After last week’s defeat of Jaina, my raid has turned nearly fully to Heroic progression, as many of our raiders were already sufficiently geared to move on. The early bosses have been noticably harder, although we got down the paladin boss in one pull. Jadefire Masters is much harder, as the magma traps add a much higher execution floor, and the lack of instant-cleave on the maze phase makes it harder as well. Couple that with DPS having to navigate the tank challenge at the tail end of the fight, and there is enough added challenge for most raids. We did finally get them down after around 15 pulls, and put a few on Grong, who has fewer added mechanics but is tuned much tighter, with way more damage going out and a tank throw mechanic that is more challenging than it sounds!
FFXIV – Soloing Hard Dungeons, EX Primals, and Leveling Red Mage
I got White Mage to 70, did the full Return to Ivalice raid series on White Mage, and have turned to running the old A Realm Reborn Primal fights on Extreme. Primals are, roughly speaking, the equivalent of World Bosses to WoW, but are also instanced and so they have a few twists. Notably, they nearly all have a standard mode and Extreme, which cranks the difficulty up quite a bit. I’ve never done an EX Primal, so on Sunday night, I found myself doing unlock quests to get them done and have more content for roulettes, and since I started with A Realm Reborn content, I had the EX primal unlocks up first. So I went to the Duty Finder and marked Unsynced (basically you have to queue to enter any dungeon or instance in FFXIV, and Unsynced just means you can go in alone and are not scaled to level/item level caps defined for group play.), and knocked them out one by one.
I killed all of the ones on my list, and even got 3 of the mount rewards to drop on my first time ever! So that was fun. Now I am moving to unlock all the remaining dungeons I haven’t done and that has been cool too. Hard dungeons are not a foregone conclusion in FFXIV, unlike WoW and Heroic/Mythic difficulty, and the really great thing is that the Hard dungeons are based on existing dungeons, but are different and use new bosses and changed layouts to reflect that in lore, we did clear the original dungeon. One of the best examples is a very low level dungeon, Sastasha. When you do that at level 16, it’s a simple path through pirates who are working for a Sahagin (fish-person). There is a pirate captain who functions as a boss, but he keeps running away in the normal dungeon and you never kill him. On Hard, he is back, the dungeon has filled with more water and changes the layout as a result, and now the pirates have been infused with water-aether and become abominations with squid heads and zombie walks. Nearly every boss is a new fight, and you finally get to see the captain beaten (well, sort of – he summons a Kraken and gets flung away by it). It also lets them go back to explore lore in more detail later – there are a few cases of a dungeon getting a hard mode in a later expansion, like how in Heavensward, you do the Fractal Continuum, which is a dungeon in a man-made zone that flies, and it is just accepted that this place flies and that is how it is. During the story of Stormblood, an NPC discovers that the entire floating zone actually originated from a place introduced in Stormblood, and if we can figure out how it got airborne and moved to where it did, then that ancient technology could be used to solve a problem in the current story. So you go back to do the old dungeon on Hard, but there are new bosses, trash pulls, routes, and the dungeon itself is in a state of relative disrepair. It is a really cool concept and something I wish WoW would do – it would be awesome if the harder difficulties of a dungeon represented a new dungeon altogether, although the design complexity that would introduce in the WoW model is pretty big.
Lastly, on Friday, the pre-order bonus Aetheryte Earrings are being mailed in-game, which offer scaling stats and a 30% experience bonus below level 70, which means they can be used to level any job to the current max level prior to Shadowbringers. I’m going to start cycling through other jobs on my character, and I’ve decided to level Red Mage first, since it starts at level 50 and has interesting gameply (from what I hear).
More Yakuza Kiwami
I’ve been having a blast playing (and recording) this game! I ran into a few issues with sound (surround sound decoding seems to remove cinematic sound and in-game sound effects, oops) so I’ve had to restart once, but it is a good time. It doesn’t seem to have quite the side-game depth of Yakuza Zero, at least at this point, as my completion percentage has notched up to nearly 2% in about 3 hours of gameplay, where in Yakuza 0, I hit around 12.5% after 30 hours! So far, the story is interesting, as someone whose first Yakuza game was 0 – a lot of the original plot of Yakuza 1 is still here but my understanding is that some minor revisions have been made here and there. The combat feels similar, but ever-so-slightly clunkier, and while you start with all four of Kiryu’s styles, the way in which you level them is slightly less intuitive (you get XP to level up, and spend levels on 3 of the styles, but his signature Dragon style requires specifically fighting Majima, who shows up all over randomly and is usually a challenging fight).
Final Fantasy XV on Windows – Time To Actually Play
I bought Final Fantasy XV on launch day for the PS4, and while I kind of liked it – the game has issues on the console platforms, like slow loading, iffy performance at points, and the fact that I would have to cut off my girlfriend’s Netflix watching of the Office to play it. So I took advantage of the Square Enix publisher sale on Steam this weekend and purchased the Windows version for half-off. A quick test of it reveals that it runs really well on my PC (kind of a given, but also, this game is intense), and in order to reduce the loading times I saw on PS4 (upwards of 3 minutes per load!) I installed it to my NVMe SSD, which, humorously, means that the game goes to loading screens with the bar full already, but still takes around 15-20 seconds to put me into the game. I’ve heard that the game is mainly a disappointment, but it is having a crossover event with Final Fantasy XIV which I’m curious to see, so I’ll play through it anyways.
3D Printing – Researching a Purchase
My girlfriend has spoiled a big surprise for me – she is getting me a 3D printer, but wanted to make sure it was a good model. However, I’m still new to the hobby, in that I’ve always kind of wanted one to print models I make, but have never seriously been looking at a purchase. So I’m diving in deep to figure out what models to get (seems like the Creality Ender series is good, as are Prusa models) and starting to think about what to print (a cool decoration to use the 3D printed model mount on my PC motherboard? A wrestling championship belt? My WoW and FFXIV characters? Tabletop game stuff?) and I’m really excited to get something that will be fun and enable me to maybe overload my desk with my MMO characters – once I figure out how to extract their meshes and gear to an outside program!
Planning A Trip – Blizzcon 2019 But First, 3 Other Places
One thing I’ve wanted to do for a few years now is go back on a world trip. In January 2014, I went on a four-country trip over 19 days, leaving home for London, Paris, Athens, and Tokyo, returning home in early February that year. It was an amazing trip (and only my second time leaving the country, after a brief trip to Aruba) and I went alone, with just a backpack. It was a fantastic time and I got to see a lot of amazing new things.
So when planning for Blizzcon 2019 and an earlier trip in September to go back overseas with my girlfriend (who has never left the country), we started to discuss the possibility of simply merging the Blizzcon 2019 trip to the international trip, flying over the Atlantic to Europe, from Europe to Japan, and then landing in LA for Blizzcon week. And that is now the plan, although without firm Blizzcon dates (and the very likely possibility that it will be a different weekend this year because of the first weekend of November pushing the con registration day to Halloween), it is difficult to plan! Tentatively, we’ve set London > Amsterdam > Tokyo, with us landing in LA two days before badge pickup for Blizzcon to allow a little time to decompress, un-jet lag (I slept for like 20 hours when I got home from Tokyo in 2014!)
But it gives us both what we want – a fun, multi-stop international trip with a new city for me and my two favorite cities from the first time, still going to Blizzcon for a likely WoW expansion announcement year, flying to Blizzcon so we don’t have to drive again, and doing the international leg of the trip very affordably. We’re comparing prices for a few possible dates for Blizzcon (If I had to bet, I would say the second weekend of November is going to be it), and trying to make sure all the details are ironed out prior to the date announcement (which should hopefully be in March!).