How Weird Is the Assassins Festival?

My first reaction to the news of an Assassins Festival in FFXV was “that sounds awful”. I even thought that perhaps the cross promotion of things in game had gone a bit too far. I wasn’t bothered by the Coleman gear or the hilarious inclusion of the Cup Noodle quest; but this was different. Elements of a completely different and unrelated game franchise being forced into FFXV felt ridiculous. My skepticism regarding this event was so bad I waited until this past weekend to play it. Considering the fact I normally can’t wait to play anything new in FFXV waiting a full six weeks on this was a big departure from the norm. I’m happy to say despite expecting to find a whole lot of awful I found a ton of fun.

I was quite surprised to discover the Assassins Festival has a real storyline included with it. Obviously, the story is very light and has absolutely no impact to the main game, but it was integrated into the world well. The love of the Assassins Creed games is what draws Noctis and Prompto to the festival while Gladio and Ignis are mostly just there because the other two wanted to go. The Festival itself exists because The Assassin is a historical character of legend in Lestallam and is a vigilante hero who fought against oppression in the city long ago. The festival gives the local citizenry (and our boys) the chance to try out their best Assassin moves and attire.

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Looking cool during the festival.

However, before too long the empire shows up with Loqi Tummelt in command and looking for the wayward Prince. If you don’t remember Loqi he was the guy who showed up with a large mech after Noctis helped Cor clear a base. Shenanigans ensue and of course it’s up to Noctis and crew to run them off, though most of the time it is just Prompto and Noctis running around together with the others helping at various parts. The story didn’t take too long to get through but it was fun and entertaining.

Additionally, the integration of AC game mechanics and FFXV game mechanics was done well. There’s a stealth aspect to the whole festival where running around or jumping/warping around will call attention to Noctis if he does these things around the MTs. This wasn’t always quite accurate though because there were a couple of times where I was standing right in front of a MT and warped away but it didn’t trigger a chase. Speaking of chases, after being spotted the only way to get away was to get out of sight of the MT. Then I had to hide in a doorway, haystack, or dumpster until the danger passed. These hiding spots are also use spots to wait and assassinate nearby MTs. Honestly assassinating the MTs in various ways was a ridiculous amount of fun so I did that whenever the opportunity presented itself.

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Assassinating a MT.

One aspect of the Moogle Festival which SquareEnix carried over is having tokens to be earned and traded in for prizes. However, there were a lot more sources of these tokens and as a result I didn’t have to grind out tokens playing the mini games at all. The mini games are pretty much the same as moogle fest so not having to do them again was a fantastic bonus. My main sources of Assassin Tokens was from doing the main story and then doing all of the side quests. I did do a couple of the mini games just to check and see if they still annoyed. They did.

One thing to be aware of is you can only have a max of 99 Assassin Tokens at one time. This seems obvious if you’ve ever played any Final Fantasy game but I was inexplicably surprised by it. So it’s worth buying things as you go instead of trying to hoard all the tokens.

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Looking cool during the main festival story.

Overall, I’d say if you generally like the Assassins Creed games this festival is worth taking part in. If you’ve never played an AC game before don’t worry, everything is explained well and is intuitive. The only people who should really skip this festival are people who really do not generally like playing AC games. SquareEnix did a masterful job of capturing the feel of AC while keeping solid footing on what FFXV is but not liking either of those elements will ruin it for you.. This festival will be running until January 31st2018 and is a free DLC for FFXV.

 

Everything We Officially Know About Path of Fire (updated 8/8/17)

Similar to my previous post for Heart of Thorns this will be a list of things which have been officially released by ArenaNet or have confirmed as true regarding their upcoming expansion Path of Fire. Nothing which has been datamined or “leaked” are included here. I’ll also include links to all sources of information for people’s reference.

