Final Fantasy XIV:A Realm Reborn

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I’ve been playing this since the beginning of the Phase 2 of beta (the game is currently in Phase 3) and it’s absolutely amazing. Actually, it’s 2 weeks (I hope that’s right) into Phase 3 and I’ve already racked up about 24 hours; this doesn’t seem like much but bare in mind I can only play the game on Fridays…

Anyway, in my opinion the game is absolutely superb and I can’t really point out any flaws with it. It takes a lot of inspiration from popular MMOs (hint, WoW) but improves it massively. I say it takes a lot from WoW because to me it seems to play and feel extremely similar but with a massive boost which is what you’d expect from a newer game. It has the typical Final Fantasy ambience; the environments are beautiful and remind me heavily of those in Guild Wars 2. The soundtrack is also something worth noting, and let’s not forget the amazing ability effects.

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Like I said previously, the game takes a lot of inspiration from popular MMOs and is (as you’d expect) pretty much similar with levelling and revolves largely around quests. The thing that’s different about the quests in FF14 is that you are told which are main quests and which are side quests, so you can avoid some boring ones you don’t want to do and instead participate in various ‘guildhests’, ‘levemetes’ and ‘FATEs’. Guildhests and Levemetes are things very similar to quests but are limited to one area and unlocked at a certain level. For example, you may be told to slay so many monsters, find something or unfoil the bandits plot; these can only be done after a very long cooldown of more than 10 hours but they are extremely useful. Think of grinding on other MMORPGs but without the repetition of kill this monster, then that one, then that one, repeat. FATEs are essentially similar to the Rifts in Rift; large monsters or ones who do not belong in that area will rush in and attempt to complete an objective. FATEs usually require many people to do and have a large time limit; usually around 20 minutes. Grinding on Final Fantasy is enjoyable, quicker and less monotonous than that in it’s rivals, at least in my opinion.

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Jobs are a recurring thing in the Final Fantasy franchise, and in A Realm Reborn they bring something very new to the MMO genre. You can be whatever class you like as whatever race, upon reaching a certain level in two different classes (we’ll come to this in a bit) you unlock a job. For example Summoner, Dragoon, Monk and the generally super cool roles. Classes are similar to other games but in this they are named Disciplines of War and Disciplines of Magic which  shouldn’t need much explanation. There are also Disciplines of the Hand and Disciplines of the Land – the ‘professions’ of this game. A Realm Reborn does something different, though; usually in MMOs you level crafting/professions alongside your main class while in ARR it is an entirely different thing. You can (I believe, anyway) participate in every class at the same time and use different skills from each class to help you. An example being I could be playing a Gladiator (tank) but keep myself alive while using the spell Cure I got from being a Conjurer and at the same time be looking for mining spots with my Prospect ability from being a Miner. That’s pretty confusing, so I’ll round it up. You start as a class and level that up – you can then choose to be any class and level that entirely seperate to the first. Upon reaching a certain level you can use skills from each class to help the other, and when those two classes get to a certain level you can then enter into a Job which is basically a more powerful class.

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Wow, confusing paragraph. Essentially FFXIV is an extremely typical MMORPG at it’s core but with a lot of additional flare. It gives the player an option to customize their character’s appearance (this isn’t particularly rare anymore, but it’s still a nice feature) and also their patron deity and birth date which both slightly influence stats. I haven’t encountered PVP yet because I’m not a high enough level but I can say that I am definitely enjoying it and will be purchasing the game. I have one character who is a Marauder; a Gladiator; a Blacksmith and a Miner – there is always things to do within the game. If I get bored of killing monsters I’ll go and craft or go and mine.  I didn’t say this in the previous paragraph because there was enough in there as it was – hests and quests are also available for your non-combat classes. So again, I don’t have to grind and mine and mine and mine all day to get levels – usually hests and quests get you levels as quick if not quicker than killing mobs in other classes.

Sign up for the beta, it’s worth it and if anyone wants to add me I’m on the Shiva server as Calis Nakor!

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Don’t Starve

If Tim Burton decided to make a survival/adventure point and click, this would probably be it. The whole the game are pretty amazing to be honest, it’s made by a very small studio and can be picked up for around £10 or less. Guess what the aim of the game is? One of my favourite parts of this and one of the most influential things about it is that you get dropped into the game with absolutely no idea what you’re supposed to do, how to get there, what to do to get there or anything. Maybe that’s where the title comes from, the first thing I did was try not to starve…or get mauled, or go insane. It’s kept me coming back for more, even though I still don’t understand what I’m doing…

It’s like any other point and click game, right/left click on somewhere on the screen and the character will move where you click or interact with whatever it was. There are are seven different characters and they all have different traits.You only start with one character, though; Wilson. I’m not even sure if there is an end game goal even though I’ve clocked up a good 5 or so hours on this so far (with many more to come) I’m just trying to survive and explore! There are many different biomes similar to Minecraft and it doesn’t really make sense, in one place there could be an endless swamp with a plot of savanna, meadow and forest right next to it.

