Atelier Totori (early impressions)

I think I heard about the Atelier games in a “recommend a game” thread where they started discussing games where you collect and craft things.  Someone said the Atelier games were all about collecting alchemy ingredients from plants and monsters and then crafting them into stuff, and it sounded like a perfect game for me.  Then I discovered my husband had already bought one ages ago and didn’t like it… so I gave it a whirl.

This game is really… what’s the word… “kawaii”?  I’m not one of those people who despite anime, but this is like, sickeningly cutesy.  The main character doesn’t walk from place to place, she prances.  Every character arc seems to be some variation of “Oh no I messed up!  Tee hee hee “sigh” *sweat drop*”.  It’s getting old real fast, I gotta say.  So it’s not really a mystery why my husband dropped it like a hot rock… but I decided to stick it out and see if I could plow past the “tutorial” introduction cutscenes and maybe make some character development happen.  I’ve gotten my level 3 badge now (so still not very far, but going somewhere) and I’m starting to fear that maybe they’re not tutorial cutscenes.  Maybe this is the game.  :/

I’m really enjoying the base gameplay so far.  It’s pretty much as advertised: walk somewhere, collect flowers, beat up monsters and take their shit, then go home and mix them together.  You can take requests to create or clobber something then report back for cash, which you can then use to buy new recipes.  Creating/clobbering results in exp which makes you more successful at more advanced attempts.  It’s your standard addictive treadmill gameplay and it’s exactly what I was in the mood for.

Which is why it’s so annoying that the game keeps forcing this abysmal “plot” on me.  Everything I do seems to trigger a cutscene.  Not an interesting cutscene, just some sort of scenario with whatever character I walked past at the time.  None of these characters are interesting yet, and the game is trying way too fucking hard to be funny.  You’re not really that funny, game.  Stop it.

This happened just now:
Talk to request person – cutscene.
Since there was a cutscene, I got bumped out of the talk menus and didn’t get to turn in my request, so, talk to request person again.
Hand in quests, pick up new quests.
Go to shop to mix up the items the new requests asked for – cutscene of someone walking into my shop.
Make them go away, then actually get a chance to make the new items.
Go hand in items at request person – cutscene.
Ugh actually hand in new items now that cutscene is over.
Realize I have enough money for a new recipe book!  Go to store.
Talk to store clerk – cutscene.
Talk to store clerk again so I can actually buy the god damn book I came here for.

Maybe one of those cutscenes actually advanced some character development, for a minor character I don’t really give a shit about (the development was “This person is so cute that guys come and stare at her all the time but are too nervous to talk to her”, so it seems unlikely the story progression will change that a whole lot :/).  The rest seemed like complete filler/attempts at humour, but all it really succeeded in doing was annoying the shit out of me because it was impeding me from getting to any of my goals.

I want to play this game.  I want to collect items and mix them into powerful items and then go beat the shit out of gryffons or whatever, and then mix their livers into even more cooler items.  Shut up and let me play your game.

Maybe it’s not for me.  But I want to play it, dammit.  :/

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Assassin’s Creed Black Flag (First Impressions)

This is kind of cheating since I haven’t really played much of it yet, just the prologue stuff, but I already have some things to say so why not.  I was looking forward to this title because I’ve spent way too much time playing the the AssCreed games.  I played the first one and enjoyed it, until I got to the ending and said “What the fuck” and immediately filed it under a Steam category titled “The Ending Sucks”. It was sorta-kinda redeemed when I played AssCreed 2, aided significantly by the fact that AssCreed 2 was an amazing fucking game.  I put so many hours into it.  And then I immediately went from that into Brotherhood which was similarly amazing because it was the exact same game except polished up to be even better.  By the time I was done Brotherhood, Revelations had come out… but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t play more AssCreed yet.  Plus, none of the new mechanics in Revelations really appealed to me.  The tower defense stuff was kind of dumb (I don’t like tower defense in the first place…) and it annoyed me that bomb making took a centre stage spotlight because it meant finding chests was no longer exciting, because all of them held bomb parts now.  Plus Ezio, while still badass, was really old and his facial animations seemed kind of weird to me and enh I dunno it just didn’t appeal to me in the same way.  I figured I would play it one day if only to wrap up the Ezio story, but I never really got around to it.  AssCreed 3 came out and I had no desire whatsoever to play it.  I’ve never been interested in history, and I’m not American, so running around in a forest during the American revolution was wholly uninteresting to me.  Then the reviews came out and they did not inspire me to change my mind.  I didn’t even try a demo of it…

