Metroid Dread

It’s a weird thing to play another actual 2D Metroid game again, nearly 10 years since the last one. Sure, there was a bunch of Metroid Prime games, but I was not a fan of the FPS view point. Plus, in that time there was a surge of Metroidvania games that hit the market, each one taking a slightly different approach but maintaining the 2D controls.

And that’s the kicker right. Look at all the amazing games we have had:

  • Hollow Knight
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Axiom Verge
  • Dead Cells
  • Dust
  • Blasphemous
  • Guacamelee
  • Bloodstained

Some focus on the controls, some on rogue-like elements, others in the story or quests. Each one has a particular element that just plain shines.

So where does that leave Metroid? Being a Switch exclusive doesn’t help. Anything looks good on a tiny screen, and this game does look good, but in the dock it certainly doesn’t scale. One of those weird things were a Switch emulator is a better deal… welcome to 2021 Nintendo! (*insert thoughts on a 4K Switch being delayed*) It also has a sort of diorama experience, where Samus feels superimposed on the world, which I think works quite well. There are plenty of loading screens (15+ seconds), which is just plain dumb. No, dumb would mean that it wasn’t purposeful. Someone thought this was acceptable and designed around it.

It looks clean.

The moment to moment gameplay is good, with decent controls. They are smooth nut not responsive, with better examples in the list above. This gets more challenging the more abilities you unlock… the dash and spin attacks lack precise controls and you’ll have a lot of trail and error to get it down. The skills you do get are more about opening new parts of the map, rather than changing the particular playstyle. Your beam attack gets more powerful over time, but it’s the same point and shoot from start to end. The solution to every problem seems to be to just put more bullets into it.

The enemies are diverse and certainly require you to take different approaches as the game progresses. The difficulty is relatively low, with only a few exceptions, such as bosses. Bosses here are more akin to perfect runs. You either ace the fight or die. There’s very little wiggle room, so you’ll die repeatedly until you learn the move set of the enemy, then feel like a gaming god when you clear it with no hits taken. It never feels overly painful and does increase the sense of progress. Kraid is here for some unknown reason. I will say the last boss is a right mess to learn all the patterns. It felt extremely good to take him down.

The EMMI droids are an interesting experiment. They are restricted to specific areas and if they detect you will kill you 99% of the time. So again, this is about perfecting a run, with some randomization where the EMMI will patrol. Sometimes it just isn’t fair, and other times you wonder where the EMMI is in the zone. You can never improve your ability to survive them, so there’s no sense of progress. If they were not present, and instead replaced with mini-bosses, this would be a better experience. Or more tools to avoid capture/delay them. It doesn’t work and you’ll just brute force your way through those sections.

The metroidvania part of the game is simplified compared to pretty much all competition. Every collectible is shown on the map, so reaching 100% is quite easy. There are no side quests, no currency, no hidden bits. Backtracking is required, and not terribly intuitive – I got lost a few times on the proper next steps. Teleporting around the map is quite painful (see loading screen item above), so the sense of scale/freedom isn’t there. I will say that there are a half dozen ‘puzzles’ in the game that relate to storing a speedboost (spark) and then quickly going somewhere else to use it. Figuring out how to solve those puzzles is a LOT of fun… if only the controls were consistent enough to let you do it.

This is a quite negative review of the game, but it’s only when compared to the rest of the genre. I can sum this up in one sentence – if Metroid Dread was released 10 years ago, then it would be an extremely high bar. But it didn’t. Every game in the list above is better – better controls, better story, better exploration. This feels more like a new coat of paint on Super Metroid than an actual fresh take. It’s not a bad game, far from it. It’s good and will keep you going. But in this case, the students have far surpassed the master.

Diablo 2 Woes

Over 9 years ago, Blizzard launched Diablo 3. I was there at launch, and for over a month there was the dreaded Error 37, preventing all play. A few months after that, SimCity launched with a similar model and collapsed almost entirely under it’s own weight with the same issue. 9 years ago the interwebs were dealing with the inability to scale their servers.

This is 2021 and Diablo2 servers have been up and down for a month since launch. No skin off my back, I’m done with Blizzard for the foreseeable future, but I also don’t live in a cave to ignore a behemoth like Blizzard not figuring this stuff out. And to be clear, it’s not like Blizzard wants to disappoint players.

