 March 2015, 10:00 am

There was a Polygon article last week about the path of the new Star Wars canon universe leading up to the release of The Force Awakened.  There will be about 20 different books, novels, and comics leading up to it.  They'll cover the time period between Return of the Jedi and the new trilogy.  It will give hints about what has happened with the heroes from the original trilogy.

I'm actually really excited for this announcement, especially the part about giving hints as to what the characters from the original trilogy have been up to.  If they're only giving hints... that means that the novels will be full of unique characters and situations that have real stakes.  They can grow the universe, put characters in real danger, and have true character growth.  It's hard to do that when your main characters have plot immunity because of the films.

My problem now is going to be keeping the Star Wars Legends universe separate from the Star Wars Canon universe in my head.  The timelines are going to begin conflicting with one another.


The Flop Among Us
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 March 2015, 10:12 am

The Wolf Among Us was a flop for me.  I bought a season pass and played episode one when it released, but I hadn't gotten back to playing the other four episodes until this last week.  I buckled down, played episodes 2 and 3, and then gave up.

I gave this story plenty of time to grip me but it failed.  It was a murder mystery where I never actually got to solve anything.  It was very unsatisfying.

I know these Telltale story-based games are on rails.  There's not much you can do to effect the overall outcome.  But, while most of them keep me on the edge of my seat, this one completely failed to connect with me.

It's sad because I loved the Walking Dead and I've loved the episodes of Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands that have released so far.  I'm actually super excited that the next Tales from the Borderlands just released.  I never felt any of that excitement about The Wolf Among Us.

It would probably be different if I were already invested in the world.  I know a handful of people who have read the comic books and they all loved the game.

I don't know if I can put my finger on one major thing that drove me to give up after three episodes.  I think it was just too slowly paced for my tastes coupled with the fact that I never managed to connect with any of the characters.  The combination killed it for me.

Of all the Telltale games I've tried this is the only one that I haven't absolutely loved.  That's still a really good track record for the developer.



Final Fantasy XIV: Crystal Tower
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 March 2015, 10:00 am

I did my first raids in Final Fantasy XIV!  After finishing my run through of all the level 50 dungeons I figured it was the next piece of content to experience.

There are two main sets of raids in the game at the moment, The Crystal Tower and the Binding Coil of Bahamut.  The Crystal Tower is much more approachable and newbie friendly, so that's what I did.

I had a set of guildmates walk me through the entire thing.  This is definitely the best way to learn the fights.  I'm sure you could find youtube videos too, but learning from real people is awesome.  Especially people who will answer your questions and not get frustrated that it's your first time.

They were all running it anyway because of the weekly incentive Final Fantasy XIV provides.  The game developers are so good at social engineering.  Once per week you can run through the entire Crystal Tower set of raids and if you complete all three raids you get an item that can increase the stats and item level of your top tier gear.

It's great incentive to continue running the raids even if nothing will drop there that you need.

The Crystal Tower had lots of good story.  There were big cutscenes and reveals between each of the three raids in the set.

Each of three raids looks and feels unique too!  It's nice to have a set of related raids but not be stuck in the same tileset throughout the experience.  The Labyrinth feels like an epic dungeon full of exploration.  Syrcus Tower, the second raid, takes you into the clouds and reveals secrets from the past.  The Dark World takes you to a different plane of existence as you try to patch up the gateway between it and the normal world.

These have made me much more excited to raid, which is surprising given my raiding experience in World of Warcraft.  In WoW I would hit max level, do a raid once, and then unsubscribe.  They never held anything of interest for me.  This newbie friendly raiding in Final Fantasy XIV is much more my style.  I love how approachable it is.

I'm not really sure what's next for me in Final Fantasy XIV.  I'll still do some work on getting better gear for my main job, but I'm starting to look at some of the other jobs and professions with interest.  I may try leveling up a healer.  I might just waste time with Triple Triad.  I dunno.  We shall see.

