First Thoughts on: Xenoblade Chronicles.

•April 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the two reasons that leaded me to buy a Wii almost two years ago. I was having a conversation on MSN with a good friend who back then was a huge Wii enthusiast and  even when he was not able to give me a release date for this game, the reasons he gave me were convincing enough to make me go on a trip to my closest Target store a couple of weekends later and get me a shiny Wii. Now, after two years of wait the first of the two reasons have been released, the other being The Last Story, let’s see now if Xenoblade Chronicles was worth the wait.

As it can be read in the title, this is a first thoughts post, so I can’t really say if the game as a whole was worth the wait. I’ve played for almost 25 hours and I can say that so far I’m really, really loving this title, however I need to say that most of the time I’ve put into this game has gone on sidequests, but let’s start from the beginning and analyze every aspect of the game one by one.

The first thing that one notice when the game is starts is how incredibly similar it is to Final Fantasy XII, the graphic style used in Xenoblade is pretty much a homage to the Square Enix title, especially on the character models, there are differences of course, but there have been time during many of the cutscenes when I really felt as if I was playing Final Fantasy XII again. The similarity is not as clear in the different areas that you get to explore, most of them have been open fields and caves so far, it’s easy to see that, even when the guys at Monolith Soft were trying to emulate FFXII’s style, the budget they had it was not the same as the kind that Square Enix puts on its main franchise, so not everything is as polished, but that does not mean it’s not detailed and easy to admire. Something that is going to bother some people is the fact  that, well, this is not HD gaming, so the graphics are always going to look a bit blurry if the game is played on an HDTV, I’ve never had problems with this kind of stuff, but I’ve read some reviews in which peolple complain about this. To be honest I love the graphics in this game, yes, they look like out of Playstation 2 game, yet I find them really beautiful in some locales, especially on open fields when it rains, just amazing to look at.

I could define the story of this game with two words: Engaging and intriguing, just the setting had me salivating as soon as the game started. In ancient times, the world was only covered by water, it was on these vast oceans that two massive deities, the Bionis and the Mechonis, fought to death, it was on their bodies where life flourished, mostly humanoid like races on the Bionis, like the Homs and the Nopon, and the completely mechanic Mechon on the Mechonis. The twist here is that the Homs, simple humans, serve as food to the Mechons, so there is an endless war going between both races. It’s in one of the biggest battles between both civilizations that the story starts.

I can’t really talk in depth about the story due to the fact that in the time I’ve only put around 12 hours into the main events, however, I can say that this game so far has one of the most intriguing stories I’ve seen in quite a while. This is a very well told tale about survival and revenge that centers on the Monado, the only weapon known to the Homs that can actually damage the Mechons. However, the sword is surrounded by an aura of mystery and a lot of questions have been raised, only making me want to play more and more of this game. I’m not going to say much about the different events that I’ve seen since I want to avoid accidental spoilers, what I can say is that everything has been really engaging and perfectly balanced between interesting story bits and action packed events. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Not going to talk much about the sound because even when I’ve heard some pretty amazing tunes, one of them being the one that can be heard on the title screen, I’ve yet to expose myself to more melodies. The thing that this game’s soundtrack has done to me, and that no other game has done in a long while, is that it has me whistling or humming some of the tunes, especially the one that can be heard at the Refugee Camp. With the minds behind of Xenoblade OST, Yoko Shimomura and Yasunori Mitsuda among others, I can really hope for an even more epic soundtrack and something tells me I’m not going to be disappointed.

The game offers two voice tracks, Japanese and English, this last one being British English, I’ve been playing with the English voice overs and have to say that in the majority of characters they don’t disappoint, there are a couple of characters whose voice feels off or not quite adequate and I’d have liked for the villains to have like a bit more of a cybernetic effect on their voices, besides that, the sound delivers a good experience.