I did post a while back about cloud architecture, and how Blizzard runs a hybrid model to manage peak load, for non-sensitive components. Authentication is one of the sensitive bits, for a billion reasons, and not something a AAA company would want to put in a “public” cloud. There are “private” cloud offerings, which are an interesting conversation on their own. I am not a Blizzard network engineer, so this is all speculation here based on prior experience. I am not at all saying this is easy, even less so when you are trying to re-jig (*checks notes*) 21 year old-code.

And yet, this reads like more bad news on a company that can’t really seem to find much positive to report. In some alternate world I’d feel bad for kicking a company while it’s down… but this is really all self-inflicted.

FF14 – Now What?

I hit 80 on my WHM the other day. 13 days played to get through the entire MSQ – I did start in 2013 and stalled out at the end of 3.0. In terms of cost vs time spent, it’s a crazy value. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say all that time was well spent as there is a limit to one’s sanity when it comes to cutscenes. I can’t see how anyone would ever consider picking up FF14 when Endwalker comes out, and start from scratch. Nor should a new player just plop down at 70 and understand all the interconnected systems with a boost. A problem with no good (or perhaps simple) answers.

But I’m not here to talk about them! I hit 80! All the world is my oyster! It’s also a very big oyster. There are a lot of things I can do now, with close to 5 weeks before Endwalker comes about.

  • Learn the systems
    • There are maps, airships, savage runs, desynced battles and a pile of other terms that make no sense to me right now. In those 13 days played, I’ve never had to intersect with those systems.
  • Level more classes
    • Battle classes will be a slow process. Gunbreaker is my main target for now for instant queues and they have a decent look
    • Harvesting classes are the first one. Diadem + GC books mean a relatively quick run up to 50 for Mining and Botany. Having these at 80 for the expansion release will probably be the largest generation of Gil for a foreseeable time.
    • Crafting classes will come later. The guides I’ve read peg this at about 3m cost to get there quickly.
    • Blue Mage. Maybe?
  • Unlock more stuff
    • Beast tribes haven’t been touched. I don’t see a huge involvement here though…
    • Extra dungeons/raids/trials need to be unlocked. There are a few dozens to go. I do have Alphascape done though! (12 raids in a row, throwbacks to FF5, FF6, and FF1. Ghost Train baby!)
    • Flight paths in Stormblood and Shadowbringers will be required. I’ve got most of the ones on the map done, but there are quests to do.
  • Relics
    • This seems like a MASSIVE timesink for what is a glowing weapon skin. So count me in!
  • Housing
    • I have a room. It’s pretty much empty. I should do something about this.
  • Make some Gil
    • I would argue that this really isn’t needed, for a large set of reasons. However, there is something to be said about not having to worry about money. I figure if I can keep a float of 10m, that should be more than enough for a long time (I’m at 3m now).

For now, I think I’ll focus on a couple daily roulettes for the Gunbreaker then the rest of the time leveling the harvesting classes (and unlocking flight). That should keep me busy for the next few weeks. It still feels daunting to have finished climbing the MSQ mountain, only to find a mountain range lurking beyond.

Oh yeah, and find some time for Metroid Dread while I’m at it.

Dyson Sphere Update

In the last couple weeks there have been a couple big updates to Dyson Sphere Program, and then a larger comment on the alien combat content.

Achievement System

For the most part, these are meta goals to change the way you play. Completing the game without using rare materials is certainly doable. Doing it at 0.5x production rate is a scalability challenge. It adds some replayability to the game that isn’t solely focused on SPM at high levels. It will likely generate challenge runs through specific seeds. That would be pretty cool!

Icarus Customization

Less a big deal, but the Icarus (your mech) can now be customized to a decent degree. You can change the color and the art looks better. It is much smoother and doesn’t feel like you’re pasted onto the world. The big gain here though is what this means to the modding community. There are now more hooks to customize your character’s look. It will be quite interesting to see how that plays out!

Combat Engine

I consider this the largest gap with Factorio. The idea that you would encounter hostile aliens during play is both interesting and confusing. Factorio has some sprawl, but it’s dramatically limited as compared to the sprawl in DSP. You’re going to cross solar systems, so whatever defense you do develop has to be highly automated, you need to know what’s going on (imagine fighting on like 12 fronts), and then the ability to impact that context.

Given the complexity of this, the devs are stating at least 6 months of dev work – which makes complete sense. Been lucky so far that DSP has been relatively bug free, the massive blueprint update underwent nearly 2 months of tweaking to get to a really solid spot.