And now I can be a mother fucking pirate oh my god yes.  Whoever is picking the settings for these games, feel free to stand up from your desk right now and announce “Nailed it!” to the office.  I’m saying this without actually having played much of the game, mind you, but I am trusting that it continues to be as awesome as it seems so far.

It also looks amazingly shiny on my computer.  So pretty.  The water makes me want to go swimming.

Quick warning: I rant in this next section.  It is a rant that will probably seem very familiar, and yet no less irrationally angry or profanity laden.  Proceed at your own risk.

My next comment is for the guys in charge of the camera.  You.  Yes you.  You added camera bobbing to Assassin’s Creed and did not add a way to disable it.  You fucking assholes I fucking hate you.  I hope you get fucking fired and never work in this industry again.  Jesus christ it makes me so fucking angry oh my fucking god why.  There was no fucking bobbing in all of the previous games.  I merrily ran around and climbed shit and assassinated people without bobbing for many hundreds of hours and had no headaches or nausea.  It is a THIRD PERSON CAMERA.  IT DOESN’T NEED TO FUCKING BOB.  I HATE YOU ALL.  Is it supposed to enhance immersion by making me go “wow these ships are so real that I actually feel kind of sea sick!” because that’s a STUPID FUCKING THING TO ADD TO YOUR GAME.  I don’t even care if you want to add camera bobbing but let me fucking turn it off.   WHY IS THAT SO FUCKING HARD TO FIGURE OUT.  WHY CAN’T ANYONE IN THIS STUPID GOD DAMN INDUSTRY FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT.  FUCK YOU.  There, I feel better now.

After all that profanity, I will add that the bob isn’t too bad.  It’s enough to give me a headache and probably make me limit my play sessions (which sucks in a game I will probably want to spend 200 hours in, if it’s like the previous ones…) but it’s significantly less worse than Tomb Raider was and I might be able to adjust to it.  I object to that fact that I need to adjust to it at all when it’s completely fucking unnecessary, though.  Fortunately it’s only at its worst when you’re sprinting and jumping, and since this is an Assassin’s Creed game, you don’t do a lot of…….. oh.

Moving on… there are a couple other comments I wanted to make too.

As I said, I skipped 3, so the intro to 4 is my first real experience with “Forest Parkour”.  It gets a resounding *shrug* from me – it’s certainly not as exciting as climbing on historical monuments, but I also don’t hate it as much as a lot of the internet seemed to for 3.  Maybe it’s improved since then.  What did annoy me, though, was looking at a cliff covered in lovely climbable looking ivy and branches and launching Edward at it, only to have him scrabble at it like a cat that just tried to leap up a slanted window.  There were very few walls that you could not make an attempt at climbing in the cities, and when you weren’t going to be able to make it it was pretty obvious due to the lack of features on said wall, so you’d circle around and look for a window or board that looked grabbable.  I found it really hard to determine which cliff walls were climbable or not (any rock climber could climb this shit, come on man) and spent a lot of time experimentally hurling myself into them until I finally just gave up and started looking for obvious paths.  It felt a lot more restrictive than I am used to in AssCreed.  Also Edward was unable to climb up an absolutely perfectly square three-walled “chimney” that any idiot (presuming said idiot was a remarkably in-shape assassin) could have climbed up using mario-style wall jumping or just shimmying.  Even Sam Fisher can do this shit!  Maybe I can buy that as an upgrade later or something but it was VERY disappointing.  Shame on you Edward.  You pussy.