Finally, the gameplay is what like to call an offline MMO. When you are not following the story the sidequests and exploration are your main resources for entertainment, and believe me, you are going to spend a lot of time sidequesting. Every time you get to a new town and start talking to people there a reputation meter is created, the more sidequests you complete from that town the better your reputation becomes and as people like you more new sidequests appear, some of them are the quite mundane “Go and kill 5 of these monsters or collect 4 of these items” however, mundane or not, they prove to be somewhat addicting every time I get a new bunch of these quests I feel the weird need of going out and complete as many of them as I can. One of the most interesting features that I’ve found in this already seen formula is that the game has an “Auto-complete” feature that, as the name says, once the requirements of a quest have been fulfilled, the quests is completed and delivered automatically, avoiding you the need of going back to turn the quest in with the quest giver. I really love this option a lot since it saves me the time of going back to town, even when the game also features a fast travel option, a la Fallout.

As for the battle system, it’s an interesting mix between more Final Fantasy XII and MMO games. Terms like aggro, tanks, buffs and debuffs are constantly used in battle, instead of a MP bar, all the special attacks have cooldown time. I’ve to say, though, that the battle system took me a bit for surprise, this is because the game that I played previous to Xenoblade was Tales of Graces f, which features a fast, action packed and combo filled battle system, so at first the one from Xenoblade felt a bit slow since you lock on an enemy hit the attack command and then your characters attack on their own, leaving you only with the responsibilities of moving around, since certain attacks do more damage and inflict certain debuffs depending on where you are standing on the battle, however, once I got used to how this battle system works, I found myself really in love with it, trying to plan ahead what skills to invest my skill points into and even trying to come out with combos during battle. One of my main complaints about battles, at least during the first hours of the game, was that there are no healing items, so you are left to only use skills to heal, or be healed, while in combat, the fact is that if you do what I did and try to hit most of the sidequests before Sharla, the first real healer that you find, joins you, you are going to have a tough time dealing with debuffs like Bleed and Poison, since both deplete your health quite fast.

All in all, so far Xenoblade has kept me wanting for more, I really hope that the story keeps on the track it is right now and that the battles are just as engaging as they have been. It’s actually not hard to see why it has got so many good scores and positive reviews from American reviewers, could this be the return of JRPGs to their former glory? Who knows, but I sure would like to see that happening. And now, if you will excuse me, I have some really cool marsh to explore and a new party member to get familiar with.

Reflections on… Dragon Age: Origins and BioWare.

•January 11, 2010 • 8 Comments

  I was planning to talk about Bayonetta in this second entry of my blog, however I suppose there must be like a trillion of blogs entries about the new king (or is it queen?) of action games, so, since I’m not the kind of gamer that likes to talk about overly chewed subjects, I’m going to leave Bayonetta for next week’s blog, I hope that by that time I had already finished it and at least have more than half of trophies, that way I’m going to be able to give a better and more objective opinion.

 This time I’m going to dedicate this space to give my thoughts about BioWare and their latest creation: Dragon Age: Origins, since it is the latest game I’ve finished and I just restarted it some days ago, so the memories and thoughts are fresh enough to give my rants and raves about it.

 The first thing I’d like to say is that I’m not a PC gamer, I have tried many times to play PC games with horrible results, if we don’t count World of Warcraft, that I played from late November 2006 to early April 2008, the PC game in which I have done more progress is Warcraft III, I finished the Human campaign and got half way through the Undead campaign, oh, and I’ve got a Sim in The Sims 2, but that’s it, further attempts in games like Dawn of War have been unsuccessful, so I never got to experience the world rocking games that Bioware put on PC years ago.

 My first encounter with a BioWare game was none other than Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, I remember that I got an original Xbox just to play that game, and it rocked my world like few games had done it before, KOTOR was the first time I was exposed to dialogue trees, to moral choices that actually affected the course of the game, I loved how well BioWare managed to apply them to a Jedi/Sith situation, it was a dream came true for a Star Wars fan like me, so yeah, with this game BioWare got me as a loyal follower.

dao.jpg picture by isalcoal

The loyalty however didn’t last long since I skipped Jade Empire due to lack of interest, nothing in that game appealed to me, it’s one of the games that has been on my game queue at Gamefly since day one and I have always moved it aside to order other games,  I really have no idea why Jade Empire never interested me since I loved KOTOR as the child I haven’t got.

 However things changed when Mass Effect was announced, I was eagerly anticipating that game, I was one of the many gamers that followed Mass Effect evolution during its production time, reading interviews, watching trailers and videos; I just couldn’t wait for it to come out.