Launch Date September 22nd! (Source)

Standard is $29.99, Deluxe $54.99, Ultimate $79.99 (source)

Everyone who buys PoF will get a level 80 boost. Everyone who buys the Deluxe or Ultimate will also get a free character slot. (source)

Buying PoF does not grant access to HoT content. (source)

There will be a beta event 8/11 – 8/13 in which anyone (even if they don’t currently play GW2 or are a f2p account) will be able to participate in. Players will get a taste of the first map and the Raptor Mount. (source)

There will also be a second preview weekend starting 8/18 for players to create demo characters and play WvW or sPvP with the new Elite Specializations. (source)

The last expansion was feature focused, PoF will be content focused. (source)

System Requirements have been slightly increased (source)

Story (source)

  • Looks like we might get the story of what happened to Rytlock in the Mists
  • Kasmeer has a crisis of faith
  • Balthazar seems intent on being the only god
  • Palawa Joko is in charge in the Crystal Desert and has an army of undead (The Awakened)
  • Balthazar also has an army (The Forged)
  • Kralkatorrik is also active with his Branded
  • Will deal with some deep existential questions about our place in the world and if it’s possible to coexist with the Elder Dragons (source)

Crystal Desert Region (source)

  • This region also includes Northern Elona
  • Elona is also in turmoil over the return of Balthazar
  • Players who didn’t play Nightfall won’t feel lost in the story
  • Same region where Glint used to live
  • Area has been cutoff from the rest of the world for 250 years
  • 5 open world zones, will cover all various types of deserts not just sand and flat areas
    • Total area of maps is more than what we got in HoT and the season six maps (source)
  • Variety of events and activities in each maps
  • Returning to some of the core things which made exploration in core GW2 fun
  • First map is Crystal Oasis and it has a major city named Amnoon Oasis (source)
  • Each crafting profession will have access to new recipes (source)

Mounts (source)

  • Brings new ways a traversing maps
  • Mounts have an engage skill to get the player into combat and then will despawn so the player can fight
  • There is no cooldown on the engage skill (source)
  • Can’t mount while in combat (source)
  • Each one will have it own special movement ability
  • Part of the Mastery System
  • Each mount has its own mastery line which gives upgrades to the specific mount (source)
  • Gathering or interacting with NPCs will automatically dismount you (source)
  • Will be usable in open world zones across all of Tyria (source)
  • There will be areas where mounts are unusable (ie jumping puzzles) (source)
  • Different maps will unlock different mounts and after you unlock a new one you can take the mount back and find new areas in the previous maps (source)
  • Raptor
    • Enormous leap
    • Raptor will be unlocked before players finish the first story step (source)
    • First mastery tier for increases the power of the engage skill (source)
    • Second tier adds a pull in for the engage skill (source)
    • Third skill doubles the jump distance (source)
    • Fourth skill shares the first passive upgrade across all the other mounts (source)
  • Springer
    • Looks kind of like a bunny/kangaroo cross
    • Charged High Jump
  • Skimmer
    • Manta like creature
    • Skimms over the top of water/land
  • Jackel
    • is a jackel of living dust
    • Can blink and change directions in air

Elite Specializations (source)