The devs also said there’s more content on the way in the meantime, but I’d be hardpressed to see them as major developments and more focused on QOL items.

tldr; DSP is still in EA, will be for a while, but unless you’re looking for Alien battles in a factory game, it’s pretty much feature-complete.

Site Updates

Figured it was time for some house cleaning. I’ve updated the blogroll to clean out the deprecated blogs (except Isey, I hold out hope!!!) and some other bits and bobs that were no longer working. I should change my blog image header at some point, but it’s also bee the same for something like 12 years now. Like an old sweatshirt… it just feels comfortable.

I followed the Blaugust and read a pile of blogs there too. That’s the next logical step to update those. I’ve got a bunch in Feedly now, just need to take the time to curate it a bit more. The discord channel is super useful as a way to keep up to date as well.

RL has been ultra busy lately. I’m a head coach for one of my girls, helper for another, and it feels like I’m also a sort of guidance counsellor for new coaches/managers in the association. September has always (except last year) been a rock and roll month, and I am looking forward a bit to have a bit more wiggle room with my time. A week or so and things should be good.

Take care!

FF14 Quirks

I’m on a dozen “positive” posts for FF14 of late. They are not effusive in praise, just that they tend to finish on a rather positive note. Looking back on my WoW post history, I don’t think I’ve gone more than 5 in a row without a gripe post, or armchair design item. Heck, my Anthem series has 1 positive post total (to which my brother kindly asked why I was playing it at all). Hindsight here is that I was playing WoW out of habit and small bits of fun – I was clearly not enjoying it as I once did. It was somewhat cathartic to hit the uninstall button a few months ago.

I do need to find the balance in some constructive (?) comments with regards to FF14. It’s not perfect… nothing ever is, but it’s leaps and bounds the best themepark MMO out there, across pretty much every meaningful system. Now, there are some bits that are a bit harder to swallow…

  • New player experience. I am somewhat convinced that FF14 has given up on this as for almost any practical purpose, you’re better off buying the MSQ skip + level boost. By doing so, you actually lose out on all the tutorials (there are many) and the rather solid on-ramp experience from 1-20. That player counts are growing is astounding to me.
  • MSQ time spent. I enjoy the MSQ, I think it’s well written and consistent. You can’t actually see any of the Scions outside of the MSQ, so there’s no weird time travel issues here. (Compare to Khadgar being everywhere and nowhere in WoW). That said, you’re looking at 40 hrs per expansion, with a good 75% of that stuck in cut-scenes. Relevant for the current expansion, but good golly, anyone trying Endwalker for the first time has nearly 200hrs of content to get through. A more obvious way of getting to NG+ would help here.
  • Glamor & Customized looks. Given the small inventory size and multiple jobs, it’s a right mess to have a set of customized looks at the top end. Which is kind of odd, since FF14 really is a glamor competition.
  • Gil costs. Ok, this is not really an issue for top-end players, but it is for anyone going through the MSQ and doesn’t understand the Aetheryte system. Teleport costs don’t scale with level, and the sources for Gil are not readily apparent for anyone who is leveling. Plus, the process of gearing for any MSQ post-campaign quest is stupidly expensive. I don’t think it makes any sense to force an ilvl for a dungeon that you can faceroll through.
  • The default UI. Clearly designed to be console friendly, the base UI is a mess to look at. You don’t really understand how bad this is until you’re in group content and half the real-estate goes away. You can (and should) manually change a bunch of settings/layouts, but if ever there was a place to mod, this is it.
  • Job variety. I guess this depends on your perspective. There are really only 5 classes (tank, melee, physical ranged, magic ranged, and healer). There is not objective difference in playstyle between two warriors. Jobs are akin to WoW-specs which change the buttons, and order of button presses, to execute the same goal. That means there are currently 17 (19 with Endwalker) variations in play. This DRAMATICALLY helps with balancing. Look at WoW and the 36 specs, 4 covenants, half dozen ‘valid’ talent choices, and the nightmare that results (36*4*6 = 864!). I didn’t add Shards or Legendaries either (note: covenants, shards, legendaries will all be wiped in next expansion too, making this a borderline dumb approach to design). tldr; if you like min/maxing, FF14 ain’t really the game for you. Is that a negative? Maybe?
  • Player housing. I personally think that there shouldn’t be any, only guild (free company) housing, where you get a room (and perhaps a fee for a slightly larger room). You’re just not going to find any (problem A) and the design interface is really rough (problem B). I am continuously amazed at how creative players are in regards to decorating – just wow.
  • Inconsistent mechanics. This is a personal one. FF14 does a great job at using a set base of UI elements to train responses. Red = bad, blue = good. Rotating arrows show direction. Icons above your head indicate stacking or spreading. There are however times where there are either no indicators (meaning you need to look at a boss, with particle effects going all over) or the indicators do not correspond to the learned behavior (e.g. the stack icon but you should not stack). These feel like anecdotes that players need to memorize.