 Due to financial reasons I wasn’t able to buy it on launch day but was able to rent it and play it a few months later, and being honest the first thought that came to my mind when the final credits started to roll was: “This is not a game I’d buy, good thing I rented it first…” For some reason, Mass Effect didn’t live up to my expectations, I don’t know if it was me who was waiting for a game as mind blowing as KOTOR, or just the game wasn’t as good as everyone said it was, whatever the reason, the high opinion I had of BioWare faded a bit.

 When Dragon Age: Origins was announced it was my friend Ernie who sent me the link to the first video through msn, I thought it was going to be a new MMO but he told me then that it was a new offline RPG from BioWare, honestly I didn’t care a lot about the game, actually I didn’t care at all, I just felt like it was going to be another Mass Effect to me, so I just ignored the game.

 By the time the game came out I was oblivious of it, but I ended getting it thanks to the initial love it got from Ernie, even Roli, another great friend of mine who happens to not like WRPGs a lot, got it, so I decided to give it a try after all.

 After spending almost 70 hours in my first playthrough I have to say that Dragon Age: Origins is, at least to me, another step down taken by BioWare, with this I’m not saying that the game is bad, it’s actually entertaining, but that’s it, the game lacks the personality and charisma from other games from BioWare, not only that, it’s glitchy and unbalanced.

DragonAgeOrigins-scr012.jpg picture by isalcoal

When it comes to the game’s plot it got me really interested at first, but I lost interest when I found out how much it resembles the book “A Song of Ice and Fire” I mean, BioWare took all the core elements from the book and pasted them on their game. Then comes the graphics, some have dared to say that they are beautiful and I wonder if they played the same game I played, the graphic work is mediocre at best, there is a lot of late textures, the character models look like robots and the body language is just hilarious.

I could go on and on about he things that I disliked about Dragon Age: Origins, but I have to say that there were things that I enjoyed enough to make me like the game to the point of giving it a score of 8.0, and even start a second playthrough aiming to get more trophies, so, like I said it’s not a bad game, just not as good as I thought it could be.

What I find interesting in all this is how, at least to me, but if you check game scores of BioWare games you will see a trend, BioWare games have been getting lower scores, in my case KOTOR was a perfect 10, Mass Effect a 9 and now Dragon Age: Origins is an 8, and honestly, their games are starting to feel repetitive and in some moments monotonous, you don’t believe me? Go and play the Fade event in Origins, then you’ll understand.

Another weird thing is that recently BioWare top guys declared in an interview that Japanese RPGs are stuck because they lack evolution, that comes from the guys that have been using the exact same gameplay core elements (the dialogue trees and the moral choices) for seven years now, so if you ask me it’s not more than hypocrisy from their part, I mean, Mass Effect 2 is coming out in two weeks, it’s going to sell tons of units, but in the end it’s going to be the same game you have been playing since 2003, I don’t use comparisons, I actually hate them, but I don’t remember any Final Fantasy game feeling like any other of the series, but with BioWare games it feels more like if you are playing expansions of the same game just with a different setting, could it be that the success finally got into their heads? Who knows, I just wish they wouldn’t have made that comment, that just gave me an impression of them that I didn’t want, since I actually used to admire them as a developer team.

Anyway, I think I have been ranting for way to long now, before I stop let me thank all of you who read this blog and all of you that commented on my past entry, it sure gave me the confidence I needed to continue blogging in this site, I thank you once again for reading and I say goodbye for now, see you next time my friends

Promises, Promises…

•January 2, 2010 • 14 Comments

Well, after a long time thinking and meditating about coming back to the world of blogging I have decided to just stop wasting time and come back once and for all, so here I am, ready to start again, I still don’t think I’m going to get a lot of people reading me here, but I’m going to do this just for the pleasure of blogging.

Ok now,  if you don’t know me you must be asking yourself: “Who the hell is this guy and why is he making such a big deal about him blogging again?” Well, allow me to answer you, I’m no one special, not a superstar blogger or anything, I just happened to be a sort of active blogger but stopped three years ago because I became addict to World of Warcraft, but let’s not go ahead of ourselves and allow me to introduce myself.