  • Guardian gets the Firebrand
    • Specializes in burning enemies and conjuring tomes to support allies
    • Giving up instant support for casted support
    • Use mantras to charge spells for instant use (source)
    • Virtues replaced by conjured tomes of lore (source)
    • Gains focus support
    • Main Hand Axe
    • Give Guardians a more robust way to fill the support role (source)
  • Necromancer gets the Scourge
    • Gives up Death Shroud to help protect his allies
    • Mare battlefield control and movement options
    • Can raise sand shades to shield allies and torment foes (source)
    • Use their torches to burn and corrupt the ground under their enemy’s feet (source)
    • Off Hand Torch
    • Gives the Necro more of a support and battlefield management role (source)
  • Thief gets the Deadeye
    •  Has a Mercenary flavor to it
    • Gives Thieves greater range to work from
    • Marks targets to harass them with harmful effects (source)
    • Can cast cantrips which gain bonuses when used on marked targets (source)
    • Rifle
    • Wanted to explore the concept of being a ranged Thief (source)
    • Very strong against single targets (source)
  • Mesmer gets the Mirage
    • Focuses on being a deceptive combatant in close melee range
    • New dodge mechanic where they blur to allow attacks to pass through instead of moving out-of-the-way
    • Create constructs which shatter when touched and create mirage cloaks
    • Main Hand Axe (source)
    • Wanted to give another melee weapon (source)
    • Can cast spells while dodging and can dodge while stunned (source)
    • Can be both offensive and defensive at the same time (source)
    • Has ambush attacks (source)
  • Warrior gets the Spellbreaker
    • Focuses on fighting against casters
    • Can stop skills from working and strip boons
    • Use meditations to see past defenses (source)
    • Uses adrenaline to perform “Full Counter” and absorb their enemy’s next attack and damage surrounding foes (source)
    • Daggers
    • Give warriors the ability to play more of a disruption role (source)
    • Breaking the mould of warriors being physical only and not dealing with magic (source)
  • Elementalist gets the Weaver
    • Wields multiple elements at the same time
    • Cycle elements from hand to hand and combine them into a central skill (source)
    • The central skill changes depending on their weapon and elemental attunement (source)
    • Main Hand Sword
    • Designed as a melee bruiser who hunts down their targets and eliminates them (source)
    • Good survivability(source)
    • Sword is a true melee weapon (unlike dagger which is close range but not really melee) (source)
  • Ranger gets the Soulbeast
    • Have stances to take on the aspects of wild creatures (source)
    • When they merge with their pet they gain its unique abilities and the abilities of its archetype (source)
    • Will have new pets to obtain in the Crystal Desert
    • Main Hand Dagger
    • Close combat fight style (source)
    • Wanted to give the ability to play without a pet for a bit without it being a drawback (source)
  • Revenant gets the Renegade
    • The new legend is Kalla Scorchrazor who led the rebellion against the Flame Legion
    • Can summon members of Kalla’s warband (source)
    • Shoots arrows through the mists to blindside enemies (source)
    • Shortbow
    • Uses ambush style empowerment of Kalla’s allies (source)
    • Glass cannon style of play (source)
  • Engineer gets the Holosmith
    • Can project light into a semi-solid form
    • Photon forge mode gives access to powerful new skills which can cause the Holosmith to explode (source)
    • Gain greater power after heat level reaches a certain threshold (source)
    • Allows for a multiweapon attack style
    • Bends light to their will
    • Main Hand Sword (source)
    • High power/Glass cannon archtype (source)
    • Can accidentally kill yourself if you aren’t paying attention (source)
    • Very focused around the core Holosmith mechanic (source)

Guild Hall (source)

  • There will be a new Guild Hall called Windswept Haven
  • Must have Heart of Thorns to claim and fully upgrade the Guild Hall (source)

Links To Articles on Other Sites

MMORPG.com

Game Space

http://www.gamespace.com/author/arlee/

GameBreaker

The GameBreaker site doesn’t exist anymore but I have reposted what I could recover over here including my Bloodborne review, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments review, and my Revolution 60 review.

The Demon Hunter Starting Experience Is Wonderful

Demon Hunter is the newest Hero class in World of Warcraft and their starting experience offers a unique and compelling story experience. In fact I’d say this new starting area story is even better than the Death Knight starting experience. Obviously there will be story spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them at a minimum. It’s pretty impossible to discuss this without any spoilers.

The Demon Hunter story-line picks-up, in the past, as the attack on The Black Temple begins. In fact I think what we see is the fight in the training grounds which leads to Supremus. Illidan sees all of this happening and sends a group of his Illidari off to retrieve a Sargerite Keystone. This keystone is apparently super important to defeating the Legion. I love the concept of this happening while we were raiding The Black Temple.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-17-28 PM-232We earn our skills from completing various quests and killing specific demons and stealing their power… which is a fantastic mechanic as a Demon Hunter. Previously this system seemed fairly arbitrary and it never really related content of the quest with obtaining abilities before. It’s wonderful to see this concept folded into the story much more smoothly. It also played up how the entire reason Demon Hunters exist is to defeat the Legion.