That feels like nitpicking. There aren’t any systems that are inherently bad. Everything in the game has a purpose and even stuff from 8 years ago is relevant in some fashion today. When’s the last time you tended your garden in Pandaria, or even visited your class hall in Legion?

What would be interesting to see is FF14’s ‘quit wall’. The point where players generally decide to stop playing due to the effort no longer being a match for the rewards. I’d be super curious to see how many people make it all the way through the MSQ, how many folks have a 2nd job, and the type of content consumed on a daily basis. Even with New World launched, I still have a daily queue on Cactuar, so anecdotally there are still a LOT of players logging on. How long will this increase go post-Endwalker?

Shadowbringers Complete (5.0)

When I rejoined FF14, I was in the middle of 3.1, the first content piece after Heavensward. It’s been about 5 weeks now and I just completed the 5.0 MSQ, with just over 50 quests left to do in order to be prepared for Endwalker. Well… prepared isn’t the right word, perhaps ‘able to take on the first quest’. There is plenty of stuff to do once at 80. This post is instead going to reflect on the MSQ proper, less the stuff around it – so some spoilers here (not the 5.x stuff yet).

The biggest benefit for Shadowbringers (ShB) is that it follows Stormblood (StB), as the former took a tangent to the main story villains and meandered for a long time. ShB goes right back to start of ARR, with the Source and the 13 split shards from the initial sundering. You end up on the First, after it has been swept by the light (this makes sense once you complete Heavensward’s extra MSQ). In short, it focuses on the Scions (good guys), Ascians (bad guys), why the world is the way it is, and what’s at stake.

FF14 has a habit of applying nuance to the world and less the characters. Bad guys are just bad, but the people on their team may be good. There are a few characters that have some backstory to try and explain their actions (Yotsuyu is a really good example), yet most just undergo a heel/hero swap (Fandaniel, Nero, Gaius). ShB does the same thing here for nearly everyone – except the Ascian villain. Emet-Selch provides a ton of backstory to the Ascians, how Zodiark came to be, and the loss of his world. It’s extremely similar to Zanarkand in FFX. You know from the start he’s a bad guy, but you’re also hanging on his every word. When you finally reach Amaurot, there’s a lot of sympathy for what came before.

Tangent. Remember Man of Steel? Where Zod is convinced that to restore Krypton he has to kill everyone on Earth? That was dumb, because there was no empathy for Krypton that was – all we ever saw was war. It had as much weight as if he wanted to put a shopping mall. The good news is that ShB learned that lesson well, and you can have some appreciation for what was lost way back when. Now, why stuff went wrong is certainly something Endwalker is going to address.

The general pacing of the story is an improvement as well, where you start in the main hub, and then branch out to restore areas in line with the larger story arc. You gradually restore the Scions, uncover more of the history of the First, and get access to some rather interesting locales. The pyramid zone and work with the Talos are memorable enough. The Tempest seems a bit of a bolt-on near the end (though the ride to get there is damn cool). It feels like they forgot that they needed an underwater level and just plopped it here (which makes sense, since the Light doesn’t reach the sea floor)

Eulmore is the heart of this expansion, not because of it’s location, but because of what it represents. If the end of the world is guaranteed, you’re going to have people simply accept it and try to go out with a bang (see Snowpiercer for a great example). The apathy and desperation of this city is really something to see… it bleeds into everything. Ran’jit is the perfect example of this… someone who spent years fighting only to suffer loss after loss, and he’s just plain broken. When that larger arc ends, it feels like the expansion is capped.

But it’s not, and then you reach Amaurot. I won’t spoil this part too much, but it has a dungeon that feels like a WoW raid in terms of visuals. If this is where Endwalker goes in terms of storyline/visuals, that would make me very happy.

The final boss of Amaurot… the beauty of the scene offsets the chaos of the fight.

Another tangent, when it comes to villains. The best FF villains are those you interact with, not just speeches but actual action and consequence. Kefka is memorable because he’s just always around the corner (plus he actually wins if you think about it). Sephiroth the same. Who’s the villain in FF12 again? I’m picking on FF here, but it applies to all video games (and most movies). You need that interaction to see more than a 2 dimensional character. ARR had Gaius, Heavensward didn’t really do this part well, Stormblood’s main villain you saw twice, and finally in Shadowbringers, Emet-Selch is practically in your party.