Hello! You can either call me Falenan or Alex, which happens to be my real name, I’m a 28 year old guy (29 in a couple of weeks) that is addicted to videogames and football, or soccer (ugh!) like some like to call it, most of the times manga, anime, movies and books are added to that addiction, so yeah, in other words I’m a geek and honestly I’m a really proud one, So as you should have guessed this blog is going to be about the afore mentioned stuff 99% of the time.

As for why am I claiming this to be my return to blogging? Well, before getting addicted to World of Warcraft I had, and still have, a blog at 1up.com and I used to blog there like once a week, but like I said, WoW came, pretty much fucked up my life and left me crying asking for my mommy… Well not that bad but it was really annoying, anyway, long story short, I stopped blogging, tried to start again a couple of times but this time laziness stopped me, so this time I hope I’m back for good.

Now that introductions are out of the way allow me to start with my first blog, since the first post I made here was only a test, so, this time I want to talk about something that happened the first days of 2009, pretty much a year ago, I was randomly browsing through the blogs of friends a 1up.com and found myself at rocca’s, a great gamer whom I’d like to talk more often since he is a really cool guy, so he was telling about a goal that he sets for himself each year, the goal is to finish fifty games per year, I finished twenty eight games on 2008 and I thought it was insane to aim for fifty, so I never really set myself for that goal.

Months passed and by the end of November I had finished forty five games, during the year I had several conversations through msn with my online bro Ernie about the fifty games a year mark and he ended inspiring me to try to reach it so I ended aiming for the fifty games since I was close, in the end, and after being stuck at 48 most of December, I finished the two final games I needed on the 31st at 10:44 pm for those interested allow me to post here what games I finished.

  1. Suikoden
  2. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
  3. Trauma Center: Under the Knife.
  4. Dead Space.
  5. Suikoden IV
  6. Street Figher IV
  7. The Legend of Zelda: Phatom Hourglass.
  8. Final Fantasy XII
  9. Resident Evil 5
  10. Resistance 2
  11. Jeanne D’Arc.
  12. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
  13. Heavenly Sword.
  14. Parasite Eve.
  15. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
  16. Tomb Raider: Anniversary.
  17. Tomb Raider: Legend.
  18. Pokemon Diamond.
  19. Tomb Raider: Underworld.
  20. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.
  21. God of War: Chains of Olympus.
  22. Fallout 3
  23. .Hack: G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth.
  24. .Hack: G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce.
  25. Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit.
  26. .Hack: G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption.
  27. Suikoden Tierkreis.
  28. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.
  29. Kane and Lynch: Dead Men.
  30. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
  31. Professor Layton and the Curious Village.
  32. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
  33. Killzone.
  34. Killzone: Liberation.
  35. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master.
  36. Killzone 2
  37. Ristar.
  38. Bionic Commando.
  39. Threads of Fate.
  40. Gunstar Heroes.
  41. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona.
  42. Ghostbusters: The Videogame.
  43. Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure.
  44. Resistance: Fall of Man.
  45. Assassin’s Creed II
  46. Prince of Persia.
  47. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
  48. Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  49. PoPoLoCrois.
  50. Dragon Age: Origins.

So, allow me to thank Rocca and Ernie for the inspiration. Now, some of the best games I played this 2009 were SMT: Persona 4, Metal Gear Solid 4,  Final Fantasy XII, Dead Space, Assassin’s Creed II and Batman: Arkham Asylum, In 2009 I also got to play the worst game I have played in my life, that being (with all due respect to the people that liked it) Killzone: Liberation, I hated that game so much that I almost thought about quitting gaming… Well, not that much but I really hated it.

Anyway, this has become a long blog and I’m not a big fan of those, unless they are really good and I know this is not, I’d like to thank to the people (if any) who took some minutes to read my boring rambling, I promise not to make future entries this long, well, it’s time to say goodbye for now, thanks again for reading, see you next time my friends.

Testing….

•January 1, 2010 • 4 Comments

I’m not really sure why am I starting this when chances are that no one is going to read me, anyway, this is just a test, an introduction and more about what this blog is going to be about will be posted soon.

 
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