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Monster Hunter 4 Demo
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 March 2015, 10:00 am

I've wanted to like Monster Hunter ever since I first heard about it.  The premise of taking on giant monsters with 3rd person action skills appeals to me.  The problem has always been the execution and unfriendliness of Monster Hunter.  It's never been a game that's easily approachable for new players.

In fact, it's a game that's been extremely difficult for new players to figure out.  I think I would have gotten into it long ago if I had a friend to answer questions and guide me through the game.  But, that's never happened.

Everything I've heard about Monster Hunter 4 says that it's the most newbie friendly Monster Hunter game that they've ever made.  So, I gave the free demo a shot.  Thanks 3DS eShop!

I sat down and played the demo for over 3 hours the other night, just trying out all the weapons and attempting to get my head around the basics of monster hunting while in the beginner section of the demo.  I finally settled on two weapons that I like (after trying almost all 16).  It's tough, because each weapon feels almost like you're playing a different game.  They each handle in a unique way that doesn't translate to the other weapons.

I powered through, struggling with the different weapons, until I found the long sword.  It was the first weapon that clicked with me.  After going through almost everything else, I eventually tried the duel wielding swords and found those to my liking too.

With two weapons in hand that I kind of understood, I jumped into the intermediate level of the demo to see if I could take down a monster that was actually a challenge.  And I did it!  It was my first monster hunter kill that I was really proud of.  It was also the first time I hunted a monster and didn't walk away frustrated at the controls.  Spending that time picking the right weapons seemed to make a world of difference for me.

After pouring so much time into the demo, and hearing such great reviews, I downloaded the full game.  The demo did enough to convince me that Monster Hunter 4 might be for me.  The verdict is still out.  I'll let you know once I've had more time with the full game.


Final Fantasy Type-0: Initial Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2015, 10:00 am

Type-0 just released on PS4!  As I'm writing this, I've played the first four hours or so of the game.  Just enough to get an impression.

I have a bunch of minor issues to nitpick, so let's get that out of the way, because I actually like the game.  Here we go.  It's obviously an upscaled port from a lesser game system.  The graphics could easily have come from a PS2, though they came from a PSP in this case.  There's a lot of loading between areas of the map.  I'm sure that made sense on a less powerful system, but it's annoying here.  At least it's really fast loading.  The voice acting is a little forced and I doubt the actors got to record their dialog together.  Tone and responses to statements don't always mesh well.  Just like in Final Fantasy XIII there are a lot of proper nouns early in the game which aren't clearly defined.  But, it's not as bad or unclear as Final Fantasy XIII, so it has that going for it.

That's is for the little things that bug me about this game.  Honestly, none of them bother me that much.  And all of them are because it's an up-ported version of a PSP game.  None of them are game breaking.  I just thought they were worth mentioning.

Overall, I really liked my first few hours with the game.  It's an action RPG with a focus on the action.  There's no turn based battles or carefully considered planning once you get into combat.  Abilities and attacks are assigned to the face buttons of the controller and you use them in real-time against the enemy.  It's really fun and I hope it holds up throughout the whole game.

One of the other really interesting things is the cast.  Instead of having one main character or a small central cast there are 14 characters that are controllable.  You can switch between them in and out of battle.  You're never truly defeated unless all of your characters fall in battle.

The 14 characters are members of class 0, the most elite group at a military academy.  The nation where this military academy is located has just been attacked, so the recruits are sent out on missions to win back territory and stabilize the region.  It's an interesting backdrop for the characters.  I really hope the focus is on character development throughout the game.  If it focuses too much on the warring nations it runs the risk of getting boring the same way Final Fantasy XII did.

I plan on trying Vita remote play with this game.  Since almost everything is controlled with the control sticks and face buttons it should actually be a great candidate for remote play controls.  I'll report back on that whenever I get around to it.

I really have high hopes for this game.  My initial impressions are good and I'm excited to play more of it!

Final Fantasy Project Article List





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