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A nice little feature is the insanity bar, which creeps down slowly while you’re in darkness or consume certain foods. A lack of sanity makes your view go very warped and makes nasty shadow creatures reach out and follow you, eventually trying to attack you. It’s pretty creepy but you get used to it eventually. I’m not sure whether the lack of information is good or bad; I understand that it is to make a very challenging experience for the player and to teach them as they play but certain things you need to know. For example about the need to eat, the insanity gauge and the fact that if you don’t have a light source at night an unseen horror comes up and makes sure you never see light of day again. I actually find this game pretty chilling and unnerving – the limited view means that you never know what’s about the appear and when it gets to dusk (there is a clock so you know how close night time is) and I’m gonna have to get back to camp quickly I have to say I panic a bit.

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Something I haven’t encountered yet is the Adventure Mode, accessed by hunting down ‘Maxwell’s Door’ somewhere in the wilderness. In sandbox mode, you must survive against various monsters, random dog attacks and a weird man-demon-thing named Krampus while in Adventure mode Wilson is pitted against a character named Maxwell. Adventure mode has 5 chapters, and upon entering it you lose all of your recipes and can only take a certain amount of items; some extra challenge if there isn’t already enough of it. Lose in Adventure Mode and get spat straight back out into Sandbox – pretty unforgiving. Not as unforgiving as the fact that unless you’ve found a Touch Stone or constructed a Meat Effigy or an Amulet when you die you die for good. Luckily you get XP and are on your way to unlocking a new character so at least you’re rewarded instead of being told to just start again.

If you’re after a very pretty and well-made game I’d give it a shot. If you’re not really experienced with these sort of games and expect to see a ‘click to pick this item which does x’ or ‘combine x with y to get z’ I’d stay away from it.

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Smite: Battleground of the Gods

Smite

This is a game I have been meaning to play but have forgotten about for a very long time – I actually got into the beta a while back but never played it. I’m definitely glad I came back to it.Smite is a bit of an odd mixture of genres – it borrows certain parts from MOBA and RPGs and fuses them with a third person Action game. It has a rather cool premise, instead of their being random heroes summoned from all over a strange world (As it is in DoTA/LoL etc) you play as Gods. In a battleground. Not that that was obvious or anything.

Smite is very easy on new players, if anyone has every played a third person action game before they should find this very simple. It plays similarly to battlegrounds and PvP combat in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, in that there is a lot of jumping around and flashy things flying around left and right. Anyway, there is a very in-depth and easy tutorial to follow at the beginning of the game and then when you decide to take the plunge into the real experience you can select ‘Auto-Level Items’ and ‘Auto-Level Abilities’. What this means is that you can focus on the killing (or most likely trying not to die) while out on the battlefield and not have to worry about what items do what, what will be better for you and what abilities you need to level up at that moment. In my opinion this is an excellent feature, as generally the items needed differ from game to game with MOBAs and with this you are taught what each item does without having to panic and select it yourself.

Smite Items

That’s about it for newbies but that’s all you’d really need. Being good at this type of games comes over time with practice, Smite uses controls and a view similar to many popular games so the learning curve should be extremely gentle. I even kept trying to jump around I was reminded of Team Fortress 2 and Halo that much. There are many different Gods and new ones get regularly released. There is a pool of free Gods every week available to play, the same as League of Legends, and then they rotate to a different set of Gods. Something which surprised me was the fact that there is 5 game modes;

  • Arena – Your typical all-out combat battle. The first to reduce enemy ‘tickets’ to 0 wins, killing minions and Gods reduces tickets by different amount.
  • Assault – Similar to the 3 lane map, but with only 1 lane and no jungle.
  • Conquest – The 3 lane MOBA type map.
  • Domination – A 20 minute timed control point map, control the obelisks for the longest and amass the most points to win.
  • Joust – A friendly 1v1 with a friend.

This is a very good move on Hi-Rez’ (the Developer) part – originally I thought there was only Conquest which would have made the game extremely stale. The graphics of Smite are of quite a high quality; it makes me think of what DoTA 2 would look like if it was built to this perspective. The effects of the abilities have clearly had a lot of work and focus upon, as have the Gods. One thing I found very interesting about the game is the obvious heavy research into the Gods which was required but has massively paid off. The aesthetics of each character are massively different and represent the inspiration and the culture very impressively.  The jungle also has some very sleek additions; in other MOBAs the jungle usually just features large areas of trees or bushes to cut off space and there is no detail there required. This is different in Smite, the jungle has different areas filled with pointless animations and models which serve no purpose other than to look a lot better than the aforementioned bushes or trees.