One of my favorite aspects of the starting zone is the inclusion of a couple of spots where the player has a choice to make. The first one is during the “Enter the Illidari: Shivarra” quest. You need need to either sacrifice yourself or Sevis Brightflame (who you’ve been working with for a bit) to power a portal and bring in some much needed allies. I was quite surprised we could volunteer to die. If you do sacrifice yourself, Illidan will talk about how you are similar to him and have an immortal demon soul. Nice to have an explanation of why the player can’t truly die. Either way the choice isn’t a huge one but it was really nice to be able to make it.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-22-11 PM-88The second choice will color the rest of the the Demon Hunter experience throughout the expansion. We have to pick either Kayn Sunfury or Altruis the Sufferer as your second in command of the Illidari. This is an interesting choice especially for people who played during Burning Crusade and met Altruis previously. They represent the choice between having faith in someone/something and trusting your own judgement above all else.

Kayn Sunfury, perhaps the more “boring” of the two options, is someone who always stayed loyal to Illidan. We first encounter Kayn right after entering Mardum and he’s the main questgiver. He cares about duty and honor and trusts Illidan implicitly… which is a bit disturbing. He’s an interesting character though and it’d be nice to interact with him more. Also worth noting if you pick Kayn as your second in command you’ll end up with the Shade of Akama, instead of Akama, as part of the Illidari.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-22-50 PM-849For my money Altruis the Sufferer is much more interesting. Players from the Burning Crusade will remember him from a questline in Nagrand. His story is he felt Illidan had succumbed to the influence of the fel and didn’t trust Illidan’s judgement anymore. He didn’t stop there though. As a direct result of his interactions with us four Illidari are killed. So it’s a pretty extreme example of betrayal. Altruis stands by his choices as he didn’t agree with Illidan at all.

Altruis being the in the jail with me was really surprising. There seemed to be no good reason for him to be locked up. The Wardens just decided to jail him right along with all the other Illidari. I wish I could have a conversation with Maiev about how that happened. It’d probably just be something like “all beings with fel are a danger” which would be super disappointing. It just seems sort of messed up to jail him along with everyone else.

I also have to mention the Pool of Remembrance which starts a fantastic cutscene about what it means to be a Demon Hunter. It’s quite interesting but It also reminded me of why the whole “victory at any cost” mantra is incredibly troubling. Unfortunately, it really did nothing to help me make a choice between Kayn and Altruis. In the end I went with Altruis because the concept of having blind faith in anyone is just disturbing to me.

After losing Gul’Dan, Khadgar shows-up to take us to the appropriate capital city. I expected to arrive right before the Broken Isles Scenario. Instead we arrive right after the events of the Broken Isles and we are the one who informs the leaders about the infiltration of the Legion. I mean how weird would it be if a different Illidari showed-up to say the Horde/Alliance have been infiltrated? It’d be super weird and I’d feel dumb for not using my spectral site to check.

I also need to take a moment to recognize how awesome the voice acting in this entire section is. I was consistently impressed, especially by Gul’Dan’s VO. Everyone sounded authentic and compelling which is just about the best thing.

Overall it’s a fantastic experience with a new class and I honestly couldn’t stop playing once I started because I was enjoying it all so much. World of Warcraft has really up’ed their game with the Demon Hunter starting experience. If you have interest in the story at all you should play through this content at least once.

Celebrate 20 Years Of Tomb Raider With Square Enix

Tomb Raider first came on to the scene in October of 1996 and was an instant success launching multiple sequels, movies, and reboots throughout the years. It’s a game series which has been important to many people in multiple generations who have love not only the for the game, but for Lara Croft as well. Now, 20 years later, Square Enix is celebrating this success and asking the fans to participate directly.

Square Enix is asking fans to consider “What does Tomb Raider mean to you?” and make a video with your response. These videos can cover anything from talking about how the games have influenced your lives to recalling favorite moments in any of the games. Maybe Lara Croft somehow inspired you to do something or sparking an interesting something new and different; this would be a perfect time to share the story. This isn’t a contest but the best submissions will likely be included in something in the future because before submitting your video you have to agree to an image/likeness release. Video submissions can be submitted at this website. No deadline was given on these, but I’d do it sooner rather than later because there will be a cutoff at some point.