Camera headaches aside, I am very excited to sail around finding treasure maps.  I’m liking the characters so far (they have plenty of time to piss me off though) and I’m looking forward to obsessively collecting shit again.  Unless there are feathers.  Fuck those feathers.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider consumed a few days of my life, and now I am going to tell you about it.  I’m not sure that it really needs any kind of promotion, but I still feel like talking about it.  I paid 13 dollars for it and I feel guilty for not paying more (although apparently they didn’t even bother to count digital distributions when they calculated whether the game was a success or not, so, welp).  It took me just over 20 hours to 100% the game, but that includes all the time I spent running around aimlessly and trying to jump on/off things just to see if I could, and obsessively reloading because I fucked up a stealth kill and wanted to try again.

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Xenoblade: First Impressions

I say First Impressions because, despite putting 6 hours into it so far, I haven’t actually left the first town and have barely started the story.  But I can certainly comment on some of the mechanics!  And when I’m done, 200 hours from now, I’ll have forgotten everything I was going to say anyway, so I may as well start now.

I was in the mood for something RPGish and needed something engaging to do while using the recumbent bike, so a console RPG seemed like a perfect fit.  Our Wii library is pretty anemic, and Xenoblade has been coming up in a lot of conversations, so it seemed like a safe bet.  So far it was the correct choice – my hour on the bike disappears, and then I just keep going to finish up whatever I was doing.  If only my butt didn’t go numb, I’d be in amazing shape by the end of this game…

Despite putting only 6 hours into it, I seem to have a lot to say

Mine Things

I have been playing a browser game called “Mine Things”.  Maybe I should put “playing” in quotes.  The premise of the game is that we fucked up the Earth, left, then came back in the future and started mining on the ruined Earth (pretty much the same setting as WALL-E, without the search for life).  As a result, you mine things like umbrellas, clothing, weapons, ships, vehicles or, uh… camels.  The setting is basically an excuse to mine things, as opposed to the components to make things.  (Because seriously if we’re from the future, why am I putzing around on a camel I dug out of the ground instead of a god damn space ship.  So yeah, don’t worry about the plot making sense!)

Each player receives a starting mine, which has a little worker robot that digs up items.  It does this very, very, slowly.  It’s measured in buckets per hour, and they are real-time hours.  You get one item maybe every 8 hours or so, but of course there is an RNG element to it.  You can also get more equipment that improves the number of buckets per hour you dig up, which can help a bit.  So you don’t really play Mine Things, you log in once or twice a day and see what’s up.  There’s a linear progression of rarity, with yellow items being pretty common and you’re guaranteed to find one or two a day most likely, but then finding much rarer items is a fraction of a percent of a chance, and could take months or a lot of luck.  There are a number of orange items (the rarest) which are still listed as undiscovered because no one in the game has dug one up yet.

The “goal” of the game is to create melds of items.  The melds are largely nonsensical combinations of things that can be dug up.  This gives a purpose to the non-equippable items, and makes finding the rare items exciting.  The number of melds you have corresponds to your level, and unlocks new professions to try.  Items can be bought or sold automatically to whoever has the highest/lowest bids, so you can try to complete your collection of melds even if you haven’t found the proper whatsits for it yet.  Players set the market, so obviously rarer stuff, or things used in many different melds, tend to have much higher value than say, the toothbrush everyone digs up 80 of despite having completed the one meld it’s used in on probably your first day.  (Fortunately you can also set mines to auto-trash an item if you are never ever ever going to use or sell it.  Fucking toothbrushes…).

Up to this point, the game is basically a mining version of ProgressQuest.  And honestly, I really liked it.  There is something satisfying about logging in to see what your mine has uncovered.  It could be rare! It could be valuable! It could be exciting!  Slow but steady progress and an appeal to the horrible completionist within me.  And at higher levels of melds you can try professions like fisherman, instead of mining, and even some more complicated systems like setting up factories that other players can work in.