While it’s not the best FF story, it certainly feels the strongest of all the FF14 stories told so far, or perhaps the one that returns most to the series roots.

The Continuing GPU Shortage

I purchased a gaming laptop in 2019 (17″ MSI Ge75 Raider / RTX2070 / i7-8750) for a decent price. At the time I was debating a full blown PC, knowing that the 30X0 series was due in short order, and that it was likely to be a generational change (like the 20X0 series prior). I had done the math – I could not beat the price of the laptop and had little interest in just swapping out a GPU in a year. One key bit here is that I have 2 kids, so hand-me-down laptops, in particular gaming ones, can last for a very long time, rather than just having PC hand me downs which are a real PITA to manage.

Still, one I have an itch it’s darn hard to scratch it. The 30X0 series was announced and for a bunch of reasons, including the pandemic, there’s been a massive shortage of components for a year now. I can’t blame the companies for the shortage – supply chain issues are crazy complex today. I can blame them for not doing anything about the scalpers/bots. Best Buy in Canada won’t let you order any of them online, and you can only get 1 in-store. The last batch had people waiting 20+ hours for it. Now, can they flip those cards for 1 day’s wait? For sure. But 1 card is a much easier thing to swallow than the bot rampage of multiple cards.

I can buy a card now, but I’d be paying scalper markups. A $1000 MSRP is easily double right now. It’s already hard enough justifying the lower price to play Minecraft in 4k. There are maybe a half dozen games a year where a dedicated PC rig would actually matter. Control is the last one I can think of where it actually would have mattered, and I’d be stretching if I said it mattered for Outriders. The Ascent would be one I guess.

So the base kit would be something like ($CDN)

  • ATX mid tower – 85
  • IAO cooler + fans – 150
  • 750w 80+ gold PS – 90
  • 1Tb Samsung 970 – 190
  • 2x 8G DDR4 3600 – 110
  • B560 ATX board w/ WiFi- 280
  • i7 11700 – 500

That’s around $1400 and I don’t have a 2nd drive (so maybe another $200), and it doesn’t go all out on RGB or color coordination. I’d need an OS ($20 OEM), plus a keyboard mouse ($150) and finally a decent monitor ($300). So let’s say that brings it up to $1900.

Video cards should be (small rant here but Amazon sucks something fierce to search cards):

  • 3060 – 700
  • 3070 – 1000
  • 3080 – 1400
  • 3090 – 3000

The 3090 makes no sense to me, so it’s really a choice between the 3070/3080. So the total rig goes between $2900 and $3300 – add another $1000 if I want to buy from scalpers. I can get a 17″ laptop, with similar specs and a 3070 for $2500. Well, stock levels seem to be there now.

It would certainly be cool to build a rig, and share that experience with my daughters. Maybe in another year when this stuff sorts itself out… or I win some lottery of luck.

Incentives for Poor Behavior

While Blizzard is being investigated, Activision itself was also under the microscope. The EEOC was investigating what Kotick disclosed/was aware of in terms of the Blizzard behavior, and then how that impacted the stock.

Today, Activision paid $18m dollars to settle the investigation. In comparison, Bobby Kotick made at least $154m as CEO, and the company reported a net quarterly income of $876m. So ~12% of the CEO pay, or 1% of the quarterly company revenue.

Let’s say that the average person makes $30,000 after taxes (let’s pretend). At the worst end, 12%, that would be a $3,600 fine. The the best case, 1%, that is $300. Now, if I said to you that you could do whatever you wanted to make money, including lying, cheating, abusing your neighbours to MAKE that $30,000 in the first place, that’s a pretty good deal!

It’s things like this that perpetuate a divide between the classes. It gives the impression that some people are simply above reproach. I could argue the other side, that if the penalties were too high, the company would be forced to lay off people… but Acti-Blizz will lay off people even if they are claiming record profits anyhow.

A reminder that the Blizzard employees sent a signed letter in July, with 3,000 signatures, and the company hasn’t even acknowledged it’s existence. Not sure why they would even bother as long as the dollars keep coming in and the penalties are slaps on the wrist.

FF14 – Stormblood + (4.x)

Spoilers in here I guess. Stormblood is 4 years old… does that matter?