For fans who have taken their love of Tomb Raider to another level by creating fan art, Square Enix is running a contest just for you. They are looking for any fan art relating to Tomb Raider both old games and new. Entries could be landscapes, tombs, enemies, or even of Lara herself. The prize for this contest is $1,000 and the art will be featured in a special print offering which will be revealed later this year. There’s no word on how many winners there will be, but it does look like they are looking for more than one. Go to this website to enter the contest, and good luck!

Sherlock Holmes Delves Into The Supernatural

There’s not a whole lot of information available on Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter yet, but I can’t deny the trailer has seriously piqued my interest as it looks like a bit of a  mystical and supernatural story.

After the delight Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments was, I really am excited to see where Frogwares Studio takes things. Sadly Kerry Shale, who was the voice of Sherlock in Crimes & Punishments, will not be reprising the role. As sad as I am about this, it also makes a bit of sense because this will be a wholly different incarnation of Sherlock than what we have had previously. Changing the voice actor up will help to keep the distinction between Sherlocks more firmly in mind.

I’ve also heard the world will be more openly explorable which is a big improvement as the random invisible walls were one of the few things which bothered me with the previous game. I constantly found myself wanting to wander off and see what else was around, but the player was really given a limited amount of area to explore.

Also in Crimes & Punishments there was a background story going on at the same time the player is working on other cases. There were little bits of info dropped throughout the game about this side story, but everything didn’t come together until the last case was done, at which point the side story came to the foreground. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar was done in this game, but maybe the smaller cases will be more directly pieces of the larger whole?

I also very much hope this new installment will also let the players get things wrong and show consequences of these things. The ability to be wrong, and to have it affect the game directly was one of the best aspects of Crimes & Punishments.

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter will be released on May 27th for PS4, XB1, and PC.

Review: The Division, More RPG Than Shooter

This review is based on playing the PC version of The Division.

The Division is a complex mixture of third person shooter with RPG basics, topped off with a dash of MMO. One thing players need to know right away though, The Division is not really a MMO. Most of the time you will only see other players if you are in a hub or if you have grouped with them to do a mission… or in the Dark Zone, but I’m mostly going to leave the DZ to the side and just deal with the PvE aspects of The Division for right now. As far as “end game” content goes there isn’t a whole lot currently. It is mostly just Challenge Mode missions and dailies. However, we do know there will be 3 expansions (DLCs) this year, so more max level content should be coming soon. In fact there are also two free content updates and the first of those should be hitting in April.

Gameplay

Overall the gameplay for The Division is straight forward and intuitive both for mouse and keyboard control and if you choose to use a controller. Players can rebind any keys to have their preferred set-up if the default isn’t to their liking. Unfortunately this isn’t true if you decide to play with a controller as those keybinds can’t be changed. The only controller keybind I found particularly annoying was for running you have to hold in the left stick, which is really sub-optimal.

20160320175107_1The Division is a cover shooter, which helps to avoid the “just run in and shoot everything” monotony. Moving around from cover to cover and placing yourself in optimal spots is a huge part of the game, and the system works pretty flawlessly. It can also be a danger, especially on some of the harder missions. I would occasionally move to a place which seemed like a good spot only to find out I now have mobs running in behind me and I’m caught in a crossfire. Part of the learning curve is to really think strategically about how you are going to accomplish goals… also learning which objects aren’t so good at providing cover.

The Division also has some fairly basic RPG elements in it as well, but even though they are basic you can’t really ignore that aspect of the game. There’s only three stats to pay attention to, but if you don’t pick one to really focus on you’ll be really limited on your effectiveness. Also which abilities you choose to equip are also important because, obviously, they affect what you can do. These things become particularly important when working in a group because if everyone is packing the same strengths and abilities, your group will be pretty limited.