Now comes the tricky part.  The starter mine is just one of many kinds of mines.  The mines are spread over a number of different cities within the world.  You, as the player, can pop to any city you want (once you’ve sent a vehicle out and discovered it, anyway.  Discovering a town is literally selecting a question mark from a dropdown list and waiting for the vehicle to arrive, so don’t get too excited about the “exploration”) and buy and sell things.  To actually create a meld out of those items, you need to transport the items back to your home town.  So even if you buy up mines all over the world, you’ll still need to transport the goodies back home.

Which is where the conflict comes in.  One of the professions a higher level player can choose involves pilfering items from vehicles/ships enroute.  The combat system is…….. not great.  The most common defense a player uses is to send out a bunch of empty decoy vehicles to tie up would-be attackers, so that their goods make it through.  Which means the would-be attackers amass an army of vehicles to counter the decoys and dig down to the treasure trove.  Not only does owning that many vehicles take a lot of cash, but at that point they probably have inventory expansions to hold all the vehicles that new players can’t really compete with.  And since it’s an online game, you just have your standard dicks who destroy vehicles and make you lose your goods because they think it’s funny to ruin someone’s day.

I’m really not interested in this sort of conflict.  The game is pointless enough in the first place… getting lucky and finding a super rare item just to have it *yoink*ed is not appealing to me.  (Losing items by taking a risk and failing is one thing… losing items because you have to travel along routes is entirely another.)  I’ve avoided all transport of valuable goods so far because I’ve had enough not-valuable goods stolen to see that it’s common.  Fans of the game will argue that you should set up an alliance with a powerful guard who will travel in front of you and waylay the pirates, but that’s not appealing to me either.  I just want to find treasure and complete collections without combat being mandatory.  I did try the guard professions to see if I could make a dent in the pirate threat, but found that my ship was eluded by much faster ships or the crew was outnumbered sometimes 2 to 1 and didn’t even attempt to fight, despite having a decent stash of weapons.  It suggested to me that I need much better vehicles/weapons to even attempt to compete, much less transport valuable things.  Meanwhile, I’m not making any cash…

Adding to the annoyance is that you must set a specific profession for each kind of travel.  While moving goods by land, I can’t move them by sea, and vice versa.  While hunting pirates on the sea, I can’t move goods anywhere, nor can I do any guarding on land routes.  You can still buy/sell in towns, but nothing is going home to make melds until you set your profession back to the right kind of transport.  It’s clunky and artificially limiting.

And then there are the mines.  The only way to acquire a new mine is to buy it from a player who no longer wants it… or buy it for real money from the game site itself.  Therefore each new mine must enter the game via real cash.  Therefore players who forked out real cash for mines want a healthy gold return on their obsolete and now unwanted mines.  Everyone starts with a starter mine, and even those go for 6000 gold (hint: 6000 gold is still a lot).  To get the most expensive kind of mine in the game will cost you 60,000 gold, or 675 credits.  You get 50 credits for 5 dollars.  The most expensive mine in the game costs 67.5 real dollars to purchase.  You can buy brand new AAA titles for less than that mine in this browser game.  The cheapest mine – the starter mine that everyone starts with – costs 75 credits.  So the cheapest (and most useless, since you already have one) mine costs 7.5 dollars, and it is substantially cheaper than the rest.

If I were really enjoying the game I would probably drop 5 bucks on a new kind of mine, but sixty dollars what.

And then after I dropped cash on the mine, I’d probably be unable to move my valuable goods from it back home without heavily investing in armed forces to protect them.  Ugh, I just… why isn’t there a god damn game where I can collect and trade things and have some sense of progression without an extensive leaning on combat or player vs player conflict?  And no, I don’t mean Animal Crossing.  I want there to be some kind of point to the progression, and I also don’t want the game patronizing me and filling up with cockroaches if I take a break for a couple days.

The game itself is certainly unique and there are some neat ideas in it, especially if you like the social aspects of working with strangers and coordinating things (the player run banking system is especially neat), but I’m not sure that I can recommend it.  If the pirating/griefing appeals to you you’d probably like it, but then that’s probably why the game is filling up with pirates and making it hard for peaceful traders to actually enjoy it.

Back to my search for a decent trading MMO…