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Smite is an extremely beginner friendly game for anyone that has any experience playing games. It’s controls are very simple and easy to get used to while the more RPG side of things (the items and abilities) will take a little longer. The game controls very smoothly and is extremely fun alone, with a team of 5 friends this could only get better. I only have a small complaint – the speech system is very awkward; you are able to send quick commands to other people on your team through a hotkey and then a sequence of more hotkeys to send messages to your teammates without typing. This is quite complicated and takes time when you could be concentrating on the battle, an easy ping system is needed (similar to other MOBAs) where you could ping on the minimap and tell your team you are coming. If this exists and I’ve just missed it, then I’m an idiot and my only complaint is totally wrong. Oops.

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Animal Crossing:New Leaf

Okay, first review ever. Let’s see how this goes.

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I wouldn’t call myself a casual gamer, I prefer games that draw me in and have to focus on and put lots of time into to develop my skill. That being said, I love Animal Crossing:New Leaf and it’s almost the direct opposite to what I usually play – I’ve been playing it for perhaps half an hour/an hour a day and still feeling like I’ve accomplished lots. The game plays in real time, so unless you’re a big cheater when Tom Nook says your renovation will be done tomorrow morning he means tomorrow morning. Although at first I thought this would be frustrating it is a really nice feature and just enhances the focus upon taking your time and just chilling out while playing the game. I played the first installment ported to Europe on Gamecube and missed the ones in between then and now and there seems to have been a few features added but the game remains essentially the same. To be honest I only got New Leaf because of the 3DS ‘So Many Games!‘ promotion, but I’m glad i chose this title.

Firstly, Animal Crossing has dominated previous digital Nintendo sales on the 3DS Shop and has sold 4 million units to date; it also increased 3DS sales by 400%. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me. It seems rather unfair to write a review about the game this early – it is designed to be a very long-term game and most of the content reveals itself over time. For example, I’ve had the game for 4 days now and the ‘Tropical Island’ has only just been revealed to me (well, the Capp’n will be sailing in on the morning tide to pick me up) while with any other new game I’d have probably finished it in 4 days! An excellent feature of this title is that you are now the mayor of your own little town. When you move in you get to choose the name – nothing different here – but you also get to choose the layout from 3 different examples. After a few days and your town planning permit comes in you are then able to create ‘Town Planning Projects’ in which you can add things such as lamps, new shops, new bridges etc to your town. ‘Ordinances’ are also a fantastic idea; my favourites of the 4 are the ‘Night Owl’ and ‘Early Bird’ – if you are up and awake early in the morning but the rest of the residents aren’t or if you only find the time to play at night then these Ordinances will give your residents a kick up the backside and change their sleeping patterns to your liking!

I have not been to the Tropical Island yet but what I understand is that it is a place very different but also similar to the player’s town. The town is where you customize your house, tend to the flowers, rag at the trees in the hope of finding money or items (and inevitably getting stung by bees – repeatedly) and talk to your residents. The island is a place full of multiplayer minigames and the chance to catch different fish and bugs; the multiplayer features are not limited to the Island, though. As in any other Animal Crossing game you’re able to visit your friend’s towns to do whatever you like; ruin their flowers if you want to irritate them (no really, if anyone messed up my garden I’d get pretty mad) bring them gifts or just come for a chill!

Tweeting straight from the 3DS with Animal Crossing is also a very cool feature this is me after being a bit of a flower hog and grabbing all the plants in town! Just look at that cheeky smile. Animal Crossing is strangely exciting and fun in its own way; every time you play something different happens. Never thought I’d play hide and seek with an eagle, a horse and a duck but there you go! I definitely recommend it, the series is one of a kind really. It’s gripping while being childlike and adorable; if you’re considering it then give it a try! Somehow you don’t get bored with it even though there isn’t really anything to do, hats off to Nintendo once again.

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Hello!

Hi there, I’m Jarran. I’m a 19 year old Games Design student from Doncaster, England and I’m studying at Sheffield Hallam University. (I don’t think I’ve ever wrote that sentence fully, it makes me sound a lot more educated and well traveled than I am) I spend a large portion of my time being opinionated and talking about games usually to people who don’t care – hopefully I’ll find some people who will!

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Cheeky photo, why not. I’ll probably write about anything I can think of, one thing I definitely have in mind is a roundup of my opinion on E3 and a review on Animal Crossing:New Leaf; perhaps Phase 3 of the Final Fantasy XIV beta! Suggestions are of course welcome, but expect to find anything and everything here from patches to reviews to artwork or general rants!

Thanks a lot for reading, I hope you stick around 🙂