The challenge with any series is that any individual story within still requires a start and an end. The Lord of the Rings isn’t as much a trilogy as it is one story, and with different beats. The movies did a rather admirable job finding the strong points here, but it did differ from the books. Back to the Future one has a clear ending, though it leaves the door open. Back to the Future 2 exists almost solely as a direct set up for the 3rd one. Books are often written with trilogies in mind, and while that act structure is more refined now, that wasn’t always the case. Ender’s Game, Foundation series, even Hunger Games have weird pacing issues as you move through them.

Stormblood has a similar challenge, as the primary plot is the restoration of Doma vs Garlemald, yet also sandwiched in the middle of the larger Hydaelyn arc. The start of 4.0 is a mess, where you fight one big war for no reason (characters make a point of this), unlock Kugane, then travel across the map get into the real story (Hien). Once that part starts, then every single stage of the MSQ is focused on gaining allies for a very large final battle against Zenos. You do end up fighting Zenos and wining. Not only winning, but in the uncharacteristic trend of FF games, he actually dies in front of you. Characters can catch meteors on the forehead and walk away in this game… death is a rather rare event so it tends to be a big deal when it does occur. I don’t think Zenos was a particularly interesting character; he has 1 dimension, and barely any logic in that, but he is certainly set up as being extremely powerful. Anyhow, Stormblood ends with you reclaiming the land, Hein the lord of multiple races, and Zenos dead. It is, after Kugane at least, relatively clean.

The + content starts off as a post-war scenario, which few games ever talk about. When you spend a generation at war, what happens when it all ends, who picks up the pieces? 4.1 is about the politics of leading a newly restored country, and all the characters are pretty much from ARR. Cool to see the Bull get his place though. Oh, and you find a bajillion gil in a lost city (???)

4.2 deals with rebuilding Doma an the miraculous return of Gotetsu (+1). Something is wrong with my map because I can’t see Doma unless I’m on that specific map, and the teleport has to be manually selected. It does still have a relevant mechanic where you can sell stuff for up to 2x vendor value, up to 40k per week.

4.3 is the full-fledged return of Yotsuyu, through her insane half-brother Asahi. This one lands pretty well because there was a lot of setup in the story behind Yotsuyu all along Stormblood proper. She feels like an anti-villain in a lot of respects, where you can empathize with her rage. There are not many such examples of empathetic villains in FF14. It also has some interesting twists here, where Garlemald seems to be playing 3D chess, while Doma is just shooting arrows. If it wasn’t for you being a superhero, then this whole thing falls to pieces. This one does a strong job of closing out the final loose thread (Yotsuyu) that was put up in the closing scene of Stormblood, but it does Gosetsu something dirty having him just abandon everything and walk into the sunset as a monk.

The lighting here is amazing

4.4 is the attempt to build a peaceful relationship with Garlemald (insane this) and one of the coolest dungeons in the game, The Burn. I don’t think it’s a complete chapter though, as 4.5 is the flipside where you negotiate with Garlemald’s leader – Emperor Varis. The parley scene is pure exposition, and you can partly understand Garlemald’s larger motivations. The dungeon here is oddly placed at least in terms of context. 4.6 is just a battle against 1 person, which doesn’t land.

See, Zenos is both dead and possessed by an Ascian. The end result is that he remains physically powerful, now has access to magic, AND suddenly has some sort of strategic sense. Building a god from a corpse, not so much fun. He wasn’t a good primary villain for Stormblood… all the other characters were more interesting with more nuance. If he really wanted to ‘fight the good fight’, it isn’t by oppressing farmers.

Stormblood isn’t a bad storyline compared to other games, and the + content is all logically bound to what preceded it. But the story beats are just off because the story invests so much into Zenos and Yotsuyu. If you ignore the villains and the world building around Doma + Kugane, that part works pretty good. Plus, it has ninja turtles. But the start of it all feels really off, and there’s no real ending because Zenos is still ‘alive’. The lead up to 5.0 (Shadowbringers) feels like a sharp left turn, given that Garlemald is in the process of declaring war on the rest of the world and all the Scions are ‘teleported’ to another place. Perhaps the best way to describe it is that Stormblood lacks a consistent tone.

It seems weird to talk about Final Fantasy storylines not being logical when we’re talking about fireballs, summons, pirates, ninja turtles and a whole bunch of odd bits. I’m not expecting Nebula-level writing either. It just feels like this entire expansion could have done without Zenos at all, and it would have been much more cohesive.