I’ve only been on 2 games recently, FFX-HD and WildStar.
Final Fantasy X – HD
When this game came out in 2000, I was all over it. I still own it on the PS2 (and X-2) but I wanted to see what Squeenix did to improve it. The answer – quite a bit.
The sound is amazing. A lot of it was re-recorded and the music is great. The original had a more “midi” flavor to it, but today’s version is practically orchestral. The voice acting is the same and on-par with a high school play in terms of quality. I get it. FFX was one of the first RPGs with full voice acting, and it shows. FFXII was a drastic jump in quality on that front. Graphics are quite impressive. Some of the character models have been redone, or rather re-worked. Real shadows now too. All the textures are in HD and the detail is darn good. It even seems like the draw distance has improved.
Combat is to me, the pinnacle of the FF series – a near perfect merger of strategies and tactics. After having played the auto-pilot XII and the “press A” XIII, this is quite refreshing. Make the right choice and you can avoid disaster, make the wrong one and restart the fight. You’re always given enough time to make the choice too, which is great. Boss fights are a ton of fun too, especially Seymor on Gagazet and Yunalesca at Zanarkand.
The game also added the international content – expert sphere grid and dark aeon fights. The former is a more customizeable feature compared to before and the latter a massive butt whooping. I’m at the phase where I need to enter Sin and I’m collecting for the Monster Arena.
People complained at the time that X was linear and to some degree it’s still true. XII took a wholly different approach and XII decided to go super linear. X provide enough lateral movement and options throughout and a very open end game to boot. I’m guessing rose-colored glasses here but it’s enjoyable. Reliving nostalgia for the win!
I finally got into the beta the week before and got a few characters to level 5, just to see the starting zones and character dynamics and paths. I liked what I saw and got the pre-order from GreenManGaming with a 20% off deal that got me the deluxe edition for the cost of basic. I went back into the extra beta this weekend, deciding that I wanted to see housing (at level 14).
I have been planning on playing an Esper, so I used my Dominion Chua on the solider path, to try and get through the levels. I am ~80% complete the first zone and level 15. I didn’t read any quest text or lore (and there is TONS of lore) because I don’t want to spoil myself. I am extremely impressed in the quality of the story and characters though, without going into more detail.
So, leveling content first. You have zones with small town hubs. There are maybe 4 quests in a given hub and the remainder are triggered out in the field through the satellite phone. By and large, generic quests of kill X, where X goes up by a % based on the difficulty of the kill. Fights are against 1-4 enemies at a time and I died a few times because I didn’t pay attention to telegraphs. I like dying. You also get to unlock path missions at various points. Soldiers include kill-type events, either defend a point, test a weapon, assassinate a target and so on. I will not be playing a Soldier on live – likely a Scientist. There are plenty of Settlers around putting up buff stations for other people.
There are group quests (I found 4 in the zone) and you need a group for it. There are challenges that ask you to collect X, kill Y or destroy Z within a certain timeframe. You get a bronze, silver or gold medal based on your performance and the reward is a lottery of sorts on prizes. Each prize has separate odds of winning and the one you hedge your bets on gets a 400% increase. I opted for housing stuff whenever possible. These challenges re repeatable after a certain time too, which I think is great! The zone is organic, without obvious breadcrumbs. I am pleased.
Crafting opens at level 10 and is decently complex. Gear is actually usable and leveling up is not just setting up a macro. I opted for a tailor and made some decent gear that replaced all I had. Costumes are open from level 1 too, so even though my stats went up, I could keep a consistent look across the levels. The crafting trees are complex and decently balanced. Color me impressed. Oh, I tried cooking too, which is a weird beast of a mini-game. The link goes into some detail on it but you’re essentially playing darts. It’s a neat system, not sure how it will work at the tail end.
Housing is what I really wanted to see and what you get at 14 is the tip of the iceberg. It’s more than a house, what with the plot system. I made a simple garden first, then decorated my house with a bed, carpet, ferns and other knick-knacks. The tools are both simple and complex, depending on what you want from them. I spent a solid hour in that house, trying on the different textures and features in preview mode. I think this is where I will be spending the majority of my time/money. It is really impressive.
Now, I get that people see Wildstar as WoW on LSD. It is a hyper version and if you don’t like the style, stay away from the game. It does however improved on a lot of systems WoW has. Character customization is fluid (you can “respec” at any time), there is a mentoring system, the world is more dynamic, travel is meaningful, crafting is more complex and involved, combat has an “open tagging” affair, there is minimal phasing, combat is tactical and responsive. There are surprisingly few bugs but some systems need some polish (the auction house in particular). Color me impressed. Hopefully the next beta weekend I can get to 20 and run a couple dungeons.
Granted this is the view from level 15. The view at end game may be drastically different. Even so, the ride to the end sure looks like a lot of fun.