Saturday, February 22, 2014

Game Diary - I'm loving Lightning Returns.

I think the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn beta is up on PS4 right now - it seems intelligent to give it a shot, given my affection for XI Online, but I've avoided it entirely. I think, worst-case scenario, I might like it.

That would be awful.  MMOs are a double-edged blade in that, in video game terms, they are somewhat the alpha and omega.  A video game's principal pursuit, one could say, is the rendering of an artificial reality for the player to lose themselves in - and few genres are more capable than the MMO at utterly absorbing a player and their imagination.

World of Warcraft addiction is a well-documented affliction - I myself would get up, go to work, come home, play WoW until I was ready to pass out and crash.  Rinse, repeat for years on end.  Literally.  There's a /played command in the WoW console, and my /played tally was in the years when I finally tore myself free of that virtual prison.

The play of MMOs is often the worst you'll ever find - a dangling carrot that's always just out of reach, the pursuit of which is never quite fun.  No, there but for the grace of God go I - but, again and thankfully, I haven't felt very tempted to - because something downright miraculous has occurred.


I'm really enjoying Lightning Returns : Final Fantasy XIII.  Or at least, I'm enjoying it enough that I look forward to coming home and playing it every day, exploring more of its world, gaining new strength and seeing Lightning generally be a total fucking badass.

This is deeply weird.  I have never, ever, ever really enjoyed a core Final Fantasy game.  I've tried repeatedly for years - but Lightning Returns is the only one that I really feel like I want to see through to the end (naturally, this occurs with two day-one purchases due to arrive in four days).

Chamberlain's already written quite a bit on the subject - but what you need to know about Lightning Returns is that it is both quite traditional and totally insane in terms of RPG standards.  For example, this is an RPG that doesn't include experience points in any way, shape or form.  You don't level Lightning up.


Lightning's method of returning lost Moogles home must be seen to be appreciated.
She does get steadily stronger - but only via the completion of quests, which instantly grant you more life, strength and magic points.  You can find and purchase new outfits for her, which - in addition to being at times badass, sexy and stylish, are often the only way to grant her the most powerful spells and attacks.

She can equip three different "schema" - outfits - into battle, switching between each instantaneously with a tap of R1, and each outfit always comes with its own active skill (like a powerful melee strike with a desirable passive effect), and can then be customized with standards like block, attack or magic spells.

Right now my opening schemata is called 'Passion Rogue' - it came pre-equipped with powerful second-tier debuffs I hadn't seen before.  I now begin each battle by tapping square, triangle, circle and X in quick succession to lay down Slow, Deprotect, Deshell and Imperil before switching to either my hard-hitting (and blocking) melee outfit or my souped-up caster gear and unleashing the pain - which has made previously powerful enemies like Reavers such pushovers that I can farm them for the precious Energy Points they grant.

Now, I have no idea what "Imperil" actually does - and fuck this game for not explaining what any ability does, anywhere - but it makes my magic hit harder after I cast it, so I'll keep it up.

Defeating enemies grants you a sliver's worth of EP - energy points - which you'll almost always spend on freezing the clock and buying yourself an extra in-game hour to run around, complete quests and save the world.  In-game time is the most precious commodity you have, as the world will end in six days.

The entire population knows the world will end soon, by the way - but they're pretty easy-going about it.  They've all been cursed with immortality for the past half-millennium, and kinda' feel like the apocalypse would be preferable to this hellish and unnatural eternal life.

It's very weird - but it's weird in all these ways that make it more interesting, more endearing.  It's traditional in all the things you want from an RPG.

You wander across a sprawling, magical overworld with a day-night cycle, attacking enemies as they appear on the field like you would in an action-RPG - which then brings you in to the game's very weird, very fast-paced, quite satisfying combat system.

You go here and there, meeting folks, completing quests, earning new abilities and becoming steadily stronger - the core of any good RPG is here, and well-represented - but where the standard RPG formula can be spiced up, made more interesting, more efficient, Lightning Returns does its best to offer something creative and original.

I'm gonna' go keep playing it.  And by the way,

I started replaying Gravity Rush on breaks at work, and..?

It's so good.  It makes me think back to last fall when everyone way saying Tearaway was "finally" the Vita's killer app.

No, son.  No, not by a long shot.  Gravity Rush is fantastic in all ways.  Nice story, gorgeous visuals, fantastic animation, wonderful music, totally fun and very unique gameplay.  If you have a Vita and you haven't played it, do yourself a solid and download Gravity Rush.  If you're walking through a store and you see it, buy Gravity Rush.

You owe it to yourself to experience this.

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