One of my favorite aspects of The Division is how simple it is to switch up the build on a character. Talents and special skills can be switched out at a whim, which makes making adjustments when needed pretty simple. While switching these things around will have a pretty big effect stats still are also important and the only way to switch those up are to keep extra gear around. It is possible to change one stat on a piece of gear, but it’s expensive and not really a good solution for a temporary switch.

Unfortunately the gameplay quickly starts to get a bit monotonous as the game settles into a familiar set of mission types. You are either trying to clear out an area of hostiles, trying to rescue citizens, or defending an area. For the most part no matter what you choose to do while leveling you’ll be doing one of those three things consistently. Hopefully when we get the content updates more mission variety will be added.

There is a little bit of variety provided through side missions, though those do tend to also  be clearing out an area or rescuing hostages. However, occasionally there is a side mission where it changes things up a bit. For instance there is one side mission where you are trying to find out happened to a scientist who worked for a local company right when the outbreak was first happening. This mission is an entirely non-combat mission where you just explored and searched for clues. It was absolutely refreshing to take part in something different and these sorts of missions sprinkled around really does help.

Multiplayer

One of the most rewarding experiences in The Division is gathering some friends together and tackling the harder missions together, and you really shouldn’t shy away from doing this whenever possible as it really adds another dimension to the game. One thing I will point out though, whenever possible use an out of game voice chat program because there are many great options when playing PC which make the in game voice system feel especially frustrating to use in comparison.

All of the missions have a way to queue up with other players fairly easily, which really can be a big help. Additionally all the main missions have the normal difficulty and they also have a hard mode. In general the hard mode versions aren’t too hard especially if you go in with three other people. All of the mobs are tougher, on hard modes they all have a secondary healthbar which needs to be taken down before you can start diminishing their actual healthbar, and sometimes there will be more of them.

The real downside to multiplayer is only the main story missions can be progressed for everyone. Since they were trying to preserve the feeling of being alone in a hostile area, each player has their own map. When you group up with players everyone will then join one player’s map. While on that map any side missions or encounters which are completed will only be done for the player whose map you are on. It’s a bit of a pain because doing these things multiple times can really increase the feeling of monotony, so players are sort of encouraged to only group up for the main game.

TheDivision 3-21-2016 4-18-26 PM-983Setting

The way this post apocalyptic world is rendered is nothing short of amazing and done with meticulous attention to detail. They’ve managed to not only accurately capture what various parts of New York look like but also the look and feel of what would happen if chaos broke loose in the city.

Time of day and weather also make a pretty big difference as well. Since the game is set in late November/December snow is the most common form of bad weather, and it is isn’t just a binary snowing/not snowing. Snow can range from small flurries to a full out windy mess where it is actually difficult to see where you are going let alone try to fight anyone else. Night is also much darker than daylight as well and really adds to the feeling of danger no matter what you are doing in game.

TheDivision 3-16-2016 10-12-58 PM-194One particularly nice addition which helps to make this game feel more authentic is the radios playing in each safe house. They will often have news reports or someone broadcasting their (some might say paranoid) take on events, but then interspersed will also be music. The music is particularly nice because occasionally I’ll recognize something.

For instance one day I was in a safe house and realized The Moldau was playing on the in game radio. I stopped what i was doing and just listened… and there was background noises (like coughing) as if it was a broadcast of a live performance somewhere. That particular moment really surprised me and really made an impression. Since then I have started listening to those radio broadcasts more and have recognized even more music. It’s a really thoughtful and interesting choice to include these little real world auditory references.

The overall attention to detail in everything from how things look to how everything sounds adds a really important layer to The Division. It is one game where I’d argue if you aren’t playing with the sound on you are definitely robbing yourself of a huge chunk of the experience.

Conclusion

Overall The Division is a pretty solid game where players are put in the role of trying to bring order back to a city which has fallen to fear and chaos. The missions can get pretty monotonous at times, but there are random side missions and a lot to explore if you just take a moment to look around and venture off the main path a little. Additionally multiplayer can be a ton of fun and add even more interest to the main game. It is definitely worth a look if you are interested in a RPG with the feel of a shooter.